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Isaac Chamberlain – from Brixton to the big time?

November 1, 2016 in Interviews

“Growing up in Brixton was hard. You had to be tough or you would get walked over.”

When boxer Isaac Chamberlain talks about his upbringing, there is menace in his words. After all, Chamberlain is a born fighter.

The 22-year-old cruiserweight is emerging as one of Britain’s brightest young talents in the ring, with his unpredictability, burning desire to succeed and raw emotion making him a growing favourite amongst fans.

But these characteristics were developed on the troubled streets of south London.

“I never had any big brothers, so I had to fight nearly every day so that people would leave me alone,” he recalls. “From a young age, I grew up fighting in school and on the streets. Boxing gave me a way out of all that.”

Not calling it quits 

His most recent fight, at the end of September at Bethnal Green’s York Hall, provides a good snapshot of the man known to his fans as ‘Chambo’.

Chamberlain celebrates beating Camacho

His sixth professional bout was against Wadi Camacho, a 31-year-old from Canning Town, who in the pre-fight trash talk had promised to bury his opponent.

Chamberlain was already on the backfoot even before his right shoulder went, and from that point he struggled and could barely raise his arm as Camacho took advantage.

But somehow he overcame the injury and fought back to win his biggest title so far, the Southern Area Championship. He hopes this is just the start of things to come.

“The victory felt good, but I want more than this,” admits Chamberlain.

“I knew I could do it because I’d thought of it a million times in my head. It made me hungry for more success and glory.”

Sparring with Wilder 

In his short career so far, the cruiserweight has trained and sparred with some of the biggest names around.

But Chamberlain says it was a month in Alabama with WBC heavyweight champion Deontay ‘The Bronze Bomber’ Wilder ahead of his 2015 pro debut that was most instructive.

Chamberlain training with WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in 2015

“I learnt how a champion prepares and trains,” he says.

“The team he has around him is incredible. To have a champion and win fights is a team effort as they are all working hard to help the contender win the title. It was like a tight-knit family.”

‘Straight Outta Brixton’ 

Chamberlain, also nicknamed ‘The King’, starred in Sky Sports’ documentary ‘Straight Outta Brixton’ which focused on his troubled childhood and how boxing transformed his life.

He said he was keen to show how his upbringing had changed his attitude.

“Going back to my roots showed how far I have come,” he adds.

“I’ve always been the type to look forward, never back. My upbringing and journey showed the perseverance I had when I was growing up and how tough I must have been.”

Support 

Under the guidance of his uncle and trainer Ted Bambi, Chamberlain has flourished.

Training alongside heavyweights such as Dillian Whyte at Miguel’s Gym in Brixton, he has received expert advice to keep him on the right track. Despite his tough training regime, Chamberlain says Bambi has been crucial to his development.

“I learnt the meaning of hard work with Ted,” he says.

Chamberlain with his uncle and trainer Ted Bambi

“He pushes me to the limit nearly every training session but also teaches me a lot about the business and life itself.

He’s so hard on me because he doesn’t want me to make the same mistakes he did.”

Chamberlain also says that being around a character like Whyte every day means there is never a dull moment.

“Dillian is a crazy guy but also fun to be around. We used to take the bus home from training together and he would always say he was going to fight Anthony Joshua again after their amateur bout early on in their careers. And he did.”

‘No easy fights’

Signed to Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom stable, so far Chamberlain has a record of six wins and no defeats.

He says his manager has been an important figure in his professional development.

“Eddie has influenced my career a lot,” he says. “My career’s been different from other boxers because I’ve never had any easy fights and my record shows that.

“When I’m a champion, I’ll know what it’s like to go deep in a fight and take someone’s heart in the ring. I’ve been through the hard fights before, so I know what it takes to dig in.”

Ambitions 

An admirer of former three-weight world champion James Toney, Chamberlain has set his sights high, and the likeable character is not only hoping to reach the top in his profession but also inspire youngsters to follow in his footsteps.

“I want to make my mark in boxing like the old school fighters such as James Toney. I hope to show my the sheer guts and grit to match my skills”

“My advice to anyone facing hardship in life is never give up, no matter how hard it gets,” he insists.

“There will be low times, but it will all pay off. I hope to continue to provide support and the right advice whenever I speak at my local youth club.

