By Richard Hubbard
For the first time in his career Tyrone Nurse is safe in the knowledge that a promoter has got his back and has his interests firmly at heart when shows are being pieced together.
It is an unfamiliar experience for the British super lightweight champion who has a decent track record of appearing on TV cards, but can never have been completely sure if the Mr Fix It was in his corner or not.
Regardless of allegiances, the Huddersfield boy is putting together an accomplished innings and has remained unbeaten since dropping a decision to Dave Ryan in a Commonwealth title challenge over two years ago.
Since that time he has taken possession of the Lonsdale belt at the second time of asking against Chris Jenkins – after the judges failed to split the pair first time around – and has clocked up two defences.
In taking his next steps, Nurse will now be afforded the status of home fighter following his promotional link-up with Frank Warren ahead of BoxNation’s affiliation with BT Sport that will see some 30 UK shows broadcast across the two platforms.
“This is the first promotional deal I have signed since turning professional, I have never been affiliated with a set promoter for any part of my career,” reflected the 27-year-old, who last time out overcame the challenge presented by Hull’s Tommy Coyle in July. “Whereas now it is about Frank Warren looking after me.
“The way they talk says everything to me and that is what they are going to do.
“It is a turning point in my career, a positive one and I think it will prove a positive step for us.”
Nurse was a member of the all-star cast that descended on London’s BT Tower for the reveal of the first segment of Warren’s 2017 television schedule and in the offing for himself is a slot on the Leicester card on April 22 where he will defend his belt against Joe Hughes. He is also down to feature on the Leeds bill alongside Josh Warrington and Nicola Adams on May 13.
Mingling with his new stablemates and gloving up for green screen shoots for BT, he admits, made the prospect of his new beginning feel very real.
“When you go down to meet Frank to sign contracts you realise it is really happening but, now with the big press conference behind it and all the prospects and champions coming together, everybody is excited to kickstart the season and see what it is like on a whole new platform like BT Sport.
“It will be a massive audience and it is a massive company, at the end of the day. It is looking like a massive step forward for boxing being on BT and it is really exciting.”
The cross-section of the stable in attendance for the launch fell into three categories – world champions, ranked contenders and highly touted prospects. Nurse is one of the clutch who are on the cusp of dipping their toe into the elite and his career path over the next 12 months will be about preparing him to mingle in such company.
For Nurse, being champion of Britain is just for starters and he can’t wait for the main course.
“That’s it, when we had the meeting with Frank that is the way they were talking and what they were saying. It made all the sense in the world and it is like Frank says, if you cut the company in half all you see is boxing.
“They want you to achieve as much as you can because that is what they are about. They are going to push us that way and that is what we want, it is what they want, so that means the team is going to work well.”
Holding the treasured bling that says you are top dog on the domestic front has been both a blessing and a burden for the super lightweight. For many fighters, winning the belt and negotiating the required defences is a seamless transition before graduating towards sterner examinations.
For Nurse, it has been a painstaking process and one he is considering aborting.
A first defence against Willie Limond was duly completed last May before he accepted a further voluntary challenge from Coyle. He needs to successfully pass a mandatory obstacle, but therein lies the problem.
Both of the mandatory challengers put forward by the Board of Control have passed up on the opportunity and left him kicking his heels. Jack Catterall was in the process of switching trainers and elected to save it for another day, while the most recent, Ohara Davies, has opted to settle a social media spat with Derry Mathews.
Taking ownership of that belt is not going to come easily and Nurse accepts it is a box which might have to wait to be ticked.
“No and I only need my mandatory defence now! My last two mandatory challengers have withdrawn the day before purse bids have been due in, so it has been a pain in the backside, to be honest.
“At the end of the day I have got a family with a young girl and I need to be earning. The only way I can do that is to keep progressing to bigger belts and bigger fights. That is what I want to do.
“I will come back with a defence of the British and move on from there, I would imagine, unless we get a mandatory sorted in time. I am happy to move on and, if it doesn’t work out at the next level or whatever, we can come back to this.”
Nurse also suspects the young guns of the division view taking him on at British title level as something of a high risk-medium reward scenario that could be damaging to their own goals and ambitions.
“Yeah I think that is more what it is down to, they have both held belts in different organisations and hold top-ten rankings. Would I have done the same if I held a top-ten ranking and take that risk?
