Darren Tetley: “In a ten rounder, against someone like Samuel Antwi, you put your money on it coming down to another tear-up.“
By Oliver McManus
Three years on from winning the WBO European title, Darren Tetley is hopeful that his fight against Samuel Antwi – on February 19th – could well be the start of a new chapter in his career. A win would see him take home the English title in a division packed with domestic contenders: a division in which Tetley has so often been overlooked.
Speaking to me before fight night, the 27 year old began by just outlining how the fight came about.
“We got offered a fight before Samuel for one of those Dubai cards which had to get cancelled. Then they (MTK) put it to us that we could fight on February 19th for the English title and, obviously, we said yes to that. To come off a loss and go straight in for the English title must show the quality of that fight with Liam Taylor.”
Tetley’s showdown with Liam Taylor in August last year was the first defeat handed to the southpaw. A razor-thing decision went the way of his Lancashire opponent – a former British title challenger – with Tetley being dropped twice but to no great danger. Six months on from that fight it was pleasing to hear that learning lessons from those ten rounds had been a surprisingly simple task.
“It’s funny because that’s exactly how I fought when I was an amateur and I want people to enjoy what they’re watching when I’m fighting. I’ve learned to sort of ‘get involved’ more on my terms, now; during the Liam Taylor fight I was guilty of landing some good shots but then just standing there and letting hit me back and obviously you can’t afford to do that. In a ten rounder, against someone like Samuel Antwi, you put your money on it coming down to another tear-up.
“Let’s not forget that Liam Taylor is a good boxer – you saw that against Chris Jenkins and Tyrone Nurse – and, aside from the knockdowns, you’d have to say that the full ten rounds were very competitive. It’s not as though I don’t know what I could do differently – I look back on it and I didn’t do certain things I should have done, I wasn’t moving as much and I gave Liam opportunities.”
Training for the fight with Samuel Antwi has been a fairly standard affair given the way the pandemic has impacted so many people’s lives. Fortunately for Tetley this is his second run at a camp under Coronavirus restrictions and he’s been making it work.
“It’s been pretty much the same, to be honest, I have a full time job (as a school caretaker) so we’ve always had to work around something or another even before Covid. In a way it’s kind of freed up Mick (Marsden, Tetley’s trainer and manager) as he usually owns a public gym but only ‘elite athletes’ are allowed in at the moment so I guess that’s probably made it a little easier for him.”
If you follow Tetley on social media you’ll be well aware of one aspect of training that certainly is new. With freezing temperatures gripping the nation, the former WBO European champion explained how he’s been coaxed by work colleagues into performing some rather impressive handstands in a frozen lake.
“I’m not sure if it’s a Polish thing but everyone at the lake was Polish and an engineer I work with invited me and was giving me stick saying I wouldn’t jump in. He wanted to bet 50p but I got him up to £10 and as soon as I got out of the car I was absolutely shivering; I thought this was going to be the worst tenner I’ve ever earned. I ran full pelt through the ice, stayed in for five minutes, and one of the ladies said ‘oh you’re leg is bleeding’ and there was blood coming from my shins but where it was so cold I just couldn’t feel anything at all!”
It seemed inevitable that at some point the fight with Mason Cartwright would crop up in conversation. A fight that has been so instrumental to the story of Tetley yet delivered very few opportunities – contests with Johnny Garton, Bradley Skeete and Tamuka Mucha were all touted but, for various reasons, never materialised. Nearly three years on from that contest, the 27 year old revealed just why it had been such a defining period in his life.
“I had a lot going on around that fight. I lost my grandad two weeks before the fight and we buried him actually the morning of the weigh-in. It was my first fight without him and he’d even bought a ticket for the night so that goes to show how unexpected it all was. I remember when he died I knew in my head it would fall on the day of the weigh-in, he’d wanted to be buried on a Friday, and to even get in the ring the next day showed me a lot about myself. It’s one of those experiences that you realise if you can get through that then, actually, anything I face in boxing is pretty small in comparison.
“I guess that helped after the Taylor fight because I was thinking to myself, look, I’ve been in worse places, I’ll still be going to work the next week so I had put things into perspective and just focus on the next opportunity.”
That next opportunity arrives on February 19th with what should be a pulsating battle with Samuel Antwi. It’s a fight that Darren Tetley is hoping can set the tone for the rest of 2021.
“One fight gets made at domestic level and then things start to move and opportunities pop up out of nowhere. Everyone wants to make 50-50 fights now so you have to stay ready and if any welterweight wants a fight then they can get in touch but they’ll be having a hard, hard fight. I’m never going to say no to a fight: I’m not even fussed about what titles are on the line but let’s put on some competitive fights that will get people excited.”