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Talking Boxing

Interviews, opinions, features and news from the greatest sport in the world!

November 25, 2016

The Quiet Man

Enzo Maccarinelli

Scotland's John Thain is one of the sport's nicest guys who prefers to let his fists to the talking.

by Shaun Brown

It was a long journey home for John Thain (16-2, 1 KO) when he lost to Ronnie Heffron over two and a half years ago.
  
The trip from Liverpool to Edinburgh had Thain hurting, even more than the punches he received, after losing a highly contentious 10 round points defeat (95-96). His heart had went out of boxing, but had to be put back in for an all-Scottish super welterweight clash with Kris Carslaw six months later.

Thain would drop another points defeat that night. This time it was wider, and this time there were no arguments in what was one of the best fights in Scottish boxing in 2014.

“It’s not nice to make excuses, but I know I wasn’t myself that night,” Thain recalled, when speaking to Talking Boxing last week.

“I know the reason why; I didn’t give myself the time to really recover emotionally (after the Heffron loss).

“While I went into that fight focussed on a performance, I wasn’t myself. It’s terrible, because Kris boxed an excellent fight. He did what he had to do. It was a shame it wasn’t on television because it would have given Kris more credit. It was a good fight and peoplethat were there still talk about it.

“Looking back, I’m of much better mind and body now compared to back then. I wasn’t happy. I think if you’re not happy doing something you force your work. When I was training for that (Carslaw) fight it felt like a chore, it wasn’t a choice anymore. It wasn’t what I wanted to do. I think the reason why was after the Heffron fight I should’ve took a month off, should’ve took a holiday. I never really did. I had a few days off, and I came back the following Friday from the fight and went back in training. I felt okay for a week or so then I started to feel like ‘Oh no, not all this training again’.

“When the fight came I’d already gone through the gears. I still gave it my best shot against Kris. Knowing what I know now I’m a much better boxer, and I believe I’m much better now than I am before.”

The polite and articulate Thain takes his positive mental and physical state into his toughest fight to date tonight in Brentwood, Essex live on Boxnation. Replacing original challenger Shayne Singleton, Thain challenges Londoner Bradley Skeete (24-1, 11 KOs) for his British welterweight title in what will be the champion’s first defence.

Having spent most of his professional career campaigning at 154lbs, a chance was taking at welterweight thanks to the wise words of Thain's long-time trainer Terry McCormack, and an unexpected trip to the MGM training facility in Marbella.

“It’s funny, because I think it was all meant to happen,” Thain explained.

“I wasn’t meant to go to Marbella to train. A space opened up because it was meant to be Paul Appleby that was going. I went instead, lucky for me. After we did our training camp, Terry said: ‘I think you should try and get down to welterweight. I think that maybe light middleweight is a bit big, maybe you’re not big enough. You need to either bulk up or think about going down a weight class, because you’ve always been outsized, or at least a little bit, at light middle.

“I said to him: ‘I don’t know about that’. We had a trial scenario where I would come in at that weight, and then train and see how I felt. Terry was like: ‘Yes, we can do this. We can get down to welterweight’. So, the weight started to come down fine, then I boxed William Warburton [in May]. I made 10st 9lbs for that, then an opportunity came to box against Nathan Brough. It’s went really well, and now we’ve got the chance to get the British title.”

It’s easy to say now, but a win over Brough last month in Glasgow was a must for Thain’s career. Defeat would have painted a longer road back, than the night of the Heffron defeat, for the likeable Scot. Trainer McCormack told his man that 2016 had to be a big year for him, but no matter what he would be by his side. It’s that friendship and loyalty that means to the world to Thain, and why he not only wants to win the Lonsdale belt for himself, but for his coach and the people who never gave up on him after those two back-to-back losses between 2014 and 2015.

“I was thinking, when I came back from the gym (earlier) I could stop now and this is all I’ll ever be. But if I give it my best shot, this could be just part of the story. It’s not the ending of the story. I didn’t want to give up.

“Although sometimes you feel like giving up, people don’t give up on you. Terry never gave up on me. He said to me: ‘You can still come back. You’re not finished. I’ll still go with you.’ And that meant a lot. Sometimes your confidence falls if you lose, and you stop having this aura that you had before. It disappears, and you have to build yourself back up again. The support I had throughout that was fantastic. That means a lot.”

Thain comes into tonight’s British title fight as the 10/1 underdog. And while Thain, one of the sport’s nicest guys who slips under the radar without courting publicity or trouble, has respect for the champion it was refreshing to hear that his own good guy status is on the back burner. There was an edge to his words that you don’t sometimes get. Thain knows what he’s up against, but he’s not really interested in singing the praises of Skeete, especially when we asked Thain if he feels Skeete is now getting the credit he deserves in his career.

“I would agree with that but we feel this is a fight that we’re going to win.

“We’re not coming into this fight with just respect and admiration for who we’re up against, we know he’s a good fighter and we believe we’re going to win.  We wouldn’t have taken this fight if we didn’t believe that we weren’t going to take the title.”

It may not read like a battle cry, but John Thain is in London to give the champion hell, not to just make up the numbers. Thain may be one of boxing's quiet men, but he is out to make a big noise, tonight, in Essex.