Globetrotter Ashley Theophane had the perfect homecoming last February after picking up the British light-welterweight title from Lenny Daws in an eye-catching performance at Wembley Arena in London. It was Ashley’s second fight since returning to the UK after spending the previous eighteen months fighting on foreign shores.
The 30 year-old has never shied away from travelling to get the fights he wants and has even fought as far a field as Saint Lucia, when he knocked out Marcos Hernandez in 2007. Theophane turned pro in 2003 after an indifferent amateur career and started with a seven-fight unbeaten run, with all fights happening on British soil.
In 2005 though, Ashley suffered his first major blow, when losing a controversial points decision Mauritius-born Judex Meemea in Hackey. Referee Ken Curtis gave fledgling pro Meemea the six-round decision, along with his first victory in five professional contests and left Theophane to contemplate his first defeat.
Theophane got back to winning ways less than a month later, scoring a convincing four-round win over David Kehoe and followed it up with another in June 2005 over Jus Wallie. Another blow was just around the corner though as referee Richie Davies saw Ashley’s next four-rounder later that year in favour of Lithuanian Oscar Milkitas and Ashley dropped to 9-2.
With his career in danger of delving into the realms of journeyman status, Ashley took just six weeks to score another two victories, but another controversial scoring decision saw him only handed a draw in early 2006 with 46-loss Daniel Thorpe. Theophane would then leave the UK for this first time, disilluisioned by some bad refereeing decisions scoring his fights, flying to Germany, where he would score his first stoppage in almost two years over Josef Holub in Sachsen.
Theophane returned to the UK rejuvenated and reeled off three victories on British soil, before returning to Germany for two more solid wins, including his first twelve rounder against Omar Saia in Berlin, which Theophane ended in the eleventh.
That six-fight unbeaten run earned Ashley a British title eliminator against former English champion Alan Bosworth in January 2007, ironically on the undercard of future opponent Lenny Daws losing his Lonsdale belt to Barry Morrison at the Alexandra Palace.
Ashley showed how much he had improved since his two losses and scored a seventh round stoppage over “Bozzy” to claim a shot at new champion Morrison. Ten months of waiting and the British title shot failed to materialize so Ashley signed up for the Saint Lucia bout, before a routine stoppage of Rocky Muscas at the York Hall gave Theophane his fourth straight TKO.
In early 2008, Ashley was offered to opportunity to fight in the USA against former French champion Ali Oubaali and in what Ashley has called his ‘toughest fight,’ he just came up short in a ten-rounder in Connecticut. Theophane was a much better fighter for the experience though and his third career loss would only spur him on to greater things.
Geoffrey Munika was duly dispatched in mid-2008 as Ashley won every round against the Kenyan at the York Hall, before he received another call from America. Ashley’s showing against Oubaali had caught the eyes of the US promoters and an offer he couldn’t turn down was given to him a month later, a chance to meet former WBO champion DeMarcus Corley in New York.
34 year-old Corely was on the back of taking future unified champion Devon Alexander the full twelve rounds and was still the favourite going into the bout with Theophane. Ashley looked a lot fresher than the former champion, who had not aged well in boxing terms after some tough fights.
Theophane took the bout to “Chop Chop” and produced his best performance yet in dominating the former champion, taking a unanimous decision on all three cards. Ashely’s stock in America had now risen considerably, giving him a title-contending reputation in The States.
In two minds at where to base himself, Ashley decided to return to the UK and another three convincing points victories, all at the York Hall followed. They led him into his toughest test yet in February 2010, as another chance to showcase his talent in the United States was on the table.
His opponent would be the most promising 140lb prospect in the US, Danny Garcia, who was 15-0 and on the back of his greatest win to date. The 21 year-old had just pulverised Mexican former WBC International lightweight champion Enrique Colin in two rounds, knocking him down twice in the process and was looking for another victim.
Ashley was far from it and pushed the youngster all the way, becoming the first man to take the world-title prospect the full ten rounds and on one judge’s card was given the fight 95-94. The other two though, scored the bout in favour of the unbeaten Garcia and the split decision victory went to the Philadelphian.
