By: Oliver McManus
Mason Cartwright is a man who shot to fame in the United Kingdom last month after his absolute tear up with Darren Tetley on the undercard of Lee Selby vs Josh Warrington; a performance of a warrior, many had Mason winning but a bruising, battering ninth round saw him stopped with his lip split in half and blood cascading across his face – in hospital he managed to meet Davina McCall (who, for the Americans, hosted the UK version of The Biggest Loser) but, don’t worry, the Chester-born boxer has set his sight on far loftier goals than that and he was good enough to speak to me last week;
I mean, first up, how’s the lip?
Yeah it’s good, it’s healing well, it’s not perfect but it’s getting there and it’s good.
It was quite a nasty injury to look at but, aside from that, was there any lasting damage?
No, well obviously, I haven’t sparred on it yet so I’m not too sure what it’s like to take a shot on it yet but I’ve been back in the gym since – went straight back – and I can still punch bags, do footwork but it’s just, obviously, no contact and I won’t have any contact on it for the next month or so. I’m giving it the time for it to really knit back together.
Like you say it’ll be a month until you get sparring, when realistically can we see you back in the ring?
I definitely want to be back out as soon as possible, everything kicks back off in October time so if I start a serious camp through September – I’m going to be in half-decent shape, anyway, I’ll be in the gym over summer – I want to be back out in October.
Would you be looking to go straight in with a big fight like the Tetley rematch or one fight to get everything out of your system?
I really wouldn’t mind – I want the rematch with Tetley and, as I’ve said, I’m staying in the gym so I’ll be sharp and if they offer me a warm up fight then I’ll take it because there’s no harm in getting in there and shaking the cobwebs off but, equally, if they offered me Tetley then I’d jump at the chance.
And the fight itself was really good – UNTIL it was stopped, how did you feel it was going?
I knew I was winning. I knew I was winning. Even after watching the fight again, I think the first four rounds I won easy – I give the fifth round to Tetley – the sixth round was quite even but the seventh round I had a massive round and I couldn’t miss him and then he couldn’t miss me in the eighth round! So that was a good round for him but I thought the ninth, up until the cut, I thought I got the best of those exchanges. I was confident, my corner was confident, we knew I was up and even in some of the rounds were he was throwing a fair few shots, none of them were landing, I was moving my head and they can’t award non-scoring shots, can they? I knew that, myself, I was winning.
He was your best opponent, do you find that better opponents make you perform better?
Yeah, definitely, I said this throughout the camp in interviews that Darren was adamant that he was the better boxer and I was just a brawler; the reason I have, maybe, brawled in previous fights, is because I didn’t have the calibre of opponent in front of me to make me box and I could just get away with getting stuck in there to dust them up. I knew I was having my own way but, like I said, I have some world class sparring – Jack Catterall, Liam Smith, and I can’t just spar really good opponents and have a tear up with them.
So I do practice and hone my boxing ability and, now, for those that didn’t know, I CAN box because I was out-boxing Tetley and keeping him on the end of my jab, not letting him in, using my feet.
I’m happy I was able to show people that.
Do you think he will want the rematch?
I hope that he is going to want it for himself because if I knew I was losing a fight but ended up getting the decision via an injury stoppage I think I would want to prove to myself that I could beat the person outright but, obviously, it’s a business and he’ll do whatever his team advise him to do. He’ll listen to his team and I, personally, think they’ll advise him not to take it; if I come back in another fight, with him, I’ll be better and I’ll be sharper. It’s the type of person I am.
You turned pro at 22 – it’s quite early – was that always the plan?
Yeah I wanted to be a boxer my whole life, even through the amateurs. I’ll be honest when I say I messed about a little bit through the amateurs when I was l between the ages of 13 and 16 – I was boxing because I loved boxing but I was still being a teenager at the time.
When I got to 17, 18, 19, I thought, “do you know what, I’m going to give this a good go because I wouldn’t mind doing it for the rest of my life”. At the age of 18 I had a torn labrum and I had an operation, two years out of the ring, I came back at 21 and wanted one more year before turning pro.
And in that time out was there ever a point where you thought about packing it all in?
… By that point I had already told myself that being a boxer is what I was going to do and I’m the sort of person that once I say something, I’m doing it and I’m doing it with every bit of ambition.
I’ve got a little bit of, like, OCD so when I’m doing something or I tell myself I’m going to do it then I do it properly. I can’t cut corners or anything like that, I can’t cheat, I have to do it so I’m fully committed and accomplished.
I’ve seen you say before that you want to win the British belt, is that still the immediate target?
Yeah, of course, I’d be sitting here lying if I said I didn’t want to win a world title but I’m realistic with my ambitions – the world title is the crème de la crème – and I’ll get there in time but I want to prove myself at British level first.
There’s some amazing domestic fights out there, Darren Tetely is only one of the options and you probably could have put the British title on that…
… or the English seeing as that was vacant…
And obviously there’s other class domestic fighters which will produce incredible fights so that’s what I’ll chase first of all, take it step by step, keep working hard and hopefully the dream of becoming world champion will come true.
In the last three and a half years, then, what is the most important thing that you have learnt about boxing and about yourself?
That I can overcome anything, mentally. I have the strongest mental power anyone has ever seen – and that’s according to over people. If I’m doing something, if I say I’m doing something then I don’t care how I’m getting there but I WILL get there. Any situation possible, I will do it.
Obviously as a boxer you need to be good but how important is it to be mentally strong, too?
Of course because at some point in every boxers career you will get hurt. You will get caught with a shot, whether it’s to the head, to the body, whether it’s a cut. You will get hurt but you can’t give up and we’ve seen many boxers, over the years, spew it and just pack it in.
I could name you 10 boxers who have done it in the last year – I’m not going to because I don’t want to slag anyone off – but I will never quit.
I will never, never, ever, ever quit.
Obviously you’re signed to Frank Warren, how big is it for you to be able to fight on TV shows?
Well I always do well on ticket sales – 200, 300 people always coming and that’s really good for me because it means vocal support and obviously boxing is about putting bums on seats and before the Tetley fight not many people had seen me, or knew about me, unless, of course, they had been to one of my shows but all them people who had gone to see me in a fight would message me saying how impressed they were and after this fight I’ve probably had about 2,000 people say on Twitter and everything that they enjoy my style and can’t wait to see me box again.
For me that’s humbling because that’s my goal, I want people to see me fight and think “wow, this guy can fight”. How people feel when they watched Miguel Cotto, inside fighters who get to work and always keep watching.
From a style point of view it is everything that fans want, does a set style add extra pressure?
I just go out and do my thing and if anything I perform even better under pressure because it adds the extra edge to me.
Looking at the 12-18 months, what can we expect? We looking at titles, building the profile?
Either, or. I’ve got no set plan, I’ll just take down what’s in front of me. If I got offered the British title I’d take it, if I got offered the Tetley rematch I’d take it. There isn’t anyone I wouldn’t fight, I’m not here to avoid people, I want to test myself and show everyone how good I am.
When people here my name I want them to say, “yes, he’s a guy to watch”.
If Terrence Crawford rang you up later today and offered the fight, would you take it?
If the money was right, yes. If the money was right.