In the aftermath of an unexpected defeat, the inquest often begins immediately. There must be an explanation. When a reasonable justification cannot be found, flimsy excuses will suffice.
It would be easy for Tommy Frank to provide mitigation for his shock loss to Rosendo Hugo Guarneros last December. In the third round, the Yorkshireman sustained a severe strain to his left rotator cuff, which would require months of lengthy rehab. Unable to throw his injured arm, his Mexican foe stepped up the pressure. The task of keeping Guarneros at bay with just his right hand became increasingly arduous. At the end of the eighth frame, trainer Glyn Rhodes had seen enough and opted to withdraw his fighter from the bout, despite Frank’s protestation.
However, the 27-year-old has no interest in citing extenuating circumstances. After all, a loss is a loss. Instead, Frank is fully focused on proving he is the better man when he gets his shot at redemption tonight at the Sheffield Arena Car Park, broadcast live on Fightzone.
“I’m just putting that out of my mind completely,” Frank told Boxing Social when asked about his first bout with Guarneros. “I’m just approaching this fight like the last fight never happened. It’s back to square one. I’ve got Guarneros in front of me, it’s for an IBF Inter-Continental [flyweight] title and I’m just going to do what I do and get that job done. Obviously, you can’t ignore that last fight, it did happen, so it will be nice to put that to bed, finally and then move on. I’ll feel like I’ve kinda washed that loss away.”
While Frank (13-1, 3 KOs) won’t dwell on the events of that fateful night in December when he is in the ring, the memories still linger.
After throwing a jab, Frank experienced a shooting pain in his left shoulder. His initial instinct was to disguise his injury so as not to disclose it to his rival. However, before long, he was unable to raise his arm in defence, never mind throw it.
When kidology was no longer viable, Frank turned his attentions to tactics. Despite being forced to fight one-handed, he still believed he could win. Guarneros saw his opportunity and was desperate to take full advantage of Frank’s misfortune. The Mexican marched forward, throwing in volume as he looked to force a stoppage. The aggressive game plan played into the Sheffield fighter’s hands at times, as he was able to punish his foe with counters when Guarneros missed wildly.
The moments of success were too fleeting for Rhodes’ liking. As Frank sat on his stool, he was overcome by the painful pang of disappointment.
“When it went in the third round, I knew,” he recalled. “I gave it a little shake out, just to see what were what with it, but I were trying not to give away that I’d hurt my shoulder. I didn’t want the other guy knowing. I tried to mask it as best [as] I could. I didn’t really know what the situation were, I didn’t know whether I’d just tweaked it and it were going to come back. I quietly told my corner at the end of the third round and Sam Sheedy started massaging it and seeing if it would come back.
“The following rounds it became apparent that it were just seizing up, more and more. As the rounds went on, it actually seized up completely towards [the] end. I knew pretty early on, I weren’t going to be able to throw it, so I tried to play the long game in my head and see what I were going to do because we were only in round three. If it had happened a bit later, maybe round eight, round nine and I’d got all them rounds in the bank, it might have been a bit different. I might have been able to coast the last four or five rounds out, but with it going quite early, I were in a bit of a pickle; I had to make sure I were winning the rounds, but I could only use one hand.
“I tried a few things; I tried standing at close quarters with him and firing my right [hand] up the centre, which did work. I then tried boxing and moving and that seemed to work, but as the fight went on, especially when Guarneros realised I weren’t using my left, he just upped the pace a little bit. I felt the rounds were slipping away just with his work rate, basically. Then at the end of the eighth, Glyn made that decision to pull me out.
“I were devastated. Every fighter is gonna say that. No fighter wants to get pulled out. If you are gonna go out, you want to go out on your shield. You want to go out as a fighter, fighting and doing that right to the end, but at the end of the day, Glyn saw something and thought: ‘Let’s call it a day now and live to fight another day.’”
As fighters are often too brave for their own good, such calls tend to be made by the man in the corner. However, having a boxer’s best interests at heart can cost a trainer his job if his charge disputes his decision.
While Frank may not have agreed with Rhodes’ opinion at the time, it was never likely to put strain on their relationship. The two men have known each other for over 15 years. Their bond transcends that of fighter and coach.
Frank may not have liked Rhodes’ call, but he respected it, such is his reverence for his coach. As Frank explained, when you have a man as knowledgeable as Rhodes in the corner, it is hard not to have admiration for him.
During a 65-fight career as a professional, Rhodes amassed a record of 33-27-5, with most of his wins coming from the away corner. After hanging up his gloves in 1993, Rhodes opened the Sheffield Boxing Centre the following year. In 2012, he received an MBE for services to boxing and young people.
Frank is adamant that he and Rhodes will reach the pinnacle of the sport together.
“Although I were gutted at the time, there were never any arguments after or anything,” he said. “Glyn made that decision, he’s the boss in there and in the end, I did respect that. Naturally, you are gonna go against it when it’s happening, then and there. He’s been there, done it, seen it all. Sixty-five pro fights himself, so it’s not like he doesn’t know the game. It is what it is. I’ve been with Glyn at Sheffield Boxing Centre since I were like 12, 13-years-of-age. It’s more than boxing, it’s more like blood, it’s more like family. I’m very proud I’ve come through with the same team from day one. We are heading to the top together and making a lot of memories on the way there.”
