At a quaint gym in Liverpool a ferocious boxer trains. That gym; Rydal Boxing Gym. The boxer; talented and auspicious professional boxer Joe “The Rydal Psycho” Wood. The 24 year old Merseyside fighter already has a quintuple of professional bouts under his belt and has impressively won four of them, already showing what a formidable force he is inside the ring and highlighting his potential to go even further. His promise is shown with each performance that goes by and Joe could be lighting up the welterweight division very soon.
Wood’s double knockout victories shows that he can land bombs when the bell goes to finish a fight, and his two decision wins outline his technical and controlled boxing ability to rack up points. For such a promising boxer, the only way seems to be up in the boxing world and soon we could be seeing his name in lights. However, at the moment he’s taking his journey one step at a time and gladly accepted an interview.
“Joe, you’re still early on your budding professional career, how did you get involved in boxing and at what point did you make the decision that this could be a career path for you?”
“I started boxing when I was 12. My grandad boxed to a decent level, he got to the ABA semi finals in 1949 where he was beat by eventual winner and future professional commonwealth champion Percy Lewis. Then I had a friend who was boxing at the Bridge Road gym, so I started going with him. I’d had a touch of previous experience getting my head jabbed off by my grandad and dad in his back garden, wearing a pair of old battered Apollo Liverpool gloves that had survived a decade too long.
The bridge road gym was at the time run by Robbie Butler, who was the head coach at Kirkby ABC for years before opening his own gym. When I started there I weighed 12 stone (bare in mind I was 12) and I played rugby as a prop to a good standard; representing my county. However, with the boxing training I lost a lot of weight and just enjoyed having a scrap more than barging into people I think.
At the time Robbie’s gym wasn’t affiliated with the ABA, so he recommended I go Kirkby ABC if I wanted to box. Which I did, still going Robbie’s gym of a weekend. I wound up having 3 fights as a junior for Kirkby ABC. I then dislocated my knee a few times and wound up out for a couple of years, fighting again under Robbie once I’d returned.”
Clearly boxing blood that has been passed down through generations runs through Joe’s veins, and he doesn’t plan on spilling that blood. His journey to get where he is now is honourable and to valiantly overcome the obstacle of his weight to now be in prime physical condition, as well as battling a serious knee injury that served as a real blow to his career, is inspiring.
Joe may love the thrill of fighting but staying collected and calculated in a boxing ring is also key, as he goes on to explain.
“You’re only five fights into your professional career and impressively have had four victories. Across all of your bouts have you had any stand out moments or matches, or an event that has made you a better boxer?”
“I like to think I’ve had some kind of takeaway from each fight. I think the biggest change has come after my loss 2 fights ago. Leading up to the fight, apart from my sparring, everything that could go wrong did. Stress of personal issues, injuries , tickets and weight had plagued me, so that in itself allowed me to reflect upon how I can handle them aspects in the future. Then came the fight. In the first round I was in full control and sensed I’d hurt my opponent, I thought I was going to stop him the next round which started in a similar fashion. However he clipped me behind the ear on the break, which stunned me a bit, at that point I should have used my feet kept at range and let my head clear. Unfortunately, I just ran straight back in wanting to take his head off thinking I could walk through walls. I walked onto a big right hand and that’s all she wrote, Rob had told me to move away from that shot in the corner as well, but I got caught up in a red mist. It all taught me that you can’t afford to switch off for a moment, must always respect your opponent and should always follow my corner’s orders. Since then I’ve been told I’m boxing much better under a more controlled approach.”
Since his first professional lost against Lithuanian boxer Edvinas Puplauskas in September last year, Joe has certainly learnt and developed from it as he has gone on to win his following two bouts. A small speck on an otherwise flawless record isn’t something that weighs such an impressive boxer down and Wood is determined to continue his current successful trend, hopefully mimicking his record as an amateur and unlicensed boxer.
“There are two main pathways in boxing and you have chosen to go down the professional route after racking up a tally of 17 amateur bouts. What was the reason you chose to go professional over staying at amateur level to fight for amateur titles and try break into the Olympics team?”
“While I wasn’t boxing after the knee injury I was still keen on fitness and continued to go Robbie’s gym, where he invited me to help coach the kids and open the gym of a Sunday. Then for whatever reason I wound up taking an unlicensed fight down south when I was 16, travelling down with Mick Murran who was also on the show, and is now a very good friend. I got beat in that one, I thought I’d done enough, but I’d hurt him early and gassed out, so can’t complain too much.
Shortly after that Robbie’s gym got affiliated as an amateur club. So at 17 I had 2 fights as a senior for Bridge Road ABC, winning both. Then decided the unlicensed was far more fun, no headguards, small gloves, more of an atmosphere and you got paid. There was very few shows in Liverpool around then so I used to travel the country with Mick. I think I had around 13 or 14 fights in that time. I remember one where I turned up to do Mick’s corner in Manchester and wound up taking a fight on 1 hours notice and winning on points, wearing someones remoulded gumshield and Mick’s shorts. The shows were a bit dodgy though, very rarely was there a weigh in and it was always a pleasant surprise when I couldn’t feel the knuckle come through the gloves. I think they’re better organised and safer now. “
Even initially in his boxing career, Joe had a passionate thirst for the atmosphere that surrounds a boxing ring. He went on to answer the question:
“I think once I was around 19 Robbie finally convinced me I was better than the unlicensed, which he never really wanted me doing, and should really have a go at the amateurs. Which I did. I declared all my unlicensed bouts so I had to jump straight into the open class, or elites as its now known. But I hadn’t really acquired the same refined in and out boxing style they liked at that time. So I found I’d always win on the small hall club shows then get beat in the ABAs. Gaining a reputation as someone who’s strong, hard, rough and ready and can bang a bit but my boxing ability was underrated and neglected. So in the gym Robbie would take me everywhere sparring all the best lads we could seek out, and I’d spar all the pros in his gym (by this time he’d opened the Rydal gym) and the pros that come down to spar. Always holding my own or more than holding my own, even when boxing them at range. However when I come to fight I tended to revert back to that rough and ready side, still getting the better of my opponent in most cases.
