Rylan Charlton: Beaten but unbowed

It is an unpleasant and humbling experience to be beaten up by someone. 

Out in the big bad world should a stranger or enemy get the better of you in a physical disagreement, leaving you in a bloody mess for whatever reason, then not only are you and your pride battered but some invisible scars will remain for the rest of your life.

In boxing, it would be a dreamland for fighters if they could waltz their way through their boxing life like a Joe Calzaghe and take minimal punishment. Taking your lumps and bumps are part and parcel, some even thrive on it, but for Rylan Charlton he has made changes to ensure what happened on February 20, 2021 will never happen again.

That particular night at Wembley Arena, live on Sky Sports, the ‘Pint Size Powerhouse’ paid a painful price for a gamble against an ‘Albanian King’ by the name of Florian Marku. It was a welterweight fight between a natural 10st 7lbs fighter in Marku against one who, in hindsight, had no business at the weight.

The build-up brought many of us into believing the smaller Rylan Charlton would beat his larger, vocal foe who played the part of villain perfectly through fight week. Marku got a grip of Charlton early in their fight smacking him far too often for anyone not supporting him. Charlton was game, showed heart and courage beyond the call of duty and eventually was prevented from six minutes of further hurt when the fight was ended in round eight. Charlton was taken to hospital and, for his troubles, came away with a couple of fractures in an eye socket and cheekbone.

Boxing Social caught up with Charlton eight weeks on to reflect on the fight, the aftermath and look ahead to a promising new partnership.

“I will never let that happen again, I really won’t,” he said of the nature of the loss to his short-term rival Marku.

“It’s not very nice seeing your family and your loved ones seeing me in such a mess. I didn’t like that. I’ll never, ever get in that state again. It wasn’t fun the week after the fight. The pain from the face was quite painful. Any little face movement I would do, it would feel like someone was playing a guitar on my tendons on my face which was very painful. I’ve said to my partner and my mum that I will never get in that state again.

“That was the first time I’ve ever been beaten up like that. I’ve got a lot to learn, and I’ve learned a lot from that fight. I feel like from now on, at a more realistic weight, I won’t get in that state. I’m going to give everything to this sport from now on because I don’t want to risk going down that path again.

“I regret ever fighting at welterweight because they’re massive and it hurts when they hit you [laughs]. No regrets really because you learn from every mistake. I would have liked to have more of a game plan because I would have kept coming at him and kept getting punched. I feel like a better game plan would have been better, but I feel like everything happens for a reason. I think if I had beaten Marku then [promoter] Eddie [Hearn] would have kept me at welterweight and I would’ve got beaten further down the line and probably worse off. Now I’m on a different path. I’m on my own path. Instead of trying to boost someone else’s boxing profile, I want to be boosting my own.”

The memories of the hospital visit are still intact for Charlton. It was a lonely Rocky moment for the fighting chef from Norwich. His former trainer Frank Sictorness visited but couldn’t go in and spend some time with his fighter due to strict Covid-19 rules. Charlton may not have had his old coach for company, or an Apollo Creed or a Mickey Ward, but another participant from that night’s show was in hospital, too, for his fighting wounds given to him by Russian machine David Avanesyan.

“I’m sat there with Josh Kelly, we’re both in hospital both chatting about the situation of us both in hospital,” Charlton recalled. “It was an experience but not one I want to relive.

“I remember pretty much everything. I was still conscious and with it. I’m quite shocked, I must be quite hard to be honest because I took a lot of punches in there, but I was not going to go down. Part of me wishes I did take a knee and get it over and done with.”

It is the worst kind of education you can get but Charlton is determined to learn from it. After hospital, came six weeks of rest that had him, “Going a bit nuts”, because of instructions not to train. 

“I feel like if I don’t have exercise in my life, I feel a bit down sometimes.”

Doing exercise like going for a run releases the endorphins for Charlton and life is better again. Life is looking up for him nowadays, too. Not only has he returned to his day job as a chef at Carleton House Care Home in Norfolk, but his boxing future is rosier thanks to his decision to leave his long-term trainer and pair up with one of the wisest brains in the business in Carl Greaves. It took the heavy loss to Marku for Charlton to realise that change was needed.

“I felt like I needed a complete change and I thought I’d go with more of a known trainer. Someone who people can get excited about. My manager Dan Naylor, I think he used to be managed by Carl Greaves, they knew each other so they’re quite close. I went down the gym, had a little trial with him on the pads, a little session and really enjoyed it and thought I’d go for it.”

That was three weeks ago at Greaves’ gym in Newark. 

“I was there Tuesday for another session. I’m mainly going to be in Norwich ticking over. As soon as it comes to fight camp, I will go and live up in Nottingham, in Newark, and crack on for the six to eight weeks.”

A new trainer isn’t the only difference that Charlton hopes will pay dividends to his prospects in the sport. It had been thought that he would return to his natural fighting home of 140lbs after fighting Marku but plans are afoot for the 28-year-old to campaign even lower. The already stacked lightweight division in the UK officially now has a new player in Charlton. 

“Since being professional I’ve never made weight,” he revealed.

“I used to do it on the small hall shows. I used to have to weigh in on the day and that’s just a killer doing that. I used to get myself down to ten stone two on the day of a fight and that’s not even with the water manipulation stuff where they proper dehydrate themselves. I’ve never done anything like that. I’m pretty convinced I could easily get down to lightweight and, having a big break after the Marku fight, I hadn’t really trained because I was told to have a good six weeks completely off which I did. I weighed myself at Carl’s gym and I think I was 68 something kilos and I think that’s almost the limit of welterweight and that’s with me being unfit and not training. Carl Greaves couldn’t believe I ever fought at welterweight when he saw my weight after not training for so long and he said we can 100% get you down to lightweight so we’re going to go for that.”

Charlton was always going to drop back down to super-lightweight, but he is looking forward to the extra push that will move him to 135lbs for the first time in his boxing career. His enthusiasm for it on the phone was easy to detect with words such as, “I’ll be an absolute beast at that weight!”

Greaves and Charlton are readying themselves for an attack on the best in Britain then. Thankfully, the team still has the backing of Eddie Hearn and Matchroom behind them. Charlton had already signed a contract prior to the Marku loss becoming the latest addition to their squad of fighters. Hearn messaged Charlton after his last fight congratulating him on the performance and told his sole Norfolk pugilist that he was looking forward to seeing him back in the ring. The 41-year-old gave the thumbs up in recent correspondence to the news that Charlton will be moving down two weights. Sometimes, it’s the little things that matter to fighters.

“It was really nice,” said a thankful Charlton.

“Sometimes it’s quite hard to get a reply from Eddie but it’s nice of him to send a reply saying that’s great, looking forward to having him back out. From now on, I think I’ve Eddie Hearn and Matchroom’s respect to be backing me from now on.”

Next time out, we may see Charlton in that one-time gelling fight for himself and his new trainer so that corner and fighter understand one another. From there, the aspirations include a possible title eliminator before the end of the year. What matters to Charlton is getting back on the horse and back to winning ways. And right now, he is just glad to be back in the gym and looking ahead to a positive future. He took a beating last time in the ring, he knows that, but what matters is ensuring it does not occur again. 

Main image: Dave Thompson/Matchroom Boxing.