Shayne Singleton

Josh Kennedy
“I’m non-stop! But I’ve always got time, it’s OK” Shayne Singleton tells me. Singleton is a man in demand right now as I speak to him on the phone. In just 12 days time he will be entering the ring on the biggest platform he has fought, providing the chief support for David Haye’s ring return on January 16th. What makes this all the more remarkable is that the likeable Northerner from Lancashire is stepping into the spotlight at just two and a half weeks notice to take on former Commonwealth champion John O’Donnell in what is now a final eliminator for the British welterweight title.

The fight came about once it was clear that the slated chief support, Australian Billy Dib vs the UK’s Jamie Speight, could no longer take place due to an injury to Dib. With Goodwin Promotions in charge of organising the undercard for the main event, it is their fighter John O’Donnell who received the late call up to take part. For Singleton (21-1-0) though, the opportunity to take part in such an event came out of the blue for him and was one that he was never going to turn down, as he explains:

“It was a big shock. It came as a bit of a surprise, I’d rung my promoter and we were talking about fighting in February in Wigan and he said to me he could make it a big fight, an eliminator or something like that. Soon as I put the phone down a couple of minutes later I got a message from him, saying about fighting John O’Donnell on 16th January. I didn’t even think 16th January, Dabid Haye show bla bla bla, I just thought John O’Donnell in two and a half weeks? Yeah alright. I know of John from Twitter really, him mouthing off at Sam Eggington and offering Frankie Gavin out at one point, so I thought ‘yeah I’ll have a go at this’.”

The now infamous ‘calling out’ incident of O’Donnell on Twitter. An open letter was issued by the Irishman to current British and Commonwealth welterweight champion Sam Eggington to offer him a fight, a move that although laughed at by the champion’s team did work in building O’Donnell’s profile with fighters and fans alike. The fight never materialised, but it has been announced that the bout between Singleton and O’Donnell is an eliminator for Eggington’s British title. A bigger platform Singleton could not have imagined; a British title eliminator as the main support for a former world heavyweight champion at the O2 in London. The only potential downfall for it all is the late notice he received, but does he see this as being a problem?

“Two and a half weeks notice it’s not exactly what we’d want to fight a southpaw, we’d want a good ten weeks in camp to work out a gameplan” he says. “But I’ve kept ticking over at Christmas, not full training as if I had a big fight coming up, but I kept in the gym doing bits. I rang my promoter back and told him I’ll have it no problem. He told me to speak with my coach Carl Ince and see what he thinks….oh and it’s on the undercard of David Haye! I said I’ll definitely have it, I didn’t know what it was for or how much I was getting paid or anything. It’s a big chance for me to get to the next level.”

It may not be ideal timing for some, especially falling so close to the Christmas period, but for Singleton he was fighting only back on December 12th in Blackpool against Gary Cooper. He won the fight via stoppage in the eighth round and it was his first step to a higher weight division, moving up to light middleweight. “To be honest I’ve always struggled at welterweight” he tells me. “I may not have been a big light middle but I couldn’t keep doing to myself what I had done before to make the weight, not eating and drinking. I decided to move to light middle, which was the weight I fought at in December and I came in two pounds under the weight. Also I’ve got a new dietician on for the last fight and he’s sorted my full diet out. Coming in two pounds under, it’s only 5 pounds off welterweight. I thought I did well in the light middleweight fight, I was too fast and too strong and too powerful so if I’m making weight more comfortably I can try and get down to welterweight where I can be in the limelight for a big fight.”

He tells me that he’s been in the gym since his last fight “ticking over” so there is little risk of rust having set in since his last outing in Blackpool. “I didn’t think I was fighting until February so obviously I’ve done things I wouldn’t have done if I knew I was fighting just after Christmas but I haven’t gone all out. I stayed in the gym for the simple fact I could get a phone call at any point and it came, so that’s a bonus.” It was a wise move to keep himself in shape, the cut back down to the 147 lbs welterweight limit will hopefully prove an easier task now with a new dietician on board and the incentive of the potential riches if he can come through January 16th.

For now though the focus is on O'Donnell, a man he confesses he has little knowledge of. "I’ll be honest, I didn’t know much of him because he stopped boxing in 2013 and I was busy building myself up then. I wasn’t looking ahead of where I was at back then, which is where he was. Him giving it big licks on Twitter though, saying his promoter had offered large amounts of money to fight Frankie Gavin and he turned it down and then he wanted Sam Eggington, I thought he must fancy himself. With me getting the fight I’ve watched him on YouTube but I can only find a few fights of his from a while ago and he looks your normal tricky southpaw."

Being that O'Donnell is a southpaw then, does that mean preparation for sparring partners has been difficult to organise? "It is hard, it's a real rush. We were struggling, but we have a couple of lads in the gym including Mark Stafford who can fight southpaw or orthodox who’s a cruiserweight. We’re getting in who we can, we know we’re rushing him and it’s two and a half weeks notice, it’s a lot to ask and a lot to prepare in a short space of time. We’re more than confident we can get it done on the night though."

