Archie Sharp: Rejuvenated, Hungry and Targeting the WBO Belt
By George Priestman
Archie Sharp exploded into the boxing mainstream with his eye-catching one punch knockout of Declan Geraghty back in September 2019.
He’s risen through the ranks since then and currently finds himself ranked fourth in the WBO rankings in the super-featherweight division.
However, in his only fight during the pandemic so far, he came under criticism for his weight and performance despite his points victory over Jeff Ofori. A lot has changed in two months for Sharp with a new team and a fresh start. He’s rejuvenated, hungry and has his eyes set on the WBO belt in the near future.
Before we look forward, first we have to go back to his most recent bout with Ofori. Despite getting the win, it was a poor performance and he knows it.
“For me, it was probably the worst performance of my boxing career. But, we’ve moved on and managed to get the win and we put that behind us. I’ve learned from that one, but not a great performance and happy to have won.”
Directly after the fight, BT Sport’s Andy Lee, the former world middleweight champion, working as a pundit was extremely vocal about the performance with some strong words towards the 25-year-old.
However, he was quick to put the fight in perspective.
“Regarding the performance I got the win. It goes to show since people have come back from lockdown they have been struggling. It shows that it’s not just myself who’s struggled, there’s fighters who have expected to win and actually lost so I think that was a bit harsh there.”
There were issues concerning making weight, which Sharp failed to do. It was perhaps a factor that was responsible for the lacklustre performance on the night. It was something Lee condemned him for after the fight.
“I know he said it reeks of unprofessionalism but this boxing game is a very political game and there were things that went on a couple of days before the fight that maybe shouldn’t have but regarding making weight. I’ve never failed making weight before and I never should have failed making weight that day.
“But like I say, if it wasn’t for Frank and MTK being great in terms of support, they knew what the real reason was, and we got through it which was how I was able to still box.”
That performance and the criticism that followed led to a major change in his team and training situation. He split with long term coach Richard Sawyer for the experienced and well respected Alan Smith. The relationship with Sawyer was extremely important and it transcended that of just boxing.
“I knew there was a few things that needed to be changed whether it was bringing in a new team or adding to my original, there was something that needed to be done.
We came together and both made a decision that we’d been together so long that we probably have out run our course.
“Me and Richard from day one, he’s more family than just my trainer. So we both knew after the fight that there had to be some sort of changes. We both came to a mutual decision that going to Alan Smith and moving on was what I needed to do.”
Rejuvenation is in the title and it is extremely apt in this situation. Boxers change trainers all the time, to continue improving, learning and moving forward. A prime example of that was Tyson Fury, trading in Ben Davison for the aggressive Kronk gym mentality delivered by SugarHill Steward. The change has been key for Sharp.
“I’m enjoying it loads, I didn’t realise how much I would. I’ve got a good buzz back in my boxing, I was a bit flat in my last two fights and being back with Al we’re absolutely flying at the minute and he’s very impressed with the progress that we’ve done in the short space of time.”
With the relationship blossoming nicely, the attention turns to the short and long term goals between fighter and trainer. His current position sees him targeting world level within the next year, but Smith has given confidence and belief to Sharp.
“He’s a real experienced trainer and he believes in my ability, and that’s what I need. I’ve always believed in my own ability, but it’s even better when the person you’re working with believes it too and he wants to take you to that next level.”
“That’s probably where I’m at right now, I have all the skills and ability in the world and its just a matter of bringing them out on Fight Night and I believe Al is the right man for that.”
With a few shows announced before the end of the year in terms of cards put on by promoter Frank Warren, a fight before the end of the year seems extremely realistic. Nothing is confirmed yet of course, but it is something that Sharp wants to sort out.
“Well, I’m just hoping to get out soon as possible. I’m just waiting on Frank and MTK to kind of give me a date. There’s three shows before Christmas, I’m just hoping to be on one of those shows.”
In terms of opponents, a lot has been made around a domestic clash potentially, but Sharp is targeting the higher echelons of opponents and bigger occasions. It seems targeting that WBO belt is a key goal right now.
“To be honest, that’s where I’m at, at the minute. Like I said number four in the world. If Frampton goes and beats Jamal Herring then there’s a British fight on your hands there with myself and Frampton.”
“Those other fights don’t really bother me. With Sam Bowen I forgot he was even a boxer to be honest, I completely forgot about that but Zelfa is doing his own thing. He’s done an interview before where he said his path and where he wants to go and if our paths cross and we’re both at the top then I’ll meet him at some point.
“But for the minute, my eyes are set on the WBO belt.”
To be even thinking about the possibility of a clash with Carl Frampton seems perhaps a little premature considering his last opponent and performance. However, he acknowledges improvements have to be made and that a credible opponent with world title experience is needed next.
“I’m hoping to be out before Christmas, with a good fighter as well. I’ve looked at like Kiko Martinez, other fighters who have won world titles or have boxed for world titles in the past.
“That’s ideally my next opponent, I don’t really want another stepping stone. I’ve had enough of them; I think it’s fair to say that when I fight those type of fighters you don’t see the best of me.”
With the Frampton/Herring fight sanctioned by the WBO, it is a fight Sharp has a very close eye on. The winner of that fight is something he feels passionately about, but he has also had some minor ‘twitter beef’ with the American too.
“If he said I struggled that much in my last fight then clearly it’s an easy defence for him. I’ve had my eyes set on the WBO for a long time now and believe me when It’s my time to step up for the WBO title I think will see my A-game so I’m looking forward to it.
“So Jamel can say whatever he wants to say but we will share a ring one day if he has the title because I’m coming.”
His passion and drive are clear to see but he’s been in this game for a very long time. Sometimes we forget as fans the journey boxers have been on from amateurs to the professional game. It’s clear that he’s ready to show the world the new and improved Archie Sharp.
“I’m one of those fighters, when it’s my time to shine, it’s my time to shine, I end up coming to life. I ain’t no newbie to this boxing game, I’ve been in the game since I was 7 years old, I’ve won multiple national titles, boxed for GB 20 odd times, it’s not like I’m new to all this. The sooner I can get the big fights then the sooner I can show people what I’m really all about.”
There is a very talented and driven individual in Archie, that was clear from speaking to him. He’s taken stock of his training and performances and has made the necessary changes.
It remains to be seen what those changes will do and how they will translate into the ring. But a fight before Christmas is the target and time is of the essence.
To back up his claims and his hopes of taking on the winner of Herring/Frampton, a big performance is needed. Especially given the nature of the Ofori fight. He wants to take on an opponent who has been world champion or who has challenged for a world title. I agreed with him, that step up in the quality of opponent will test him and according to him, bring out the best in Archie Sharp.
As it currently stands, he’s a young, unbeaten contender managed by one of the best promoters and companies in MTK Global.
Furthermore, he has an experienced coach in his corner, a driven personality and a great boxing skillset. There are plenty of positives and things going his way.
It’s now time to take the new step and back up his talk.