Black Country welterweight Stuart Elwell has admitted he's put the heartache of the English title loss to John O'Donnell firmly to bed and is now fully focused on an all-out assault on the British title in the next year.
The former Royal Marine Commando was down for a while after his first professional defeat but refuses to dwell on it and is positive he'd set the record straight if they met for a second time.
He's back in action for the first time since March when he goes over six against iron-chinned Ukrainian southpaw Alexander Matviechuk at the Wolverhampton Civic this Friday evening (July 20). Elwell's friend and sparring partner Young Mutley tops the bill in a challenge for the European and British light-welterweight titles against Essex stylist Colin Lynes.
The action-packed fight with his fellow-southpaw in the spring was hard for both men but O'Donnell took over in the middle rounds, cut the shorter man from the Midlands, punched out a 97-94 decision and took the vacant English title home with him to Shepherd's Bush.
A lot of the give-and-take rounds were close, with solid bodyshots from the then-undefeated Hennessy Sports-promoted fighter being the difference. Elwell, without trying to take anything away from O'Donnell, knows he wasn't at his best.
Even though he knows he could have done more, Stuart admits he was devastated for weeks after the fight: “I wasn't gutted after my last fight, I was absolutely devastated. I know I didn't do myself justice in Nottingham that night.
“If I had lost when I was at my best I don't think I would have been as bad as I was. I just knew that I could and should have done better than I did.
“I don't want to take anything away from John, who is a good fighter, but it would have been a different story had I not have been messed around.”
That wasn't the first time the fighters had been down to box, remember. Originally due to fight in December, it was then postponed to January and then March. The postponements were always due to a problem with the Irish-blooded Londoner.
However, as mentioned, Stuart won't be having anymore sleepless nights about the night, the performance or what could have been if he had fought the Rob McCracken-trained stylist when it was originally scheduled.
A man who prides himself on excellent fitness – he was in the Royal Marines for four years – Elwell was puzzled as to why he was so tired after the first nine minutes in the ten-round title clash.
“As you know, I won the first three rounds on the scorecard but at the end of the third I was totally drained. I had literally nothing more to give and had to grit out some hard shots whilst tired.
“I have no explanation as to why I was drained. All I can put it down to was that I'd peaked twice before that fight and because he kept on putting the date back I peaked for a third time in a short space of time. Neither my body nor mind was totally prepared for it.
“However, I'm fully over that now. It took some time to come to terms with it but it's firmly in the past. I haven't enough time to look back and must now look forwards and set my sights on bigger and better things.”
There are certain things, however, that he can't yet face: “I still haven't seen the re-run of the O'Donnell fight yet as I can't bring myself to watch it. I'm like a big girl and I'd probably start crying,” Elwell said laughing.
“But I have asked Errol (Johnson, trainer) to get me a rematch because there is no doubt in my mind that I could beat him if we fought again. I'm at least 50 per cent better than that showing.
“I wasn't surprised at O'Donnell's talent, however, as I knew he would be a solid little fighter. But I don't think he is out of my league in terms of talent as he was just the fitter fighter on the night.”
The 29-year-old former Midland Area champion is back in competitive action for the first time in almost four months this Friday and is excited about lacing on the gloves as a pro for the eleventh time.
The Wolverhampton Civic Hall is a place he knows well, he boxed and won there on his paid debut in November 2000. Worcestershire iron-man Ernie Smith was his opponent that night but is expecting a harder fight at the venue this time around.
Originally pencilled in to fight Bannockburn's Jamie Coyle, Elwell has also been down to meet Manchester-based Pole Thomas Mazurkiewicz and Welsh stylist Lee ‘Taz' Jones before Matviechuk was confirmed.
“There had been a few names mentioned for the contest but now I'm fighting over six-threes against Alexander Matviechuk, who has been in with the likes of Thomas McDonagh and Anthony Small.
“Firstly, it was due to be Scotland's Jamie Coyle over ten in a British title eliminator, but apparently he is unavailable on the July 20. That's a shame because it would have got me back up there.
“Another name in the frame was Manchester's Thomas Mazurkiewicz, but he was also unavailable for that date. There had been a few others mentioned but I'm fully focussed on putting in a good performance against Matviechuk.”
Of course it would be foolish to speak of Elwell, 9-1 (1), without mentioning his career-best win over Darlington's ‘Fearless' Franny Jones. Jones was brutally taken out in only 77 seconds in Blackpool last June on Sky Sports.
A year to the date later and Jones was getting his career-best win – a fifth-round knockout over former British champion Neil ‘Sinky' Sinclair in Dublin.
The loss to Elwell has done wonders for Jones' career. He stopped touted Jamie Coyle in two, halted former Commonwealth title challenger Craig Dickson in six and then ended the career of the aforementioned Sinclair, a former WBO world title challenger and 1994 Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
Those results also reflect favourably on nice guy Elwell, the popular plumber from Darlaston who destroyed the County Durham scrapper without breaking sweat. He knows the one-round win wasn't a one-off and would repeat the exercise should they meet again.
‘Fearless' is in line for a crack at British champion Kevin Anderson, who beat Elwell's stablemate Young Mutley, and, should he come out on top, may give his former conqueror a shot.
“Franny has done very well since I stopped him last June. We always send each other a good luck text before each of our fights and we've become very good friends.
“His last win over Neil Sinclair was a cracker and I wish him all the best in his fight against Kevin Anderson. He definitely has the talent to take Anderson's British title off him,” Stu, a father of one, admitted.
“I think that my win over him, especially in the manner in which I took him out, shows that I have the all-round ability and punch to compete at the top of the domestic ladder.
“It would be nice of him to offer a rematch if and when he beats Anderson. I'm in the running with Matthew Hatton, as I know he wants to fight him again, and Ali Nuumbembe, although he can't fight for the British. So it's likely to be a toss up between Matthew Hatton and myself.
“Jones has stated on BBN that he wants to fight those who have beaten him. I beat him the most decisively and I'd be confident of repeating the feat should we ever fight again.
“I've won the Midland Area title so far but would love to add more titles to the collection and hopefully the British welterweight title will be one of them.
“I think that every British boxer starts off their professional career with the dream of becoming British champion and I'm no different.
“To be the champion and to defend and keep the belt would be a dream, but at the moment it's still only a dream. Dreams do come true, however. I just need to put myself back in the title picture with a couple of good wins.”
Rated fifteen in BBN's latest rankings, the former Four Nations top ten-rated amateur – he won five National titles and represented England – has high hopes for the rest of 2007 and beyond.
“By the end of the year I am hoping to be in the low teens in the British ratings. I'm not pleased at where I am ranked at the moment as I think I should be a bit higher.
“But hopefully by this time next year, if I can get some decent, meaningful fights in against some top lads, I hope to be knocking on the door of the welterweight top ten. That would be nice.
“I would love to get another title fight, be it the English or British title. I know what I can do and these belts are ones that I would really love.
“I'm ready to get back in the ring this week and Essex Holiday Homes, my new sponsor, have supported me and paid for me to have four weeks off work to prepare for this.
“The sponsors help me so much and Superior Plumbing Installations have allowed me to have so much time off work so I can get myself in great shape and be 100 per cent ready and focused to fulfil my dreams.
“A decent performance and win in Wolverhampton should mean I'll find myself back in contention quickly.”