Rylan Charlton enters the final quarter of 2021 as a man reinvigorated and re-energised.
Never a man to shout from the rooftops or blow his own trumpet ‘The Pint-Sized Powerhouse’ sounded like a man full of self-belief and self-assurance when Boxing Social spoke to him recently.
The 29-year-old aims to mark one year as a television fighter with his most explosive and dominant victory yet when he fights Luke Willis this weekend in Liverpool at the M&S Bank Arena. A show stuffed with excellent matchups this lightweight encounter is keeping good company alongside Kieron Conway vs JJ Metcalf, Ted Cheeseman vs Troy Williamson and the main event of Liam Smith vs Anthony Fowler.
Charlton vs Willis is that classic tale of the puncher versus the pugilist where one is aiming for maximum damage while the other hopes to showcase his skillset and dominate on the back foot.
“I don’t know a lot of him, but I have checked him out,” Charlton (6-1-1, 3 KOs) says of his ninth opponent.
“He’s a half decent boxer, he’s no mug. You’ve got two [types of] fighters; you’ve got the come forward fighters and you’ve got the back foot fighters and he’s just a back foot fighter who is going to try and pick me off all night. It’s going to be an interesting fight. I can’t see him going 10 rounds with me. I sound really cocky, but I feel like I’m going to get on top of him and it’s going to be lights out for Willis!”
The chatter is almost out of character for the care home chef who has worked till daft o’clock in the restaurant industry in the past and racked up the miles travelling the world as part of his recovery.
If anything, you might expect Charlton to be far more uncertain having left his old trainer Frank Sictorness in Norfolk for pastures new in Newark with Carl Greaves back in April. That brief stint left Charlton feeling homesick and after a few weeks he returned to his home comforts. Not that he sat down and put his feet under the table, instead he got to work bringing together a new attitude and a new team, along with Sictorness, to turn Charlton into a potentially devastating addition to the 135lbs scene.
“I’ve got myself a really good strength and conditioning coach, a guy called Rui [Rodrigues] who is very good. I’ve got a nutritionist, also got a good chef who preps all my meals and then my boxing trainer Frank Sictorness the guy who I was with before, he’s stepped up. It’s been very good and I’m really happy with coming back.”
Boxing Social asked Charlton if his trusted cornerman was happy to have him back and if there was any bad feeling upon his return.
“No, none at all,” he answers. “The way I kind of left it, it was like I wanted to give something new a shot. He was happy and then he was really happy for me to come back. I feel like he wants to redeem the last fight we had (against Florian Marku). Obviously, we lost the last one, but it’s driven him even more. He’s been pushing hard. He was more than happy to have me back.”
“I just wasn’t getting on with living away from home,” he says of the time working with Carl Greaves.
“I weren’t really enjoying it. It just didn’t really work out for me up there and since I’ve been back, I’ve got a whole new team around me which has been good so coming back was definitely the right thing to do.
“After the Marku fight I thought I wanted to change it up a little bit and I went to Carl Greaves. I done about two to three weeks with him. It wasn’t too bad I just enjoy my home comforts. I like chilling out at home. All I was doing up there was sitting in a hotel room on my own, it got boring. I thought I’d rather come back and get a new team here.”
Charlton looks like a man who would be just as comfortable with a surfboard in his arms as he would wearing a pair of boxing gloves and has the Men’s Health front cover physique to go along with it. A mellow character overall but this camp and Saturday’s opportunity has lit a rocket underneath him. For the first time in his career, he is training like a professional and feels like one, too. The Willis fight carries Eddie Hearn’s ‘Winner Stays On’ phrase alongside it, something that a Roman Emperor would be proud of with the thumb stuck halfway between up and down. And because of that there is added pressure placed on Charlton but instead of feeling the burden of it he chooses to embrace the challenge instead.
“There’s definitely more riding on this but I do feel like this is also my coming out fight,” he insists.
“It’s still a very important fight. I’m just glad it’s at a weight I’m more comfortable at. I think every fight is super important, but definitely this is a coming out fight.”
“I feel pretty chilled out to be honest,” he adds. “I’ve been in there with the likes of Marku and yeah, he wobbled me, but I still didn’t go to that canvas. I’ve got the toughness; I’ve got everything on my side. I’m just very excited to be honest.”
The loss to Albania’s Florian Marku was a painful one to endure and to experience. Charlton’s bravery earned him plaudits and a hospital visit on a night when the difference in weight played out brutally. The truth of the matter is the ‘Pint-Sized’ lightweight should never have been near the welterweight mark, but social media and a good business deal have a frequent habit of making these opportunities happen.
“I enjoyed fighting Marku,” says Charlton. “It was a hard fight, but it was a weight that was never me. So, now I’m fighting at my own weight. Eddie Hearn has been brilliant, he’s said you can get another shot at this, it’ll be at your own weight. I couldn’t be happier to be honest and that’s really driven me even more now to really prove to myself at my actual weight.”
Charlton’s power wiped out Joe Laws 12 months ago but ultimately proved ineffective against Marku. Now, dropping down to 135lbs expectations are high. Should he still carry the whack then Willis may be in for a tough night if he can be caught. Charlton knows he cannot rely solely on his power in Saturday’s fight and will have to be patient, but the weight drop has removed the bulk and brought a lightness to his feet and movement.
“I don’t feel like I’ve lost any power from losing the weight,” Charlton believes. “I feel like my power is all still there but it’s more devastating because now I have the speed. Now, I’m speedy and the punches you get knocked out by are the ones you don’t see coming. I feel like the power is going to be more devastating at lightweight for sure.
“Obviously, I know it’s not all about power, you have to have the skill to land the power shots. I feel so much lighter on my feet now. Before I was carrying an extra stone that I didn’t need. I feel absolutely tiny! I look really skinny, but it’s just been exciting. I’ve actually trained like a professional. I’ve trained smart this camp. I used to train a lot harder but not smart. I used to just hammer myself and hammer myself and my back was aching, my legs were aching. Now I’ve had everything specific, my food’s all calorie counted, the training that I’m doing is perfect for different movements with all my strength and conditioning coaches and we’ve all trained very smart, and I feel very good so I’m super confident in myself.”
The old cliché of, ‘This is the best camp I’ve ever had’ applies to Charlton this time around and he makes a point of telling us, too. There are no excuses, he says. A weight he is comfortable at, a big stage, a good opponent, a full camp without the day job and a new team back home is ticking many boxes for Charlton. All of which has put him into a good head space and looking to deliver a statement performance against Willis in Liverpool.
“I’ve put in all the work through this camp so there’s zero excuses. It’s about getting in there and doing what I do best. This is my time to shine. Be ready for one hell of a fight.”
Main image: Dave Thompson/Matchroom Boxing.