Connor Wright

The first time I saw the talent of Connor Wright was a dinner show, November 2015, in his amateur days.  I had the privilege of sitting beside former English champion Ross Burkinshaw at the Jurys Inn in Milton Keynes, taking in a night of entertainment from MK Victors.  This was the post head guard era, as young lads fought for nothing but pride and experience for the enjoyment of those gathered around smartly decorated tables and sporting their suits, ties and dinner dresses.
  
A few lads stood out that night; a young Asian boy who told me how he was inspired by Amir Khan and was determined he too would go on to achieve world success.  Not arrogant, confident.  Another, older boy stuck in my memory.  Flame haired and highly touted by his coaches, Connor Wright was fighting.
  
"He's got a ferocious backhand has Connor" I was told by one of the strangers who had made me welcome at their table.  "Beautiful timing, people just walk onto it".  He demonstrated for me, in case of doubt, the timing of the backhand.  Conor fought well that night, but was never quite able to detonate that left hand of his.  But he showed promise.  A lot of promise.  Big and strong, his style didn't seem a natural fit in the amateur game.  The breaks were too soon, times when he would have benefited from the ability to manipulate a hold and position his opponent, but the referee was having none of it.
  
Fast forward two years and Connor was all set for his debut, December 1st 2017 down at the famous York Hall in Bethnal Green.  Sam Omidi from Machester stood opposite; a few losses on his record these days but still a live opponent, one who would relish the chance to take out a debutant upstart.  He may have been far from home, but Omidi had been through this process before.  For Wright, it was the first time that his vest stayed in the changing room.
  
“It was wicked” says Wright, the bright enthusiasm of his youthfulness shining through.”  Every scenario went through my head.  There was a lot of pressure in bringing 200 people to London.  It could have gone really badly, really early.  That opponent was a tough kid, but I needed that.  If I just had some bald headed plumber sat in front of me I'd have mugged myself off as I wouldn't have trained as hard now for my next fight.  I put on a show, and I think it did me a lot of favours.”
  
“It was a strange feeling boxing topless” he says as he pauses and rubs a hand over his stomach.  “But I've got the body of a God” he chuckles, clearly considering his next weigh in.  “Best looking ginger in boxing!  I promise you, I had about five tanning beds before the day and I still looked white as a ghost!”
  
What many don’t realise when they cheers from the balcony of York Hall, or take their seat ringside, is that although it is a fantastic spectacle to watch boxing there, the conditions are somewhat different for those taking part.  Connor found out first hand that glitz and glamour doesn’t follow everyone around the boxing world.
 
 “We were in changing room one.  The window wouldn't close and it was the coldest day in December.  It was horrible.  I whacked the shower on just to get a bit of steam into the room and we ended up flooding the place!  I really struggled to get warm and I was on after the Elliott Matthews fight.  It was the longest ten rounds I've ever waited.  I was hoping someone would just get knocked out!  The Whip kept coming around to update me, I was amazed by that! He was a sound guy, but said to me "you're shaking like a shitting dog".  Those were his actual words!”
  
It's fair to say that Milton Keynes is a boxing back water when it comes to the professional side of the sport.  Despite two amateur clubs (MK Victors and Bletchley ABC) and a hugely popular white collar scene, the most recognisable name to come from the young town was Anthony Joshua victim Matt Legg.  With a football team procured under dubious circumstances that now brings in big crowd numbers, it is a town with a sporting appetite.  Wright is keen to exploit the gap in the boxing market.
“Coming from Milton Keynes, and with no other professionals really taking off here, it was definitely an incentive to turn over now.  Having that market to myself should help when it comes to selling tickets.  It's actually really hard to get people from here to go out of Milton Keynes and get them to come away with me.  Once the support is there though, they've been really supportive.  I was really shocked when I took over 200 people to York Hall.  So shocked.  So the next fight I've got, in Bedford, I think will be brilliant.” 
 
He admits that his face didn’t fit into the amateur boxing scene.  Having seen the likes of Reece Bellotti passed over in the past for international duties didn’t fill him with confidence that he could reach the pinnacle.  “Seeing that disheartened me and to be honest, I didn't fancy getting hit for free any more so I
thought I might as well start getting paid for it.” 
 
20 is too young for some to ply their trade as professional pugilists, but for Wright it seems to be the correct time.  He admits though that his age makes it difficult to be taken seriously, both by others and at times, himself. 
 
“I'm only 20 years old and I'm not known.  I'm still a kid in many people's eyes.  I'm still a kid in my own eyes.  It is hard to be taken seriously because of that, everyone thinks you're just a boy and you don't have that maturity yet.  Getting people on board is hard.  Everyone my age is into football.  Football, girls, going out on the piss.  Boxing fans you tend to find are mid 20's or 30's.  My mates now don't really understand what I do, but they came to support me and enjoyed it and now want to come to the next one.” 
 
That next outing is closer to home than his debut, boxing on Sunday February 18th at Bedford Corn Exchange.  As well as those friends, family and colleagues that he hopes will make the short journey, he is hoping that he can start to build a wider reputation in the boxing community.  For that, he wants a test.
  
