On top form, marauding Manchester light-middle Matthew Hall is one of the most exhilarating fighters in Britain.
The hard hooking 5ft 7 1/2 in ex Commonwealth champion and former British and European title challenger has sent 16 victims for an early shower whilst amassing a 24-4 pro card.
But the bullet-headed 27 year old warmonger has proved vulnerable himself. Three of his defeats have concluded with Hall on his back, making his contests unmissable entertainment.
Ahead of his mouth-watering British title final eliminator with Chislehurst’s ex champion Sam Webb at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, the Mancunian found time to discuss his helter-skelter career and future intentions with boxing writer Glynn Evans.
Hall v Webb will be televised live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 456/Virgin Ch. 546).
Your 10 year pro career has been a study of inconsistency. At your best, you’ve smashed the likes of reigning European middleweight king Kerry Hope and Bradley Pryce (to collect the Commonwealth title), but have been bombed out yourself inside schedule by Martin Concepcion, Anthony Small and Lukas Konecny. Any explanation?
Yeah, I had problems with my breathing and that led to a few mental problems. I’d be fighting when I knew my body weren’t quite right but couldn’t exactly put my finger on why. I never cut corners in training, never messed a gym session or a run. At the gym, I knew I was training harder than anyone. I got very frustrated, continually letting myself down.
When I got dropped and stopped by the likes of Small and Konecny, it was purely down to fatigue. In prep for Konecny, I thought I could walk through walls and I felt very good in the first two rounds but, after that, nothing there.
Coming through as a young pro, I always felt I could walk through anyone but you can’t beat nature. My body simply wouldn’t allow me to do the things that I wanted to do anymore. I felt dead weak all the time. I’d get very down and depressed. That’s why I kept on retiring.
But recently, following tests, it’s transpired that I’m allergic to certain foods that include glutton, wheat and dairy products. Were I to eat them, I can contract flu-like symptoms.
Now that the problem has been diagnosed and you’re sorted, would you covet a rematch with European champion Konecny?
Not just yet. Konecny was the best I’ve faced by a country mile. I was more tired than hurt when I was dropped and stopped (round six) but he had a water tight defence and was very accurate with every shot. I won’t embarrass myself by calling for a rematch now ‘cos he’s on the verge of a world title and I’ve got a British eliminator to take care of. First things first.
Having announced your retirement following the Konecny loss, why did you decide to give boxing another go?
I had an op on my nose that helped me with my breathing then the doctors diagnosed the allergy. As an athlete I knew I hadn’t been 100%. Coming through, early doors, I always felt indestructible. I went unbeaten in my first 16 and most of the stoppages I had were proper knockouts. I really wasted them. I just needed to give it a true go when I know I’m firing on all cylinders.
In your first start back, you gave a shocking performance and were out pointed over six by Bulgarian journeyman Alexey Ribchev at the Bowlers Exhibition Centre in Manchester yet within a month you’d outscored Paisley’s previously unbeaten Kris Carslaw over 10 in a British eliminator up in Motherwell. How do you account for the turn around?
Against the Bulgarian, I weighed in at middleweight on the night and was having to hold my body back. To be honest, the guy was a goose and with another round, I’d have stopped him but, that night, I was very, very poor. Boxing’s 90% mental and I just weren’t there.
I only had two and a half weeks to train for Carslaw but I’m a naturally fit kid and it was just a matter of sorting a few issues out and getting myself mentally prepared.
I was highly motivated for Carslaw. Boxing’s my life, a sport I really love and I’m desperate to get at least a British title out of it. I’d walk through walls for this sport. In my mind, I’ve massively underachieved to date.
The Matty Hall who showed up in Motherwell was a completely different fighter to the one who fought Ribchev. The Carslaw fight was very fast paced yet in the last round I still had tons of energy. I’d not previously been past eight rounds yet I did the ten easily. That’s the best I’ve felt physically in a fight since I stopped Kevin Phelan inside a round six years ago. With regards to my power and resistance, I feel a different man.
Following the loss to Small you left long term trainer Brian Hughes to join Arnie Farnell’s gym. To what extent is Farnell responsible for getting you back on the right track?
Well, firstly I have to say that Brian was a great trainer but, because of his age and health, he got to the stage that he could no longer give me what he once could.
Obviously, I grew up around Arnie when he was a pro at Brian’s gym. Like Brian, I know Arnie’s got my best interests at heart and, in this game, you need that trust.
Arnie’s the most dedicated trainer I’ve known. There’s nowhere to hide in his gym. People who watched his career might find it hard to believe, because his heart always took over and he’d just have a fight, but Arnie’s actually got a brilliant boxing brain. He knows the game inside out.
There’s a real good buzz at the gym with Paul Butler and the Heffrons (Ronnie and Mark) though we all train at different times so Arnie can give us all as much one-to-one as possible. We have a good laugh. Unbelievably, I’m the old man of the gym….at just 27!
Whilst you were away another fighter from the north-west, Blackpool’s Brian Rose, has risen to the British light-middle title. Have your paths crossed?
Not really. I see him about but we’ve never had a proper spar. He’s a real nice kid and I’m glad he’s done well but this is a ruthless business and he’s got something that I want. No disrespect to Brian but I think (making) weight killed Prince Arron the night Rose won his title. I actually think Sam Webb is a harder fight for me than Brian would be. I think Sam’s a better all rounder. That’s just my honest opinion.
Victory against ex champion Webb will put you right back in the mix. How has your preparation gone?
I’m always training and running. The day I can’t be arsed I retire. The games too hard and you’d get found out, embarrassed.
I had just a week off after Carslaw then was back in the gym right over Christmas and the New Year. We were initially due to fight in March but I had a tooth infection in January and needed that removed which caused a delay. I had to take two weeks off but I know I’m in the Last Chance Saloon so just can’t afford to take any risks here.
I’ve just completed my last week of hard sparring with Ronnie Heffron, Adam Little and Rick Godding, and now I’m tapering down. I’m ready.
What’s your assessment of opponent Sam Webb?
Nice kid, good operator. I’ve watched him a few times. He beat one of my best mates Thomas McDonagh (pts10) so I know he’s useful.
But stylewise, I think he should really suit. Sam’s got a big heart, undoubtedly but he’s shown vulnerability with his chin. Arron had him down and stopped him. He was decked and stopped on cuts by Alex Stoda, dropped and cut by Max Maxwell.
He knows what’ll be bringing; the old Matty Hall, better even than the one who stopped Kerry Hope and Bradley Pryce. I feel far stronger and I’m hitting far harder.
Why will you be able to beat him?
Talk is cheap and all questions will be answered on April 28th but I just don’t think he’ll be able to handle the pressure I’m going to bring. The way I’m feeling now, I’m a million percent confident. I’ve got a smile on my face again.
People forget that I can box. I won three national junior titles in the amateurs but attack is definitely my best defence. It’s going to be bloody and it’s going to be brutal!
You seem like you’ve been around forever but you’re still only 27. Provided you come through against Webb, what can you still achieve?
I definitely want a British title fight this year and, should I win that, there’s really not much difference between British and European level at the minute, once Konecny moves on for his world title fight.
In my head I should’ve been British champion five years ago. It’s a good job I turned pro so young (18). I’ve had so many setbacks but, touch wood, it could still all come good for ‘El Torito’.
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Saunders v Hill and Hall v Webb is live and exlcusive on Saturday 28th April on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 456/Virgin Ch. 546). Join at www.boxnation.com
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