British boxing has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years – and Square Mile has profiled a number of the fighters responsible for that resurgence.
We've rounded up all our interviews with British boxing talent at various stages of their journey.
Below you will find conversations with Anthony Joshua as a relative novice; David Haye at the start of his comeback; Lawrence Okolie and Joshua Buatsi interviewing one another shortly before the former won a world title.
Naturally some of the predictions and opinions have dated badly – that's part of the fun. But the joy of the profile lies in the personality, and those personalities all shine through.
The Anthony Joshua who graced our front cover back in 2015 was considered one of the finest prospects in UK boxing but was a far cry from the global superstar of today. It’s fascinating to read a 25-year-old Joshua’s hopes and ambitions for his still nascent career, as well as his thoughts on his rivals – Tyson Fury gets a mention even back then. Portrait of the fighter as a young man.
"I don't think boxing fans are ever satisfied. They're always looking for the next beast to come out and beat someone. There'll always be this situation where if I fight the next guy who's won all his fights and I knock him out, they'll say 'Don't you want to go the rounds?' That's always how it'll be in boxing."
Lawrence Okolie and Joshua Buatsi
A two-for-one deal here as the friends and former Olympians interview each other. Okolie and Buatsi have a natural chemistry as they discuss their similarities and differences as boxers and men. Opponents, fighting styles, girls – nothing is off-limits. Okolie would become world champion barely a year later.
Okolie: "Sometimes you have differences as people, but it works well. I feel like on a base level, when you talk about as men, there’s a lot of respect and love that we have about each other. Obviously we have two different ways of looking at the world. In certain situations."
Buatsi: "Our goals are the same: be world champion, win, unify, but it’s different approaches. When I first started, I thought there was one way, which was the hard way, work hard, train hard. Then as you find out people train differently, there are different things that people do."
One of the finest boxers ever produced in Britain, Josh Taylor is a man in constant pursuit of history. Our interview took place ahead of his victory over Jose Ramirez that crowned the Scot undisputed champion of the light-welterweight division. Taylor's drive and work ethic are palpable throughout.
“In any walk of life, you want to try for something, you want to go for something, you’ve got to work hard for it, do it, and set new goals, set new targets so you’re never standing still. You’re always moving forward.”
Chris Eubank Jr
The son of UK boxing royalty, the career of Chris Eubank Jr has thrilled and infuriated in equal measure. We spoke to Eubank Jr before his doomed attempt to wrest the super-middleweight world title from George Groves. It’s a fascinating insight into the mind of an enigma – whose career is far from finished yet.
“I understood from very early that me and my father – we’re never not going to be compared. We’ve got the same name and we’re in the same sport. It doesn’t matter how good I do, it doesn’t matter where I end up, there’s always going to be that comparison: ‘oh, is he better than his dad?’ And that’s fine.”
Cruiserweight Isaac Chamberlain might be the most interesting boxer in Britain. A contract dispute with his uncle meant the young Brixton-born fighter had to endure two years out of the game. We met Chamberlain before and after his comeback to discuss escaping the gangs of South London, his exile in Miami and his long journey out of hell.
“I was pushing trucks, I was working tirelessly. I was working so hard. I was sleeping in the fucking gym, bro. I was sleeping in the fucking gym. You see a gym like this? This is fucking luxury compared to the gym I was sleeping in. It was ridiculous. I was getting mosquito bites, I was thinking to myself, ‘what the fuck am I doing?’”
Not many boxers combine a career in the ring with Vogue front covers but then Ramla Ali is a law unto herself. She escaped war-torn Somalia; endured racism on the streets of London; hid her boxing from her family; and became the first Muslim woman to win an English title. Her remarkable life story is being turned into a feature film. Read about it here first.
“I couldn’t imagine growing up in America, let’s say New York, because I just feel like one of my brothers would have been shot. It’s quite weird because one of my cousins, who was with my elder brother at the time of his death, survived that grenade attack only to then come to London and be stabbed to death outside his school when he was 16. You just can’t make this stuff up!”
We travelled to Loughborough to meet Dillian Whyte as he prepared for his fight against Oscar Rivas. Huge in physique and personality, Whyte drove us around in a Land Rover and introduced us to his two mastiffs. Then we went to a pub where the heavyweight recounted his upbringing in Jamaica and on the streets of Brixton. It’s a unique interview with a unique man.
"I’m just a nobody, you know? I’m just a nobody. I never had no plans or no big investment. I’m a nobody, I’m just a street brawler, I’m just a hustler, someone who’s hustled their way through life. I’m just a normal hustler like every nine-to-five guy. I’m nothing special.”
Despite a patchy record, Dave Allen established himself as one of Britain’s most beloved boxers – a true man of the people. Unusually in this toughest of sports, Allen has been open about the mental health struggles and gambling addiction that resulted in a sucide attempt before he managed to get his life back on track. Our interview was both amusing and painfully candid – just like Allen himself.
“I've seen many people, many specialists, psychiatrists, and they said you're not really a threat to anybody else, you're just a threat to yourself. Putting a ten-week camp together is very hard. The other week I never trained – I never left the house for four or five days. Just cos I was down. For no apparent reason whatsoever, but that's life, innit? Many of us feel the same way.”
He may be happily retired but for a few years David Haye electrified British boxing, uniting the Cruiserweight champions before winning a heavyweight world title. Our interview took place at the outset of his ill-fated comeback, which would encompass two routine victories before Haye’s body and Tony Bellew proved a challenge too great. The resurgence of boxing in this country can be traced back to Haye – a fighter perhaps born ten years too early.
"I used to just say controversial things that I knew would get headlines because, even though they were negative, a headline is a headline. But it gets people interested, and the more people are interested, the more people buy the fight; the more people buy the fight, the more money I get paid. But I had to get used to what people want, and the hype.”
Olympic gold medalist Luke Campbell may be remembered less for his victories than his defeats – notably versus Vasily Lomanchenko, Jorge Linares and Ryan Garcia. We spoke to Campbell before the Lomachenko fight, a valiant loss on points against a fighter many then considered the best in the sport. Don’t bet against Campbell rallying for one final world title tilt.
“I honestly have no idea how I dealt with it. I had to shut everything down, or I‘d get panicky: palpitations and stuff like that. I had to just fight. Looking back, I don't know how I managed at all.” He stares out of the window, looking upwards, rubbing his left knuckles with his right palm. “I probably should have pulled out of the fight.”