Jeff Thomas has vowed to “do it for the fans” when he enters Prizefighter Light Middleweights II on Thursday 15 September live on Sky Sports.
Thomas has landed the final spot in the 20th edition of Matchroom Sport’s eight-man, one night tournaments, with the Blackpool fighter whipping up a campaign on Twitter and on the boxing forums to get into the mix for the £32,000 winner’s cheque.
The Blackpool fighter has won nine of his 17 fights and returned from a near-five year absence from the ring with a draw in March. The 29 year-old says that he is fighting to repay those who helped him get into the line-up.
“I've always posted on the forums; it's something that a lot of fighters and promoters shy away from,” said Thomas. “I love talking about boxing and I'm a bit of a boxing nerd really. I've always had a laugh about myself and wouldn’t get offended with what people say about me so I think that's why people want to see me in there and I’m doing it for them too. Or maybe they hate me and want to see me get a hiding on TV I don't know!”
“I was on holiday over the weekend and spent most of my time replying to emails and Twitter messages from Jeff Thomas supporters!” said Eddie Hearn, Prizefighter promoter. “It's so important to understand what boxing fans want and whilst it's impossible to try and keep everyone happy, I couldn't ignore what I was seeing and hearing. Prizefighter gives fighters like Jeff an opportunity to change their life in one night and when there is that much at stake, the passion and determination they will show can only make great viewing.”
Jeff’s inclusion in Prizefighter topped a great week for him after his partner gave birth to their second child, Rocco Shea Alex Thomas, and while he admits he won’t be fancied to win the tournament, Thomas believes that he’ll give his latest addition a performance to be proud of.
“I got a call from my trainer and he said that he thought I could do some damage in Prizefighter as it's a really open field,” said Thomas. “Now I’m in there, I'm going to give it absolutely everything because this is my world title fight in Vegas. These boys have been more active than me, been cherished by their promoters and brought through the ranks, so I'll be a big underdog. T
"he way I look at it is, I want to go out there and win – it would be massive. But I also want to come out with self-respect and pride, knowing I've gone live on Sky Sports and gave it everything and hopefully I can be involved in one of the fights of the year; that would be great.”
Thomas left boxing in June 2006 after losing an Irish Light Welterweight title fight to Oisin Fagin in Dublin. Prior to that bout, Thomas had shared the ring with Commonwealth Champion Lee McAllister and WBO Super Featherweight king Ricky Burns – taking that fight at short notice and being offered a rematch from the Scot. Added to a defeat against Michael Hardcastle in a British Masters title fight, the 29 year-old said that he fell out of love with the game and looked elsewhere for his future.
“I fought for the Irish title and got beaten, training wasn't great and I just felt that I wasn't really going anywhere,” said Thomas. “I got beaten a couple of times back-to-back, against McAllister and Hardcastle, and I really don't feel like I lost those fights – I had Lee on the floor twice and he got the decision. Boxing was my life then, I put everything into it like you do to a relationship, and if someone lets you down in a relationship, it's heartbreaking and you feel empty and that's what happened with the boxing.
“After I lost to Fagin I just jacked it in really, I was only 20 when I turned pro and I trained for that for a year so in my time off I did the things that I should've done years ago.
“Initially I went into the army but I had a child too so couldn’t commit, so I qualified as a personal trainer. That took me back to the boxing as people love to do the boxing as part of it, then I started training a bit, then a bit of sparring and then Michael Gomez was preparing for his comeback so I ended up sparring with him for months and I just thought ‘I want to do this again’.
"I came back with a draw but it was never a draw in a million years. I hurt my leg in a planned Irish title fight so that fell through but this is like a World title fight for me.”
Thomas joins former WBU Light-Middleweight and Welterweight belt holder Takaloo, Peterborough’s JJ Bird who finished fourth in the last series of Big Brother, former Amateur star Daniel ‘Hurricane’ Herdman and Liverpool’s Steve Harkin’s who led a similar Twitter campaign to Thomas.
An unbeaten trio complete the line-up; Hampshire’s Wayne Goddard (9-0), Brentwood’s Kris Agyei-Dua (3-0) and Peter Vaughan (3-0-1), who enters the tournament having taken Phill Fury’s unbeaten record at Wembley Arena.
As previously announced, for the first time in Prizefighter the draw will be made in the ring on the night, and before the action begins we will see the first “Prizefighter Prospect” in action as Matchroom Sport offer a young boxer the chance to fight in front of a big crowd before the eight Prizefighters battle for the title and the £32,000 winner’s cheque – with Ryan “Crash Bang” Taylor the first fighter to be offered this golden opportunity.
Tickets for Prizefighter Welterweights II at York Hall, Bethnal Green in east London are available from Matchroom Sport priced £35 unreserved, £60 ringside and £100 VIP – to buy call Matchroom Sport on 01277 359900.