Neil Sinclair reviews Prizefighter - Irish Middleweights

Neil Sinclair’s last fight, two years ago, was in the light middleweight edition of Prizefighter in the York Hall and the Belfast puncher is looking forward to the Irish Middleweight Prizefighter on Saturday night. In this interview Sinclair shares with Boxrec News some of his thoughts on the challenges of competing in a Prizefighter and the latest instalment in Belfast.The Prizefighter format has aided the mesh-up of competitive and entertaining fights and more often than not, thrown a curve ball to starting favourites.
Sinclair was a second favourite in the Prizefighter edition but went out in the first stage to favourite Bradley Pryce – who lost to eventual winner Prince Aaron. Sinclair has no regrets about the Prizefighter experience and revealed that he would jump at another opportunity at the format:
“It was my last fight and I am glad that I done it, even though it didn’t work out for me. If I had the chance to do it again, I would jump at the chance, I enjoyed the experience."  There is always much debate on what type of fighter or style is most suited to the Prizefighter format and Sinclair has his own clear thoughts on this: “It will suit a fast starter or a guy that is not used to fighting any more than three rounds. It probably suits a guy just fresh out of the amateurs, like Eamonn O’Kane the favourite. It does suit an amateur as it is three rounds just like an amateur and they are not used to fighting the longer distance.”
The fact that an amateur is used to the three round distance and hasn’t adapted to a pro style that is geared towards the longer distance is a key challenge for an established pro fighter, to adapt to: “Professional boxing is all about the longer distance. When you turn pro, you are told to slow down and you change your style. When I was an amateur I was a bit upright, I had to change and stick my chin in, bend my knees and make myself a smaller target and slow down in sparring. And then all of a sudden you are projected into Prizefighter and you have got three rounds and you are told you have to get off to a good start. It can put you under a bit of pressure, especially if you are used to going the longer distance. That’s why I fancy it to suit a guy that isn’t long into their pro career.”
Prizefighter has proved to be a draw for a host of fighters with different experience, from the unbeaten prospect, reigning British Champion, former World Champion or last chance saloon for a fighter coming out of retirement. Sinclair, elaborates on why this is the case: “It is not as hard as a twelve rounder or even an eight rounder, it is only three rounds, you are not going to get exposed too much, but if you win and you can go on.”
“It is still a hard enough experience because you have to go back to the dressing room. I am used to going back to the dressing room when I have won, you switch off – you celebrate, you are happy that you have won, and if you got beat, its over – it’s a relief too. The nearest experience of that I had was when I fought twice in one day in the amateurs. I had the first fight in the afternoon and I was ok but when I boxed that night I was brilliant because I had that fight during the day. People can be ok in their first fight in Prizefighter and as they go along, they get better – that is what you are hoping for. If you have a hard fight it can drain you and then the other guy can have an easier fight. It is a fascinating mix and you need a bit of luck, but you got to have the ability too.”
Although the draw in Prizefighter is an ingredient that a fighter has no control over, Sinclair reflected on the key factors that can help a fighter get ready for the format: “Obviously, your training. Your training is going to be different than if you were fighting for a 6, 8, 10 or 12 round fight. Your sparring is going to be different. You should really be preparing to spar for three rounds and then come out and sit it out for while, because that is what is going to be happening – you are going to be up and down – your adrenalin is going to be up and down.”
“Although I didn’t progress to the next round. I was always prepared to. If I did win I would come back to the dressing room and relax. There is always a TV in your dressing room and you can watch the fight that is on and who you are going to be fighting next.”
“You really have to focus on your first fight because there have been a lot of upsets and people that have been made favourite haven’t always went on to win it. Even the one I was in Bradley Pryce was favourite and I was second favourite. [Prince Aaron eventually won it]” How important are tactics in Prizefighter? “It probably is important to win the first round, because if you lose the first round, you are fighting an up hill battle. I lost the first round, then won the second one, and the third went the other way. It is important to get off to a good start. But you are not really going to try and change your style too much. But you only have three rounds to get the points.”
Is it important to taper training to prepare for a variety of styles? “It can do you no harm. In your first fight you could be in against an aggressive orthodox and in your next fight it could be a cagey southpaw. So you are going to fight all different styles – it is a real mixed bag. “It is like a lot of things in boxing, you need a bit of luck, you need things to go right for you on the night.”
“It is like what Martin (Rogan) done. He just wouldn’t be denied. I remember chatting to Martin just before he left to travel to England for Prizefighter and he just said ‘I am going to win this’. It is like any fight, it is self-belief and he wouldn’t be denied. It didn’t matter what style he faced – he just bulldozed through them and that can work.”
Sinclair reflected on his own performance in Prizefighter – Light Middleweights two years ago: “I was to do the welterweight one, but then I pulled out with injury and then I got the light middleweight one. I never really got off the mark. I was very stale and flat on the night - I normally start fast. I was disappointed with my form on the night. It is not something that I regret. It wasn’t a disappointing experience all in – as you go out the week before for the Sky promo and you meet all the fighters. It was a great atmosphere, obviously on the night it wasn’t friendly.”
“I haven’t boxed since that, which was two years ago. I thought I would have came back because I didn’t want to go out that way, I wanted to fight again and maybe I will, it could happen yet. If I got offered the chance of Prizefighter again, I would do it.”
Finally, Sinclair was asked who he thought would win the upcoming Irish Prizefighter Middleweights? “I am hoping a couple of guys that I have sparred in the past, ex-stable mate Joe Rea and Ciaran Healy do well. I wish all the boys the best – I think it will be a good experience for them."
“They are saying Eamonn O’Kane is the favourite and the chance is there, but you have to take it and it is not going to come easy for any fighter there. Eamonn O’Kane fights Anthony Fitzgerald in the first fight, so maybe the winner of that could go on and win it."
Sinclair is a fan of the Prizefighter format and has enjoyed watching the previous editions that were won by Willie Casey and Martin Rogan: “It has been a good introduction to Sky boxing and it is good opportunity – as it normally can lead to a title shot. It can be very exciting. I think the best one that I have watched was the one that Willie Casey won because there was plenty of action in that, and also the one that Rogie won was very exciting as well.”
The draw was made yesterday and it has thrown up an intriguing array of first round match ups, with the pick of the fights being contested between Eamonn O’Kane and Anthony Fitzgerald, first and second favourite, respectively. Sinclair adds: “I hope the fans enjoy it, it is the first time it has moved out of England and that’s good it will raise the profile of Irish boxing.”

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