the prize ring can be achieved through a variety of means. Some boxers become
masters of the sportís technical elements, others are blessed with innate
speed of both hand and foot, a special few enjoy the capacity to alter the
course of a contest with a single clean strike, and there are those who prosper
through sheer physical ruggedness, dedication and mental driv
The fighter who
excels in every facet ó the all-rounder ó is a rare breed indeed, but there
is increasing evidence that soaring Edinburgh super feather Alex Arthur might be
one such talent.
Games gold medallist at 20 and British professional champion within two years of
his November 2000 pro debut, the 25-year-old starlet conducts his business with
an elegance synonymous with the nicer parts of the Scottish capital and owns a
left hook that has damaged more livers than neat liquor. Fourteen of his 16 paid
opponents have crumbled ahead of schedule.
ropes, Arthur possesses a rare charm and patter that could entice interest
beyond boxingís inner circle. Having
apprenticed in the shadow of deposed WBO feather king Scott Harrison, the 5ft
9ins father of Alex Jr recently broke from Glasgowís Phoenix camp, run by
Harrisonís father Peter, to team up with revered Californian coach Freddie
Roach for what promises to be a crucial new season.
On 25 October,
Arthur finally emerges as a headline act in his own right when, in the first
promotion in Edinburgh for 18 years, he is expected to make short shrift of
fraying ex-champion Michael Gomez. With
victory providing a lifelong grip on the Lonsdale Belt, expect promoters Sports
Network to fast track the Scot to challenges for major international honours by
the end of 2004.
In late August,
Boxing Monthly gained an insight into his engaging personality and his almost
obsessive drive to bring his rich potential to fruition.
BM: With the
intense east coast-west coast rivalry and your former coach Peter Harrison
working in the opposite corner, beating Willie Limond last time out posed more
mental challenges than physical. But you actually seemed to revel in the
AA: I definitely
did. As an amateur I boxed Texan Rocky Juarez before about 7,000 of his fans in
the 1999 World Amateur Championships, but Iíd never experienced the
ďnastinessĒ that I encountered in the Limond fight. But Iím sure the
experience will make me much stronger mentally. I was able to turn all the
animosity and negativity to my advantage, just as Naz and Eubank used to do. It
definitely made me more alert and more aggressive. I
like Willie ó weíve been pals since we were about 15 ó but in the end I
was really enjoying giving him a beating because of the way everybody associated
with him had treated me. I was the champion yet they showed me no respect. It
really peeved me off and I wanted to make them eat their words.
BM: Prior to
Limond, you had been well received in your five previous Glasgow starts. Could
your demolition of the home hero alienate Glaswegian support?
AA: I hope not.
My cityís important to me and most of my travelling fans are from Edinburgh,
but whenever Iíve boxed in Glasgow before, the Glaswegians have been very good
to me. I donít want to create any rivalry.
Harrisonís defeat to Manuel Medina in the bill topper places a greater burden
on yourself to advance the Scottish renaissance while the former WBO
featherweight boss regroups. Is that a responsibility you covet?
AA: No, I really
donít see that as my job. If you start thinking along those lines itíll
affect you. I need to keep winning for Alex Arthur. Ultimately I intend to
succeed like my hero Ken Buchanan, contesting and winning world titles on
different continents. Iíve already proved, amateur and professional, that I
can succeed away from home.
BM: When beating
Limond you showednot just your considerable self-belief, but a desire to
entertain. Have you always enjoyed being the centre of attention?
AA: As a bairn I
was naturally quite quiet and shy, but if I got the right attention I was a bit
of an entertainer. When I found boxing at
the age of about 10, it was something I really excelled in from the start;
something that impressed my dad and my family. The
way the old coaches and ex-pros used to talk about me gave me enormous
confidence that I was better than everybody else. My first coach, Joe Fortune,
grew up around Ken Buchanan and always told me that I was better than Ken as a
BM: You are
known within the business for your meticulous preparation and for embracing
modern training methods.
