Sheffield Heavyweight eager to impress in hometown fight
Richard Towers fights on the undercard on Kell Brook v Lovemore N’dou on Saturday live on Sky Sports – another step in the remarkable turnaround in his life.
The unbeaten Sheffield Heavyweight (10-0) was jailed for 13 years for his part of a kidnapping when he was just 23. Towers served seven years of his sentence, and when he came out he headed straight to the Wincobank Gym where Sheffield’s boxing greats have learnt their trade under Brendan Ingle and his sons Dominic and John.
Now 31, Towers fights experienced Belgian Ismail Abdoul (40-21-2) in the sell-out show at the Hillsborough Leisure Centre, and after being named as one of Sky Sports 11 to watch in 2011, the gentle giant knows he has a long way to go before he can challenge the very best in the business.
“I watched the Sky show and that's absolutely brilliant that people are watching my career with interest,” said Towers. “But my feet are on the ground because a lot of things come with being at the top of the food chain, people want to know you, they want to associate with you and they want to be seen with you. I know how artificial it is and I know I've got to really graft and sweat blood to get to where I want to. The only way I can get there is to punch holes in people.
“I want to be a World level fighter. The concept of reaching that point is beyond me. I can't sit here and say with 100 per cent confidence that I am going to get there but what I am going to do is listen to the people here who have got fighters to the very top, with less ability, less determination and less chances.
“Ratings and rankings aren't important to me at the moment. That will all come as long as I keep winning and keep doing the right things behind the scenes, the work that people don't get to see, all the rest will come with it.”
Towers boxed in prison and kept in shape, but admitted he got a rude awakening when he thought he could walk into the famous old venue and take charge.
“In boxing, like in prison, you have to go in to dominate,” said Towers. “In prison you are either at the top of the food-chain, or the bottom – there's not really anything in between.
“I chose to get through at the top, it's dog-eat-dog in there and I wanted to make sure I got through it. One of the things that came with it was stamping your authority on things. I don't want to glorify it, but I had a few fights for money and I thought I could fight, until I came to Wincobank.
“I came into the gym on the second day I came out of prison and spoke to Brendan and Dominic. They slung me into the ring with Junior Witter, who taught me a very harsh boxing lesson with regards to technique and movement, things I didn't know in boxing because I thought it was all brawn.”
But as he turns 32 in August, Towers is also aware that he cannot hang around and let his career fade away and when he arrived at the gym, Dominic Ingle laid it on the line to him.
“Dominic doesn't mince his words – he said to me that I was coming into the game mature – mature, but not old. He said I had preserved yourself well; not drunk, smoked, done drugs and not been exposed to the stereotypical 20-something lifestyle because of prison. I’d been training, eating three meals a day and sleeping right, and had time to reflect on things to see the bigger picture.
“He told me that I had five to ten years in the game and then asked: ‘Are you here to waste time?’ I told him that I wasn't and that I wanted to train, to learn, to fight and to improve.”
“I'm under no illusions that I'm at the bottom of the ladder and I'm working my way up, the likes of Tyson Fury, Derek Chisora and David Price are all talking the talk but they are winning too – if I get to face them, all I can do is my job.”
That might be his job inside the ring, but outside the ring he has an important role too. Towers is working hard in the community and in schools to warn impressionable youngsters of some of the dangers that landed him in prison.
“I speak to kids from troubled backgrounds for a couple of hours a week,” said Towers. “They come down to the gym or I go to the schools and I talk to them about the consequences of getting involved in guns and drugs and so on. I try to get the message across to them that there's no future in mixing with negative people. I see a lot of kids walk into the room and think ‘who are you?’ Then when the teacher comes in and says this is Richard, he's been to prison, he's been involved in this and that, you can see that's a lesson learned already – don't presume because you don't know who you are dealing with.
“It's about giving something back really. People have said that I've done my time and they don't understand why I do that. I never had an older figure directing the way for me, so I just want to give them a bit of guidance and if you help one kid out of ten then you've done your part. I feel like I'm putting something more relevant back into the flow of things.”