When boxers talk about gaining experience overseas, they’re often referring to sparring abroad. When boxing talks about tackling piracy, it is often the illegal streaming of fights online. Not Jake Best.
“I’ve done a bit of body guarding, looking after a few celebs” he tells us. “Then I got into anti-piracy in the Middle East and Africa. Boxing on a bag was a way of keeping fit, which we all did anyway, so I tackled pirates before turning to boxing.”
Jake Best isn’t your average boxer. Just browse his social media (@JakeBestBoxer on Twitter) to see that he has the physique of a super welterweight who looks like very few others. It’s engrained in him, being a former Royal Marine.
An amateur boxer from a young age, it was given up to concentrate on rugby. A career in the Marines was cut short through trouble on the streets, so he looked back to a life between the ropes.
“ My fighting out of the ring caused me a bit of an issue, then I got into the unlicenced scene, mainly to make a bit of extra money” reflects Best. As the unlicenced scene grew around Bournemouth, so too did Best’s following. As his following grew, along with his ring skills and experience, he caught the eye of those who could lead him down a more structured path.
“An amateur boxing club asked me to have a go at the amateur scene” says Best. “The inactivity was too much for me, I was older and couldn’t wait a year for tournaments. Then Steve Bendall, my Manager and Head Trainer now, told me to have a crack at the pro game. I train down at Bendall’s Gym as well, that’s a great place and get helped out by Kev Thorniley, who also has his own club at Thorniley Boxing and Parkstone ABC. I was lucky to sign up with Assassin Promotion as well, who have done a great job with me.”
These changes happened in a period of flux for the likeable 32 year old as he went about setting up a new company of his own. “I could take more time away from my work and commit to training. I train 11 times a week, fitting it between mornings and evening, create my own balance” he says.
It all went well. Two wins in 2016 gave Best a solid professional start. But then, unexpectedly, he suffered a loss at the O2 Academy to unfancied Zygimantas Butkevicius. That first loss can define a fighter, so for Best, was it a disaster or a mere road bump?
“It wasn’t a setback at all, it was a learning curve for me in the pro game. There were problems. I had trained for other fights that were then cancelled, but I carried on training with a low-calorie intake. I ended up on anti-biotics, but because it was a home show and I’d sold ticket I thought I could just turn up. It was a home show, I had sold a lot of tickets and assumed I could turn up and cruise through it, it was only a four rounder.”
“I knew nothing on the opponent, no content on him. I turned up and it didn’t go like that. I caught him early in the first, then he just out boxed me. I don’t class myself as a technical boxer, I’m a scrapper with good endurance. I will perform better over the longer rounds in fights, I know that. By the time I realised the fight was slipping away it was too late to get it back!”
Manager Steve Bendall stood by Jake; his following the same. Best has that positive mindset that successful boxers need. Don’t dwell on it, but accept it and rectify the problem. “There are a few big fights they think I can get involved with. It hasn’t been a dampener at all really” he says. In fact, in defeat, it seems to have helped Best grow a different confidence that helped him to two subsequent victories.
“I believe at the weight I fight, I can’t be hurt. Even in the loss I put my hands down and let him unload on me. When he was finished, I just laughed at him. In the longer term the loss may help raise my appeal to the bigger names to fight me, make me seem more vulnerable.”
Best is realistic about his aspirations within the sport. By his own admission he is “a scrapper” that lacks the finesse of his peers, but what he lacks in style he compensates for in drive. “I’m no idiot, I know my technical limits” he reflects. “When you combine skill, hard work and dedication you get your elite fighters. I live the life and train harder than anyone I have met, I can get myself extremely fit and into good shape. Realistically career wise, because of my age and the fact natural talent isn’t with me, I’d like to think I can get a Southern Area title. From that, I’d love to get an English title shot on a big show and go from there. If I won that, I’d consider committing to the sport even more than I do at present.”
The first step to those belts comes this Saturday as Best once again enters the ring at the O2 Academy in Bournemouth. He has learned that all fights provide their own challenges, but that doesn’t dampen his ambitions. “I don’t want to look past anyone but I am confident I will win this and I want an impressive win. I’m having my Irish debut on October 7th in Dublin at the National Stadium on a Red Corner Promotions show.”
Tickets for the show are still available to purchase through www.iboxingtickets.com and Jake is hopeful that he can bring with him the fans who have helped him reach this stage of his career. He’s tackled piracy, guarded celebrities, defended his country and set up a company of his own. What Best has shown is that he can take on a challenge, overcome adversity. It would be foolish to bet against Best achieving his goals; the question is whether he can surpass them.
Written by Martin Theobald