Karl's men aim to be best of Brits
Boxing trainer Karl Ince has waited a long time for his first major champion to rise exclusively from his gym.
And the respected Preston cornerman is prepared to stay patient a little while longer after Shayne Singleton’s greatly-anticipated British title fight was postponed just over a week before it was due to take place.
The welterweight ace –nicknamed “The Pain” – was due to take on champion Bradley Skeete at the Cardiff Arena, in Wales, next Saturday.
But Billy Joe Saunders’ withdrawal from his WBO World middleweight title defence against Artur Akavov, in addition to complications with Liam Williams’s contest with Ahmet Patterson, has forced BoxNation promoter Frank Warren to pull the plug on the entire show.
There is a silver lining for Ince and Singleton as the fight is expected to be re-scheduled for next month, with the Wembley Arena the likely venue.
“It’s disappointing for Shayne because he has worked so hard to get ready for the bout but the fight looks like it will go-ahead on November 25 in London,” said Ince.
Lancashire lad Singleton, who is from Colne, has claimed the bout will be like a shot at a ‘world title’ for him and was understandably disappointed by the show’s cancellation.
He said: “After 14 weeks of brutal training and living a totally different life to become British champion, the show has been cancelled.
“Therefore my fight is off. I’m upset, angry and disappointed as I was at peak fitness, my weight was perfect and I was more than ready to go.
“A new date of November 25th has been mentioned,” confirmed Singleton.
“That means another six weeks of training from now to fulfil my dream.
“Skeete was offered to come and fight me on a local show here on the same date as the fight should have been but he refused, saying that he is not coming to my back yard as he is the champion.
“So I have to go to his back yard in London. And that’s what I’ll do. The wait goes on.”
To keep his man ticking over, Ince is set to take up the offer of a contest for Singleton at the BEC Arena, Trafford Park, by L-SEL Boxing promoter James Lindemann next Saturday.
The show, broadcast live on The Sport Bible, will be topped by Sam Hyde and will also include Michael Gomez Jr and Singleton’s sparring partner Stephen Danyo.
That outing – barring injury – should keep Singleton in peak condition for when his British title attempt goes ahead in little more than a month’s time.
If the Colne ace does go on to seal his crowning glory, it will be a real coup for 52-year-old Ince as he has trained Singleton from the very beginning of his career.
A former professional fighter himself, who won eight of 12 bouts, Ince has built up a fine reputation as a trainer over the past decade and longer.
He has worked with some of the best fighters in the business, including legendary former world middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe and closer to home, he assisted welterweight ace Michael Jennings as the Chorley-born fighter became British champion in 2004.
Ince set up his own gym – initially in Bolton before relocating to his hometown Preston – with the ambition to produce a champion.
And he is just one step away from achieving his dream.
“Me and Shayne have been together since the start,” added Ince.
“I worked with Shayne as an amateur and it’s been eight or nine years now that we have been together.
“It will be a proud moment for me just to see him get in the ring and fight for a British title.
“That is like a dream come true for us both because we never thought we would get to that level where he’s the mandatory challenger for a British Title.
“He’s sort of grown up and matured over the past couple of years and it’s great that I have been able to help him do that.
“But I still feel that there is another two or three years of further maturity yet with Shayne. I don’t think we have seen the best of him yet.
“If you look at him when he first came to me, he was nine-a-half stone; you look at him now, he’s like an athlete.
“I just see a different animal now and he’s maturing all the time.
“If he wins next month, he will be my first British champion – certainly the first one to come out of this gym in Preston.”
Singleton was listening intensively to Ince and was quick to correct his trainer.
“Karl, what do you mean if I win?,” he quipped.
“Don’t you mean ‘When I win?’
Ince chuckled at his Freudian slip of the tongue, but there is no mistaking either man’s determination to make the most of this opportunity – when it finally arrives.
Singleton has only lost once as a pro fighter when he was stopped by Sam Eggington last year.
