On the outskirts of Liverpool City Centre, there is a feeling growing among a group of coaches and fighters at a small gym on Everton Road that they stand on the verge of something special.
Manager Neil Marsh, along with coaches Mick and Paul Stevenson, lead a band of talented young boxers at the famous Red Triangle Gym who are quickly making a name for themselves in the professional and amateur ranks.
Boasting a stable that includes British and Commonwealth flyweight champion Kevin Satchell and bantamweight contender Ryan Farrag, Marsh and the Stevenson brothers have burning ambitions for their fighters that they believe can be fully achieved in the future.
With Marsh recently working wonders in securing a European title shot for Satchell and elder statesman Courtney Fry a shot at legend of the sport Roy Jones Jr, Mick and Paul say the camp atmosphere is at an all-time high.
“It’s a pleasure to go to work in the mornings to be honest,” Paul told World Boxing News. “There’s a great buzz and atmosphere in the place. All the fighters are learning and trying new moves on each other. They are like brothers and it’s a pleasure for Mick and me to work with such professional, dedicated and big hearted people.”
Of the six pro’s on the books of Marsh and trained by Mick and Paul at the facility, the five boxers who are currently 30 and under have a combined record of 58-3, with the coaches in no doubt that they have a future world champion in the gym already.
“I’m not one for big predictions but they’ve all got massive potential,” said Paul. “Our goals include having a stable of world champions. While every realist knows that that road is unpredictable, this crop could definitely deliver.
“Plenty of British fighters have won world titles in recent years, so all our boxers have definitely got that as their goal. They’ve got the best manager in Neil Marsh and the best promoter in Frank Warren so anything is possible.”
One of the leading lights at the moment and someone many within the sport believe can fulfil that world title promise is 25 year-old Satchell, who has already dominated the 112lb division domestically and now faces Valery Yanchy for the EBU belt on October 25 at the Echo Arena.
“We are very impressed as Kevin is a model pro,” Paul pointed out. “He really came from nowhere and cleaned out the flyweights by beating Martin Power, Paul and Chris Edwards, Luke Wilton and Iain butcher, so this European title shot is the next logical step.
“The European flyweight champion is a quality southpaw and a real fighter, but Kevin is on a high and he is improving fast. He’s young, fit, aggressive and he’s proven over the championship distance, so he’ll be looking to really make a statement against Yanchy.
“Also, Kev’s such a dedicated proud champion and a real family man, so his feet are firmly on the ground. Mick and I were in the corner for his very first amateur bout as a 12 year old, and we were proud beyond words when he became the British and Commonwealth champion. To add the European title would be very special.”
Eyebrows were raised in the summer when Marsh exclusively told WBN that he had secured a fight for Courtney Fry against ex-pound for pound number one in the world, Roy Jones Jr in Latvia on a huge bill. Despite giving it his all, Fry eventually went down in five rounds to give Jones his first stoppage in five years, but Mick believes that the experience will stand the veteran fighter in good stead for the remainder of his career.
“I took Courtney to Latvia with Neil Marsh, while Paul stayed in England as Nathan Brough was fighting on the same night,” explained Mick.
“It was a great experience, but how Neil pulled that fight out of the bag I’ll never know. When he told us we thought he was winding us up.
“The big show in Latvia was a great experience as was working the opposite corner to the great Roy Jones Jr. It became a bit surreal when we first came face to face with Roy as it’s easy as a boxing fan to get starstruck. We couldn’t let ourselves be affected because we were there for business.
“Roy eventually got to Courtney at the end of the fifth. He didn’t know where he was when he came back to the corner, but he’s got such a big heart. He’s a father and we love him and we’d never let him get hurt so I called the ref over and stopped the fight.
“Showing his class, Roy took us all out for a meal afterwards and we had a great night out with him. He’s a real gentleman and a living legend and it was a pleasure to have stood in the opposite corner to him.”
Aiming to emulate 39 year-old Fry and secure some of those bigger nights in the future are James ‘Jazza’ Dickens, Steven Lewis and Ryan Farrag, all of whom have shown the Stephenson’s glimpses of their massive potential of late.
Super-bantamweight contender Dickens, 23, is back to winning ways after suffering the first defeat of his career to Kid Galahad in 2013 and could get another crack at the coveted Lonsdale Belt in the coming months, as Paul revealed.
“Jazza is back and better than ever. The British board have ordered Jazza versus Josh Wale for the vacant British super-bantamweight title so we are in training for that now.
“On the Galahad fight, he’s learned a lot from it and it’s made him more complete. Jazza was able to solve Galahad style-wise quite quickly and was winning the fight, but Galahad’s experience and under-rated strength told in the end.
