British middleweight champion Nick Blackwell has been seeing a sports psychologist ahead of his November 14 title defence against Jack Arnfield in the hope that weekly sessions will eradicate a tendency to start slow in fights.
Blackwell won the Lonsdale belt in May with a stunning seventh-round stoppage of John Ryder at a sold-out O2 Arena, but had to rally back from a slow start to do so. He then experienced the same kind of start in July, when successfully defending his belt with a brutal one-punch knockout of Damon Jones in Derby, and has since gone looking for answers.
“I’ve been seeing a sports psychologist to see if he can get in my head and give me reasons why I’m not starting fast in fights,” said the 24-year-old, who meets Arnfield at Bristol’s City Academy this Saturday night.
“Gary Lockett (trainer) persuaded me to go and try it, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Gary gave me a contact number for a guy who’s in Cardiff, not far from where I stay, and I thought I would try it.
“I didn’t think it would work, but it’s actually helping me a lot. It helped me after just one session. We’ll see how much impact it has on me when I fight, but I’m hopeful. It’s been really interesting.
“We’re not just talking about boxing. We’re talking about everything. He gets right inside my head and explores every aspect of my life and gets me to talk about how I feel about it. I’ve never had anything like that before. It’s only going to benefit me. It’s not going to make me any worse. I think it will give me a mental edge.”
Though he’s recently questioned his own starting pace, nobody can ever accuse Blackwell of fading down the stretch. If anything, he’s renowned for his ability to outlast opponents and always comes on strong in the later rounds. And it’s this ability to finish on top that Blackwell feels will be the difference when he faces Arnfield on Saturday night.
“I want to go in there and stop my opponent,” said the Trowbridge man. “I never want to go the 12 rounds. But I don’t go looking for a knockout, either.
“I’ve always had power, but never really used it in the right way. Whenever you go in there and try to get rid of someone, you load up on everything and become predictable. You tire and make it harder on yourself. If it comes, it comes. I don’t mind going a hard 12 rounds. I’ve done it before. I’m used to doing that.
“I have that last man standing mentality. I like to win fights by knowing I outlasted my opponent and was the tougher fighter. If we had the option to go back to the days of 15-round fights, I’d be all for it. It would suit me down to the ground.”
*** For tickets to BANG BANG: Blackwell vs. Arnfield, please contact the Ticketline Box Office on 0844 888 4402, the Sanigar Events Box Office on 0117 949 6699 or visit www.hennessysports.com ***
*** Blackwell vs. Arnfield will be televised live and exclusively on Channel 5 from 10pm, Saturday, November 14 ***