“I’d love to fight for the WBC world title at some point in my career. Hopefully, I can become a future Hall of Famer but that’s only once I have defeated some of the top names and unified the division and ensured that I am the best UK cruiserweight to have ever stepped in a ring.

“I want to make my mark in boxing like the old school fighters such as James Toney. I hope to show my the sheer guts and grit to match my skills.”

How do you get your football fix?

October 24, 2016 in News & Features

With Sky’s live football audience figures down by a reported 19% so far this season, it seems our viewing habits may be undergoing a radical transformation.

Are we swapping watching whole matches – with all the over-hyped build-up, endless punditry and overdone post-mortems – for highlight shows, video clips on YouTube on other platforms, following the sport on social media or finding free (and illegal) streams to get our fix of the beautiful game?

According to some of the football fans, who spoke to Elephant Sport on the subject, the grip of ‘appointment to view’ must-see match coverage is being loosened as technology converges and we get our football ‘on the go’.

Joseph Mensah, 21, say if football is live on TV he will watch it, but adds that he will never go out of his way to view a match because there is always a highlights show on later.

“At home, I have Virgin TV which gives me both Sky Sports and BT Sports, which are the main broadcasters of Premier League football in the UK, so whenever football is on TV I will always watch it.

“I never bother streaming it from illegal websites because the quality is poor or the commentary will be in another language, so I would rather wait and watch the highlights where I can watch all of the weekend’s games at one time.”

Illegal streaming

Finding an overseas stream to view the action is becoming more widespread, despite Sky and BT’s best efforts to stamp out this illegal practice.

With the ban on televising 3pm Saturday kick-offs in the UK still in place to protect attendances at games across the country, the temptation to find a way of catching those matches as they are screened abroad is too tempting for some.

“In the past decade, the use of social media platforms and a growing number of apps to follow football has gone through the roof”

One viewer, who wished to remain anonymous, said  he has been using overseas streams to watch football for around eight years.

“Why would I pay for subscription TV when streaming is so easy? I don’t mind the lower quality on the screen because it’s free.

“Also with streaming, it allows me to pick and choose which games I watch, I don’t have to rely on the company’s TV schedule, which means 3pm on Saturday afternoons I’m watching the match for free, instead of paying to watch live commentary in a TV studio.”

Another factor in the rise in online streaming is the price of the sports packages on subscription TV.

The cheapest option on Sky is £42 a month, which is just over £500 a year. To add BT Sport to you Sky Package it’s an extra £21.99, so for both Sky and BT Sport it’s a £63.99 a month.

And don’t forget to add the cost of your annual TV licence (£145.50) to the total…

Social media

In the past decade, the use of social media platforms and a growing number of apps to follow football has gone through the roof.

Twitter alone has with 313 million active users (as of June 2016), and there is a community of football clubs accounts, news outlets and broadcasting companies that provide users with a live feed of matches.

Younger audiences are glued to their phones and social media accounts so live commentary of football matches on Twitter are quick and easy wBT Sport Twitter screenshotays to follow games. Twitter also allows users to have their say so people are able to reply and retweet.

Organisations such as BT Sport release clips of key moments such as goals, missed chances and sending offs in as little as two minutes after it was broadcast on live subscription TV (right).

Student Randy Adu, only consumes football through live Twitter feeds and highlight clips on Twitter accounts.

“I think Twitter is the best way to follow football, you can choose what games to follow. I also like that I can find clips of the key moments, which means I can skip all the boring bits.”

News outlets have also taken to social media to encourage fans to follow football using their “on the go” services.

The Times have put together packs which include different ways to view exclusive, video highlights, live feeds and expert analysis with chief football Writer Henry Winter as the poster boy of the campaign.

The ‘Classic Pack’ offers in print, on your smartphone and online 24/7 access to the latest news, with a complimentary Nespresso machine and many more offers available through Times + for only £7 a week.

Stats and timelines

Accounts such as Opta and Squawka always provide interesting match stats during and after games, and many people follow them to find out exactly what happened in the game rather than watching it.

Opta Joe Twitter FeedRandy added: “Opta Joe is fantastic. After reading their timeline post-match you feel like you’ve watched the actual game.

