One step at a time

When Andy Murray or Emma Raducanu steps out to play at Wimbledon, they do so unencumbered with the type of baggage that afflicts many an emerging talent on the boxing scene. They have the familiar sporting luxury of simply picking up their racket and carrying it onto the court, there is no requirement to hang around outside the turnstiles hawking tickets to ensure the arena is full.

Yet when Boxing Social phones hard-hitting 135lbs prospect Mark Chamberlain, a mere four days before the biggest fight of his career at Wembley Arena, it finds him at the wheel of his car still hunting down errant ticket money from friends and other luminaries.

“Nine times out of ten you’ve got to do the journey twice,” he says with a resigned chuckle, of a routine that is familiar to all but the most gold-plated of Olympians. “You drop people’s tickets off, but they don’t pay you for them, so then you’ve got to go back around again in fight week and pick the money up like I’m doing now. It’s a bit of a nightmare, but it’s all part of the game.

“At least during lockdown, I didn’t have to worry about selling tickets. That was definitely a bit easier, ”he adds.

It was those empty lockdown arenas that first brought Chamberlain [10-0, 7KOs] to the attention of the public television. The 23-year-old’s fight with Stu Greener was broadcast live on BT Sport and was the first pro boxing action in the UK following the Covid-19-induced lockdown.

Chamberlain took his opportunity to impress by violently dispatching the durable Greener in under a minute following a flurry of punches that included one particularly vicious left hand that reverberated around the silent arena and sent his opponent careering backwards into the ropes.

Although the man nicknamed ‘Thunder’ is committed to entertaining the watching public and understands the modern value of a brutal 10-second knockout clip on social media, he is adamant that he didn’t go searching for an early finish. “It just happened really,” he says in softly spoken tones.

“I don’t go looking for knockouts, because then it doesn’t happen. But I’ve always had the power since day one. You know when I started hitting him [Greener], he was laughing. But after I stopped him, I don’t think he found it quite so funny. ”

On Saturday night the Frank Warren promoted Portsmouth resident will take the next step on a professional boxing career that started with a 39-second knockout of Aleksandrs Birkenbergs at the Brentwood Center in 2018. On offer will be the IBF European belt and should he be successful it will mark Chamberlain’s first title success in the paid ranks.

These relatively newly minted trinkets from the main sanctioning bodies are often maligned by boxing purists, but they do allow a fighter to establish themselves with a top 15 ranking with the relevant ABC body. Therefore, the appeal is obvious for fighters striving to establish a foothold on the international scene.

Standing in Chamberlain’s way will be experienced Spanish former-European featherweight champion Marc Vidal [13-2-5, 5KOs]. Chamberlain admits that he has completed only minimal research concerning the man in the other corner. “I don’t really like to look into my opponents too much. You know he could turn up and be totally different on the night, so I tend not to get drawn into watching videos of them and stuff, ”he says.

“Obviously, I have seen bits and pieces, but I’ll take it round-by-round on the night. I’ll have a little look in the first few seconds and just go from there. ”

This will be Chamberlain’s first ring appearance since forcing the dangerous Jeff Ofori to retire on his stool after five rounds back in March. In achieving what was in reality a very comfortable win over the Londoner, who just two fights earlier had run the unbeaten ‘Sharpshooter’ Archie Sharp close over ten rounds, the southpaw sent out a clear message to his domestic competition.

Yet, he confirms, perhaps ominously for his upcoming opponent, that he wasn’t at his best on the night. “I felt like I didn’t really get going. I made a slow sort of start and everything. I think I expected him to come out and put it on me like he did with Archie [Sharp] but it didn’t happen that way.

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