Solomon Dacres: “We Want To Be Fighting For British Titles & Pushing On.”
By Chris Akers
The heavyweight division is arguably the weight class that has the greatest strength in depth internationally.
This is also the case domestically. Outside of the top echelon of Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte, there are a mixture of boxers who either have two to three years left in the sport, or, who are beginning their professional careers around the same time, with aspirations of achieving great things.
One such boxer is Solomon Dacres. The former GB squad member played rugby initially, having been with the Worcester Warriors academy semi-professionally, as well as having a trial with England U20s. Yet he is very clear as to why he made the switch from playing alongside hookers on a rugby pitch, to landing hooks in the ring.
“It was the end goal, the outcome.” he tells me via Zoom. “With rugby, the end goal is only as far as how good the team you’re playing for is. With boxing, it’s on yourself and you can set up your own future, your whole life and family off of your career.”
His switch brought relatively quick success. He reached the semi-finals of the ABAs in Liverpool in 2016, winning the same tournament the following year. Soon after that he joined the Team GB squad.
“I boxed a few tournaments for GB in different countries and did a lot of training camps in different countries. I’ve been exposed to all the best fighters in the world on the amateur circuit. So I have the top level of experience in terms of international boxing in the amateurs.”
Part of his amateur career involved competing in the World Series of Boxing, which he says, he had some of his toughest fights.
“Some of the hardest fights I had were in the WSB,” he explains. “I fought Mihai Nistor, a Romanian. He was a tough opponent. I boxed a Kazah who was world number two. He was a very tricky southpaw, back foot fighter. He was extremely hard to get to. I had other guys that were just tough and durable that took a lot out of me. There was another guy from Austria. He was very tough, but I beat him.”
Finishing with an amateur record of 35 wins from 45 fights across six years, Dacres could have waited a year and try to qualify for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics this year. But this may not have had the desired outcome.
“For one, it was already postponed once and I didn’t want to wait on it any longer, and I might not have even had the chance to qualify. There are qualifiers to take place, so you still have to win those to qualify. If I didn’t have that opportunity, I could have been waiting, someone else goes to the qualifier, I wouldn’t have the chance to go to the Olympics anyway and would have wasting six to eight months of my time. So I tried to take things into my own hands and get cracking.”
Like a lot of amateurs, Dacres would fight in front of a sparse crowd, or even no crowd at all. The barring of audiences at professional shows won’t affect him as much as other fighters.
“For me initially, it’s just business as usual. The crowd are something extra for me turning over. Something that was added to the pro shows. Because I haven’t had the crowd, I won’t miss it yet. It’s something I’m looking forward to coming back to, but it’s not going to make much difference starting off for me.”
Since this interview, Dacres’ pro debut has been announced for March 21st, on the undercard of the WBO world title fight between Lawrence Okolie and Krzysztof Glowacki. He will be trained by Max McCracken, who trains the Yafai brothers Kal and Gamal. Why be trained by Max?
“One of the big reasons is that I’m from Birmingham, so I wanted to try and stay in Birmingham. When you look at stables in the city, Max is the only one that is training a world champion. So I wanted to go somewhere that had that highest level of experience and be exposed to it, as that’s where I want to get to.”
In recent years, boxers from Birmingham have got more publicity and the level of boxers coming from the city has increased. The reasons why are many according to Solomon.
“I think it’s just timing really. I can’t put it down to one thing. You might get a few years where you get a good crop of boxers from the region. It only takes a couple. I think Sam Eggington, breaking through with Matchroom, I think the eyes coming onto Birmingham, gives other people opportunities. When Sam breaking through, it put more eyes on the Eastside gym, giving them some leverage to get some of their fighters out and get a bit of a look in on better shows.”
Dacres, who states his best attributes as a boxer are ‘explosiveness, speed and power, combination punches and a high work rate,’ is signed to Matchroom and has Sam Jones as his manager, who has fast become one of the most well-known figures in the sport.
“He hasn’t got loads of boxers,” he states. “You have good organisations like MTK, but they have however many boxers. Sam Jones, his focus is on his individual boxers. He only has 10, 11 fighters. You can tell he cares about his fighters and he’s going to get the best for you. He’s got a small group of fighters and he really cares about them.”
Like the majority of boxers, the pandemic has affected Dacres’ career. Though because he was with the GB squad until a few months ago, he was in a better position than most when it came to training, as he explains.
“I just left the GB squad around September. So I was still in the GB squad the whole year. Initially we weren’t allowed to go back up to Sheffield, where we train every week. Luckily, they managed to get measures in place where we could train, the elite sport was allowed to train at the Institute of Sport.
“When stuff started up again, we managed to get back up to Sheffield and was training. Also, I had access to my amateur club. I was still getting bits of training in there as well, which was good for me. With the GB squad we went on a training camp to Turkey in September. After that training camp I decided to turn over.”
This training has included sparring the likes of Joshua, Joe Joyce and Daniel Dubois, the latter two he sparred while they were preparing to fight each other.
Like most athletes, prospects want to learn from the best. While Dacres wants to do things his own way, there are elements of Joshua’s camp that he has taken on board.
“You see the professionalism. You see how he has got his routine and his whole team supporting him. It’s definitely something to look at and implement things from that camp for my own training methods. It’s not just rock up to the gym, and do a little bit of this and a little bit of that. They have a set schedule, they have a team behind it. They have a solid plan in place. So that’s something that I take from looking at Joshua’s camp and being involved it that.”
Having access to a high level of professionalism in both Joshua’s camp and when with the GB squad has meant a higher level of sparring as well.
“A lot of my stuff has been with the GB squad. A lot of sparring with Fraser Clarke, who’s the super-heavyweight on the squad. Martin Bakole was in one of Joshua’s camps and I did a few rounds with him. He was a very tough guy. Other than that, it’s been a lot of international camps and stuff with GB.”
Even before seeing high level training camps and learning from those set ups, Dacres had taken inspiration from the boxers he watched when he was young.
“I used to watch a lot of Mike Tyson when I was growing up, like a lot of people do. My dimensions aren’t really the same as his. He is small and compact, whereas I’m six foot five tall. The mindset of Tyson is something that I really like. His aggressiveness and his relentlessness, his no fear attitude. I love Muhammad Ali. But my favourite is Roy Jones Jr. He was just sublime. The speed and skill of him and the flair, make him one of my favourites.”
Most boxers when asked the question, what do they want to achieve in this career will reply that they want to be a world champion. But where does Darces aim to be in the next 18 months to 2 years?
“I definitely want to be British title level, British champion. Given the length of time, that’s a realistic pathway. The first year, just get myself settled into the pros. Then next year we want to be fighting for British titles and pushing on.”