That defeat for the WBC International Silver Welterweight title, in Hull, set his career back, but he has responded in the best possible fashion by winning his next three bouts finally getting his hands on the Silver title by stopping Adil Anwar, in Manchester, earlier this year.
Interestingly, Skeete outpointed Eggington in March to become British champion, but the 27-year-old fighter believes he has learned a lot from his defeat to the Stourbridge man.
“I have learned massively from that defeat,” said Singleton.
“People used to say to me, ‘You will learn a lot when you get beaten’; I never really took in what they were saying, but I do now.
“I got drawn into a fight against Eggington – I lost my head.
“In the past I have been able to lose my head in fights and get away with it, but when you step up a level, you can’t do that.
“ It made me realise I can’t lose my head if I want to get to where I want to get to.
“Basically I got caught with a couple of shots and they had no effect on me.
“So I punched my gloves together and got wound up.
“I dived in which made me get caught with another shot which put me down.
“The adrenaline just got the better of me and something inside me just wanted to stand up, chuck him back on the ropes and beat him up.
“That’s not really my way of boxing and I came a cropper in that fight.
“But I won’t be making the same mistake against Skeete.”
Despite only having a single defeat on his record, Singleton will go into the fight as the massive underdog, but he is confident he can upset the odds.
“Everybody is 100% expecting me to lose,” Singleton said.
“Nobody in the boxing world is giving me a chance really.
“That doesn’t faze me at all. I hope he slacks off in training because he thinks that he’s in for an easy night.
“They’re all going off the Eggington fight but styles make fights and I’m not going to walk forward like Eggington did.
“That’s what he did and Skeete popped his head off because he’s a good quality boxer.
“They’re looking past me but they’re definitely going to be in for a shock.
“I’ve now got six titles and I’m fighting for the British title.
“I’ve not been handed the shot at it; I’ve worked for it and the British Boxing Board of Control have made me mandatory to fight for it. I’m the number one challenger so I’ve earned it.”
While Ince knows his man faces a serious challenge, he believes Singleton is up to the task.
“We know that Skeete is a very good fighter,” Ince said.
“He’s ranked No.2 in Britain and he is a class act.
“But if we get the tactics right and Shayne listens to me, we can win.
“The more I see him train, the more I see something different in him and the more confident I feel.
“He’s been putting shots together and combinations which I think will work for this fight.
“So if we can get it right, we have got a great chance of winning.
“If we can get the tactics right; the fitness and strength is all there and then it’s all down to him.
“Let’s make it happen.”
As well as Singleton, Ince also boasts other stars training under his wing such as super welterweight Rick Godding and light-heavyweight Tomi Tatham.
He believes Singleton’s blockbuster clash against Skeete could be the start of a ‘domino effect’ for his gym.
Super-welterweight ace Godding is scheduled to face Sunny Upton on the same bill as Singleton in London.
Whoever wins that contest could earn themselves a shot at Liam Williams for the British title.
Godding – now aged 31 – has an impressive record as a pro fighter, winning 23 of 25 bouts.
He appeared on the undercard of one of Wladimir klitschko’s world heavyweight title defences in Hamburg four years ago when he drew with Rafal Jackiewicz, although many observers ringside felt he was robbed of the win.
A bad shoulder injury then kept him out of the ring for virtually two years.
He returned last year and despite losing for the only time in his professional career against Gary Corcoran – a fight which perhaps came a little too soon in his comeback – he is ready to show that he is a force to be reckoned with once more.
“I still feel like I’m being overlooked a little bit,” said Godding, who like Singleton is also keen to get his hands on that prestigious Lonsdale belt.
“When you have been out for a long time; people look at me and think, ‘I’m a bit older and I had that loss’. You do get forgotten about.
“But I aim to work hard and try and get back to where I was before the injury.
“The chance to win a British Title is what I train for and it would be great to do that.
“I would love to then defend it three times, so that I get to keep it.”
Lancaster lad Tatham, meanwhile, has his sights sets on a December comeback after a problematic back injury has kept him inactive since March.
The 27-year-old has not fought since stopping Eric Mokonzo in Manchester.