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Tommy Philbin: Fighting through lockdown

Tommy Philbin on fighting through lockdown.

“I’ve cried more in the last two years than I ever have in my life”

In these unprecedented times everything gets more difficult and it’s no different for boxers.

But when you’re already fighting on all fronts how does this lockdown period affect your mental health? UB7 Contender Tommy Philbin revealed all in a recent, open interview with British boxing news.

Tommy has been boxing since he was nine years old, competing in over 100 amateur bouts before taking to the professional ranks in 2015. But, not only has he faced brutal bashings inside the ring, he has faced a fiercer opponent out of the ring, a 10-count of his own – depression.

“It’s this whole thing of boxing being for tough guys. But I’ve cried more in the last two years than I ever have in my life.”

Every morning, the desire to stay trapped in bed, fenced in from the outside world, diminishes a fighter’s enthusiasm that he or she embraces. Boxers live and breathe fighting from the moment they first wear the gloves, to the moment they have to grudgingly part ways with their sturdy assets.

However, for Tommy, he experienced this earlier than expected. The Edinburgh man was forced out of the sport on two occasions because of the mental health issues he encountered. His first experience coming in 2017, a year after his first professional win. Depression doesn’t just come from the mind; it also affects the body. The suffering father placed too much stress on himself in and out of the ring – a clear indication of how it was triggered.

Tommy has achieved a lot in the sport, claiming the Celtic super middleweight title in a thrilling 10-round bout against Rhys Pagan. Not so long after, the Scot disappeared from the sport just short of a year. He made his return to the ring in devastating fashion stopping Dominic Landgraf inside a round. But the triumph was short-lived as he disappeared from the sport once again, this time for a whole year.

“I was already diagnosed with depression,” said Philbin. 

“Then I had my encounter against Landgraf at the Hydro. That was my first fight for nearly a year. After that brawl and fighting Pagan, I thought this was the moment that would start things off, and get my career back on track, but it never did. That really got to me and affects me today.”

A couple of turbulent years followed for the former Celtic super middleweight champion which he wouldn’t have anticipated. He reflects how it felt being hospitalised soon after recognising his downturn.

“Before I fought Pagan that was when I really started to notice something. The build-up leading to the fight, I didn’t really know what is was.”

Mental health issues aren’t just new in the sport and to Tommy. The consequences can be fatal if the patient doesn’t seek for professional advice or guidance. For the Scot who overcame these circumstances, another fighter sadly lost the fight.

Connor Law, a middleweight boxer who took his own life last year after suffering from depression. Just days before, he tweeted thanking pals for helping him through a ‘tough time’. Tommy was left devastated by the tragic loss as he knew Connor well in and out of the ring.

“He spoke to me about it, not in great detail, about having to cope with this, but it was a shock to me and I am a bit heartbroken, to be honest.”

For Tommy, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Overcoming depression for a second time, he bounced back and fought on two occasions in 2019. A return to the ring is something that stood out for the Scot, but being part of the boxing lifestyle is the real victory he wanted. Having that lifestyle of a boxer was a thrill in itself, a feeling that Tommy welcomed in open arms. From training, promoting, and overcoming mental struggles have been elements that have helped him forget his recent perils. All were major influences on him turning a corner.

Boxers are commonly known for being the most dedicated and hardworking specimens in the business. The Edinburgh born man’s devotion to the sport, however, is something out of the ordinary. His preparation is intense, from training to the promotion of a fight. For the father of two, all the above are what the Scot endures, not just in the ring but out of it as well, most recently in the last few years. In order to box, the lifestyle he is comfortable with played a major role in accelerating the dangerous mental health state.

“Trying to balance what is normal for a boxer is a struggle in itself. I can’t live off a normal boxer’s wage because it’s not enough at the end of the day.

“I have a mortgage and a family to provide for and for what it’s worth at my level, you’re getting paid nothing. Of course at a higher level with elite promoters, it’s a different story altogether.”

Tommy admits he is still chasing the dream of finding himself in a position to live off what he earns solely from his boxing skills. That said, he does harbour a real passion for his other mode of employment as a fishmonger.

“I have to admit I’ve landed on my feet with my job as I really love it,” he said.

“It would be sad to give up if I ever get into that position, I love cutting fish and I have a great diet because of it. People sometimes look at me when I say how much I love it, but that’s just me, it has helped during the period I was suffering from depression.

“Boxing is also a full-time job. I train six days a week, twice a day so it’s a lot of hours put in. I’d like to be able to take eight or ten weeks off for training camps and then go back to my job as a fishmonger. That would be my ideal preparation.”

