It’s been all change for Robbie Davies Jr. since he suffered a disappointing defeat to Lewis Ritson back in 2019. He joined forces with the revered Ingle Gym in Sheffield and looked like he was ready to drag himself back into contention in the 140lbs division.
Davies (20-2, 13 KOs) got back to winning ways with a straightforward win in Manchester last March, the first under Dominic Ingle’s stewardship, and then the world shut down. Slowly, boxing returned, but Davies didn’t and was sat on the sidelines.
However, the Liverpool star has been handed a shot to catapult straight back up the rankings when he takes on Mexico’s Gabriel Gollaz Valenzuela at the SSE Arena on Saturday, as part of Matchroom’s second show of the year from inside their Wembley bubble.
The added trinket of the IBF’s Inter-Continental belt is also up for grabs and with it the all-important world ranking, which would once again see Davies in the frame for bigger tests. It was a chance that wasn’t going to be turned down.
Davies explained to Boxing Social: “This is my first fight due to the pandemic that has got some real meaning behind it. When I fought last year, just before everything got shut down [W8, Damian Leonardo Yapur], it wasn’t ideal, as we had a late change in opponent and it was just a chance to tick over. It was either not fight or get some rounds in. I’m glad I did fight as it would have been even longer to wait.
“There was talk of me getting to fight for the European title in this one, but that got moved and the champion is fighting someone else now. But this is a good test for me, as there’s a belt on the line which will give me an opportunity to earn a good ranking and so, when it was offered to me, I took it straight away.
“I was at home ready to come to the gym one morning and Dom [trainer Dominic Ingle] rang me and told me I’ve got an official check weight. So they’d already accepted the fight for me, as they know what I’m like. He’s a decent fighter, comes forward as expected but he’s not as good as me in any department.”
After the Ritson defeat, Davies did what many have done before him and look for pastures new. He landed at the Sheffield gym, which is once again seeing its stars push for world honours, with the likes of Kid Galahad and Liam Williams on the verge of world title shots and glory.
For the 31-year-old Scouser, the worry was not about what he could do, it was whether the Ingle Gym would change him from the fighter he was. But, he needn’t have worried and the added bonus of, once again, being in a busy gym was a big tip of the scale for Davies, who says he has thrived from the experience of being at the Wincobank set-up.
The one downside to training in Sheffield is the breaks away from parenthood, something that Davies admits will be difficult as he enters the Matchroom bubble for the first time.
He explained: “Everybody within boxing knows about the Ingle Gym in Sheffield. For the first fight with Dom, it was a case of getting off the couch and being ready in six weeks. The main aim was to get the weight down and get some time together. I didn’t worry a bit when I joined initially, as I thought I might end up stuck between styles and they may change me.
“There aren’t many fighters who move like the Ingle fighters, but instead of turning me into that style, Dom has worked with what I am and polished it up. It’s a great place to be. I spent two years pretty much training on my own, so to come in every day and be pushed by other fighters, who are all on the verge of big things themselves, is fantastic.
“I got a text off my manager [Neil Marsh] and he said to me he hasn’t seen me this good mentally for a long time and it’s down to being here. The only thing that is getting to me a bit is being away from my kid in the bubble. I’m used to travelling back and forward, but on my off-days or afternoons that Dom lets me have off I go back home. [This will be] the longest I’ll have ever been away and, if anything spurs me on, it’ll be that.”
Like all fighters, Davies is prone to looking to the future, despite what lays in front of him. The fights during the pandemic have proven that is a dangerous tactic, as Josh Warrington found out all too painfully at the hands of his own Mexican destroyer in Mauricio Lara last weekend.
It will have served as a wake up call to many. The lack of crowds has been an equaliser, but for Davies it won’t be any different to those famous spars at the Ingle Gym, where the pressure is well and truly on.
With a win over Valenzuela, Davies is aware that the Ritson return could come again. Ritson was poor last time out against Miguel Vazquez and was one of many to benefit from recent, dreadful scorecards on British shores. In the first meeting between the two, Ritson earned a closely-fought, unanimous decision and the chance of a rematch is a driving factor for Davies.
“I’ll get the win over Valenzuela and then it’s on to a much bigger fight in the summer. I definitely want the Ritson fight again. It’s one of the best British fights that should get a rematch and no one is really mentioning it,” he said. “I’ve heard he’s got a final eliminator soon and I’ll be up there in the IBF once I win, so if the belt becomes vacant, there’s a big opportunity for the rematch, as we’ll both be in good positions.
“I know he’s not speaking about it and he wasn’t great last time out with Vazquez, but let’s be honest, Vazquez is awkward for anyone and Lewis will be better next time with whoever it is he fights. I’m focused on this one, but like I said, I’d be lying if I didn’t want that one back.
“It’s good to be fighting again. The no fans element really doesn’t bother me in the slightest. It’s like being in the gym and having a spar with everyone there to watch. It’s just as intense and all eyes are on you, so you make sure that you don’t get filled in. This is the same environment. People will be shouting from ringside and, if anything, I’ll hear Dom clearer. Those spars will prove to be beneficial and I’m more than ready to go.”
Main image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.