I CHOSE TO LOSE, NOW I’LL CHOOSE NOT TO: JAMIE SPEIGHT
In Speight’s words he might be, “South Devon’s answer to Jesus; I hear he told good stories too but I wasn’t around to hear them”. I went to church as a kid, I don’t remember Jesus being funny. Ebullient with anecdotes and opinions, some publishable- some not very Jesus, our chat includes a disastrous and shocking weight making story, Jamie's take on the YouTube phenomenon (“silly cunts jumping on the bandwagon who couldn’t fight sleep”) and his journey from belt holder to away fighter.
The most fascinating part to me is what’s next for the thirty three year old. Speight plans a career move which, if it comes off, will be a comeback story unseen in a British ring.
Nicknamed “The Genius”, Speight decided against university after his Dad offered him some sobering four letter words and decent money learning a trade in scaffolding (which still brings home the bacon). It wasn’t enough for the lively teenager though, who felt unfulfilled, “I got £120, I’d never seen £120, I was motivated by money.”
“All my mates were playing football and going out and I was scaffolding and I absolutely hated it. I had no interest in it, I had more money than all my mates but I felt like I was missing out.”
Off the back of a very respectable amateur career, Speight turned professional at nineteen, and first won the Southern Area Super Featherweight Title in his twelfth fight- beating Scott Moises 97-95 in 2012. Four straight defeats followed, all for titles and at three different weights. One of these, at featherweight, was a ten round points reverse to Josh Warrington for the English Title.
Speight then won the Southern Area belt again, this time at featherweight, and defended it once before fighting Tyson Fury’s friend and alleged trainer Isaac Lowe in 2015. Speight was stopped in the ninth round. He is still less than happy about it,
“Lowe probably nicked the first three, then I started to grow into the fight and in the eighth he was blowing. Then in the ninth I was on the end of a horrible stoppage. He landed one good shot and Howard Foster [the referee] stopped it… The rules say ‘Intelligently defending himself’, that can be footwork, head movement, blocking shots- I was doing two of them and they still stopped the fight.”
Speight gate crashed Lowe’s victorious post fight IFL interview and while the two were mostly respectful, Lowe clearly isn’t someone Speight retains much love for. “He might be a really nice lad, Isaac, but he doesn’t come across that way.”
“I checked myself the night before the weigh in and I was 9 stone 1 pound and 8 ounces. I always lose 2 pounds overnight so I thought that’s fine- but I still was the same in the morning. I ran a boiling bath, went lobster red, I was in agony, the missus was filling it up from the kettle. I was still 9 stone 2 ounces.”
“I did a run in the sweat suit, went on the runner, and rower, and bike and then the sauna with the bully hat on. I wiped it all off and I was 8 stone 12, and still had to drive up to London. So I put the coat back on and the heating in the car right up and jogged in the passenger seat, shadow boxing all the way up the motorway.”
“Walked in and everyone’s standing around watching me; I had to hope I was at the weight, couldn’t piss, couldn’t poo, there was nothing in me! I was 8 stone 9 pounds dead on, in four hours from almost 9 stone 2. I was absolutely dead. Went back to the room, ate, put the weight back on right and felt a million dollars in the hotel was ripped to shreds!”
“I was 9 stone 6 pounds when I went into the ring and I thought I’d knock him out, but my body and mind weren’t connected. I could see it coming and was thinking slip, counter, right to the body… and just couldn’t do it. Just had to put my hands up and have a fight with him and lost on points. I looked and felt great until I had to react to stuff. I almost quit fighting after.”
A brutal lesson but Speight didn’t quit, returning in October that year with an eight round points win before being stopped by Josh Kennedy for the Southern Area Featherweight Title. He was then outpointed over ten by recent world title challenger Jason Cunningham in March 2017. A tenth round stoppage of Martin Hillman just two months later saw Speight crowned Southern Area Featherweight king again, but it was the last time he had his hand raised and there’s a reason why.
“What got me in the away corner? I got a message off Eddie Hearn asking if I wanted to fight Joe Cordina. £3k for six rounds.”
In the five years of losses since, Speight has taken on top up and comers, the best of whom he says was Cordina. “It was like trying to fight wasps, he was so fast and everywhere. He’s a lovely lad, I told him he’s something special, he’s the best fighter I’ve shared the ring with on every level. The only thing is he wasn’t a hard puncher but that might have changed. He was just so fast and accurate.”
The other side to that coin, and it is a coin given as an away fighter Jamie is promised a purse every fight, is that a man who has fought to championship level has to take losing to novices who perhaps don’t have much ahead for them. Explaining this, one aside of Speight's about prospect, who will remain nameless, makes me laugh particularly hard because I know who he is talking about and he’s right. It sums up the mentality of most road warriors I’ve spoken to.
“Absolutely delusional, needs to be saved from himself. Useless, crap, couldn’t punch the skin off a rice pudding. These guys have people around them to blow smoke up their arse…
“I understand my role, it is like being a teacher. I teach them how to look after themselves in the ring. Does that mean I can’t beat them? Absolutely not, just my financial priorities lay elsewhere. 90% of the lads I’ve boxed I could beat.”
Here is where the Jamie Speight story goes from engrossing to exciting: South Devon’s answer to Jesus plans a resurrection. At 15-46-0 Jamie Speight wants wins, and belts, again.
With legendary journeymen Kevin McCauley and Team Southpaw Jab’s Lewis “Poochi” van Poetsch deciding to call it quits (although Poochi might be going out with a bang too if his stoppage of Derek Renfrew is anything to go by), this could be bravado in the face of reality. It could be deluded, in fact it might be and I asked him that. I had to. Speight has thought this through, pointing to his repeated title level experience and successes. “Poochi’s a laugher and joker but it must be hard for him to focus for ten rounds. He’s a good fighter but I don’t think he’s area level. Good guy though I like him.”
“To go in at area level and do that over ten rounds and keep tight and deal with the mental pressure with someone who wants to win, I’ve done that.”
“It’s hard to say exactly. Steve’s [Goodwin, Jamie’s manager] a good path maker. I have no interest in selling tickets, that ship has sailed, I don’t have the energy in me. I’ve said to Steve I’ll be in the away corner but I’m not coming to roll over. He’ll have to match me accordingly.”
“I don’t regret being on the road because it’s given me knowledge and wisdom experience and there’s no better teller in life than experience. I’m thirty three, I’m long in the tooth, I’m old in terms of boxing and what I’ve done who I've been in with some will say over the hill. My aim is to come back, pick up my old Southern Area belt, then the English, then maybe a shot at the British - my dream would be the British.”
There are lots of questions one could ask but ultimately Jamie Speight is not a man who has walked the easiest road. Sometimes even when he could have. One has to leave it to him. He always wants to show his class, in whatever capacity he is employed. He is a fighter through and through and honestly, I want to see him succeed. This is an ambitious plan for changing times. Over to Jamie.
“We’ve got to roll with the times, people can identify as pineapples and Jake Paul is getting paid millions to box… Boxing has changed, it’s not over if you lose now. I chose to lose, it’s as simple as that. Now I’m gonna choose not to lose.”
It's an explosive suggestion, but not something anyone who has watched hundreds of four, six or eight rounders won't thought. The away fighter is sometimes clearly better than the result they're given on the night. I've said it myself many times in my fight reports. Do I think he can win a belt again? Yes, talent wise I do, actually. Whether anyone wants a piece of Jamie Speight out of their own pocket is his biggest obstacle. I and all at Southpaw Jab can’t wait to see how this unfolds for Jamie, as a character and a boxer he’s so much fun.