Irish boxer Tony Bates will make his return following an eight month hiatus from the ring in Australia this weekend.
The Sydney based lightweight, who had been struggling with a wrist injury in the latter half of 2012, is rated as a genuine prospect Down Under and is in line to make his seventh appearance as a professional in Queensland this Saturday, 23rd February.
Still just twenty four years of age, ‘The Irish Psycho’ boasts a record of six straight victories to date, with four being won by way of knockout. Originally hailing from the Irish capital’s sprawling suburb of Clondalkin, Bates believes he has improved immensely as a boxer since swapping West Dublin for West Sydney; but he’s not the type who’s quick to forget where he came from. In fact, he says, it was the tough streets of Clondalkin that taught him how to fight before he ever set foot in a boxing gym.
The local Quarryvale boxing club was where he then honed his fistic flair and as a teenager Bates demonstrated an ability to overcome almost any challenge between the ropes. There were, however, distractions outside of the ring which proved more challenging, and threatened his progress as a prodigious pugilist.
‘I had some decent successes as an amateur boxer when I was younger’, he recalls. ‘I was Leinster champion and I was also national semi-finalist on a couple of occasions. But I look back now with a little bit of regret that I didn’t apply myself a bit better. I got sidetracked with stupid stuff like drinking and partying, which affected my ability to train and commit to the sport properly’.
It is testament to Bates’ precocious talent as a seventeen year old that he dropped Jamie Kavanagh to the canvas in a bout in Spain, only to finish on the wrong side of a split decision in a closely fought contest. The subsequent rise to prominence of Kavanagh, now trained in LA by Freddie Roach, has been well documented, and Bates believes the Wild Card fighter’s progress can be used as a barometer for where he can go in his own career. ‘I see some of the lads I used to compete with, such as Jamie Kavanagh and Stephen Ormond, and I look at how they’ve developed into top class fighters, and it serves as an inspiration to me. I probably didn’t take boxing as seriously as I should have in the past, but I’ve learnt from my mistakes and I’m the stronger for it now’.
In 2008, Bates’ world was turned upside down, literally, when he was forced to leave the Emerald Isle in search of a new life in Australia. He had just lost his job due to the escalating economic crisis in Ireland and, with little prospect of finding new employment, he was faced with emigration.
Ironically, the dreaded move from home provided the former electrician with just the spark that he needed to get his boxing career going, as he resumed training in Australia with a renewed vigour and motivation. ‘I impressed in my first few fights as an amateur in Australia and as a result I got put onto Jeff Fenech (three weight world champion and now trainer). Jeff then left Oz to pursue other goals in America but luckily Billy Hussein had noticed me in sparring with Garth Wood (winner of reality TV show ‘The Contender’) and he offered me the chance to train at his gym as a pro’.
Today, Bates is a dedicated and determined professional currently ranked fourth, but very much in the ascendancy, in the lightweight division Down Under.
He trains as part of an elite team of boxers, which includes IBF featherweight champion Billy Dib, at Hussein’s Bodypunch gym in Lakemba in Sydney’s West, and he demonstrates an exemplary attitude to match his undeniable talent. ‘I’m extremely grateful to the Husseins for the opportunity they’ve given me. I’m doing what I love for a living and I feel I’ve come on in leaps and bounds as a fighter. It’s not easy being a pro fighter, it takes a lot of commitment but I’m going to work as hard as I can and, thankfully, I’ve still got time on my side to make a success of it’, he chimes.
Over the last two years, Bates has had regular sparring with the likes of Billy Dib, Michael Katsidis, Paul Fleming and Anthony Mundine, to name but a few. He has been matching Australia’s finest in the gym and he’ll be intent on exhibiting his education in the sweet science when he squares off against Kurt Finlayson this Saturday.
The Irishman will be expected to notch up the seventh straight victory of his professional career; but he insists he’ll be taking nothing for granted. ‘I believe it is very important to remain humble as a fighter. You’re only ever one punch away from being knocked out and if you have the wrong attitude you can be forgotten about very quickly in this game’.
If he continues to develop as he is now, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be forgotten about anytime soon. On the contrary, it looks like Tony Bates could well be a name to remember.