Bunce on Boxing: Journeyman Johnny Greaves bows out with a win – after losing 96 ‘easy’ fights

“I kept on fighting to put food on the table, to provide for my family”

Last Sunday at York Hall, deep in east London’s boxing heartland, Johnny Greaves quit the ring after winning his 100th fight.

Greaves will be missed because he is one of the best fighters in Britain, but not for the reasons that define the careers of most boxers in the fight business: on Sunday Greaves won for just the fourth time to end his career with 100 fights, 96 defeats and the four wins.

The end came in front of a crowd familiar with Greaves and other fighters like him and he retires as the King of the Journeymen, a breed of prizefighter that is essential in the boxing business.

Greaves fought the unbeaten prospects, the winning fighters who need a contest without too much risk, and since turning professional in 2007 he has met 70 boxers who had not lost a fight. However, on Sunday Greaves was the star and people paid their 35 quid to see him win, not lose, and he came close to getting carried from the old ring on the shoulders of his fans.

“It was a glorious way to go out,” said Greaves. “I was under a bit of pressure before the fight with people driving me mad and I know now why I never sold tickets – I moved about 200 for this fight and they all wanted to talk to me; I had to go out the back for a snout to get a bit of peace and quiet.

“The fight went to plan and I was a bit disappointed that I never threw in an Ali shuffle but, to the tell the truth, it was hard because he [Dan Carr] was trying to out-Johnny Greaves Johnny Greaves. That was a liberty.”

Carr, who has now lost 42 of his 46 fights, did indeed try a few of the moves that have made Greaves an attraction: he touched Greaves on the bum, stood in the corner with his arms on the top rope whistling, he asked a lot of personal questions during clinches and he talked to people at ringside.

“The way my business works is simple,” Greaves explained. “I get matched against all these unbeaten fighters and they have their family there – girlfriend, nan, the lot. I like that, the more that are there the better and I will tell you why.”

Greaves paused to take a long drag on his first cigarette since retiring from boxing. It was  also the first one he had had since about 10 minutes before he got into the ring.

“You see, if they are all there the kid will try like a nutter and then I know it’s going to be an easy night. He will be swinging and I will be saying to him: ‘Is that your bird in the white? She can’t stop looking at me.’ Now, the kid with all the fans will start throwing wild punches and I can slip and slide those easily. The problems start when the kid ignores me!”

It is too easy to point out to Greaves that he has managed to lose 96 “easy” fights. I point it out anyway: “I never said that I would win, I just meant that it would be easier to lose,” he explains and it makes perfect mad sense.

Greaves, who is 34, has been in some hard, hard fights when all of his tactics and skills have vanished and he has been forced to trade on his heart against a really good fighter in an occasional mismatch. “It happens and then I have to fight. I was fighting on the unlicensed circuit before I turned pro and I’m not afraid of having a tear-up.”

There were also occasions when Greaves, just like other journeymen, knew that he would not get the decision even if he had done enough to win. “That happens all the time, it’s the business and I just accept it,” he said. It’s not illegal, it’s just the way the boxing business works.

“I kept on fighting to put food on the table, to provide for my kids and my family. That’s why I did it,” Greaves said.

Now he will take over a small part of the gym to work alongside Frank, his brother and trainer, to make the next great journeyman. “I know too much to disappear, but I will never get back in there. I liked that winning feeling too much and I don’t want it to get addictive.”

 

 

News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup