Boxing Insider Interview with Jack Massey
By: Oliver McManus
Thursday night sees cruiserweight contender Jack Massey vie for the vacant British title against Richard Riakporhe. The Chapel-en-le-frith resident is a local legend round Derbyshire and is keen to bring the belt back home. Boxing Insider caught up with him on fight week for a short and snappy interview. Massey began by explaining how the title shot is a perfect end to a somewhat stuttering year; blighted by missed opportunities.
<em> “Yeah it’s been a frustrating year, to be honest, but I feel as though this (the British title) has been a long time coming. Obviously I was supposed to compete in Ultimate Boxxer at the beginning of the year but pulled out of that to face Okolie (scheduled for July) and I ended up injuring my bicep. I’ve been saying for a while now that I was ready for the British title so I’m looking forward to getting in the ring on Thursday.” </em>
Having turned professional in 2013, Massey has patiently developed on the Derbyshire small hall scene and, more recently, with the support of Frank Warren. Initially he had hoped to fight for the British on December 22nd last year; the slight delay could perhaps be a blessing in disguise, as Massey elaborated.
<em> “I was in the gym for six weeks for Okolie, I’ve been in the gym for 10 weeks for this fight so I’m definitely prepared. I’ve never trained for a 12 round fight before but now I’ve sort of had one and a half camps to gear up for this one. Yes it might be six, twelve months later than I was expecting but, at the same time, I’m that many months hungrier and I’m that little bit more prepared, motivated and mature.” </em><em> “It’s a good time for me to be fighting for the British title” </em>, he continued, <em> “it’s the right time, as well. I’ve obviously been professional for six and a bit years and I’ve had a good mix of challenges. It’s been about building momentum, I’ve been learning on the job but I’ve also been keeping the confidence up and trying to stay busy.” </em>
The 26 year old was due to contest the title in July against Lawrence Okolie but a nasty bicep injury curtailed that opportunity; Massey outlined what occurred.
<em> “It happened in sparring with Hughie (Fury) and I went to throw a right hook but he’d stuck his elbow slightly and I hit it. It went straight through to the bicep and I knew straightaway it wasn’t good. It was nasty and, obviously, I was really frustrated at the time but I couldn’t do anything about it and there was no point in getting flustered about it.” </em>
The title remains the same but a new opponent awaits. Richard Riakporhe has been on a mean streak since linking up with Matchroom Boxing and is a heavy betting favourite. Predictably the odds are skewed to the home fighter but Massey insisted they were more alike than many expect:
<em> “We’re fairly similar in height so I don’t think that will be too much of an issue. I’ve had plenty of rounds with Shakan Pitters to try and replicate those long limbs and his speed but heavyweights for their power, too. I’ve been kept on my toes and I am feeling really up for it. I think I’ve prepared for everything possible: there’s been plenty of variety in camp.” </em>
Not only is there the British title on offer, and all the opportunities thereafter, but a place in the history books of Derbyshire boxing. Who knows, they might even let him turn on the Christmas lights this time next year…
<em> “There’s not been many British champions from Derbyshire (Jack Bodell reigned the heavyweight division for one fight in 1969) so that’ll be a great feeling. I had a little open workout (in Chapel-en-le-frith) last week for those that can’t get down to London and the support was incredible. They’ve always been really generous with their support – right from when I was fighting on small shows in Buxton – and it’ll be to go back home as Champion in time for Christmas.” </em>
Jack Massey: From Ice Hockey to Boxing Contender
By: Oliver McManus
“Growing up as a kid I was into Ice Hockey so I’d go see Manchester Storm at the Arena, I’ve been to concerts so it was bizarre fighting there in June. Being in the centre as opposed to in the crowd, it was surreal.”
Jack Massey was on the phone as we discussed his upcoming fight on the undercard of Josh Warrington vs Carl Frampton. “Just come back from my running”, was the first thing he said but he quickly set about telling me how he “accidentally” got into the sport.
