Craig Evans: People are underestimating me!
Blackwood’s Craig Evans (14-0, 3KO) has been crying out for a breakthrough fight for the last two years and now he’s got one, he’s desperate to take it with both hands. The southpaw will face Lytham St Anne’s Scott Cardle (17-0, 5KO) for a vacant British title on 30 May as part of Sky Sport’s Box Office blockbuster. The unbeaten 25-year-old lightweights couldn’t have a bigger platform to showcase themselves and with that attention comes a mental test that the Welshman is yet to sit, although Evans insists he’ll be able to handle it. He said: “It doesn’t really matter to me because it’s only going to be me and him in the ring. At the end of the day, it’s a big stage but nobody can do the fighting for me, it’s all down to me and that’s how I like it. “There’s no chance I’m not coming home with that belt. I’m definitely 100% focused on what I’ve got to do. It’s a 50-50 fight but I’ve got the capability to beat Scott Cardle. “I just think people are underestimating me, to be honest. Go in the bookies, I’m like 3/1 and he’s 1/4 on. It’s pathetic. I don’t mind being the underdog. In fact, I prefer being the underdog. When the upset happens on the night, I can’t wait to raise that belt in the air.” Frank Warren, who manages and promotes Evans, has a notoriously frosty relationship with Matchroom Sport’s Eddie Hearn, who will promote next week’s show. Outside of a purse bid situation, the pair don’t match their own boxers against each other and Evans is grateful for being the exception to the unofficial rule of their Cold War. He said: “They don’t really get on. I’m grateful he’s [Warren] letting me take this fight for the British title, one of the best belts out there before the world stage. “He must have faith in me that I can beat Cardle, or otherwise I don’t think it would’ve gone on. So, he’s obviously got faith in me and thinks I’m going to win the fight, that’s why it’s going on.” During their amateur careers, Evans and Cardle often competed at the same international tournaments. However, back then Evans never expected to meet Cardle in the ring one day as they were separated by three weight categories and 12 kilograms [26lbs] in total. When Terry Flanagan departed with the Lonsdale belt, some observers were surprised to see the British Boxing Board of Control [BBBoC] nominate Evans to fight for the vacant lightweight [135lbs] title. That was because Evans had often stated his intention to compete five pounds south at super-featherweight [130lbs] and even agreed to challenge Norfolk’s Liam Walsh, only for the British and Commonwealth champion to go in another direction. Evans said: “I was surprised, too. It’s only five lbs, so I couldn’t turn it down really. I make lightweight more comfortable than I would make super-feather. That’s pushing it for me. I can still make it but doing lightweight is easier. “I pre-weighed-in about three days ago, I was 10st 2lbs [142lbs]. That’s only seven lbs over and I have another pre-weigh-in on Tuesday, three days before my last one and I’ve got to be 9st 13lbs [139lbs]. I’ll just tick over now, get the last bit of weight off and go through the motions. “I never expected to fight him. Cardle was at a big, high weight [69KG/147lbs in the amateurs], wasn’t he? So, I didn’t think he’d come down to 60KG [135lbs] but he’s making it somehow now. I was 57KG [125lbs] but I’ve gone up. I’m a big super-featherweight, so the extra few pounds don’t matter to me.” Both Evans and Cardle, who is trained by Joe Gallagher in Bolton, are classy counterpunchers with the ability to be flashy and there are very few factors to separate the pair. Speaking of their similarities, Evans said: “It could be quite similar, he does exactly the same as I do – tries to counter. Someone’s got to throw first, though. I think he might try play to the crowd; it’s on his promoter’s show. “I expect him to lead off and I’ll counter him. Hopefully, he’ll leave openings. It might be like a chess match and we’ll see who is the best counterpuncher.” In November, Evans made his first significant step up, widely out-pointing Scotland’s rough and tough Ronnie Clark. Unwilling to fight any more journeymen, Evans believes that fighting at a higher level will bring the best out of him. He said: “I didn’t perform very well that night. I won the fight comfortably but that still wasn’t 100% of Craig Evans, that. It was a good enough performance but not my best. “Come May 30th, I’ll produce the real goods. I’ll be better against better opponents and I’ll bring the title back to sunny Wales.” Evans moved to St Joseph’s Boxing Club in 2013 and instantly struck up a strong relationship with Tony Borg, a tough trainer and renowned disciplinarian in the gym. With Evans and Cardle so evenly matched, the importance of each boxer’s game plan is heightened and Evans has full confidence in Borg’s tactics. He said: “I’ve won every fight under Tony, that’s all I can do. He puts the training in with me, so I’m grateful for that. His son, Junior Borg, comes running with me, so there are no cutting corners. It’s good and I’m feeling fit, I just want this fight to come now. “I’ve been doing a lot of sparring with different types. I’ve sparred James Lilley, a light-middleweight, so I can tee off on him because he’s bigger. I’ve sparred Robbie Turley because he moves with his hands down a lot. I’ve sparred Gary Buckland because he’s strong, comes forward and always on top of you. I’ve been doing 12 rounds like that. Tony Borg puts me through my paces and we’re getting it right.” Since training in Newport, Evans has also spent invaluable time alongside gym addict Lee Selby. In that period, the Barry boy has progressed to world level and will challenge for Evgeny Gradovich’s IBF title on the same show as Evans’ date with Cardle. It has naturally spurred on Selby’s stablemates and Evans acknowledges the knock on effect in the gym. Evans said: “We all bring each other on. Gary Buckland’s told me not to let the big stage get to me, do what I do best. We all think I’ll bring the belt home and we all think Selby will bring the belt home. “A new world champ and British champ is going to be mayhem. It’ll bring the gym on and Welsh boxing in general.” In the past, it’s been well known that Evans has often been hindered by an injured left hand. It’s a situation that he accepts will take managing for the rest of his career and this camp has been no different. He said: “I’ve been holding off punching wise, it has been playing up but since I’ve been resting, icing it… I’ve been punching, sparring and it’s been holding off. Touch wood, it don’t go in the fight and it’ll go to plan. It’s been good up to now.” Sky Sports Box Office will show ‘Rule Britannia’ exclusively live this Saturday. Buy now at www.skysports.com/brookgavin