Published: 06:00, 05 February 2021
Born in Chatham and raised in Kent, growing up as an amateur boxer in Thanet, Ricky Leach won multiple titles. The pro scene led him down a different route entirely, that of the journeyman boxer, regularly employed to give young wannabes a first taste of professional boxing. With 224 rounds behind him, Ricky’s record stands at three wins, 52 defeats, one no-contest and a controversial draw on what was his first pro fight.
WHERE DID IT ALL START?
My dad took me and my brother down to the local gym, at Margate ABC, which isn’t around anymore. I loved it. I didn’t think I would.
My first bout was for Kent, I represented them and stopped a kid in 45 seconds - I was a champion straight away! My brother Edward. was brilliant and he represented England, fighting in Ireland, he got a gold medal in Denmark, he went to sign pro but he had a kid and life took over. I am single and I stuck with it! My brother works for the Border Force now but he was a massive talent.
DREAMING BIG AS A KID
I had big aspirations before I signed over professionally. I was ranked fourth in my weight in the country, always won the southern counties and thought when I would sign over it would be good. I got a draw on my first fight against Darren Pryce but I knew I had won, everyone did. I definitely won it.
My second fight offered was against Gamal Yafai (EBU European Super winner) on Sky and I thought, ‘yes why not, I will do it.’ I lost that, getting stopped by a body shot, and then decided to choose the journeyman route.
I changed manager to work with Joe Elfidh. He has been great. He was a pro himself and had a few good wins on the road. He said to me, ‘how about the journeyman role?’ I have loved it ever since and he has looked after me. My dad Neil is my trainer and goes to every fight with me. He loves it.
BEING A JOURNEYMAN
The money is good to have but it has been a nightmare since Covid. I am a pro boxer and had 17 fights in 2019, but just two last year.
A lot of the time I am fighting people and I think, why has this kid even turned pro? I am there, I turn up, take the money and go! I am not fussed about the winning, I just enjoy the sport.
When I first started doing it I got stopped a few times, I was trying to get the win and putting everything on the line but I have learned to control myself in the ring, make it an entertaining fight and look to make it close.
Without journeymen there wouldn’t be boxing. I won on the road once and I got a call from my manager saying he was finding it hard to match me!
I had one win in Leeds, the lad was three kilos heavier than me so he had to give me a little more money and I still ended up beating him. I felt sorry for him a bit.
It sounds big headed but I think some people shouldn’t be there but if they are selling tickets they get the fights. Another reason I went on the road was because of having to sell tickets. So many times when it comes to getting money off people you don’t hear off them. It can be disheartening.
I fought at the First Direct Arena in Leeds on the Josh Warrington (International Boxing Federation World featherweight champion) undercard, what an experience that was! It lasted just over a minute but it was brilliant, the atmosphere, cameras in your face, so many people. That was the biggest venue I had been at.
I was on the Frank Warren show against Jay Harris and he was a great kid. I have boxed a few times on TV, including Ryan Garner (9-0). I just love it.
HOW MANY YEARS LEFT?
I am 30, I have had 55 bouts and my aim is to have over 100 fights.
I want to go down the route of super bantamweight. It’s a few more fights and it’s not going well at the moment with the lockdown!
When we go to a show we have a check-up, blood pressure, all sorts, after a fight they do another check and we get a yearly check with brain scans and full medical. They take your blood, the health and safety side of it is really good. The only reason people get injured is because they either haven’t done their training right or they have over-trained. I am a journeyman and when it’s busy I just make sure I do a bit of running and sparring every now and again.
I was out most weekends boxing so didn’t want to over-do it. You need to rest. Some people over-do it.
I have had a few cuts in my career. I was on the show in Medway against Aivaras Balsys and he headbutted me! I won it though. In my next fight against Indi Sangha (at Derby County’s Pride Park) I got stopped. There was an incident around the same time with a boxer called Nick Backwell. (The 26-year-old suffered a serious head injury after a bout with Chris Eubank Jr and was put in a medically-induced coma). My eye came up in a similar way and it was stopped, but I was okay.
It takes a special person to be a journeyman, to go in there every weekend, especially when you know they are hitting hard. You learn to tuck up, throw a few shots, and it is all about the breathing as well. It is definitely an art.
DO YOU HAVE A DAY JOB?
I do work, I am involved in teaching with an alternative learning provision. I teach PE and do boxing with the kids, they always want to do boxing, they love it!
I have been told that boxing might resume soon without spectators, so there won’t be any small hall shows. You have to have two days off to go there because of testing so it is hard with work. I have had to turn down a few offers because of work.
I remember fighting Jack Budge at Maidstone Leisure Centre, we are under the same management. He had dominated the first two rounds and my dad said, ‘what you doing?’ I didn’t know. I stepped up and just switched on for the final few rounds. I just wished it was over a six rounder.
Everyone was on their feet, it was a real battle, a cracking fight. We were trading blows. It was great entertainment and Jack won on points. The manager congratulated us both.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST?
I love the fitness side of it, I love meeting new people, but the discipline of it, the art of it, if you can master the art of it then I think you can go quite far.
It teaches a discipline for kids, people with anger issues. For me, being at school I was a quiet person but boxing has given me a voice. I wasn’t the hardman at school, I was proper quiet. People who were at school with me are often pretty shocked when they realise I ended up a boxer.
If anyone was thinking about taking up boxing I would say ‘give it a go’. Hopefully they don’t regret it. It is the best thing I have ever done. There is a lot of discipline to it and I have met so many friends because of it.
I am so bored now during lockdown! I can’t even spar. Every weekend boxing was my life. Sometimes I would only get a couple of hours’ notice and I would have to travel to a show but I love it, that excitement. Sometimes you don’t know anything about who you are fighting, you just see what you get when you get there.
You can’t really have a routine because of it. My weight has gone up in lockdown so I have some work to do but I have already started!
Boxing plays a big part in my life now and without it I wouldn’t know what to do. I have met such good people, so many friends and I just love the environment.
Check out other sports featured in our series;