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Saturday, December 1, 2012
It was a partnership that was prolific inside the boxing ring – now Graham Everett and Jon Thaxton are teaming up again in an effort to replicate their success with the growing stable of young boxers coming out of Norwich.
Everett was the one constant in the corner as Thaxton scrapped his way to British and European title success over a career that spanned 17 years and 45 fights.
Back at the Kickstop Gym in Whiffler Road this week, little appears to have changed – except that both are tracksuited and side by side on one side of the ring, keeping a close eye on their small, but perfectly formed, band of fighters. This is no boxing factory churning out face after face; this is one-to-one private tuition in the school of hard knocks.
“It all started a few weeks ago when Jon brought Joe Payne down to spar and work with the other lads and it was just natural to get together,” said Everett.
“It just seemed right. He was at another gym in the city and he was more or less on his own a lot of the time. He loves the gym environment and it is going to improve Joe and to be honest having Jon around me is just fantastic, I am absolutely over the moon.
“Jon will come in here as often as his work permits. He has spent the last two or three weeks working with Scott (Moises), Nathan (Dale) and Sam (Sexton) and everyone has gelled brilliantly.
“Jon will make his first appearance in the corner with me when Nathan fights next Thursday at Grays in Essex, which he is really looking forward to. It just seems so much the right thing to do. We all love him being here – and how strong is this unit now?”
The fit does seem to be an obvious one.
“We had such a good time together as trainer fighter,” added Everett. “I think we have so much respect for each other as well. I respect him immensely because I know what he went through. When we first started working together I remember telling Jon ‘you’re going to have to punch your way to the top’, and he never forgets those words. And that is exactly what he did do – and he won a British and a European title, which was fantastic for all of us, fantastic for Norwich – two Norwich people doing it.
“We don’t need to go elsewhere – it is just a brilliant set-up down here. Kids come from all over the country to spar here.”
Bruises aside, Thaxton doesn’t look much different to the man who finally called it a day after losing a British lightweight title fight to John Murray in October, 2009. Seeing him at the Kickstop reignites memories, but Thaxton knows the gloves are on the other hands now.
“I’ve been made welcome and that is a big part of it,” he said. “Just working with the boys. There is an atmosphere down here. I brought Joe down here to spar with Nathan and we needed regular sparring and Graham welcomed us in and we thought, ‘we are a fantastic team’. We were an unstoppable team when I was British champion.
“Anthony Ogogo asked me who is the best trainer in the world. I thought and I said, ‘Graham Everett’. He said, ‘Really? What about Freddie Roach or someone like that?’ But what Graham Everett did for me you wouldn’t believe. How he got me to be British and European champion. For us to join forces, my experience as a fighter his experience as a trainer – how can we lose?
“Success breeds success with the Walsh brothers, with Sam, Nathan Dale, he has such a strong unit and he has people coming in throughout the day – from people who just want to get fit to professional fighters, the best in Britain.”
Since Thaxton and former two-time world heavyweight champion Herbie Hide left the scene as the undisputed top dogs on the local scene, a new breed has emerged. The Walsh brothers – twins Liam and Ryan and older brother Michael – former Commonwealth heavyweight champion Sexton, the unbeaten Dale, Moises. All make the Kickstop their second home while others wait in the wings, waiting for the day when Everett deems them ready to take the next big step.
Everett has helped Liam Walsh to the cusp of the world stage – only injury standing between him and a fight with Ricky Burns – while he was there when Sexton twice went to Belfast and twice beat Martin Rogan in the snarling, spitting, bearpit that was the Odyssey Arena.
It’s Sexton who is perhaps the one who will benefit most from Thaxton’s presence. They go back a long way, they are both city boys, born and bred – and Thaxton had what Sexton craves; a British title. Thaxton won his at the third attempt; Sexton has had two bites, and is hungry for a third.
Putting the combined experience of two lifetimes in boxing together and it could be third time lucky.
“I remember winning the British title (against Lee Meager, six years ago),” recalls Thaxton. “We were up against it, we were the big underdogs and when I lifted that after the third time of trying, after 14 years, it was the best moment of my career.
“Perseverance is what Sam needs. I didn’t win it first time or second time, but you keep working, you keep persevering, working, and I think Sam’s time will now come.”
Sexton’s British hopes have been dashed by Dereck Chisora and David Price – the only men to have beaten him – but Everett believes 2013 could be Sexton’s year.
“I would say Jon’s first ambition with us as a team would be to get Sam Sexton a British title shot which hopefully we will get next year – and win it,” he said.
“That would be a great buzz. I am sure for Sam it will be third time lucky as well. He has been up against Price and Chisora, two world class heavyweights, so maybe unlucky with his timing, but I genuinely believe with the way he is training that next year he will lift that British crown.”
The Everett-Thaxton partnership comes at a time when local boxers are finally getting an opportunity to fight in front of their home fans, with Mervyn Turner and his Shamrock Promotions company having held the first two in a series of shows with another pencilled in for March.
“I think next year will be a big year,” said Everett. “Mervyn has some good things planned, which is all we have ever asked for. I have struggled on the last few years with no shows. We needed a promoter to get things going again and that is what Mervyn has done. With our set-up and the fighters we have got – I have two or three other fighters who want to join our group – I personally feel they are not quite ready yet, but they will be ready next year so we are going to have a massive gym with a lot of good expertise around it.
“We are taking our careers in our hands. We will train and manage boys together with all sorts of promoters to work with. Shamrock is the major man but our destiny is in our own hands. There is no waiting around for others to do things. We have the boys, we have the set-up, we have everything we need. It has given me a massive lift – I am really happy with this. I think everybody around Norwich will be really pleased to see us back together.”