Tommy Frank: “I want to be involved in big fights, make some money and look after my family.”
By Chris Akers
Until December last year, everything had been going well in Tommy Frank’s professional career. He won the Commonwealth title in his tenth fight and had picked up the WBC international silver and IBF intercontinental belts. The Commonwealth title fight Frank has a particular fondness for.
“Winning the Commonwealth in my 10th fight was a big highlight for me,” says Frank. “After that, I had more good fights, boxing for ranking titles. I boxed for the WBC International Silver title and then the IBF Intercontinental title. They were just really good learning fights for me. But I think up until that point, my best performance and best win were getting the Commonwealth title.”
Then he met Rosendo Hugo Guarneros.
Although he didn’t underestimate Guarneros, the Mexican was not their original opponent.
“Guarneros was by that time probably the third or fourth opponent that we had for that actual date,” explains Frank. “We knew a little bit about him. We know that Mexicans are gonna bring their A-game. They’re gonna be there all night, really tough. So we knew what we had on our hands.”
At the start of the fight, things were going well for Frank. The plan had been to break Guarneros down and he was warming to the task. Then the third round arrives, a punch was thrown, a niggle felt and that action impacted Frank’s strategy during the rest of the fight.
“In the third round I think it was a jab I threw, or maybe a left hook, I just felt something going in my left shoulder. I gave my arm a shakeout. I thought it might just be a twinge, but it became apparent quite quickly, it was just seizing up. I didn’t find out until after, I had a really bad strain on my rotator cuff. As the rounds went on it just got worse and worse. It wasn’t like I was in massive pain like it came out of the socket. I just couldn’t throw it. It was seizing up, there was no strength in it. It was dropping quite bad.”
In his own words, from the moment that niggle became a serious injury he ‘had a little play around in my head and see what I was gonna do to still try and win the fight.’ The injury effectively left him one-handed for the rest of the bout.
“I think I boxed five rounds with just my right hand. I don’t think I did too bad, to be honest with you. But as the rounds went on and especially when the penny dropped and Guarneros exactly realised that I hurt my left shoulder, I think he just stepped up his work rate a little bit, and I felt that the rounds were just slipping away from me. Maybe that’s what Glyn saw in the corner and he pulled me out in the eighth round.”
Watching the fight, the emotion on Frank’s face when his trainer Glyn Rhodes pulls him out is understandable. Frank wanted to complete the task at hand, yet he was not able to. Not because he was outclassed, but because his body had failed him.
When Tommy started boxing at a young age, he would not have envisioned that happening in a fight. Telling me about what started him on his journey as a professional boxer, his zest for the sport is clear as he speaks.
“One of my cousins used to box and whatever I went to my uncle’s house, he would have a punchbag in the house and I would have a go on that. They used to put old Mike Tyson videos on and that’s what caught my interest. Then one day, when I was 12 or 13, I asked my dad to take me down to the gym and he did. And I’ve just basically been there ever since.
“I didn’t take to it too much at first. I think I liked the idea more than getting punched in the face. So I tried to train for a couple of years, and it was around when I was 14 where I started taking it seriously and I had my first fight at 15.”
It was also a television series that gave up and coming boxers exposure that inspired Frank to take up the sport.
“Also at that time, there used to be a series on TV called The Contender. It was on Twitter the other day that it is 16 years since that aired. That was a big influence in me taking boxing seriously. I can remember watching that first series and watching Peter Manfredo and Sergio Mora, Alfonzo Gomez, and that did inspire me to pick up my training. In my head, that’s what made me decide to be a boxer. It’s all I’ve done since.”
With an amateur record of 25 wins and 24 losses, Frank became a pro. Things were going smoothly. Until Guarneros.
With injury comes the recovery phase before returning to full training. Yet while lockdown has affected most boxers, Frank has been very unfortunate that it has not had the impact one would expect.
“I’m very fortunate. I’ve been working with my physio Lisa Bailey of LB Sports Therapy since I turned pro. I normally see her once a week. During the first lockdown, I couldn’t see her. Since the fight in December, following certain protocols, we have been able to see each other weekly, which is brilliant. She’s been massive in my treatment and recovery and rehabilitation programs. A massive thank you to Lisa. She’s been a big part of the team and she’s got everything right.
“It’s been hard work, especially because I’ve never been injured before either as an amateur or a professional. You always pick up little niggles in training camps but when you get injured in a fight, it’s a little bit different. There have been tough moments over the past six months. It’s not all been straightforward. My fiancée’s been brilliant in keeping me up sometimes, giving me a good talking to. Thankfully I think it’s made me into a brilliant fighter and a better person as well.”
