Anthony Tomlinson: “I’m not in it for financial things, the money is a bonus but I’m here to fulfil a promise to my son.”
By Rhys Jones
British boxing’s claim to fame in recent years has largely come via the heavyweight division. The likes of Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury have transitioned into talents of an extra-terrestrial level and have played their part in putting British boxing back on the map.
However, the newest crop of talent staking their claim in UK boxing comes from the welterweight division. Rising through the ranks have been names such as Josh Kelly, Conor Benn, and Michael McKinson, all three undefeated, and all three primed to face step-ups in competition in 2021.
In Britain’s welterweight division lies plenty of hidden gems, names yet to be blazoned in mainstream boxing media, one of those hidden gems is Anthony ‘The Truth’ Tomlinson.
The Sheffield native might not have the recognisable name of someone like Benn, but his story is compelling to say the least. With a current record of 12-0 (7 KOs), Tomlinson is on the rise.
“I was in and out of trouble as a young kid, growing up and choosing the wrong path in life. I spent a few years in prison you know, got out of prison and made some massive changes and walked into my first boxing ever gym at 22 years of age, wanting to do MMA, but I fell in love with boxing and boxing fell in love with me.”
Even before turning 22 and putting on a pair of gloves, Anthony had little interest in boxing as a sport. Which makes his rise from an inexperienced and troubled 22-year-old to now 29-year-old IBO Continental welterweight champion, all the more remarkable.
Where most boxers are driven by fame and fortune, or leaving behind a lasting legacy, Tomlinson finds his motivation from a source much closer to him. His desire to succeed fuelled by a promise to his son.
“What drives me the most is the promise I made to my son. I remember being in Stefy Bull’s gym and my little boy looked up at a poster with a lot of Stefy’s fighters on there. My son looked up and said, ‘Daddy I want that rainbow belt’. That’s what keeps me dedicated and focused, to fulfil a promise to my son.”
The man who stands in the way of his promise to his son, and current owner of the aforementioned rainbow belt, is Commonwealth welterweight champion Chris Jenkins.
“I’m not in it for financial things, the money is a bonus but I’m here to fulfil a promise to my son and Chris Jenkins’ got what I want. If we can get that fight I’ll be more than happy but, I’m not here to call him out or anything like that, I’ll get myself in a position to fight him, which he won’t have a choice not to fight me.”
When asked about his goals in life Tomlinson further emphasised the importance of his children in his life and career.
“Some of my goals are to basically, give my kids a future which I never had. So, if it’s not boxing financially, its something to provide them a financial basis and ground to lead them, so they never have to go through what I did as a kid. My goals are my children, I want the best for them, and I want their best life, I want to be able to give them that. So that’s my main goal and priority”.
Never one to make a scene and call someone out, Tomlinson prefers jabs in the ring to those of a verbal kind. When welterweight rival Conor Benn came up in conversation, he had nothing but respect for his pugilistic peer.
“I’ve got massive respect for Conor Benn, I’ve talked to him on numerous occasions, I respect him for what he’s doing. Everyone wants to call Conor Benn and he’s done all this himself; he’s worked hard in the gym; he’s got himself on a platform and he knows what he’s doing. Everybody goes ‘Oh it’s all from his dad and that’, but he’s done everything himself you know and he’s making a name for himself and we have to give him respect for that. He’s got his own path and got his own plan, and I wish him all the best in his career.”
Remarkably, not only does his family have a welterweight champion in himself, but his younger brother, Antwoine Hackford, recently made his first team debut for Sheffield United at the age of 16.
“He stood out with football, we never pushed him into it, we’ve always kept him enjoying the sport and he’s been scouted at a young age. The only time I realised how good he was gonna be was when I was sat in a barber shop, I was sat there and the other customers in the shop just started talking about football, they end up mentioning his name and how much of a rising star he’s gonna be. That’s when I started believing. Just watching him come on, making his dreams come true and making his Premier League debut is one of the happiest moments that I’ve had.
“Its showing that you can come from a council estate, you can achieve something in life. There’s a lot of negativity that comes from a council estate, kids growing up they always get tarnished straight away. I believe that me and my brother are showing that you can make a difference and do something in life, it don’t matter where you come from, you don’t need to have all this money or anything like that. If you dig in and keep dedicated to something that you really wanna do, you can keep prove to everybody that you can do that.”
Tomlinson’s mission in boxing isn’t just to pave a way for himself, but to pave a way for his family, to give his kids the easy life that he never had. He acts as an inspiration to those around him in his community, and those who are experiencing the same hardships he dealt with in his life before boxing.