We'll win titles with '˜fired up' Sam, says Elite Boxing coach Matvienko
Having worked among a strong stable in his own days as a professional boxer, Alex Matvienko is confident that debutant Sam Larkin will benefit from working with fellow bantamweight Osman Aslam.
The Elite Boxing head coach, known as the ‘One Man Riot’ when active, earned his spurs as a super welterweight at Oliver’s Gym in Salford, training alongside the likes of Amir Khan, Jamie Moore and Martin Murray.
The Bolton-born boxer, who lost just once in 19 bouts at 154lbs, missing out on the decision to Lee Edwards at Wigan’s Robin Park Centre a decade ago, had the best brought out of him by his stablemates.
And he can see something similar working out for Larkin. His 24-year-old stablemate, the ‘Iron Man’, has an unblemished record from 13 contests and scored a stoppage on the undercard of Khan’s victory over Samuel Vargas at Arena Birmingham last month.
With the pair frequently sharing a ring in sparring, Matvienko said: “I used to box at Oliver’s Gym and there was Jamie Moore, Amir Khan, Martin Murray so it was always hard sparring and they were hard to compete against.
“I think it pushes you that little bit more and when you see them doing well you know it’s achievable because they’re you’re gym partners, you’re pulling together. The sky is the limit.”
Matvienko, who guided Luke Blackledge to the Commonwealth title at super middleweight, didn’t have the fortune of fighting for a strap in his time as a competitor.
However, he’s backing his new recruit to bring back the belts at 118lbs. With the division - headed by WBA Super World champion Ryan Burnett, former IBF supremo Lee Haskins and former WBA, IBF World virtuoso Jamie McDonnell - relatively sparse on the domestic front, Matvienko is ready to capitalise.
Ahead of Larkin’s bow against Kieran Holman at Colne Municipal Hall on Saturday, October 27th, he said: “I think we’re definitely going to win some titles with Sam as long as he keeps his mind on the job.
“He’ll need a little bit of luck on his side as well. Tickets sales always help as well, with the fans getting behind him.
“That helps when he’s having to dig deep in a fight, having half of Colne behind him. That’s where he’ll have his first few fights and he’ll hopefully fight for a title there.
“It all depends on how his first few bouts go. Bantamweight isn’t the biggest division, it’s a tough division but the rankings in England are a lot smaller because there aren’t as many active fighters.
“We’ll hopefully be able to jump up the rankings quite quickly. He’s putting all the hard work in and I can’t see him failing.
“He’s got great power and he’s very determined. He’s strong for the weight, he’s got hard-working ethics and really pushes himself. He’s fired up.”
The challenge for Matvienko ahead of his student’s bow was to rid the ring rust and extinguish any bad habits that remained in his make-up.
The one-time Sandygate ABC pugilist had been out of the game for 12 months when making the decision to turn over.
Matvienko said: “Sam has improved a lot. He puts a lot of time and effort in to his boxing. He’s really dedicated and we’re quite lucky because he’s a quick learner.
“In the amateurs they don’t tend to let you come close, to hold, to tie up, to turn, to fight off the ropes correctly.
“He’s using more power punches, targeting the body better, he’s adapted quite well to it.
“We tend to do similar drills constantly until it becomes natural. He’s improving a lot.”