By Oliver McManus
Walsall’s market town of Bloxwich is 72 miles away from the nearest coast but they’ve got a Beech to be proud of: two weight Midlands Area champion James Beech, that is. I caught up with the 23 year old to discuss his career thus far and began by reflecting on his earliest memories of the sport.
“I remember my dad taking me to the gym when I was about six and I was around the sport ever since then. I used to love watching Ricky Hatton: his style of boxing, his background, he got me hooked. It’s always come fairly naturally to me but (ahead of his first amateur fight) I thought I was a bit better than I was and got brought straight back down to earth.
“I wasn’t the best at school, to be honest, but I’d always make sure I came home, from playing football or whatever, at 6pm to get to the gym everyday. I was definitely dedicated from that early age because I wouldn’t want to miss a session for the world.”
Disciplined and determined from those youthful days there was always a sense that Beech was a talent to be refined. Five amateur Midlands Area titles as a youngster is testament to that natural promise but at 18 years old he was keen to sink his teeth into the paid ranks.
“I always had an eye to turning professional and as a teen I was sparring with the pros: that made it feel a bit closer to becoming reality. Once I took the head guards off for my last few fights, my five senior fights, I thought there was no point in not getting paid to do it. As an amateur I always seemed to be a step below the elite level fighters so I’d rather turn professional and see what I’ve got.”
Afforded a slot on a small dinner show in Solihull, Beech was one of three fighters to debut on the card in February 2017. Despite having a keen imagination there was still a huge amount of the unknown and his debut surpassed all preconceived expectations.
“(My debut) was unreal and I can’t have asked for much more. I told Sam (Kynoch) I could probably sell about 50 tickets because I had no idea whatsoever and I took 250-300 people with me for the fight. It was a buzzing atmosphere, unbelievable, and a good performance to boot. I thought him (Simas Volosinas) a few fights later and I could feel the difference in the ring the second time round. I felt a lot more mature and as though I knew my way around the ring a bit more.”
Self-confessed as the highlight of his career, to date at least, is his first title fight against Louis Fielding. Staged at Walsall Town Hall there was a rousing reception for this Midlands Area super featherweight contest. The title was vacant but Beech’s intentions far from it: coming out with a real gung-ho attitude there was a wild-west theme to the opening rounds before Beech calmed the pace.
“I felt as though I was in control for the whole fight so I was able to enjoy the occasion more than perhaps the Luke Jones fight. I remember going flat-out at first but I did settle down after about round six and resorted back to the boxing basics. I kind of assumed I wasn’t going to get the stoppage because he’d taken some good shots but I managed to force it in the ninth round when he looked pretty exhausted.”
Indeed that slightly frenetic start was tempered significantly for his next title challenge – a year minus a day later on December 7th 2019. Down at featherweight, Beech was facing, the already mentioned, Luke Jones in a contest of two-halves. Bloxwich’s boxing pride nicked it 96-95 on the scorecard but probably did enough for an extra couple of rounds.
“I always imagine winning a Midlands Area title and I’m pleased I was able to do so at 22 so there’s plenty more to come, I’d hope. To win it at two weights is even better and I seem to have taken a lot from that fight with Luke Jones to really help me push up in levels. I thought I won that fight fairly comfortably, to be honest, I certainly came on strong in the final half of the fight.”
As a two weight area champion still at the tender age of 23 there is plenty of time on the side of James Beech. He is, however, keen to push on and targeted the British and Commonwealth belts when discussing future ambitions. Whilst he may have to wait for those two particular opportunities there is no lack of desire to challenge himself in the immediacy.
“There’s plenty of options for me in the future because I’m incredibly comfortable at featherweight but I’ve got the ability to make super-feather and super-bantamweight. When the sport does come back we’re supposed to be seeing more 50-50 fights because we can’t bring in journeymen from abroad so I’ll be there or thereabouts in three weight classes!”