Dale ‘Big Boy’ Evans is back from the brink of retirement

Dale ‘Big Boy’ Evans is back from the brink of retirement

Next Saturday, St Clears’ Dale Evans (10-3-2, 3KO) will be grateful just to be back in the ring after coming so close to hanging up his gloves for good.

Since dropping then British champion Sam Eggington in October, the 24-year-old Welshman hasn’t been able to secure a single fight and has found himself on the shelf for nearly nine demoralising months, without any opportunities to fight.

Evans said: “It’s been frustrating. My head has been gone and I literally didn’t know what I was going to do. I’ve considered jacking it in before now but this time, I was on the verge of calling it a day. If I’m not fighting, I’m not progressing or earning money. It’s that simple.”

When Frankie Gavin was ruled out of an all-Birmingham clash with Eggington, ‘Big Boy’ accepted a late notice call to save the show on just 10 days notice. The British and Commonwealth champion was enjoying a hot-streak and it was supposed to be a formality.

That was until Evans uncorked a hurtful right to put Eggington down early in the fight. Just like their meeting in 2013’s Prizefighter [which Evan won], a tight contest unfolded. Eggington recovered well and banked the middle rounds as Evans’ conditioning forced him to pace himself, saving energy for a last minute rally that had Eggington stunned and holding on to take a deserved Unanimous Decision win.

It was a gallant performance that should have seen good faith returned and that was promised. It was Matchroom Sport’s Eddie Hearn, arguably the most powerful man in British boxing, who tweeted Evans the next day to say: “Warrior mate! Love to have you back! Speak soon.” Nothing materialised.

Reflecting on the situation, Evans said: “Eddie is who he is, he can say what he wants. Whatever he does say, doesn’t always happen. I am disappointed but that’s boxing. It’s harsh at times. Several times I’ve been promised things and they haven’t come off but that’s just the pro game.

“It can be hard and I’ve done everything hard from the start. Nothing’s ever gone my way; I’ve always done it the hard way. I am disappointed in them but that’s the way it is.”

The closest Evans came to fighting in his period of inactivity was in May. Lancashire’s Shayne Singleton was scheduled to appear on the undercard of world champion Anthony Crolla but had no opponent. After agreeing to face Evans on social media eight weeks before fight night, Singleton soon backtracked. However, his manager came back at the 11th hour to make a formal offer… on 13 days notice.

Recalling the dilemma, Evans said: “For once, I kept myself fit. I have my blowouts after fights but I was pretty fit and there were still seven or eight weeks worth of notice before the fight. I wasn’t sure if it was happening, I was told it was and then wasn’t. I private messaged Shayne and he said his manager [Steve Wood] had different ideas so that fight was put to the back of my mind because it wasn’t happening.

“Two weeks before Singleton was scheduled to fight, they offered it to me. I’d stopped training by then, had a bit of a blowout again because I was considering packing it in. I thought I had my chance against Eggington and it wouldn’t come again. It was the same situation I’m always in, I never know when my next fight is. They knew it and tried to catch me unprepared.”

Finally, Evans will return to the ring on Frank Warren’s show at the Ice Arena Wales in Cardiff Bay, co-headlined by his stablemate star Liam Williams and Cuban genius Guillermo Rigondeaux. The welterweight will face Yorkshire’s lively Ryan Hardy (8-9) over six rounds and it’s the first step towards earning another shot at his career goal – the British Lord Lonsdale belt.

He said: “There was always something in the back of my mind [to persuade him to carry on]. I have my tantrum, then I have to pick myself back up. I don’t tell myself I’m too good to give up but there’s always that bit of drive inside me. I want to win the British title, I’ve come close once and I do feel I’ve got it in me to win one.”

It will be just Evans’ third appearance in his home country of the last 11 outings. Having taken a small pack of loyalists across Britain over the last three years, Evans is grateful to the support of the wider West Wales army of fans, whose numbers swell when he fights closer to home. The unforgiving nature of the fight game’s finances for undercard fighters like Evans, who boast no famous relative or outstanding amateur achievement, means that the fans are playing a very valued part of his comeback.

Explaining their importance, he said: “It’s nice to be back and it’s nice to be fighting at home. Well, I call it home, it’s still almost two hours for most of my family and friends but it’s great to be back on such a big bill by Frank Warren.

“I’ve had fantastic support and it’s the most tickets I’ve ever sold. Ticket sales are everything to me because I’m not contracted to any promoter, I can only be on the shows through ticket deals. I’ve done really well and I thank every single person for supporting me.”

Coincidentally, the current owner of Evans’ dream will appear on the same show. London’s slick Bradley Skeete, who cruised to a points win against Eggington to take the brace of domestic titles in March, will defend another of his titles, the WBO European bauble, against France’s unfancied Alexandre Lepelley. Evans will naturally be a keen observer but the show’s second float isn’t deluded about his place in the pecking order.

Evans said: “I’m in no position to call the shots. I’ve tried to be a bit gobby in the past and Tweet him, hoping something comes up. Bradley was being professional and ignored my tweets. Now, I’ve got to earn my way to fight him and the only way I can do that is a solid performance on the 16th and a British title eliminator.

“I’m confident [in beating Skeete] with the right preparation and training. I’ll have to take time off work and I feel a good six or eight weeks with Gary [Lockett – trainer and manager], I have the tools to beat him. He’s very clever and skillful, he could cause me many problems but I’m confident with a fair chance.”

One avenue to pursue may take Evans to a corner of Britain that he’s yet to fight in. The British Boxing Board of Control [BBBoC] have ordered an eliminator against Dundee’s Mike Towell (11-0-1, 8KO), an unknown quantity who has his Welsh competitor’s respect.

Evans concluded: “He’s a similar fighter to me, we have some similarities but I think I’ve got the edge in the boxing side of things. I don’t think he’s a fantastic boxer, he’s a brawler with serious power and can end a fight early. When that fight happens, I think it’ll be really good but I’ll come out on top.”

Fingers crossed the next fight doesn’t take nine months, too.