By: Oliver McManus
From Azerbaijan to Thailand, through the sweltering Harvey Hadden Sports Village, Chad Sugden has fought all over the world. Born in Newark, Nottinghamshire, the 25 year old has been around combat sports for two decades with his father, Dean, the primary source of inspiration.
At the age of five he began kickboxing alongside his younger brother Regis. Six years later he took up boxing but, sooner rather than later, he had to pick just one to focus on. The promising teenager impressed across both disciplines but it was Chad’s first love that he opted to pursue.
“I stopped amateur boxing when I was 17 (having) got to a few national finals and won the Midlands title numerous times. I turned professional with kickboxing at the same age and I was good enough to fight all over the world with K-1 and Glory; I was the first British fighter to sign a long-term deal with K-1.
Outlining his credentials in the sport, Sudgen added: “After sparring in Holland the main matchmaker for Glory wanted to snap me up and they were an up and coming promotion at the time. I fought with them three times and won all three so I was ranked number 2 in the world. I’d won a world title at 19 with ISKA, as well.”
Four years after his professional kickboxing debut and the globe-trotter was, once again, assessing his options. Having amassed a 14-4 record, Sugden was eager to see if he could replicate that success within professional boxing: as he explained.
“I’d always wanted to be a professional boxer and I’d had a stress fracture in my coccyx, at the bottom of your spine, and kickboxing was taking a toll on my body. I was winning most of the fights with my hands anyway so when I’d got to 21 I felt as though I’d reached the top of kickboxing, near enough, and it was time to move back to boxing. I had to make the decision at that age so I could give myself as good a chance as possible of being successful.”
At 21 years old he began his boxing journey at super middleweight and “hit (his) rhythm smoothly”. In his fifth fight he faced Alistair Warren, a notably tricky opponent, and lost a razor-thin decision. Where many fighters would have blamed external circumstances, Sugden was keen to do the opposite. He insisted that the loss has benefited him in the long term.
“You don’t know you’re a fighter until you get hit in the face and it’s great looking good on the pads but you can’t kid people forever. Once you take a punch then that’s when you realise if you’re made for it. I lost (to Alistair Warren) early on in my career but I lost and looked inwards. I didn’t make excuses but I tried to work out what I could have done better: from then, yeah, I have had less pressure on my shoulders. I’ve already lost once – it’s not going to stop me from learning and getting better. If anything it’s helped me because I wouldn’t have thought twice if I’d have scraped the win.”
No further blips have followed with Sugden opting to step up to 175lbs: adding seven further wins to his tally. In December the phone rang with the light-heavyweight in camp for a six rounder in Birmingham; a tantalising offer was made to face, former British title challenger, Craig Richards.
“I was offered the Craig Richards fight on about ten days notice: I was in camp for a fight at the weekend (against Ben Thomas) so I was fit and in camp and, of course, I was going to say yes. You can’t turn down those opportunities – especially with Matchroom. I was (surprised) that it was a fight they wanted when they had Shakan Pitters already lined up for February: it was a risky fight and I didn’t get their logic but it worked well for me!”
The bout took place on December 19th at York Hall, Bethnal Green with Richards vs Sugden aired live on Sky Sports. Under the bright lights and buoyed on by a hearty support, Sugden put in a performance to be proud of. The pair went to war for eight rounds: Sugden’s nose “went” after the second round but he continued to push forward: a thoroughly enjoyable fight for those in attendance and, not least, Chad himself.
“I do love the challenge of a fight. He was landing some good shots and I do enjoy that I can’t get it all my own way. No-one would keep doing things if it was too easy: it’s like a Rubik’s cube because there are so many different possibilities in the ring. I loved it on the night but afterwards was amazing with everyone being so positive. People go on about being undefeated records but they also pay to see good fights and if I can entertain them then that’s great.”
As the rounds went on the pressure increased. Sugden edged his way into the contest and, arguably, deserved the nod on the scorecards. The fight was initially slated for 10 rounds and the WBA International belt and the 25 year old is keen to test Richards’ chin over the extended distance.
“The more I put it on him the more you could see he wasn’t enjoying it. I don’t think it was my best performance but, credit to Craig, he’s a very good fighter so he wasn’t making it easy. It’s an alright debut for TV, as well, coming in as an underdog and really pushing him all the way. People were probably expecting me to get rolled over but I’m pretty proud of myself. I’d love to get it on again because it was a draw – it makes sense!”
With Sugden still toying with the idea of dropping back to 168lbs the options available for the Newark fighter are plentiful. Couple that with the fact he’s boxing out of a burgeoning city, with Nottingham having a renaissance of sorts, and 2020 looks set to be promising. We finished our conversation by discussing some ambitions for himself and for his home city:
“Leigh Wood is smashing it at the moment and I’m backing him all the way in this (Golden Contract); Ekow (Essuman) is the English champ and no-one wants to risk it against him and Derrick (Osaze) smashed Ultimate Boxxer. Let’s get a show on because it can easily be done and we all sell tickets so it’s a no brainer, really. I’ll be happy if I just keep getting opportunities – at light-heavy or super-middle – and can fight for some titles. There’s plenty of BRitish fighters looking for a big fight and I’ll always put my name forward.”
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