Ben Hall

You’re 22 years old and undefeated through eight fights.  Working under a world class trainer and with links through to the biggest promotional outfit in the country, how do you go about moving your name from under the radar to emboldened headlines?  A stoppage victory in your first title fight live on a Saturday night Sky show as part of the undercard to three times world title challenger George Groves is a good way to go about it.
“It wasn’t only about winning it was about winning and showing I’m levels about Southern Area level” says Ben Hall, the Essex light middleweight who introduced himself to the boxing public in style Saturday night.  In his first live televised bout he impressively stopped Kris Agyei-Dua in the sixth round to become the new Southern Area light middleweight champion.  “There was a bit of pressure before the fight with it being for my first title and it was on Sky Sports.  To do it all and tick all the boxes with everything going to plan was a dream come true, I’m over the moon now.  The response I’ve got off the public and on Twitter, I’ve never had that level of response before and I’m getting more and more people on my side now.  I do a lot of tickets anyway, but my ticket sales and popularity could go through the roof now with that Sky platform.”
Ben is a confident young man to talk to.  He has every right to be.  He’s charming on the phone, laid back and catching up on Big Brother (I suspect his training camp may have shifted his TV schedule around).  We are only three days post the biggest fight of his career and he tells me there is little damage to him from it.  “Nothing really, my eye was a bit red but I think that’s where I had my head on his chest a lot in the fifth and sixth round but nothing from the punches.”  He sounds nonchalant about it, another day in the office.
Despite his young age, he already has nine years experience in boxing.  Starting at 13 with Dagenham, he went on to win 36 of 41 amateur fights with the highlight being that he got to represent England in four international bouts as well as having trials with Great Britain.  It was at 21 when he made his professional debut after some time out of the ring as he explains to me:
“I had GB trials when I was 18 and didn’t get in.  I had a bit of time out and always intended to turn pro, but when I was 18 I was a bit too young and needed to mature a little bit.  I had about 18 months doing weights in my own time.  When my family thought I was strong enough I decided to turn pro.  My dad was a fighter and he said to me I was ready, he knew I needed to be strong in the pro game and I wouldn’t have turned over if I knew I couldn’t have made the impact I have.  At 18 I wouldn’t have been able to do that.”
The power is something that has been developing for Hall.  Nine fights now, eight wins and a draw with two knockouts.  His two knockouts have now come within his last three fights, a good indicator that he is harnassing the power that has been fine tuned in the gym.  Does he feel that he was able to display it in the Agyei-Dua fight?  “I always said I would stop him.  If you look at my record on paper not many of my wins are knockouts, so when I was saying that in interviews beforehand people were probably thinking ‘what’s this kid on about??’ and it got a bit of a mixed response.  But I’ve proved myself now, Agyei-Dua had never been knocked out (he got stopped once when his shoulder popped out) and he hasn’t been beaten like that before” says Hall.  “I was just speaking the truth and there’s a lot more to come.  There’s a few big names lined up for the end of the year and I think I will do the same thing.  I don’t think there’s many light middleweights out there that can take my power, it’s just a matter of gaining the experience now and the confidence.”
It was clear in the fight that Hall was hitting hard.  At the end of round one a right hand connected with Agyei-Dua that shook the reigning champion and re-shaped the fight.  Suddenly Agyei-Dua was circling more, not as willing to engage, perhaps more respectful of the younger opponents power once he had felt it than he was pre-fight.  “I buzzed him quite a few times but it was always at the ends of the rounds” says Hall looking back at the action.  “I don’t want to sound disrespectful at all, but starting off it was really easy in there.  My trainer told me to hold back as we thought he would come on strong later on.  We got to round five and my trainer said to step on him now; where he had been moving so much as well it wore his feet out and he slowed down.  The start of the fifth round you see it, he stops moving around as much and once he stopped moving around I put my head on his chest and stuck him on the ropes and worked away for about a minute on inside work to the body.  I think that’s what really took his legs away, I buzzed him the end of the fifth and his legs had really gone by the sixth.  He was ready to go then.”
The fight was ended in the sixth round, the referee seeing enough as Hall pinned his opponent to the ropes and was firing unanswered shots at will.  Hall was crowned the new Southern Area champion, but it isn’t a title he intends to hold on to for long.  “I’ve still got it but I will be vacating.  I’ll get some photos!  There’s no point defending it though, I’m levels above that” he tells me with one eye on the future.
The title is a welcome start to 2016 for Hall.  2015 had its challenges, a draw with Ryan Toms was the first blot on his record, but he is confident now that the current performances are more than making up for it.  “People used to bring up my fight with Ryan Toms all the time, or even the one before that with Simon Henry where the same thing happened and I got tired.  I think I’ve shown now in my previous fight against Aston Jolly and then performing well on Sky that I can perform at that higher level.  People can completely forget about the Toms fight now, 12 months down the line I feel I’ve proved myself.  We’re moving on and I’ve showed that Southern Area isn’t my level because it wasn’t competitive.”
Reece Macmillan
The plans for moving past area level are vast and moving swiftly.  Hall tells me with excitement in his voice how promoter Eddie Hearn has already spoken of a move to an international title.  After that, it seems the sky is the limit.  “We’re looking at a few names, I’m not sure who is in the mix yet.  Then at the end of the year we’re looking at a big, big, big fight!  I can’t say names yet but at the end of the year you’ll see me in a big fight.”  Hall isn’t someone who pays attention to the plethora of titles that are available worldwide – not one for picking and choosing opponents, he oozes the old school fighters mentality.  “Eddie Hearn said about some options but I don’t know who holds what.  One thing with me I will fight anyone, literally anyone.  It’s down to my management and trainer, they’re the ones that decide it.  I’m like a pitbull on a leash.  We’re going to have a big test next fight, maybe the WBC International or something along those lines, maybe an Intercontinental title to get me into the mix.”
The trainer that Hall refers to is the much coveted Peter Sims (read our piece with Peter here).  Sims has been instrumental in the swift progress of Hall who acknowledges the changes that have been made by since coming under Sims’ guidance.  “It’s done me wonders.  When I first turned pro, Kris Agyei-Due was the first person I sparred with and I have realised how much I’ve progressed after Saturday night.  I realise before when I sparred Kris I had no jab, no head movement and no footwork.  In that fight I had a great jab and my head movement was nice plus my feet were pretty good.  I feel like I’ve improved in a lot of areas now.  Even though my record won’t suggest it, earlier in my career I was known as a puncher who just loaded up on shots but now I have different aspects to my game like my inside work, my long range boxing, my jab; there’s all different things I’m starting to show now.  You’ve got to be able to have more than one style if you want to go on and be world class and that’s what I’m planning on doing.  I think I can be world class and I want to keep improving on different styles.  I’m only 22 and it’s exciting times!”