AA: While most
boxers are very fit, their fitness isnít always specific to the demands of a
hard 12-round fight. Though the
need for an aerobic capacity increases in the sport, I see boxing as anaerobic
in nature. The real elite operators like Roy Jones and Shane Mosley are those
with really developed fast-twitch muscle fibres.
Not only is there little point to constant long distance running, but it
actually decreases your strength and puts unneeded strain on the tendons and
muscles. My strength and conditioning coach
Mike Heathie, a fully qualified sports scientist, sets me a 12-week plan.
The first stage is devoted to core strength work
for three or four weeks. Iíll work with a heavy weight ratio, lots of squats
and power work, no boxing technique.
fortnight in, Iíll introduce a core endurance programme, six-mile hill runs.
Eight weeks before the fight, Iíll finally begin
my boxing cycle with everything geared to the three-minute duration of a boxing
round. Mornings Iíll do six to eight rounds of interval running. Afternoons
Iíll do my technical boxing work with Terry McCormack, who has been with me
since the amateurs. Then in the evenings Iíll do my specific conditioning work.
I have Saturdays off and go for a six-mile hill run on Sundays. I donít start
sparring until about five weeks before the fight. From the start, Mikeís given
his time and input for free. Heís just a brilliant friend.
BM: When you
captured the British title with a one-shot blow out of Dewsburyís
Steve Conway last October, youíd only served 23 months as a pro. Did your
amateur career help negate your professional inexperience?
AA: It played a
major part and Iíd definitely advise other talented amateurs to prolong their
amateur careers because journeymen pros canít teach you that much.
The top amateurs
from Cuba, America and Eastern Europe train just as intensely as the pros and
technically theyíre very good. By attending the top international tournaments
you can learn so much in such a short time because youíre constantly switching
from fighting southpaws to orthodox, tall guys to short ones, boxers to
brawlers, at a dayís notice.
more beneficial is the emotional consistency that intensive international
competition breeds. By necessity it builds a steel inside you. Today, as a
professional, I hardly suffer from nerves at all.
BM: Citing the
adverse effects that the daily 110-mile round-trip from Edinburgh to Glasgow was
placing on your back, you broke away from trainer Peter Harrison last spring.
How did you link up with Freddie Roach and what alterations do you
AA: When it
comes to boxing that guy is just so smart. Iíve been in awe of him from the
expert manner in which he first wrapped my hands. Shortly
after the specialists advised me that Iíd have to leave Peter, I decided Iíd
comb the States for a new trainer and Barry McGuigan put us together.
Freddie had been
made aware of me through Bernard Dunne [Irelandís 2000Olympian now groomed by
Roach in L.A.] whom I knew from the amateurs.On
fight night I like to be surrounded by quiet guts rather than cheerleaders and
Freddie fits the bill perfectly.
rather bring the mountain to Muhammad and have a couple of weeks working on the
pads with Freddie in Edinburgh. Iíd certainly benefit from sparring the likes
of Juan Lazcano, Johnny Tapia and Yoni Vargas at the Wild Card gym because, as a
pro, the only world class spars Iíve had were with Scott and we had to stop
them because weíd got to know each others styles so well, they became
BM: Away from
the ring youíre remarkably relaxed and amiable yet, on fight night you
metamorphose into a cold blooded assassin. Ever suffered from schizophrenia?
enough in the very first write up I received the reporter referred to me as a
Jekyll and Hyde character. I spoke to him very calmly and politely five minutes
before my bout, fought like a crazy wee animal, then charmed him again
The malice comes
very naturally and sometimes though Iím ashamed to admit it, in the heat of
battle I get urges to really hurt the opponent. I only come out of that state
when the fightís over.Perhaps itís something to do with my upbringing.
Itís pretty well documented that my dad did a lot of time in prison including
a stretch for attempted murder. He was a violent criminal.
Mum tried to
ensure that me and my younger brother never went without but we didnít have it
easy and, at times, things had to be put on hold.That
said, dadís totally knocked his wayward ways on the head since he was last
released. Heís been an absolute diamond because, he says, he doesnít want to
give me a bad name.
