Michael Peart

Nicknames can stick, from the playground to the workplace.  From 'Stinky' to 'Sparky', once a moniker is handed out they don't often shift.  Therefore for 'Mustard Mike', or Michael Peart as he is otherwise known, it's a good job that he was handed one for good reasons.

"I went down to Rod's (Rod Julian, trainer) old gym and I was hitting the bag when he was keeping an eye on me" says Peart.  "He kept asking me to come sparring but I was like 'na, I've just come to hit the bag'.  He was bugging me for a while so I gave in, I asked who I was sparring and Rod told me this guy is mustard, he's hot.  I'd heard the phrase before but didn't really know it.  I sparred the guy and he said 'no, you're mustard' and every time I saw him in the gym after that it was Mustard Mike.  It kind of stuck from there."

It's an unusual nickname in the world of boxing that is proliferated with 'Body Snatchers' and 'Beasts'.  But then Peart's is an unusal story.  The 28 year old with three wins and no defeats in his career has battled adversity outside of the ring that puts into stark context his achievements already within the ropes.  After just one professional fight he was diagnosed with reactive arthritis, hampering his ability to do the running and road work that boxers rely upon.  He made his return in September 2015 he says he had found alternative ways to boost his cardio and now, with his first eight rounder scheduled on March 12th, he tells me that things are improving for him.  "I wouldn't say I'm 100% but I'm so much better.  I can run now!  When I came back I couldn't even run or dare try it.  When I had my comeback fight I was fit, as I found other ways around the cardio side of things, but I was unable to get out on the track and run.  Now I'm interested to see how that will change this fight."

The fight on March 12th will provide a good benchmark.  He takes on Danail Stanoev for the International Challenge belt, the same opponent he faced in his return from illness.  At that point he won a clear four round points victory so it gives him a chance to test how things have changed.  To look at Peart you wouldn't know it was a man who has struggled to be able to physically train in the past, he is always in immaculate condition, muscles layered on muscles and the look of a man in peak fitness. So with his next fight being his first at the longer distance, does he think he can handles eight rounds with no problem? 

"All day long!  It doesn't matter what the rounds are, sometimes I wish there were 15 rounds like in the old school.  It depends on the opponent you're in with though.  Sometimes you can be in there enjoying yourself and then eight rounds later you think 'wow, that was eight rounds!'.  But then if you're in there having a hard time you know exactly what round you're in!  I'm as ready as I can be to do the rounds."

With the confidence in the ability to go the rounds and the knowledge that last time with the same opponent being a comprehensive points win, is Peart looking to step it up this time and hunt the stoppage win?  "I'm happy with however it goes.  I'd like the stoppage because, well who wouldn't like the stoppage??" laughs Peart.  "I know it's only going one way, which is I'm winning.  Other than that I'm not too fussed.  I'm not saying I could or I couldn't do it, but if I was approaching my fourth fight now and had all knockouts it would be difficult to find my next fight.  I'm not too bothered at all."

It will be the first opportunity for Peart to pick up a title as well.  The International Masters belt he concedes isn't the highest regarded, but as he tells me it is important to him.  "It's a stepping stone.  Hopefully we can go on to bigger and better titles.  I know it's just an International Challenge belt and people can say it doesn't mean much, but it means the world to me so we're looking forward to it."

His attitude is one of humility, the belt he is fighting for being a part of his journey that has already had its challenges.  He balances his training with family life, having a seven month old child at home would be enough alone for most.  But then he also has 12 hour work days to fit in while trying to grab some rest before his training schedule starts.  "I'm sleeping on my lunchbreak, I'm sleeping before I get to the gym.  It's crazy.  But you have to put in the work!" he says. 

He tells me it is still a surprise that people would want to interview him and hear his story.  This is a person who turned over to professional boxing in July 2014 having had a handful of unlicenced and white collar bouts.  "I've won every fight I've ever had, well only talking about boxing, not 'fight fighting'!  When you're at school and messing around you have to get a good beating now and then!" he laughs, looking back at the days before he had donned the gloves.

