Jordan Reynolds: The arrival of an old school sensation

Like many top fighters, Jordan Reynolds has experienced the extremes of life. He fought an impressive middleweight campaign for Team GB, proudly captained England as an amateur boxer and faced world-ranked fighters while still a novice. That’s the good stuff – but would Reynolds have achieved it without the darkness in his past? 

A product of a household that “never had the love and compassion” Reynolds certainly paints an unsavoury picture. “I’ve seen a lot of stuff I shouldn’t have seen at home. Some bad stuff,” he says. Fight fans are well acquainted with boxers’ tales about tough growings up, but some of the touchpoints of Reynolds story feel extreme. Even by the standards of the boxing world.  

The Luton fighter was – he suggests – prepared to stab his own father at one stage of his troubled development. 

“I went through a stage where I hated my dad for years. I hated him because of what was drilled into my head for years. I’d walk around the estate with a knife and I would’ve hurt him man, like he hurt my mum. I just had so much hate in me.

“Growing up I never had a stable life really, never had the love and compassion in my house, it was always disagreements. Mum and dad had their own problems and I kind of got brought into that really.

“From their situation we lost the house, so we ended up in a refuge. I had to grow up early, since 13 or 14. I was in that refuge thinking to myself: ‘I ain’t fucking staying in here’. So I was hustling. If I could make a few quid to look after my mum – and myself and my family – I would.”

Reynolds’ various ‘hustles’ attempted to make up for a shortfall in the family income, or on the family table. When his mother was unable to afford school dinners, young Reynolds sold multipack goods at school – like a spotty teenage Derek Trotter – and fed himself with the proceeds.  

It didn’t end there, Reynolds explained: “We had no money and mum had too much pride to ask people to borrow money or anything like that. We’d go to the bins at the back of M&S at the airport. I’d just take that and bring that back home.”

Photo: Twitter @Reynoldsboxing

Reynolds was a prospect without prospects but – when speaking to the accomplished 25-year-old who is now just two days away from his professional debut – it’s clear that he gained toughness from tough times. It was his drive, energy and positivity that turned a troubled childhood into a successful amateur boxing career at the elite level. 

“I wasn’t even talented,” he said – a claim that took this writer by surprise. “I started at a pro gym but I just used to go steaming in. All I was about [in the early days of my amateur career] was the will to win. I just broke the kids down. They were fucked in the second or third rounds and I would come out on top. It was the drive I had.” 

Fighters are all driven. Simply to climb through those ropes and take the risks that boxers do requires courage and drive, but Reynolds has fostered an exceptional fighting spirit against all the odds, with little support. 

“I was told by some of my family members that’d I’d be nothing,” he tells me. How wrong they were. 

“It was always drilled into me that I’d be nothing and if you look at my family you can see how my life was mapped out. I wasn’t meant to be doing what I’m doing.”

That drive (mixed with a healthy dose of youthful naivety), saw Reynolds enter the junior ABA finals after only two bouts. A contest that’s normally reserved for experienced, top level amateurs. 

“I’d had two fights and then I said I wanted to go in the championships because everyone was going on about it. I didn’t even know what it was. So, we got there and all the kids are showing off their medicals and they’ve all had about 107 fights and I’m thinking ‘fucking hell I’ve had two’. It was literally sink or swim.”

If money troubles saw Reynolds become a teenage Del Boy, it’s probably fair to say that he came out of this “sink or swim” situation looking like Michael Phelps. As a young novice, Reynolds beat a host of elite amateurs, making it all the way to the ABA final at his first attempt and falling short against the then world number two, Isaac McLeod.  

Reynolds says boxing changed him, from the angry boy, into a hard-working, positive young man who loved 50’s music and, as he put it, “just wanted to love”. He’s repaired the relationships with his family, too – though they’re not perfect – and keenly reminds me during the interview that after all, “blood is thicker than water”. 

Photo: Twitter @Reynoldsboxing

When Reynolds signed a management deal with MTK Global, there was little in the way of fanfare, but those in the boxing business recognised the signing as one with huge potential.

MTK’s Jamie Conlan was first to champion the new addition to the MTK roster. “This is a truly elite signing,” he said in a press release. “Amateur pedigrees don’t come much more impressive than Jordan’s but the most exciting thing is that his style is more suited to the professional game.