Lockdown did not influence his training either. His sponsors were still there for him, which allowed him to continue to commit to this training routine. This in turn gave him purpose, which sadly so few people have been unable to obtain during this whole pandemic.
“To be honest with you I’m very lucky. I’d be lying if I said it affected my way of life in general. Before Covid came, all my life was thanks to my amazing sponsors, who allow me to train full time. All I do is go to the gym, train, rest, and see my family, then go back to the gym. That’s my day to day life. That’s what I love doing.
“Even with the lockdown last year, obviously it was hard for everyone, but for me being a professional boxer, we were allowed to train. So at least I was in the gym. I had a few fights fall through, as every boxer in this country did. Just being in the gym, being able to train and get out, that was a day that was good enough in itself. I think it gave everyone a chance to step back and work on a few things that they might not normally get time to do and that’s what I did.
“Things in life happen and I’m a big believer in making the best out of any situation you get. The main thing for me throughout all of Covid, my family, my fiancee’s family they stayed safe. That was the most important thing.”
Frank is a half-glass full person, which was obvious when talking to him. This positivity also extends to how he discusses the British flyweight scene. The depth of talent in that division has been the best it has been in a while. It’s an observation that Frank agrees with.
“Sunny Edwards is flying the flag for Britain. He’s just won the IBF flyweight title. So you have to put him at number one. I think Jay Harris is a great fighter as well. I think he’s going to be boxing for an IBF final eliminator if I’m right in saying that.
“You have other good flyweights. I think it’s brilliant for British boxing and us flyweights as we’re involved in fighting each other and entertaining the fans, hopefully making each other a lot of money, which you don’t always see at the lower weights. Fingers crossed some big fights are made.”
This depth of talent also extends to his hometown. Manchester and London are seen as the main fight cities in the UK, though Sheffield is not far behind. While the cream of the talent used to be concentrated at just Wincobank gym, now it is spread around. Frank may be part of that scene but even he can’t pinpoint one reason for the growth of Sheffield boxing talent in recent years. There is one boxer, however, that he does think helped Sheffield get noticed as a boxing hotbed.
“To be honest, you couldn’t just put your finger onto one thing. Brendan Ingle’s gym has been legendary in churning out champions. I think it all started with Herol Bomber Graham. I think he was the pioneer of Sheffield boxing, especially with that Ingle style. People see that style and they think that style comes from Prince Naseem Hamed. He took that style to the next level, but if you strip it back, Herol Graham was the pioneer of it. Everyone looked at him including Brendan, and just copied him. Brendan got his other fighters to copy Errol and I think that’s how it went.
“They have numerous champions over the years. Glyn Rhodes my trainer, boxed there in his professional boxing years. He has gone on to be a trainer and work with world champions. It’s just something about this city.
“I’m a Sheffield lad born and bred. I love my city and am very proud of it. I just think that when things are going well, you just attract good things and there must be something in the Sheffield water especially in boxing and long may it continue. I’m hoping to play my part in Sheffield boxing. Already I’ve played a small part by bringing a Commonwealth title here, hopefully, I’ll be bringing a lot more to that. The end goal is to be another world champion from Sheffield and I’d be very proud to do that one day.”
The rematch with Guarneros is on 18th June. After that, it could be the British title later in the year.
“In my mind, that’s the fight that I want. Looking to get this in on 18th June and set the record straight with Guarneros, get my world ranking back which I lost in my last fight and then we’ve been trying to get this British title fight with Kyle Yousef don’t know how long now. Hopefully, that comes off, but if not, I’d love to box for the British title against somebody else if he’s not available. So that’s the plan mate. IBF continental and then the British flyweight title.”
Further along, his ideal plan for the next 12 months of his career can be summed up by two words: big fights.
“I’d love that British flyweight title. I think it’s a very historic belt. So in the next 12 months, I’d like to be IBF intercontinental, British flyweight title, and then who knows. An opportunity could come up. It’s just one phone call away. I could get an opportunity to box for the European title.”
A boxer aims to reach the pinnacle within the sport. Although this is true for Frank, how what he earns will support his family is just as important.
“Every fighter wants to be a world champion and that’s what they say but however long I’m involved in boxing, professional as a fighter, I want to be involved in big fights, make some money and look after my family. That’s what it’s about, basically just enjoying want we’re doing, as we’re very privileged to be in the position we are. When you look at what we get to do every day it’s a blessing. I just want to enjoy every minute of it and we see where we end up.”