Beneath the colourful skies of Dubai and amongst its scorching temperatures a Liverpudlian sits inside a gym ready to talk to Boxing Social about the last 18 months of his life.
Some grey strands are beginning to pop up on his facial hair, the obligatory Just for Men joke is mentioned, but other than the ageing process life seems to have never been better for Rocky Fielding.
The Fielding family upped sticks and left Merseyside for the United Arab Emirates, via the Cayman Islands, at the beginning of 2021. The man of the house is repaying the dedication that his partner showed allowing Rocky to pursue a career and dreams.
“It was a bit of an opportunity out here for my girl in marketing. There were business opportunities in the Cayman Islands for her too but then we took the trip here,” said Fielding speaking from the KO8 gym as he continues to get back up to speed for business at super-middleweight and potentially light-heavyweight.
“There were things in the pipeline for her, so I had to go with her. She’s been with me and my career, so I had to give a bit of leeway and it’s brought me and the kids here.”
A push of the rewind button and we go back to November 15, 2019. Fielding was inside Liverpool’s Olympia venue getting back in the swing of things 11 months on since Canelo Alvarez took his WBA super-middleweight title at Madison Square Garden. Rocky v Canelo, it was a Christmas fairytale in New York with a reality check ending. Back at the Olympia Abdallah Shaban Pazzy (26-6-1 at the time) was wiped away in two rounds. Cobwebs, dust and the rest shook off for Rocky.
That was the last time he was in a boxing ring in anger. Five months later and his life, along with everyone else across the world, was flipped sideways by Covid-19. His own memories of the pandemic’s beginning took him back to a time in Spain. By himself, up mountains and relieved that he made it home!
“As soon as I had that fight back in November, I was back in the gym straight away,” he recalled.
“I took myself away on my own to Spain at the end of February. I was running up mountains on my own. I was there for a week on my own living in a hotel. And when I got back, two days later Covid happened. It was a good job I got home otherwise I’d have been stuck in Spain really.”
‘On his own,’ he mentioned it a few times during that exchange. Fielding was trying to make a point. His point being he would not have done any of that without his family if he wasn’t serious about his boxing career. People have been wondering where Rocky has been, speculating if he retired and during one interview his promoter Eddie Hearn was curious as to where he was and what he was doing with himself.
The fight against Shaban Pazzy then led to five months then without one (natural) and then a global catastrophe of the like the world hasn’t seen in over 100 years. All of it combined meant inactivity. Many others were in a similar boat with him. Training in his back garden, working on a gymnastics bar with his kids, getting a punchbag up too and a treadmill in his garage. He was training just like anyone else. Fielding hasn’t left boxing behind but now with life returning to a different normality means the soon-to-be 34-year-old (on August 4) needs to make his move. A plan is in place, the beginning of which should start later this year.
“It has given me a big boost,” he says of the plan that his management team MTK have for him.
Then comes a reminder to me, anyone reading this and anyone in boxing.
“I’m not like this old fighter, this shot fighter,” he begins.
“I’ve had 30 fights. Prizefighter, English champion, Commonwealth champion, British champion and WBA champion and only lost two fights. One to Canelo and one six years ago to Callum Smith. Far from a finished fighter. Been out the ring similar time as everyone else. I’m back in the mix. I’ve been training for the last three or four months and waiting to get things in place now and they are. I’ll be back soon.”
Boxing Social then asked him if before or during the pandemic had he ever considered retirement.
“No because I haven’t been in no wars, haven’t took no beatings. I’m still hungry enough for it. People might think things change when you get that big fight with Canelo. He’s an elite fighter, a better fighter and he beat me but there’s still fights out there for me and things I can still achieve.
“I’ve still got the hunger. Never walked away from it before or during the pandemic. As I said I haven’t been in 10-12 round fights where I’ve been battered. I’ve had a few losses, Callum was six years ago, a long time. I’m recharged and ready.”
Fielding isn’t vexed at the ‘retirement’ question, far from it. He gives the impression that he has a point to prove. A few words have to be put out there just to remind us that his career is very much alive and ready to fight. Some names then come to mind. A trio that will be in his thoughts once he has a tune-up before the end of the year.
“I just want the big names, the big fights. If Billy Joe [Saunders] carries on, you’ve got Callum and I wouldn’t mind having it back with [John] Ryder. It was a bad performance against Ryder and I got the win but it was a bad performance and Ryder’s gone on to do okay. They’re the three that if the phone rang, I would go for. If Billy needs an opponent, Callum needs an opponent I’d jump at it. That’s something I’d definitely do. There’s fights in the States at 168 and 175. If I got a call to mix it with one of the top ones, then definitely. I think I just need to get back in the mix, get back to winning ways. I think the top ones are on a similar path at 168 and 175. At 168 Canelo’s got all the belts with [Caleb] Plant and underneath him there’s still big names and everyone’s going to be fighting each other soon. Ryder, Callum and if Billy Joe are three fights to be had and I’d jump at.”
Without a fight since November 2019 has reminded Fielding that there is more to life than boxing, however. The thirst to succeed and get back to the big nights and bigger fights will only leave when he hangs up the gloves but being allowed to spend more time with his family, especially during the lockdowns, has brought a light to his life that’s only as bright as the sun outside his new lodgings in Dubai.
“It wasn’t a good time for no-one, but it brought me and my family closer together,” he said. “If the pandemic hadn’t happened, I’d have been on the front line fighting now.
“In the last year I had to concentrate on my family and being at home, what was best for us and them. They were out of nursery so me and my missus had to do a bit of schoolwork, we went for bike rides, walks… same as everyone else really. Kept myself ticking over, not as consistent as usual but I’ve had the last three years of intense training on my body. It’s been good in some ways, resting my mind, living a bit of a life. You’ve got to make the time. It gave me a little time to ease back and forget about boxing and just concentrate and a bit of life.”
With his life as a fighter about to restart Rocky Fielding could have very well then uttered, ‘Happy life, happy fighter’. If you can attain happiness in your personal life then everything else is a bonus. His smile was as wide as the Mersey when he beat Tyron Zeuge three years ago to win the WBA title and it never left him while he was in New York for Canelo. As he said earlier, he has won multiple titles and took on the best in the world. So many boxes have been ticked and now he and his loved ones, while only a six-hour flight from Liverpool, are settled, content and full of happiness.
What Rocky Fielding the fighter can still offer we will soon discover. Often the underdog, often his back against the wall, the likeable Scouser – with power that you’d be foolish to dismiss – can still make another mark in his career. Saunders, Callum Smith and Ryder float his career boat. New and old foes but ‘Rocky from Stocky’ still wants to light up the likes of the Echo Arena or any of Eddie Hearn’s promotions. Fielding hasn’t retired and hasn’t disappeared. If anything can be taken away from the half hour, he spent talking to Boxing Social via Zoom, it’s that he wants to remind us all of what he can do in a ring. He wants to get back in the mix again.
“I know there’s fights out there that I know I’m capable of competing at, at a bigger level,” he says.
“Seen a couple of youngsters shouting my name wanting to step up and fight. I know for a fact I’d blast them. I’m still fresh. I’m still getting my sprints in; I’m still getting my times and doing what I always used to do a couple of years back. I’m recharged and I’m still hungry.”