BM: I know you
have great confidence in your chin. However, when you perceive the opposition to
be less than threatening, you seem prone to getting tagged by silly shots in
pursuit of a spectacular stoppage victory.
Something you need to address?
AA: As a young
kid, I always had a brilliant defence. I had this slippery American style,
moving from the waist and slipping shots completely, which tires the opposition.
No one could lay a glove on me. Without
being critical of Peter Harrison, my style changed with him. I felt I was too
upright, methodical, just walking in with high hands. Scott was brought up to do
that from the beginning. Heís a brilliant parrier and heís mastered the
style, but it didnít suit me as much.
only travelled more than six rounds twice and are still to go beyond 10. Is that
AA: Not at all.
I felt brilliant doing 10 with Snarski and, though the Limond fight was
conducted at a fast pace, at the end I felt Iíd just done a couple of rounds.
In the gym, Iíve done 12 many times in 90 degrees heat, with a headguard,
T-shirt and 16 oz gloves. And itís a breeze!
BM: Next up you
finally fulfil your dream of topping the bill in your home city when you host
Michael Gomez at the Meadowbank Arena on 25 October. Do you envisage the
experience bringing added pressure or providing something extra to feed off?
AA: Probably the
latter because performing to an audience comes naturally to me. Even
Kenny Buchanan, the greatest sporting person this cityís ever produced,
couldnít get promoted here because the Ice Rink wouldnít cancel a curling
fixture. As a result, the people of Edinburgh missed out and it still upsets me.
pushed Frank Warren to come to Edinburgh earlier in my career, but there was a
lot of nastiness being spouted over on the west coast that a fight here
wouldnít sell. Listen, the arena was
completely sold out by last week [we spoke on 30 August]. My father individually
sold 1200 tickets in two days, and the
phoneís still ringing.
BM: In contrast
to your laid back persona, Gomez is notoriously in your face and
confrontational. Do you expect heíll try to intimidate you?
AA: Oh, heís
already started! He tried to put the head on me at the press conference to
announce the fight but thatís just the way he goes about his business. This
fightís a bit like De La Hoya-Vargas. Youíve got the good looking guy
[laughs] who gets on well with the press and is nice to his public, against the
big mouth ďhard manĒ who harps on about his tough upbringing and pretends to
be a gangster.
the aggressive Gomez will pose contrasting problems to the counterpunching
Limond. An opportunity to demonstrate your versatility?
AA: Aye, I
always had greater difficulty with guys who tried to outbox, outrun, out-think
me. Against Limond, I had to use my brain as much as my fists and I donít like
to think. I prefer to let the ďitĒ take over! I
have field days against guys who charge at me, and Gomez even gets involved in
wars with journeymen. Did you no see him against Jimmy Beech?!
into Gomezís eyes at the press conference, Iím not sure even he believes he
can win. Heíll be so fired up I expect itíll take me eight or nine rounds
but, if his resistance has gone as people are saying, it could be a lot sooner.
Either way there can only be one winner!
Once Gomez is
done and dusted, Iíll sit down with Frank Warren and consider our options. I
think Iím No. 1 for the European and, while [44-year-old champion] Affif
Djelti is a remarkable guy, I think heís finally coming to the end of his
tether. He was getting licked handily last time before he found the big punch.
While I think
Jesus Chavez and Carlos Hernandez [the WBC and WBA champions respectively] are
well beatable now, ideally, over the next 8-10 months Iíd like to move in the
direction of fighting a couple of world ranked guys before challenging for the
when you reflect back over your career, when youíve retired, what do you hope
youíll have accomplished?
AA: Well, I
certainly donít want to ever have to go to work! Iíd
like to be remembered as a dedicated individual. I
know everyoneís beatable but Iíd love to go through my career undefeated,
win genuine world titles from super feather up to light-welter and establish
myself as Scotlandís best ever fighter.