Nathan Heaney: The Local Hero
By Joe Alexander
It has now been over ten months since Nathan Heaney was competing under the bright lights, winning the IBO continental middleweight title in March in front of his devout fans in a packed out Kings Hall.
The local hero had taken the next big step in his career, with his trajectory climbing. But then Covid struck with his momentum forcefully stopped as a result.
There is never a good time for an inactive year, but this was particularly true for Heaney. Fortunately, security was provided to Heaney as he signed with Queensberry Promotions after his last fight.
But his hiatus is now over with his next fight scheduled on a BT Sports card in March, providing Heaney with the major platform to take his career to the next level.
The ring walk of Nathan Heaney’s last fight at the King’s Hall has gone viral again recently – a truly impressive visual. Heaney found himself in his comfort zone, drinking in every moment:
“I loved the ring walk. Away from the ring, I’m quite a reserved person, but once I’m walking out it changes. My earliest memory in boxing was watching Prince Naseem, maybe that has influenced me a little. The fans seem to enjoy it and are really behind me.
“When fans are paying good money for the evening, it is important to make it an enjoyable all-round experience. It’s what I’d hoped and envisaged when turning professional. To step out and see all the Stoke flags and hear people singing along to Delilah.
“It’s also great to see my fanbase growing. I believe I have one of the best fan bases in the country. I was looking at taking near enough 2,000 fans to an away day in my next fight. It’s unfortunate, but I am aware that it isn’t the be-all and end-all in this current situation.”
The impressive progression in Heaney’s career is clear to see. Heaney finds himself signed with Frank Warren, secure in the knowledge that he will be given the opportunity to make up for lost time and justification for making the move to turn professional:
“I decided to turn professional, as I had been boxing in the amateurs for years and didn’t want to regret it later on in life. I didn’t know what to expect, it’s weird in a sense to now have such a solid fanbase and be in the position I’m in after only ten fights.
“I decided that I would give it a go for three years and if I had not gone anywhere in that time, I’d call it a day. I thought maybe by my 10th fight I’d be at a certain level, but I didn’t think I’d be signed by Frank Warren.”
Heaney’s next fight is scheduled for the second of the BT Sports cards in March. No fans are likely to attend, however, Heaney has prior experience of this and believes it will not affect him.
Some degree of his momentum has been lost due to the pandemic, but a convincing performance will revitalise him and put Heaney back to where he left off:
“A year since my last, but it doesn’t feel like it. I’ve been able to train throughout and have been legally allowed to be in the gym with my coach, so I have no excuses and I’ll be ready to go on the night. Of course, I want the fans there, but it won’t affect me. I’m fully aware of the situation we are in. I think no fans may benefit me, as you’ll be able to hear the shots instead of crowd noise. When my jab lands it’ll be heard, it will be interesting.
“Being on a prime time televised card will bring a level of stress, but it’s not something I am not used to. I enjoy the cameras, I thrive on it. It’s what comes with doing well in boxing. It can’t be any more stressful than being the float like I was on a previous BT card, that was difficult. This time it will be a scheduled fight, so I won’t have to worry about that”.
In terms of the fight itself, Heaney’s opponent hasn’t been confirmed officially but he feels it is the perfect return fight:
“My opponent is a good, tough lad. He’s got a really good chin, so I know it won’t be an easy night. He is on the back end of his career, and I’d expect him to see this fight as an opportunity to get another chance at pushing on, so I know he’ll be up for it. It will be a good name on the record and a good platform for me to build off of again. Our styles will mix well, so it should be a good watch.”
In a fascinatingly competitive domestic middleweight division, and in what could be a progressively busy year, a win in March for Heaney would solidify his position amongst the British middleweight scene:
“I don’t see why I can’t fight three times this year, it is doable. I’ve not sat down to discuss anything until I get this next win. After the fight we will sit down and discuss what is next. Ideally, I want to bring a televised BT show to the King’s Hall. I think it would show off the small hall venues and what a great night at an event like this looks like”.
Winning his next fight could lead Heaney to a British title opportunity. If capable of winning that, opportunities will be plentiful:
“I want to keep taking on tough fights and stepping up. I need to get through my upcoming fight first of course, and that’s my only focus currently. British level would be the next step up.
“In terms of Brits at middleweight, I see Liam Smith and Liam Williams as levels above the rest. Anyone else in the domestic scene, I think, can be beaten with a quality performance and the correct gameplan. Everyone has their own style and with that comes strengths and weaknesses, that goes for all of us.
“I feel winning the British is the key that unlocks the door to a lot of great opportunities. Aim to win that and then see where this takes me. If I can’t win against the British, then there isn’t any point in focusing beyond that.”