Norwich’s Sam Sexton cut an emotional figure on the ring apron tonight, following a rough and tumble contest with Scotland’s Gary Cornish. It was a triumph built on will, self belief and old-school ring nous. Sexton overcame a giant opponent, thistles, blood, knees and wayward heads to win the British Heavyweight title for the first time and open up a host of lucrative opportunities in the months ahead.
In explaining what the victory meant to BoxNation’s John Rawling, Sexton revealed much of the vulnerability of prizefighters and provided a stark reminder of the people wearing the gloves from whom we all expect so much.
Such has Sexton’s inactivity been, that Cornish was the first fighter with a winning record he has fought since a revenge win over Larry Olubamiwo in 2014 and represented the first scheduled 12 rounder he’d fought since 2012. Without understanding the personal problems he revealed tonight it became easy to question his motivation and desire. After all, this is a fighter who travelled to Belfast twice to face the belligerent Martin Rogan, who fable tells frequently intimidates the bark off trees, courage and ability were never doubted.
It is worth pausing to remember Martin Rogan. He could have been a heavyweight in a black and white era as easily as his own such was his classic pug appearance; squashed bent nose, thick ears and short back and sides haircut. I always remember his press conference for the rematch with Sexton, who was just 24 at the time. Rogan brewed and scowled and began banging the table with his fist at a perceived secular slight by the visiting Englishman. He was a tough old juggernaut was Rogan. Sexton beat him in back to back fights in 2009 and did it without flinching.
In victory, Sexton, revealed the passing of his mum in 2016, the break up from the mother of his daughter in the period before that and the heartbreak of hearing his six year old daughter relay; “My friends say I haven’t got a real Dad”, because of the break up and the time Boxing steals from its participants. Sexton could barely contain his emotion in urging his daughter to relay to the playground voices that she does have a proper Dad and he’s the British Heavyweight champion.
A prize with a history to which Sexton adds his own colours and from which he can earn further respect in the playground and hefty purses too.
He answered questions in victory tonight, questions those of us detached from his life were ill-qualified to answer and perhaps even to ask and I for one will hope he remains occupied and aspirational.
There will be plenty keen to take the belt away from him on these shores, though notably Sam’s last words “Joseph Parker”, as the microphone pealed away, suggests he may look up rather than down for his next challenge.
Heck, why not?
Photo Credit: Antony Kelly EDP24