Stamina and heart, two qualities that are necessary for any boxer but not highest on the list at the elite level. To achieve that goal, he must include a significant margin in his weight division to have the possibility of a title chance.

It is all good competing in over 100 amateur fights, yet winning many amateurs bouts doesn’t mean you are destined for greatness. At some point, Tommy will realise a boxing career doesn’t last forever. It is time to put the struggles aside and establish his credentials as a fighter.

“A title fight is a boxer’s dream, especially for me. My aspiration is to get a title fight and I hope I have that chance before I eventually retire from the sport. I have had a good career to date, but if I want to go one further, I need to continue what I’m doing and sooner or later my chance will come.”

Currently ranked 178 at light heavyweight in the world on BoxRec and 21st in the UK. For this stance to change, he needs to break into the top 100 to be considered for his dream title fight. But, a short career to date for the Scot eclipsing just over ten bouts. Tommy claimed victory on his debut against Mitch Mitchell and has gone from strength to strength ever since. There is no doubt he has the ability to prevail and has shown it in the ring by winning his first thirteen fights.

However, all good things have to come to an end, even for Tommy when his unbeaten streak came to an end last year. His opponent Serge Michel countered the Scot’s forte of boxing on the back foot, allowing the German to dictate the course of the fight.

After losing to Michel, a defeat of this magnitude would knock back any boxer’s confidence. Nonetheless, Tommy has reassured his passion for boxing by stepping in the ring knowing that he is in harm’s way.

“I live for the sport, after my defeat to Michel – who was a difficult opponent and has fought for his nation at the Olympics a few years ago. I just want to get back out there and prove to everyone I can compete at the highest level in boxing.

“Everyone knows you can get hurt in boxing, but that is what I and others signed up for. In order to win and achieve great things in the sport, you will eventually get hurt along the way.”

Normally a super middleweight, Tommy was offered the opportunity at light heavy weight in his last fight against Michel. Unfortunately, that defeat showed the difference in class and for that reason, the 29-year-old stepped down to the division he is most comfortable in. Nevertheless, he gained one incentive from that loss, a substantial payday.

“If anyone watched the fight, you could see straight away I was out of my comfort zone as I’m a natural super middleweight. Serge was very sharp, a wee bit too good for me maybe.

“But at least I received a big pay check from this defeat, it helped me out a lot in the run-up to Christmas and my family seemed satisfied from it.”

That doesn’t include keeping those close to him happy. His passion for the sport also constitutes to his family with fiancée Lauren, and kids Charlie and Annabella who in turn, support his every movement in boxing. Tommy says he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Monday is my earliest day as I’m up and out of bed just after midday, before leaving to head up to Perth to start work at 10 am,” he explained.

“I then carry on working until 2 pm, arrive at home about an hour later, and to finish it off, I go out for a run. I’ll then spend the rest of the day with my missus and my kids before going to the gym to train at night.

“This is a usual routine for me every week. I continue my training over the weekend as well, as you can imagine, it can get pretty tough at times.”

Tragedies happen in life and in sport. With Connor Law in mind, it’s uplifting to see a fighter like Tommy Philbin be so open about his past mental health struggles.

Above all that, speaking with positivity and admiration for the sport he’s been a part of since the age of nine shows how far he has come. Advising those who are struggling, not just in boxing, but to anyone who experiences depression is an inspiring motive.

“Take all the help that you are given. Look at my experience, I can be really good today, but tomorrow, I could be back in that bad place all over again.

“There is plenty of help out there, and do speak up because if you are willing to receive the offered help, you will get better and that’s how I overcame my struggles.”

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Rewind Review: Danny Whitaker – Dave Allen told me about Nick Webb

Rewind Review: Danny Whitaker - Dave Allen told me about Nick Webb

With the now famous words still ringing round the Planet Ice Arena in Manchester last December, heavyweight Danny Whitaker was preparing himself for the next biggest test of his career, a semi final against experienced boxer Nick Webb.

Whitaker had already exceeded his wildest dreams, a points decision over early tournament favourite Jonathan Palata wasn’t just an underdog’s dream, but a personal settler – with Palata refusing publically to shake hands with the Yorkshireman back on Draw Day.

Whitaker now has sights on a rematch with Webb, and although that’s a fight that may have to come further down the line, Whitaker is ready to wait, stating a lack of opportunity to prepare for Nick ‘Wild’ Webb hindered his chances last time round.

