British Boxing Flag Bearers

NOVEMBER 2023 <h2>British Boxing Flag Bearers</h2>

“The Southern Area title is an authentic piece of British history which the boxing community have respect for. I can only be grateful that I won it.” Johnny Fisher

You may have seen Jimmy Tibbs, Mark Tibbs and Johnny Fisher donning the BVB threads in recent times, reflecting the brand’s ethos of heritage, hard work and traditional values. As the calendar year draws to a close, the trio have exuded on all three fronts and have justifiably been rewarded for their efforts.


Despite picking up his first heavyweight title on 12 August 2023, Johnny Fisher’s route thus far isn’t perhaps representative of many fighters on the circuit at present. The Romford Bull explained. “I only had 10 amateur fights. Six juniors from the age of 11 to 14, including winning a junior London ABA title. The at the age of 16 I started playing rugby at sixth form and broke my hand in the first game of rugby I played in. I then took a little bit of time out from 16 to 19 and picked up boxing again while I was at university and had four more senior fights, winning three of them by first round knockout. I was sparring guys like Joe Joyce and Dave Allen, then COVID hit and Joe Joyce’s team said, ‘Why don’t you turn pro with us and see where it goes?’ Shortly
after I got signed with Matchroom and the rest is history.”

Fisher’s moniker precedes him wherever he goes. The affable 6ft
4inch knockout artist explained the genesis of said nickname. “I was out in Vegas sparring at 19 years old, having been invited by S-Jam Boxing and one of the American trainers said, ‘You fight like a bull. Where you from?’ I said, ‘Romford,’ and he replied, ‘You’re The Romford Bull.’


Don’t be fooled by the 240lbs heavyweight colossus’ frame and power to think there’s nothing between his ears. Totally contrary in fact. Romford’s favourite fighting son earned a 2:1 degree in history at Exeter University. Fisher explained. “My favourite subject was the Russian Revolution and I did my dissertation on the aerial bombing of Germany. A lot of twentieth century stuff, battle history, the sort of stuff boys seem to like growing up, with all the adventures and conquests that accompany these periods of history.”

However, 24-year-old Fisher has been making his own mark in history this year, stopping Harry Armstrong in the seventh round to win the vacant Southern Area heavyweight title. Fisher recalled the evening he picked up his first professional title. “We didn’t want to let Harry get into any sort of rhythm, because he’s a very slick boxer and has been around the block a little bit, sparring guys like Joyce and Chisora, and was in camp with Daniel Dubois in Granada, Spain for the Usyk fight. I knew he was a good operator and he’s had a lot of amateur fights and he was really fancying this, coming into the fight. We knew we could not let him settle. That first jab I threw, couldn’t have landed any better and completely set him off his rhythm. My natural instinct was to go in there have a tear up and I thought,’ Let’s go to work.’ I thought I could get him out in the first round, but he hung in there and Jimmy [Tibbs] gave me some encouragement in the corner, telling me, ‘Soften him up, soften him up,’ then in the seventh we got him.

Jimmy Tibbs recalled. “When John turned pro with Mark [in February 2021] and got the hang of working off Mark’s instructions, he started having quick wins, which we liked, but we wanted him to get a bit more experience and get a few more rounds under his belt. Then, not long after his ninth fight, he was asked if he would like to fight at the O2 [on the Joshua v Helenius undercard], for the Southern Area title [against Harry Armstrong].

“He was quite happy to take it and I said to him, ‘John, you’re the right thing,’ and Mark said the same. He trained very hard for the fight and knew exactly what he was walking into. Just before he went out I spoke to him, but was very respectful to not go over Mark’s head. I said to him, ‘John, don’t worry about knocking people out the first time. If you do catch him, then go for it. You can’t help it. Otherwise, wait until you get in the middle rounds, pace yourself and enjoy it.’

“Well, the bell goes and he goes out there and hits this guy with a hard left jab in the opening seconds and he’s rocked him. Ten seconds later, he goes over. I thought, ‘That ain’t his fault. He’s gonna do him now in one round.’ However, give credit to the guy, he got up and came back at John and tested him. That made John a better fighter and he showed what he could really do.”

Mark Tibbs proudly added. “For
me, that fight was absolutely perfect for someone like Johnny Fisher, because he had a reputation that he was raw, not very experienced and that he was this and that. By going through the traditional route of the Southern Area, English, British, etc,  it will work for him in the long run, because he’ll learn his craft on the move. The plan is to go through the process, one step at a time. He’ll grow immensely each time he fights from now on. He was twice the fighter the night he won the Southern Area title and it all happened in that ring, that night. Every time he fights now, he’ll keep on improving.”  

In a day and age where many fighters pick up Mickey Mouse titles as bargaining chips, Fisher expressed the value of working his way through the traditional gears of British boxing. “All I had to do was speak to Jimmy Tibbs about the Southern Area title and the way he spoke about it and regarded it, as a right of passage for a young professional was all I needed to hear. That fight was a bit of a baptism of fire for me, but I
came through it in the best fashion. It’s an old fashioned belt and I’d like to continue to go down the traditional route, although I’m not saying that will definitely happen, because you know what boxing’s like.”

