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Exclusive Interview: Chris Evangelou talks to Ring News 24 about how he got into boxing, his career to date and his future ambitions

Ringnews24.com: You didn’t get into boxing until you were 17. Can you tell us what made you take up boxing?

Chris Evangelou: Well, basically my family have always been interested in boxing and have often stayed up to watch the big fights, so it’s always been in our blood. The actual reason that I got into boxing was because I had a little run-in outside my college when I was 17. Nothing happened really and no punches were thrown but I felt as though I could’ve handled it better with more confidence. So when I got home I decided I wanted to do something like boxing or martial arts. I walked into a club in Tottenham called Haringey boxing club and literally from the first week they loved me and I loved them. At first it was a hobby, then it became a bit more than that and then the spark was lit and that was that, I haven’t looked back. After college I went into boxing full time.

Ringnews24.com: What were you studying at college?

Chris Evangelou: Business, sociology and theatre studies.

Ringnews24.com: So, presumably you had never thought about becoming a boxer before that incident?

Chris Evangelou: Nope. I wanted to be an actor; that’s what I was at college to study. I was always quite a bright student; I mean I loved science and academic studies. When I was a kid I always wanted to be big and famous and do something a little different. I was always interested in acting and at one stage I was acting and boxing at the same time. I did a lot of theatre work, for example. I really wanted to get into films after that but I had to decide what I wanted to do because both demanded so much of my time so I chose boxing because I can always get back into acting one day but I won’t necessarily be able to get into boxing again later in life.

Ringnews24.com: Plenty of famous actors have boxed previously so you’re in good company.

Chris Evangelou: Exactly. That’s my thinking.

Ringnews24.com: Can you tell is about your amateur career?

Chris Evangelou: I had 40 fights and won 35 of them. I won 5 international gold medals and a silver medal. I won a gold medal for Cyprus, boxing cups for my club, the Class B Novices in 2006; just many various tournaments really. I gained a lot of experience in about 4 or 5 years.

Ringnews24.com: You narrowly missed out on boxing at the 2008 Olympic Games for Cyprus. What happened there?

Chris Evangelou: Well, I fought a German fighter in the Olympic trials in Athens and lost. I thought I did well enough to win but that’s the way things go. I’ve got a lot more experience now though after fighting in those international events.

Ringnews24.com: It must have been a big disappointment to miss out?

Chris Evangelou: It was a big disappointment at the time because I had trained so hard to get there and had been picked to go to the Olympic trials. But everything happens for a reason and I haven’t dwelled on it though. I always look at the positives and plenty of great fighters haven’t fought at the Olympics. After that I just focused on having a successful final season as an amateur which I did. I won 6 out of 7 fights and the loss was because I broke my hand in the fight.

Ringnews24.com: You made your pro debut at York hall in 2009. How happy were you to make your debut at such a great venue? It must have felt like the hard work had all paid off?

Chris Evangelou: Yeah, it was big deal for me. I sold 400 tickets for it which was great and the night was amazing, especially since it was at such a prestigious venue. I’ve watched fights there and I’ve even fought there as an amateur but it’s different fighting there as a professional because the atmosphere is better as there are so many more fans. Winning my fight there was fantastic. I’ve never lost at the York Hall as an amateur or pro! [Laughs]

Ringnews24.com: How do you manage to sell so many tickets at this early stage of your career?

Chris Evangelou: I think it’s because I’ve managed to build it up since I was an amateur. A lot of amateurs don’t really promote themselves but I was always promoting myself on Facebook and Myspace and just telling people here and there. I think the fact I’m Greek also plays a part as there aren’t many Greek fighters out there and fans want to come out and support their fellow countryman. Also, I’m quite a flash boxer, have good movement and silky skills so I think a lot of people might just remember me and want to see me fight again.

Ringnews24.com: You’ve fought at some fantastic venues so far including Wembley Arena, the Olympia, York hall, and Alexandra Palace. Which has been your favourite venue so far and what has the atmosphere been like at your events?

Chris Evangelou: I’d say my favourites have been Alexandra Palace and Wembley Arena. They’re both fantastic arenas with lots of history and the atmosphere is always amazing because there are always so many fans all crammed in there and cheering you on. It is very daunting though, I won’t lie, because you’re about to go and fight in front of thousands of people. At the end of the day, it’s what we do for a living; we’re entertainers or modern day gladiators.

Ringnews24.com: Who is your current trainer?

Chris Evangelou: Paulo Muhongo. He’s Angolan but spent many years in Cuba so knows a lot about the Cuban style of boxing. He’s quite well known in the amateur circuit. He trained at the Haringey boxing club for quite a while and was a successful amateur. He was actually set to go to the 1984 Olympics and fight for Cuba but couldn’t because Cuba boycotted the event. Basically he’s been my trainer since my first year in boxing.

Ringnews24.com: How would you describe your boxing style to somebody who hasn’t seen you in the ring yet?

