Livefight Interview: Baz Carey
Blood, sweat and tears: Baz Carey on fighting Khan, a feud with Michael Gomez and some tough title battles
By Michael J Jones
ďThe only guy I never got on with was Michael Gomez.....I thought he was a proper knob!Ē Baz Carey
Livefight recently caught up with former tough Coventry slugger Baz Carey. Now 41-years-old, Carey retired in 2009 after 60 bouts, going 11-44-4 (3). Bare statistics donít tell the full story though as Carey turned pro late at 30 and proceeded to give scores of prospects and contenders competitive nights with his come-forward, aggressive style. A three-time Midlands Area title challenger, Carey faced the likes of Amir Khan, Rendall Munroe and Michael Gomez (twice) before hanging his gloves up after eight years as a prize-fighter after a scan revealed a slight change to his brain. The boxer wisely called it a day to concentrate on his day-job of an engineer.
Carey was also on the receiving end of several questionable decisions along the way and, despite the patchy record, Baz did pull off the occasional shock, such as when besting Blackpoolís Jeff Thomas on a four-round decision at the Hilton Hotel. The bout came just three months after taking former Olympian and future world champion Amir Khan the four round distance. To date, Carey is the only UK fighter to ever reach the final bell versus the Bolton star; a fact the Midlands man is very proud of.
Now happily retired and enjoying life with partner Heidi and son Cuba, Carey is looking to move into coaching to pass on his knowledge and experience onto the younger generation.
LF) You turned pro very late at 30-years-old; why did it take you until then to decide to start a pro career?
BC) My Dad had pushed me into boxing as a kid. He wasnít a fighter; more of a control freak! I boxed from 11-years-old up to 15. I then stopped for twelve years and it was after my Dad died that I thought Iíd go back and give it a go again. I should have turned pro years earlier and, because of that, I never really got looked after. From the beginning I was getting robbed quite a bit.
LF) Itís no secret in the pros that a guy without good backing and at an advanced age will always struggle to make his mark. What difficulties did you encounter in your first few years as a pro boxer?
BC) When I wanted to turn pro the British boxing board of control wanted to see I could handle myself. They got me to spar Dean Pithie, who was the Commonwealth super-featherweight champion at the time! It was good because I turned him over in sparring in front of the board and they gave me a licence straight away.
At first I was trying to get good training before my fights but towards the end, after the Amir Khan fight, I just thought Iíd take it easy as it was obvious I wasnít going to get anywhere at my age.
LF) I noticed your early career is littered with other men who were in the ďhave gloves will travelĒ club. You fought guys like Daniel Thorpe, Kris Laight and Billy Smith on a number of occasions. Was it tough taking on guys who were in the same boat as you; usually short notice bouts etc?
BC) No it was never a problem. You just have to be professional in that situation. I got on with all of the other lads like that. We were all in the same boat and trying to earn a few quid.
LF) Lets talk about your rivalry with Billy Smith; you fought him on four occasions, winning the first two comfortably. The second bout was ruled a no contest after a bomb scare and the third he finally bested you over ten rounds for the Midlands Area title. What are your thoughts on those contests?
BC) Well Iíd beaten Billy twice and I was kicking his arse in the third fight when bells started ringing. I said to Billy ďis (having a bomb scare) a family thing?Ē
His brother Ernie had the same thing on a sky show three weeks earlier. Itís horrible what happened to Ernie afterwards though (Ernie tragically committed suicide a few years later). Billy is a nice lad.
The last fight with Billy for the Midlands title, I pulled my shoulder muscle in the second, did nerve damage to my bicep and then went another eight-and-a-half rounds with one arm. I couldnít throw my left as it was agony. Winning the Midlands title just wasnít meant to be for me; I really wanted to win that before I left the sport too.
LF) Another name that appears more than once on your record is former champion Michael Gomez. He beat you twice on tough points decisions. I believe his usual intimidation tactics didnít quite work on you?
