Former English light-heavyweight champion Peter Haymer didn’t fairly fulfil his potential inside a prize ring however the work he’s achieved since ought to be an inspiration to all, writes Melanie Lloyd
THEY say that also waters run deep, and interviewing former English light-heavyweight champion, Peter Haymer, is tantamount to being hit by one refreshing wave of revelation after one other. For instance, though he appears to be like preventing match, he readily admits that, because the first lockdown, he’s in all probability “achieved about 100 press-ups” and he doesn’t assume he’s “run greater than 20 yards for the bus”. Though he does take pleasure in strolling his British bulldog, who is known as Non-public Poppy as a result of she was born on Remembrance Day.
On the age of 42, together with his blue eyes set above the excessive cheekbones, his 6ft 2in stature immaculately dressed, Haymer may simply be mistaken for an actor or a mannequin. However there isn’t any self-importance within the quietly spoken Londoner. In some methods, there may be nonetheless one thing of the little boy about him. Due to this fact, when he candidly discloses the truth that his ring-name was impressed by the brutal Nineteen Seventies movie, Scum, it delivers fairly a shock to the senses. Nevertheless, it’s uncommon to come across a boxer with no playful however often darkish sense of humour. Fighters should have that. In any other case, they couldn’t do what they do – and Haymer undoubtedly did his fair proportion.
He received the nationwide junior and senior ABAs for St Pancras ABC. As a professional, he received the English title from Steve “Spartacus” Smith in November 2004. “Me and Spartacus met as amateurs within the quarter-finals, and I believe I beat him by one level,” Haymer remembers. “He was a really massive puncher and he positively needed revenge. I used to be a intelligent boxer. I had a very good chin, so I simply saved it lengthy. We had an excellent battle. It went the complete distance, however I received that title, and afterwards we went to a bar down in Camden and we had a terrific little celebration that night time.”
After the victory over Spartacus, Haymer went on to problem for the Commonwealth and British belts towards Ovill McKenzie and Tony Oakey respectively, each of whom he had overwhelmed beforehand, nevertheless it was by no means Haymer’s night time when the massive titles have been on the road. “I boxed Ovill McKenzie the primary time a few fights earlier to the English title battle, and he was a really powerful, big-punching man. I consider I used to be the primary man ever to place Ovill down. I gave him a shot, however, as he fell, he form of caught me by the legs. After the depend, he received a little bit of a telling off and that wound the clock down just a little bit. I prefer to assume I may need been capable of get just a few extra photographs in earlier than the top of the battle, nevertheless it went the gap and I received it on factors.
“Once we boxed for the Commonwealth title in 2006, the battle received postponed a few occasions and I by no means took a break from coaching. By the point it received to the battle, I’d skilled an excessive amount of and I’d overboiled, so every little thing went fallacious. He put me down 3 times within the second spherical earlier than the battle was stopped. I simply had no stability. Marcus McDonnell had refereed just a few fights of mine, and he got here as much as me and stated, ‘Pete, is every little thing all proper?’ and I used to be like, ‘Yeah, I’m good, I’m good,’ as a result of I didn’t realise what was taking place. Then Ovill caught me with a shot and he got here in just a little bit together with his head by accident, which minimize my eye, and I believe that was the excuse that Marcus McDonnell wanted to cease the battle. I used to be devastated. I believe even Ovill was shocked that he beat me as a result of, each time we’d sparred previous to that battle, there have been by no means any indicators of him ever with the ability to do this. However I actually don’t wish to take nothing off Ovill as a result of he was by no means, ever given any free rides. He labored his arse off for every little thing he received, and I’m glad he grew to become Commonwealth champion that night time as a result of he’s good things and I give him all of the respect on the planet.”
However it was Tony Oakey who Haymer respects essentially the most, naming the Portsmouth man as the perfect he ever shared a hoop with. Haymer had been conscious of Oakey’s silky abilities since they have been amateurs and boxed fastidiously throughout their 2005 10-rounder for Peter’s English title. Haymer received the choice again then – a verdict the pair nonetheless playfully dispute to at the present time. Three years later, although, issues have been completely different.
“Once I boxed Tony for the British title in 2008, he ended up stopping me within the ninth,” Haymer explains. “It was so boiling scorching in York Corridor that night time. Whereas me and Tony fought like hell, there have been folks sitting at ringside with shorts and vests on and so they have been discovering it arduous simply to elevate their pints of beer up! I gave Tony a lot respect within the first battle, so the second time I made a decision to simply go in there and take it to him. I used to be marking him up and he was taking some massive punches, however Tony was an absolute machine. It received to the purpose the place I used to be hitting this man who simply wasn’t shifting. Ultimately, I couldn’t maintain my arms up. He clipped me as I used to be on my toes form of making an attempt to pivot away. I went down and I used to be so exhausted that I couldn’t even get my bum off the ground. However I may have hit Tony all day lengthy with bricks, and he weren’t being denied. So I’ve received nothing however respect for Tony. The person is a good, nice fighter, and I used to be delighted to share the ring with him on each events.”
Haymer retired in 2010 with a document of 18 wins, six losses and two attracts, becoming a member of the ranks of the multitude of boxers who may have achieved so significantly better with the correct folks behind them, however there isn’t any hint of bitterness in his voice as he explains, “Initially, I signed with Sports activities Community, and my coach was my outdated beginner coach, Chris Corridor. I’ve identified Chris since I used to be 15. He helped me in the direction of the ABA title and came to visit with me into the professionals. After the primary yr, I left Sports activities Community and Chris took over as my supervisor. I used to be a fairly respectable ticket-seller, and we used the smaller corridor promoters simply to get some fights.