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Rewind Review: Jay McFarlane – Behind The Mexican Style

Rewind Review: Jay McFarlane - Behind The Mexican Style

Heavyweight fight Jay McFarlane won the crowd over at Ultimate Boxxer, has gone onto link up with Dave Allen and has revealed he wants to avenge defeats to fellow heavyweights Josh Sandland and Mark Bennett.

As fun a character as Jay can be, he’s earned the nickname ‘Ghost’ within the squared circle, allowing for the fact he’s elusive and powerful. Here he revisits his night at Ultimate Boxxer.

Glaswegian McFarlane, who was popular, charismatic and unpredictable both in and out of the ring, says he messaged his fellow Ultimate Boxxer competitors before fight day to wish them luck, and while some reciprocated, others were wary sensing an element of mind games.

The games continued into Draw Day, as Jay showed up with a small pink teddy bear he credits as his good luck toy.

The revelation to come from Jay’s watch back, was that Jack Fincham still has his lucky bear!

“I don’t know what Jack’s done with the bear, hopefully not thrown it away!” said Jay.

Jack Fincham has since been approached for comment.

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UB6: Webb Roars to Ultimate Boxxer Glory!

Nick Webb capped a stunning evening of entertainment in Manchester as he claimed the Ultimate Boxxer Heavyweight crown.

Showcasing boxing ability, knockout power and never-say-die attitude Nick ‘The Lion’ Webb defeated Mark Bennett in a hotly contested final that saw both men land big shots, keeping the sell-out crowd on the edge of their seats.

Despite eventually being crowned champion, Webb didn’t have his way the whole evening – being pushed all the way in his opening fight against local favourite Chris Healey.

Stockport based Healey was gunning for revenge, having lost to Webb previously and looked sharp in the Quarter Final stage. A controversial split decision loss stood between Healey and a favourable semi final, with red shorts Webb getting the nod.


The story of the night however undoubtedly belonged to Danny Whitaker, who Webb met in the semi final stage. Yorkshireman Whitaker was drafted in as an emergency last minute replacement just two weeks before the fight, and as a rank outsider put in a gutsy performance to overhaul the tournament favourite Jonathan Palata.

Thrilling as the decision was for Whitaker, Webb proved to be one step to far as the plucky fighter in the green shorts succumbed to a first round knockout to the man who would be king.

Then came the highly anticipated final. Webb looked fresh while Bennett, the former soldier and Afghanistan veteran looked weary following two epic battles with Jay McFarlane and Josh Sandland respectively.

Both men started a little sluggishly, starting to show the signs this was their third fight of the evening. Initially Webb displayed the better movement and footwork, but came close to showing it all for nothing, as Bennett landed a strong over hand right in the second. Wobbled and disorientated Webb had box smart and rely on the ringsmanship and craft his superior amateur and pro experience had taught him.

Surviving the scare, Webb moved forward and claimed victory against a brave Bennett who had nothing but applause for his victor.

A clearly emotional Webb declared to the BT Sport cameras afterwards that he was “back in the game”, having struggled to get his career back on track following a high profile defeat to Dave Allen, who witnessed the tournament from ringside, and paid tribute to him personally, backstage at the end of the night.

A tough night at the office for Webb, who showed resilience and heart to put his name back on the map in British boxing.

UB6: Wild’ Webb Wins Ultimate Boxxer 6 after thrilling showdown in Manchester

A scintillating evening of entertainment at Ultimate Boxxer 6 saw Nick ‘Wild’ Webb crowned champion in the first ever heavyweight tournament, receiving the Golden Robe and a share of the £50,000 prize money.

 

Webb, saw off Yorkshire hardman and former soldier, Mark Bennett in a thrilling final bout, with Webb coming out on top on points in front of a sold out and electric crowd in Manchester and live on BT Sport.

 

The Chertsey star, who is managed by former British and Commonwealth Heavyweight Champion Scott Welch, overcame local lad Chris Healey in the quarter-finals, before seeing off the impressive Danny Whitaker, who stunned almost everyone when he took out the bookies favourite Jonathan Palata in the quarter finals.

 

Meanwhile Bennett’s route to the final saw him take part in two brutal fights. The quarter-final victory against Scotsman Jay McFarlane came on points before an exhilarating bout with former Huddersfield Giants rugby league player, Josh Sandland. The semi-final clash between the two Yorkshiremen had the crowd on their edge of their seats with the pair trading huge punches throughout the fight.

 

On the undercard ahead of the final, Florian Marku whipped the crowd up into a frenzy with his unanimous victory over Nathan Bendon, which delighted the strong Albanian contingent and Arsenal and Switzerland football star Granit Xhaka. The bout certainly left the stage set for a pulsating final between the two heavyweights.

