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Chris Lakey: Norwich’s Sam Sexton helps to blaze a trail for Joe Public

PUBLISHED: 14:17 13 April 2018 | UPDATED: 14:17 13 April 2018

Heavyweight team, from left, Jon Thaxton, sponsor Karl Unsworth, Sam Sexton and trainer Graham Everett. Picture: Chris Lakey

Heavyweight team, from left, Jon Thaxton, sponsor Karl Unsworth, Sam Sexton and trainer Graham Everett. Picture: Chris Lakey

Archant

It’s hot and sweaty in the gym and Sam Sexton is leaking like a sieve as he bounces around the ring.

It’s pads work and opposite him is Jon Thaxton, erstwhile champion of the lightweight ring who knows a thing or two about preparing for big fights.

Suddenly, Sexton explodes and lunges at Thaxton. The smaller man, back to the ropes, jumps out of the way in a move reminiscent of his glory days. Sexton is millimetres away from connecting. But Thaxton knows that, and Sexton knows that. Both break out into huge smiles. The mock attack breaks the monotony. It’s a game they play, just to keep each other on their toes.

And minute or so later, Sam’s work in the ring is done for the day. He has a warm down, easing that heavyweight frame into shapes it has no right to be in, and then heads off for his deep massage.

There is plenty for Sam to do and, you’d guess, plenty of expense incurred along the way to glory. Top quality sparring partners don’t work for free; then there’s the daily gym sessions, the conditioning, the massages, the cut man and probably a whole lot more.

The prize at the end will come if he beats Hughie Fury on May 12 to retain his British heavyweight title belt.

Whatever happens, it won’t make Sam Sexton a rich man. Boxing can be an unforgiving sport. There aren’t many Floyd Mayweathers (thank goodness), but there are a lot of fighters who will go down in the history books as winners of prestigious titles without ever challenging the BBC SPOTY audience.

It’s a shame, because people like Sam Sexton deserve a bit more, even if that is an observation made by someone with clearly biased views.

When Sexton and Fury meet it will be shown live on Channel 5. For free. No risk taking there for the family purse holder. But such has boxing changed – this is the first time in almost seven years that the British heavyweight title fight, probably the most prestigious on the domestic scene - has returned to terrestrial TV and I think promoters Mick Hennessy and Channel 5 should be applauded for that.

It beats paying for a TV channel subscription and then having to pay on top of that to watch a boxing match that, frankly, probably isn’t worth the money. The first bit is ok, the surcharge isn’t.

Which is why Sexton v Fury deserves a big audience in the hope it will persuade others to nail their colours to this particular mast. It should be the start of something big.

If Sam wins - and it is as it should be, a tough fight - his exposure levels will rise dramatically.

While I watched Sam contort his body, I rather disrespectfully shoved a microphone in front of him and asked him about sponsorship.

Karl Unsworth and his KAJA steel company were Sam’s main sponsors when he won the title in Edinburgh last year and Karl was quick to team up again.

But there’s room for more – as there is with any of Sam’s colleagues at Norwich Pro Boxing.

“Ideally it would be great to get another local company on board, no matter how big or small,” he said. “I am always up for supporting my home city so if I can help someone, no problem.

“There’s massive coverage of fights like these, all through the media, social media, Youtube, the build-up, the weigh-in, the fight itself. It is a great chance for the public to see a big fight, people who probably don’t usually watch. You see two heavyweights going at it, you are going to watch it. If you have to pay for it you might not bother, but it is a good chance for the public to get back into it like back in the day.

“Getting sponsors on board gives me the opportunity to concentrate on the boxing and not having to worry about other things.”

And no one wants Sam Sexton’s concentration to waver ahead of a fight like this - not least Jon Thaxton...

Sun? What sun?

Here Comes the Sun - probably the first cover version that, for me, worked.

Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel’s mid-70s reworking of the Beatles song was a rarity given these copies never really work second time around.

However, the song has now become a taunt. It was always sunny in our youth, the weather was always good, and nothing bad ever happened.

Now, it’s been raining so much I am expecting an ark to materialise in the car park any day now.

Cricket major league in the eats has pushed back its season by a week, although I’ll wager there are a few groundsmen for whom that won’t be enough as they mop up the water as best they can.

Local football is enduring its annual fixture congestion problems – Dereham had two games scheduled for this week, which is hardly fair when you are trying your hardest to get to the play-offs, while Lowestoft also had two in midweek - and their battle is the equally difficult one, but at the other end of their particular table.

King’s Lynn Town had just the one, but that was on Thursday... leaving a 48-hour gap between two vital games.

And speedway. Well, that’s suffering even more.

King’s Lynn Stars have, at the last count, had four meetings postponed – two against Leicester, one at Belle Vue and one at home to Wolverhampton.

The problem they all face is that they are in danger of supporters losing interest. They are high-profile sports, but they face ever-increasing competition for interest, and can scarcely afford to lose it due to something out of their control.

But we all know about April showers, so why do we persist in starting the cricket season or the speedway season this month.

Are these sports simply asking for trouble?

Football can just about get away with it – the rain has been extraordinarily persistent – although the sport does persist in putting off the idea of a winter break. But it is a sport whose season moves from late summer, autumn, winter, spring and early summer. Cricket and speedway should confine themselves to the summer sport – they can’t cope with any more seasons.

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