Tyler Goodjohn

24 years old may seem young to start again.  In boxing terms a 24 year old is still a baby, fresh with few miles on the clock.  But for ‘El Tornado’ Tyler Goodjohn he is resetting, making wholesale changes to his life as well as his fighting career, and he sounds all the better for it.  There’s a new trainer, a new promoter, a new base, a new weight and new ambitions. 
What may be surprising to those that are unfamiliar with the young man from Ely in Cambridge though is that this is a man who has already achieved a tremendous amount in the sport.  He’s fought on huge cards up and down the country held an English title and challenged for international honours, all in just 16 fights.  Now a self-imposed ring exodus of nearly a year it’s a fresh start for Goodjohn and it started back at York Hall on 12th December, so how did it feel to be back?
“It was good after 11 months to come back, I felt good up at welterweight.  When I got out the ring I was a bit disappointed in my performance, I had this expectation that I was going to go in there and blast him out, make that fairytale comeback” says Goodjohn.  He has made the 7lbs jump in weight from light welter to welterweight meaning that preparation has come easier this time around as he explains.  “I’m sat with a couple of mates talking about Saturday and he said I look so much better for the weight.  The biggest thing is I have been able to eat in the week of the fight when I’m resting up.  Usually the night before or the day of the weigh in I’m sweating off half a stone or something stupid, but now I’m rested up and have the energy to actually fight and it’s enjoyable now.”
His comeback fight ended in a comprehensive six round points decision over Croatian Ivo Gogosevic (12-13-2).  The opponent offered little in terms of being able to challenge Goodjohn, happier utiling the rare time and space he was afforded in the ring to do a mock Ali shuffle than retaliate to the punches he was receiving as Goodjohn reminded us why he is nicknamed ‘El Tornado’.  “He didn’t offer much, I wanted to show off my counter skills but I didn’t get the opportunity.  I’m pleased but I know I can improve” he reflects.
It was an opportunity to get rid of the ring rust for Goodjohn, the first stepping between the ropes since January and his loss to John Wayne Hibbert for the WBC International title.   That was his last fight in the light welterweight division, so how much of a relief is it to him that he is now able to utilise the additional seven pounds and step up to the light welterweight division?  “To be honest if anything I was gutted to have to move up as I thought the light welterweight division had some great fights in it.  Around the British division there’s me and Tommy Martin from the same area, so I was gutted really to be moving up.  But there are some really good fighters out there in the welterweight division and some great fights to make down the line so we will have to see how it goes.”
There are some great fights to be potentially made in an exciting division.  At the top echelon the likes of Brook and Khan dominate, but the tier of fighters below that offer a wealth of opportunity for match making.  Sam Eggington, Frankie Gavin, Bradley Skeete, Johnny Garton, the returning John O’Donnell.  All could be potential future opponents for the popular Cambridge based fighter.  Right now though the primary focus is on getting back into a sport that, for a while, it seemed Goodjohn had turned his back on.  When I ask him what prompted the change of heart and return to the sport he is philosophical about what changed for him:
“It’s been going on for a while.  Boxing isn’t a well paid sport and I was struggling for money when I was fighting.  I moved from Essex, where I was training, to Cambridgeshire and started up my own personal training where I’m teaching boxing.  I’ve started working and to be honest in my head I decided I wasn’t going to box anymore and would start earning money.  Then I got a couple of months into it and, as any boxer will tell you, it’s just bred into you and I had to get back into the ring.  I started training throughout the summer and it got more and more to the point I wanted to fight then I was pencilled in for December.  It’s good to be back.”
Back in Cambridgeshire Goodjohn has surrounded himself with a new training team including Coach Steve Whitwell.  Whitwell is someone that Tyler has known since his amateur days and has recently been involved in the training of Goodjohn’s older brother as he made his professional bow.  It was that relationship which started the wheels in motion for his re-arrival.  “I said I would go down and help him out with some sparring and not knowing I was going to fight again I got the bug back for it.  I spoke with Steve and he’s a genuine guy and it went from there.  It’s exciting to see the difference he’s made in my brother and I like the way he trains.  I’ve done so much padwork with him, so much technique work which I never did when I was 10 stones, it was just circuit training and getting my weight down.  Doing technique work means more fun!”
Undoubtedly the fun element is key to any fighter’s training regime.  Not that an entire training camp can be made up of enjoyment but for Goodjohn it was all work and no play.  However now it is not the battle with enjoyment that he faces but instead one of time and the balancing act of his personal training work and fitting in the sessions of a professional boxer.  One fight in, how has the new regime been?
“I found my last fight quite intense as I’m working now and training as well, but when I was training I was loving what I was doing.  Before when I was a full time boxer I think I took it for granted a little bit and I ended up hating training because I was doing it three times a day, same thing every single day.  At least now I’m working and when I do go training it’s my leisure time and I’m going off because I want to do it, not for any other reason.  I’m enjoying it, I’m learning more stuff now and it’s great.  Yeah, my career has been crazy.  I’ve had four trainers, I’ve been all over the place and lived everywhere and now I’m back home around my family and friends and I’ve got a really genuine guy who is going to do his best for me and look out for me.  I guess it does feel like starting again almost; I’m not in it for any other reason now than I love boxing.”
Now that his mind is back focussed on the sport he loves and he is doing it for all the right reasons, what are the motivations for a man who at a tender age has already achieved more than many fighters will do in their career by holding the English title?
Johnny Garton
“I jumped over the Southern Area and boxed for the English as light welterweight – I’d love to win the Southern Area!  I’m only 24, I’d love to win the Southern Area and maybe even defend it then go from there.”  The aim is lower than the achievements in the first stage of his career, so is it that he has learn lessons this time around?  “I think I rushed myself in the past a little bit, went for the big fights that I perhaps wasn’t ready for.  If I got offered a fight for a title I’d take it but the ideal route for me would be going Southern Area and then defending it or seeing what happens from there.  I want to be a two weight English champion, that would do me and I could walk away from boxing happy if I do that.  It would be an absolute dream to fight for the British but if I can be a two weight English champion that would be brilliant.”

