10 pro fights by age 18, Tony Curtis is a young man in a hurry

By Oliver Fennell

WHOEVER says youth is wasted on the young has never met Tony Curtis. The teenager from Southeast London has already lived abroad twice, won two amateur boxing titles, been taken on by a legend of the sport, turned professional and fought in three countries – all before he was a legal adult.

Curtis, who recently turned 18, has done more than many people twice his age, but upon reaching this milestone birthday, he believes he is only just getting started—because now he can apply for a licence with the British Boxing Board of Control.

Few boxers do so at the minimum age of 18. Fewer still do so with 10 pro bouts already under their belt. Curtis believes this gives him quite the head start – and is already talking titles. “I’ve got my eyes on the vacant WBA world title,” he says. “I’d like to go for that first, then go for all the others. But at the end of the day, I’m gonna win all the belts.”

The vacant WBA belt he talks of is in the strawweight division. Curtis last boxed at super-flyweight and didn’t look to have a scrap of fat on him, but he believes he can comfortably lose the necessary 10lbs and has a precise motivation to do so.

“I want to do what [Manny] Pacquiao did; go through all the weights. I want to start at the lowest weight and move through them, one by one, winning titles,” he says. “I’m blessed in that I don’t put on weight. I don’t even diet. So, now I’ve got a nutritionist, I can get down [to strawweight]. One day, I won’t be able to make that weight, so I want to do it now. And I’m gonna be a beast at that weight; 10 times stronger, 10 times bigger.”

The evidence of his last fight shows that’s not much of an exaggeration. Even at super-fly, the 5ft 8ins teenager absolutely towered over his Indian opponent, Ismailulah Khan, as he swept to a shutout six-round win in the United Arab Emirates, where he has based himself since turning pro and where eight of his 10 pro bouts (9-1, 3 KOs) have taken place.

He has also boxed in Thailand and Mexico, where the journey began in September 2022, when he was just 16 years and three months old, and weighed all of 99lbs. His diminutive frame and fresh-faced looks led many to wonder if he was even younger still, and question whether it was wise to cast him into the professional boxing ranks – especially in Mexico, of all places.

The naysayers appeared to have been proven right when Curtis dropped a unanimous decision to Javier Perez Calderon. The Mexican was himself only 18 years old and 105lbs, but two years and 6lbs can make all the difference at such a tender age and at such a low weight. 

“It was a good experience, though, to be fair,” says Curtis. “It was crazy; I had the fans on my side. I was showboating and after the fight they all came up to me, wanting to take pictures and copying all my moves.”

The showboating is a recurring theme, and Curtis has predicted incredibly lofty things for himself, so falling at the first hurdle must have stung. But it also served as a motivator. “I started training 20 times harder,” he says, and the results speak for themselves. Curtis has barely lost a round since, much less a fight, and while his opposition has been typical journeyman fare, he’s shown the flashy skillset that set him on the pro path in the first place, thanks to one of the flashiest of them all – Roy Jones Jr.

Curtis tells the tale of his big break: “We [Tony and family] went to Dubai for a holiday when I was 13 or 14. Dad took a liking to it and we ended up moving there. I was going to a gym called Round 10 in Dubai. One day, I heard Roy was in the gym, so I got all my stuff together, rushed over then and just went up to him and said, ‘can I have your number?’ He agreed to train me and I went pro because of Roy. He told me the pros would suit me better.”

A plan was hatched to turn Curtis over sooner rather than later, with his debut taking place on a card broadcast by ProBox TV, which was co-founded by Jones. To prepare for that, Jones invited Curtis to stay with him at his Pensacola home – an offer Curtis took up just a week after he turned 16. A few months spent living and training with one of the greatest of all time, either side of his pro debut, was the stuff of dreams for a young boxer, and while Curtis has boxed out of the UAE since, Jones is still on the team. “Roy’s my mentor,” he says. “He’s such a wise guy; I always go to him straight away for advice.”

And what did his family make of it all – Curtis going to live with Jones, then travelling all the way to Mexico and Thailand to fight at 16, and electing to get punched for a living at an age when most are still studying or making their first steps into more conventional lines of work?

“We’re a fighting family – me, my dad and my [three] brothers,” he says. “It’s all we do; we’re in the gym all the time, and we would never turn down a fight. Dad was always really into it [boxing], but he never did it, so he took me down the gym when I was about seven. I was a hyperactive kid, running around everywhere, so that was his way of disciplining me. I didn’t really like it then, but when I got to about 10, I started liking it. I’m not sure why; maybe I started maturing, and I had nothing else to do,”

And he still doesn’t.

“I eat, sleep and breathe boxing,” he says. “That is my life. It’s my job. I don’t have a girlfriend. I never drink. I don’t have time – I’m in the gym eight hours a day, every day. Sometimes more. If I wake up at three in the morning and can’t get back to sleep, I’ll go to the gym.”

That gym, a short walk away, is a private one purpose-built by his dad, but Curtis officially fights out of Undisputed Boxing in Sittingbourne, under coach Billy Rumbol, who also flies out to corner Curtis overseas. Jones Jr is still on board, but Curtis needs a full-time coach closer to home now that he is back in the UK and aiming to compete here.

He is managed by Dubai-based Ahmed Seddiqi, the idea being that Curtis will divide his time – and fights – between Britain and the UAE. The only thing he’s missing is a promoter – and, befitting a boxer with such grand plans for himself, he is courting the biggest in the land.

“I’d like to go with Eddie [Hearn]; we’ve had a bit of banter,” he says. “I spoke to Eddie three fights ago and he said, ‘get a couple more wins and we’ll talk’. Well, I’ve done that – now he has to keep his side of the deal.”

The British chapter began last Saturday with an exhibition match at Indigo in The O2 – necessarily a non-competitive bout because he was still three days shy of his 18th birthday, but it was an opportunity to appear before an audience comprised of old, new and simply curious fans. After all he is, for all his international exploits, still a London boy and will be remembered by those who followed his amateur campaign, which he says amounted to “12 or 15” fights and included national titles at Schoolboy and Junior Cadet level.

“I wasn’t really big in the amateurs,” he says. “It’s too political and I was inactive. And I always had people telling me I had a pro-style. I do box more pro [style] than I do amateur. I can take my time, and I like the razzmatazz of the game. In the amateurs, they didn’t like my showboating.”

That razzmatazz, that showboating and that confidence is perhaps simply a byproduct of his youth, because Curtis is not arrogant or disrespectful with it. It just comes across as someone enjoying what he does. He has also demonstrated that he understands the importance of sacrifice and leaving the comfort zone in pursuit of boxing glory, and that there are no shortcuts to achieving it.

Still, despite having more time on his side than most, Curtis understands that the clock ticks quickly on any boxing career – even his.

“I just want to get as many belts as I can,” he says. 

“Before I get too old.”

Source link