It was yet another reputation-enhancing showing by the Londoner though and his stake in America was now at an all-time high. Ashley had now based himself in the US full-time, although an offer to fight in Germany in June was not passed up and he duly defeated German-based Afghan Harasch Hotaki to claim the vacant IBO International welterweight title, the first ranking title of his career.
It was then back to the USA, where Theophane would be given the opportunity to top the bill on a major American card at the Buffalo Run Casino in Oklahoma. His opponent was Dominican former IBF title challenger Delvin Rodriguez (25-4-2) and Ashley proved how much he had learned against Garcia, coming out on the right end of a tight decision this time.
Although his standing in the US was at an all-time high, Ashley returned to the UK on the advice of his management to enhance his reputation in his home country. In October last year, a one-sided victory over tough Northern Irishman Willie Thompson led Theophane into his defining night on British soil.
Lenny Daws was inked in to defend the Lonsdale Belt he had regained in a rematch with Barry Morrison in 2009 for the third time against Ashley at Wembley Arena earlier this year. 32 year-old Daws went into the bout as favourite as not many of the British fans knew who Ashley Theophane was.
Ashley had something to prove, after waiting over four years for his shot after winning the eliminator in January 2007. The bout was closely contested, but Ashley just had the edge in terms of quality and put the bout beyond doubt with two knockdowns in the ninth round. The judges scorecards, 115-111, 115-111, 115-112 after twelve rounds prove decisive and Theophane was the new British light-welterweight champion.
With a record of 29-4-1 and a great standing in both the UK and the US, Ashley has the boxing world at his feet, with boxers on both sides of the Atlantic aiming for a shot at the “Treasure.” With a ranking of 16 with the WBC, 14 with the IBF and 13 with the IBO, a world title shot is just a couple of wins away for the Lonsdale Belt holder, who has chiselled himself into a true title-class operator.
The Ashley Theophane story is ready for its next instalment….
I spoke to Ashley for WBN’s “12 Rounds” interview series.
1.How did you first get into boxing Ashley?
I used to watch the big fights in the US with my father on TV and I really enjoyed it. My father would get me videos of all the great fighters and I wanted to try it out. I was taken down to All Stars gym in Paddington and the rest is History.
2.What was your amateur record?
My amateur record was half and half. Nothing special but I was always told I had a pro style and that seems to be the case.
3.Who influenced you as a young boxer?
As a young boxer I was influenced by Mike Tyson firstly as watching him knockout his opponents made me want to try and do the same.
Lloyd Honeygan, Kirkland Laing and Nigel Benn all influenced me from a British point of view. They went over to America and conquered and that is what I wanted to do.
4.Toughest opponent you have faced?
Ali Ouballi is the toughest man I have faced. I learnt a lot in that fight. My corner and the doctor wanted to throw in the towel and i begged the ref to let me carry on. I took over from the half way stage as I normaly do. I just left it too late but it was a great learning fight.
5.Who would you want to fight in the future?
In the future I would love to fight Andre Berto, Victor Ortiz, Lamont Peterson, Paul Malignaggi and Randall Bailey. Big fights in the US are what drive me on.
6.Favourite all-time fight?
My favourite all time fight is maybe Marvin Hagler v John Mugabi. I love how Hagler broke him down.
7.Best fight you have seen live?
Best fight I’ve seen live is probably Hatton v Tyszu. That was an all out war.
8.What is your target for 2011?
My target for 2011 is to defend my British Title and get nearer to a World title shot.
9.What’s your motivation?
My motivation is to be the best i can be. I don’t want to look back at my career in ten years time and think what could have been so I try to make the most of it while I’m here.
I want very few regrets.
10.What would you change in Boxing?
In British boxing, I would change the referee scoring the fight and in worldwide boxing I would want the world rankings to be fairer.
11. Mayweather or Pacquiao?
Floyd Mayweather Jr. all day. He has too much for Paciquiao, but he has been out the ring for a long time so that helps Paciquao’s chances. I think Manny should take the tests so that boxing fans worldwide can witness a great fight. (Mayweather now leads 8-1 in the series)
12. And finally… tell us something we don’t know about Ashley Theophane.
I’m a great cake baker!
Follow Ashley Theophane on Twitter @ashleytheophane or visit his website ashleytheophane.com