“It is one of them, if they lose in the British they have lost that ranking and they are back down the pecking order in Britain.”
Nurse has ambitions of his own and is not going to be held hostage by a title while those around him are carefully managed towards the eventual money fights.
With 37 bouts already on his card at the age of just 27, Nurse has taken the long and winding route towards fulfilling what many experts believe to be a natural fighting talent.
He concedes he was previously rightly viewed as not one who appealed to the masses, more for the boxing purist, using his rangy physical attributes to his advantage in terms of protecting his features, but now admits to enjoying the thrill of engagement, mixing it with the best of them and making himself one of the most TV-friendly fighters around at the moment.
“Yeah it has been a long road because I turned pro young and I wasn’t as physically mature or as ready as I thought I were. I were a much better fighter in the gym at the time, but I couldn’t do as well in the fights as I could sparring.
“I’ve had to take my time, but it has been a long time coming. We’ve got there, but it took a long time getting the English, it has dragged out having the British now. At the same time, everything happens for a reason and we are in the right place now at the right time, with the right team.
“I think before I was a bit of a boxing purist type of fighter, I was silky slick type of stuff. If you had seen me in the gym sparring with your Crollas, Khans – nearly everyone you can think of – taking a day off school to spar with Michael Gomez and Steve Foster, that sort of thing.
“I’ve always known I can go to war and be entertaining but a win was always the most important thing, so maybe I was too cautious most of the time. It is not that I’m not still cautious, but I am growing into myself and getting bigger and stronger, so it is all coming together at the right time and you are getting glimpses of another side of me.”
All this is not to say that the old Tyrone may not yet re emerge, when his back is against the ropes and he has stepped up the levels where opponents just don’t go over quite so readily as on the way up.
His father and trainer Chris Aston must cut a frustrated figure at times as his son cops a deafun to instructions and now chooses to freewheel his way through fights.
Being a crowd pleaser does carry a price.
“No, but I actually enjoy getting punched in the face, as daft as that sounds! You don’t want to take too many, so if they are going to hit me with one, I’ll get you with two – let’s play that game.
“I can still fall back on the art of jabbing and moving, I can still do that, but I have also shown I can get stuck in and grit it out when I need to.
“My dad likes a Tyrone who listens! I do sometimes in spurts, but that wasn’t the plan with Tommy Coyle to stand there with him, I chose to do that and elected to do it and was excited for that.
“Dad’s plan was just to get a long jab on, slow him down and break him up. To an extent I think I broke him up doing it his way as well. Obviously he got that knockdown in the eighth that give him a lease of life.
“It will be there, but these fights aren’t the fights I am getting too excited about, if you know what I mean. When it comes to it and I know I need to 100 per cent be focused, I will be.
“In the gym it is there and it is not like I have forgotten how to do it. I can still be a boring boxer if they want me to be! We will do that when we have to do that but, at the end of the day, it is about having a fanbase as well as much as anything and being a bit more user friendly.”
Whichever version the 34-2-1 man chooses to be, there is a veritable pick n mix of fights to be made in his division, with the younger element of the super lightweight crowd regularly exchanging low blows on social media.
Nurse will not play that game, much preferring to trade blows rather than barbs.
“From turning pro I have never been a big mouth and have never slagged a fighter off or been derogatory about anyone because it takes nuts to get in that ring.
“I understand it builds a fanbase and gets people interested in you, but it is not my style. You can leave them talking because, if they pull out of fights, the talking means nothing.
“They’ve all got different abilities in different departments. I think the ten stone division now is absolutely massive, you’ve got me, Josh Taylor, Ohara Davies, Jack Catterall, Robbie Davies jnr, then the likes of Stephen Lewis, Josh and Kalam Leather coming through as well.
“If you really sit down and look at the top 15 there are some great fights there. Tommy Coyle will go out there and give it to anybody all he can and Ricky Burns is top of the tree at the moment with his world title,” added Nurse, reasoning that if the Brit pack do get it on together, there won’t be any losers in the long run.
“Now there are going to be that many opportunities with the BT deal so fighters will get more chances even when they have lost. If you are a fighter who has lost in an entertaining close fight, then why shouldn’t you be back in there? Fighters will have the chance to get right back in the mix straight away.
“There are exciting times ahead!”
Indeed there are.
Tomorrow: Catch up with Alan Hubbard’s Punchlines