A change in lifestyle and attitude can be attributed to Archie Sharp’s current unbeaten career and his rise in the world rankings.
The 26-year-old super-featherweight from Welling has 21 fights under his belt since his professional debut six years ago. And that four round fight against Laszlo Fekete at York Hall which ended in the first three minutes, on a night when Romeo Romaeo was in town, proved to be a defining moment in his life let alone his beginnings as a professional boxer.
“I haven’t touched an alcoholic drink since my debut,” says Sharp who spoke to Boxing Social recently.
Sharp was 20 years old when he was hit by reality and responsibility as he explains.
“After my pro debut I went out partying and done what everyone does. Then I got with my girlfriend at 20, well fiancée now, soon to be wife. We were actually courting back in the day at school, since the age of 3 through nursery and everything else so we knew each other really well. As we started getting older, we both went our certain paths.
“I went my way; she went her way and when we finally did get back together, she had a little girl, so I became a dad overnight. And that was when I sat back and thought I’m only 20, I’ve got a young family now and I need to provide for them, and I’ve only got one shot of being a professional boxer.
“I messed up in the amateurs with the Olympics side of things so now this is it, you’ve got one career and then time just goes. When I was younger, I didn’t think of it like that. I was always like it’s alright next year I’ll do it, next year I’ll do it, next year I’ll stop. Before I know it, I’m a professional boxer and before I know it, I’m 21-0. So, I’m glad I did snap out of it at the age of 20. The age of 20 was when I knew I’ve got to take this seriously and I have done.”
To be clear though:
“I’m not saying I was a raving alcoholic or anything like that! Just the party life of going out with the boys, clubbing and eating what I wanted. My debut was at lightweight. I wanted to eat what I want and do what I want. It’s all worked out well and I’m really pleased and thankful for the position I’m in.”
Having boxed since the age of seven, Sharp built an amateur career which led to eight National Finals with six wins as well as becoming a three-time Tri-Nation Gold medallist and landing a silver medal at the European Championships in Russia. Fast forward ten years and Sharp sits as the number one contender at 130lbs with the World Boxing Organisation. Above him sits the gifted Shakur Stevenson as champion and Sharp hasn’t been shy in calling out the American, which has led to many a dismissal from boxing fans.
“I think people have dismissed me but it’s quite funny because coming through I have beat Olympians in my career,” Sharp says.
“It’s not like I’ve got to this level and I’m out of my depth. I was competing at a high level as an amateur. The only reason why I believe I didn’t push on and go for the Olympics was due to my bad living at the time. I was only a 17–18-year-old boy, going out partying, drinking, not living the life and let things slip. Even leading up to them when I was still not living the cleanest life, I was still beating these great champions.
“I’m a national champion so I think people just see me from where I am as a pro, which is fair enough, people do say you are only as good as your last fight, and I probably haven’t showcased what I can actually do. But that’s why I asked for this level of opponent.”
The opponent he speaks of is Jonathan Romero. Sharp will face the 34-year-old Colombian at the Coca-Cola Arena, Dubai on Saturday night as part of a Probellum promotion which also features Sunny Edwards defending his IBF flyweight title against Jayson Mama and Paul Butler challenging John Riel Casimero for the Filipino’s WBO bantamweight title.
Romero has world title credentials having won the IBF super-bantamweight title in 2013 against Alejandro Lopez via split decision. Sadly, his reign would only last six months when he ran into the bulldozing fists of ‘La Sensacion’ Kiko Martinez who took the belt from him in six rounds. Eight years on and the diminutive Spaniard sits as IBF featherweight champion having clobbered Kid Galahad last month to take the Yorkshireman’s prize asset in his own maiden defence.
On paper taking on Romero looks to be Sharp’s stiffest test to date. He believes this is the right time to try and turn his career up to 11 and get a gauge as to where he stands on the world stage.
“He’s got the experience, he’s only lost to Kiko Martinez,” says Sharp.
“Obviously, we seen Kiko is still in the game so that’s not a discredit to him [Romero] at all losing to Kiko. We’ll get the gauge and I’m sure everyone will see the best Archie Sharp because I’ve been screaming for a long time saying when I fight them opponents who have been at that level or are at that level the best Archie Sharp will come.”
