An Interview With Unbeaten Super-Featherweight Andre Grant
By Oliver McManus
Andre Grant (6-0) finds himself as part of a growing crop of super-featherweight contenders looking to force their way into title contention and the 29 year old faces Taka Bembere (1-9) this coming Saturday in a contest he hopes will edge him closer to the Southern Area title.
I caught up with him at the beginning of fight week for a short and snappy ‘get to know you’.
How did you first get started in boxing?
“I’ve always been in the gym, since I left school, keeping active and at one point I just decided to get my first PT session in but it wasn’t until a good couple years that I started to really think about ‘fighting’ – for the first year and a half it was just training with no end goal but, from there on, I was looking for opportunities to turn pro.
“I didn’t have an extensive amateur career because I picked it up late; I won a novice, regional and national title so it was good while it lasted but I’d rather have turned professional than stick around.”
As an amateur you competed in the Queensbury Boxing League, what was that experience like?
“The Queensbury Boxing League was a great experience in terms of the platform and exposure they give you with TV coverage (Eurosport), cameras and interviews because it gives you that glamour that you always dream of. There were some ex-professionals on the shows and I do think it was a different style to fighting in the ABA’s because of the nature of the competition – you had people trying to do some damage not just score points.”
You turned professional in September 2017, what sort of team have you had around you since?
“My head coach is Charlie Oliver and I’ve worked with him since I decided to turn pro because he has a more professional gym. I was part of the Army gym beforehand so, you can imagine, we were in decent shape, the training itself is fairly similar to when I was an amateur but we just do a little bit more of it, training for three minute rounds now, and if you haven’t got the fitness then you’re a step behind already.
“The changeover from white collar to Queensbury to professional has largely been fitness focussed because you’re always learning in terms of skills, that happens intuitively, but you can’t ‘pick up’ fitness. I’m also managed by Mo Prior who’s just a really nice guy and I know he’s got a few things planned for me.”
What has been your favourite performance so far?
“My favourite was my second fight (against Roland Petrovics) because I didn’t want to look rushed and I managed to box for the four rounds but also get the stoppage at the end. To be honest when I got in there I was more excited than I was nervous and everything clicked on the night. It was a decent event, too, and the bigger the crowd the more adrenaline I get and it makes me perform even better.”
Your next fight is against a lively opponent who can punch a bit – is that a welcome change for you?
“This sort of opponent is who I want to be facing because I know he’s a road-warrior but, like you say, he’s lively so hopefully he can come and have a go. I don’t want to be giving away too much weight because I know he usually weighs in around lightweight and last time (against Jake Pollard) I found myself giving away 8lbs and I had to keep at arm’s length and slightly adjust the game plan. That was frustrating, if I’m honest.
“I wanted to fight Chris Lawrence for Saturday who’s got 10 wins and 2 losses so that’s the sort of opponent I’m willing to face but his manager told him he didn’t want it (Lawrence was embroiled in a minor spot of controversy in April when he supposedly weighed in 9lbs overweight for a championship bout). There’s a few guys I’d like to face with winning records – I’m focussed on Taka for now but after the fight I’ll be calling a few of them out.”
What would you class as successful career for yourself?
“I will be happy just to show my kids a couple of belts so they can look at their dad as a champion and know I gave it my best for them. I look at the Southern Area belt (currently held by Liam Dillon) and can see myself winning it in the next sort of 12 months and the English feels very achievable, too. Then it becomes a case of ‘well why can’t I push on and win a British title’ and so-on and so-forth: every win gives me a little bit more confidence so it’s good to hit a run of a few fights in a row.”
Finally, then, tell us how the fight goes on Saturday night.
“I’m buzzing, I’m ready to go and I can’t wait to get in the ring; I’ve stepped up the training for this one (his first fight over six rounds) so I’m feeling fresh. I’ve heard he’s a durable guy and a tricky operator so the plan is to get behind the jab and let everything flow – if I get it my way I can slip every single punch and he won’t get a mark on my face! I cut to easy so I’m hoping I can avoid his punches and pick every shot nicely to make myself a marked man.”
Andre Grant is proudly sponsored by Stratford’s Barber Shop in Aldershot and says “you’ll get at least 10% off if you say you know me” – take his word for it and go get yourself cheaper haircuts!