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.”

 

 

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
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

Marketing Manager - Central London - £45,000-£55,000 + bonus

£45000 - £55000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: The focus of this is to deve...

Application Support - Enterprise Java, SQL, Oracle, SQL Server

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A well-established financial soft...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape