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.”

 

 

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Reception Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: An excellent three form entry scho...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: A lovely primary school in the bor...

The Green Recruitment Company: Mechanical Maintenance Engineer

£11 - £18 Per Hour: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Mechanical Maint...

The Green Recruitment Company: Commercial Construction Manager

£65000 Per Annum bonus & benefits package: The Green Recruitment Company: The ...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'