The road to the top appeared to be a long one in the cold, dark winter months at the start of the year. Having never suffered a serious physical impairment, Frank felt betrayed by his own body. First, he had to overcome the anguish of defeat, then he had to rehabilitate his shoulder. On certain days, doubt crept in. Thankfully, Frank had a good support network around him.
Before long, his love for the sport compelled him to undertake the slow and rigorous process of reaching his physical peak once more. Now, that his mind and body have healed, Frank is not ashamed to discuss his struggles.
“It really has been tough, both physically and mentally,” he admitted. “I’ve never actually been injured, as an amateur or as a professional. It’s been hard to get my head around. You always pick up little niggles here and there but to actually pick up an injury that has let you down in a fight and put you out on the side lines for a bit is something else. I’ve got a great family around me, my fiancé, Charlie, has been absolutely brilliant. I’ve had a few bad nights over the last six, seven months, especially straight after the fight, and she’s picked me up when I’ve been down. I really owe her a lot for that.
“Doing the rehab, I’ve had to put the work in, especially January, February. I were going into the gym an hour before my session to warm up, doing my session, then staying for another 45 minutes to an hour doing my rotation exercises. It’s took discipline, dedication, but that’s something I’ve got plenty of. I’ve done what I needed to do to get back. That just shows how much I love boxing; boxing is not a job to me or a chore, it’s something I absolutely love. I love the training. The training is hard sometimes, especially dieting, but on the whole, I’ve got such a good life. It truly is the life I used to dream of as a kid. I’m living my dream. I’m very lucky; I remind myself how lucky I am every day to be doing what I’m doing. When you are having a few off days, which everyone does, I just try to put that in my mind and be very grateful.”
While Frank believes he is in the best shape of his career and is certain that he will take another step towards his ultimate dream of becoming a world champion by avenging his defeat tonight, he is not underestimating Guarneros.
Frank is acutely aware that Guarneros knows a second victory could change his life. Currently ranked 12th by the IBF, a successful defence of the title he won in their first encounter could see Guarneros enter the Top 10 in the governing body’s ratings.
Frank is prepared for the best possible version of his opponent.
“I’m expecting a ten-times better version of himself,” he said. “I’m not overlooking him in the slightest, I know I’ve got a fight on my hands. He’s coming over as the champion. He’ll be last to get weighed in, he’ll be last to walk out as the champion. I like that, he’ll be bang up for it. Let’s be honest, he knows that although he is a very good fighter and he’s very game, he hit the jackpot back in December. He’s going to be coming over here with that IBF Inter-Continental title and he’s not going to want to let it go. That could be his ticket to fighting for the world title. I’m preparing for a 10-times better Guarneros, but that’s alright, because I’m going to be a 10-times better Tommy Frank. I’m going to be even sharper, even more on my toes and I think I’m going to have those cat-like reflexes. I think it’s all going to come together for me.”
One advantage Frank has in the rematch is that he has had time to prepare for Guarneros. When the pair met in December, Frank had been set to face Kyle Youssaf, who had to withdraw from the bout. Harvey Horn was then drafted in, but he too pulled out. The event was delayed and, ultimately, Guarneros got the assignment.
While Frank admits the uncertainty over who he would face wasn’t beneficial to his preparation, he was unperturbed.
“It’s not ideal,” he said. “I was basically just hoping there was going to be someone in that opposite corner on the night. I don’t go too in-depth into my opponents. We just prepare all across the board. In a big fight when you know who you are fighting, you are going to come up with a game plan for them, but leading up to that fight, we were on our third or fourth opponent by then. We prepared the best we could and were just hoping there was going to be an opponent there on the night. Obviously, Guarneros, he were there.”
If Frank required any extra motivation to gain revenge, the IBF Inter-Continental strap provides just that. While the title holds a modest prestige, Frank covets the Top 15 ranking he would gain by capturing it.
Ostensibly, Frank could then challenge IBF world champion Sunny Edwards. Both fighters have previously engaged in a war of words on social media. However, when the pair met recently, the discussion was cordial.
Frank is the first to admit that, at present, he has not earned the right to face Edwards. However, he believes that with Rhodes’ tutelage he can make his dream of becoming a world champion a reality.
“As I’ve always said, I want to be involved in good fights, big fights for the fans,” he said. “Ultimately, [by] getting this IBF Ranking, I’m laying the foundations to eventually box for a world title. That might not be in the too-distant future. Theoretically, I might only be three or four fights away from boxing for a world title, as long as I keep winning. I’ve got to get this win and that’s what I’m planning on doing.
“I think things are building up nicely with me and Sunny. We had a few back-and-fourths on social media, definitely more on his side than mine. I actually saw Sunny Edwards at one of the Fightzone shows a couple of weeks ago. We had a little bit of banter and stuff. I fully got the impression it’s just business with Sunny, it’s nothing personal whatsoever. He wants to get some attention on the flyweights and build us up.
“Right now, as it stands, I must admit, I’m pretty irrelevant to Sunny. He’s just won the IBF world title. Technically, at the minute, I’m not even world-ranked. If I get this win, that changes. There’s probably a few people ahead of me in the queue to fight Sunny, it’s only a step in the right direction. We are both British and, hopefully, one day that fight can be made for a world title. What a fight it will be.”
Main image: Twitter @Supertommyfrank