There’s something slightly nasty about Kirkby’s Nick Ball (13-0, 6 KOs). Not in his personality or the way he conducts himself outside of the ring; in fact, he couldn’t be more of a gentleman. But when slipping between the ropes, the diminutive wrecking ball from Everton Red Triangle wants to hurt his opponents.
Speaking to Boxing Social ahead of a potential 14th fight in the early winter, Ball remembered stepping into Paul Stevenson’s gym and rediscovering his faith in combat sports after a short, gruelling stint as a tradesman. Normal life was fine, but there was some unfinished business that Ball would soon have to attend to.
“I’d actually done Thai boxing first,” explained the 23-year-old, fresh from an evening session at the gym. “I’d done that when I was seven. My dad took me to his mate’s gym, so I’d done that until I was 14. I’d won everything worth winning in the Thai boxing. I went to Kirkby ABC as an amateur. I was in school with my mate, [fellow professional] Brad Strand, and he said to me one day, ‘Come down to boxing gym and have a little go at that’.
“He knew I’d done the Thai boxing as well, so I went down to train and I’ve been training with him ever since. I was there for about four or five years. And then I just stopped. I was doing plastering during the day, all day, early in the morning until four o’clock, and then going to the gym at night. It was hard, but with this boxing, it’s one or the other. You’ve got to be that dedicated; you’ve got to take a risk. You’ve got to be 100% and you’ve got to be training three times a day and stuff like that. There’s no time to do work and so you’ve to take that risk to stop the work and getting the money each week, and do what you really want to do.”
Ball took the leap after an honest conversation with his mother, following another long day plastering: “I thought, ‘What am I doing? Why am I doing this work? I should be in a gym’. So, I went down to see Paul Stevenson at Everton Triangle. I turned pro with Paul and that’s it – I haven’t looked back since, to be honest.”
Nick finds himself unbeaten as a professional after 13 contests and is one of the Red Triangle’s trio of unbeaten pros. Along with childhood friend Brad Strand, and Wavertree’s Andrew Cain, the three established amateurs are marching up the domestic rankings and gathering pace with every exciting performance.
Ball, standing at only 5ft 2ins, is now approaching titles and currently ranked just outside the top 10 super-featherweights in Britain. Glasgow’s Jordan McCorry, a fighter tested at British level, has recently called out the Liverpudlian, potentially setting up what would be an all-action battle. For Ball, though, the man standing in the opposite corner doesn’t matter.
“I haven’t got my eyes on anybody. I don’t really focus on anyone apart from myself, because I know how good I am, and I know what I can do,” he said. “As I’ve always said, I want to be dealing with featherweights, mate. I’ll take opportunities to fight with featherweights and the super-featherweights – I’ll fight anyone that Frank [Warren] puts in front of me.
“I don’t really look at the names and stuff like that. Obviously, I watch the boxing and there’s a lot of good fighters in my weight, and a lot of those fighters in the weight above. But yeah, I just focus on myself and I’m ready to fight anyone, to be honest. We’re just waiting on another date. I think we’re waiting on the end of November, December. Hopefully, we’ll get one more in before the end of the year and then see what happens next year.”
Ball told Boxing Social that he knows the sport “isn’t fair”. Right now, he’s backed by one of Britain’s top two promoters, but he’s come up the hard way, grafting to sell tickets on the small hall circuit and carving out his own opportunities.
His style – that punishing, relentless smothering of his opponents – has helped the unbeaten prospect build a loyal fan base. Fans of the sport want to see Nick Ball fight; he doesn’t believe in playing chess, but flipping the board from the table, scattering the pieces wherever they fall.
“Because I’m small and I’m quite stocky, I’ll normally be fighting one of those tall, skinny fighters. So that’s always been my style; pressure and come forward constantly, and getting straight to it, letting big shots go,” he said. “It’s exciting as well, isn’t it? No one wants to see boring boxing fights at the end of the day – especially on telly. You want to see exciting, action-packed fights, so that’s what I try and do.”
The journey from the ground up looks set to be exciting and Ball doesn’t fancy it any other way. His ultimate aim was stated simply, but with belief: “I just want to be a world champion and to be remembered as one of those rare, great fighters that everyone talks about. I’m learning every day with Paul in the gym, so yeah, it’s a very important place to me, to be honest.
“This sport is not to be messed about with, is it? So my attitude is just giving 100% in everything. That gym is very important to me because it’s where I started off, and that’s where I’ll finish.
“I was a good fighter when I came here, but Paul’s changed me in massive ways and he changes everyone that comes. All the lads training at Everton Red Triangle have got different styles, but Paul teaches us all differently, that’s why he’s so good. I don’t think there’s any trainer out there that’s better than him and I mean that.”
Main image and all photos: Queensberry Promotions.