Scunthorpe boxer Steve Spence sets out on new path after winning Masters title fight
WHAT started out as a hobby to keep fit, then became a way to fund his wedding.
But now there is a serious side to Steve Spence's boxing – the evidence of which sits proudly on his mantelpiece.
In the biggest bout of his four-year professional career, the Scunthorpe middleweight won.
The result of his victory over Birmingham opponent Andrew Patterson, achieved by technical knockout with only 43 seconds of a gruelling 10-round contest remaining, was the British Masters Light Middleweight title.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
Not only has the belt changed the look of his waistline, it's also given the 26-year-old a different view of the sport in which he has shed blood and sweat for eight years.
Spence openly admits he had become something of a journeyman inside the past 12 months – stepping into the ring more than 20 times last year, often at short notice, to face opponents he labels as 'top prospects'.
Money, he concedes, was the major motivation – which is why when the going got tough, he stepped aside, in the sort of style usually associated with avoiding an opponents' jab.
"Really, I did it for the money," says Spence, who married his wife Donna in May.
"Even if I didn't feel very well, I'd still go because I was getting paid.
"I used to box week in, week out – I had 23 fights last year – and if I was given a tough fight, I used to think 'nah, I'll just move around and let them have the win in front of their own crowd'.
"I just had to stay safe to make sure I could fight the following week."
Spence, a former amateur with Scunthorpe Centurions, says the past few weeks have altered his outlook.
Having been given the chance to fight for the vacant Masters title and enjoyed the luxury of a training schedule (short notice rarely allows for such a tailored build-up), he knows in which direction he wants his future to head.
"I look at the belt all the time and think 'I can't let people beat me now' – I feel like a champion," enthuses Spence, on the back of a victory which moved him more than 40 places up the British middleweight rankings. He now sits 42nd.
"When I went in the gym a week ago, my coach said 'it's like you're a different person'. I've been throwing shots properly and I've got much more confidence.
"I feel like I'm worth it, whereas before I've always had to explain why I've had so many losses.
"It may only have been for a British title, but this was my world title fight.
"Now I don't want to lose. I don't need to box week in, week out. When I fight, I want to be fit for it – I want to box a little bit less and not take silly fights.
"Before I won the title, I'd had six weeks' notice. I was training five times a week for an hour and half instead of having to largely do my own thing.
"I got myself into brilliant shape. I did everything right – having notice was a big difference.
"The longer fights suit me more because I'm more of a fighter than I am a boxer. If they can box, people could probably beat me over four rounds whereas over 10 it's a different story."
That proved to be the case at the Holiday Inn in Birmingham when Spence finally ended the resistance of Patterson by landing a combination shots with the home fighter already on the ropes.
"I boxed his head off, but then for the later rounds I had to tough it out," says the Scunthorpe fighter, who has now won three and lost 25 of his 32 contests.
"I've never boxed over more than four rounds before, so I didn't know what I'd have left in the tank.
"After round seven he started coming on a bit stronger and the fight slowed down.
"In the 10th he knew he had to knock me out so he came flying at me, but I hit him with a right hand and he went against the ropes and then I got him with a left and a right again.
"He didn't really know where he was, so I waited for his head to come back and I hit with another clean right straight on the jaw and the ref just dived in.
"As soon as he did that I just spat my gum shield out and volleyed it into the crowd. I was screaming and going mental – it was the best feeling of my life to see him waving his hands."
When it comes to defending his title, Spence says there is 'no rush'.
He has though been back in the ring since, losing on points to Jimmy Doherty in Stoke and he fights again on Saturday, at the Barnsley Metrodome, when he faces talented Yorkshireman John Fewkes.
His new outlook will face as stern a test as his upper body.
"My attitude is that I've done my apprenticeship, now I'm ready to have at least one good year of seeing what I can do," adds Spence, a bricklayer by trade.
"I'm better prepared. I know I'll never box anybody as good as I've boxed in the past and because I've boxed at a much heavier weight when I was unfit, I know I'll never box anybody who can punch like I have boxed before.
"It's downhill now, for a bit anyway."
With a belt proudly fastened around his waist, the same seemingly doesn't apply to his career.