BC) I thought I beat Gomez in both fights but they were close. The second fight my partner recorded it because I couldnít get a copy of the first fight. The second fight he was leaning all over me constantly so I couldnít hit him. Heís not the hard man he makes out; in fact, heís the opposite on all fronts. He made me extremely angry when he said in the papers he was going to ďbatter me in the ring and then batter me again in the car-park afterwards.Ē Iím more of a hard man than Gomez will ever be, with out a referee Iíd tear him to bits! He set me off even more at the weigh-in when he stuck his face into mine. It didnít intimidate me it just made me very angry. In the ring, he put his face into mine again so I shoved him hard. The promoters had to get me off him, I was so angry. My partner took pictures and you can see in the shots my eyes were full of anger; Iíd never been that angry at an opponent before (laughs). After our fight Gomez said to me ďIíll never try intimidating you again!Ē
I respect everything Michael Gomez has achieved as a boxer but as a person Iíll be honest the guy is a knob. He has a very false personality and I donít think he was anything special; he was just well looked-after. He never hurt me at all in either fight.
LF) Probably the fight most fans will remember you for was your 2005 bout with Amir Khan. What are your thoughts on that four rounder and was Amir Khan the best fighter you fought?
BC) To be honest, I never had more than a few weeks notice for that fight so I hadnít had good sparring for it. Iíd seen him in the Olympics and Iíd also seen his first fight against Dave Bailey, so I knew all about him and how good he was. I watched Bailey walk right into him and get battered quickly so I didnít want to do the same. In the fight, he hit me a lot and make no mistake; he was a totally different class. He was probably world class even then. When I fought him he wasnít that good at keeping his hands up but under Freddie Roach heís got him to keep his hands up and also strengthened his neck and legs so he can take a punch better.
Even saying that though, in the fight, I couldnít get near him. I was moving around getting hit so I held my hands high and moved forward and I still couldnít hit him; yet he was still hitting me!
I met Amir about a year later at the Man City grounds, heíd just boxed Gomez after I had. I fought Gomez either side of when Amir did. Anyway I was in the toilet when a mate shouted me, ďBaz, BazĒ he said. I turned around and Amir Khan was there. We had a nice chat, he told me that when ever someone asked who the toughest guy he had fought was he would say me. I thought that was a very nice thing to say. ďYou just kept coming forward walking through everythingĒ he said. People say about him now and slag him off but I thought he was a very nice kid. He was a millionaire even then so I canít see why people say the moneyís gone to his head nowadays.
LF) The bout after Khan you beat respected Jeff Thomas in his home-town of Blackpool; would you say that was the best victory of your career?
BC) No I donít think so. He had been lined up as the next opponent for Amir Khan; the only thing he had to do was beat me (laughs). I figured him out quite early in that fight. He liked to keep a distance to work at his own pace. I pressured him none-stop and got through with some good shots. At that time I always tried to beat anyone I fought.
The win I like the most was over a kid called Dean Scott. He was a bit like Gomez and tried to get in my face at the weigh-in. Him and his brother were trying it on and it angered me. I knocked him out in the second, it was a nice KO and I like to get the DVD and watch it still now.
I also had two cracking fights with Dave Hinds (w pts 6 & w tko 4). The second fight I actually stopped him, they told me afterwards he had a broken jaw, I didnít think so at the time but when I saw him his face was all crooked (laughs). Lovely lad is Dave.
LF) You had your last Midlands title shot against Steve Saville in 2008 (losing in seven rounds). You retired after a stoppage loss to Liam Walsh the year after. Was it hard walking away at that time?
BC) The first time I boxed Steve Saville it was a four rounder on a days notice. It was a bit bad-tempered, he made me touch down briefly but I felt Iíd won the rounds at the end. I wasnít fit but I still went for him. They gave it to him but when I got offered a rematch for the Midlands title I jumped at it.
