Like many young fighters I have interviewed in my time, Luther Clay’s response was like most, when asked on ‘how he got into boxing?’ However, what followed after Luther Clay’s introduction into fighting is a very different story to many of his fellow young British fighters starting their career in boxing. The 22 year old Welterweight from Bracknell tells all in an exclusive interview for FightTalk.net.
“I think it goes back to when I was at school because I always used to always get into fights. Not really because I used to go looking for it, but I was a little fat kid, so people used to try bullying me, but when it would happen I would always just fight back. When I was 15, I went to a mates house and we had a little spar and he beat me up! So he told me go down the boxing gym, I went down there and stayed for about 2 and a half years.”
“I stopped at 18 and went to uni, then I just started training and sparring again in Southampton. When I was sparring at uni boxing gym, Al Siesta and a Russian trainer Gennedi Gordienko came up to me in the gym, one thing lead to another and I ended up knocking down one of Gennedi’s Russian boys in sparring with a body shot, from there Gennedi showed an interest in me and then I got introduced to Al (Siesta) my manager. I trained for 6 months and went pro, it was all a bit random, nothing planned, it just kinda happened.”
At the age of just 18, Luther Clay was just about to embark on an interesting start to his professional career, taking fights in Latvia, Lithunia and Georgia through his managers far reaching contacts. I found the uncle-nephew relationship endearing between Luther Clay and his manager Al Siesta, you can usually find Al Siesta being a little more animated and involved in the corner when compared to most in the UK.
“Albert has done everything for me! He has invested a lot of his time and money into me, I was just in the gym not necessarily even thinking about going pro, but he saw something in me. I think the thing he likes is that I always work hard and when everybody was leaving the gym, I was still working. If Albert (Siesta) offers me any fight? Ill take it, so that probably gave him confidence.”
On the Groves Vs Eubank Jr WBSS undercard, Clay claimed some limelight with a good victory over Danny Craven, Clay maintaining consistency in taking on tougher opponents than many of his compatriots at this stage of his career. Craven (3-1), was classed as another 50/50 fight by much of the boxing media.
“Before the fight I was more nervous than the fight. I saw that Danny (Craven) had competed quite extensively in the amateurs, he was part of the GB setup or he trained with team GB? So, I was thinking; me coming from a background with only 11 amateur fights when I was between 15 and 17, I would be in for a tough fight! I saw he should of beat Isaac Macleod, but got robbed by the judges. Going into it I was very nervous, but obviously Al (Siesta) got me this big opportunity and I couldn’t turn it down just because I am nervous! Obviously these opportunities are not going to come around too often, so I had to take the fight!”
An unknown quantity to many, I had seen Luther fight on 2 shows for Siesta Boxing Promotions in Southampton and Portsmouth in the last year. Having looked a lot more confident with a hint of arrogance in and out of the ring in his fight with Craven, I was surprised to hear of his nerves in the lead up. But some of the most successful athletes in the World say ‘nerves can be a good thing!’
“When I watched Danny fight, I noticed 2 things. I hadn’t watched all his fights, only watched about 3 minutes altogether. I knew that he had a good work rate and that he had quite fast hands, but I could see he wasn’t thinking about what he was doing! That made me realise, this guy is going have trouble adjusting in the fight, he will just come and try to overwhelm me with. I knew that he wasn’t going to overwhelm me with pressure, because I’m quite calm under pressure anyway, I knew he didn’t punch harder than me and I knew I could take his punches as well, do you know what I mean? From there it was about developing the right type of game-plan to go about the fight. I don’t usually box on the back foot to be honest, but it felt like the right thing to do, just keep catching him as he kept coming in. If that didn’t work, I was just going to go to war with him!”
Nerves turned to rage and disrespect in the lead up to the weigh in. Whilst Luther Clay made the agreed 147 pound weight, he was thrown another curve-ball in an already tough fight.
“You know what happened? As I said, I was nervous before the fight! But him and his team pissed me off in the interview and they pissed me off with the weigh-in incident! During the press conference they didn’t show any respect, they said something like ‘we watched his fights, we are going to walk through him!’ That pissed me off! Then at the weigh-in, they came in 2 or 3 kilos heavier than me! They didn’t even try to get down, the contracted weight was at 68 kilos and they came in at around 70.5, something like that. Obviously I got compensated, It just really pissed me off! Obviously they have known about this fight since November! They didn’t even try to lose the weight, I would of been OK with a kilo. At the weight I had to give them the option; to fight or not fight? It was too late to bring in a replacement. By this point I was thinking, I am going fuck you up or embarrass you! I don’t normally go into a fight like that, but they just annoyed me. Also on his boxrec it says he is 5’10, at the weigh in I could clearly see he was not 5’10! So that also helped my confidence, a lot of things came together to affect how I usually perform.”
When comparing Clay’s first 8 fights to that of many other young pros around the country, it’s safe to say that Clay has been matched a lot harder in his introduction to professional boxing. We have seen many promising fighters build a padded record of between 10 and 20 fights undefeated to only fall short against national level seasoned professionals. I was interested to get Luther’s views on one of the most talked about topics in British boxing.
“I’ll give you a good example of someone who is of similar experience to me. This is no disrespect coming from me, but someone like Conor Benn right? We have about the same boxing experience, we both don’t have massive amateur backgrounds and stuff like that. Obviously we are on completely different roads, he’s been blessed because of what his dad has done and that, so he’s come off the name and been able to fight on the big stage, but not fight the best competition. In his last fight Conor struggled because he’s had the walkover opponents, even though some had good records, if you study the records you can see that these are not actually real fights. If you are going to develop as fighter you need gain valuable experience, each fight is an experience you can learn from, each fight should be a new level above. I feel as I’ve had those tough type of fights and that I have some wins that I have scrapped through, but at the same time, if I was fighting walkover opponents I would have a 100% KO ratio.”
“I’m coming off my 4th 50/50 fight! Ideally it’s not the way to do it, but I gain confidence from that and pull on those experiences. I can pull from the controversial loss in Georgia, I can pull from my fight in Southampton, I can trust my chin, I can pull from the sparring experiences in Russia, I can pull from sparring Josh Kelly! That’s the big difference between me and other fighters.”
You can follow Luther Clay @LutherClayBP
By Adam Noble-Forcey for FightTalk.net