John Hedges: “I Know They Say Don’t Believe The Hype, But Take Notice Of It.”
An insight into Matchroom’s latest signing: John Hedges
By Cameron Temple
Upon hearing a six foot five, 18-year-old, British southpaw, with a good amateur pedigree was entering the professional ranks, my first thought was ‘Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury must be looking over their shoulders already.’
This was before I found out he was a super middleweight…
His name is John Hedges or ‘gentleman John,’ as he is known, and he had this to say, “I know being a six-foot five super middleweight is unheard of in boxing. I’m good at range, but I can’t help it I do like a fight. I think I need to perfect my fighting game as well, because on the outside I’m brilliant, I know that. Each day I’m getting stronger and fitter, so it could be big what we lead onto.”
Although, perhaps his super middleweight status may be slightly misleading, as John did admit it was only a matter of time before he would have to consider moving up in weight:
“I know what I’m weighing now and I’m well over light heavy, never mind super middle. I know that I’m going to be moving up eventually, but it’s not a problem for me. I’ll have a few fights at super middleweight and I’d like to stay there and challenge for big titles, but I feel like light heavy and maybe even cruiser is where my career is going to be made.”
As well as John’s significant physical advantages inside the ring, he has put together an all-star team outside the ring, with his manager, Sam Jones, and having recently signed a contract with globally renowned promotional company Matchroom boxing.
“Me and Sam are best mates,” John said, “we’re very close and we talk to each other every day. We’re not just here for the boxing, we’ve built a friendship as well. So, whenever we need to sort things out, we’re straight on the phone with each other. There’s no beating around the bush with us, if we think something, we’ll just say it to each other.”
“I want to thank Sam for getting the contacts,” John continued, “because from the moment I joined Sam, I never looked at any other managers. Even though a lot of them got in contact with me, but I didn’t even acknowledge them, I went straight to Sam. He asked me who I wanted to be promoted by and I said Eddie Hearn. I believe I’ve got the ability, but it was about whether I had the contacts. He told me he believed in me and got me in contact with Eddie. From there we hit it off and this is where I’m at now.”
Matchroom boxing regularly hold shows in sold out iconic venues all over the world, including Wembley stadium, the O2 arena and Madison Square Garden.
This could be a daunting prospect for many young fighters, but John believes he has the confidence to thrive in such an environment:
“My style involves a lot of showboating and I’m a crowd pleaser. So, I believe the bigger the stage the better I’ll perform, and those are the opportunities I want and I think Eddie’s the best person to get them for me. Behind closed doors I’ll still fight, but with a crowd I’d put on a show and people are going to remember me.”
With such an impressive team behind him, John is not short of role models, but there is one man stands out above the rest:
“Tyson Fury was the reason I wanted to start boxing, when I was watching him, he was unbelievable. Tyson has set us all up, especially young travelling boys as well. He set the stage for us all to follow, so I’d like to think that as I make it through my boxing career, I’m going to be a big face that people can look up to like him. I remember watching him with my grandad and thinking that’s what I want to be like, even as a seven-year-old boy I always looked up to him.”
While Tyson Fury has been a role model inside the ring, John’s dad has kept him on the straight and narrow outside of it:
“My dad has been a big influence, he always pushes me in the right direction and I could’ve probably gone off track if it wasn’t for him, but he keeps me in line.”
John first entered a boxing gym when he was just six years old, due to family influence, with his brother boxing out of West Ham ABC, before moving to Repton.
It was at Repton ABC where John had his first amateur fight. After just four fights, John moved to Hoddesdon where he settled and met his current trainer, Sab Leo.
“Sab is my full-time coach and he’s like another dad,” John admitted, “he’s absolutely brilliant. I don’t think he’s been given the recognition he deserves, because obviously he used to train Billy Joe Saunders, but no one hears about that now. He’s trained Jordan Reynolds as well, who just turned pro and he’s had a lot of fighters. Ben Davison, who is one of the best trainers out there at the moment, he started at Sab’s gym and when Ben used to box, he was boxing for Hoddesdon, so that’s another thing that goes under the radar. He’s got a lot of knowledge and he just needs someone to put it into, and I’m that person, so hopefully it’s not just me that gets the recognition, but it’s him as well.”
John hopes Sab is the man to help him achieve his lofty ambitions in the sport:
“I want to be world champion. I know a lot of people are going to say they want to go all the way, but people should believe me because I’ve got the best team behind me. There’s no other 18-year-old in the UK or America with a promotion as big as mine and a manager as good as mine behind them, so there’s a reason for that. I know they say don’t believe the hype, but take notice of it. I’m different from the rest, I don’t need to sell a fight, but I’ll sell a fight naturally, just because I’ve got a good way about me. I’ll always be humble, but I’ll get the opportunities and I’ll take them as they come.”
However, it’s not just about the accolades for John, he also wants to build a lasting legacy inside boxing and out:
“I want to be remembered. When I’m 90 years old and laying on my deathbed, I’d love people to say I was a great fighter and a great person. I don’t just want to be known as an unbelievable boxer; I want to be known for a bit more than that.
“Anyone who says they want to be in boxing for a long time, I think they’re stupid, because you don’t need to be in a sport where you’re getting your brain hit all your life. You need to get in, make yourself a name, get the money you need and get out. I plan on taking my career slow, but when it’s time to take on the big dogs, let’s go for it and like I say there will be no problems getting the fights and the recognition, because I sell myself as it is.”
As an amateur, John enjoyed a lot of success winning 44 of his 40 fights, winning countless titles, including most recently the national title. He was well on his way to becoming a senior Olympian as part of the team GB squad, but instead decided to turn over to the professional ranks.
“This time three months ago if someone had asked if I was going pro, I would’ve said no.” John revealed, “It’s literally just come and I took the opportunity. Lockdown was a big part of it, it made me realise where I wanted to go. I was either going to stand still and wait for the European games, which I was selected for, but there’s still no telling when that’s going to happen, or take up the offer with a top manager, Sam Jones, and I had no doubt about that. I think things happen for a reason, so I took the offer and here I am now, signed by Matchroom.”
Despite his unerring confidence, John also has a sense of realism about him, uncharacteristic of someone his age, as when asked how he thought he might fair against the other British super middleweights:
“I wouldn’t like to put myself in front of anyone yet, but I’d like to say I’d challenge them all and beat them all, but at the moment I’ve got to prove myself on my debut. It’s going to be a big journey and I like to think I’m up there with the best, but I just want to prove myself before giving too much talk.”
As of yet, John does not have a date for his professional debut, but he is not opposed to it being behind closed doors:
“If Eddie offers us to fight in his fight camp, which there has been talk of, then I’m well up for taking it, I’m always ready, if they tell me, then I’ll make sure I’m ready for it. At the moment there’s nothing set in stone and it’s just about waiting and taking the chances as they come. I’m just waiting for lockdown to blow over and as soon as it does, we’ll be back in business.”