Craig Watson talks to Livefight
It may not have grabbed any headlines, but former British welterweight champion Craig Watson made a successful return to the ring on the recent Scott Quigg v Rendall Munroe show at Manchester’s Velodrome. Watson entered the ring after the main event had come to its anti-climatic ending and his decision victory over the awkward Tomasz Mazurkiewicz was witnessed by a somewhat sparse crowd. Not that the 29 year old cared, he was simply glad to be back in the ring.
“I’m back where I belong” said Watson, 21-5 (8), when discussing his comeback from a year long lay off with Livefight recently. “I needed a good rest and I’ve come back feeling bigger and stronger. At one stage I was enjoying not having to go through the daily routine of training and going out with my friends. One part of me wanted to go down the ‘other’ path but it was always in my mind that I love boxing. I’ve done it since I was eleven years old and I wouldn’t wanna be anywhere else really.”
A second successive stoppage loss at the hands of the exciting, heavy handed Lee Purdy bought about Watson’s decision to spend some time away from the sport. The Essex based puncher ripped Watson’s British title away with a fifth round stoppage on the undercard of the Amir Khan – Paul McCloskey fight and repeated the feat in front of the Oldhamer’s home crowd just three months later. The latter defeat was Watson’s third championship fight in the space of five months; a herculean effort by today’s standards.
“I did it all too fast” says Watson. “It was February when I won the title and seven weeks later when I defended it. I trained long and hard for the John O’Donnell fight [to win the belt], won it and should have kept it. I got offered a big fight at the MEN Arena though and took it which was silly of me. I should have sat down and decided that I needed some rest and a holiday. I was run down for the first [Purdy] fight. The second fight I got told that I either took it on that date or I wouldn’t get the shot. It was only eight weeks later. I over did it and needed a rest. The year out’s done me the world of good.”
“I’ve got a baby now. I’ve gone back to work and I’ve sort of started from the beginning again. Now I’ve come back I’m enjoying it a lot more.”
The Mazurkiewicz fight saw Watson shedding some of the rust which had built up during the past twelve months. The English based Pole has been – unfairly in my opinion – thrown to the wolves early in his career and seems to be heading down the journeyman road but hasn’t yet taken on a losers mindset and can be an awkward opponent.
“He’s a tricky character!” agrees ‘The Hammer’. “He’s in the ‘Who need’s you?’ category. He’s a very good counter puncher so I felt edgy all the way through the fight. I just had to grind it out.” There was one worrying moment though. After dropping Mazurkiewicz in the third, Watson found himself on the canvas just seconds later. “I was off balance. If you watch it back on Ringside, I had one leg in the air. I threw a left hook, spun and my right foot was off the ground. He touched me with a little left jab and I went over.”
At his best Watson is a clever, gritty southpaw who seems to relish the challenge of spoiling a fancied opponent’s party. Although he earned the British belt with a thoroughly deserved decision over former conqueror O’Donnell in the champion’s backyard, his most famous win is a clear points victory over Matthew Hatton for the Commonwealth welterweight belt back in 2008. Whilst the fight took place at The City of Manchester Stadium - just 5 miles from Watson’s home town – it was the epitome of an away bout. Ricky Hatton’s fight with Juan Lazcano headlined the show and it’s probably fair to say that Watson wasn’t expected to beat “The Hitman’s” younger brother. Should Hatton feel the urge to even the score, Watson is more than willing to accommodate him. If not, then ‘Magic’ Matthew is just one of a number of attractive opponents at 147lbs.
“There are some big fights. I really respect Junior Witter. I class him as the Bernard Hopkins of England and he’s still there because he’s looked after himself all these years. He’s the man to beat because he’s got the British title. Hopefully I can get a few more wins and get a shot at him” says Watson. “Obviously I’ve beaten Matthew in the past. I can’t say much about that because we’re promoted by the same company but I’ve gotta look after my own career and I think I’d beat Matthew.”
As well as the established old guard, Britain has a number of up and coming welterweights with whom Watson could cross swords. The friendly former champion has a few good acquaintances vying for titles in the division and isn’t keen on the idea of spoiling those relationships in search of further glory. “Obviously there’s Denton [Vassell, the Commonwealth champion] but me and Denton go back a long way so I wouldn’t really like to fight him” he reveals. “Me and Ronnie Heffron go back a long way too. His dad rang me last week! I’ve fought friends in the past and it’s awkward afterwards.”
There is one name which seems to grab Watson’s attention though. “Frankie Gavin is very skilful and elusive but I don’t think he’s got what it takes to dig deep and have a tear up with somebody” he says. “He’s not a welterweight and I think I’d be too strong for him. Curtis Woodhouse put pressure on him and he showed a lot of flaws. Curtis is a tough kid but I don’t think he’s like me really.”
Watson need’s a couple of wins before taking on somebody like Gavin but should his comeback continue successfully, who would back against him tearing up the script one more time?