Maredudd Thomas: ‘After This I Don’t Want To Be Taking Backwards Steps.’
By Oliver McManus
It’s often joked that Maredudd Thomas has a typically Welsh name for the ages. As far back as the 10th century ‘Maredudd’ was a popular name among Welsh royalty with the name translating as “great battle lord”. It was probably inevitable, therefore, that Thomas would become a professional fighter.
Over 1,000 years before Thomas was born, in 1996, Maredudd ab Owain had built a reputation across Wales as a fearsome warrior. A leader of the Kingdom of Deheubarth (now known as Dyfed), ab Owain was opportunistic to conquer the Kingdoms of Gwynedd and Powys before expanding his authority across the whole of Wales with the exception of Gwent and parts of Glamorgan. The name carries with it a certain ruthlessness.
Maredudd Thomas, then, will look to channel that shared cunning on August 12th when he looks to inherit the WBC Youth world title with a conquest of his own.
Sahir Iqbal, 7-0, is the man standing in his way and Thomas began by discussing his ambition behind the fight.
“I’m excited for this one (because) we had it scheduled for May and it’s pretty much all that’s been on my mind for the last five (or) six months. I can’t wait for it after all the hard work that me and Gary (Lockett) have put in and being the first title fight of my career means I want to go out there and cover all the bases. I’ve been a pro for just over two years now so this sort of fight has come at the right time and I’m really looking forward to just showing where I’m at.”
This ten rounder forms part of MTK Global’s return to the sport with a five fight card from a production studio in Wakefield. MTK’s Iqbal, boxing out of Bolton, will enter the contest as the designated ‘home’ fighter with seven fights to his name. Both men are 24 years of age and despite sharing two common opponents – Serge Ambomo and Kevin McCauley – Thomas told me he knew relatively little about his next foe.
“I didn’t have a clue who he was when the fight was offered, to be honest, and he’d probably say the same about me! After we signed the contract I had a look at a couple of fights but I wasn’t too bothered, to be honest, as you can’t control what he’s going to do and I’d rather focus on my own work. I feel like we’ve got his style figured and Gary will be working on the specifics but I do feel as though I’m better all round: he looks a little awkward but I’m capable of getting past that and getting the win.”
The welterweight, despite what his youthful good looks may suggest, has grown into the paid ranks with real comfort and confidence since his debut in December 2017: a breezy four rounder against Geiboord Omier. Since then he has looked to stay busy and, aside from seven months in 2018, has been a frequent fixture across the small halls of Welsh boxing.
“We’ve moved along at a good pace”, Thomas explained, “it’s gone really well and I know Gary and (manager) Mo Prior have been looking to push me along and get me as many opportunities as possible. I was out quite a few times last year (six fights) which really helped us get experience under my belt and I’m happy with where I’m at.”
Speak to those around him, in particular Chris Jenkins – his main sparring partner and, lately, unofficial hype man – and they’ll tell you Maredudd punches far harder than his record would suggest. Of his eleven wins to date just two have come inside the distance though that, it’s fair to say, is a reflection on the stubbornness of his opponents more than anything else.
Nonetheless the 24 year old puts his first stoppage win, against Bradley Harris inside a minute, as the best feeling of his career to date.
“That was really exciting, to be honest, it felt good. It sort of takes you back to when you first first get into boxing because that’s what catches your eye as a kid – it is those knockouts. I was only in my third fight, this guy was making his debut and I was really quite nervous before the fight so it was a great way to settle those remaining nerves. It’s a weird feeling, a good feeling, but you’re trying to stop yourself from having a big beaming smile when they hit the floor.”
Incidentally that stoppage came on the undercard of, stablemate, Jay Harris’ Commonwealth title defence against Ross Murray. I asked the modest youngster how it felt to be part of a gym having a real purple patch of success with Jay Harris, Chris Jenkins, Nathan Thorley, Rhys Edwards and Maredudd forming an exciting quintet out of the corner of Wales.
“Seeing everyone in the gym fighting for titles really gives you that extra drive to push on and make sure you’re involved at that level, too. Obviously Jay did fantastic out in Texas (against Julio Cesar Martinez for the WBC flyweight title) even though the fight didn’t go his way and Chris (Jenkins) has turned the years back, almost, and has looked class over the last couple of years.
“It is a really good group to be involved with: you hear so many horror stories from boxers who have really gone through the mud with certain managers and promoters. Jay had that for months, as you know, and it can push people to give it all up . When you surround yourself with people who you know care about you as a person as well as a boxer it makes it so much easier just to be able to relax and perform in the ring.”
With all that taken into consideration along with his background of amateur success – a representative of the Welsh national team – optimism has brewed about Mareudd Thomas for some time now. August 12th, then, is the hopefully the first of many more title fights for the exciting Welshman and he is determined to put on a show for the audience at home.
“It’s going to be a really good event from MTK and it’s obviously a shame that there won’t be any fans in attendance but they can enjoy it from home (live on iFL TV): hopefully they’ll enjoy what they see. I plan on boxing to Gary’s plan, really take the fight to Sahir and finish the night as WBC Youth champion. After this I don’t want to be taking backwards steps because I’ve done the learning fights and now I want 50-50 fights: plenty of welterweights say they want a fight so let’s hope they sign the contracts.”
And whether Thomas fights in the merciless fashion of the King that came before him, Maredudd ab Owain, or pens a more composed performance, in honour of 15th century poet Maredudd ap Rhys, he will be in good company on August 12th. As one of only two babies, in England and Wales, to be named Maredudd in 1996, the 24 year old has got centuries of history to feed off and carry forward.
Arise, Sir Maredudd Thomas has an awfully good Knight of the Realm feel to it.