By: Oliver McManus
British welterweight champion Chris Jenkins has had a slightly clouded few months as he sought a date to fight, mandatory challenger, Liam Taylor. The fight was expected to take place in September at some point but the interluding period has seen a fresh challenge presented to the Welshman; he’ll face Paddy Gallagher for the British and Commonwealth titles on August 3rd. We began by discussing how the fight came about.
“We’ve been waiting for the Liam Taylor fight because he’s the mandatory but I had a little niggle after the Garton fight so that kept on getting pushed back. I think MTK approached Gary (Lockett) about fighting Paddy for the Commonwealth title or some other sort of belt and the answer from us was ‘yes’, simple as. I just want the fights, now, so this was another title I could fight for and then the Board (BBBofC) decided they’d sanction it in a double-whammy and that made it even sweeter. I’ll have had (roughly) five and a half, six weeks of preparation come fight night.”
Jenkins won the British title with a peerless technical display against Johnny Garton in March, at the fabled Royal Albert Hall, in the defining fight of his career thus far. It was a case of ‘third time lucky’ for the product of Cwmgors Amateur Boxing Club, having had two bouts with Tyrone Nurse, and a result that is still hard to fully reconcile with.
“If you’d asked me last year, not one bit would I expect to be talking to you as British champion (after suffering back-to-back technical decisions to Akeem Ennis Brown and Darragh Foley). I was close to walking away, I really was, I had to look for other things that could provide a stable living for my family but boxing kept on bringing me back.”
“I’ve had more downs than I have had ups in (my) career”, he continued, “and I would have walked away from the sport but for Gary (Lockett). He kept on telling me ‘look, give it one more shot’ and the fight against Garton proved him right. It’s been worth it, it has, but it’s not always felt worth it. I’ve always wanted to win the British title but for a while I didn’t believe I ever would; now I have got it, I’m not letting anyone take it.
The British belt, which Jenkins has craved since turning professional, didn’t stay, physically, in his possession for little over a couple weeks with the Board returning it to their safekeeping. A disappointing moment of reality for Jenkins but one that he is using as added motivation for getting the win on August 3rd.
“We had a photo shoot with myself, Joe Cordina and Liam Williams with our belts to showcase the Welsh champions but after (that) the Board took it back to their headquarters in Cardiff. It’s been up there for the last few months and that upset me a little bit, I won’t lie, because of everything it represents but I was expecting it – they don’t want it damaged, do they? To be fair it just makes me want to win on the 3rd even more so I can have it on the dinner table for another couple weeks before they come and take it again!”
A relatively fresh face at welterweight, winning the title in just his second fight at the division, Jenkins had campaigned at super lightweight since turning professional – fighting for five belts along the way – but is firmly enjoying life in his new division. Ironically the additional seven pounds is proving a weight of his shoulders.
“I’m feeling much better (at welterweight) because I can be a little bit naughtier on the weekends if I really want to be and I don’t have to completely ban anything nice from my diet. I’ve learned over the last year with Gary, constantly, about how to go about making the weight and it’s a lot easier, a lot easier, than super lightweight. I was never starving myself but now I’m 30 it’s one less thing I’ve got to worry about in the build up to fights and, if we’re honest, that probably buys me another couple of fights in my career.”
Now Gary Lockett is a nap that rolls of Jenkins’ tongue constantly sandwiched in between hearty praise for the former WBU champion (WBC & WBO challenger). Lockett, now an established trainer, has been beside Jenkins for countless years and their bond goes well beyond ‘teacher and student’ – their is genuine care and friendship between the two. More recently Frank Warren has hopped on board the ‘Jenkins Express’ – destination ‘anyfight, anywhere’ – and those sensible heads are an added bonus for the final third of Jenkins’ career.
It’s not a bad team I’ve got around me; Gary’s been around the game for a while and has experience up to world level, Frank likewise and it’s obviously easier to make fights with his backing and Mo (Prior, his manager) is a great guy, he’s got a huge heart and would drop everything to help me out. They’re good people and I genuinely think they want me to do well, as their first priority, obviously they can get some money out of my success but it’s not that sort of a relationship. Gary and Mo have been by my side for a long time, when I wasn’t making money from the sport, so that’s how I know they want me to do well.”
All of that existence in the boxing bubble of society is going to be brought to a halt, however, promptly after the fight against Paddy Gallagher – regardless of the result. Retirement isn’t looming, fear not, but a well deserved holiday. There are boxing implications stemming from that, mind, with the BBBofC having mandated either the winner of himself and Gallagher to defend against Liam Taylor by the end of September. For Jenkins he hopes common sense can prevail.
“There will be no training whilst I’m on holiday for two weeks and we’ll have to talk about my options when I come back. I think Taylor fully deserves to fight for the British title, I really do, but After the Garton fight I couldn’t throw a punch for about five, six weeks so, for obvious reasons, that hasn’t been possible to do since. In an ideal world I’d like to fight him in November, December but we’ll go to the Board should I get the win against Paddy. You’d like to think common sense would come out on top, I’ve had this holiday booked for ages and anything could happen against Paddy – cuts, injuries, that sort of thing.”
Looking slightly further afield than the inbound Spanish sunset that the British champion is set to bask in, the 30 year old has a very simple goal and motivation for his ‘purple patch’ and they don’t get more grounded than the desire to better the life of his family.
“The plan is to keep fighting for titles because I know I’m not going to be a world champion, I know that. I’m realistic with my ability and I also know I’m 30 years old – nearly 31 – do you know what I mean? I don’t want to be fighting in meaningless eight rounders anymore, I want to make something of myself. That’s the main objective – to stay active and start making some money from the sport, I’ve got a family that I need to look after and keep happy after all is said and done. The (British title) is my bread and butter so as long as I’ve got that in my grasp you won’t see me walking away from the sport.”