Aside from the change in weight, change in trainer and change in location there is also a new promotional team behind the Tornado, having put pen to paper on a 3 year deal with Leighton Buzzard outfit Goodwin Promotions.  Fast expanding as an organisation and with a regular minimum of 12 dates a year at the historic York Hall in London, the third biggest promoters in the UK have also recently revamped their shows and provided both the fans who turn up and the fighters taking part a new spectacle.  Gone are the placid leisure centre looks and ring walks and in is a new era of smoke machines, lighting rigs, entrance videos and blaring music.  These are the types of setups that bigger venues such as the O2 in London and the M.E.N Arena in Manchester may have had for a while but it is revolutionary for small hall boxing.  Having been lucky enough to box at both venues, how did Goodjohn find his return to York Hall, a place he last fought at in 2012?
“I’ve been fortunate enough to fight in some great venues but I’ve always said the atmosphere in York Hall is probably the best, I love it.  The way the whole new setup brings a new vibe and modernises it; it’s really taken off.  I think it’s only a matter of time until Goodwin Promotions get on TV and they’re getting bigger every month, signing more fighters.  I was impressed with it all.  With Matchroom I had a bit of a bad ending and now I’m back because I want to do it and I enjoy boxing.  I feel like Steve Goodwin respects his fighters and that goes a long way with me.”

When he made his ring walk, the balconies overlooking the ring were adorned with flags bearing the #FenArmy moniker as well as images of tractors and farmwards, harking back to his country roots.  The fans were raucous, as loud as any in the venue that night.  Having now moved back to Cambridge, how good was it for him to see that the fans will still travel to view his fights?   

“It’s brilliant.  I spoke to Steve Goodwin when I signed and more than anything I just want a local show back home to thank them for all the times that they have travelled.  They’ve gone to London, they’ve gone to Manchester and they always come out in huge numbers.  When I boxed at the O2 I think there were about 450 that came to it and it’s not a cheap night out.  Like last Saturday, just before Christmas and they came down.  I don’t care what anyone says they are the loudest and maddest lot there!  They always do me proud so more than anything I just want a local show.  If I could win the Southern Area title and then defend it back home on a show as a thanks to them for all the times they have come to see me elsewhere that would be great.  I spoke with Steve about it and hopefully it can happen next year and Steve thinks it will.”

There was one final distinct change last Saturday night too, as Goodjohn embraced a different side to himself.  More vicious?  Perhaps, but it wasn’t that.  More focussed?  Arguably yes, but it wasn’t the most obvious change.  Instead, he has embraced his countryside roots.  Coming to the ring to the tune of ‘I’ve got a brand new combine harvester’ and wearing the type of straw hat not seen in the mainstream since Worzel Gummage retired from scarecrow duties, Goodjohn was in full country mode.  So are we going to see more of it in the future?  “Yeah definitely!  I used to be a farm boy stuck in Essex and now I’m a farm boy in farm land so I can really go for it and do everything; the song the hat, the whole lot now.  I used to be a little bit shy about embracing it because I was in the gym with a load of Essex and London boys but now I’m back home I can go all out.”

Goodjohn is a laidback individual to speak to, affable and warm over the phone.  He seems at ease now, settled with the idea that in this moment his full time boxing days are behind him and he is back where he belongs out of Essex and with a new setup.  It is a new start, undoubtedly, and the ambitions may be slightly lowered for now.  But it is important not to forget that this is a highly talented individual, a man who has won elite level titles at big arenas and fought the best in the country.  The changes may be wholesale in his career and for now the targets lowered but fundamentally Goodjohn is a top level fighter.  It may just be that he has had to step back a little bit to see it and embrace it.  Now is the time to build again.

Tyler Goodjohn wished to thank his sponsors Ashco Building & Maintenance who have helped him for three years “and I’m really grateful for his help.”