Chris Evangelou: Slick, moves head, tries not to get hit, counter-punches. A mixture of Floyd Mayweather Jr, Oscar De La Hoya and Roy Jones Jr.

Ringnews24.com: So similar to three of the best boxers of the last 20 years?

Chris Evangelou: Yeah, basically. [Laughs]

Ringnews24.com: You’ve recently returned from a training camp in the USA. Can you tell us about that?

Chris Evangelou: I went to Vegas for 2 weeks to the Mayweather gym which was an amazing experience for me. Usually fighters only spar 2 or 3 times I week but I sparred every single day there. I was the new, British guy in the gym and had a similar style to them all and everybody just wanted to spar me and I hate saying no to people.

Ringnews24.com: That’s a lot of sparring. Do you think they wanted to spar you because you were the outsider who they wanted to put in his place?

Chris Evangelou: To be honest, that is a no-nonsense gym. They spar and spar and don’t care what day it is. It’s called the “Doghouse” when you spar there because you know they’re going to come at you hard. It’s not like a sparring session where you tap each other and are apologetic if you hit them too hard. I think everyone wanted to look good against me but I held my own and also I have a similar style to many of them which I think they liked and so I gelled well with the gym really well.

Ringnews24.com: So I suppose some of the guys sparred you and you did well so they all gave you an opportunity to showcase your talents?

Chris Evangelou: Yeah, that sort of thing. But I just have to stress how nice all the people there were. The boxers and coaches were so nice to us and welcomed us with open arms. We felt so welcome. I think as soon as they saw me spar and saw I had some talent I think they were happy I was there.

Ringnews24.com: Who did you go with?

Chris Evangelou: My dad who is also my manager and my PA Mike who came to videotape stuff and basically just make sure everything went well.

Ringnews24.com: Who did you meet there and who did you spar?

Chris Evangelou: I sparred the Money Team and they have a lot of good amateurs and some top pros. I met Andre Dirrell and Floyd Mayweather Jr who had just come out of prison; he came down to the gym a couple of days which was amazing for me. Also, 50 Cent was there a couple of times which was just really surreal. He just walked into the gym like it was a usual thing to do which was cool to see.

Ringnews24.com: How beneficial was the camp for you and would you say you’ve returned to Britain a better boxer in your opinion?

Chris Evangelou: Yes, 100%. It was very, very hard sparring. It was 40 degrees in the gym with no air conditioning and at altitude, only 30 seconds rest between rounds and the boxers you’re training against are top quality. When you add all of that up it just breaks you down and builds you back up. It did that to me and really toughened me up and made me more confident. I was being complimented after training sessions and it was just great to hear that.

Ringnews24.com: It sounds like it was the toughest training camp you’ve had. Would you agree?

Chris Evangelou: Definitely. It was the hardest but also the most beneficial too.

Ringnews24.com: You actually trained at the Wild Card in Los Angeles a few years ago. How did you find that experience and what was the difference between the two gyms?

Chris Evangelou: The Wild Card is a little bit different. I’d say every gym has its own personality. I think the Wild Card is a bit more formal; they have a lot of good boxers there but there are also a lot of people who are just there to keep fit. Whereas at the Mayweather gym everyone is either a professional boxer or training for a fight of some sort. I’d say that’s one of the main differences. They’re both great gyms in their own right and they both have fantastic trainers. I was at the Mayweather gym for 2 weeks but I was at the Wild Card gym for 4 weeks. I just love going to the USA and training in an American environment; it really makes me up my game.

Ringnews24.com: How many American camps have you had?

Chris Evangelou: I’ve had 3 camps there; the Kingsway boxing club in New York, the Wild card gym in Los Angeles and the Mayweather gym in Las Vegas.

Ringnews24.com: You passed on signing with an American promoter after impressing everyone with your work at the Wild Card and signed with Matchroom Sport instead. Was that primarily because you didn’t want to spend so much time in the States or simply that the Matchroom deal was the best one for you?

Chris Evangelou: Well, basically it wasn’t because I didn’t want to train in the USA but just because it wasn’t beneficial for my career at the time. I had a lot of fans in London waiting for me to turn professional so it wouldn’t have made any sense to stay in the USA as an unknown boxer because it’s valuable to have a big following. We went to train at the Calzaghe gym and listen to their offer. They have a very good setup and all and Enzo Calzaghe is a great coach so we considered their offer. We initially said we’d like to stay with them but we had to consider the best offer for me which was to stay in London with my friends and family and close to my fans and fight in London where I’m known so that’s why I signed with Matchroom Sports. I mean I’ve been an amateur boxer for 5 or 6 years in London and we didn’t want to see that go to waste. So there were no bad offers or anything like that. It was just a case of the best thing for me was to be based in London.

Ringnews24.com: How difficult was it to make that decision considering you had so many offers to consider on both sides of the Atlantic?

Chris Evangelou: The thing is every promotional team has its strong points. I mean Calzaghe is a big name, Ricky Hatton is going strong and obviously the Wild Card gym is great. But it just boiled down to the fact I wanted to stay in London.