Kiko Martinez is now the wrecking ball example of what can happen if you take your foot off the gas, get complacent or begin to overlook the man in front of you.
“Definitely,” Sharp agrees.
“When I was watching that fight, just before he chinned Galahad, I remember sitting thinking Galahad is looking really well. He’s throwing good combinations; he’s looking slick and all of a sudden wallop. It was a brilliant punch and a great finish, so it just goes to show you have to be switched on till that final bell goes.”
The culmination of Sharp’s boxing year in 2021 could prove to be his most rewarding yet. Beating Romero and doing the job well will bolster his record significantly and the link to Martinez can be turned into a positive when it comes to future interviews and press releases.
Having his arm raised in victory was something which was never going to happen at the beginning of the year. Breaking his arm in training having sparred iBox gym-mate Sam Noakes put Sharp on the shelf until July but instead of feeling sorry for himself he put his free time to good use.
“It allowed me to get things sorted mentally,” he says before moving on to explain.
“Most people know me with the mental side of things, I’m always doing stuff with mental health and always about positive attitude and being mentally strong on the back of Covid. Breaking my arm meant I was out for a long time, and it give me time to reflect on things. That everything does happen for a reason and patience is key and trust the timing basically. Trust the process and that’s exactly what I done.
“I used that time with family and instead of sitting there just moping about I done a lot of revision on different training methods, a lot of studying so I used the time very wisely and brought them into my sessions and fortunately it’s all been paying off. I’m still unbeaten and I feel like the last couple of fights I’ve shown that they’ve been a lot better than the couple before that, before I made the move to the iBox. I think it’s fair to say that the last two performances, especially the last fight I didn’t lose a second of any round of the fight.”
His decision to move to the iBox Gym and work with duo Alan Smith and Eddie Lam came after witnessing some warning signs in his fights against Jeff Ofori and Artjoms Ramlavs.
“I sat down with the team. I’d been with Richard Sawyer since the age of 7 years old and it was too much of a close and personal relationship and I needed the experience. And with Alan Smith, Eddie Lam and Paul Taylor they’ve got the experience, the gym’s got a lot of fighters in there, up and coming prospects. It’s exciting.”
Making the right move at the right time has certainly served Sharp well in the past. The good times of going out with the lads and having a few drinks has been replaced by good times with his young family and a boxing career which stands near a world title opportunity. The awakening, or perhaps to put it more mildly a wake-up call, happened at the right time in his life. What mattered most was in front of him and would be his life moving forward.
“I’m glad I got it done early doors, not later on in my career when it really does matter,” Sharp says.
“Not that it didn’t matter then but you can’t turn back time. As an amateur you get a second chance when you turn pro. After who I was and where I am there is no second chance. This is where I think a lot of fighters have gone wrong. The books I’ve read and knowledge I’ve took in, for me to learn from other people’s experiences will save me a decade. When I was younger, I never had that mentality.
“I’m doing it all now having learned from people like Ricky Hatton for example. What a great champion, an unbelievable champion but if he done his weight properly through his career he might have seen more. Not that he didn’t do anything well, he only lost to [Floyd] Mayweather and [Manny] Pacquiao but who knows what sort of fights he could have had if he was a dedicated fighter like them two. Maybe he could have gone on and beat them. You’ve got to definitely learn and take note of people who have been there and done it.”
The maturity is there, the guidance is there and recognising what could be around the corner in 2022 is a thought that doesn’t intimidate him. Romero is first, and who knows an American trip to face Shaku Stevenson may be on the agenda in a 2022 which is part of the next phase in Sharp’s career. Win or lose in a world title fight we will certainly find out whether he has what it takes or not.
“I’ve got to go out and do the job well,” he says of Saturday’s fight.
“Things seem to be shaping up really well and in the new year there’s some big fights definitely. There’s no reason why the WBO world title fight can’t happen. All depends on what Shakur does, whether he vacates and goes up. If he vacates, I will probably be in line for the vacant shot. If not, then I’ll fight Shakur. He’s definitely biting at me now. I’ve definitely got him by the hook. We done TalkSport the other week and he had his little bit to say. I’ve definitely got his attention, it’s just a matter of making it happen. I’ve got to keep winning and get myself into a mandatory position. That’s all I can do from my end now.”