By Richard Hubbard
“I couldn’t get a title fight for love nor money before, then I get beat and, all of a sudden, someone calls me out. Tom Baker. Let’s go!”
WHEN IT CAME to reconciling himself to a first reverse of his pro career, Miles Shinkwin quickly drew on family values in establishing some healthy perspective.
The light-heavyweight technician was eventually outgunned by Hosea Burton when they came together for the British title in February, with Bushey’s Shinkwin touching canvas twice before being stopped after his head collided with the Manchester man’s punishing right hand for a third time in round six.
Edit those three meaty shots from the story and the tale could well have ended with Shinkwin claiming the treasured strap. After being philosophical in the immediate aftermath, his decision to deviate from and ultimately abandon the carefully crafted script devised by his trainer Jason Rowland began to rankle and still gnaws at the mind of Shinkwin to this day.
“It wasn’t until about a week later that it started bothering me,” said the 27-year-old on his return to lacing-up in the gym last week. “In the week after – it is going to sound a bit big-headed saying this and it don’t mean it that way – it was about me having a lovely wife, a lovely daughter, a nice house and that I get paid to do a job a love to do. I lost. I got things wrong and I lost. That is how I saw it.
“Then every night I was going to bed thinking ‘I f****d up’, every night without fail and I still do now. It is a learning and experience, but it is an experience I didn’t have to have.
“I shouldn’t have put my family through it, my wife, my mum, who was there and shouldn’t have had to watch me being beat like that. It didn’t need to be like that.
“My mum left the arena after the first knockdown and I didn’t like being told that.
“In a year’s time I want to be able to say to you how good it was how that turned out, that I learned that quick and turned it round. I want to be able to say that.”
By fluffing his lines in the Manchester Arena curtain-raiser, Shinkwin played squarely into the right handers of the local man. He was, of his own choice, fighting away from home which – as in many other sports – often demands a more tactical, controlled display.
An approach which is usually right up Shinkwin’s street.
There was the usual shenanigans and gamesmanship employed by the home side. Similar to the experiences revealed here by Bradley Skeete last week, Shinkwin was also left hanging around in the gangway ahead of his entrance, while a pre-bout agreement over inspection the wraps was not adhered to by Burton’s team, causing a distracting commotion in the dressing room when calm was called for.
But Shinkwin was not on home turf due to a burning desire to get cracking and into title contention after a late letdown for the English title and then being matched with a British champion with apparently no wish to fight him.
“I was supposed to fight Travis Dickinson for the English but about a fortnight before he pulled out saying he was injured,” he recalled. “I have friends who know him and he wasn’t injured. I have no problem with people not wanting to fight for whatever reason, but say it when you know that. He wasn’t even training for our fight – I’d been in America for seven weeks training.
“We couldn’t find an opponent for the English title on time. I was at the office and there was no-one I could fight so they said we should go for the British title and after a call to the board I was made mandatory for the British.
“Frank (promoter, Warren) won the purse bid – the second for me he won – for me to fight (Bob) Ajisafe and we signed the contracts and sent them back. I started training then three or four weeks later Ajisafe still hadn’t signed the contract and he was given until a certain date to either sign or vacate. Three weeks later on the day of the deadline he still hadn’t signed it so he vacated the title.
“Then there was talk of me versus (Tom) Baker. We agreed and, as far as I’m aware, Baker agreed, but then the board circular came round and it was me versus Burton, which would’ve had to go to bids for a later date. So Frank and Eddie Hearn did a deal where I got to fight Burton the Quigg-Frampton card.”
It was a deal and a date that Shinkwin pushed for.
“Yeah, in hindsight, I think Frank and everyone in the office will have every right saying ‘I told you so’, let’s say that much. But I’m a fighter and a ring is a ring.
“Before I say anymore, nothing that I say is against Hosea Burton. He beat a version of me that night that he had to beat and is British champion because of it.
“There were a couple of things in the build-up to the fight that I didn’t think about so much at the time. I saw Bradley Skeete mention about being left waiting in a gangway, which I did as well where it was freezing cold.
“We had an agreement about the wraps and then they sent someone in three quarters of the way through doing, saying it was wrong, which led to an argument in the lead up to the fight. There were a few things like that.
“The first knockdown I think you can see was quite clearly on the back of my head – an illegal shot, shall we say? It was not Burton’s fault, he hit and got away with it. I got a count for it and that round I lost big because I didn’t know where I was.
“On a Frank Warren show where I come out of the home corner, does that get counted as a knockdown? I don’t know.
“The second knockdown I said to the ref that I slipped, because I did. He said ‘I know, but I’ve got to count’… No, you count when there has been a hit, you should just signal no knockdown. You could see in the fight that I steamed back into him and clearly wasn’t hurt because it was a slip.
