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Interview with Miles Shinkwin: Chasing the British Title

By: Oliver McManus

Miles Shinkwin has seen a lot in boxing, a professional for six years, his career has had a fair few ups and downs with a bruising Southern Area title fight in only his seventh contest – against Joel McIntyre – really putting his name on the map before a British title challenge, two years later, ended in defeat to Hosea Burton.

His most recent fight, in March, ended in controversy with Liam Conroy landing a series of shots to the back of Miles Shinkwin’s head (though, for what it’s worth, Liam says they were legal) calling a halt to the contest.

Enjoying training again and with a wonderful family behind, Hertfordshire’s light-heavyweight is back in his groove and on the way to title fights – his first, for the English, hopefully coming on September 14th.

I caught up with him last week and here’s what he had to say –

How did you first get into boxing?

My grandad was used to box in the navy, my dad had five brothers who all boxed amateur and my dad, two uncle’s turned pro then my dad took over the amateur club that they were all at and when I was very, very young I went along and here I am now.

I knew your dad had the potential to be quite a good professional boxer, was it always destined for you, then, to turn pro?

Do you know what, I was at Watford for a couple years when I was about 12, football, and my dad said to me one day “I don’t care what you pick but you need to pick one” because the training night’s clashed, playing a game would clash too and he said boxing and football are both sports you can’t mess about with, because I was quite good at both, so I said I wanted to be a boxer.

He goes “don’t say that because of me, do whatever you want and me and your mum will support you”, so I chose boxing and I don’t think I’ve played more than five games since then and I was 12 at the time.

In the amateurs, you were a five-time national champion, I believe?

Yeah, five or six, something like that.

When you turned pro, did that amateur pedigree help you?

It’s hard to say it as a statement for everyone but for me I was very amateur in my style and if you look at fighters like Tom Stalker, for instance, his style was also very amateur and the pro ranks didn’t agree with him – no disrespect – and up until now it hasn’t completely agreed with me either so I think I spent too long trying to get out of my old style as opposed to trying to tweak it.

Until I joined Don I had tried to entertain people too much but because I’m not a puncher I felt like I had to have scraps and entertain people but that’s not my style, my losses have come through me scrapping.

If I could go back to when I started as a pro I’d definitely try to stick more to my amateur style.

It is quite a cliché that you learn more from your losses – have you found that to be true?

It is cliché, yeah, the first one I learned that if you lose your head then you lose the fight – I knew that before but this was the first time I experienced it – it’s really hard to say. When I beat Joel McIntyre for the Southern Area title – I was 7 and 0, 10 rounder at York Hall – absolutely boiling, broke my rib and I got cut and if I’d have lost that fight I would have learnt the exact same amount as if I won it because I went through it all.

Losses where there is an actual moment where you lose the fight, if that makes sense, like with Burton after the fifth round when I decided I was going to try and beat him up, that’s where I lost the fight. So you can learn things from the type of fight.

The Jake Ball loss just came at the wrong time for me, McIntyre rematch I shouldn’t have been boxing at the time because I hated the sport at the time and the last fight (against Conroy), I can’t really call it a loss really because it was illegal blows.

I’m glad you brought that up because let’s talk about the fight with Liam Conroy, tell me about it from your perspective…

The funny thing was that when we drove up on Wednesday, it’s quite a drive from here to Preston, and we were chatting away and he said “I’m going to pull the referee up before the fight, I’ve watched his fights and it’s a trait to punch to the back of the head”. I won’t lie, I hadn’t really watched much of his fights but we were in the changing rooms with the ref doing his usual pre-fight talk and these were his exact words, “I know you’ve been around for a long, long time, I’m not going to teach you to suck eggs but three things – obey my commands at all times, keep them above the belt and under no circumstances do you hit to the back of the head, it pisses him off and it pisses me off so don’t f***ing do it.”

Don was like “ah, sorted”… first round I hit him with a body shot and he hit me in the back of the head with a counter hook, square on the back of the head, top of my neck. The referee said stop and he said, to me, “keep your punches up” and the second round started but before it really got underway it was finished.

Anyone with a brain could see they weren’t legal punches.

Before the fight, how confident were you in winning?

I’m a notoriously slow starter, people with styles like mine genuinely are and when we’re cold it’s not great but going in I was fairly confident. I’ve stopped doing this now but after my fights, I used to tell myself what level I should be but I’ve stopped that now because I can’t take, well I haven’t managed so far, my gym performances into the ring and we can’t work out why that is. I’ve sparred all kinds of people – Groves, Lee, Cleverly – I was a world amateur, boxed Demetrius Andrade, lost 18-16 in a fight we fought I won comfortably so it’s not a question of IF I can do it, I know I can.

We were confident and the first round was first gear, he was missing me and I thought once I got warmed up I’d win it fairly easily but then, obviously, the second round happened.

Why do you think he doesn’t want the rematch? Surely from his point of view if he won fair and square the first time he can do it a second?

He can’t think that, if he’s got a pulse, Stevie Wonder could have told you they weren’t legal punches, before he blocked me on Twitter I sent him a photo of one of the punches and it was literally square to the back of my neck and he said it was legal. He knows it’s not true, after the fight I was gutted and everyone was telling me it was disgusting. On the night I said I wouldn’t talk about it so I couldn’t say something in haste that I’d regret and I was getting sent clips, I was thinking “that’s terrible” but Alex Steedman, the commentator, messaged me on Twitter saying “I’m so sorry we didn’t pull it up in the commentary, we couldn’t see it from the angle we were sat at but now I’ve seen it back it was horrendous”.