Then in my last season as an amateur I got beat in the ABA regional semis, which I felt I won, and again in the Haringey box cup in a fight I thought I’d definitely won, and so did everyone there but the judge. Even my opponent said I beat him. For both tournaments I’d made 67kg, which was a bit of a struggle and meant strict dieting. At the time I was doing a bachelors degree, and that season corresponded with my 2nd year of the 3 year degree, and I noticed in the times I was dieting and training hard I’d let my grades slip and thought I can’t afford that for my final year. So I didn’t box the following season and done much better academically. From their I started a year long Masters degree, which due to cramming it full time into a year meant a very large workload so wasn’t worth boxing that season, and I’d gotten into Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting and had signed up to compete. I think I was scheduled for a meet at 81kg, so that’s 14kg more than I was boxing at a few years previous.
During this time I was still very close to Robbie, in fact I was (and still am) living in a flat in his gym (the Rydal Gym). Been here 6 years and inundated it with lurchers, so if some pros come down to spar, I’d sometimes just jump in. I was still relatively fit, and enjoyed sparring. During this time as I was finishing my Masters dissertation and a bloke who trained in the gym, and had been present during a few of my spars, approached me. Asking why aren’t I still competing, stating I’m too good not to be. I said I was tempted to take a few amateurs next season at whatever weight I’m sitting round at. To which he responded I should give it a proper go, turn pro and live the life and do it properly; offering me a sponsorship to do so. So I need to thank Ste from Smooth Law and obviously Robbie Butler for my career.”
It seems Ste from Smooth Law could obviously scope talent and potential, and it’s a good job that he did and essentially initiated the professional career of an exciting fighter. The team and people behind Joe have seemingly started and moulded his career, as for figures who competed inside the ring however that may have influenced Joe’s boxing passage there isn’t one singular character.
“All great boxers have to slowly build up their fight tally early on in their career like you are doing now, do you have any inspirations or boxing figures you look up to and yearn to be like?”
“I have the utmost respect for anyone who does well in this sport. Being a fan of boxing I’ve obviously got my favourite fighters I enjoy watching, but I wouldn’t say I look up to anyone in particular. Since getting beat I tend to respect those that fought through the pro ranks the hard way without much amateur achievements or suffered early defeats such as Bernard Hopkins and Micky Ward. However they’re not necessarily my favourites, with my favourite fighter to watch being Johnny Tapia.”
“Additionally, are there any boxers that you feel you have striking similarities to in terms of fighting style?”
“I’ve had a few people compare me to Juan Manuel Marquez, which I can definitely live with. Dee Taggart, one of my coaches often says I have similarities to his old stablemate Neil Sinclair too, which is a compliment as he had a great career despite an early setback.”
Being compared to a four-weight world champion is a huge compliment, and maybe a hint that Joe can go on to reach the dizzying heights that “Dinamita” reached in his illustrious career. Marquez’ counter-attacking style won him an abundance of fights and skyrocketed him up the multiple divisions he fought in and championed, one can only hope the same fate is written for Wood.
“Your boxing moniker is “The Rydal Psycho”, originating from Rydal Boxing Gym where you train. Do you feel Rydal Gym has been crucial to the commanding start to your career you have already made?”
“Without the Rydal Gym there wouldn’t be a career, and I’d be homeless! Joking aside the Rydal Gym has a good stable of fighters and really good coaches, so there’s no better place to be. As Robbie says “when one’s cut, we all bleed” it’s a team effort in an individual sport.”
Joe embodies the passion of Rydal Gym in his boxing. Residing in a flat in the gym itself and brandishing the label of “Rydal Psycho” across his boxing shorts, it is evident that he holds Rydal so close to his chest and owes the gym his currently successful boxing pathway. With such a good team at Rydal Gym behind him it’s no wonder he has reached this point in his career so far, but the Merseyside fighter aspires for bigger and and more prestigious accolades.
“At 24 years of age you still have a huge amount of your career ahead of you, what’s next for you in the near future and what is your ultimate goal for later in your career?”
“I just want to get as many fights as I can in and pave the way to winning titles. I’m fortunate to have a really good support team behind me in my coaches Rob Butler and Dee Taggart, my manager Neil Marsh; who’s had fighters involved in many world title fights, my adviser and sponsor Ste from Smooth Law, as well as other sponsors Dean Mac from Stonecraft, Bambo from Heritage fish and chips, and Dr George Wilson from John Moores university who helps us out with fitness and body composition testing. So all in all the bricks and cement are their, it’s just a case of building the house.”
With the tools at Joe’s disposal he could be building a mansion. A rising star in the boxing scene with a whole career ahead of him, the future is as bright as ever for the local lad from Liverpool who has the skills, intelligence and desire to go far in the boxing business. He has his sights firmly set on climbing the boxing hierarchy of fighters and it’s hard not to envisage his path leading to the very top. Until then, however, he will still be the promising boxer training in a gym in Liverpool. The gym; Rydal Boxing Gym. The boxer; Joe Wood. His career; destined for greatness.