Robbie Davies Jr had reached a stage of his career where the next step was the unknown.
A rock to lean on in the shape of manager Neil Marsh was gone after he had amicably parted ways with him. Davies was also without a trainer after he and Dominic Ingle called it a day following the Liverpudlian’s worrying performance and defeat to Gabriel Gollaz Valenzuela. He was also without a promoter after the deal with Matchroom ended.
Valenzuela punished Davies often when the pair fought for a super-lightweight bauble on February 20 at Wembley Arena. The unknown Mexican came in at a fortnight’s notice, switching the mindset of Davies who had been scheduled to meet a southpaw only for that to change when the orthodox and powerful Valenzuela turned up in the opposite corner.
‘Career balancing…’ Davies wrote on Twitter in June. ‘My last performance has stole my voice, I’ve been so quiet on socials. Because of a twat of a performance. Manager left me and promotional contract didn’t get renewed. What’s next? Scary.’
A cause for concern when followers first read it. Worried for his mental state many reached out to him offering him advice and support much to his surprise and now a sincere gratitude to all that did.
Trainer Shane McGuigan was one of those who contacted Davies and before long the two agreed to work with one another. Davies would join a stellar stable of talent featuring WBO cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie, heavyweight contender Daniel Dubois and Anthony Fowler who faces the biggest night of his own career against Liam Smith on October 9.
It is that particular show where Davies had hoped to land in a slot to show the work that he and McGuigan had put in, and a chance for the fighter to get back to the style of boxing that fans had come to expect when he was first starting out in his professional career. A style which he had unintentionally ignored and walked away from, instead choosing to trade bombs with the likes of Lewis Ritson and his last opponent.
Boxing Social spoke to Davies last month with a view to publishing the feature on the Smith-Fowler fight week, perhaps unwisely assuming that he would be on the show. The landscape has changed for Davies and a few days ago he took to Twitter again to blow off some steam.
‘I’m well overdue a rant on here… but so disheartened time after time I can’t even be arsed anymore lol. Trained continuously for weeks with [an] end goal in place to wake up and just be completely scrubbed. Feeling the door to retire with my pride right in front of me.’
While trying to avoid placing myself into this story, I contacted Davies shortly after his tweet to see if he was okay. From what he said, it did appear as though he was scheduled to be on Eddie Hearn’s October 9 show but has now been removed. I then told him that, if he did choose to retire, he would likely regret it after a month, such is boxing’s addictive qualities. Davies said: ‘Time will tell, sooner too I’m guessing’, thanked me for the support and went about his day.
So, what you are about to read is now instead the Q&A from the interview which took place last month where Davies was in a better place and was on his way to get a cake for his daughter’s first birthday.
Boxing Social: Do you think having a baby has helped you, provided a distraction from your career issues because, going by your tweet in June, you seemed to be in a bad place?
Robbie Davies Jr: “Could look it that way. Just felt like everything was falling apart. Luckily enough got a few good people around me, just kept plugging away and hopefully by the end of the year things look a bit brighter.”
Boxing Social: How was it you came to hook up with Shane McGuigan?
Robbie Davies Jr: “The time you were on about when I made the announcement basically saying I’m outta here, no trainer, no coach, no manager, no promotional contract… luckily for me my phone blew up. Loads of people started getting in touch with me. Loads of people who weren’t trainers or promoters but knew trainers and promoters and said, ‘I’ll put a word in for you’. I was thinking let me just sit back for a bit and see what unfolds. I had a few different managers that were offering me different things. I was even getting offered international fights. They were probably thinking it was a good time to get me cheap. Like a former Russian world champion and you can fight him in Latvia. I said, ‘listen, I haven’t even got a manager and I’m not taking any fights without looking into things’. I was putting everything off. I was speaking to different trainers, different managements, I wasn’t speaking to any promoters because I had to get management and they can speak to the promoters for me. I thought I don’t want to be doing any deals myself because I’ll end up fucking up! Luckily enough, Shane dropped me a message. I knew some of the lads in his gym and we were just chatting. Shane’s only a little bit older than me even though he’s got a lot of experience and had a lot of world champions. When they’re in the gym, he’s very professional when he’s the coach. But when we step out of the gym, he’s like a friend. Sometimes when I was in the other gyms, I was a bit on my own especially when I was moving away, sitting in a house on my own. Now I’ve got someone there to bounce off. I didn’t say I was staying but I just kept coming back and coming back. I’m not mad on social media but someone said come on it’s time to get a picture, you’re part of the team so I was like, ‘go on, sound’. Shane’s been in talks for me so hopefully I’ll be fighting before the end of the year.”
Boxing Social: Is he your manager as well?