“There’s no shame in that loss because it showed Jazza what he’s capable of, and as we all rate Galahad because he can really fight, it proves Jazza belongs at that level too. With a bit more title fight experience that could’ve been a very different result.
“Boxing is such a game of crazy highs and lows, plus it can be difficult to stay focused and keep a level head – but I’d say this is one of Jazza’s real strengths. He’s in the gym non stop, improving, developing his craft, soaking up knowledge and this is one seriously talented young man.
“Our hope is for him to really make a statement against Wale and become British champion. After that, we’ll let Neil marsh and Frank Warren work their magic. With the backing he has and the talent he’s got, there’s no limit to how far he could go.
A year younger than Dickens, and ready to make that domestic breakthrough, is welterweight Steven Lewis, who is now 6-0 and scheduled to go for a seventh straight win on the same Merseyside bill as Satchell v Yanchy next month.
“It’s a funny thing about the gym. The lads all have learning spurts where one of them will improve very quickly over a short time leading the way for the rest of the lads to catch up,” stated Paul. “They pull each other up like this and it’s great to see. Ste’s in the middle of this now. He’s the one who’s leaping forward.
“The penny has really dropped and he’s starting to realize what’s possible. He’s still young with just six fights, but we’re very excited about his future.”
Scheduled to fight in the next couple of weeks is 26 year-old Ryan Farrag, a bantamweight who has already beaten former world title challenger Jason Booth and has just a solitary loss to world-rated Lee Haskins in the three-round Prizefighter format.
The UK scene at 118lbs is on fire at the moment with the likes of Stuart Hall and Jamie McDonnell either fighting for or holding world titles and Paul hopes that Farrag can be up there with them in the not too distant future.
“We’d like to think Ryan could reach the same level as Hall and McDonnell as he has really improved in the last 12 months. He’s really upped his conditioning regiment and he’s training like a man possessed.
“Neil Marsh has been working hard to secure him an English title shot, but opponents have been unwilling. We believe he is developing into a great fighter and we hope to have him winning titles very soon.”
One member of the Red Triangle team that did have his title chance recently was Nathan Brough, although the 30 year-old is now on the comeback trail after losing in two rounds to Jack Catterall at Manchester Arena.
As Paul explained, Brough has been working harder than ever before on the back of the Catterall loss and will be able to return even stronger as he has the right attitude to put the defeat behind him.
“Nathan reacted like a real fighter. He dusted himself off and got back in the gym to right the wrongs. He’d made a great start in the Catterall fight and hit the ground running, but got caught with a big shot out of the blue.
“That’s boxing and it hurts, but now he’s working on getting back fast . The camp for that fight couldn’t have gone better and Nathan did about 80 rounds of top sparring with Frankie Gavin, but he just got caught and we move on.
“Nathan’s definitely a real talent and his knowledge of the sport is second to none. He’s due a change of luck and he needs a big win to get back on track. Then he can fulfill his potential, and If things go to plan Nathan will be fighting for titles in the new year.”
Also training alongside the pro fighters in Everton is amateur star Peter McGrail, a prospect with the a bright future who recently won Bronze at the Youth Olympics in China. Paul says McGrail is working on becoming full Olympic champion before he enters the paid ranks and has Rio 2016 as his primary focus.
“Peter is a real talent. He’s won 6 national titles and bronze medals at both the youth Olympics, which he won last month, and Youth World Championships. I’d say without some strange judging he could have won gold at both, but once again that’s boxing.
“I know he will be fighting hard over the next two years to get on that Olympic team, after which he’d probably turn pro, although Peter really wants an Olympic gold medal.
“If he cracks the 2016 Olympic team then I am sure he’ll turn over, but if not he may choose to stay amateur until 2020. He’ll only be 23 so it’s all up to him really. We’ll support him whichever road he takes as usual.
On how highly Peter is rated by them both, Paul added: “Well, he is one of the best amateurs I’ve ever seen. He’s got a great talent for solving opponents fast. His set-up for punches is creative and varied and he has very advanced ring IQ. He’s also consistent as in every round of every fight in every tournament he always performs.
“We believe Peter McGrail is special and we are convinced he has what it takes to become a world champion one day.
“All the boxers have been learning their trade and developing extremely well. We hope for a really strong 2015 where our stable can stay busy and have the key fights which will really put them in strong positions to be knocking on the door to world titles.
“We also have a very strong amateur squad to stand alongside Peter and we look forward to developing these fighters too. Some of the boxers we’ve got in the pipeline are frighteningly talented and we’re looking forward to seeing it all pan out.
“On behalf of our fighters Mick and I would like to give a huge thanks to manager Neil Marsh who is working tirelessly and brilliantly behind the scenes. His commitment and attention to detail have to be seen to be believed.”