The idea that Reynolds’ style is more suited to the pros than the amateurs is one that the Luton-born fighter has been keen to point out himself for a long time, since his teenage years in fact. Considering how well he did as an elite amateur that makes for quite a promise. 

“I’m a box fighter. I’m a crowd pleaser,” Reynolds says. “Easy on the eye. I’m not negative. If I need to be negative to win, I can be, but I’ve got a fan-friendly style.”

While most boxers tend to claim this, it’s easier to accept the claim from Reynolds because of his all-action style as an amateur – and because his second love is dancing, music and performance. “I can’t wait to entertain,” he explains, buzzing with ideas for potential walk on tunes and routines. 

His choice of ring moniker and walk-on tune ‘The Wanderer’ stems from the fact that Reynolds has lived in towns and cities all around the UK to pursue his craft and currently resides near Dublin to train with Peter Taylor. He also likes to hint that he has as much success with the ladies as the protagonist of Dion’s iconic 1961 tune, but has always stressed his desire to be “a gentleman”. 

When the last beats of Dion’s hit play out this Friday night and Reynolds steps into the ring to face Robbie Chapman, AKA ‘The Camden Caretaker’, he will face a man with far less amateur pedigree, but more experience in the professional ring. Chapman has shown himself to be durable and tough, but sometimes lacks offensive nous. That said, he’s far more of a test than most professionals face on their debut. He has ambitions of his own. This matchmaking is very much a result of Covid’s on-going effect on boxing, but it also reflects well on MTK’s tendency to offer more consistently competitive cards than some of their competitors. 

While stepping into a professional ring might be a new experience for Reynolds, his opponent is no stranger.

“I actually like him,” he tells me. “At one point he was out of work or something, so I tried to get him a job. He’s sound. He’s been calling me out for years! I remember in the amateurs I was at York Hall. I was watching a show and I walked down and he said ‘Hey, Jordan Reynolds?’ I said ‘Yeah!’ I thought it was some guy being friendly, maybe he’d seen me fight and he says: “I want to fight you!”

“I’m like “what?” completely nonplussed. “I said, if you get into the ABA finals, I’ll see you there!” I didn’t see him. It’s not personal this match-up. Nine times out of ten people in boxing are sound and genuine. You get a few idiots. I actually like Robbie though. I’m still going to knock him out.” 

Photo: Twitter @Reynoldsboxing

When it comes to the sharp end of things, getting the business done between the ropes on Friday night, Reynolds has experience behind him and an experienced man in his corner. Peter Taylor is best known for launching daughter Katie Taylor’s iconic boxing career. Now, he’s forged a good working relationship with Reynolds. 

Reynolds explained: “He’s travelled the world. He’s been there and done it. He’s an honest man. I’m real and genuine and he’s real and genuine. If I ask him something I know I will get the truth. I like that. It’s raw. If I’m not doing something then give me a slap and tell me. I don’t want no comforts.”

They sound well suited. That seam of raw, honest, hard-working drive that runs through everything Reynolds says and does is set to make him a real favourite with fans. As, of course, is his aggressive style.

The rawness also comes from the fact that his role models aren’t the usual suspects, Floyd Mayweather, Mike Tyson, or even Muhammad Ali. Reynolds doesn’t seem to idolise iconic fighters in the usual way, but he was raised on tough men – “Lenny McClean and Roy Shaw types” – he tells me. 

This was reinforced by his grandfather – “a proper old school man” who used to set up a ring in the back garden and encourage Jordan and his brothers and cousins to spar. Reynolds speaks about him with a positivity that was lacking when discussing the rest of his family and he has certainly soaked up some of the ‘old school’ stylings. From the love of 50’s music, The Wanderer and the simple toughness – he is set to be a fighter after the hearts of British fight fans. 

Capturing the hearts of fans is at the centre of his plan, too, as Reynolds explains: 

“A lot of people in professional boxing, they shy away from their true selves. Whatever the latest music is, they go with that and everything. I think you’ve got to be a bit original and you’ve got to keep it real. Don’t get me wrong – I want to be a world champion – but I really want to be for the people. I want to be filling out the arenas and having good nights after with everyone and I want to set my family up. My thing is being for the people. I want to bring back the Ricky Hatton era. 

“I think I’ll go all the way. I think I’ll be a world champion. It’s a business. It’s a hard fucking game. Us boxers do all the work and we get paid the lowest. I want to secure my family’s life, that’s a big goal for me and to do that I need these titles.”

Main image: MTK Global.