“I really want someone to come and give it to me, be tested.  That's how you'll see the best of me, when someone comes to have a proper row with me.  I won't perform well if I know I can beat you, I'll just go through the motions.  But if I come out and someone hits me, I'll want to take their head off.  That last Connor Benn fight, that's the kind of fight I want to be in.  I want people to leave the venue and say 'that Connor Wright, he's a hard ginger lad'.  Boxing is really incestuous, if I can start to build a reputation I'm hopeful it will spread like wildfire.” 
 
His debut saw him drop Manchester’s Sam Omidi twice.  “I've watched it back and the second time I put him down I think 'how have you managed to get back up?!” laughs Connor.  This time he tells me, he doesn’t want to leave the decision to the judges.  It reiterates his desire to build a reputation in the light middleweight division.  He isn’t sure how long he will stick around for though; at six foot and with a broad frame it’s a wonder that he can make the 11 stone weight division at all.  “I'm a tall light middle.  Will I stay at that weight?  Probably not, I like cake too much.  My dad was a light heavyweight and my uncle was a super middle, so I'm sure I'll grow.”
  
​It is back at Wright's old amateur club, MK Victors, where I meet with him.  His coaching team has stuck, the same faces in the corner have helped the transition from amateur to professional.  Familiar surroundings haven't bred contempt; the walls sweat as much as those training.  There's an old school feeling, yet cleaner.  No luxuries, but essentials.   The club is bustling with plenty more young faces that are learning the art, hoping that one day they too can follow Connor's steps, walk out under the bright lights. It is has father, Tony Wright, alongside coach Adam Boniface that have been  key in bringing Connor from young boy to young man.  With over 50 amateur bouts cornered by the team, they were always going to be the people to bring him to the ring as a professional.
“I always feel like I'm improving with them” says a reflective Wright.  “It's hard work having my dad in the corner, we fall out all the time.  But he's the only person in professional boxing who I know will have my interests 100% at heart.  Everyone else you have to take a little bit of a step back from, they have another agenda and a business interest.  He's the only one without that.  If I die, all he's got to remember me by is a load of selfies with me pouting!”
  
It's not just dad who is involved with the MK Victors club.  His mum is integral, picking up the paperwork and admin where dad holds the pads.  She beams with pride when talking to Connor about his sparring today at the Peacock Gym in London; her work colleagues were shown the footage.  As much as with all helpers at such clubs the hours can be long and often go unnoticed.  She is also very aware that boxing has kept her son out of potential trouble in everyday life, given him the discipline that means his fighting is done in controlled circumstances.  She still recoils though at the thought of her young boy getting in the ring.  “I have to watch between my fingers” she says, hands to her face. 
  
Outside of the ring, Connor hasn’t take the same working route often associated to boxers.  No heavy lifting, scaffold erecting or hodding of bricks.  Connor is an estate agent, selling properties around Milton Keynes.  “When you go out on site, someone always sees the black eye and says 'oooh, you got hit there'” he laughs.  “If I was working at any other office than Thomas Connolly, it would be difficult for me to go in with a black eye.  Thankfully they're really supportive of my boxing though.”
  
A number of his contemporaries will be working the long hours on building sites or similar, while Connor heads into his comforts.  Does he see that as beneficial?  “I do see it as an advantage, because I'm not doing anything strenuous, I'm sat in a nice warm office.  But I still find it hard to fit in my training as I work every day.  There'll be one day though where my Manager gets me that big fight and I can pack it in!”
  
His career as an estate agent also teaches him about the business world too, something that he hopes he can pair with a burgeoning reputation in his home town.  “One day, when I've boxed and boxed and boxed, I'll pack it in and I'll start business on my own.  It may be a gym or whatever.  But I'll have that reputation to carry me and make that business a success.”
  
As well as a growing understanding of business, Connor is learning the art of social media in an attempt to build his following in the boxing community.  With the recent downfall of Ohara Davies via the platform of Twitter, there are obvious lessons to be learned while borders of what is acceptable are still being drawn out.  It’s something he is conscious of. 
  
“I've only just got Twitter.  I can't wait to be involved in some controversial conversations, which I'm sure I will as I don't have a filter, I say it as it is.”  But will he be looking to push the boundaries similar to Davies?  “No.  He's not my type.  But fair play to him though because he's built a career out of it.  He's so relevant.  Who I aspire to be like is Dave Allen.  I love him as a person.  Never met the bloke, and I'd love to meet him, but if I could be the southern version of Dave Allen I'd be happy.  A better looking version though!  I just rate him as a person; he knows he isn't the best boxer in the world but he's a hard, hard boy.  I rate him because he's such a nice guy to go with it.  It's a good template to have.”
  
Allen has made a huge success from self-confessed limited talents, in part from his outstanding personality and willingness to engage with fans.  He could be the perfect role model for young Connor Wright to follow.  He exudes the confidence and energy of a hungry and excitable 20 year old.  His fundamentals of a caring family, a reliable income outside the ring, well-schooled skills and an already blossoming set of fans means that Connor has every opportunity to make a success in the sport.  He has growing to do, both physically and mentally.  His style in the ring will evolve and his priorities change.  Like the foundations of the houses he sells in the day, the base is solid.  Now it is time to build.
  
Connor wanted to thank the sponsors who support his professional boxing career.  “My main one is Signature Homes, a gentleman called Paul West.  He's known me since I was a little kid and he's helped me massively.  There's City Gas MK, which is actually my uncle.  Express Coffee have been there a few years helping me too.  I get my food preparation through Premier Nutrition who I genuinely feel are the best in the game.”