Southampton Light Heavyweight, Chris Hobbs, will challenge for the English title against Liam Conroy this Friday in Birmingham. This will be Hobbs’s fourth title fight in a row; his last outing was a defeat to the much talked about, Anthony “The Beast” Yarde. Despite losing by stoppage, Hobbs was clearly happy to continue as his reaction to the loss, you would consider to be animated to say the least.

“Yeah I wasn’t tired. He (Yarde) hit me in the right spot, he was bang on point so I can’t really say much more than that. He wasn’t the biggest puncher I have ever faced, that’s including sparring. But they got the right game plan, he messed me up at the beginning as soon as I got caught with the body shot that took the wind out of me, the game plan went out the window and I was just trying to recover from the beginning. But you know, he’ll do well, he’ll probably go on to win World titles. It’s not the worst person in the world to lose to. I don’t regret taking the fight”

Despite the loss to Yarde, Chris Hobbs remains very relevant domestically within the Light Heavyweight division. Now a seasoned name amongst British 175lbs contenders, manager Michael Ballingall, found Hobbs an English title fight against Liam Conroy this Friday.

“I’m absolutely delighted. It’s an amazing opportunity for me. You know, I wasn’t going to box again this year. I was due to fight Miles Shinkwin, and then had to pull out of that due to injury. So then we thought we could maybe try and get down to Super Middleweight. Then I was in work and we got the phone call; Liam Conroy was looking to make a defence of his belt. I was among five names that the Board [BBBoC] would allow, and he choose me. I’m guessing I was the lowest ranked on that list. But it’s an opportunity I have to grab with both hands. As soon as they said that, I was straight back into training camp.”

“This is such a massive opportunity; I am going to be the first person from Southampton to win this belt. It would make me the most successful fighter from Southampton since Steve McCarthy in the early 90’s. That would make me the third best from Southampton in all time. Funny, because when I started; I would of been happy with a Masters belt and to get to Southern Area championship level, but now I have already won the Southern Area belt and I have an opportunity to win the English title and be in the top four in the country.”

Although Chris had his eyes and mind firmly focused on Liam Conroy, talk of a fight with Portsmouth’s Joel McIntyre has been ever present. Joel coincidentally lost to Conroy in his last fight, losing his English title in the process.

“I actually thought Joel would win as well and I had actually text Liam after the fight to say congratulations. I have no animosity towards the guy, he’s just got the belt I want, we’ll have a beer after if he wants. That’s the type of guy I am. But I didn’t think he would win that fight to be honest, he landed a shot in the 1st round that dropped Joel, and Joel made some mistakes and got punished. Liam has improved massively since he drew with Mitch Mitchell a couple of years ago. He also lost to Cello Renda, but that was at middleweight, he may have been weight drained, who knows?”

Liam Conroy has been on a seven win running streak of late compared to Chris who lost his last fight to Anthony Yarde. I asked Chris if he felt like the underdog this Friday.

“On paper, I am probably the underdog. Obviously he’s the champion; he’s got the belt and a better record. However in my opinion it’s a 50/50 fight. It’s time for me to put my money where my mouth is. I’ve had a great training camp, probably the best camp I have had. And I know every fighter says that, but I’ve had a few injuries and I am in the best shape of my life. Maybe it’s down to me having settled into the gym now or maybe the nutritionist I have brought in. It’s a mix of all these things put together and I’m hoping to produce my best performance.”

The light Heavyweight division is considered to be one of competitiveness and depth, and Hobbs shared the same sentiment as we both played matchmaker.

“There are some cracking fights at this weight. You’ve got Jake Ball vs Miles Shinkwin, which is a great fight. When Hosea Burton gets mixed in with these people that would be good for the division, but nobody wants to fight him, it’s high risk low reward. The division is on fire, Callum Johnson is in the mix as well, Joshua Buatsi is on his way up also, in a couple of fights he’ll also be in the mix. Light Heavyweight domestically is probably Britain’s best division at the moment.”

It was obvious Chris Hobbs was eager to test himself against the best of the aforementioned names, the English title around his waist would help in achieving this.

“I’ll do what I did last time as well; take the hardest fight available to me. I wouldn’t chose an easy fight, I would want to fight Hosea Burton or Jake Ball, or even Frank Buglioni, whoever is there, that’s the way I would go. Aim high or what’s the point in doing the sport.”

Hobbs has tended to fight on the road for most of his career thus far. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was his desire to fight in his home city once again.

“There are not that many shows in Southampton. The last one was Al Siesta’s show, but he didn’t put any fighters from Southampton on the card, which didn’t make much sense to me. If there was a big show in Southampton, say if Frank Warren came down or Alfie Warren came down as they promote Ryan Garner and Joe Pigford, I would love to fight in Southampton. I haven’t actually fought in Southampton since 2012, my second fight.”

As mentioned previously, the prospect of a Southampton Vs Portsmouth style fight would be welcomed by many boxing fans in the area. Chris Hobbs Vs Joel McIntyre was talked about at length when I spoke to Chris last year and it was clearly still on his mind.

“If the fight is there, it makes sense for both of us. It’s a step in the right direction; there is good money in it for both of us. We are sportsman, so it’s what we do. If we could get a title on the line it would make it even more lucrative, but the opportunity is still there. It’s like a chess game sometimes, I’m happy to fight anybody and I am sure Joel is as well. The fight can happen, he’s not scared of me and I’m not scared of him.”

One thing that does hinder the prospect of this fight is that the rivalry between the two cities could prove dangerous and the deciding factor. In 2003, Tony Oakey defended his WBU belt against Matthew Barney in Portsmouth which was disturbed by crowd trouble. Frank Maloney once told The Portsmouth News “I don’t think we will ever see a fight in Portsmouth again because you can’t have what we’ve seen here. There is no room for a hooligan element in the sport. What we have seen is disgraceful.”

“It could be a logistical thing; do we put it on in Southampton or Portsmouth? Does anybody want to put it on in Southampton or Portsmouth due to the Southampton/Portsmouth rivalry? Everybody remembers what happened with Tony Oakey vs Matthew Barney! We almost got a boxing ban on the south coast, since that time there has been no massive TV shows since that fight. Maybe we could take it to Bethnal Green, more neutral. I have to get through Liam Conroy first though, that’s my main aim.”

“We are expecting a tough fight (against Conroy), he’s had back to back training camps, he’s going to be fit! I am a pressure fighter; I work hard from round 1 to round 10, that’s my plan to do exactly the same. I don’t plan to be messy like I was in the Jordan Joseph fight; people look at that fight and think he’s a bit messy. I want to show people on Friday what skills I have learnt and what improvements I have made.”

By Adam Noble-Forcey