“You can also tweet them directly asking for specific stats and if you are lucky they get back to you with an answer.”

The way we consume football is undoubtedly changing, and there are many factors involved in this.

However, one thing that has not changed is the love for the game and that is emphasised by the lengths that people go to follow the latest action.

The NFL now gives access to live game coverage through Twitter – how long will it be before football supplies a similar service to its fans?

BDO’s Silencer out to make a noise at Grand Slam

October 20, 2016 in Interviews

Jeff Smith insists he and his fellow British Darts Organisation players can “go deep” in this year’s Grand Slam of Darts.

The annual showdown in Wolverhampton (November 12-20) sees the best of the BDO take on the top talent from rival organisation the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC).

jeff smith arrows

Jeff Smith on the oche

The winner of the tournament will take home £100,000, the runner up bags £50,000 and the losing semi-finalists will get £25,000 each. Overall the prize fund for the Grand Slam is £400,000, making it the fourth biggest tournament in the world of darts.

Smith stated that this year’s line-up of BDO players at the Grand Slam is “one of the best the organisation has ever brought to the competition” since it began in 2007.

The 40-year old Canadian, who’s been around the darts circuit for a number of years and threw his first dart at the age of just four, is currently flying high in the BDO.

Smith, nicknamed the Silencer, reached the semi-finals of the 2015 BDO World Championship and this year reached the final, losing out to Scott Waites.

The Silencer is now set to make his first appearance at the Grand Slam of Darts and will be joined by seven other BDO players, all of whom are currently in the top 10 of the organisation’s rankings.

This means it is the strongest BDO line up in the history of the competition. Alongside Smith will be:

  • Scott Waites; former Grand Slam winner and current BDO world champion
  • Glen Durrant; current BDO number one
  • Scott Mitchell; former BDO world champion
  • Martin Adams; three-time BDO world champion
  • Daryl Fitton; BDO Masters champion

All five men are returning to the Grand Slam stage, while making their debuts are Danny Noppert from the Netherlands and Jamie Hughes from Tipton, both in the top five of the BDO rankings.

“Don’t be surprised if a few of us BDO boys go deep into the knockout stage”

Causing the PDC a problem

As the dart season rolls into its crucial months of major tournaments, Smith is aiming to cause the PDC a headache or two.

“Obviously the talent level is off the charts in this tournament, but don’t be surprised if a few of us BDO boys go deep into the knockout stage”.

The likes of Phil Taylor, Gary Anderson and Michael van Gerwen from the PDC could be up against any of the eight BDO players – a mouthwatering prospect for any darts fan.

waites-gsod

BDO’s Scott Waites won the Grand Slam in 2009

The format begins in the Group Stage with a seeded draw from four pools.

Pool A; seeded players from the PDC, this could be Phil Taylor for example. Pool B PDC Automatic Qualifiers, Pool C PDC Qualifiers and Pool D; the boys from the BDO.

2009 was the last, and only time a player from the BDO won the Grand Slam; current BDO world champion Waites.

However, Smith is confident he will have a few of his rivals from the PDC concerned. “I’m just going to focus on my own game; I’d rather it be them having to worry about my game rather than the other way round

“My overall goal is to literally take one leg at a time, try and grind out a place in the knockout rounds and see what happens”.

The Big Stage

The Canadian admitted he “cannot wait” to be up on the stage at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall in November.

“There’s something about playing on a big stage I love”

“To be honest, I can’t wait. I’ve been playing a lot of tournaments recently; my form is in good shape. But there’s just something about playing on a big stage I love”.

Smith has become somewhat of a crowd favourite in the BDO of late, with his distinctive specs and cool attitude as he makes his way to the oche, to the sound of “New Orleans Is Sinking” by Canadian rock band Tragically Hip.

There’s no doubt The Silencer will receive a warm welcome in Wolverhampton from the darts fanatics. “I’ve been very fortunate to have crowd support,” said Smith. “It gives you a sense that you belong on the stage, it definitely helps motivate me”.

Canadian darts

Typically, darts is a sport dominated by Europeans, particularly British and Dutch talent. There are only a handful of players outside of Europe who’ve actually made it to the big time, Smith being one of them.

smith n part

Smith and Part teamed up at the 2013 World Cup of Darts

John Part, also of Canada and labelled Smith’s “hero”, is the most successful darts player to date outside of Europe.