“I must have been about 11 years old, my brother had already started, but initially I was playing ice hockey in Sheffield and that was what I really enjoyed. The only problem was that it took an hour to get over to Sheffield and the coach was honest, he said, “you’re not going to be able to keep coming here four times a week” so I looked at the other sports and ended up down a boxing gym.
To be honest I only started because I wanted to keep fit for the ice hockey but over time I feel in love with it. I was in it for fun but obviously I was aware of the big fighters – Mike Tyson was someone I watched a bit – and my dad had all the video tapes, ‘Friday Night Fights’ or something like that so I was always around the sport.”
The Chapel-en-le-Frith Cruiserweight turned professional in the middle of 2013, aged 20, and was born out of frustration with Team GB. Now 25, though, Massey feels the professional game forced him into a better fighter.
“I’m pleased with how I’ve progressed, if I’m honest, it wasn’t initially the plan to turn professional so early because I had trials with Team GB. They dropped me and the day I signed with Steve Wood, to turn pro, they sent me another letter for further trials. By that point I’d already made my mind up to try and make a bit of money. It was tough as an amateur because not a lot of people wanted to fight me, ABA champion and it was real hard work. It was getting on my nerves and I didn’t want to go stale.”
Attention quickly turned to December 22nd and the stacked card at the Manchester Arena. One Smack will be looking to make a statement against someone, he hopes, will come to fight.
“It’s absolutely huge especially to be back in Manchester because I like fighting here and it’s such a boost for my confidence to have got the nod for the show. I’m hoping to step up and make a statement because we’re looking for that Okolie fight next year so I want to see what titles are available. If I can’t then I’ll get a good eight rounder in, I want a tough opponent to get me up the rankings.
I never go out there looking for a knockout, I’m sure lots of people will say that, and the more I try to force it then the less it happens. When I hit them, though, they tend to go down.”
Reflecting on 2018, Massey was ponderous and weighed up the good and the bad –
“It’s been a frustrating year we’ve had a few little things happen, a couple of injuries but it’s seen me drop down in the rankings a little bit which is why I don’t want to waste time anymore. I need to get a busy year in 2019 with top quality opponents.
Having said that, I’d probably say that (the fight with Ian Tims) was my best performance, I thought he’d show me a bit more but, to be honest, he wasn’t as good as we expected. I got the job done but I’d have liked to show a bit more of what I can do.
That’s why I want proven fighters, good and tough who will put it on me. Because the better opponents I fight, the better the fight will be and the better I’ll perform. It’s like football, if you play a duff team then you won’t play as well.”
14 and 0 since turning pro, the Frank Warren fighter has set his eyes firmly on titles and is clear in his desire to face Lawrence Okolie next year.
“I won’t take it away from him because he’s a good boxer but his last couple fights have been stinkers and people aren’t happy about that, I’m not. I don’t usually go on Twitter, to be honest, I’ve never been one for giving people shit but it looks like that’s how fights are being made nowadays. I’ve been a bit inactive in the ring so I thought I’d wind him up a little bit to try and make the fight.
You want people to be more interested in the cruiserweight division and there’s some great fighters but if he keeps fighting like that then people will turn off from us.
Hailing from a small Derbyshire town – with a population of just under 9,000 – you’d be forgiven for thinking that, for the pride of the parish, ticket sales might be a challenge.
“I started off with a solid fan-base and I did 900 tickets on my first in Buxton so it’s quite good being the only boxer from the town. It’s a small town so everyone knows who I am and what I do, they all come and support me. The shows at the (Devonshire) Dome really helped to get my name out there locally but, obviously, being on BT is massive for exposure.”
The confidence is flowing from Massey who feels, without doubt, it is his opportunity to thrive. December 22nd, for him, kick starts a huge year with one simple mission – titles, titles, titles!
“I’ve got the foundation of sparring in Latvia (with Mairis Briedis) from last month and I’ve not took the foot of the gas since. It’s a long camp but I’m feeling better than ever and I can’t wait for December 22nd because I’m going to put on a show. I’ll send a warning for 2019, I’m coming for the belts!”