Boxing - Freddie Turner sits his first real exam against Nathan Graham

An intriguing top-of-the-bill encounter at York Hall on Friday sees Aylesbury's Nathan Graham (14-5-1) make the first defence of his Southern Area light middleweight title against unbeaten East London prospect Freddie Turner (8-0).

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Boxing - Freddie Turner sits his first real exam against Nathan Graham
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Freddie Turner sits his first real exam against Nathan Graham on Friday

Having turned pro in 2004, success has been a long time coming for Graham, yet he refuses to describe Friday’s match-up as the biggest fight of a career which has so far seen him share a ring with current English champion Adil Anwar, European title challenger Tyan Booth and former WBC World light-welter champion Junior Witter.

“Every fight is important” Graham says. “Look - I’m not looking to give my things away. It took a long time to get it and I’m keeping hold of it. But a fight’s a fight.”

“Everything’s gone well, I’m very confident, I’ve put the hours in on the road and done a lot of hard work in the gym. Experience helps a lot and I’ve definitely got more experience than Freddie Turner.

"I’m not into making predictions, I’m just going in there to do what I have to do, whether its stoppage or points, either way, it doesn’t matter. People that have seen me, the boxing public, they know, I’ll fight anyone, anywhere, anytime. Nothing against Freddie, he’s a good fighter but I’m going back home with my title and that’s it.”

The Aylesbury man has held the belt since December of last year when Kris Agyei-Dua was forced to retire with a dislocated shoulder in the fourth round of their battle for the vacant title. And at 31, he may not get too many more chances at the right end of the business if Friday’s result goes against him. Yet he exudes the confidence and calmness of one who has been there and done it before, who knows his own strength. A hard man in a hard business.

So has he seen much of Freddie Turner, watched tapes and looked for weaknesses? “I’ve seen bits and pieces. He’s a southpaw, which’ll make it interesting. I haven’t fought a southpaw before, but I leave that stuff to my team, really. They do all the research and come up with a gameplan. We know how we’re going to approach the fight. I just have to go in there and do it.”

And afterwards? “I don’t want to talk about afterwards. I just come to fight. That’s all I do. Like I said before, I’ll fight anyone. I leave the career plan to Spencer (Fearon, his manager) he’s the man right now.”

The boxer in the other corner on Friday will have a very different perspective. At 25 years old and only three years into his professional journey, he is younger and much fresher, but still with questions hanging over him that are common to most boxers early in their careers. Although unbeaten, Freddie’s contests so far have been against paid opponents, there to survive and take the money, nothing more. Challenging a well-seasoned and tough pro, eager to keep hold of his title, is another prospect altogether. Turner accepts this fact but feels he will be able to turn it to his advantage. He sounds enthused, full of energy, like a kid looking forward to Christmas.

“Yes, no question, this is the toughest fight of my career.” He says. “I know I’ve only fought journeymen. Only Max Maxwell had a decent record for a while and even he’s gone down the journeyman route now. But those guys are hard to look good against, they come in, keep it tight, don’t give you anything to work with. But Nathan Graham will come to fight and that’ll suit me down to the ground because I’m a natural counter-puncher. My style doesn’t mesh well with someone who just wants to stay on the back foot and survive. I’ve wanted a fight like this for ages.”

“My training for this one has been perfect” Freddie continues, “at Trad TKO I’m training with Jimmy and Mark Tibbs and you know, with guys like that, you’ve got quality behind you. I’m super fit and I’m so ready for this one. I feel like I can go in there and just do whatever I need to do to win. If I have to box him and be a bit cute, I can, if I feel early on that I’m stronger than him then I can make it a tear-up. I’m really looking forward to it and can’t wait to get in there.”

Like Graham, Turner also says he has only seen “bits and pieces” of his opponent, but has seen “enough to know what he’s good at and what he’s bad at. An important thing I’ve noticed” he says, “is that Nathan Graham tends to get tired and peter out in the later stages of fights.

"This is my first 10 rounder, the first time I’ve been beyond 6, but I know from training that I can up my work rate late on if I need to. I can see this being a good contest between two guys who want to win but I think I can stop him between rounds seven and ten. Believe me I have trained to my utmost and I will be peaking – the very best I can be on the day. If he does beat me, it’ll just mean that he’s the better man, but I honestly don’t think that’s the case.”

Freddie Turner wishes to thank all those who buy tickets to watch him fight. So what would victory mean for Turner?

“It’ll be so important for my career. To be honest I never wanted to fight all the journeymen early on, but I don’t make the fights, I just take on who they put in front of me. I turned pro with Frank Warren and Dean Powell and I wasn’t really fighting often enough or getting the right kind of contests so I swapped over to Trad TKO and it’s been brilliant, really.

"Johnny Eames (manager) has done everything he said he would do. He told me he’d keep me busier and get me a title fight and he’s done exactly that. I can’t ask for any more and it’s just down to me to do the business now. I’d like to push on from here and go onwards and upwards. I’ve been offered an English title fight before, but it was at short notice so we turned it down, but I could see myself going for that sometime soon. There’s always Liam Smith (British and Commonwealth champion) out there too. We nearly fought in the Amateurs a few times but it never quite came off. I can see our paths crossing in the future as well.”

On Friday night at York Hall, the lives of two fighting men with very different pasts will entwine for a possible thirty minutes in the ring. At the end of it, their futures will look very different too. For Nathan Graham, a win would mean consolidation after years of hard slog. His previous attempts against higher level opponents have seen him falter, but a few successful defences of his area title could mean a chance at bigger and better things. Defeat, however, would likely see him spend the rest of his career as a domestic level gatekeeper – a guy you have to beat to get to title level.

For Freddie Turner, his eight victories against opponents with losing records will mean very little if he comes unstuck in his first proper competitive contest. On the other hand, a win would see him ideally placed to launch a campaign for greater domestic honours and beyond. In short, it’s huge for both men and a fight with one of those classic boxing sub-plots - the seasoned pro in the last-chance-saloon for glory, up against the young buck with everything to prove.

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