‘Darth Maple’ as he is known, has won both BDO and PDC World Championships in a glittering career spanning over 35 years.

Smith did hold a place on the PDC tour at one point, but unfortunately had to give it up.

“The PDC was awesome to play, but unfortunately being based out of Canada with a wife and kids, it makes it impossible to challenge the Order of Merit [PDC world ranking system] properly”.

“The fact that BDO events are available to play throughout North America, makes sense for me to focus on the BDO.

“Canada has several good players, past and present, but for the most part they struggle to cope with the level of the UK play.

“Practice, practice, practice. Get out and support the game by playing”

“Canadian players need to keep on qualifying, exposing our players to the pressure is key” said Smith.

The Silencer added that practice is the key for those up and coming. “Practice, practice, practice. Get out and support the game by playing. Grass roots to the top pros, there is a place for everyone in darts.”

Live coverage of every dart thrown at the Grand Slam will be shown on Sky Sports.

The 24 PDC representatives will include major tournament finalists from the past 12 months and eight qualifiers. The full PDC line-up is soon to be confirmed.

 

Review – Out of Contract

October 19, 2016 in Opinion

“You’re a product. If you are doing well, people would want to buy you.”

Sky Sports documentary Out of Contract followed five professional footballers from different levels of the game and in different stages of their careers.

According to the Professional Footballers Association, 75% of pro players who find themselves out of contract at U-21 level fall out of full-time football for good.

Out of Contract revealed the struggles that players released by their clubs go through as they search for a new one.

Michael Collins is a journeyman midfielder who you might not have come across as he plied his trade with the likes of Huddersfield, Scunthorpe an Oxford.

The former Republic of Ireland U-21 international made a bold choice when he left Oxford by mutual consent and went to play for Bengaluru FC in the Indian Premier League in order to provide for his family.

Collins, 30, won his first ever career title with Bengaluru. However since then, he has struggled to find a new club.

Contrast

Bengaluru coach Ashley Westwood said: “You can earn more here [in India] than in League Two.”

As the Indian Premier League is gaining popularity, more players in the same situation as Collins, are making that move abroad in order to earn a living, find fresh challenges and remain in the sport that they love.

Of course, football is a game of huge contrasts, and whilst millionaire superstars such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic line up their next lucrative move, lesser lights may have to consider entirely new careers.

Out of Contract highlighted the case of Bradley Pritchard who, after being released by Leyton Orient last season, decided to enter the legal profession and now has a new job as a paralegal.

The documentary brought home that these footballers are normal people just like us; often facing life-changing decisions as they battle to make the best of things for themselves and their families.

Factors

There can be a long list of factors that can jeopardise a potential transfer.

Peter Odemwingie (above, main photo) was due to move to Hull City before the 2016/17 season. The manager at the time, Steve Bruce, was a huge admirer of the player. Everything was all set until Bruce resigned and the move was off.

Odemwingie also turned down offers from across the world to focus on his family. Sometimes, it is not all about football and there are other commitments which are more important.

Success

Most of the footballers featured eventually found new clubs, but often at a lesser level and, consequently, on lower wages.

Emmanuel Sonupe, 20, was at Tottenham for 10 years before being released when his contact expired. The midfielder had trials at clubs such as QPR and Leicester before signing a one-year deal with League One Northampton Town.

Former Watford and Bolton forward Marvin Sordell found himself in the same situation as Sonupe, albeit at the age of 25.

Released by Colchester at the end of an initially promising but then injury-hit 2015-16 season, Sordell had various offers from around the world before deciding to join Coventry City on a one-year deal.

Hope

The message that came across in Out of Contract was if you continue to work hard and strive to stay in the professional game at some level, you will see success at the end of the road.

For those whose best efforts are still not enough, the PFA provides training courses and support for players who find themselves having to hang up their boots and consider other options.

Any footballer who find their career not going to plan should take some inspiration from Bradley Pritchard and his new vocation in the legal profession.

Out of Contract wove his and the stories of other players into an exceptional documentary. Whether you’re a football fan or not, their tales of overcoming adversity and battling the odds make it a must-watch programme.

Image courtesy of Sky Sports

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