Junior Witter - I would have beaten Floyd Mayweather, and why I always wanted to be a boxing coach

IF Junior Witter has one regret from a 53-fight career which included world, European, Commonwealth and British title triumphs, it is that he never got the chance to go up against the undefeated Floyd Mayweather – a bout he is confident he would have won.

Finest hour: Junior Witter (L) and DeMarcus Corley throw punches during the WBC light-welterweight fight on September 15, 2006 at Alexandra Palace in London, England. (Picture John Gichigi/Getty Images)

The Bradford-born boxer turned trainer, officially retired from the sport in 2018, although his last bout was staged three years previous in April 2015.

The 46-year-old, who is now based in Sheffield, enjoyed a fine career in the sport, notching up 43 wins – with a 43 per cent knockout rate – while claiming the WBC and WBF super lightweight titles and a plethora of other belts.

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Nicknamed, ‘The Hitter’, the Yorkshireman won the WBF belt just two years after his professional debut, beating Malcolm Melvin via a technical knockout.

Top of the world: Junior Witter (L) wins by unanimous decision during the WBC light-welterweight fight against DeMarcus Corley on September 15, 2006 at Alexandra Palace in London, England. (Picture: John Gichigi/Getty Images)

He had only received notice on the Wednesday before the fight but went on to claim the title on the following Saturday in Newcastle. But it is the claiming of the WBC title that is his fondest memory. He became the mandatory challenger for the belt in the opening months of 2005 but would still wait over a year for his shot.

Mayweather won the title in June of the same year but vacated the belt in 2006, leaving Witter and former WBO champion DeMarcus Corley to battle for the crown in London.

Witter had won 33 of his 36 fights leading up to his WBC title shot – his only loss in that run was an IBF world title bout against the undefeated Zab Judah – and he was confident he could have been the man to put the blemish on Mayweather’s now perfect 50-0 record.

“The WBF one was a late-notice thing, I got the call on Wednesday and boxed for the title on Saturday,” he recalled of his first world title triumph.

SHJunior Witter (R) in action with Colin Lynes during their British Welterweight Championship bout at Hillsborough Leisure Centre on May 12, 2012 in Sheffield, England (Picture: Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

“I remember going in thinking this is my chance to shine, I was on a big bill. It was the undercard of Joe Calzaghe versus Robin Reid.

“For me, it was massive. It was my chance to get out of the shadows and step out on my own, and I performed.

“The WBF title wasn’t the best title at the time but it was still a world title. I knew I had a right to be where I was.

“The WBC title was a whole different level of achievement and that is the one people remember me for, it took so long to get there. I was the mandatory (challenger) for a year, and I should have boxed Mayweather. That was the fight I wanted.

Junior Witter reckons he would have beaten Floyd Mayweather Jr back in the day and could have fought him. (Picture: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

“He moved up in weight and he didn’t have to fight me. He wasn’t the fighter he has been in the last five or so years, but he was still one of the biggest names in boxing.

“It was a fight I looked at and thought I had a very good chance of winning it. Styles make fights, and knowing how I boxed and how he boxes, it suited me brilliantly and I think that is why the fight didn’t happen. They probably looked at it and thought it was too much of a risk for too little gain, so he moved up and I won the WBC title against DeMarcus Corley. It was surreal.

“He was a former world champion himself and was fighting as the favourite and that night I just performed again. It wasn’t the most entertaining fight, it was more of technical battle.

“That feeling was second to none because that was a true achievement. That was the night it all came together.”

Now a trainer, Junior Witter with Dom Hunt, left.

After his IBF title defeat against Judah in 2000, Witter scored 13 knockouts in his next 15 fights while the other two were ended by corner stoppage – when a fighter or his corner call the fight to an end between rounds.

Witter was reluctant to end his professional career but looks back proudly on his achievements, which include British, Commonwealth and European titles.

His last fight ended in a split decision defeat when he challenged Ahmed El Mousaoui for the EBU European Union welterweight title in France.

His final two victories came in his third last and penultimate bouts, respectively, and were both held in Yorkshire.

“My last fight was in 2015 but I was still training until 2018,” he continued.

“Until then I was still looking for fights but couldn’t get any.

“I won the British, Commonwealth, EBU European; I won them all. I did it the old fashioned way, winning all the belts and going on to win the WBC belt.”

Now 46, Witter is a coach, and has been running Witter’s Boxing Club in Rotherham for the last two years, where he trains two local pro fighters.

Dom Hunt from Wakefield has enjoyed an unbeaten start to his career in the paid ranks while Matthew Hunter, from Sheffield, won his debut fight at the beginning of March.

Witter also coaches a number of amateur fighters at his gym on Chesterton Road in Rotherham, some of whom are ready to make the leap into the professional game. Training is something which comes naturally for Witter, who learned his own craft under legendary trainer Bredan Ingle, who also coached household names such as Naseem Hamed, Johnny Nelson and Kell Brook.

Even before stepping through the ropes for his pro debut in 1997, Witter always wanted to become a coach in the sport.

“I was always going to do it. Even before I turned pro myself it was something I was interested in,” he said.

“I have always done little bits in the gym with the lads coming through so for me it was a natural progression. I have had my gym for two years but I started training people since 2015, when I was still fighting.”

He added: “Nothing compares to fighting, nothing in the world.

“When I see people and teach them and you see them get something that you have taught them and seeing them progress and get to that next level, that is just brilliant.”

Like all sport, boxing has faced its own challenges during the coronavirus crisis with Witter’s two fighters unlikely to compete again until later this year.

Hunt was set to fight in mid-March but saw that bout cancelled while Hunter will likely wait at least six months for his second contest.

Of Hunt’s wait for a fight, Witter said: “At the end of last year, he was supposed to box in November but that got put off because he got a viral infection.

“He trained and was hoping to box on March 20 but that got cancelled with lockdown coming in March.

“It has been a frustrating year. I have seen massive improvements from where he was. For Matt Hunter, he hadn’t boxed for a long time since his last fight. He turned pro with the Ingles in 2014 and was professional for two years and never boxed.

“Now he has come with me and he is raring to go. For him, he finally got his first fight but now with coronavirus, by the time he fights again he won’t have boxed for six months.”

With high-level sport making its return, Witter hopes amateur sport stars will be able to resume training and hopes his own gym will be a hive of activity within the next 12 months.

He added: “I have got a couple of kids who are amateur who are ready to turn over, and in the next year hopefully things are going to be booming.”

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