Features

Matty Harris: Ready to deliver

It’s quite a sight: giant Wasserman heavyweight prospect Matty Harris squeezing himself out of the window of his current residence – an old, classic caravan that he could probably lift and move on his own, if he so desired. This is home from now until the eve of his professional debut, but the home/vehicle has required some renovation.  

“I had to have the bed made longer,” the Coventry-man tells Boxing Social. “The guy I’m borrowing it from, he had to cut away the drawers or something just to make the bed longer. [I’m] proper going for it, man, nothing is half-hearted. I’m sleeping in here for the next… six or seven weeks, I think. It’s just so I can eat, sleep, train, and literally live boxing. It gets me away from distractions and it’s a bit relaxing as well; it’s a bit isolated, so I like that time on my own.” 

The caravan is parked on his coach’s driveway right outside the family home, and Harris knows it may seem bizarre to some. But it’s a first showing of the sacrifice required to succeed at the top of an altogether unusual sport. Following the launch of Wasserman’s boxing venture, the company’s signings have been drip-fed, with some of the South’s best small hall prospects closing their eyes and taking a leap of faith. Brad Pauls, Linus Udofia and a handful of other talents are raring to go, though the scale of their promotional operation remains something of a mystery. 

For most, Harris – a former ASDA delivery driver – is an unknown quantity. That job, he explains, “was shit – and I can say that now”. Just 21-years old, he hasn’t been boxing long, but a successful assessment spell with Team GB could have signalled a bright future in the national vest. Harris explained his reason for putting pen to paper on a professional contract: “I was at the stage where it was taking ages [to get anywhere]. It was going backwards, and forwards and it was just trying to get things over the line. Wasserman first contacted us, maybe three months ago, something like that. During that time, I was on my assessments for Team GB, but I made that decision.

“I passed my assessment for GB, but I had the option; wait for the next Olympics? I was thinking, this offer might not be there by the time I finish. They’re a company that’s just launching, so I thought it was a great opportunity to be at the front of that. I wasn’t looking to wait too long, you know 28, 29 to go to the Olympics. So, why not? I’ve still got developing to do, so I’ll just take my time with it. I don’t need to rush into anything; my job is just to turn up and fight when they tell me to, and they know what they’re doing. I’m confident,” stated the 6ft 8ins West Midlands man. 

As featured recently by Boxing Social, Wasserman have added another heavyweight to their stable in Hosea Stewart, indicating a focus on boxing’s most profitable weight bracket. There is money to be made for Harris, but his grounding was in a sport which would have yielded far more lucrative contracts and a lengthier, safer career path.  

“I used to play football until I was about 16. I played at a decent level; I used to play for [Aston] Villa academy, then I’ve been around, on trial at West Brom, Coventry, Birmingham City, Burton Albion. I just kept getting way too many injuries playing football, little niggles, but each time you’d have to spend time out doing rehab. That was getting really annoying, so one of my mates brought me to the boxing gym when I was like 15, maybe. I did a bit of training; I was very in-and-out of it.

“When I was 18, that’s when I decided to step it up a little bit. I took a bit of time out before because I wasn’t serious about it. I started training properly, had a few fights, and then lockdown hit. So, I went around sparring because there weren’t any shows during Covid. One of my friends came up with an idea: it was in some park in Birmingham and we got boys down. Everyone chipped in like a fiver and the winner took home the money. 

“I only had one fight that day – nice kid to be honest – I chinned him and went home with the money,” Harris reveals, switching from ultra-chilled to ice-cold. He’s chinned a few and he really likes it. Sparring followed his reintroduction to the gym after he ‘chinned’ a white-collar heavyweight in the gym. An onlooker and gym regular suggested sparring with Nathan Gorman – Harris obliged and, despite its delay, the session was eye-opening as he took his lumps and learned that professionals don’t feel their way into gym wars – impressions count.  

Since his session with former British title challenger Gorman, Harris has sparred Daniel Dubois and spent plenty of time in Hughie Fury’s camp, studying their ring craft and throwing plenty back at his more experienced peers: “I’ve had a fair bit of sparring. I was in camp with Hughie for about three months while he was prepping for a fight. I’ve just been getting a massive load of experience along the way. I know people are gonna tell me it’s not the same between sparring and actually fighting, but you can either fight or you can’t. That’s how I feel about it; you’re gonna have to adjust at some point. And Hughie, oh my god, I’ve been around gyms sparring but he’s honestly got some of the best footwork. When you’re in there, he’s really clever in how he boxes.” 

The road ahead for Harris is long, but he has time on his side and a calm approach to boxing professionally. Wasserman have high hopes; they wouldn’t have signed him otherwise. But he competes in a division where one punch can see you warming undercards permanently, and a single mistake leaves you seeking stable office work. But he knows that.  

As he squeezes himself back into his caravan, parked up in a suburban estate on the front lawn of his coach, he laughs, feigning anger at the fact that his manager Max McCracken had inadvertently leaked Boxing Social the picture of him hanging out the window.  

“Oh, fucking hell! It wasn’t even supposed to be like that. He started taking lots of pictures yesterday; I thought he just wanted to take some but literally straight after he told me he sent them to Damien [from Wasserman]. I was like, ‘Ah, come on, mate’. It’s a bit of a squeeze, this!” 

Main image: Harris (right) with fellow Wasserman Boxing heavyweight hope Hosea Stewart (left). Photo: Wasserman Boxing.