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The Big Interview with boxer Lee Stewart
York’s newest boxing professional Lee Stewart outlines his plans to TONY KELLY.
HE’S the new kid on the boxing block – and he is determined to make a fighting fist of his new career.
Lee Stewart is York’s latest professional boxer and the youngest. At the age of just 20 he has embarked on tackling arguably the world’s most exacting, excruciating, exciting and unforgivingly cruel sport after initially waving farewell to hooks, uppercuts and jabs.
Back as a youngster, Clifton’s Stewart was a talented junior amateur tipped as a genuine prospect. But equally gifted as a footballer, he opted out of the four-square ring, trading mouth-guard and head protection for shin-pads and studded boots to have a serious crack at the ball game.
He dazzled through several youth York club and representative teams as a tricky winger or skilful and combative midfielder.
Stewart’s rise advanced to playing for Pickering Town in the Northern Counties East League premier division. But with a judgment belying his tender years Stewart realised his progress as a footballer had checked and so he returned to the gym.
Initially he combined his amateur comeback with playing football, but gradually the boxing bug took a serious hold especially as he was making ring-side pundits sit up and take notice.
As all things the ring more occupied his attention, the sport persistently nibbling away like an incessant jab, Stewart took the decision to link up with the city’s eminent trainer Glenn Banks.
Soon into the current year he signed pro forms, which led to his debut in the paid ranks on the title show held at York’s Energise Centre last weekend.
And with that first outing came his first victory.
He easily outpointed Trowbridge opponent Dan Carr in a lightweight contest of six two-minute rounds to the roars of an appreciative crowd swelled by his own considerable following.
His immediate reaction was understandably ecstatic. “I’ve never felt like anything like that before,” he recalled.
“When I came into the ring and heard my name announced and then heard all those fans chanting and supporting me – it was brilliant.
“And to have the chance to start my pro career in front of my family and friends and supporters in York was just such a great feeling. There’s been a lot of good boxers from York who have never been able to box in their home city, so it’s a real bonus, especially when you win as well.”
The feel-good factor for Stewart, who works part-time at Cartridge World, has been increased by the link-up with Banks, York’s current leading trainer, who co-promoted the May 14 bill at the Energise Centre alongside Carl Greaves.
The youngster is now part of a stable that includes Harry “the Pocklington Rocket” Matthews, who was narrowly pipped to the international masters middleweight title at the top of the Energise bill, Heworth’s all-action warrior Matt Doyle, and New Earswick veteran Graham Fearn.
Said Stewart: “Glenn’s a class trainer and the ten-week training camp we had ahead of the show at Energise was intense and demanding.
“After going back as an amateur it was just something that felt natural to do – to step up and turn pro and give it a go. And I’m pleased that I am with Glenn and the other lads.”
Stewart’s debut was an eye-opener. He confessed it was “worlds apart” from his amateur days.
“I had only ever fought three rounds at the most before, so to go six rounds was a big new departure,” said Stewart, adding that rather than seek an early finish to his debut he wanted to complete the whole six rounds so as to cram in as much experience as possible.
“I need to do that now, get in as many rounds as I can to build my ring experience up and my stamina. The pro game is so different to the amateur version in that you have to do so much more training and increase your other strengths. And experience is key.”
Putting the hard yards in is something Stewart is readily prepared to do.
He outlined how his current training regime started with a five-mile run each morning. Then, after his working day it was back to the gym for a range of ring-craft drills and strength conditioning.
Explaining that he was not a keen student of the fight game in saying he had no particular ring heroes, Stewart resolved to apply himself rigorously to the work ethic that will hopefully yield success.
For someone so inexperienced he has already mapped out a clear career path now that he has entered the professional arena.
“I know I have to get more fights under my belt and I know I need to get a bit more power, but I am determined to take this as far as I can,” he said.
“I want to keep busy and I’m looking at getting, say, ten fights to my name before maybe looking towards a title and then take it from there.
“Boxing is what I want to do. There’s no more football, especially with the risk of injuries.
“I’m a pro fighter and I have got potential. It’s up to me to make the most of it.”
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