By Oliver McManus @OliverGMcManus
From the Royal spa town of Tunbridge Wells, Lewis Syrett is making a noise in the middleweight division from his quaint surroundings.
Thirty years old and with five professional contests under his belt, Syrett has no misconceptions as to the element of time but is eager to heighten is development in double-quick fashion. Fresh from the news of his ‘big break’ – the opportunity to fight as part of Matchroom Boxing’s March 23rd card – I spoke to Syrett and he began, aptly, with how this whole route started.
“It was kind of by chance, how I started, because a friend of mine didn’t want to go down the gym by himself and he felt a bit intimidated so I went along with him. He ended up packing it in after about a month but I was hooked and I’ve carried on ever since. This was when I was 17, 18 and almost straight away I got that buzz and I didn’t miss a session for a couple years – three times a week for as long as I can remember.”
50 bouts as on the amatuer circuit as a representative of Sevenoaks A.B.C signifies a man with a love of fighting, indeed Syrett once had five fights in as many weeks, but I wanted to know about his one-off appearance in the Queensbury Boxing League – an almost white-collar version of amatuer boxing.
“It was pretty rubbish, to be honest, it was shocking. I only had the one fight but I saw the standard and instantly knew it wasn’t for me. I had been doing a bit of sparring with Darryll Williams, I basically told him about the whole experience, and he was encouraging me to turn pro. I said ‘ah no, I’m too old’. He kept at it, though, kept telling me so I eventually got in touch with Steve (Goodwin) and took the jump.”
I had the London Marathon the next morning
A jump it was, turning professional at 28 despite a plethora of background experience was always going to raise a few eyebrows and the internal critics rounded on Syrett as he made his decision,
“Really I thought I was too old to make any progress in the sport, any at all, because it’s a young sport but as I started late I thought I might be the fresher man, it won’t have taken too much out of me in comparison to those that have been in boxing since they were 10, 11 years old.”
Over the course of two years since turning professional – Syrett debut against Aleksandr Chukaleyski in April 2017 – the middleweight has racked up five wins without defeat. Reflecting on those opening handful of bouts, Syrett told me it was still that debut that stood out in his mind as the one to beat. For more reasons than the obvious, it transpired.
“The debut was pretty special as I had such a long camp for it and I hadn’t recorded a lot of stoppages as an amatuer so to make my debut and knock him out in the third round was a good feeling. Then I had the London Marathon the next morning, that’ll take some beating.”
I had to ask just how quick he managed to run the marathon,
“3hours 50minutes and that was on very little sleep, if I’m honest, I was still buzzing from the debut so it took me a while to nod off.”
It seems with every conversation I have with professional boxers that the subject of ticket sales will always rear its head and whilst I’m always reluctant to poke my nose in that area of business, Syrett was keen to talk about of his own accord.
“Listen it is hard but I cover what I need to sell and there’s situations out of your control. I think of my five fights one of them was the same day as the Champions League final, one was a bank holiday and one of them was a Sunday where I was the last fight so, all things considered, it’s going well and I’m getting more support each fight.”
Originally scheduled to be fighting Serge Ambomo on March 9th, as part of a Goodwin Boxing title triple-header, southpaw Syrett got the nod to feature on his first televised show – March 23rd at the Copper Box. He insisted he was in better shape than ever,
“It’s been a really good camp this time around and it’s been a little bit longer given the Christmas break but I’ve been getting some really good sparring with Sean Robinson. He fights for the Southern Area on March 9th. I’m 30 now so I haven’t got bags of time and someone like Ambomo is the right step to take, he’s a tricky opponent who can get me to the next level. If I want to be pushing on for titles I need to be beating guys like Serge and I’ve seen he’s beat Tamuka Mucha, 16 and 0 at the time, former amatuer champion, he’ll be good to have on my record.”
By the end of the year I would like to be pushing on for titles
Even with his limited professional exposure, Syrett has fought on big shows with monumental atmospheres thanks to the level of production from Goodwin Boxing. Two of his fights have come on bills topped by Wadi Camacho – fight number six will make that a third such occasion – and Syrett told me he wanted to keep being part of these events.
“They’re massive, really, there’s always new people you can impress and after fighting Serge I want to get some more six rounders in. I’ve only had four round fights so far so I need to be able to get that experience on these shows and by the end of the year I would like to be pushing on for titles. I would like to be set up for the Southern Area in 2020 but with the division being so packed I might need a couple more fights to get myself into that picture.”
With Tey Lynn Jones vacating, Linus Udofia stepping up to national title contention, the path might become a little bit clearer for Syrett. Whilst the Southern Area is the immediate goal in the pipeline, success means something far different to the Lionheart of Tunbridge Wells.
“I’m fairly happy with what I’ve done so far but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop and relax. I didn’t have the best amatuer record, I was half and half, and I thought people wouldn’t care about me turning pro. I’m happy with what I’ve done, five wins from five, but the initial icing on the cake would be the Southern Area. I’ll get that, if all goes to plan, and we’ll see what happens from there, but I’m enjoying every minute so far.”
The man responsible, ultimately, for delivering that title shot will be a certain Steve Goodwin. Arguably the best manager in boxing, if you’re going to sign with anyone then Steve is the man, and Syrett was full of praise for his manager (perhaps unsurprisingly).
“He seems really laid back but he can get you out as often as you want and he has picked some good opponents for me. He has made it a lot easier for me, I’ve not had to worry too much. Because of that I can focus on the boxing more, takes some of the stress away. I think what he does well is getting the opponents, no two have been the same and I’ve learnt something different each time.
He’ll come at me from the off and try to spoil the party
The last two (Aleksejs Palcuns and Zygimantas Butkevicius) have really come to win and they had a proper go. I got cut on the eye on both occasions, they kept me thinking. Even Victor Edagha, he was a real spoiler. Threw a few heads in and I’m not sure if I broke my nose or not but it was incredibly swollen the next day. He was something different, they all have been so the experiences I’ve had are some that other guys might not have in eight, nine fights, if that makes sense.”
A full time scaffolder who gets up at five in the morning and has a lunch break at eleven is the mark of someone with an incredibly packed diary. Hard work that’s worth it, Syrett admits. Is it difficult to separate the two aspects of his life, I wondered. ‘Do you ever just find yourself punching some scaffolding?’
“I can’t say I’ve been one to do that but I’ve seen a few guys who get caught out shadow boxing on the site. My old company used to support me so the support from those guys is amazing. A lot of them love boxing and getting them down on fight night means a lot.”
Finally, then, come March 23rd when Lewis gets that huge opportunity, at the Copper Box, how exactly is his fight with Serge Ambomo going to pan out?
“I’m looking to win clearly on points. He’s only been stopped by Denzel Bentley who has stopped pretty much everyone he has fought. I imagine he’ll come at me from the off and try to spoil the party but I’m going to come through it comfortably and win clearly. It’s not that I don’t back myself in getting a knockout but I’m not going to take unnecessary risks against someone like Serge. I would say I’m going to win every round, I’ve left a couple of my fights quite close, so March 23rd will be the start of something new.”