24th February 2012
With the clock ticking on the 36 year olds career he can ill afford another year of postponements and frustrations. It must have been an incredibly trying time for the former European and IBO lightweight champion.
“It has you know. It’s got me down a bit and I just lost interest in it in a sense” says Cook. “I’ve just started back training and the diet began after the weekend. I’m just looking forward to having a fight really. The thing with Curtis Woodhouse couldn’t be helped with his brother going into hospital – I hope he gets well soon – but the Frankie Gavin thing just really cheesed me off.”
Gavin returns to action on the undercard of Nathan Cleverly’s WBO title fight with Tommy Karpency in a bout with Kevin McIntyre. There were strong rumours that the former amateur star would be stepping back into the ring against the danger man from Maesteg. Rather than dig around for rumours and half truths, the best course of action is to let Cook himself explain why the fight fell apart.
“They wanted the fight one minute then they didn’t” he sighs. “Then they’d say ‘well you were offered the fight last year, it could have happened then’. Yeah, on five days notice! People say Frankie Gavin then looked good against Michael Lomax but Lomax had two days notice for the fight for Gods sake. Anybody can look good against somebody like that. That’s what happened to me. When they first phoned me I think I was 11 stone 13lbs. I wasn’t training and was in my bedroom on a Sunday night and they asked me to fight on the Saturday. Originally it was at 10 stone 10lbs. I got down to 11 stone by the Wednesday and they said they wanted a British title eliminator at 10 stone 7lbs and I said it’s not possible to do it. That’s what Frank [Warren] wants. He wants you to fight on four or five days notice.
“If I had five weeks to prepare for Frankie Gavin it would have been perfect. I just don’t think he wanted it personally.”
Money – as always – also appears to have played a pretty big part in Gavin’s decision to sidestep Cook.
“He got offered £10,000 but he wanted £40,000 to fight an eight rounder against an old man. Dean Powell spoke to my manager and said that Frankie had told him personally that he wanted another fight first because it’s a tough fight to go back into. Money does talk in boxing these days and forty grand is quite a lot of money for an eight rounder I think. He thinks he’s a superstar but he hasn’t earned it yet. I wasn’t getting anywhere near that for fighting at European and IBO title level.”
Cook may now be a bit longer in the tooth but he still retains the ambition – and power – which took him to those titles. It seems his will is still every bit as stout as his famous left hook.
“It’s my last year anyway whatever happens. I’m 37 next week! It’s a young mans sport and always has been but I’ve proved I’m capable but I’ve just become a bit disillusioned with it. I’m taking time off work which is costing me money and I just can’t keep doing it. There are 20 year olds coming up and I think I’m old enough to be their father! They probably look on youtube and think ‘Woah! He was good!’ and I was probably fighting for the British title when they were preparing for the junior ABAs! I’d like to have four fights if I could. I don’t wanna fight journeymen though, I want four decent fights. Obviously I’d love to have one more crack at the [British] title. I’ll try my best to get a title shot and John Watson is the ideal fight to come back to.”
“I’ve been around the game a long time and just think that whilst John’s a nice lad, hopefully my experience will tell on the night. I don’t say ‘oh, I’m gonna go and win no problem’ because I know it’ll be a very hard fight, especially in his own backyard. I can’t take many fans because it’s the same day as the Grand National and all the hotels are booked! He’s a good lad. He’s a throwback fighter in a sense. He can box and he can fight. The extra 5lb will mean he can hit a bit harder I think.”
Watson is a popular fighter in Liverpool and is sure to have a large, vocal following on the night. As much as it would suit Cook, he doesn’t expect the 28 year old to get caught up in the atmosphere and become involved in a brawl.