 

Commenting on the victory, Webb said: “It’s been a tough tough year, for me, my family, my fiancé, but this makes it all worthwhile. I’m lost for words. I’ve been through it all – to hell and back but to win the Golden Robe is amazing. It’s just the start for me though. I’m going to enjoy Christmas big time, but watch this space”

 

Ultimate Boxxer Results:

Final: Webb vs Bennett – Webb

Semi-Final 1: Bennett vs Sandland – Bennet

Semi-Final 2: Webb vs Whitaker – Webb

Quarter Final 1: Bennet vs McFarlan – Bennet

Quarter Final 2: Sandland vs Sokolowski – Sandland

Quarter Final 3: Webb vs Healey – Webb

Quarter Final 4: Whitaker vs Palata – Whitaker  

UB6: Meet The Fighters

Jonathan Palata

Frank Warren-fighter Jonathan ‘God Speed’ Palata (7-0) enters the fray at UB6 with an impressive and unbeaten professional record, following a stellar amateur career which saw him rack up an ABA Novice Championship, London ABA Championship and he also won the prestigious Haringey Box Cup. He fights out of the famous Peacock Gym in Canning Town. Joins with fast hands and big reputation which sees him tipped as one to watch in the competition.

 

Nick Webb

The Scott Welch-managed contender Nick ‘Wild’ Webb (13-2) enters UB6 with an impressive professional record, with 11 wins coming by way of KO against opponents such as Ferenc Zsalek and fellow UB6 contender, Chris Healey. He has been frustrated by title fights with Daniel Dubois and Nathan Gorman falling through in the past, and will be hoping to put his only defeats to date against Dave Allen and Kamil Sokolowski (who also joins the tournament) firmly behind him.

 

Kamil Sokolowski

A former Muay-Thai champion, Polish-born Kamil Sokolowski (7-15-2) started out as a journeyman, winning only two of his first 13 fights. Those defeats came against the likes of Dillian Whyte, Kash Ali and Gary Cornish. He has since change tactics, refocused his efforts, and has improved dramatically under the watchful eye of Gavin Lane at the Barum Boxing Club in Barnstaple. Only Whyte and Nathan Gorman have stopped him in his career and he’s already beaten UB6 contenders Nick Webb and Sean Turner. Tipped as a dangerous darkhorse.

 

Mark Bennett

Former army man Mark ‘Bad News’ Bennett (5-0) toured Afghanistan before a serious injury forced a medical discharge. He then took up boxing as a 27-year-old, and has never looked back. He hasn’t lost a bout at amateur level or amongst the professional ranks and now relative unknown Bennett could come into this as a dark horse having already beaten Ferenc Zsalek and fellow tournament entrant Chris Healey in his professional career.

 

Chris Healey

Representing Manchester on this heavyweight show is ABC southpaw Chris Healey (8-6) who has been dogged by injury after winning six of his first seven professional fights, but the 31-year-old is keen to show he’s back to his best after major back surgery, and the loss of his father in 2016. His last two defeats have been against fellow UB6 entrants Mark Bennett and Jonathan Palata.

 

Jay McFarlane

Glasgow hard-man Jay ‘Ghost’ McFarlane (10-4) arrives on the UB6 scene as the youngest fighter in the tournament at just 21. He spent some time in a Caribbean orphanage as a youngster, and has dived into 14 professional fights already in his career. He fought in NYC at Madison Square Garden against Matt McKinney in March 2018, and dropped to 14 stone 4lbs to fight for the Scottish Cruiserweight title, which he won against Ratu Latianara in June of last year.

 

Josh Sandland

For former professional rugby league player Josh Sandland (4-1-1), Ultimate Boxxer represents another chance to succeed in top-level sport, having played for Huddersfield Giants and Wakefield Wildcats. He triumphed over fellow UB6 competitor Jay McFarlane earlier this year and showed the danger he possesses. His only defeat came to Tom Little two years ago when he had just joined the professional ranks.

 

Danny Whitaker

Late draft Danny Whitaker (2-0) represents Yorkshire in the event. He has been a big player on the white collar scene before his knockouts impressed his manager enough to convince him to turn professional.

 

Since then he has had two convincing wins in his start as a professional. He comes in as a late replacement for injured Sean Turner and at this stage would appear very much an outsider.

Strongest line-up assembles as heavyweights prepare for battle at UB6

The eight heavyweight fighters who will go head to head in Ultimate Boxxer 6 on Friday, December 13 have now been confirmed. The event takes place from Manchester and will be live on BT Sport 1, BoxNation and BT Sport Youtube.