Fisher’s trainer Mark Tibbs has led a number of fighters to world title challenges against some of the best boxers on the planet. Johnny explained the merits of the esteemed East Londoner. “The list is endless. It’s hard to put into words what he brings to the table, just having his presence in the corner. He’s that person you would call for help on any front. No matter what the question I have or the problem that needs solving, I know that Mark Tibbs would one hundred percent sort it out. He’s an old school guy that will be with you through thick and thin, and in the corner, there’s nobody better. His instructions are clear and simple, and he never tries to dress it up in a fancy way. He’ll tell you how you’re doing, what to watch out for, how to improve and he knows how to respond to a number of personalities in each of his boxers, and what they’re going to respond to. He the master of understanding people, not just the boxer.

“And as for his dad, Jimmy, that adds something special to the gym. Just having him there, knowing who he’s trained, the likes of Nigel Benn, Mark Kaylor, Frank Bruno and who he’s been in the ring with himself. Just having that experience and wealth of knowledge as a boxer and a trainer, is priceless.”

The Origin Gym in Rainham is now the base for Team Tibbs and the atmosphere seems to be positively infectious. Fisher commented. “It’s brilliant. Tommy Fletcher is a huge puncher and it’s great to have him around. Joel Bartell is doing really well on the small hall circuit and he’s one to watch out for in the future. He’s a proper old fashioned fighter who works hard, keeps fit and comes with loads of amateur experience. It’s good to have people like that around, because I haven’t had that amateur experience, but I can learn a lot from them.”



On the subject of making history, Fisher was awarded Best Young Boxer of the Year, by the British Boxers Writing Club at The Savoy on 9 October 2023. Fisher recalled. “It was surreal. If you told me this was going to happen two or three years ago when I was at university, boxing part time and playing a bit of rugby and then trying to get through lockdown… now, being presented this award and being added to a list of fighters like, Frank Bruno, Nigel Benn, Ricky Hatton, Kell Brook and going back to Randy Turpin – that’s just unbelievable. Now, it’s up to me to not let anyone down, including all those names that came before me.” Mark Tibbs
added. “I was so, so proud. I had to sit down, sit back and reflect on the whole team and the work we’ve put into Johnny. I know it’s just the beginning with Johnny, but what a start.”

The most prestigious award to be
given out on the evening was also a member of Fisher’s camp. After almost seven decades of involvement in the square ring, Jimmy Tibbs received The Joe Bromley Award For Outstanding Services To Boxing. Tibbs expressed his emotions. “I find it difficult to put it into words. I’m still in shock. As we’re driving up to The Savoy, I said to Mark, ‘You sure we’ve got seats at this dinner?’ because he didn’t know where we were sitting or with who, and I liked to be prepared. Mark calmly said, ‘Don’t worry dad. We’ll sort it all out when we get there.’

Little did Jimmy know, Mark had an inclination that it was going to be a special night. Mark explained. “Colin Hart spoke to me a good couple of months beforehand. He said, ‘Mark, you need to get your dad to the Savoy for the 9th October. Keep it quiet to him, but he needs to be there.’ Colin didn’t let on what it was about and I didn’t ask if dad was getting anything and maybe what it was for, but the way
Colin put it across, I knew it was important.

“On the night, I had a terrible cold and half considered not coming along, but it would have been criminal to have missed Johnny and dad get their awards, not to mention catching up with so many old faces that I hadn’t seen in years. Me and dad both had a great night, but I’m so proud of him for what he received. We work so closely together and get on so well and I think that night brought us even closer together. It was brilliant and my dad’s had a smile on his face ever since.”

Back to Jimmy’s recollections. “When I got there, I said hello to Jim Rosenthal, Frank Bruno and a few others and never had a clue what was going on. Then when the speeches started and I was thinking, ‘I’ve had a really nice evening speaking to some old friends like John Conteh,’ and I was really glad I came.’

In the meantime, Ian Hart from the Boxing Writers Club is doing the build up to the last award and he mentions the person who’s won it was trained by Jackie Gubbins at West Ham and I said to the people to my left [Paul Zanon, Mike Costello and son Conor], ‘Jackie used to be my trainer,’ and they all nodded.

Then Ian started mentioning about the date this person had their professional debut and that they fought at Highbury on the Ali v Cooper undercard. That’s when I clocked on. I looked at Mark and I said to him, ‘Did you know about this?’ and he just smiled. Then I saw the others on the table smiling, because they knew. I couldn’t believe it. I was lost for words.

“It means the world. When I’ve been involved in world title fights, that’s also been incredible, but this is a different kind of feeling. This is coming from boxing writers that have been around the sport for many years and really know the game. For them to pick me, means the world to me.”

As we enter 2024, who knows what the future holds. Jimmy and Mark Tibbs will no doubt continue to nurture boxing talent into championship belts and all eyes are fixed on The Romford Bull, as he heads into bigger fights, with
bigger spoils.



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