IT’S rare that an athlete ever switches from one professional career path to another; however on Saturday, November 12 Matty Mainwaring will swap the football pitch for the boxing ring when he takes on Victor Edagho in his first professional fight.
Originally from Salford, Mainwaring had played football all of his life. The 24-year-old has never fought at amateur level and his scheduled fight at Blackpool Winter Gardens will be his first competitive fight in all levels of boxing. Despite this, the boxer confidently explains: “Nothing will break my concentration. I’m resilient.”
From a young age Mainwaring enjoyed a successful but short football career, aged just seven-years-old he joined Manchester United’s scholarship system. After a two-year spell with the Red Devils he left to join Preston North End’s centre of excellence where he spent a further three years. However it wasn’t until 2008 when he signed for League One newcomers Stockport County that he got his professional break.
At the age of 19 he enjoyed a lengthy spell in the Hatters side playing 22 games in a full season for County. Due to his rising success Mainwaring earned himself an international call-up to represent Republic of Ireland under 19’s at the end of the season; although it wasn’t always plain sailing for the midfielder.
On July 25, 2009 Mainwaring’s career crashed to a halt when he suffered a double leg break. The injury kept him out of action for over a year and there was a possibility that a 19-year old Mainwaring would never walk again. Despite describing the injury as the ‘toughest period of his life,’ he overcame adversity and remained confident about his fortunes: “Everything happens for a reason I believe, I got a bad leg break when I was 19, I had my tibula and fibula snapped and I was out for a full season, I had to learn to walk from scratch.
“Its strengthens you and your mind, I look back and if it wasn’t for things like that I wouldn’t be sat here now.”
For many, Mainwaring was living the dream as a professional footballer. He travelled the country testing himself against seasoned professionals, but this wasn’t enough for Matty.
Despite maintaining his love for football he explains that he always had a clandestine hunger to become a boxer: “All the time I was a footballer my real secret passion was boxing. Because I was a full-time footballer I used to go home every day, watch fights and just love to learn. Tyson, Mayweather, Tommy Hearn people like that, I’m a student to the game and I have to say boxing is my passion.”
“All I used to do in my spare time was watch fights, I used to look for an excuse to hit a bag or talk about boxing.”
It was only last year when Mainwaring realised there was a serious opportunity for him as a boxer. A mutual friend arranged a training session with former professional boxer Matthew ‘Magic’ Hatton and it was then he realised his full potential.
“It was at Christmas time last year, a mutual friend spoke to Matt [Hatton] for me, and he said he would take a look at me. I did a bit of pad work and he told I had a lot of talent.”
“Matt set up some sparring for me which went well, he then he asked me to train under him full time.”
It’s not everyday you get to train with a former undefeated European Welterweight champion and Mainwaring expressed the importance of having such an experienced fighter as his coach: “He’s boxed at the highest level, he has fought some of the best pound for pound fighters in the world.
“I had only seen Matt Hatton on TV and when he tells you that you have talent and you can go a long way it makes your ears prick up.”
Heading in to his first professional bout Mainwaring has only ever sparred with other fighters, however he remains confident of a debut win but explains he isn’t looking past the match.
“I’m thinking about nothing else but Saturday. After that, if it goes the way I want it go, I get that win and have a nice Christmas with my family and pick boxing back up next year.”
If the resilience in character is anything to go by, then Mainwaring can come back from anything, he will certainly will not be fazed come Saturday night.
By Joshua Ronfell