I knew myself it wasn’t legal but having him say it affirmed what I was thinking because at first it was just family and friends who, generally, try to pick you up but to have him, as an impartial guy, saying it just confirmed it in my mind.

If he were to come out and say “look, I threw some shots, I didn’t mean to” then that’s a different story. I do think that if you’ve hurt someone you should punch wherever until the ref says stop and it’s the referee’s job to say stop but there weren’t any warnings or anything like that.

Are you going to continue to chase the fight or this just drawing a line under it?

The macho man in me would say I want to fight him at all costs but we got an inkling he vacated a while back and I said to Steve (Goodwin), I don’t care if it’s for the belt or not, just get me the fight. I want to prove to everyone I’m better than him. He’s given away his bargaining chip, no-one is going to want to fight him now.

I’ll be fighting for the vacant title, I want to get back to British title level at least and this is the quickest way of doing it. Steve is sorting out an opponent and going through the board.

I was going to ask you about Steve Goodwin. How much of an impact has he had on your career?

I signed with Frank Warren in my second and I weren’t getting a lot of fights and then I did an interview when I was meant to box at Wembley Arena with the fight that Cleverly postponed three times. When you’re a four round fighter training eight weeks to get paid, relative, peanuts and selling tickets, covering costs, for it to keep getting put back is really tough.

In an interview, I sold a bunch of tickets, I did an interview with my local paper and I said, “I’m not happy but I understand if the main event, the whole card is off, I understand but it doesn’t stop me from being unhappy”. They ran the story as “Shinkwin unhappy with Warren” or something like that and I imagine one of them saw the headline without reading the story and they just didn’t put me on the shows.

Steve came up to me and said, “come fight on my shows, tell me the dates you want and I’ll put you on”. As it happens on the day of the weigh-in (Joel) McIntyre’s medical had run out so Steve, out of his own pocket, paid for a private doctor and everything to get it done on the day so he could be cleared. You tell me how many people would do that?

I resigned with Warren – god knows why, but I did – but Steve has always been on the phone to me and when I wanted a new manager, Steve was my first call and everything has been great since. He’s done a lot of things for me.

And when you fight on TV, do you feel a difference?

I’ll be honest with you I felt pressure with the Burton fight – for the first time in my life, in boxing, I was nervous in the changing room. Not really because of the opponent, I knew I could beat him, but the occasion got to me a little bit and it took me a while to come to terms with that because I’m, genuinely, quite a positive person.

If you don’t mind me asking, what do you make of Anthony Yarde?

It’s hard to say, he’s not fighting the best of opponents but he’s beating what’s in front of him and whilst everyone is talking about Buatsi, Buatsi has probably had 100 amateur fights, been to the Olympics, Yarde has had something like 15 so if he can get paid and learn on the job then I don’t see the need to rush him.

He looks the part, he looks the part. The big test would have been Burton, would have been a great test, people feel like Burton would have beaten him.

I was offered the fight once after I lost to McIntyre, I had “retired”, I hadn’t been in the gym and I was about 15stone and I got asked if I wanted to fight him and all I said was “fuck off” because they didn’t want to give me a fight to get back in, the McIntyre fight was meant to be in London, on a Warren show, and they promised they’d win the purse bids and then Steve won it in Portsmouth and I had to go fight in a nightclub and then Warren’s team tried to use me as cannon-fodder for Yarde. Just wasn’t going to happen.

If we look at your career what would you say has been your best performance?

Purely through what happened, I’d say McIntyre (the first one) – broke my rib – my first ten rounder and up against an unbeaten opponent but if you watch me spar you’d say “where’s this bloke been?. But I’ve not been as good as I can be.

How long do you reckon you’ve got left in the sport?

Light heavyweights can go, what, 34, 35 if they want to so I’ve got a few years, I don’t want to be in it forever, you don’t get any prettier or any more clever by being a boxer. Fight night is the easy part, it’s the sparring, the training, losing weight that’s the hard part.

You’ve said there have been points where you simply hated boxing. So, what is it that’s kept you going?

It was, I suppose, a sense of underachievement at one point. I would have regretted it if I gave up and I keep wanting the British title, that’s what I’m going for and I’ve got two young daughters who I don’t want to say “I boxed for a little bit but I gave up because I got beat a couple times” to, now I’ve moved on and things are more positive, I’m enjoying it. My gym is literally 10 minutes from my house whereas before I was traveling to Essex today.

A lot of things have changed, I’ve matured, enjoying training, loads of factors.

September 14th was your scheduled fight date, is that still it?

I wish I could tell you more but yeah, that’s what I’m training for.

In 12 months time where would you want to be?

I’ve given up planning in advance because it gets me nowhere but if I didn’t win at least a British title, in my career, I would have massively under-achieved so make of that what you will, if that’s next year then that’s great but if not I’ll keep working.

I’ve not had a lot of luck in my career, I’ve always had to travel – Burton in Manchester, McIntyre in Portsmouth, Jake Ball on a Matchroom show, Conroy in Preston – so it would nice to be the home fighter for once and put in a performance that I have got the talent to do. Just put in a good performance and take a look at the landscape of the British division.

Finally then mate, what sort of a sweet would you be?

I reckon I’d be something soft in the middle, hard on the outside. A mento, I’m a tough guy but I’m also a softie. Mini refresher, as well.

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