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.
“Anyway, I got the job done, and smacked his nose in half,” says Chamberlain, by way of an afterthought.
The Boxing Social domestic rankings currently have the 23-year-old residing in seventh place. A solid achievement considering Chamberlain’s still relatively sparse number of professional outings. He eyes some of the names above him including the likes of modern Lazarus and IBO world champion Maxi Hughes, distinguished elder statesman Ricky Burns, and recently crowned British and Commonwealth champion Gavin Gwynne with a mixture of respect and anticipation. “It’s great to have my name up there,” he says. “I think I’m up there to mix it in with them. You know, maybe I’m not world level yet but I am definitely among the names at British level.
“But I know I’m still young and I won’t be trying to run before I can walk.”
One name that isn’t on that list but has in the past been routinely linked to Chamberlain’s is Maidstone’s, Sam Noakes. The Kent puncher, who is a similar age, and carries a near-matching record has in the past sort to call out his Pompey rival, but he remains nonplussed. “It all just comes out of his mouth,” Chamberlain reveals.
“I remember that he said he didn’t want to fight me for the British, he wants to fight me instead for the British and Commonwealth. Well, it’s all well and good saying that, but how do you know it’s going to be available when they [Noakes’ team] want it to happen.
“I’m not interested in sitting around waiting for them; I’ve got my own career to get on with. I’ll leave it with them as they like to hand-pick their opponents more than a lot of people. I don’t know why they need to look after him so much. If I get offered an opponent, I’ll fight them, it’s simple, but them boys are a bit different, ”he adds witheringly.
However, ten fights in and with its obvious potential it would be customary for a fighter of Chamberlain’s caliber to have bagged an Area or English title by now. Yet, it’s obvious that his team has a preference to focus more on a European or international route as a mechanism to drive progress up the rankings.
Nevertheless, Chamberlain is quick to point out that he was previously meant to fight unbeaten Birmingham prospect Corri Gibbs in a final eliminator for the British title. “I don’t know what will happen with that now,” he admits. “I’ll leave it to my team, but for now it doesn’t make sense for me to go down that route.”
The only ‘route’ that Chamberlain is currently interested in is the express one that will allow him to bag the titles, pocket the big purses, and enable him to exit the hardest game with his health still intact. It is a laudable aim when one considers the bent and worn-out wreckage of former fighters that traditionally litters the sports burnt-out asphalt.
But at the same time, his stance is a world away from Chris Eubank’s ‘Boxing is barbaric’ discourse from the 90s. Chamberlain is a fighter through and through but chooses to tackle the sport on his own uncompromising terms. “I’d love to win a world title, not get injured, make as much money as I can and then retire – but it’s obviously easier said than done,” he admits.
“I’m still only 23 so it’s going to take a few years and we’ll have to see who gets in the way on the journey I suppose. All I can do is take each fight as it comes but I don’t want to still be fighting when I’m 35. Maybe, 30 is long enough, but we’ll see how it goes over the years. I’ve just got to see how many fights I can get in and make sure I win them. ”
But between then and overcoming the challenge of Marc Vidal on Saturday night he has one, even more, pressing engagement. “I haven’t had a Chinese for about seven weeks,” he says in a mock despair. “I’ve got the UBER Eats App on my phone and I’m already eyeing up what I’m going to order to the hotel if I can’t get out to TGI Friday’s [Wembley branch] after the fight. I promise I’ll be ordering a feast back to the hotel. ”
After a week chasing ticket money it’s hard to begrudge him that…