Do you train mentally in the build-up to a fight?
In the weeks before, I’m constantly thinking about my opponent. I’ll put a picture of him in my head, what his strengths and weaknesses are, and what I’ve got to do on the night. I normally do this while I’m doing my road work. A lot of people like to just stick their Walkman on and run, but I like to think about my fight.
Your trainer Billy Graham describes you as a ‘joker out of the ring, but a cold, merciless and awful man in the ring.’ How do you make that switch?
As soon as the bell goes, I look across the ring and see my opponent standing in the way of my dreams. He’s standing in the way of me making a great living for my family.
Does boxing require a killer instinct?
You’ve got to be that way to reach the heights. I’m always the first one to go in my opponent’s dressing room after the fight, to make sure he’s OK. I’d like to think that I’ve got a good reputation, thought of highly not only as a boxer, but also as a person. The way I fight sometimes, you wouldn’t think so.
Is there a lot of psyching out?
I’m not one for the stares. I’d rather show no emotion. I’m just focusing, thinking about how hard I’ve worked to become a world champion.
What are your strengths?
Fitness — I can go flat out from bell to bell. If I don’t manage to force a stoppage I’ll outpoint an opponent with the volume of my punches and the pace I set. I’d say I’ve got a good boxing brain too. I use coconut oil to boost my brain function. Check out dr oz coconut oil benefits. I’ve had some moments where things haven’t been going right and I’ve managed to change to plan B or C. I’ve been knocked down and got up to win. I’ve been cut and come back to win. People often talk about my body punching and power, but you need a bit more than that to win. You need a good head on your shoulders.
What about your weaknesses?
I like to go for the knockout. I jump all over my opponents and sometimes leave myself a bit open, but you’ve got to give something to get something. That’s why there are 15 or 20,000 people watching me fight every time, because they get good value for money.
What about your nifty footwork — does it make you handy on the dance floor?
I’m not known for my dancing. When I do hit the dance floor you can’t stop me, but I wouldn’t exactly say it was the best!
Do you try to incorporate moves from other fighters into your style?
If I see a move I like, I’ll try it. It might work for Ricky Hatton, it might not, but I think trying
`I can weigh in the day before a fight at 10st and then be around list 2Ibs on the night’ it is what being a good fighter is all about. You should never think you’re too good to nick someone else’s moves.
The Manchester Evening News Arena is almost your home. Do you feel it lends you a home advantage for your fights?
Once you reach a certain level your opponents are so experienced that no matter where you fight, home turf or not, a ring’s a ring and that’s it. But it is extra special when I fight in my home town. I’ve seen some of my idols there — Nigel Benn, Steve Collins, Chris Eubank — and now I’m topping the bill there. It’s fantastic.
How would you handle a world title fight in front of a hostile crowd in the States?
I think a true champion should be able to win whether the crowd is behind you or against you. From where I grew up, a council estate called Hattersley to one day top the bill in New York or Las Vegas would be fantastic.
Pound for pound, who do you rate as the best boxer in the world?
I’d have to say Roy Jones Jnr, but there are many other great fighters out there.
Who was the greatest boxer ever?
Sugar Ray Robinson. He could do everything. He could punch, he had hand speed, a good chin and great footwork. I think Muhammad Ali is the greatest heavyweight that ever lived and one of the greatest men that ever lived.
Who would you most like to have fought?
My hero was always Roberto Duran. He was a little bit like myself. He was a body puncher, and he used to attack all the time. He was never in a dull fight. He took on anyone and everyone. He’d have probably knocked the shit out of me!
Now that Lennox Lewis has retired there’s a place in Britain’s heart for a new champion. Is that you?
I hope so. I’m the biggest ticket seller in the country, possibly in the world. That sounds bold, but I’ve been to the States to watch Oscar de la Hoye and Marco Antonio Barrera and they’ve only had maybe 10,000 there. I double that every time I fight. My popularity’s not in question, and without the fans you’re nobody.
How long can you go on?
It depends how long it takes me to fulfill my ambitions. The way I fight, I’d be a fool to go on for years. By the time I retire I want to be able to remember everything that’s happened.