Sam Giĺley: “I feel so much less pressure now I’ve got that first title around my waist.”
By Oliver McManus
A welterweight clash simmering under the radar pits Sam Gilley against Danny Ball on Friday evening with a minor WBC title on the line. The contest will be live on BT Sport with Ball looking to defend his International Silver but faces stiff opposition in the form of the current Southern Area champion.
Gilley, 11-0, is full of confidence and insists all the pressure is on his opponent; this is Ball’s first for Queensbury Promotions. Speaking just six days away from the contest, Gilley told me he was eager to gatecrash that homecoming.
“I’ve watched one fight of his, Rod (Julian, Sam’s coach) has watched one and we’ve taken what we need to from that. All the pressure is on him, if we’re honest, he holds the belt and this is first fight with his new promoter so he’s the one that needs to impress and put on a good performance. In my mind I’m going into this fight as a favourite, I don’t buy it when people say I’m the underdog, I’ve got 11 wins, I’ve got strong amateur experience, I’m the Southern Area champion: I think I’m too much for him in every department.”
The ‘Magic Man’ has been out of the ring since a fight against Curtis Felix Jr last March; Rod Julian’s charge, backed by MTK, was one of the few fighters to box in front of a crowd last year. Gilley admitted he had three or four fight offers in 2020 but none that felt quite right – especially in empty arenas. Gilley reflected on his last contest, in which he won the Southern Area belt, with mixed feelings.
“I wasn’t happy with how I fought, I really wasn’t, but it was a good fight for the crowd. I look at it and I think there’s so many moments where I could have made life easier for myself but that’s what you learn from.
“In my mind it was a lot of firsts that I was able to tick off: my first ten rounder, my first title fight and my first time fighting someone of Curtis’ quality. They might sound like small things but in my head I now know I’ve done it before and I can do it again.”
Gilley has often been his harshest critic – rarely coming across as pleased with his performance – but has found that the past twelve months have helped him put that perfectionism into perspective. I asked him how his attitude has changed during the pandemic but, also, in the three years since we last spoke.
“Me and the missus have got a flat together so in that sense I’ve had to grow up a lot and get handy around the house. In boxing I’ve had to be a lot more content because I used to wind myself up so much by nitpicking on little things.
“I feel so much less pressure now I’ve got that first title around my waist: I’m going into future fights with so many less questions in my head. Where I’ve had such a long time to reflect on things I’ve kind of accepted that not everything will be perfect and that’s part of the process. It’s actually been nice to have that year where I wasn’t permanently in camp and I was just able to look back on where I’ve come during those first few years as a professional.”
Going into the future it’s that time off that has reinforced just how much Sam Gilley enjoys being in a fight. Looking at Friday night, the 26 year old said he wanted to prove why, in his mind, the Curtis Felix Jr fight was a bad night at the office. Win on Friday and who knows what opportunities might await the talented welterweight.
“The next 18 months is very, very interesting for whoever wins on Friday. Lee (Eaton) said it is these sort of fights that can start to open doors for you. You look at the welterweight division in Britain and it’s full of quality fighters: a win against Danny, follow that up with another good win and you could be in a position where you’re lined up to fight for the British title. You’ve got to make sure you win and look good on the night to make sure you’re getting those opportunities.”