BIG INTERVIEW: Matty Clarkson on why now is the right time to walk away from boxing

Matty Clarkson salutes the Preston Guild Hall crowd after winning what turned out to be his final fight in March
Matty Clarkson salutes the Preston Guild Hall crowd after winning what turned out to be his final fight in March

It is the toughest decision for any sportsman to make – admitting that the time has come to call it quits and step away from something that has been their life.

That is where Matty Clarkson finds himself.

The popular Preston puncher only returned to the ring in March after almost three-and-a-half years out of it, seeing off Dmitrij Kalinovskij in front of a home crowd at the Guild Hall.

A 13th professional victory was to be the last for the Johnney Roye-trained fighter however.

Having battled a long-term neck injury Clarkson admits that when he stepped through the ropes for his comeback things just did not feel the same.

“I knew when I was in there that I wasn’t the same fighter,” admitted the 31-year-old, a former Central Area champion who finishes with a 13-3-2 record.

Clarkson with long-time friend and trainer Johnney Roye

Clarkson with long-time friend and trainer Johnney Roye

“I trained really well, I didn’t cheat myself, I did everything asked of me and more.

“Whether it was ring-rust of what I don’t know but it just didn’t feel right.

“I sat down with Johnney afterwards and was honest with him. I said, ‘It’s just not me anymore’.

“When I was in there I was hoping it wasn’t going to be my last time but when I spoke to people around me it just didn’t make sense for me anymore.

“But having come back I can draw a line under it now and say that I’m comfortable with the decision I’ve made.”

In a recurring theme, Clarkson now admits he fought injured that night.

While physio David Rhodes may have seemingly fixed the long-term issue, a shoulder injury and other knocks made it a tough build-up to his return to action for Clarkson and served as a reminder as to why he first stepped away from the ring in 2014 after a defeat to Bob Ajisafe in Channel 5’s light-heavyweight tournament.

“The injury was fine really,” said the former Bamber Bridge and Fulwood Amateurs footballer.

“I felt it once in sparring and got it sorted and that was that.

“But three weeks before the fight I did something to my shoulder and could barely even throw a jab for three weeks. It was absolute agony.

“In 2015 and 2016 it had been announced I was coming back and had to pull out of three fights through injury. With this being at the Guild Hall in my backyard there was no way on this earth I was pulling out.

“I decided to fight injured, did, and to be honest I’m still feeling it now.”

A bricklayer by day, the father-of-one admits that with his body breaking down the sacrifice was simply no longer worth it as he put himself through the wringer for limited financial rewards in the toughest sport in the world.

“I had my first fight at the Guild Hall so it was good to go back and see it one more time, hear that crowd one more time, hear my ring song one more time and get the buzz,” said Clarkson, whose debut came back in February 2011.

“But I didn’t come back to fight lads like the one I fought.

“I came back to fight the best in Britain. I probably would have needed three fights to do that but all the lads who are the best in Britain they are not doing what I’m doing.

“They are all full-time and living the life.

“I’m not, I’m working on a building site during the day between running in the morning and training at night. There’s only so much your body can put up with that.

“I’m grateful to all the people who have supported me but unless you’ve got that full-time funding you can’t compete at British level or above.

“I’ve missed a hell of a lot of family things too. I’ve got a little lad, I’ve been doing it for 16 years and given my life to boxing.

“It’s just doesn’t stack up for me anymore.”

Fight fans will remember Clarkson as an all-action warrior.

For many the mention of his name throws up memories of his 2014 fight of the year with Travis Dickinson.

The pair engaged in a war for the English title but the man himself has more fond memories of a trip to South Africa where he upset home favourite Tshepang Mohale in March 2013.

“Every man and his dog told us not to go,” he said.

“To spin him on his head in the first minute of the fight and then stop him in the seventh is probably the pinnacle for me.

“Winning my Central Area belt was great too.

“I’ve got say thanks to Dave Coldwell who promoted me for a few years.

“He’s had a hell of a lot to do with my career. He got me on Eddie Hearn’s shows and on a Tony Bellew undercard and got me the chance to fight in Africa.

“I’m proud of what I’ve done. I probably feel like I just fell short of where I could have got to.

“But that doesn’t bother me as much as it might because it’s not like I threw away my talent.

“I’ve given it everything. I’ve not sold myself short or any of my sponsors, trainers or people who have come to watch me short.

“I walk away with my faculties intact, I’ve got some money out of it, I had a decent run and a hell of a lot of fun. If I’d done it again I don’t think I’d have done anything differently.”

Clarkson is not stepping away from the sport fully and will help Roye in his MTK Manchester gym in Oyston Mill on Strand Road.

The pair go way back and the trainer, manager and promoter’s operation is going from strength-to-strength.

“I’m going to help Johnney out with the coaching,” said Clarkson, whose retirement was formally announced at the gym’s awards night at Bamber Bridge FC.

“I’m doing my badges so that I can work the corners with his pros.”

As well as Roye, Clarkson was keen to thank many others who have helped his career, especially long-time sponsors Morgan Bros Metalworks and Jopson’s Jewellers.