Hall is strict with himself.  As he tells me, he is now having a few weeks out of the gym at Peter’s request after a hard Christmas period of training to prepare himself for the Agyei-Dua fight.  So what does he like to do when he is given a respite from training?  “Not much really!  I train full time, so when I’m in camp I train two to three times a day.  When I’m out of camp I do still train and tick over a few times a week.  After my last fight I went to work with one of the gym sponsors who gives me a bit of day work which keeps me busy.  I will probably do that again next week and look to get away with my girlfriend for a few days.  Luckily I have good genetics and don’t put on much body fat so I probably go about a stone over weight.  It’s not too bad really but I keep myself in good nick anyway because you want training camp to be about boxing and not losing weight.”

Hall is going places, it is clear to see.  Young, charismatic, good looking and now with a platform to show off his skills.  Area level has clearly not been the end goal for a fighter with bags of potential who is just starting his boxing journey.  It is an impressive accolade to achieve so early, but there are bigger plans afoot.  He talks about potentially being in the ring three more times this year, dependant on calendar timings and opponents.  With the talk of the “big, big fight” towards the end of 2016 and the first career title, albeit temporarily, in his possession there is no doubt that Hall has a bright future.  With the right platform now in place to show off his talents and the guidance of Peter Sims, 2016 could be a big, big year.

Ben wished to thank the sponsors that continue to support his career who are Divine Build, Clerk & Co Accountants, Elite Gym, RCS, Cockney Roofing and Tills Barbers.