Trainer's verdict - Graham Everett on a decade of Norfolk fighters
PUBLISHED: 17:17 30 December 2019 | UPDATED: 17:17 30 December 2019
© 2013 Mark Hewlett
There are plenty of reasons to believe that the past decade has been a golden era for Norfolk boxing... but who tops the bill as the best fighter in the 2010s? Here are some of the candidates - all of whom have worked with Norwich's highly-rated trainer Graham Everett, who gives his own verdict to head of sport Chris Lakey.
Age: 21. Record (W-L-D): 4-0-0
Newcomer who has impressed. Plenty of time to develop.
Graham's verdict: A great prospect. I call him the quiet man of the gym. Owen works meticulously hard and is another I think will go places, and he has time on his side. He is a good learner. I think he has surprised people in how he has improved - a lot of people who saw him as an amateur are shocked at how good he has become. We have only touched the surface on what he is going to be.
Age: 28. Record: 22-1-0
Won the International Boxing Federation Youth welterweight title in 2015. Not fought since May 2018, with hand injuries and growing family commitments combining to prompt a change of direction.
Graham's verdict: An absolute pleasure to work with but probably one of the unluckiest boxers out there. He was a great asset to this gym. Nathan was a top class schoolboy and junior but lost his confidence, but he came to us and along with (promoter) Mervyn (Turner) and (trainer) Jon (Thaxton) we rebuilt him - but in the end his hand injury was a constant problem.
Age: 23. Record: 6-0-0
Growing talent - bags of promise. Won six out of six since his debut in October 2018,
Graham's verdict: A tremendous prospect. He has a full-time job but has great local sponsorship which helps him a lot. I really rate him - great fighter.
Age: 29. Record: 8-0-0
Latecomer to the squared circle after career in MMA. Tough as old ones - and becoming so hard to match. Probably already outgrown local shows.
Graham's verdict: A terrific prospect, a big puncher with an MMA background. Really struggling get things together on small shows and needs a big fight, and we will be chasing them in the new year. he is at an age where has got to do that, and he wants to do that.
Age: 39. Record: 14-6-0
Not been in a boxing ring for a while, but has been involved in bare knuckle fights.
Graham's verdict: You can't fault him for what he has done. I worked with him for parts of his career and I think his best night was when he knocked out Tony Oakey for the English title. I still say now it was his best ever performance, even though he also won the European title as well. Danny has done himself proud.
Age: 32. Record: 10-11-3
Recovered from leukaemia to box as a pro. Loved by local fans. Lots of guts and much better than that record suggests.
Graham's verdict: Retired this year because he just hasn't got the time with his work commitments and training at Aylsham ABC. He was in the gym Saturdays and Sunday and some evenings, but in his last fight he still got a draw with the Southern Area champion. He has played a major part in Ryan Walsh's career, he sparred so many rounds with him ... I think Ryan misses him a little even now. He was a fantastic member of our gym - he coaches at Aylsham and with me in Norwich on Saturdays.
Age: 34 Record: 12-0-02
Another latecomer, and very popular among Norwich fans. Fit as a flea - and never backed down.
Graham's verdict: When Zaiphan retired a year and a half ago, the time was right to call it a day. He was unlucky in that he never really got a really big fight. His biggest was his last fight, beating Jamie Speight. Big credit to Zaiphan - he worked so hard, he did everything you could ask and more. A great lad - and he is still in the gym every Saturday morning and it's a pleasure to have him around.
Age: 34. Record: 24-4-0
Retired a few weeks ago. Hugely popular, and a true gentleman. Only lost to very good opponents.
Graham's verdict: What can you say about Sam? He was with me from a young age. Not only was he a champion, he was also a very good friend. He achieved so much - that night winning the British heavyweight title was fantastic. He has had some great nights - beating Martin Rogan twice in Belfast. I do think he could have done better with his career - there were times he was really hot but his mum's illness really derailed him. But her 'achieved - Prizefighter champion, Southern Area champion, British champion and Commonwealth champion.
Age: 33 Record: 23-1-0
Pure class. Former British super-featherweight champion and world title challenger. Out of the sport for too long but now he's back, deserves some big fights. Too good not to.
Graham's verdict: Nothing much to say except I have had some of the greatest nights of my career with Liam. He is one of the nicest people I have ever met, a really, really good friend and a brilliant student to work with. He deserves to come back and win a world title.
Age: 35 Record: 12-0-0
Never got to the end of a fight - stopped a dozen opponents, including, after four years out, Sean Davis earlier this month. Heart of gold - and heart of a lion.
Graham's verdict: You can see the joy we had with his recent comeback. Micahel will give you 110pc. He is an absolutely blinding character, family first, inspiration to everyone in this gym. I think the world of him... he should at least win a British title.
Age: 33 Record: 25-2-2
Another class act who has defended the British featherweight title an incredible six times. Deep thinker and extraordinarily dedicated.
Graham's verdict: What can you say? He is the one someone once referred to as the 'not so good one' - unbelievably. Ryan has an unbelievable heart, an unbelievable chin, an unbelievable determination, and a stubborn will to stay there as long as he wants to stay there. He should, and hopefully will, win a world title.
The re-birth of Norfolk boxing
If you want to know the origins of the local boxing shows that have become so much a part of the sporting diary, then turn the clock back a decade and think 'Belfast'.
Trainer Graham Everett was there with Sam Sexton, who twice went into Martin Rogan's back yard and, in front of a hostile crowd, beat the local favourite.
It was in Belfast that Everett and promoter Mervyn Turner first talked business - and the rest is history.
"We've known each other for years," said Everett. "We had a few conversations in Belfast and then he called one day and he had an idea about starting boxing shows in Norwich again. He said 'you have good fighters up there' and the bills started then.
The Norfolk Showground, The Halls, Epic Studios and the Holiday Inn Norwich North have all hosted local fight nights.
"It's been hard work," added Everett. "Small hall boxing is not a great money-spinner. You need a big amount of really good ticket sellers, but I think at the moment we have turned the corner. Injury-free we have some really great fighters here, one or two who are ready to move on to the bigger stage."
Small local shows are the first step: difficulties comes when boxers outgrow them, such as cruiserweight Iain Martell, but that is the purpose - to develop local talent.
"Iain is becoming impossible to match on a small hall show," said Everett. "He is eight unbeaten with a reputation and is ready to move on to, hopefully, title fights.
"We have some good stuff lined up and it has been a good year, but at the same time a hard year. People think we are the end of the world in Norwich, but all we can do is offer people work and as it has worked out - all the shows have been a good standard - the last two very, very good. Now we have Michael (Walsh) back, which is great. We have the likes of Liam Goddard and Owen Blunden coming through and of course the former Norwich great Jon Thaxton is part of the team along with Darren Bunn, Matt Smith and, of course, Mervyn himself.
"Our home is out castle - and we are constantly building on it."