Robbie Davies Jr: “I think it will just be Shane. Shane will train me, and Shane will do my management. He’s working hands on with me which I don’t actually mind. With me, if he throws a fight my way, I’ll just say yeah anyway so it’s best to have someone working alongside me and can see for himself, what he thinks will be best for me. I’m not the type to turn down fights, I’d fight anyone. He’s like ‘no, no we want these types of fights’, we want this and that and he’s seeing what my best and worst things are. He’s training with me now and most of the training is based specifically around boxing in this gym. That’s what I like. Some gyms you go to it’s about getting fit. Where this is just boxing which is going to be a benefit for me because I’m already fit and strong. I don’t really need to work on that, it just needs to be my boxing in the ring.”
Boxing Social: What was it about yourself in the ring that you felt as though you need to work on or improve?
Robbie Davies Jr: “Not including that last fight because that was just an absolute train wreck. Before that, it started to become a known thing that every time, I was in a fight it would be a tear up. There was no skill involved. When I was first coming through, I was boxing the head off people and I was thinking where has this come from, where’s it going wrong. I just needed to find someone. Shane likes people to box. When you go in the gym it’s not like there’s any fighters in the gym, they’re all boxers. I fell in line pretty easy. It was warming in there for me and because I was enjoying it, it was an easy choice to make. I know some people say but yeah, you’ve got to bite the bullet, you might have to move away, it’s worth it in the long run. But a fighter like me I need to be happy in there, I need to be enjoying what I’m doing. I get on really well with Shane, with Josh [Pritchard] the other coaches, the other fighters, some I already knew. It’s definitely moving in the right direction. I just need to get a fight. Get the rust off. Saying get the rust off, I’d be happy to take a big fight right away but a few of them have fell through and they were fights that everyone would have definitely got up for. They were big domestic fights, and we were all go on my side. I think some people were happy to fight me but not in Liverpool. Them fights might come back up but not in Liverpool. Just waiting to see what happens now.”
Boxing Social: Are you fighting on October 9?
Robbie Davies Jr: “It’s up in the air at the moment. If you go on Boxrec it says I’m on it, but I wasn’t added to the poster and there’s been no feelers, opponents. There was at first, like I said a big domestic fight. We were all go on our end then it completely fizzled out on their end. I’m not going to start goading someone saying it’s shit, whatever reason he didn’t want it. Most people don’t want to fight me in Liverpool. They think he’s a hard fight as it is, they don’t want to fight him in Liverpool.”
Boxing Social: You described your last performance as a train wreck. Could you see the train wreck coming?
Robbie Davies Jr: “No, because I was training six weeks to fight a southpaw and then two weeks to go change of opponent. We took that fight at two weeks’ notice and when he [Valenzuela] showed up we realised he was part of Eddy Reynoso’s team. The two defeats he had were years ago and the two he had been against top ten in the world. So, I was thinking this kid must be half tasty. David Diamante even come up to me in the bubble and said, ‘Listen Rob, I’ve seen this kid, don’t be taking him lightly’. I was like everyone’s going on about this kid and I don’t even know him. There was no footage of him and the one bit there was he was knocking over a tomato can. I was going in a bit blind. I’m massive for the weight and I was well bigger than him. I was thick muscle he was slim muscle. I was still going in confident but when the fight came, and I don’t want to go into it too much, I was trying to follow the instructions of my coach [Dominic Ingle] at the time and it just felt like it weren’t working. Some people could hear me saying it in the corner. They say a good fighter listens to his coach and I just stick with it. It’s one of them… I felt like even after the bad start to the fight I dragged him back in but then I had a bad last round trying to stick to the tactics. If that last round had went the other way, then everyone might have been saying he was a genius for getting me to do the tactics. I know myself and I wasn’t happy in there. I was uncomfortable from the second round, and it was a bit hard for me. People were saying why don’t you do your own thing because that’s what you do you listen to your coach. He’s looking from the outside. I didn’t make no fuss of it, no grudges, didn’t blame no-one, just took it on the chin. I think people know that weren’t me. Hopefully with Shane, it’s a chance for me, but it’s my last chance as well in my eyes. I don’t want to be fighting for the sake of fighting. I want to still have my ambition to do something in the game. Just going to see how it goes now. Get out at the end of the year and look forward to next year.”
Boxing Social: After all these hard fights do you feel like too much has been taken out of you?
Robbie Davies Jr: “I’d probably know if I had in sparring and things and, in sparring, I’m still fighting world class opposition. I’m still always well on top. There’s not many people that will come away from a spar with me and say they just done Robbie Davies. I know I’m still capable. I’m not taking daft shots or getting wobbled by anyone ever. It just doesn’t happen. When that day comes and I start feeling like that and someone starts hitting me in sparring and I’m thinking they’re hurting me, I’ll know myself. I’m not going to be one of the fighters that get dragged out of boxing. I want to be one of the fighters that walk away when I know. Right now, I’m 31 and I’m definitely not an old 31. Even in my mannerisms I’m not 31. I don’t feel like I’m battle worn in any way. Even if I was fighting an up and comer at 25, I wouldn’t be thinking oh he’s younger and fresher. I’d be thinking to myself right he’s got to keep up with me. That’s the way I look at it.”
