By Richard Hubbard
Stopping 11 out of 12 opponents in the early knockings of your career does have its downside, as Joe Pigford is discovering.
The Southampton boy can clearly bang a bit and only the redoubtable William Warburton – who has only been stopped twice in 106 defeats – took him to the final bell in what was just his third professional outing.
The problem with picking up a reputation as a young banger making his way in the game is ranked opponents aren’t exactly queuing up to take their place in the red corner.
Pigford, by his own admission, needs extending and wants to show there is more to his game than just a bludgeoning right hand. He wants to prove that he can box a bit as well.
Back in July Pigford thought he had found his perfect match, someone proven over the distance and a notable scalp should he have been successful.
Rick Skelton was the name in the frame for the Cardiff date, 14-1, with only one of those victories coming ahead of time. His only defeat being inflicted by the highly ranked Gary Corcoran.
Candidates willing to play the role of gatekeeper are increasingly hard to come by.
And so it proved again. Skelton thought better of it and, much to his chagrin, Pigford was left without a compatible date for what would have been his graduation ceremony.
The 23-year-old doesn’t mince his words over being left in the lurch and having to motivate himself to feast on a late substitute.
“I was meant to fight Skelton and he basically bottled it,” said Pigford, quickly getting to the crux of the matter. “What annoys me about that is I have just found out he is fighting for an English title now.
“From pulling out against me with no explanation, he now goes to an English title against someone who is not all that either.
“It was a good fight for me and what I needed. It is probably what my next fight will be now, someone like that.”
It is probably something of a contradiction for a knockout specialist to crave someone who can stay on his feet but, having accumulated such a high KO ratio, Pigford suspects he has got something to prove.
To demonstrate that he can do it another way, if needs be. And also to show that he possesses the required staying power down the stretch.
“That is the thing, I look forward to showing people that as well. Everybody thinks that, because I’ve knocked 11 out of 12 people out, I’m not a boxer and just like a tear-up.
“When I need to box, I think I can box quite well. It will come in time and I will show people that anyway. It would have been a nice fight for me and I would have taken his ranking as well.”
It is the dent to the pride that comes with taking a fall that, according to Pigford, results in prospective opponents choosing to avoid young punchers such as himself.
“Definitely, there is nothing worse than, after selling all your tickets to your mates, getting knocked out. It is one thing losing and another getting knocked out in front of everyone.
“I think nobody wants to get their pride hurt and I struggle because of that.
“What is important is that I get good sparring, which I do. I will then jump on the opportunity when it presents itself. I will get stepped up – which I know I’m ready for – and when it does happen, things tend to move on quickly.”
What will work in Pigford’s favour is that his promoter, Frank Warren, also steers the careers of the clutch of top super welters in the country, with the pick of the crop at the moment being the Liams, Smith and Williams.
Jostling for position behind the top two are Corcoran, Jimmy Kelly jnr and himself.
“They have been lining it up,” he revealed. “Corcoran I think had a bad hand, Kelly has pulled out of a fight with me and wanted a bit longer, so that is the sort of thing they are looking at for me.
“I am happy for any of these fights – any of them.
“Domestically the light-middleweights are brilliant at the moment, but I have got to break through, then I am happy that I will come out on top.
“Liam Smith has boxed Alvarez and put himself up there, Williams has defended his title and, fair enough, is in a good position. As for the people underneath, we will have to fight and I am confident of coming out on top.
“The British title is 100 per cent my aim for the year if it gets offered to me. People turn down fights, but if there is titles as well, it makes people more inclined to take the fight.”
Pigford, who fought his first five fights at Southampton’s Guildhall and cultivated a considerable following in doing so, would welcome the opportunity to become the co-catalyst in drawing big TV shows to his home city.
He shares a gym with 3-0 super featherweight Ryan Garner – who he likens to an irritating little brother type figure – and he hopes the two of them can turn the south coast port into a fighting city and persuade Frank Warren into ultimately making it one of the territories to benefit from the BoxNation-BT Sport axis that is soon to come into play.
“I would love to be able to bring big fights back here – the cameras, title fights, everything like that,” he purred. “I would love that but, with the Guildhall, I don’t know what he is looking for with venue sizes because that is what we’ve got at the moment.
“However, Wayne (trainer, Batten) has told me there is a hotel being built at Ocean Village with a 3,000 capacity, which is alright, and that is meant to be up in April time and will be in the shape of a boat.
“I think people would jump on it. The fanbase is big football team-wise and, with football being the only sport in the city, loads would be ready for something different.”
Probably due to not wanting his little gym brother Garner to get too big for his boots, Pigford is a tad reluctant to lavish huge praise on his Saints sidekick, but he knows they will have to work in tandem to make a success of the sport on the home front.
“He has obviously got the amateur pedigree as well to go with it and at the moment he is doing what is asked of him the best he can,” he offered. “I think personally he can be British title level easily.
“I don’t like to say he will become world champion, but he has got titles in him and from there is down to him.
“Because there are two of us makes it much more enticing to Frank Warren I guess, so the fact we’ve got each other gives us more of a chance of making it work down here,” Pigford reasoned, before delivering a parting shot at his stablemate, suggesting he should make the most of his cherubic looks while he can.
“His little cheekiness is gonna run out in a few years when he is in his twenties, so he has got to get it done quick! Then he will just be ugly!”
Pigford, who took to boxing as an escape from football, certainly didn’t fail to make the grade during his schooldays, but admits he didn’t fully apply himself when it came to the amateur code of the game.
He recalls losing seven or eight out of 35 and reports that, perhaps unusually in the three-round version, victories via KO were not in short supply.
“I was about 13 and always played football, but used to hate it. Dad wasn’t like a pushy parent or anything like that, but he wanted us doing sport and said he thought I would be good at boxing.
“At school I wouldn’t say I was a troublesome kid, I was quite clever and went to college and got three As and a B in my A-levels, so I am not like a thug or stupid, but I was not the perfect student either.
“I don’t know what it was, but when I went boxing I enjoyed it and that is the main thing. I love it still now, the sparring and training.
“I done alright in the amateurs, but I had nothing like the dedication to it that I’ve got now, it was just a thing on the side of my life at the time. I was training and fighting and it was what it was, but as soon as I turned pro I just upped it a little bit and it is my life now and what I want to do.
“I got to a few finals, but it wasn’t something I took that seriously. I had about 35, but if you look at someone like little Ryan, he turned over at 18 having had something like 60 or 70.
“Over half of my wins were knockouts, I think you are born with power and don’t think you can teach it. You know when a young boxer is coming through and not stopping people, they say he will find his power, but they never do.”
Pigford himself doesn’t suffer from power cuts, it is just finding willing takers to be on the receiving end.
Before he enters the ring to engage in pro combat, MC Mark Burdess bellows out in his own inimitable fashion, ‘It is time to release the Pig’. Well this Pig believes he is more than ready to be set loose.
Joe would like to express his appreciation to Crossfit Solent for the strength and conditioning work he is currently undertaking with them.