Ringnews24.com: You fight Danny Connor on the 8th September at Alexandra Palace for the Southern Area title. Presumably your training at the Mayweather Gym has prepared you perfectly for this bout?

Chris Evangelou: Yeah, for sure. It’s my first 10 round fight so we wanted to have a training camp that was tough and had quality sparring so it was ideal. They’ve made me a much better fighter and were exactly what I needed.

Ringnews24.com: Will this be your toughest fight to date?

Chris Evangelou: Yeah, it will. He might not have the best record but he’s a good boxer. I don’t care if someone has lost every one of their fights because you don’t bring your record into the ring with you. You train differently for every fight and styles make fights; one fighter’s style might counteract your own style. I don’t underestimate anyone. I’m going to go in that ring and fight hard and if Danny fights hard too then we’ll have a good fight.

Ringnews24.com: Do you know if the fight will be televised?

Chris Evangelou: I hope so. Hopefully Sky Sports will show it but I’m not sure. The thing is you never really know until fight night. There are quite a few title fights that night so I suppose it’s a case of if they can fit our fight in.

Ringnews24.com: Have you set yourself any short or long term goals?

Chris Evangelou: Yeah, everyone sort of does that. I don’t want to think past this fight but I’d like to win this title and then go for major domestic honours soon after that. We just want to see what’s out there really. Darren Hamilton now has the British title which was a big shock so we’ll be keeping an eye on what he does.

Ringnews24.com: There were rumours that you could fight Darren Hamilton. Was that fight ever on the cards and could it be on the cards in the future?

Chris Evangelou: Yeah, I was supposed to fight him for the Southern Area title and I’m sure we will end up fighting each other. I just hope it’s for the British title.

Ringnews24.com: Do you feel as though Hamilton’s upset of Ashley Theophane has made that bout more difficult to make now for you?

Chris Evangelou: Of course. I’ve now got to prove I’m ready for a British title shot. Darren got a shot at the title because it was at short notice and he had beaten John Watson in his previous fight which meant he had a good win which made the board say “yeah, we’ll sanction the fight”. As a boxer you have to prove you’re ready to challenge for these sorts of titles; they’re not just going to throw anyone in the mix.

Ringnews24.com: You’re now 26 years old. Do you feel any pressure to rush your career along at all or do you feel your progress has been good so far?

Chris Evangelou: My progress has been great. Because of the media nowadays you don’t have to have 30 or 40 fights to become known like you did before. Now you can have one big fight and the whole of Britain know who you are. I haven’t had many miles on the clock; I only started boxing when I was 17 and had my first amateur contest at 18 so I’m still fresh and eager to learn. I haven’t peaked yet and I think everything is going according to plan.

Ringnews24.com: Who is the best light welterweight in Britain right now in your opinion?

Chris Evangelou: I’d say Amir Khan because of what he’s accomplished so far. Or maybe even Ajose Olusegun, if he still fights out of Britain. I’ve sparred him a few times. He’s a very good fighter.

Ringnews24.com: Rumours are Ricky Hatton might make a comeback. Do u think that’s a good move for him and British boxing or is it a bit late for him to be fighting again?

Chris Evangelou: It shouldn’t be too late for him because he’s still only 33. But because of the way he used to balloon in weight between fights I think it might have taken its toll. I suppose for boxing and as a spectator it would be very interesting because he’s such a big name. However, as a boxer I don’t think it’s the wisest move.

Ringnews24.com: Do you watch boxing away from the ring? If so, which fighters do you like watching?

Chris Evangelou: Yeah, I do watch boxing but mainly the bigger fights. I don’t want to bring my work home with me if you see what I mean. After I finish training at the gym I like to come home and relax and not think about boxing so much. I do love watching the big fights though. Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto are both great. Recently I watched the Khan-Garcia fight which was a big event and the David Haye-Dereck Chisora fight was a good tear-up. My brother Andreas watches more domestic fights than me and tells me a lot about the domestic scene.

Ringnews24.com: Your brother Andreas is also a professional boxer. Is the ultimate goal for the both of you to hold world titles at the same time?

Chris Evangelou: Yes, that would be fantastic. That would be the ultimate dream. My brother has got the boxing bug; he runs every day, trains hard, he really keeps me on my toes. He pushes me to train harder myself and I think we urge each other to be better. It would be great to hold the titles like the Klitschko brothers.

Ringnews24.com: If you had not become a boxer, do you know what you would have done?

Chris Evangelou: Become an actor.

Ringnews24.com: Do you have a message for the fans?

Chris Evangelou: Yeah, I’d like to thank everyone for their support. Not just for my upcoming fight but throughout my career. I appreciate everyone from my family, friends, my fans; you really can’t underestimate how important it is to have their support behind you. In my last 2 years as a pro I’ve realised just how amazing it is for me to have so many fans. So I would like to thank everyone for their support. Also, thanks to Ring News 24 for doing the interview with me.

Ringnews24.com: Thanks for talking to us Chris and best of luck in the future.

 

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