Gary Lockett’s stable set to fly the flag on a massive weekend for Welsh boxing

Gary Lockett’s stable set to fly the flag on a massive weekend for Welsh boxing

Gary Lockett’s resurging stable has an opportunity to add two major domestic belts to the trophy cabinet this weekend and the experienced trainer admits to having ‘the best atmosphere in the gym’ that he can remember.

The Cardiff-based trainer has recruited a coupe of new faces over recent months and Lockett’s stable includes boxers at almost every stage of a career. Even world class Mix Martial Artists come through the doors at Llanrumney Boxing Club to work with the world title challenger.

“Everyone thrives off each other,” he said. “It’s the best time at the moment, the best atmosphere in the gym that I can remember. It’s just a scream. It’s very funny.

“There are no egos and if there was, they’d be quickly shot down. It’s a real good environment to be in. Everyone respects each other and they’re all learning off each other.”

Five of Lockett’s boxers won on last weekend’s MTK Global show in the capital, three recording early knockouts. He has another busy weekend ahead but the stakes are far higher.

It starts with Swansea’s Chris Jenkins (20-3-2, 8KO), who heads to London’s Royal Albert Hall on a BT Sport televised show. Once a rising force, a series of unfortunate events have seen the talent cast to the shadows in the last three years.

Jenkins steps up a weight category to challenge British welterweight champion Johnny Garton (23-1-1, 10KO) on away territory. It’s no easy task and the Welshman will have to be at his best to fulfill the potential once prophesied by many knowledgeable observers.

“You just need that little bit of luck. This could be just what Chris needs,” said Lockett. “He’s a forgotten man, lets be fair. After Prizefighter, he lost to Tyrone Nurse in a very close fight and he was dropped by Matchroom, never thought of again. He didn’t have a promoter behind him and he doesn’t sell tons of tickets.

“He’s been off the radar, people don’t realise what a good fighter he is. Obviously, he’s been in good fights since but he’s been a victim of circumstance. People only remember results in boxing.

“I think it’s his last chance to be honest because of the facts that he doesn’t tickets, he’s 30 years of age and I don’t think he’s got the hunger to carry on the way that it’s been in the last two or three years. Four and six round fights for very little money against journeymen… Chris wants to face good fighters. It is his last chance. We’re only looking at winning and he’s very capable of doing that.”

By contrast, Garton is a man riding the crest of a wave. Despite Southern Area and English title success, the 31-year-old wasn’t fancied by many to dramatically halt Gary Corcoran in their October battle for Lord Lonsdale honours. Lockett is full of admiration for the Englishman’s achievements and respect for his team.

He said: “Garton had a great game plan and Corcoran played right in to his hands. He lost a lot of the early rounds but stuck in there, counterpunched and matched fire with fire. If you stand and have a shoot out with Garton, he’s a very intelligent boxer.

“It’s an absolutely brilliant success story. I know Al Smith, his trainer, really well. I’ve been to his gym and he’s a man who I greatly respect in a lot of ways. He’s the kind of trainer I like; keeps his mouth shut, doesn’t do a lot of media, doesn’t think he’s a superstar and he’s a very nice fella.”

“Johnny is a real nice guy, too. I can guarantee you one thing; this fight won’t have any beef or bad mouthing or anything. These are two really nice, respectful fighters. They’ll show each other that outside and inside the ring.”

If it is Jenkins’ last chance, Lockett is convinced he’ll put on a fight to remember. Both challenger and champion have shown flashes of being most effective when mixing it up. Given their track records of bumps and bruises, it may also leave them exposed to responses and Lockett is mindful of the likelihood of a war.

He said: “Chris and Garton sparred before, a few years ago, and it was a good spar. I take nothing at all from it, though. Chris likes a scrap, lets not forget. It’s got cuts and bumps of head written all over it. It’s going to be a barnstormer. It’ll be a blood bath. Two come forward fighters and that’s part of the reason they’ve chosen fight – BT Sport are gonna get a very entertaining fight.

“In boxing, people forget people after just one defeat. Hopefully he wins the British title on Friday night and it’ll be a massive a massive come from behind win. It’ll be a great turnaround in fortunes.”

The very next morning, Lockett will head back west on the M4 to Wales, where Cardiff’s unbeaten hope Nathan Thorley (12-0, 6KO) faces his toughest test yet. The hard-hitting Welsh champion comes up against London-based Irishman Paddy McDonagh (11-2) for the Celtic title, who has upset the odds before.

The interesting light-heavyweight contest headlines Sanigar Events’ show at the Rhydycar Leisure Centre in Merthyr Tydfil. However, it has been dealt a blow as terrestrial broadcaster S4C pulling the plug following injuries and withdrawals from other planned title fights.

Lockett said: “To be honest, it’s disappointing that S4C have pulled out because that would’ve been a good platform to show what he can do but regardless, life doesn’t stop with TV. It’s still a good opportunity. He’s won the Welsh title, this is the Celtic title and the natural ways forward after that is headed towards a British title. Nathan isn’t looking at the Celtic title as his final destination; he’s looking at British titles and beyond. The hunger that he’s got is second to none.

“We won’t be silly and mention silly names, he needs to work himself in to contention and we’ll see where we go. I’ve got high hopes for him. We see Paddy as a very good stepping-stone, albeit whilst respecting him. I think he carried more power than his record suggests, he has some good wins on paper and we won’t be taking him lightly.

“Paddy is not coming to survive. He has a winning record and will, therefore, give Nathan opportunities to land bombs. Listen that goes both ways. Nathan has been down before in the past. They’re both gonna give each other opportunities. I say the power and boxing ability is with Nathan but he’s got to perform and work on what we’ve done.”

Thorley is one of the more recent additions to Lockett’s stable. The pair have had one fight together so far – a second round stoppage of Jevgenijs Andrejevs, an opponent Thorley had previously beaten on points. Already a Welsh champion by the time he arrived, Lockett is sure they can push on to higher levels.

He said: “Nathan is very hard working. You haven’t got to ask him twice to do what you tell him. He was standing a little bit tall before. There wasn’t a great deal to improve really. He was standing a little bit tall and spent far too long on the back foot, whereas he’s a massive light-heavyweight.

“I’ve just told him that he needs to get his hands up, chin down and be the boss. His punch power, he could knock a horse out. He just needs to have more confidence in his power and stand his ground more. It doesn’t come overnight but I’m pretty pleased with his progress. He’s improving all the time and we can get to the British title fights.”

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