JUNE 2024

The Harry Matthews Interview

JUNE 2024 <h2>The Harry Matthews Interview</h2>

‘In terms of being in shape, it’s like a mark of respect to myself. When you look like you look after yourself, people respect you. Someone who looks after themselves is usually organised, reliable and can overcome challenges.’

Harry Matthews

 

Some of you may know Harry Matthews as the journeyman boxer, some may know him as the actor and model. One thing is for sure. This is a very talented man in charge of his own journey and is unequivocally destined for great things.

British Vintage Boxing spoke to one of Yorkshire’s finest gems, starting with his entrance into the square ring. ‘Right then. Now, you’re taking me back! I was doing martial arts as a young kid, stuff like jiu jitsu and karate, but I was always getting involved in fights at school. My grandad always said to me, ‘If you like fighting, why don’t you do it properly? Go down the boxing gym and try your luck there.’ I thought, ‘That’s not a bad idea.’

‘I decided to go down the boxing gym and told the guy in there that I’d sparred loads of times before, which was a lie. Then I got in the ring. This kid called Luke Atkin took it easy on me in the first round and then in the second, the coach told him to put it on me a bit and he whipped a shot out and popped my nose. Blood started going everywhere and I remember thinking, ‘You know what. I’m not having that. I want to get better at this.’

‘After that first spar, I became really determined and started training all the time. I didn’t really fit in that much at school, whereas I felt I fitted in down the boxing gym and felt that they accepted everybody who walked through those doors. That’s where it all kind of started.’

Matthews recalled his boxing idols growing up. ‘As an all-round fighter, I liked Lennox Lewis, but because I’m, short and stocky, Mike Tyson and Ricky Hatton were good idols to look at. But I also liked all the Mexican fighters, plus Floyd Mayweather and Bernard Hopkins.’ Photo of a young Matthews, the prospect.

Back to his own journey, The Pocklington Rocket discussed a man pivotal to his direction in the ring, as much so in life. ‘My mum introduced me to this little guy called Sean Asquith, who was a former amateur boxer who boxed out of a place in Leeds called, Market District Boys Club. He became like my Mickey (as in Mickey Goldmill from the Rocky films), and taught me everything I know. From a young age I used to go and stay at his house. Also, at the time, I found out that my dad wasn’t my real dad and he started to become a bit distant from me and the reason I was able to cope so well with that, is because I met Sean. He took me under his wing and almost became like my father figure. I still see him now, and although he’s not coaching anymore, I always thank him for what he did for me.

‘I started boxing as an amateur for St Paul’s in Hull, run by Mike Bromby, but Niall Almond was a very important trainer to me there. He trained me as an amateur and went on to train me a few years later for part of my pro career. I had 42 amateur fights and won 34, and got into the championship quarter finals, but I just felt that computer scoring didn’t really suit me, even though I won my last eight fights in a row.

‘I decided to make the decision when I was 20 years old to go pro. At the time, I met a guy called Glenn Banks, who became my trainer, my friend and now my manager. I racked up my first nine wins in a row and Glenn Banks trained me for all of them. On my tenth professional fight, I experienced my first loss to a guy called Ciaran Healy, at the Kings Hall, Belfast, on my first ever Matchroom show. To be really honest with you, I was robbed in that fight and as a result, my confidence took a bit of a nosedive. (Healy had not long fought against the likes of James Degale, Jamie Moore (for the super welterweight Irish title) and Paul Smith Jr.)

‘I then got back on the saddle again, got a couple more wins and went on to win the British Masters title, and then quite soon after that I was boxing the likes of Chris Eubank Jr and Nick Blackwell. I won a few, lost a few and decided that I wasn’t making enough money and made the decision to fight on the road (and became a journeyman). Since then, I’ve made a good reputation for myself, although I didn’t think at 36 years old I’d still be doing it. However, I am, and it’s a good little side earner.’

In order to step through the ropes and trade blows, often with only two days notice in Matthews case, you need to be in good shape, otherwise, at the age of 36, you could easily go in risk of getting seriously hurt. Matthews looks like he’s been chiselled from marble and explains why this is the case. ‘I train at least five days a week. Training is a big part of my life, not just for its physical benefits, but it’s also good for my head. Also, now I’ve started doing more work with the acting and modelling, the better I look, the more work I get. Whether it’s boxing or acting, I just always want to be prepared. Especially with the acting and modelling, because that’s my long game. Even from a young age though, my mum used to drill it into me and I always look at her keeping fit and that became part of my life. I grew up idolising people like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger and people like that. Then I started to get into boxing and never lost the hunger to stay in good shape.’

At the time of writing, Matthews has fought 105 times and has shared the ring with a number of world level fighters, often with only a few days notice. The list includes the likes of Chris Eubank Jr, Nick Blackwell, Jamie Cox and Lerrone Richards. BVB quizzed Matthews about his toughest adversaries. ‘Hmmmm. So, Jamie Cox stopped me in the second round. I didn’t have a camp for that one as I took it two days before. I turned up, did alright in the first round and then the second round he dropped me on the seat of my pants. I got up, took the count, but I thought, ‘I can recover from this shot, but if I get another one, I’m off to hospital and what’s the point?’ They knew why I was there and I did what I did on that night, had a go, but lived to fight another day without any unnecessary injuries. You know what though, one of the hardest punchers and classiest I’ve been in with, even though he doesn’t have a big knockout percentage, is Lerrone Richards.