“No. He’s got a good manager in Dave Coldwell and no doubt a good team behind him. I was there in Cardiff when he fought Gavin Rees [Watson lost via 11th round stoppage] and he was unlucky there. He boxed really well. I know how good Gavin is because I’ve trained with the boy and fought him myself although it was only over three rounds. I think it’ll be a cracking fight and if he tries to get involved he knows he’ll walk onto something. I think he’ll come to box and be cagey for the opening couple of rounds and try to box from the middle rounds onwards. That’s what I’m expecting but I’m just gonna train hard for eight tough rounds. I’m not gonna say ‘I’m gonna drop him in two rounds’ or anything. I did say to Dave Coldwell that I can’t see it going the distance, one of us will go. Hopefully it won’t be me but I’m capable of stopping him and he’s capable of stopping me.”
It must be good for Cook to have a new foe to focus his attention on as for months his name seems to have been inextricably linked with Driffield’s Curtis Woodhouse. The former footballer shot to prominence after pushing Gavin all the way in a spilt decision loss and the scheduled ‘war’ between the pair was eagerly anticipated by the boxing fraternity. Unfortunately medical problems forced Cook to withdraw and the rescheduled fight was postponed after Woodhouse’s brother was hospitalised. It seems fair to say that Cook would still love the chance to tangle with improving 31 year old.
“Curtis Woodhouse talks a lot of crap over the internet and on facebook and other things and he wanted a fight with Ashley Theophane but he doesn’t deserve his shot” claims Cook. “If my shot comes I’ll take it but I’m not looking for my shot. I don’t talk my way into title fights. I earned my shots. That fight’s been called off twice now. It’s never gonna happen I don’t think. I spoke to Dave Coldwell and thought we’d be fighting in Liverpool. He said he wanted me to fight John Watson. If John hadn’t gone well in Prizefighter then it would have been David Barnes over in Manchester. He wants me to box Woodhouse in Sheffield because he’s a good ticket seller. How has Curtis Woodhouse worked his way up to where he has? You’re a footballer Curtis and weren’t a very good one. I respect what he’s done in coming over to another sport and he’s done really well but he’s lost to journeymen like Jay Morris and Peter McDonagh”.
With a limited timeframe to work within, Cook is aware that a British title shot could prove hard to come by. Cast him in the role of journeyman at your peril though as he has another target in mind should a third crack at domestic glory fail to materialise.
lay-off, with a 4th round K.O over Northern Irelands Scott Jordan at the
Middlesbrough Sports Academy on Friday 4th September 2009.
“The only title I’ve never fought for is the Commonwealth. I’ve never had the chance to. Normally with the Commonwealth, people hand pick opponents and you get these Kenyan’s and Ghanaian’s over who’ve had four or five fights. How did Lee McAllister get the shot at that title? I’d love to fight for the Commonwealth belt.”
If – as the year progresses – Cook finds all possible paths are blocked then there could be one final route to glory. It is however one which would mean Cook trading on past glories. As an aging former champion with a marketable name, Cook becomes an attractive voluntary defence. It involves a lot of ifs, buts and maybes but should the British title change hands when Ashley Theophane eventually faces Steve Williams, Cook might just be given a chance.
“I spoke to Steve in Cardiff, I like him and his people, and we said we’d get it on with each other” says Cook with relish. “I think that’d be a great fight. I think we’d stand toe to toe for five or six rounds and that’d be as far as it’d go. I think that Theophane will win. Obviously he used dirty tactics against me with the low blows and [I feel] that’s what beat me personally. He’s trained with Steve Williams and I heard the sparring was very competitive. I’d like to see Steve win. If Theophane wins I think he’ll give it up. [Adil] Anwar’s gonna be fighting Lenny Daws in an eliminator and I think the other eliminator is Woodhouse against Dave Miles.”
Those are matters for the future though. Jason Cook first needs to concentrate on beating John Watson and ensuring that his final charge at glory doesn’t end before it begins. Whatever happens, he seems keen to make sure that his career ends with a bang and not a whimper.
“All they’ve gotta do is pick up the phone, give me some notice and I’ll take anybody on. It doesn’t bother me.”