|Wayne with his title belts|
Wayne Alexander will be keeping a close eye on Amir Khan’s WBA light-welterweight title defence against Ireland’s Paul McCloskey this Saturday night.
The former British, European and WBU light-middleweight title holder used to train under John Breen, Paul’s coach, over in Belfast; he had previously worked with London legend Jimmy Tibbs yet felt the need to move away from the capital to refocus himself later in his career.
“Jimmy taught me so much,” said Alexander as he recalled the circumstances behind the switch. “He is one of the best in the business. Jimmy was always a big name in the boxing game for me when I was growing up. I was more nervous meeting Jimmy than I was for some of my fights because he’d been there and done it with the likes of Chris Pyatt and Nigel Benn. I was so glad to have trained under Jimmy, he taught me a lot. Jimmy also did a great job with Nigel towards the end.
“But I don’t forget my time with John Breen and his experience with top fighters. I wanted to get away from the distractions of London and went over to John. It wasn’t better or worse than Jimmy, just different. John loves the game, is dedicated and has Eamon Magee and Jim Rock around him.
“I had a few distractions in London, you know. It was hard to stay focused. Getting away was a good thing. I’d always liked the idea of going away to train. I was always close to my other gyms so it was nice to wake up in the morning feeling that I was part of a camp. Jimmy had talked about going to Tenerife but we never got to do it, which was a shame.”
Alexander’s sessions at Breen’s Gym saw him work alongside McCloskey; the 1994 ABA 154lb medallist saw enough in ‘Dudey’ to declare the youngster a world champion in waiting, although he believes that the EBU titlist will have to go beyond anything he has previously produced in order to dethrone ‘King’ Khan.
“I said Paul would become a champion before he turned pro. I sparred him before he turned over and he was a talent back then. He’s got a task, everyone knows that, but he can do it.
“Paul loves to fight and he is a handful. It is the first time Khan has faced someone with this type of southpaw style. It is a fight Paul can win because he can box and fight,” predicted Alexander.
“I don’t know why Khan has taken it because it is a tough one for him with little reward. Paul is a little white Naz. He is hard to read. I sparred with him early in his pro career and he’d improved so much. Paul is a really good fighter. He’s got the makings of a world champ even if he doesn’t win this one.”
Wayne’s excitement over the MEN Arena showdown has not spilled over into thoughts of a comeback. He turned his back on the sport after a shocking single stanza loss to Serge Vigne in 2006, resisting the urge to return despite an attractive offer to fight Jamie Moore when ‘Mooresy’ was the British boss.
“I sometimes think about coming back, it lasts for about five minutes. I have put on too much weight – I’m almost fourteen stone now.
“I do wish I’d been a better trainer for all the fights in my prime. I’d be fooling myself now to think that I can come back and work harder now,” Wayne admitted.
“Boxing is still my big love. In boxing I found something I was good at. I wasn’t very good at school but knew boxing was me straight away and I loved it from the start. I’d love to have my own gym.
“That is one dream of mine – a place of my own where I can train white collar boxers. I’ll always be in the gym and around the game, you’ll see me at shows and I’m building towards my own place one day. That would be nice.”
Alexander grew up during the 1980s, a time when The Fantastic Four were ruling the roost and Mike Tyson exploded across the heavyweight division. He said, “I loved the guys from that time, the Haglers, Hearns, Leonards and Durans, those names were big. Then Tyson and Holyfield – I loved all the 1980s fighters. That was my era growing up. I really love Duran, and obviously the greatest fighter of all time, Sugar Ray Robinson.”
I am not one to complain, but I could not help but stress my disappointment at the lack of a 154lb domestic round robin in the early-to-mid noughties: Alexander, Anthony Farnell, Richard ‘The Secret’ Williams, Steven Roberts, Takaloo and Gary Lockett all fought in and around one another but their meetings were few and far between. Power, skill, aggression and poise, those domestic light-middleweights brought a lot to the table.
“Don’t worry about it. I’d have liked those fights to have all happened too but it was just down to business,” noted Alexander at certain points during our conversation. “Me and Takaloo fought. Arnie fought Takaloo. But there were fights that didn’t get made. It is a shame but what can you say?”
Wayne indulged me with a quick run down of how he thinks he would have fared against a few of his rivals. Saying, “I think I would have beaten Steve, he’s a nice guy. We were meant to box as amateurs but never got to fight because he was lighter than me. We never got it on as amateurs and just missed the boat as pros. I’m saying I’d have won the fight, ask him and he’ll say he’d have won. It is the way it goes.
“I would have beaten Arnie because Anthony came forward, and I liked that. It would have been another great fight. Anthony is doing well for himself at the moment, it is nice. I think I’d have beaten all of them. They’d have all been different types of fight but it would have been really great, wouldn’t it?”
Yeah, I can see it now. Prizefighter: The Early-to-Mid Noughties Light-Middleweights. Alexander, Farnell, Williams, Roberts, Takaloo and Lockett. Bloody hell, Paul Samuels is still going so we could throw him into the mix an’ all if it didn’t screw the numbers up. I put the notion to Wayne.
“Nah, mate, I’m not sure about that,” he laughed. “But ask Matchroom and Eddie Hearn if they’ll put on a million ponds for the winner and we can all have a think about having it at catchweight.”
Alexander retired with a 24-3 (18) record; he challenged WBO title holder Harry Simon in 2001, taking the fight on a day’s notice and boxing brightly before succumbing at 2:43 of the fifth.
By Terence Dooley