Discounted tickets are now on sale to Ultimate Boxxer Fight Club members and tickets go on General Sale on Tuesday, October 15.

Ultimate Boxxer returns to Manchester for the first time since the explosive cruiserweight tournament that saw the Sauerland’s Mikael Lawal reign surpreme, before Olympian Steven Donnelly wowed the fans by powering his way to victory at UB5 at the O2 in September.

Now attention turns to the most coveted division of them all.

Nick Webb, Sean Turner, Mark Bennett, Jonathan Palata, Josh Sandland, Jay McFarlane, Kamil Sokolowski and Chris Healey will all arrive on December 13 with huge confidence to take home the money and the golden robe.

‘The heavyweight division is absolutely thriving right now and we are very excited to put on this monster event and add to a huge December calendar for heavyweight fight fans,’ said Ultimate Boxxer founder Ben Shalom.

The Scott Welch-managed contender Nick ‘Wild’ Webb (13-2) enters UB6 with an impressive professional record, with 11 wins coming by way of KO against opponents such as Ferenc Zsalek and Chris Healey. He has been frustrated by title fights with Daniel Dubois and Nathan Gorman falling through in the past, and will be hoping to put his only defeats to date against Dave Allen and Sokolowski (who also joins the tournament) firmly behind him.

Sean ‘Big Sexy’ Turner (12-3) followed the example set by Ultimate Boxxer 5 champion Steven Donnelly and went about guaranteeing his spot on the UB6 card by hammering the social media team across Instagram and Twitter. The monster Irishman has had an impressive amateur career with 120 amateur fights, winning 90 contests. He held multiple junior titles and boxed Anthony Joshua twice, losing both on points. After defeats to Filip Hrgovic and Nathan Gorman in his last two outings, the Peter Taylor-trained Dubliner will be out to prove he’s back on the right path to heavyweight glory at UB6.

Former army man Mark ‘Bad News’ Bennett (5-0) toured Afghanistan before a serious injury culminated in a medical discharge. He took up boxing as a 27-year-old, and has never looked back. He hasn’t lost a bout in either the unlicensed scene or amongst the professional ranks. Bennett, who is relatively unknown could come into this as a dark horse having already beaten Ferenc Zsalek and ABA finalist Chris Healey in his professional career.

Frank Warren-fighter Jonathan ‘God Speed’ Palata (7-0) enters the fray at UB6 with an impressive and unbeaten professional record, following a stellar amateur career which saw him rack up an ABA Novice Championship, London ABA Championship and he also won the prestigious Haringey Box Cup. He fights out of the famous Peacock Gym in Canning Town.

For former professional rugby league player Josh Sandland (4-1-1).
Ultimate Boxxer represents another chance to succeed in top-level sport, having played for Huddersfield Giants and Wakefield Wildcats. He triumphed over Jay McFarlane earlier this year and showed he was dangerous. His only defeat came to Tom Little two years ago when he had just joined the professional ranks.

Glasgow hard man Jay ‘Ghost’ McFarlane (10-4) arrives on the UB6 scene as the youngest fighter in the tournament at just 21. He spent some time in a Caribbean orphanage as a youngster, and has dived into 14 professional fights already in his career. He fought at Madison Square Garden against Matt McKinney in March 2018, and dropped to 14 stone 4lbs to fight for the Scottish Cruiserweight title, which he won against Ratu Latianara in June of last year.

A former Muay-Thai champion, Polish-born Kamil Sokolowski (7-15-2) won only two of his first 13 fights, with defeats coming against the likes of Dillian Whyte, Kash Ali and Gary Cornish. Starting out as a journeymen, he has since refocused his efforts, and has improved dramatically under the watchful eye of Gavin Lane at the Barum Boxing Club in Barnstaple. Only Whyte and Nathan Gorman have stopped him in his career. Tipped as a dangerous darkhorse.

Representing Manchester on this heavyweight show is ABC southpaw Chris Healey (8-6) who has been dogged by injury after winning six of his first seven professional fights, but the 31-year-old is keen to show he’s back to his best after major back surgery, and the loss of his father in 2016. His last two defeats have been against fellow UB6 contenders Mark Bennett and Jonathan Palata.

 

INFORMATION:

Tickets go on general sale Tuesday 15th October at 9am.

Ultimate Boxxer 6 – Heavyweight Special – announced for this December

Ultimate Boxxer returns to Manchester this December for a HEAVYWEIGHT special

Pre-registration is now open for those who want to be the first to get their hands on the best tickets possible.

Fans who sign up here will have early access to tickets through a pre-sale before they go on general sale and get up to 50% off the price.

More information coming soon…