‘As for Chris Eubank Jr, that fight went so quick. I didn’t give a shit at that point and thought, ‘As long as I hit you, I’m not bothered. He never really hurt me to be honest. I tried not to give him enough time to work or let him settle into a rhythm. He started to catch me around round four, because I’d tired a little bit after putting a lot into the first four rounds, but the truth is, I was a very raw fighter back then who simply wasn’t that experienced. These sort of fights helped me to go up a gear and prepared me for the rest of my career. Just to give a mention – Nick Manners did a great job training me for that fight and the one before against Gilson de Jesus at Hull City Hall. I always had a great time with Nick.’ Matthews lost to Eubank Jr on points and similarly beat de Jesus on points.

Matthews added. ‘I look at some fighters who can fight bang average against journeymen, but when they fight me, they raise their game, because they know I’m in shape and always have that bit of a chance of causing the upset if they don’t turn up.’

Matthews has himself fought a number of journeymen along the way, one being Lewis Van Poetsch in 2015, who at a time when he was 4-17. He retired in March 2023 having fought 170 times. Matthews recalled when he locked horns with Van Poetsch. ‘I’m one of the few people to make him take a knee! He was a game kid and I’ve always liked him. He improved while he was on the road and he always had that ability to bite down on his gumshield. When he trained and tried, he showed he could be a different class, which is why he got a few wins before he retired. He probably should have had a few more to his name aswell, but he didn’t get the nod. It’s like me the other week when I fought Levi Vaughan. I dropped the kid on the seat of his pants in the second round and beat him in the last round, so it should have been a draw at worst, but for some reason they had it 38-37 to him. Don’t get me wrong, there are shows where they’ll say, ‘Our lad doesn’t need to be beat tonight. You do your job and he’ll do his.’ Sometimes it’s on the basis of, ‘Okay. If he doesn’t take the piss, we’ll do what we do,’ but if they come out trying to throw bombs, then they’re gonna get bombs back.’


With such an extensive boxing career, who is Matthews best friend in boxing? ‘Probably my coach, Glenn Banks. He’s my best mate and knows me inside out. He’s seen the good, the bad and the ugly of me. He knows I’m a character and a bit of a wildcard, but he knows I’m a controlled wildcard and probably the cleanest living of all the journeymen. Now and again I have a drink, but not many, because I don’t have time to be sat home, hungover for a full day. I like to be busy. It’s very rare that I sit and do nothing for a whole day.’

From boxing rings to the big screen, Matthews is a man of many talents and explained his entrance into the world of acting. ‘Peaky Blinders was the first proper bit of acting I ever did. My friend, Iain Spivey who is a boxer I knew from St Paul’s in Hull, is an actor. He messaged me one day and said, ‘Do you want to be on the set of Peaky Blinders? We’re looking for some boxers in the background while Cillian Murphy does his thing.’ I said, ‘Yeah. Why not. I’ll do that.’

‘I got on set, had my hair done and all that, but my responsibility were to hit a punchbag or speedball for the duration of the day. I started to look around and saw how the actors worked, how they delivered their lines, their demeanour, especially Cillian, and I thought, ‘I want to do that. I don’t want to be in the background here. That’s my long game.’

‘I’ve always been a massive fan of the gangster films like Casino, Goodfellas and all that kind of stuff and since acting I’ve started to follow more of the TV dramas to get a feel of what I could do and where I could fit in, in terms of what I can bring to the table.

I put myself on an acting site called, Mandy, years ago and I got noticed by a film director called Jack Grewar. He was making a lot of low budget films and he cast me in quite a few of his and was able to get quite a few credits in the first three to four years. Good speaking parts.

‘Then he decided to write a little short film about boxing, called Boxer. The lad I’m playing ends up in prison and decides that’s not his path. His path is the boxing and staying true to what’s he’s got to do. I got Nigel Travis to play the trainer and the film won a few awards at the short film festivals. Since then I’ve been trying to get people to put money into films I’m a part of, but it’s been really hard since Covid. But thankfully, in the last year, I got the Jet2 commercial and then I was in a Polish boxing film, playing a world champion boxer with dialogue and that’s going on to Netflix later this year.’ The list of films and television series Matthews has been a part of is very extensive. It’s worth checking his resume on IMBD.

Matthews film star good looks have also gained him a number of gigs in modelling, with the most recent being for British Vintage Boxing. Matthews talked about the day and his views on the brand. ‘It’s been a real honour to have been given the opportunity to model the clothes. There’s been some really good reels on the day, which have also helped to give me great exposure, but more than anything, I really enjoyed the day. I’d love to do more. Also, I really love that tracksuit (Red Bombardier) and how authentic and original the brand is. It’s one of them that suits every man from young to old school boxer.’

Bringing the interview to a close, BVB asked the Yorkshireman who would be his dream choice in terms of sparring three rounds with any past boxing legend. ‘Hmmm. Probably Floyd Mayweather or Bernard Hopkins. I know they’d probably hand my arse to me, but I’d learn so much in them three rounds!’


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CREDITS

Article/Interview: Paul Zanon, has had nine books published, with almost all of them reaching the No1 Bestselling spot in their respective categories on Amazon. He has co-hosted boxing shows on Talk Sport, been a pundit on London Live, Boxnation and has contributed to a number of boxing publications, including, Boxing Monthly, The Ring, Daily Sport, Boxing News, Boxing Social, amongst other publications.




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