Despite the disappointment of not fighting in his hometown of Newcastle on the now postponed April Matchroom Boxing show due to be headlined by Lewis Ritson, Matt “The King in the North” McCallum is remaining positive. The world faces uncertain times in every aspect of life as does he, but he believes there will be good to come,
“I’m a massive optimist, I’ve always said we’ll come out better people, looking out for each other. Caring more for our neighbours, the elderly.”
I first spoke to Matt a few weeks ago, but then COVID-19 struck suddenly and severely and it seemed prudent to speak about how it has affected him. Personally I agree with Matt, eventually we will see the best of people. We’ll see some of the worst, first though. While he admits that “selfishly, I’m devastated”, McCallum also sees the funny side of some of the hysteria.
“Toilet roll! If it was the end of the world the last thing I’d be worried about is wiping my arse!”
With his boxing career on hiatus, along with everyone else’s, Matt also has a successful building business which is going to suffer. “We had a lot of work in the pipeline which obviously now we can’t go into the people’s houses. It is worrying, it’s certainly gonna be for a little bit.
We’re gonna pay the lads first, employees are our priority.”
Even in disappointment Matt is a fun interview and it would have been a waste not to introduce him as a person as well as a fighter new on the scene. In order to stay fit in isolation he’s also re-purposed a hanger…
Having trained a little as a teenager and getting “strong and fit”, Matt readily admits that some understandable distractions saw him digress, “I was into partying and girls and all the other stuff kids that age are”. Now though, he has grown up and calmed down, “I used to be epic mad, but certainly since boxing it’s sort of gradually phased out you know and I don’t really drink much now.”
Soon to be thirty, but until then he’s twenty nine- that’s how it works, McCallum turned professional off the back of a run in the “unlicensed”* or “semi-pro” sport. Whichever term you choose to use, and whatever you think of it, there’s no looking down on his record there; fourteen fights, fourteen wins, twelve by knockout. He had no plans to join the pro ranks until his large fanbase and continued victories made him think twice.
“The last fight was against a lad who was supposed to be one of the best in the area. I knocked him out in the second round, he didn’t lay a glove on us. So I thought I’d reach out to MtK Newcastle.”
Matt’s fighting moniker “The King in the North” is a reference from the self confessed Game of Thrones obsessive to the show he adores and embodies his beloved homeland. Although the Starks (the northern powerhouse in Game of Thrones) suffer a fair amount of bad luck they are bastard hard and this is what Matt identifies with.
“I kept the King of the North name [from his unlicensed career] and added the wolf mask, it’s just a bit different and fun isn’t it. I’m a tough Northerner with a good chin and loads of heart… I know I’ve got the minerals.”
Born and bred in Gateshead, McCallum was a city boy until at ten he moved to the countryside, which he loves and admits only half jokingly that he is something of a “bumpkin”. The lifestyle there and a more mature age has helped Matt’s focus for his boxing- right down to fowl and four legged friends.
“Me and my girlfriend have got animals- we’ve chicken, five sheep and eleven goats. The country life is brilliant, I love the city and training but then at the weekends I’m chasing chickens and stopping goats from eating the neighbour’s rose bush and washing on the line! Maybe I should do a Rocky and use it all for training!
I want to win an area then yeah, English and British. That’s what I want to work towards. Imagine being British champion off fourteen unlicensed fights. I intend to make some noise.”
Matt’s is a likeable ago and ambition, there’s no showboating just an honest confidence from the man who admits, “I get nervous, everyone does, but certainly on fight day it comes in waves you know. I believe in being prepared and on fight day I go into the zone and it becomes instinctive.”
Planning to campaign at around the middleweight divisions means Matt enters some very strong domestic scenes. With MtK behind him, who Matt describes as “absolutely brilliant” to work with, and appearances on big cards in his homeland The King in the North could fast become a local favourite. For now though, COVID-19 means winter is coming and boxing will have to wait for a bit.
*Unlicensed merely means that the BBBofC haven’t granted fighters a licence- which is misunderstood as you only have to apply to be refused a licence. Unlicensed fights have the same strict doctoral adherence as any well looked after boxing show has. Pre and post fight checks and a doctor ringside. In Matt’s words “I only ever fought lads who put just as much hard work, grit and soul into training as I had.”