Alan Dawson – London
Articulate, marketable, not to mention a prizefighter with exceptional ring smarts, Ashley Theophane – the current incumbent of the British super lightweight championship – exclusively told On The Beak of his intentions on gatecrashing the upper echelon of the ten stones (140lbs) weight division. Considering his list of vanquished foes together with the tutelage he benefits from whilst in Brooklyn, New York, don’t bet against this straight-talking 30-year-old from London, England.
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Picture: Theophane celebrates stoppage win. Credit - ashleytheophane.co.uk
Theophane’s route to relevancy was not the one fighters from England had normally navigated before him.
The American experience usually comes after clearing up on a domestic and European level, however, Theophane – a road warrior – boxed in Germany, Saint Lucia and became a regular on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights programme all before challenging for the British title.
In February, earlier this year, Theophane got his shot at then-British belt holder Lenny Daws; a darling of the British boxing media due to his hard-working nature.
After some hairy moments for Ashley in the opening three rounds he began to exert his authority, his jab proved accurate and he followed that up with the straight right which, on occasion, was thrown in an unorthodox and near clubbing fashion. Daws was marked up prior to the fifth stanza and Theophane shut-out the middle and championship rounds to pick up the Lonsdale title. Now that he has it strapped around his waist, he is adamant on keeping it permanently – like Randolph Turpin, Henry Cooper and Lennox Lewis did before him – by securing three successful defences.
“I’m British champion so winning the Lonsdale belt outright should be a goal for any British champion,” Theophane exclusively told On The Beak editor Alan Dawson. Ashley has already made one successful defence, against Jason Cook (pictured above), a tenth round stoppage due to a body-punching clinic that was on the untelevised undercard of Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora’s British and Commonwealth championship contest in July, at Wembley. “I have English champion Nigel Wright next as my mandatory [challenger] then I will fight the winner of Steve Williams and Karl Place as they have an eliminator, later this year. After two more wins as British champion I will go back on my journey to a world title shot.”
That journey will likely include the capture of the currently vacant EBU title. Paul McCloskey was the last holder yet the Dungiven southpaw vacated the blue belt in order to challenge Amir Khan for the WBA version of the world championship. Theophane (30-4-1, 8ko) is only behind McCloskey, Ajose Olusegun and Brunet Zamora on the EBU list of European campaigners at super lightweight.
“I beat British champion Lenny Daws who was ranked number one in Europe and I just beat number six in Welsh champion Jason Cook. I am currently ranked number four in Europe and I am looking forward to winning the European crown early next year.”
Blessed with a cut physique, Theophane “does not struggle” when making weight at 140lbs, neither does he have problems fighting at the welterweight limit of 147lbs; as was evidenced with his 2010 trumping of Delvin Rodriguez. I asked Ashley how he stays in shape when outside of training camps and his answer may surprise readers: “I do yoga [and] pilates,” he said, before adding: “swimming [also] helps me stay in shape.
“My favourite element of training is going to America and getting away from all the distractions in London.”
It is in the States where Theophane has perhaps most benefited. He has long had extraordinary boxer-mover abilities, but since training out of the renowned Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn (where legends of the fight game such as Mike Tyson, Roberto Duran, Muhammad Ali and Jake LaMotta had worked out), he has improved his punch-power. He twice dropped Daws in the ninth round and, of course, stopped Cook most recently in the tenth.
“I noticed that Jason Cook had a stamina problem so that is why I targeted his body.” Theophane continued: “Since adding America as part of my training regime, my style has changed in that I am more aggressive. Before, I was more just a pure boxer like Pernell Whitaker or Ivan Calderon. Now I have another dimension to my style which is great as no one knows if I will box or fight when facing me.”
Theophane already has a number of high-calibre scalps on his resume including Daws, Rodriguez and former world champion DeMarcus Corley. Ashley summed up the key to those victories by saying: “I fight to my strengths and look for weak points in my opponents.”
The Corley and Rodriguez victories were broadcast on American fight behemoth ESPN. Yet they weren’t the only contests Theophane engaged in on that channel. He said: “I learned a lot from my appearances on the Friday Night Fight series. Ali Oubaali [2008; ten round unanimous decision loss where Oubaali was dropped in the sixth] was my hardest fight to date and I proved I had heart and a never say die attitude.
“With WBC world number eight Garcia [2010; closely contested split decision defeat over ten rounds], that was a fight I wasn’t up for as I had never heard of him beforehand. IBF world number three Rodriguez is my biggest win to date alongside former world champion Corley. I broke down Delvin and I won even if it was a close fight.” Confident Theophane then claimed that had it been for a domestic honour, and a 12 round fight instead of ten, then he would have boosted his knockout ratio. “If it was for his USBA title, I would have stopped him over 12 rounds. Delvin has [since] come back with a great performance against Pawel Wolak [2011; majority decision draw] so it shows just how good I am.”
Having sparred with and competitively fought against domestic talent in both the United Kingdom and the United States, Theophane is in a better position than most to make a comparison between the two. I asked if there was a noticeable difference in the standard of fighters: “There is a big difference,” he replied. “No one in Britain except Amir Khan is a challenge for me.
“I have no fear with fighting British fighters as I am 100 percent sure I will win. I am more excited by the competition in America as I don’t know I will win when I step in the ring, I just have to give my best and hope that is good enough.”
The landscape of the super lightweight division is about to go through a metamorphosis. Unified WBA and IBF champion Khan has one bout left before he will step-up to the welterweight division and challenge Floyd Mayweather Jr. He will likely be joined at 147lbs by WBC belt holder Timothy Bradley, who hopes to be one of Manny Pacquiao’s next opponents.
Theophane (ranked as On The Beak‘s number ten fighter in his weight class) believes he comfortably fits in with the remaining elite at 140lbs: “I would love fights with Marcos Maidana, Erik Morales and Lamont Peterson. Those are my three tops fights other than Bradley. I have two more years at 140lbs so I want to make the most of it. I think I will get a world title shot next year. I’ve missed out on three eliminators in the last 12 months so I am in the mix. I am definitely one of the ten best 140lb fighters in the world; my record shows that.” – So does his talent.
Readers can follow Ashley on his Twitter page (@AshleyTheophane) and also at his official website (http://ashleytheophane.com).