“My final battle was a factors win towards Danny Couzens at Newmarket in 2010. They have been telling me I used to be in line for one more shot on the British title, after which every little thing simply went quiet. The fellows that might have achieved one thing with me have been all the time within the reverse nook, so my profession grew to become stagnant. Ultimately, no alternatives got here and I’d not lengthy had my daughter. So I used to be giving up all this time, no cash was coming in and I had just a little lady at residence that I wasn’t seeing. I’d completed on a win. I had a very good run. So I made a decision to name it a day and turn into a father correctly.
“Plenty of the boxers are preventing for his or her livelihood. All they’ve received is boxing, whereas I wasn’t that bothered about cash. I did need titles. I needed to achieve success within the boxing sport, nevertheless it wasn’t do or die for me. I had a very sturdy assist system. My spouse, Katie, was an enormous individual to maintain me on the straight and slim, and he or she nonetheless is. My mother and father and my sister have been nice. I had my granddad, my nan and my shut buddies, so I all the time had individuals who mollycoddled me. I cherished boxing, however I didn’t want it, though I do assume I used to be blessed within the sense that boxing helped me turn into a greater individual.”
Whereas Haymer and Corridor by no means fairly set the boxing world on hearth, their friendship has continued to burn vibrant. Corridor is Haymer’s employer on the Footsteps Belief, a facility for 12- to 16-year-old boys who’ve been completely excluded from mainstream schooling in Tottenham, the stamping floor for a number of of essentially the most harmful gangs in London. Corridor based Footsteps in 2010 and, to place it bluntly, the younger males who discover themselves there are ingesting on the Final Probability Saloon. The important thing goal of Footsteps is to steer their pupils in the direction of additional schooling or employment, however the routine is underpinned by varied completely different sports activities and Haymer’s “workplace” is the boxing gymnasium.
“We wish to give the younger folks a deflection from simply schooling, which is what they have a tendency to battle with, so we put some sports activities round it to set free their aggression and we try to mentor them into discovering a greater approach. I’m fortunate sufficient to have a very good rapport with folks typically. I’m fairly a very good listener, and I’ve received a good bit of life expertise myself.
“I grew up on an property. I boxed, and I had quite a lot of respect from the youngsters within the space as a result of I may deal with myself, be it on the road or within the ring. With the younger folks these days, there’s no fisticuffs. There’s no one-on-one. It’s actually a free-for-all. Knives are getting used every single day. There’s not a battle that occurs the place two folks throw punches at one another. It’s six or seven guys with knives on to at least one or two.”
And lately, six or seven guys – even whatever the knives – are extra imposing than they was once. “I don’t know what it’s however individuals are positively getting greater,” Haymer explains. “The cohort we’ve received at Footsteps in the meanwhile are common dimension. However we’ve had some absolute monsters, you recognize, 13 or 14 years outdated and 6ft 6in tall. There are occasions when I’ve to interrupt up bodily fights, however often, due to the connection I’ve received with our younger folks, as quickly as they see it’s me that’s getting between them, it doesn’t are likely to escalate too far. They’re simply youngsters on the finish of the day. They want some nurturing and a little bit of steering. Plenty of them have come from damaged households and areas the place it’s very, very tough, so it’s not shocking that they lose their approach just a little bit. I’ve received quite a lot of empathy and compassion for these youngsters. To see what a few of them have been by way of could be very unhappy.”
Nearly all of the pupils at Footsteps are concerned in gangs and it’s commonplace for an enemy outfit to look, mobhanded with dangerous intentions. “There’s been occasions the place I’ve needed to go to the door and ship some guys away who’ve come to the college to work together with one other man who’s in a rival gang. I’ve been doing this job for thus lengthy that I’ve learnt the way to defuse a scenario. I speak to those lads respectfully and allow them to know, ‘The police shall be right here. Get your self away. Don’t do nothing silly.’ 9 occasions out of 10, they don’t actually wish to be doing what they’re doing. They really feel like they’re in a predicament, I’m certain. I’ve seen some sights. I’ve seen some dangerous stuff occur, however I by no means actually really feel in peril as a result of I deal with folks how I wish to be handled and, thank God, I’ve by no means had nobody activate me. They all the time realise I’ve received their finest pursuits at coronary heart.
“The one factor we’re wanting at Footsteps is cash. Funding is hard, as a result of we’re a charity-run organisation and I do know Chris can be very open to anybody that’s capable of assist out in that approach. He’s a proud man, so he’s not on the market begging for stuff. However clearly, if we may get a sponsor or just a little one thing to assist with stuff, that may be superb.”
Haymer nonetheless takes an curiosity within the present boxing scene, and he’s a daily on the London Ex Boxers’ Affiliation, along with fellow St Pancras star, former British bantamweight champion, Martin Energy. “Me and Martin return to when he was seven years outdated and I used to be 10, and our friendship goes so deep that he was finest man at my wedding ceremony and his spouse was my spouse’s bridesmaid. We’re occurring the LEBA committee now, which we’re very completely satisfied about as a result of it’s so vital that we hold it going. The most effective folks on the planet are boxers and it’s just like the saying that LEBA places on the market, “it’s good to belong”.