By: Oliver McManus
Streatham’s Chris Bourke is gearing up for his fifth professional fight, his fourth for the calendar year, on September 14th and the fighter, promoted by Frank Warren, is in no mood to slow his development day. After all his life has been dedicated to the sport since he was 15 years of age, as he began by telling me.
“I went to Balham Boxing Club with one of my pals from school; I was getting into a few scraps at school and my friend said he was going to a boxing gym one day and sort of invited me to keep him company. I remember walking into the boxing gym and seeing the ring, seeing the bags and being a bit overawed but then I started training and it didn’t take long until I was hooked.
And I got hooked even though I used to get beat up in sparring when I first went there, by the bigger lads, and the coach started to take more interest in me because I kept on coming back each day and I think he could see I wasn’t just going to roll over and give up.”
The former Team GB prospect had a dream start to life on the international stage – two first round knockouts in his debut tournament out in Macedonia – despite an initial reluctance to believe he’d be successful at the GB trials. The letter to confirm his place is still held in pride of place at his home and in spite of all the accolades there was always a fervent desire to test himself in the professional ranks.
“It’s a cliche but I’ve always believed my style is better suited to being a professional but being on Team GB sort of kept me amateur for a little bit extra – which I’m grateful for, to be fair, as it kept me fighting at a top level and got me some really good experience. You don’t get mismatches in the amateur, rarely anyway, so that extra time spent competing at the top level can reduce the number of journeymen you need to face a professional and get you into the harder fights quicker.”
Since turning professional, making his debut in December last year, the super bantamweight has made a perfect start – as far as the eye can see – with four knockouts in four fights. All of those wins have come against ferociously durable opposition with his debut culminating in a second round knockout over Ricky Leach.
“I personally believe anyone I hit clean I will hurt but I didn’t know much about Ricky Leach, I left that to Martin (Bowers, Chris’ manager and trainer) but when I got in there I let my hands go and after the first round I thought ‘I’m not going to get rid of him, I’m in for a long night here’, but then I caught him with a head shot and a body shot and that was it. I always want a knockout so that was a good start and I guess I’ve just not stopped since but, actually, my favourite fight was probably the last one (against Ricky Starkey) because we’d boxed as an amateur and I’d beat him so I knew he was going to come to win. He was an awkward person to box because every time I’d catch him he would put his head down but then I caught him with a shot that broke his nose.”
Easy is not a word you can levy lightly at the southpaw, however, with Bourke eager to point out the finished article, no matter how one-sided, is a direct result of consistent hard work with his team at Peacock’s Gym.
“My dad always told me that ‘when you’re small you need something different for people to remember you by’ and I’ve got the power so I might as well use it. It’s a good environment (at Peacock’s) because it’s like a little family with about eight of us that we see everyday. All of the boys besides Daniel are in the same position where they’re chasing the titles and winning fights, and then you’ve got Daniel who’s that step further and winning the titles so it’s a good mix of both.”
Stablemate James Branch (5-0) finds himself on the same card at York Hall next weekend and that synchronicity has added an extra degree of coordination and stability to the build-up for Bourke. Bourke faces Jose Hernandez, no stranger to British shores, and he relishes the opportunity to test himself over a scheduled six rounds.
“There’s so many times I’ve got out of the ring, well as an amateur anyway, and my dad (Dave) would say ‘if there was another round you would have gotten a stoppage there’. I felt that against Ricky Starkey, I got the stoppage because it was six rounds and I’m happy boxing at that length because it gives you time to get the basics out of the way. I’ve been looking at little things, really little things, mainly about my movement so things to do with how I hold my chin after a certain shot so I’ve got areas I’ll be looking to work on even though I’m expected to win.”
Reflecting on the first 12 months as a professional, encompassing fights at Wembley, Mayfair and Bethnal Green, the super bantamweight was content – and I think that’s the fairest assessment of his attitude.
“All I’ve asked from Martin is to keep me busy and we’ve done that, I’ve been fighting almost every other month and that’s good for me because I am a professional boxer. I’m not making any money at the moment, there’s no big money at this stage, so what’s the point in being fussy about when or where I fight – I need to fight regularly and look at the bigger picture. If you’re looking for just one big payday then it is pointless, I want to have a successful career in the long-term so that’s what I’m trying to build at the moment.”
For the next week the focus remains firmly on his Spanish-based, Nicaraguan-born opponent who provides the sternest test of Bourke’s power, as much as anything, to date.
“It’s another six-rounder. I haven’t seen much of Jose but I know he’s a bit heavier than me. I expect him to be tough. I know he’s tough actually, he’s had a few fights and he hasn’t really been stopped. I could be a bit lazier and come in a bit heavier but there’s no point,
I’m just going to box and look for opening and take the openings. If I see a stoppage then I’ll push for it, but as I always do – box behind the jab and try and break him apart.”