“When I got stopped it was a very good shot he hit me with, I’ll give him that, I was disorientated for three or four seconds, but then I was back and he waved it off. The ropes helped me out and I should’ve had a count.
“I don’t think you could see it on Sky but my first words to Jason when it got stopped were ‘f**k, I needed one more round’. He was blowing badly.”
Even without employing a calculated approach, Shinkwin still had his prey in something of a pickle, but his assessment of the job in hand went askew due to the knockdowns and he attempted a rush job in order to balance the scorecards.
“After the fifth round I sat down in the corner and it felt like we was well behind. In hindsight, we won the first, won the third and won the fourth – but lost the second and fifth by two points, so we were a point or two down. Not massively down with seven rounds left.
“We felt like we were five or six points down and, on an Eddie Hearn show, I felt I had to go out there and do something. In your head you are not thinking that you have seven rounds left, you are thinking that you getting beat.
“I rushed massively, I didn’t do what I was told. If you ask people who have seen me fight, my best two attributes are my defence and my hand speed. How I fight, it is don’t get hit, back foot, make you miss and make you pay for it. I am good at taking people out when they are ready for taking out and I don’t really rush things.
“My defence went out of the window, I thought I would walk through him and I must have thought I was Mike Tyson for a minute!”
Burton himself conceded he did not anticipate Shinkwin storming straight on the front foot and feared a more attritional contest. It is hoped that Rowland’s instruction manual can be dusted down and made good use of at a later date.
“I won’t say the gameplan we had because I hope to get the fight again. I will use the plan we had because I didn’t use it there and they haven’t seen it yet.
“It was a big occasion and, within boxing, I think it was a fight I was favourite to win, but I just didn’t listen to what I was told or do what I was told. I got it wrong by thinking I knew better than other people.
“People keep asking how hard he punches, but I think it was the fourth or fifth round he hit me with three or four clean right hands to the face and I didn’t bat an eyelid. When they were legal shots I didn’t feel them at all. In the sixth when I got stopped I was lunging at him, if you can imagine when forces collide it is kind of a double impact.
“I’ve said it all along, he landed a great shot and I ultimately paid the price for it.”
Sport, for the most part, is about winners and losers and a defeat on the card hardly signals the end of the line for Shinkwin. He remains a big player in what is now a vibrant domestic division that was previously a little stagnant due to the inactivity of Ajisafe.
A dozen rounds with a Baker for the English title is an appealing option on the menu for Shinkwin’s next course, while he suspects Burton won’t be short of willing challengers.
“I think everyone will be racing to get at Burton now, if I am honest. Again, nothing against him because he did what he had to do, but I think it was clear to everyone that I had the beating of him that night. It was definitely the worst I have boxed as a pro, but I still had the beating of him and one or two more rounds and that was my fight.
“It didn’t get that far, so it doesn’t matter now, but there are other fighters like Frank (Buglioni) who have the style to beat him – I also think Tom (Baker) and others could beat him, but he might surprise everyone and go on from this. We’ve asked for a rematch already, but got turned down, which I was not surprised about.
“I couldn’t get a title fight for love nor money before, then I get beat and, all of a sudden, someone calls me out. Tom Baker. Let’s go!
“Tom is a real nice fella and I think he would say the same thing about me. It’s just business isn’t it? If I won the English title in a really good fashion then people would forget about the British title fight and I would be near enough back to British level again. Hopefully we can get that made and within one fight I will be back where I was.
“He has said he wants to defend the English title and he wants to fight me. People have seen the Burton fight and saw me make a lot of mistakes, but they won’t see them again so they are taking false hope if you ask me.
“For my whole career I have not called names out, but I feel now that if people want to shout my name out, why shouldn’t I do it back?”
Shinkwin previously revealed that his wife Kelly has little sympathy for the travails of a life in boxing, with her take on the fight game extending to having a husband who goes out and punches a few bags for a living.
Support has not been in short supply since his first setback, although a father with a fighting background results in some occasionally unwanted scrutiny.
“She’s been good since, although I don’t tell her that! I wouldn’t say it’s been a tough time because it’s life, but people tend to talk about it like someone’s died. You can’t get too down on yourself because it wouldn’t get you anywhere and there is no point in me sitting at home sulking about what’s gone on.
“My dad has not left me alone and can’t believe I lost. My daughter was one last week, we had a little party and as soon as he sat down he started going on about it. I had to tell him it was my daughter’s first birthday and please leave it out about the fight. He knows I messed up.
“I felt worse for Jason than I do for myself. The amount he got paid does not match up to the hours he put in and then for me to go and do the complete opposite to what I was told… I still feel bad about it now.”
His audition for a title role may not have gone according the script, but that’s the fight business and the Shinkwin show must go on.