Calum French: “I 100% believe that I will impress and be one of the top names at Matchroom.”
By Lewie Laing
“I believe in my ability and boxing skill, I 100% believe that I will impress and be one of the top names at Matchroom,” says new signing Calum French, who has big plans in the pro game following Olympic heartache.
French has turned professional with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom, having boxed at the highest amateur level across the world for a number of years. French should have been at the 2020 Olympics Games but due to gender equality changes, his weight class of 60kg was removed altogether, leaving him stranded. It has not affected the Gateshead fighter, who prefers to focus on the positives he has experienced.
“The ICO decided to changes the weights for gender equality. I just had to swallow it, it happened and there is nothing I could do. You shouldn’t worry about anything you can’t control. If it’s out of your control don’t sit and dwell on it, because you’ll be dwelling on it forever. I preferred to keep my head down, crack on, and keep working and focus on what’s next.”
French was part of the GB set up in Sheffield for 6 years, competing in the WSB and countless tournaments across the globe in which he put together an impressive 35 fight winning streak between 2012 and 2017. Team GB was keen to keep hold of French, focusing on the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris but for the 26-year-old, the time was right to turn pro.
“Now is the perfect time for me to turn pro. GB wanted me to stay on but I’d be 29 by then and that wouldn’t leave me enough time to make a mark in the pro game. I’ll be in my prime within the next couple of years. I’m turning over at super-lightweight. I’ll take it one fight at a time and see how it goes. Moving down to lightweight is an option depending on how the weight comes off.
“It is just the right time to turn pro and I have boxed for years, boxing for medals and trophies. It’s time I started earning some money and making myself financially secure. That’s why it’s such a perfect time to turn pro now, You’ve got Sky and Boxxer, Wasserman, DAZN a lot of other promoters all competing for fighters.”
The super-lightweight division is red hot right now with Scottish unified world champion, Josh Taylor top of the pile. There are a host of names both domestically and internationally who French has studied and even looked up to over the years on his way to turning pro. French feeds off their success knowing that it has paved the way for him and other GB fighters coming through.
“Obviously, Josh Taylor, I’ve watched and studied him, great southpaw, he’s been to the Olympics and done everything we have done in Sheffield. There’s no reason why the team can’t go all the way as we have the same pedigree he has as long as we stay dedicated in the pro game. I also have massive respect for Lewis Ritson, he has kept the North East boxing scene running really, ready for us, the new batch, coming through.”
French had multiple offers on the table to turn pro but it was Matchroom and the prospect of Eddie Hearn shows around the world that made up his mind.
French is no stranger to boxing globally with around 100 fights as an amateur and is hoping to repeat such success as a professional with one of boxings biggest global promotional companies. The size of the Matchroom stable which can lead to a lack of opportunity is not something that worries French at all, knowing he has the pedigree to be a standout star.
“You want to be on those DAZN shows, on those Eddie Hearn shows straight away. Competing at such a high level as an amateur, you are at the level that the likes of Okolie, Fowler, and Buatsi have been at, coming through that Olympic programme so that’s the level you’ve got to be aiming at and getting on to DAZN is the start of that.
DAZN are the top dogs. Once the offer came in, there was no question about it. It’s what you dream about as a kid, being on the Matchroom bills. I know some fighters are going elsewhere but I believe in my ability and boxing skill, I 100% believe that I will impress and be one of the top names at Matchroom. You’ve got to believe in yourself, if you don’t, no one will.”
Not so long ago, French was working shifts at the Nissan car factory in Sunderland, on the production line before being let go which in hindsight was a good thing as it was starting to affect his dedication to boxing.
He has come a long way since then and puts a lot of it down to his amateur coach at Birtley Boxing Club and in Sheffield, Graeme Rutherford. French has been coached by Rutherford since he started boxing and it made sense for that journey to continue into the pro ranks.
Alongside stablemate Cyrus Pattinson, French will work under his trusted coach out of Birtley in the North East, knowing his best interests are all Rutherford is focused on. French is confident he has the mindset to stay focused on the biggest stages in world boxing while avoiding the pitfalls of the pro game, under no illusion at just how lonely a sport boxing is.
“Graeme has done a lot for me both in and out of the ring. I was working at Nissan and lost my job, my coach gave me a job working scrap which got me back into boxing. I honestly think he brings out the best in me. Speak to anyone who knows anything about boxing, Graeme is a brilliant coach, top quality.
“Everyone talks about the amateurs and the pros being totally different but a fight is a fight and Graeme knows how to win a fight, he knows how to read a fight better than any coach I’ve ever worked with. Graeme is the man behind the magic, at one point I think Birtley had about 8 lads on the GB team, that says it all.
“Graeme has coached me since I was 12 years old, he knows me inside out. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. There are a lot of people in boxing, a lot of sharks but Graeme only wants the best for us. His dedication is second to none, I trust him and he gets the best out of me.
Staying in the North East, there are always going to be distractions, but I’m strong-minded and have a mature head on my shoulders to ignore them and stay the course. I’m fine on my own, enjoy my own company. You need to be comfortable on your own as it is a very lonely sport. When you are in a hard fight and it gets tough, there’s only me who can win the fight.”
French is looking forward to November when all being well, he should make his debut on DAZN for Matchroom, and cannot wait to get the ball rolling. He does not overthink the future, he has trust in Coach Graeme Rutherford and promoter Eddie Hearn as to what direction his career heads and at what speed. French is confident in his own ability and draws on his experiences to show just why he thinks he can go all the way in this sport.
“I am happy with whatever route my team chooses for me. I’ve been told November should be my debut, I’m hoping for a fight in Newcastle, I’d love that. I’ll probably have my first couple of fights and see how I adapt to the pro game. I’ll not be nervous under the lights. Everyone gets the butterflies but whether I’m fighting in a sports hall in Uzbekistan or a sold-out arena in the UK, you’re just having a fight and it all gets blocked out anyways.
“I honestly believe I can go all the way. A lot of fighters maybe have the skill level but not the dedication, other fighters have the dedication but not the skill level. I honestly believe I have both, I don’t see why I can’t win world titles while also becoming financially secure. To get to the top level, you’ve got to dedicate your life to it and I’m willing to do that. I want those big nights in Newcastle.”