Sugden relishing underdog status

Chad Sugden (11-1-1, 4KO’s) is well aware of what a victory on Saturday could do for him. Like most fighters in the UK, getting his hands on the British title is something that drives him on and now it is within touching distance. For many, it has been the catalyst to what has become a successful career.

But the Newark man has also been handed the unfavourable underdog tag for his meeting with Shakan Pitters (13-0, 4KO’s), the former English champion, who has seen his star rise in the past couple of years after winning the Ultimate Boxxer tournament.

Now, after an enforced Covid-19 pandemic delay, the two will clash for the Lonsdale Belt in Redditch on Saturday, live on Channel 5 in the UK, and for Sugden it is the chance he has been waiting for. The 26-year-old comes from a line of successful kickboxers and the whole experience of fighting behind closed doors is anything but novel too him.

“I’ve been the away fighter plenty of times before back when I was in kickboxing. I’ve fought all over the world in places like Germany, Thailand, Azerbaijan and Las Vegas,” Sugden told Boxing Social: “I remember fighting in Dubai where it was effectively behind closed doors, as the crowd that were in there didn’t clap or anything until the end of the fight and you could hear every single shot.

“I really think it will play a part on Saturday, as it won’t be a new experience for me. The British title is so prestigious and, if you look at some of the people who have won it, they more often than not go on to bigger and better things, which I think will happen to me, too. I really believe this is just the start for me.

“Shakan is a good fighter and this is two fighters who have worked for everything they’ve got and haven’t just been handed the opportunity. We’re both hungry and, although I’m the younger out of the pair of us, are relatively young in terms of our careers. This is exactly what a fight for the British title should be.”

The original clash was scheduled for March; however, the country was forced into lockdown the same week they were due to meet in Coventry. Sugden was once again drafted as a replacement for Craig Richards and, this time, with a full camp behind him he is confident he can upset the odds.

Pitters has had plenty of exposure since 2018, when he won one of the early Ultimate Boxxer competitions, which closely resembles the old Prizefighter three-round tournament format. Sugden admits he was impressed, but insists that those three victories have simply padded out Pitters’ record.

The 26-year-old puts more stock in Pitters’ victory over Dec Spelman for the English championship last September. But ‘2 Slick’ believes that he is a very different prospect to Spelman and claims his wins over the likes of Luke Blackledge carry more weight.

“I was scheduled to be on the same card as the Pitters-Richards fight; however, as people know, [Richards] pulled out with a virus four weeks before, which he couldn’t do anything about. I was just meant to be in a six-round fight, but I was the reserve so we sort of knew if anything happened, it could be in the pipeline,” he said.

“I think that the delay will work in my favour. Beforehand, I had four weeks to prepare, but this time I’ve had a full camp where I’ve put my sole focus on fighting him. He’s a good fighter, but I’ve had the harder fights. He won Ultimate Boxxer but that is three wins in one night, all over three rounds.

“His only real fight was Dec Spelman, who he’d beat in that same tournament, but again for the English last year. Dec is very different to me and is a good fighter for that level, but he can’t move like me and I firmly believe I can go beyond British title level at some point. That is what spurs me on and I want to prove that to everyone watching.”

Sugden has also had to go through the rebuild that many young fighters go through after slipping to a surprise defeat. He was defeated back in 2016 by the respected Alistair Warren on points when he was down at super-middleweight.

He doesn’t shy away from the defeat and confirms how important it was for his career. Now at light-heavy, he feels more settled and performed well in his last meeting in December, when he was handed a draw against Richards at York Hall.

Like any fighter, he knows a defeat on his record will stand out to his opponent’s camp, but is adamant they would be making an error by focusing on it. Sugden is ready to spoil Pitters’ momentum and throw his hat in the ring for some intriguing domestic clashes at 175lbs. 

“If you put too much stock in my loss to Warren, you’re making a big mistake. That fighter is a very different fighter today and the defeat totally changed me not just as a fighter, but a person as well,” said Sugden. “You are only as good as your last fight, which for me was the draw with Richards on a week’s notice.

“Richards was meant to be a proper 50/50 fight for Pitters and I got a draw against him from the away corner. I’m the underdog, but I actually really enjoy that tag, as that means all the pressure is on him. I’m going to surprise a few people and finally get some credit, which I didn’t really get last time.

“I feel settled at light-heavyweight. Making super-middleweight is possible, but I’m happy where I am and feel good. I’ve always more than held my own, whether it’s in the fights or even in sparring, where sometimes people are having to hold their own with me. It was the right move to come up and in the long run it will serve me well. The division is hotting up domestically, so it will be good to be a part of it.”

Sugden isn’t likely to shy away from any fight. It’s what he’s been doing for his whole career as a fighter. Home advantage isn’t the be-all, end-all for him and the chance of a trip abroad to really test himself is something he would enjoy.

He is also the first headline a fight back on Channel 5 and knows the bonus of fighting on terrestrial television could do wonders for his exposure, as he looks to pay back the many who have followed him over the years.

“I’ll take any fight. That’s just the way I’ve been brought up as a fighter,” he said. “I’ll be honest, when I win it’ll be nice then having a little bit more of a say and not just jumping in at a week’s notice, but as a fighter, if a big away day comes my way, I’m not one to turn it down.

“Boxing is back and on all sorts of platforms, but being on Channel 5 could mean some good exposure for me. The football has finished now, so it will good for people at home to watch an exciting fight. The win will do so much for me and will be a great way to pay back my fanbase who have been with me since day one.”

Sugden certainly doesn’t lack in confidence and, like all fighters, he has one eye on the future. However, his feet are firmly planted, as he hopes they will be on Saturday, where he aims to take the decision out of the judges’ hands.

He is well aware that those big fights don’t happen unless he gets past Pitters on Saturday. If any fighter needed anything to spur them on, it would be that and Sugden is excited for what could be in his very near future.

“I’m not getting ahead of myself, I’ve got a job to do on Saturday. There are some great options for me in the future though,” said Sugden. “I’d love to run it back with Richards and set the record straight with him, but one I like is Lyndon Arthur, as we could put both belts on the line.

“But it looks like he’s going to be fighting Anthony Yarde, so fair play to him. The big one for anyone in the division domestically is the Joshua Buatsi fight, as that would be huge for your ranking. I’m confident that I could cause him some issues. He’s got a lot of power and picks his shots nicely, but with the tempo I fight at, I’m confident I would get the win.

“However, none of that happens if I don’t beat Pitters. Once I win, I think I will start being taken seriously after I show that I’m a good fighter. It’s for a vacant title and it will be tough, but it’s two men and three judges who determine the result. I want to take it out of the judges’ hands and make them irrelevant and I’m ready to show my credentials and walk away with that British title around my waist.”

Main image: Matchroom Boxing