Luke of SimBoxx recently had the pleasure of speaking to ‘Kombat’ Lee Clayton to discuss his career, going all the way back to the very first sparring session as well as speaking on Lee’s recent retirement announcement & plans away from the ring…
Luke: Hi Lee, I guess there’s really only place to start & that’s with your recently announced retirement, can you take us through you decision to hang up the gloves?
LC: Yeah sure, for me I believe its the right time to set myself some new challenges. I feel considering I had never laced up a pair of gloves until I was 21, I have achieved a hell of a lot! I boxed for the Central Area twice, won an International Challenge belt and boxed on the big stage at the Manchester Arena. What more could i ask for than that?
Luke: Certainly is a career to be proud of Lee & there’s plenty to discuss! If we can go back to the beginning, you mentioned you never laced up a pair of gloves until 21 years of age, can you talk about your introduction to boxing & how you came to be a professional?
LC: Well I only ever started for fitness! I was playing semi-pro football and competing at distance running but I fell in love with the sport and ended up not being too bad at it. I turned up at Kieran’s (Farrell) one day looking to sign with him and he was like ‘I know you from somewhere’ so I said ‘yeah I was year above you at school haha!’
Next thing he sticks me in sparring with George Brennan, signs me as pro and the rest is history!!
Luke: That’s a fascinating story Lee, how did the sparring with George Brennan play out?
LC: Me and George always had some cracking spars, suppose it’s a bit of friendly rivalry in the gym!! Then George got massive and I stayed tiny haha, no growing in me now I’m old!!
Luke: Tell us about your relationship with trainer & manager Kieran Farrell, you’ve been with him from the start just how important a figure was he through out your career?
LC: I’ll be honest, I would have never achieved half of what I have without Kieran’s support. People in the game are hearing his name more and more trust me there is good reason for it! Looks after his fighters like they are family. Need to give a massive shout to Nay Farrell too, without his guidance as my coach for a while I would have never won my International Challenge Belt.
Luke: As you mentioned you worked with Nay Farrell for a while, he’s now embarking on his own career in the pro ranks, how did you find working with Nay? Is there any parts of your game that you feel he had a particular influence on?
LC: 100% Nay changed me as a fighter. From a come forward pressure fighter with no thoughts on defence, to an awkward southpaw with good boxing skills, shown me how to use my southpaw stance as a massive advantage and will never forget his influence on me.
Luke: Looking back to the beginning of your career, you made your pro debut in 2016 (a TKO victory v Thomas Murry) what are you memories of the fight & the occasion?
LC: Nothing will ever compare to that feeling of walking out for the first time as a pro! I sold loads of tickets and had so many people there supporting me it was just overwhelming. To come away with a KO win just topped it off, I lived on cloud 9 for months!
Luke: The first blip on your record occurred in your 3rd contest, a TKO loss to Dmitrijs Gutmans, what was your immediate reaction to suffering your first defeat & do you believe you learnt from the loss?
LC: It was after that loss that Nay started training me and changed me from a 100mph wild fighter to clever, controlled and so, so awkward to box! Probably the best thing to happen to me in terms of improving me as a fighter.
Luke: How did the partnership with Nay come to fruition? Did you approach him or the other way around?
LC: After my KO loss Nay offered to train me and I was never turning that opportunity with the southpaw skills he possesses.
Luke: The results speak for themselves as you went on to win 4 bouts in succession leading to a Central Area Title shot, the biggest contest of your career up until that point?
LC: Yeah of course I consider that a massive achievement but nobody can ever take away from me the fact I won an International Challenge Belt in 2018! Lifting that belt above my head is quite possibly my proudest boxing moment.
Luke: Take us through the bout in which you won your International Challenge Belt Lee, a moment you’re clearly proud of & rightly so…
LC: Probably my best performance to date in terms of boxing skills, didn’t get a glove laid on me but suffered a bad cut to the eye after 3 rounds from a head clash and was lucky the ref didn’t stop the fight. I couldn’t see a thing out of my left eye. I actually boxed the last 4 rounds with a broken left hand too but still won a shutout 80-72 scorecard!
Luke: Over coming such adversity & claiming a convincing victory in spite of it is some achievement…
LC: I think because of all that happened in the fight it was a little sweeter lifting the title and to win it in my workplace at Village Bury was even better.
Luke: Fantastic, if we can take a look at the bout with Gamal Yafai, a bout against a top level prospect & on a huge platform in Sky Sports at the Manchester Arena, that must’ve been some experience…
LC: Yeah something I was never gonna turn down, what an opportunity! I wasn’t going in to just make up the numbers though I genuinely believed I could win. One thing about me is I’ll fight anyone put in front of me, never turned down anyone.
Luke: I think it’s that kind of attitude that endeared you to your loyal fans Lee you certainly can’t be accused of taking an easy route throughout your career, do you rate Gamal as the best opponent you encountered?
LC: Its a tough one to call really but in terms of ring craft and power yeah I would probably have to say Gamal and what a pedigree he has behind him too.
Luke: To finish there’s 10 rapid fire questions..
1. 1. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
LC: Don’t over train, train smart!
2. Who was the biggest influence on your career?
LC: The Farrells!
3. All time favourite boxer?
LC: Pernell Whitaker
4. All time favourite fight?
LC: Diego Corrales v Luis Castillo
5. Would you rather win a fight with a masterclass points victory or a crushing one-punch knockout?
LC: Masterclass points victory without a doubt!
6. Muhammad Ali or Mike Tyson?
LC: Tyson, just because I grew up watching him and he was an animal.
7. Dream venue you’d have loved to have boxed in?
LC: Etihad Stadium, closely followed by Manchester Arena and I got to do that.
8. Now you’re retired, any regrets?
LC: No regrets, since I’ve been in the game I have never turned down any opportunity, boxed anyone put in front of me to achieve my goals, looking back I feel I have achieved a hell of a lot in such a short time! Maybe the only regret is not starting younger.
9. Do you plan to stay in the sport in a different capacity?
LC: Definitely, I will still be at the gym training, been looking to maybe getting on the board as an inspector and would love to help train the kids.
10. All time pound for pound greatest boxer?
LC: Has to be Floyd Mayweather.
Luke: Is there anything you’d like to add to finish Lee? Anybody you’d like to shout out etc?
LC: There so many people that i feel the need to thank for their impact on the career ive had! Probably too many to mention and i would be scared of missing anyone out! THEY ALL KNOW WHO THEY ARE SO THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART!
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