Boxing Social: What changed from the man who would box people’s heads off to the man who would get into a tear up?
Robbie Davies Jr: “I couldn’t put my finger on it. When I look back on some of my fights, I started squaring up a lot, I started feeling like I couldn’t be hurt. Happy to trade, things like that. When you look back at it, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Boxing is about hit and not get hit whereas I was you hit me, and I’ll hit you harder. Hopefully, I can get back to the side where I can show I’m very capable of boxing, rather than having wars all the time. If need be, people know it’s in me.”
Boxing Social: Are you still happy at super-lightweight or would you go back down or move back up?
Robbie Davies Jr: “I’m probably out growing this weight, I’m always bigger than everyone. Everyone used to comment on my shape on social media and if anything, I’ve probably done too many weights for an athlete. I’m a lot more streamlined, I look a lot slimmer. I’m slimmer now than I was in my last fight just because the only type of strength and conditioning I’ve done is just a circuit where you’re just getting a sweat on. I haven’t done no pumping iron, which at one point I was probably doing too much of. Looking back, I was thinking was I doing that to look good or be stronger but when you lack at it, it wasn’t preferable for me in boxing. Hopefully, I get back to looking like an Olympic runner. That’s the look I want!”
Boxing Social: The tweet you put out in June…
Robbie Davies Jr: [Interrupts] “I was just hurting. Honestly. That’s probably the best way to put it. People think I’m just chilling in the house and I’m alright, and that I’m not arsed about it but I was hurting. Manager left me. I thought we were thick as thieves, that hurt me.”
Boxing Social: Did you expect that?
Robbie Davies Jr: “Definitely not. I was getting him to help me split up with Sheffield because I wanted it to be amicably. Didn’t want to start saying I left because of this and that. I just needed a bit of help from my manager. He was who put me in that gym because he had the relationship with Dominic beforehand and that’s how I ended up going in that gym. So, when I went for a walk with him, I thought he was just going to tell me about what’s been said, you’re not part of that gym anymore so you’ll have to look for a new gym and then he just come out with he was letting me go. As a fighter, I was like are you swerving it altogether and he was like ‘no, no I’m still gonna manage David [Avanesyan] and Zach [Parker]’ and that’s when it started hurting my feelings. He gave me his own personal reasons of why. I’m then just thinking a million things, what am I gonna do now. Because in boxing I didn’t really have anyone to lean on and it weren’t there anymore because by the way it sounded, I was leaning too much, too often. Whereas the other fighters, their coaches took the brunt of it was what he said and at this point I haven’t even got a coach now so there’s no-one to take the brunt of it for me. So, I’m leaning on him, asking him questions, picking his brain constantly and he must’ve thought I wasn’t worth it to listen to me waffling on all the time which in a business sense it’s understandable, I come off a loss where I was probably meant to win. It was like where do I go from here, so I put the tweet out. So many people got in touch.”
Boxing Social: That must have felt good that you matter to so many.
Robbie Davies Jr: “Do you know what I can’t even tell you, even like people who weren’t trying to sign me or anything like that, the amount of boxing management, people that work under Matchroom, under Frank Warren, under Hennessy Sports, some people I’ve not even spoke to before, former fighters, former world champions, it got to everyone, everyone was sending me messages. Fighters that I’ve not ever spoke messaging me saying I hope you’re alright, So many reached out to me and I was like fucking hell. Sometimes the boxing world is poison. Sometimes it’s a good place to be. So many people reached out to me to make sure I was alright. It was like a little lift for me.”
Boxing Social: I know you want a fight, but you seem much happier now.
Robbie Davies Jr: “Yeah, definitely. I’ve got the spring back in my step. Feel a lot better about things and I feel like when I go to train, obviously I don’t like being away from my family, but when I am down in London with Shane and that I really am enjoying that. I train hard, I get the graft in and when I come out of there, I have a laugh as well. For a person like me, I’m a pretty big character, I know I can never get it out there to the public but I’m a big character in the gym and I’ve got other characters in the gym that bounce off it with me. So, I’m really enjoying it. It’ll definitely be beneficial. As they say, a happy fighter is a dangerous fighter. That’ll be me.”
Boxing Social: For those that are interested, concerned or need reassurance what’s your message?
Robbie Davies Jr: “I’m definitely alright. When a lot of people reached out to me… I think I was in a worse place than I probably was. In my normal life I was good, my boxing side of things was really getting me down. I’m definitely in a lot better place and I’m definitely looking forward to the future. If any of the people reached out to me; fighters, managers, there was loads… if they see this just know how much I appreciated the messages.”
Photo: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.