Former English light-heavyweight champion Peter Haymer didn’t fairly fulfil his potential inside a prize ring however the work he’s carried out since ought to be an inspiration to all, writes Melanie Lloyd
THEY say that also waters run deep, and interviewing former English light-heavyweight champion, Peter Haymer, is tantamount to being hit by one refreshing wave of revelation after one other. For instance, though he seems preventing match, he readily admits that, for the reason that first lockdown, he’s in all probability “carried out about 100 press-ups” and he doesn’t assume he’s “run greater than 20 yards for the bus”. Though he does take pleasure in strolling his British bulldog, who is called Personal Poppy as a result of she was born on Remembrance Day.
On the age of 42, together with his blue eyes set above the excessive cheekbones, his 6ft 2in stature immaculately dressed, Haymer might simply be mistaken for an actor or a mannequin. However there is no such thing as a self-importance within the quietly spoken Londoner. In some methods, there’s nonetheless one thing of the little boy about him. Due to this fact, when he candidly discloses the truth that his ring-name was impressed by the brutal Nineteen Seventies movie, Scum, it delivers fairly a shock to the senses. Nonetheless, it’s uncommon to come across a boxer and not using a playful however often darkish sense of humour. Fighters should have that. In any other case, they couldn’t do what they do – and Haymer undoubtedly did his justifiable share.
He gained the nationwide junior and senior ABAs for St Pancras ABC. As a professional, he gained the English title from Steve “Spartacus” Smith in November 2004. “Me and Spartacus met as amateurs within the quarter-finals, and I feel I beat him by one level,” Haymer remembers. “He was a really massive puncher and he undoubtedly needed revenge. I used to be a intelligent boxer. I had a very good chin, so I simply stored it lengthy. We had an excellent struggle. It went the total distance, however I gained that title, and afterwards we went to a bar down in Camden and we had an amazing little celebration that evening.”
After the victory over Spartacus, Haymer went on to problem for the Commonwealth and British belts towards Ovill McKenzie and Tony Oakey respectively, each of whom he had overwhelmed beforehand, nevertheless it was by no means Haymer’s evening when the massive titles have been on the road. “I boxed Ovill McKenzie the primary time a few fights earlier to the English title struggle, and he was a really powerful, big-punching man. I imagine I used to be the primary man ever to place Ovill down. I gave him a shot, however, as he fell, he form of caught me by the legs. After the rely, he acquired a little bit of a telling off and that wound the clock down a bit of bit. I prefer to assume I may need been capable of get a couple of extra photographs in earlier than the tip of the struggle, nevertheless it went the space and I gained it on factors.
“After we boxed for the Commonwealth title in 2006, the struggle acquired postponed a few instances and I by no means took a break from coaching. By the point it acquired to the struggle, I’d educated an excessive amount of and I’d overboiled, so every thing went mistaken. He put me down thrice within the second spherical earlier than the struggle was stopped. I simply had no stability. Marcus McDonnell had refereed a couple of fights of mine, and he got here as much as me and stated, ‘Pete, is every thing all proper?’ and I used to be like, ‘Yeah, I’m good, I’m good,’ as a result of I didn’t realise what was occurring. Then Ovill caught me with a shot and he got here in a bit of bit together with his head unintentionally, which minimize my eye, and I feel that was the excuse that Marcus McDonnell wanted to cease the struggle. I used to be devastated. I feel even Ovill was shocked that he beat me as a result of, at any time when we’d sparred previous to that struggle, there have been by no means any indicators of him ever with the ability to try this. However I actually don’t wish to take nothing off Ovill as a result of he was by no means, ever given any free rides. He labored his arse off for every thing he acquired, and I’m glad he grew to become Commonwealth champion that evening as a result of he’s good things and I give him all of the respect on the earth.”
However it was Tony Oakey who Haymer respects essentially the most, naming the Portsmouth man as the perfect he ever shared a hoop with. Haymer had been conscious of Oakey’s silky abilities since they have been amateurs and boxed rigorously throughout their 2005 10-rounder for Peter’s English title. Haymer acquired the choice again then – a verdict the pair nonetheless playfully dispute to this present day. Three years later, although, issues have been completely different.
“Once I boxed Tony for the British title in 2008, he ended up stopping me within the ninth,” Haymer explains. “It was so boiling scorching in York Corridor that evening. Whereas me and Tony fought like hell, there have been folks sitting at ringside with shorts and vests on they usually have been discovering it arduous simply to elevate their pints of beer up! I gave Tony a lot respect within the first struggle, so the second time I made a decision to simply go in there and take it to him. I used to be marking him up and he was taking some massive punches, however Tony was an absolute machine. It acquired to the purpose the place I used to be hitting this man who simply wasn’t shifting. Ultimately, I couldn’t maintain my arms up. He clipped me as I used to be on my toes form of making an attempt to pivot away. I went down and I used to be so exhausted that I couldn’t even get my bum off the ground. However I might have hit Tony all day lengthy with bricks, and he weren’t being denied. So I’ve acquired nothing however respect for Tony. The person is a superb, nice fighter, and I used to be delighted to share the ring with him on each events.”
Haymer retired in 2010 with a document of 18 wins, six losses and two attracts, becoming a member of the ranks of the multitude of boxers who might have carried out so significantly better with the suitable folks behind them, however there is no such thing as a hint of bitterness in his voice as he explains, “Initially, I signed with Sports activities Community, and my coach was my previous newbie coach, Chris Corridor. I’ve recognized Chris since I used to be 15. He helped me in direction of the ABA title and came to visit with me into the professionals. After the primary yr, I left Sports activities Community and Chris took over as my supervisor. I used to be a reasonably respectable ticket-seller, and we used the smaller corridor promoters simply to get some fights.