Both fighters have good records in their careers, O'Donnell with 30 wins and just two losses and Singleton having 21 wins with a single loss. At 26, Singleton is the younger of the two fighters by four years with a good CV behind him already. Given the relative similarity of their two records, does Singleton see this as somewhat of a crossroads fight for the pair?

"It is, definitely. He won the Commonwealth, which would be a dream for me, but I do see us on paper as being a definite 50/50 fight. We’ve boxed a handful of decent opponents each really. We’ve both been on our small hall shows being built up, obviously he had the fight over in America and has been on big bills, but on paper we’re very similar. But I’m going to make it stand out on the night that it’s more than what’s on paper."

The sole loss on the record of Singleton is a stoppage to the current British champion Eggington, happening back in March 2014. It came in the fifth round, Singleton showing good heart to come back from a knockdown in the second round, another in the fifth before the final stoppage. It would be fair to say that neither carries fearsome knockout records; Singleton has seven and O'Donnell holds 11. Therefore for the thousands in attendance on January 16th at the O2 how does Singleton see the fight panning out? "I can see it being very tactical, who has the best head on their shoulders and I honestly believe it’s going to be me this time around as I’ve learnt so much from the Eggington fight, where I lost because I didn’t have the right head on my shoulders. I followed my heart rather than following the game plan" he tells me. It shows good fight awareness to reflect on mistakes of the past and look to put right in future match ups. "I’m going to be a totally different fighter and I can see it being a very technical fight. If it has to be a bit of a brawl then I don’t think he can hurt me, he doesn’t have power on his record, so if I’m in a position where I have to do that then I’ll have to get involved.
With the Eggington fight I didn’t have to do that, I should have boxed! I can do both, but I need to have the right head on me and I can see it being a bit of a thinking fight. When you’re fighting southpaws you have to think a lot anyway as it’s all the opposite way around to a normal orthodox fighter."With the two being so evenly matched on paper, there is one intangible that may not be evident until fight night: rising to the occasion. For Singleton this is his biggest event to be part of since his fight with Eggington which went out live on Sky Sports. For O'Donnell he holds the upperhand in terms of events he has fought on, being part of the undercard back in 2007 for the Floyd Mayweather vs Oscar De La Hoya fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. It was the night that he suffered his first professional defeat, being stopped in the second round by Mexican Cristian Solano. With this in mind, does Singleton see there is any risk of himself being overawed by the huge O2 venue and being part of a huge event? "I’ll absolutely thrive on it" says Singleton jovially. "I thrived on the one with Eggington; the big press conferences and weigh ins and all that. It were just on the night where I fought the wrong fight and it cocked up. I’m not going to do that this time, I’m going to make sure it all goes right and just enjoy it. It’s where I want to be, so if it starts causing problems for me either mentally or with nerves because it’s a big event, then I’m in the wrong game."

There is no doubt he sounds up for this fight. Short notice aside, he sounds like he is taking everything in his stride in the build up to a showdown that could open up doors for him again. Should he win, he is in pole position to take on the British champion at welterweight. Although currently Sam Eggington, he was recently mandated to fight Frank Warren fighter Bradley Skeete. Due to boxing politics there is a possibility that fight may not take place, Matchroom fighter Eggington would be unlikely to appear on a Frank Warren show and vice versa. One option for Eggington is to relinquish the title and move on to other fights. For Singleton he isn't concerned by the behind the scenes shenanigans and insists "I just want big fights that will boost my reputation and rankings, I’m happy to earn my shot", a refreshing view from a modern day pugilist. If fate does transpire that he comes face to face with Birmingham fighter Eggington again, is it a fight he would approach confidently after last time?

"I would definitely, and I'd love to give it another go against Eggington and see what happens when I stick to my game plan and stick to what I do. I’d be confident of it working too – we all know it would be a tough night and that Eggington is a quality opponent but I would like to get in there and put things right. But if I didn’t put things right and I boxed the way I should box, then I’d hold my hands up and say fair do’s, end of the day Egginton’s a better fighter than me but until I’ve been back in with him and done what I should have done first time I still can’t accept it."

Singleton is a refreshing fighter to speak trash talk nor airs or graces about him, he is respectful about opponents past, present and potentially future. Fate has handed him a fantastic opportunity. The timing may be short and the circumstances not 100% ideal but he is thriving on the challenge, a throw back fighter who worries little about the money or the opponent than he does about the opportunity that this gives him. A win on January 16th on the biggest platform he has been afforded would put Singleton right back into the British title mix, it may have come at short notice but it's the chance he has waited a long time for.

Shayne wanted to thank the sponsors who are key in his progression as a boxer and help support his training and ability to further his career. These are Wellocks, Mancini Menswear, BounceBack Safety Surfaces and AJ Wood Ltd.