An Interview With Middleweight Prospect Kelcie Ball
By Oliver McManus
The patience of Tamworth middleweight, Kelcie Ball was in short commodity over the summer break as proposed fights repeatedly ‘went in a different direction’.
Since fighting Lewis ‘Poochi’ van Poetsch in May, the first bout back since his loss to Ryan Kelly, Ball has been looking to put himself back out into title contention. This Friday he boxes Denzel Bentley in an eight rounder that should edge him ever closer to that destination; I caught up with him a few days before the fight and he began by giving some context to his Summer.
“I feel good, to be honest, nice and relaxed, full of energy, and I don’t usually have this much energy so close to a fight; I don’t feel any nerves, more just ‘it’s about time’. We were supposed to have that fight for the English (against Jack Cullen), that fell through, and then we were offered a fight in Germany, on a Sauerland show, but that fell through as well. From there it was frustrating and I thought about taking a couple of fights on the road but Errol Johnson (Ball’s manager) was very honest and just told me to stay patient, stay on the right track and he’d get me something in September.”
“I was initially like ‘oh yeah, heard it all before’ sort of thing because I was just so frustrated but he delivered. My coach, Shaun Cogan, texted me initially to tell me Errol had a fight and then I got the phone call when I was at work and the ‘yes’ come out of my mouth before we even got down to the money.”
Money, conveniently, has been far less of a bug bear in the build-up to this contest with a guaranteed sum without the stress of selling tickets. A factor which is not to be underestimated, Ball explained, when it comes to the challenges of being a professional boxer.
“The biggest part of boxing, especially if you are classed as a prospect which I guess I am, is that we’re doing half the job of the promoter. We’re the one running around trying to shift a ticket and keeping a track of the numbers, we’re delivering the tickets, and that’s actually harder than the fight and the training itself. That’s just so much added stress pre-fight and, for me, the fact I’ve got no tickets to do for this fight has made this camp so much easier. I’ve been able to focus on my boxing and we’ve been told we’ll be on the TV slot so I feel like I need to redeem myself from that fight with Ryan Kelly (in which Ball lost via 1st round TKO on Sky Sports).”
Despite being in the designated away corner for his bout with Ryan Kelly, as the challenger, this will be Ball’s first fight as a genuine visitor; he sold £17,000 of tickets for that particular contest. An often revered situation – going into the ‘lion’s den’, as it were – but quite the opposite for this 28 year old who is embracing his less-frequented role.
“When you’re fighting in front of a home crowd it is literally all eyes on you; you know everybody there has paid 40, 60 quid to come and see you. If they think I’ve boxed crap or the show was crap then they’ll tell me and that’s going to hurt because I know they might not come back the next time – as a home fighter that’s how you make your money.
“You live and die on the quality of the show. I’m going into this under the least amount of pressure and I’ll be able to fight a little bit more relaxed and with more freedom. Though I do half enjoy hearing people screaming ‘hit him, hit him’ and I always think ‘thanks, I’ll remember that for next time.”
Thankfully more cogent advice than shrill cries of ‘knock him out’ are on hand in the form of Shaun Cogan, the former Commonwealth title challenger, who Ball likens to being the splinter that you can seemingly never get rid of. I wasn’t quite sure what to take from that but it sounded like a compliment.
“Shaun will tell me as it is. He’s got a very good eye for what is working and what’s not working and he’ll tell me that straightaway – he won’t let me keep trying something that he knows won’t work. I think he might come across quite harsh from the outside but that’s what you want as a fighter: your coach should never tell you to cruise or ‘you’ve got this’ because then that’s when you get complacent and you lose fights in a split-second.”
In preparation for this fight there hasn’t been ‘strategies’ or ‘game-plan’s’ that others might wish to brainstorm, nor has there been any second-guessing. Instead, despite Bentley’s fierce and growing reputation, there has been a distinct emphasis on boxing and on technique. An aspect that, according to the Cannon is vastly underappreciated.
“If Denzel tries to come and get me out of there then I think my boxing ability will see me through. I always try to stay alert even when the fights can be quite boring but against Poochi he caught me with a great right hand with a proper thud and that then made me think ‘shit, switch back on’.
“Maybe his power will be really shocking but I can adjust, I can box on the move and I’ve sparred some huge punchers – Cello Renda and Sam Eggington are two of the toughest guys I’ve been in with. Against Sam, for this camp, they’ve been back and forth for six, eight rounds so I am prepared, I am going to be switched on from the off and I think my actual boxing side is quite underrated.”
And after eight weeks, there or thereabouts, of all-consuming preparation there will be the opportunity to relax when, the week after, Ball and his ‘missus’ take a trip to Paphos, Cyprus. The enjoyment for that goes out the window until the late hours of Friday evening when the middleweight can exit his ‘tunnel vision’. His final musings were reflective and hypothetical met with a slight ominous twang but this really is an opportunity that Kelcie Ball is determined to grab by the scruff of the neck.
“Truthfully, I’ve not watched anything of Bentley because he’s never faced a fighter like me, from what I gather, so you just don’t know how he’ll come out on the night. Some people have told me he’s quite raw and not the best technically but, look, he’s clearly got power in both hands but I’ve been preparing to my strengths and we’ll see what he’s like on the night.
“There’s always questions – has he been dragged into the trenches, has he had it put on him properly, who does he spar, are they trying to replicate my style? He can ask those questions about me and we’ll only know the answer on Friday night.”