‘The Black Flash’, a potent punching former British and European light-welter champ in the early 1990s, divulges how he moulded nephew Zelfa Barrett into arguably Britain’s hottest ring prospect.
“Boxing is in the Barrett blood. All of my nephews were very talented. Unfortunately, two were killed, including Zelfa’s elder brother who could’ve been very good.
My ring career was over before Zelfa was even born but like all my nephews, he was aware of my career and achievements. As a nipper, he fiddled around in the boxing gym – I’d pad him and he’d spar – but Zelfa was an excellent footballer and didn’t start taking the boxing seriously until he’d turned 16, same age I started.
Instantly he had every natural attribute and there was murder after Zelfa’s first amateur fight because the opposition coach just wouldn’t believe he’d not boxed previously.
Still, initially I thought Zelfa was only doing the boxing to get out of going to college. But he promised me he’d commit fully to it. In the end, I had a bit of a fall out with my younger sister -Zelfa’s mother – because she really wanted him to get an education, which was wise.
But I knew to get to the very top in boxing you need to be in the gym full time, every day; training and learning. And I could feel Zelfa’s passion. Youngsters from these rough inner-city areas need to follow their dreams. He’s proved me right and his mum wrong!
I’ve a lot of experience in boxing and in life and Zelfa has been successful so far because he listens to me and trusts in me. I train all the Black Flash boxers mentally, not physically. Anyone with a bit of dedication can get super-fit. In fact, I don’t train them, I program them like computers. I work on building ring intelligence and confidence. I dispense my knowledge, when to jab or feint, how to open opponents up…..
I preach the only short cut to success in this game is ‘hard work’. We train Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. When others are eating turkey, we’re at the gym getting fitter, more knowledgeable. You can never go back in time. Plenty of time for turkey celebrations in retirement. I train them so hard, they think they’re invincible. The great Brian Hughes (Pat’s trainer) made me feel invincible.
I’m bringing Zelfa through, just as Brian brought me through. I started out as a journeyman under Brian by necessity because I won no amateur titles, couldn’t sell tickets and I was black. Times were different then. Brian told me I’d have to be remarkable to make it.
I made a vow that Zelfa would be 20-0 before we even thought of challenging for a British title. Early doors, I took out a promoter’s licence and lost money to keep Zelfa and my other lads busy on small hall shows off TV. He had seven fights in his first year as a pro, seven fights second year.
And all the time Zelfa was in the gym every day; sparring, developing, progressing. He always listens and works so hard. I have to chase him out of the gym, not drag him to it. I’m over the moon with him. He’s done me more than proud.
Zelfa’s still not 100% confident in the tools he’s got. That’s why we’ve taken it so steady. When guys get to fight for the British title, they’ll continue with one eye hanging out. You have to be able to overcome that, conquer every eventuality. When Zelfa fully develops that confidence, trust me, he’s going to be sensational.
Zelfa does things more naturally than I ever did and he has no bad habits because we’ve always ironed them out before they’ve set in. The art of boxing is having a good defence and believing in it.
Also, he’s so scared of getting beat. That’s what makes him very, very dangerous. He’s stopped nine of his last 10 but the one thing I don’t disclose is the secret of how to punch. It’s something Brian Hughes left me and, like a chef with his ingredients, I protect it preciously.
I’m developing a fighter that people will be talking about for years to come. I’ve never seen another so silky, with such a good eye. He’s a Jurassic Park type talent who, in time, will become extinct!
Now the shackles can come off. We’re coming to break London on February 24th then, on 2nd June, we’re going to bring ‘The Brown Flash’ back to Bowlers in Manchester to defend his English title and I guarantee it’s going to be a sell out.
As his uncle I refuse to let him mess up. He’ll not make the mistakes I made. I guarantee I’ll not see him fail.
How far can he go? All the way. The writing’s on the wall! We won’t be denied.”