Now he has a far more professional platform to show off his talents.  Peart is with Goodwin Promotions, the promoters who have invested heavily in revamping York Hall to make their shows now feature big screens, ring walks with spotlights and smoke machines, party music throughout.  They have made small hall boxing feel like big time events.  So how did Peart meet up with the Leighton Buzzard based promotors?  "Mickey Cunningham (trainer) introduced us ages ago, maybe a year before my debut.  He invited Steve (Goodwin) to his house, we smashed out some pads and Steve watched.  We had beer and a barbecue for him and said we could definitely do something.  I felt at that time I wasn't ready, then when the time was right we sorted something out."  Beer and barbecues may not be the standard way of starting a promotional agreement but it has paid dividends for Peart.  What does he make of hte New York Hall staging?  "I love it, it's good for fighters, good for the fans.  I would like to enjoy it more and look at the screens but I don't want to get sidetracked.  I just walk straight out and concentrate on the ring.  He's done a good job and should be proud."

Reece Macmillan
Peart is hopeful that one day he can bring boxing royalty to the historic venue.  Years back he forged an unlikely friendship with Roy Jones Jr, the American boxer who has won world titles from middleweight to heavyweight.  As he tells me, the all time great is always available to offer his support.  "Roy's the man!  He's on the phone whenever I need him and I actually Facetimed him on his birthday last month.  I message him all the time, but fight night I try to ring him or Facetime him and get some advice."  So if a big enough fight comes up, is he hopeful that Roy will hop on a flight to support his friend?  "Of course!  That's the plan, he can't say no!  Last year was the first time I haven't been over there for four or five years, I always try get there when I can.  When it's time for me to have a big fight I'm sure he'll come, but at the same time I understand it's Roy Jones Jr!  He has a lot going on in terms of commentating, HBO, this that and the other.  Even when I go over there sometimes I have to be prepared that we can chill for a bit then something happens and he has to shoot off."

Peart is hopeful those big fights can start to come over the next 12 months, however given the setbacks he has already suffered in making it this far in his career he is also realistic enough to not plan too far in advance.  "I want to take each fight as it comes but I would like a southern area in the next 12 months and keep as busy as possible" he says.  "Through experience, setbacks do happen and I've had a few; not just the injuries but with blood and getting my licence and other things so I just like to take each stage as it comes.  I've had the worst, I could get my violin out!  It's hard.  But I keep focussed and know that little setbacks can happen but I want to be as busy as possible.  Some people have this big plan then if one fight doesn't go their way, everything crumbles.  They want to be world champion, lose one fight and then decide it's not for them!"

It is still unknown which weight Peart will settle at.  Starting at light welterweight, he then returned to the ring at lightweight and as he tells me he sees that he can cut even more weight to go down through the divisions.  "I started at light welter and then came back at lightweight; due to my injury I lost a mot of muscle mass.  My legs were skinny enough already, but when you're unable to use them for about a year they faded away, plus one faded more than the other.  I want to make it to super featherweight and then that will be me.  That will be after this fight.  We'll do the weight properly, I made lightweight without starving.  I see fighters coming to the gym and they're crying and haven't eaten, it's funny.  We will do it properly and make super feather."

Those that he has entrusted to guide his weight and training are Rod Julian and Mickey Cunningham. "The gym is amazing.  I learn from all the lads and I'm hoping they learn from me too.  It's such a good atmosphere and we push each other."  There are a talented bunch of fighters that work out of the same gym; current southern area champion Ben Day as well as undefeated Sohail Ahmed who is also fighting for a southern area title in March.  Both Julian and Cunningham are making a name for themselves out of their London gym

 'Mustard Mike' is in a good place to continue his learning.  March 12th is an opportunity to take his place on the championship ladder and get a taste of what it's like to be a belt holder.  It isn't where he sees his journey culminating, there are bigger targets in the future.  However whatever he achieves he knows that he has already overcome the odds, battled challenges that are bigger than any ring can pose for him.  The future is bright, the future is Mustard.

Michael Peart wished to thank the sponsors who continue to support his career including MotoDen,
London Diamond Drilling, Sphynx Tattoos, RJs Gym and MBox.