Jon Kays

Jon Kays

Precision.  Angles.  Strength.  Attention to detail.  Undoubtedly all are key skills to any professional pugilist, but each is equally transferable to the art of plumbing.  For super featherweight Jon Kays (21-4-1) he has mastered both.  Now at 32 years of age, he is heading for a fight in his dream venue.....which means taking a break from the day job.
"I'm actually onsite now as we speak" the man from Ashton under Lyne tells me.  "I've been training for five weeks already, and then I finish up here Friday and it's 100% boxing then."
The focus is all on October 10th, where Kays will be fighting on the Frank Warren card and the Phone 4 U Arena in Manchester.  "I've been going to that Arena since I was a id - the first fight I went to there was Naseem Hamed versus Wilfredo Vasquez, then I saw Naz against Paul Ingle there.  I watched Thomas Hearns there, the Hatton fights.  It's always been a dream of mine to fight and I get the opportunity on October 10th."
The card has recently been blighted by the further postponement of the Andy Lee versus Billie Joe Saunders matchup for the WBO middleweight title - does it take anything away for Kays?  "Well it would have been nice to be part of that huge card, but to be honest my attention is all on my own fight so I can't be too upset."
Adrian Gonzalez (11-1-0) is the opponent in Manchester.  Born in America but residing in Manchester, Gonzalez has been making headlines heading in to this fight.  Some of the comments about Kays have been less that flattering, respect has been in short supply and it seems that the locality of the two fighters is playing its part as well as Kays tells me:
"I've seen him about in the gyms, he has a lot to say for himself.  I'll let him keep doing the talking and building the fight up, but end of the day he will learn some respect on October 10th when he gets a good hiding."  Fighting words from Kays, and ones that he can feel justified in backing up.  He has a more rounded résumé than his younger opponent, having shared the ring with the likes of Gary Sykes and Liam Walsh while challenging up at British and Commonwealth title level as well as previously holding the English title in a win over Kevin Hooper back in 2013. 
Former foe Walsh (19-0-0) is the current British title holder and is also on the card October 10th.  Despite losing by 10th round KO in 2011 it is a fight that Kays would relish if the chance raises itself - the chances are more likely to be dictated by Walsh's future plans than anything else.  He makes the second defence on the British title versus Troy James, but may have ambitions further afield post October.  "I'd love to challenge again for the title but it's a bit tied up at the moment and he (Walsh) is looking at world honours so he's on another level at the moment.  The door's a bit closed at the moment so I have to concentrate on this fight October 10th then whatever comes off that we will see."
A win over Gonzalez would help Kays move back to the levels he still holds ambitions of reaching.  Is that English title or beyond?  "With all respect I'm beyond the English title now, I'm undefeated at that level and relinquished the title to enable me to fight for the British against Gary Sykes.  I still believe I should have been British champion, it was an unjust decision against me.  But I can't grumble any more, I just need to pick up and carry on and that's what I'm doing."
There is talk of the October 10th matchup having an international title attached to it, but Kays isn't focussed on the trinket and instead the opponent.  "It might be for an intercontinental or European, but I don't give a fuck to be honest - all I want to do is have a fight and give this kid a good hiding."  Simple enough then!  It's possibly easy to see why Kays is more bothered about the individual than the title - with still over a month to go Gonzalez has already been disparaging in his comments about the former English champion, stating that he can never reach the top as he drinks too much and abuses his body.  Do personal attacks like that change the mindset as October 10th approaches?
"I can't get emotionally involved in the fight - that's when things go wrong.  It's not personal, it's far from personal.  All that I'm concentrating on is myself, going to the gym and doing my work to or three times a day.  He can do whatever he wants to do, but as long as I'm doing what my trainer wants of me then that's fine.  "He says I've upset him with what I've been saying, but I'm not sure what I've been saying!  It's going to end up as a fight at the end of the day, so it's all going to get settled with punches being thrown not verbals.  Just let him keep talking, that will be his downfall in October.  But it is bringing attention to my fight with him so long may it continue!  "

It seems a sensible approach.  The younger fighter is clearly trying to lay mental traps in the buildup, see if he can get in to Kay's head before that first bell rings.  Kay seems too experienced and long in the tooth for such mind games and instead is more comfortable talking about the boxing than the banter:

"I've not seen a lot of him, he's touted as a big prospect but he's not been in with anyone like me.  I'm a different animal to what he's been fighting.  He says he's been sparring with this fighter and that fighter - you can spar anyone in the gym but if you don't do it on fight night then you're a gym fighter aren't you?  I'm sure I will find out if he can do it or not on the night - but I don't think he can.  We'll sort it out on the 10th in a man's way!"

The fight in October is scheduled to take place at a higher weight division than Kays has traditionaly fought, being the first fight he has taken at lightweight.  Is it a division he is likely to stay within?  "We'll see where the best fights are for me and my career after this fight.  I'll look at any fight."

There are the potential for new doors to open after the October showown for Kays.  The same can be said for a former opponent that he beat back in 2008, 'Rockin' Robin Deakin.  The man from Sussex ended his 51 fight losing streak at the weekend and Kays was full of encouragement for Deakin.  "He's a good mate of mine Robin.  I told him 12 months back to believe and achieve, believe in himself.  It was a good fight for him and hopefully he can continue it and get his licence back and get his career on the go.  He hasn't been matched too fairly at the start of his career - he needs the team around him to look after him now and I'm sure they will."

Jon has his own good team around him, including two key sponsors in SRL Limited of Ashton under Lyne ("they've been with me since day one and helped me financially no end") and Martial Artist Clothing ("I do some modelling for them - I'm their poster boy!").  The irony of the modelling is that future opponent Gonzalez has picked out Kays' guard as being a weakness - something that clearly would have an impact on his cat-walk days!  "It can't be that bad if I'm still doing the modelling" he jokes.
Kays seems a mature fighter - someone who although having achieved more than most will during their career still has ambitions to push on further.  His next opponent is highly regarded but not tested to the levels that Kays believes he can take him to.  October 10th is a local derby taking place at a local venue - Kays' ambition to teach Gonzalez some respect could take him back to the British levels that he desires.