He’s from the streets of Sheffield, but his boxing potential could take him almost anywhere. On September 21st, just outside his home city, Anthony Tomlinson (10-0) looks to claim the vacant IBO Continental welterweight championship and make a huge leap upwards in the world rankings with a win over Rob Hunt (26-5-2) at the Magna Centre in Rotherham.
The highly-rated prospect has already taken two of his opponents’ undefeated records, and the challenge that lies ahead, in veteran Rob Hunt, fails to concern him. “My team knows that I don’t look at Rob Hunt, I don’t watch anybody I’m about to box,” he explains. “I just get in there on the night and deal with them. I’ve got Stefy (Bull) and Ray (Doyle) and that’s their job to look at him and just let me concentrate and get on with what I need to do. I don’t really know (anything) about him. I’m not really bothered about knowing anything about him either.”
“A lot of people worry and over-think things when it comes to fighting. There’s no point having that extra stress in your head, so I just get in and do it.”
And that’s exactly what he does. He gets the job done – quickly. Five of his last seven opponents failed to hear the final bell. “Ray Doyle’s always said that I’ve got dynamite in my hands,” he proudly says. “I never used to believe it when I first started my career because they (opponents) used to just tuck up and run. Now these kids are coming to fight – I’m knocking them out. If Rob Hunt’s coming with that same game plan, to come to fight, it’ll end in the same way.”
“It’s just a matter of when I’m going to hit you. I carry that power throughout. Even if it did go into championship rounds – I still carry that power throughout.”
Despite his early success, it was a career in mixed martial arts that the twenty-eight year-old originally wanted to partake in. “You’ve got to do your groundwork and your upright (striking), so I just started boxing. Basically, it just came natural to me, the boxing. I was sparring with professionals near enough straight away. It just become that boxing was meant to be for me.”
As Tomlinson went on to explain to me. His early-life saw him walk paths that a young man should normally avoid. As it so often does, boxing helped him back on the road to redemption and a bright future. “I was a bad lad growing up, in and out of gangs. I didn’t live the best of lives growing up,” he reflected. “I didn’t really have that much. People say it’s ‘gangs’, but I’ve seen it as ‘family’. To me it was a group of family, but everybody associated us as gangs. I’ll never forget that because that made me the person who I am now. I go back and reflect and see how my life’s changed massively. I think that played a big part in my life to make me realise that’s not the path that you have to live.”
Last December, Tomlinson realised a dream when he boxed on the Kell Brook vs. Michael Zerafa undercard at the Sheffield Arena. A composed and impressive stoppage win furthered his pugilistic education and the opportunity to fight at his home arena was something he won’t quickly forget. “Unbelievable. It’s in my own city on a massive show. I soaked it all in, I never felt the pressure of it, you know? He was a former Belgian champion. I think everybody thought it was going to be a tough fight, but I’m confident in my own ability. I just embraced it and enjoyed it. It was one of the best nights, thinking about it, being on a card of Kell Brook’s, boxing on a major show.”
He had a large and vocal fan base in attendance that night and has the same whenever and wherever he boxes. He’s already sold a stunning amount of tickets to date; something fighters up and down the country will be rather envious of. “For September 21st, I’ve already sold over £16,000 of tickets. I think it’s going to be around £20,000 (by fight night). The atmosphere’s going to be unreal,” he said.
Unfortunately, in the past and today, there have been quality fighters who for whatever reason aren’t ticket-sellers. This is a problem Tomlinson looks likely to never have. “I’ve never had that problem throughout my career. I’m just right laid-back. I’m humble and I’ve got time for anybody that messages me. I’ll comment back to anyone, if they need any sort of advice or issues that I can relate to. I try my best and I think that’s the person that I am. I’m just me. I’m not trying to be anybody else. I want everybody to do well in life.”
His immensely positive vibe continued as he told me of what Rob Hunt can expect on September 21st. “I bring everything to the table. I can fight, I can box. I believe that Rob Hunt’s going to get knocked out, that’s my honest opinion. They say, ‘Oh, it’s a step up for you’, I also believe it’s a step up for his self. The calibre of fighter that he’s been in with, he’s not been in with anybody like me. It’s a massive step up for us both. That IBO title is coming home with me, 150%”
“I really can’t thank the IBO enough for giving me an opportunity like this and I’m absolutely buzzing and overwhelmed and so grateful for it.”