“My final struggle was a factors win towards Danny Couzens at Newmarket in 2010. They have been telling me I used to be in line for one more shot on the British title, after which every thing simply went quiet. The fellows that would have carried out one thing with me have been all the time within the reverse nook, so my profession grew to become stagnant. Ultimately, no alternatives got here and I’d not lengthy had my daughter. So I used to be giving up all this time, no cash was coming in and I had a bit of lady at house that I wasn’t seeing. I’d completed on a win. I had a very good run. So I made a decision to name it a day and turn into a father correctly.
“A number of the boxers are preventing for his or her livelihood. All they’ve acquired is boxing, whereas I wasn’t that bothered about cash. I did need titles. I needed to achieve success within the boxing sport, nevertheless it wasn’t do or die for me. I had a extremely robust help system. My spouse, Katie, was an enormous particular person to maintain me on the straight and slim, and she or he nonetheless is. My mother and father and my sister have been nice. I had my granddad, my nan and my shut associates, so I all the time had individuals who mollycoddled me. I cherished boxing, however I didn’t want it, though I do assume I used to be blessed within the sense that boxing helped me turn into a greater particular person.”
Whereas Haymer and Corridor by no means fairly set the boxing world on fireplace, their friendship has continued to burn shiny. Corridor is Haymer’s employer on the Footsteps Belief, a facility for 12- to 16-year-old boys who’ve been completely excluded from mainstream training in Tottenham, the stamping floor for a number of of essentially the most harmful gangs in London. Corridor based Footsteps in 2010 and, to place it bluntly, the younger males who discover themselves there are consuming on the Final Likelihood Saloon. The important thing goal of Footsteps is to steer their pupils in direction of additional training or employment, however the routine is underpinned by varied completely different sports activities and Haymer’s “workplace” is the boxing health club.
“We wish to give the younger folks a deflection from simply training, which is what they have an inclination to battle with, so we put some sports activities round it to set free their aggression and we try to mentor them into discovering a greater means. I’m fortunate sufficient to have a very good rapport with folks typically. I’m fairly a very good listener, and I’ve acquired a good bit of life expertise myself.
“I grew up on an property. I boxed, and I had loads of respect from the children within the space as a result of I might deal with myself, be it on the road or within the ring. With the younger folks these days, there’s no fisticuffs. There’s no one-on-one. It’s actually a free-for-all. Knives are getting used daily. There’s not a struggle that occurs the place two folks throw punches at one another. It’s six or seven guys with knives on to at least one or two.”
And nowadays, six or seven guys – even whatever the knives – are extra imposing than they was once. “I don’t know what it’s however individuals are undoubtedly getting greater,” Haymer explains. “The cohort we’ve acquired at Footsteps in the meanwhile are common measurement. However we’ve had some absolute monsters, , 13 or 14 years previous and 6ft 6in tall. There are occasions when I’ve to interrupt up bodily fights, however normally, due to the connection I’ve acquired with our younger folks, as quickly as they see it’s me that’s getting between them, it doesn’t are inclined to escalate too far. They’re simply youngsters on the finish of the day. They want some nurturing and a little bit of steerage. A number of them have come from damaged households and areas the place it’s very, very tough, so it’s not stunning that they lose their means a bit of bit. I’ve acquired loads of empathy and compassion for these children. To see what a few of them have been via could be very unhappy.”
Nearly all of the pupils at Footsteps are concerned in gangs and it’s common for an enemy outfit to look, mobhanded with unhealthy intentions. “There’s been instances the place I’ve needed to go to the door and ship some guys away who’ve come to the college to work together with one other man who’s in a rival gang. I’ve been doing this job for thus lengthy that I’ve learnt learn how to defuse a scenario. I speak to those lads respectfully and allow them to know, ‘The police will probably be right here. Get your self away. Don’t do nothing silly.’ 9 instances out of 10, they don’t actually wish to be doing what they’re doing. They really feel like they’re in a predicament, I’m positive. I’ve seen some sights. I’ve seen some unhealthy stuff occur, however I by no means actually really feel in peril as a result of I deal with folks how I wish to be handled and, thank God, I’ve by no means had nobody activate me. They all the time realise I’ve acquired their finest pursuits at coronary heart.
“The one factor we’re wanting at Footsteps is cash. Funding is hard, as a result of we’re a charity-run organisation and I do know Chris can be very open to anybody that’s capable of assist out in that means. He’s a proud man, so he’s not on the market begging for stuff. However clearly, if we might get a sponsor or a bit of one thing to assist with stuff, that may be wonderful.”
Haymer nonetheless takes an curiosity within the present boxing scene, and he’s a daily on the London Ex Boxers’ Affiliation, along with fellow St Pancras star, former British bantamweight champion, Martin Energy. “Me and Martin return to when he was seven years previous and I used to be 10, and our friendship goes so deep that he was finest man at my marriage ceremony and his spouse was my spouse’s bridesmaid. We’re occurring the LEBA committee now, which we’re very joyful about as a result of it’s so essential that we hold it going. The most effective folks on the earth are boxers and it’s just like the saying that LEBA places on the market, “it’s good to belong”.