Savage Southampton Super-Feather Ryan Garner might have been absent from the public eye for the past seven months following a short suspension for an out of ring transgression but the one the call ‘The Piranha’ certainly hasn’t been profligating.
A one time European schoolboy king and triple national junior champion, the classy yet clinical 20 year old executioner has been sharpening his tools and collecting props in world class company ahead of his highly anticipated ring return at London’s York Hall on February 24th.
‘I doubt I’ll be that rusty as I’ve been sparring up and down the country,’ claims iron Ryan who has won six straight since storming the pros in June 2016.
‘I went up to Doncaster to help (Commonwealth Featherweight boss) Isaac Lowe and I worked with (IBF and WBA bantam boss) Ryan Burnett for his unification fight in October.
‘I was sparring the Walsh brothers (champions Liam and Ryan) before I even turned pro and last summer I was doing six to eight rounds, three times a week for three weeks with Carl Frampton. Recently I’ve sparred Mitchell Smith and Charlie Edwards.
‘They’re all older and far more experienced but if I can hold your own in that company after just five fights, it shows what level I should be able to compete at.
‘For these top guys, you travel to their gyms where they feel they have to show they’re ‘The Man’. That adds pressure but my timing was there and I feel good.
'To be honest, I’m learning far more sparring that level than I would fighting journeymen who just come to survive. Sparring better people, I can show more variety. In longer fights, my body shots will come more into play. In the amateurs or four rounders, they can take it...but they’d fold over ten or 12.
‘These spars can only help me progress and I’m improving every aspect of my game. I’m becoming stronger physically and mentally more focussed. During my suspension, I’ve been able to focus on improving my overall technique as opposed to getting myself ultra fit to fight.’
A former streetfighter with natural combative instincts, the aptly named ‘Piranha’ needed less than three completed rounds to shred five of his six paid victims yet insists his skill set extends beyond a heavy punch and executioner’s mien.
‘Some dismiss me as just a come forward banger but I can make people miss and counter off the back foot,’ he claims.
‘My fifth opponent (50 fight Nicaraguan veteran) Rafael Castillo was really tough and I couldn’t walk through him so last two rounds I just boxed. It might have been my best performance.
‘Hatton was my childhood hero but, of the current crop, I like ‘Loma’, an aggressive, exciting, front foot counter puncher.
While the city’s population exceeds a quarter of a million, it’s boxing history and ring accomplishments thus far are surprisingly sparse. And that’s something that Garner – in tandem with Pound for Pound gym mate Joe Pigford - Southampton’s obscenely heavy-handed 13-0 super-welterweight – intend to alter.
‘Southampton’s a rough old port but unfortunately, before us, local fighters never had much of a chance,’ explains the Wayne Batten coached prospect who has started just twice in his home city but has accrued a large band of travelling fans.
‘Wayne’s the only professional boxing trainer in Southampton. Before myself and Joe signed with Frank Warren, he went under the radar a bit but he’s got exceptionally quick hands and is probably the best pad man I’ve seen, never mind worked with. He’s also done so much for me outside of boxing.
‘Though the Guildhall has the most mental atmosphere’s I’ve known, it only holds about 1100. Then the Rosebowl cricket ground and St Mary’s are both outdoor. But Joe and me are both big Saints (Southampton FC) fans since day dot and I intend to be a flag bearer and headline at St Mary’s......one day!’
Limited remaining tickets for Saturday 24th February are available to purchase from www.ticketmaster.com and directly from fighters on the bill.