By Oliver McManus
Speaking to Danny Ball he came across as a man wiser than his years: level-headed and softly spoken. At times, though, it must be said there were gilmours of that youthful exuberance you’d expect from any 23 year old just handed their ‘big break.’
The welterweight was snapped up by Queensbury Promotions following an impressive victory over their former fighter, Mason Cartwright. Reflecting on that fight, Ball told me it was the best atmosphere he’d experienced to date:
“We took the fight straight away knowing we were going to be the underdog. It was one of the best camps I’d had, though, and everything felt like it was going right. Sometimes I can start camp a little bit heavy but this time round I was bang on weight and things lined up well for me. I had 100 fans there with me so it wasn’t all against me but he’d come out really sharp whilst I was slipping in my new boots. I knew the body shots were hurting him and I put it on him in the third after he’d walked onto a right hand.”
His prize for winning was the WBC International Silver belt but, in addition to that, a promotional contract with Frank Warren soon arrived on his metaphorical desk. Having inked a deal towards the beginning of May, the 23 year old explained just how excited he was to link up with Warren.
“It was a nice surprise, especially in the current circumstances, I wasn’t really expecting anything to come off. We’d heard after the fight with Mason Cartwright that they might be interested in signing me and Errol (Johnson) had said there was a possibility. We didn’t hear anything from that point until just after lockdown when actually my manager said ‘expect the phone call’ and I was over the moon when Frank and his team rang.
“It’s a nice confidence boost for him to be interested at this stage of my career. I know I’m still young and don’t have as much experience as some of his other fighters but I’m keen to learn and push on. Now I’ve got the backing of Frank Warren the opportunities should be easier to come across.”
Coaching the former Midlands Area challenger is Richie Ghent – himself just 32 years old. Ghent, a former professional boxer (6-0), has handled the development of his charge with an astute eye. Having spent time in white collar boxing, after a brief stint in the amateurs, Ball credits Ghent with helping him ease back to basics.
“I listen really well to the instructions Richie gives me so it was quite easy to fall back into the boxing basics (having had time in white-collar). It’s all coming together and we’ve slowly been shaping my style since my debut. It’s unbelievable to work with Richie because he’s still only young himself and is a very hands-on, involved coach – you know he’s going to put you through your paces.”
His debut came in July 2017 having been in camp, essentially, since February with two and a half stone needing to be lost. What followed was a near-perfect debut as he stopped Martin Kabrehl inside of three minutes. Six fights later, all wins, and Ball stepped up to face seasoned journeyman Kevin McCauley. A scheduled six rounder saw Ball stop the crafty veteran with just over a minute left of the final round.
“It was a bit of an odd experience because I used to help Kev out with his sparring and I know he can put it on you. I got offered the fight and I wanted to test myself against him: to be fair, he did come out looking for a fight and he made it tough. It was the combination of body to head in the last round which stopped him and I don’t think anyone was expecting it, to be honest.”
Two fights after that, and a fight before his clash with Cartwright, the Kingswinford resident was involved in a Midlands Area bout against Kaisee Benjamin. Benjamin was on home soil in Birmingham and, in a tight fight, probably got that advantage to secure a draw. A rather disappointing experience for Ball but one that he looks back on as a valuable lesson learned.
“That fight was disheartening, to be honest, because we felt we’d done enough to win the fight – certainly by two rounds at least. It taught me that on an away show perhaps you have to do a bit more than you usually would to win and that’s worked well against Mason. These things happen for a reason and Errol was good; he got on the phone a week later with another title fight so it was easy to put behind me.”
It can be easy to forget that Frank Warren’s new signing is just 23 years old – 24 on July 14th. As he spoke it was clear to hear his well-reasoned and measured approach to life: no flash, no gimmicks, just an honest, no-nonsense method of business. That chimes with his performances in the ring which, whilst always entertaining, are characteristically robust and thought-out. And, as he says himself, time is certainly on his side.
“I’m happy to fight plenty of the domestic welterweights but, look, the guys around me are telling me I can afford to be a little bit more patient. I’m perhaps five, six years younger than a few of the guys at welterweight so time is on my side but I’ll keep stepping up and accepting the fights that come my way.”