The title fight we had was a great fight but very controversial. I trained really hard for the fight and I was absolutely hammering him. I was all over him and he was really tired. It seemed only a matter of time in there but there was an incident after one of the rounds that changed everything. There was a woman ringside sitting behind my partner Heidi, she kept punching her fist and nearly hitting Heidi. Keep in mind my partner was six-months pregnant she eventually told this woman to stop. When she did the woman went to punch my partner in the stomach! Heidi clocked her and there was a bit of trouble going on. I saw what was happening and went to shout down for them to stop; I thought it was a group of guys causing the trouble. The ref told me to carry on or Iíd be disqualified. I carried on but my head wasnít right, I was worried about where my partner was and if she was ok. Steve caught me and he did hurt me but (ref) Shaun Messer stopped it.
After the fight I obviously wanted to check the tape so I asked for a copy and they told me Steve Savilleís friends were sorting it out! I got the tape and all of the stuff I wanted to check had been cut out. The fight won the Midlands fight of the year but I would have won that fight if that hadnít have happened.
Regarding when I left boxing, what happened was I had a change in my brain scan. It was nothing bad and they said I could carry on boxing but I felt once things start changing (with your brain), itís time to call it a day. I have a beautiful partner and children and I donít want to lose them through stupidity of carrying on when you know things are starting to get damaged. Once it starts it only gets worse. The brain can still get damaged for three years after you stop boxing.
LF) You also had quite a few good title fights in your 60 contests?
BC) Yeah I had some cracking title fights. My first one was a points loss to Andrew Ferrans (for the British Masters belt). That was fair that decision, I did pretty much everything wrong in the build up to that fight. My diet was terrible, I ate total sh*t after the weigh in trying to bulk up and it ended up giving me the runs (laughs).
I boxed Scott Lawton in his backyard for the Midlands Area title (Careyís second challenge at the belt). He was a good boxer but didnít have any power, it was a cracking fight, and I kept at him the whole night. There was nothing in it at the end, I thought I nicked it and even a lot of his own crowd came up to me afterwards and said they thought Iíd won.
A few years later I fought Stefy Bull for the WBF Intercontinental title. He was a tall lad too, about five inches bigger than me (Baz was only 5ft 4ins). He started that fight very sharply and in the second round caught me with a surprise uppercut which dropped me. He had me down but after that I figured him out and I thought the last six rounds I proper bashed him up. I would duck his jab and come back with the hook, it worked well against him. No disrespect to him but I thought I won that fight.
LF) Do you get offended if you are referred to as a Ďjourneymaní?
BC) Not really, I mean, thatís what I was towards the end of my career really wasnít I? I gave it a good go but as soon as I realised I wasnít going to go on to do anything I just started turning up for the pay day. Boxing is not easy of course but once youíre used to going through the motions with these young guys it almost is easy money. I knew I could handle any of them so I never worried about winning at the end of my career.
LF) Who trained you for your own career?
BC) In the beginning I was trained by Neil Tomlinson in Leicester, then I was with Alan Philips for a bit and I was with the Red Corner team in Coventry for the last couple of years. The Red Corner team are headed by coaches Paul Hudson and Glenn Smith both excellent trainers.
One of my trainers that worked with Neil Tomlinson was Joe Montague. A few years ago we all boxed in Coventry and later the same night he was shot dead outside his house. It was a terrible tragedy and all of the boxers carried his coffin at the funeral.
LF) What have you been up to since retiring?
BC) Iím a water-proofing specialist but have been engineering for years; I worked full-time right through my boxing career. Me and my partner Heidi have got a 75ft boat we live on here in London. Weíve got a little boy called Cuba and Iíve also a daughter from a previous relationship named Mia. Iíve been going to court for four-and-a-half years trying to get custody of Mia but hopefully that will be resolved soon. We live in Berkhamstead but still visit Coventry all of the time. Berhamstead is a lovely place for a child to be brought up.
Iím hoping to get into training soon. I know I canít box myself anymore but Iíve a lot of experience and knowledge to pass on and once you have a pro trainerís licence, you have it for life. I miss the sport and, as I canít box anymore, this is the next best thing.
LF) Many thanks for your time Baz and good luck getting into coaching.
BC) Thanks for the interview Mike anytime mate.