Let him who desires peace prepare for war.
Flavius Vegetius Renatus (~375 AD)
Prize fighters, that rarest of men are united by one common goal. A goal more cerebral and holistic than the financial rewards or historic achievement of their careers. When the end of the road is nigh, no matter how stubbornly denied, fighters seek only one thing: peace. Peace in their lives and peace within themselves. As if the lifetime of confrontation, of violence must be balanced.
Inner peace for fighters, like all of us, is hard to find. Once the flash of youth is gone, fighters struggle on. Sometimes driven by money, but often in a quest to answer something inside themselves, to resolve unanswered doubts, to be sure that every last drop of youth has been spent. In short, to finish the sentence with a full stop not a question mark.
It is just such a quest former British and Commonwealth Lightweight champion Bobby Vanzie finds himself on. I spoke to Bobby shortly after his hearing with the British Boxing Board of Control last week and found a buoyant but reflective man. Already at odds with the boxing establishment, Bobby is increasingly wrestling with his conscience too, the clash between boxing and his faith making peace increasingly hard to find.
DP: So the dreaded hearing, you were charged on three counts; late arrival for the weigh-in, leaving the ring early (unsporting behaviour) and for your comments in the post-fight interview, how did it go?
BV: The hearing was quite a surprise! I was still seething at the fact that after being so obviously screwed out of regaining my British Title for the second time, I was even called to explain my behaviour? But I escaped with the proverbial 'slap on the wrist'. A £100 fine for the late arrival, a reprimand for leaving the ring early and a further £500 fine, suspended for 2 years, for the comments in the interview…. Oh, and £100 costs…So £200 in a nutshell!
DP: You've got to be delighted with that, ultimately no suspension?
BV: No, no suspension, and after taking that short notice fight after being convinced I would be out of the game for at least 6 months, it left me feeling a little angry. Sod's law rules! But yes delighted not to be suspended. DP: What was made of the post-fight comments, did you watch the tape in the hearing? BV: Yes, we did, Simon Block just wanted the interview but Maurice, Jack and I insisted we had to watch the final round, one of the panel hadn't seen the fight. They relented and we watched it with sound, which again we insisted on. I think that really helped; it gave the panel a context for my comments. That final round kind of epitomised the whole fight and Glen McCrory is saying how the fights gone and everything. I think that changed the mood a bit.
DP: Do you feel vindicated by the decision?
BV: Vindicated? No Dave, I don't feel I was guilty of anything to feel a sense of vindication. I was relieved, as I am now able to get on with life after getting closure on the whole Earl affair. I don't want to see that ghastly patterned carpet with that sickly off-peach paint that adorn the walls of the B.B.B of C's 'room above the pub' where the hearing took place again! (Laughs)
DP: Future plans, a return with Stewart? I know you were disappointed with the four round distance?
BV: I spoke with Robert McCracken (Stewart’s trainer) about the prospect of a rematch a couple of weeks ago, and he did seem receptive to the idea, and his boy Stewart has been mouthing off in the B.N, so I need to deal with him over a long distance to show him who the daddy of the domestic Lightweights is. He needs to learn the truth about that farcical night.
DP: Are you hoping to continue at 135 or 140, I know you'd consider 140 when we spoke last?
BV: I would like to deal with Stewart before either getting a shot at Earl again, or perhaps fighting the winner of Alan Bosworth and Francis Barrett (who are pencilled in to contest the EU title belt) before saying 'au revoir' to the game, on the dangerous side of the ropes anyway…
DP: The Stewart fight was a nightmare, for both fighters, a good scrap cut from eight to four rounds and you were only told once you got in the ring?
BV: Yeah, I'm still convinced that the whole thing was pre-meditated, but then I've every reason to be paranoid haven't I? (Smiles) They knew that the shorter distance would suit Stewart, and also that it takes me a couple of rounds to get warmed up. I'm a championship level fighter, not a bloody novice!
DP: There are those who think you're 'shot', following the Stewart fight, how would you respond to those critics?
BV: If I was the person I used to be, I would answer those people with a tirade of abusive words, but now, I would answer those who think I'm shot by asking them to watch my next two fights, and then decide.
DP: Would you consider a rematch with Earl, a third fight would be some conclusion to your career?
BV: I would love to get closure on this situation. The Vanzie/Earl trilogy…sounds good huh? Thing is, I would have won them all! If I do what I am supposed to do to my next opponent, then I could force the Board's hand in allowing me to fight for the British Title against whoever was the champion, as I do feel that Earl would rather relinquish than do battle with 'The Viper' again, I'm his worst nightmare.
DP: Recently, you’ve commented on your new-found faith being a morale obstacle to your boxing career, is your short-term view of your boxing career more mental than physical?
BV: Most definitely Dave. Look at my face…Do I look like a guy who's had over 90 fights, Amateur and Pro? Do I look like a guy who's been in wars? Heck no! There aren't many miles on my clock, and had it not been for The Truth (central to Bobby's new found faith), then I would probably have gone on until I was 35. I would have been the Bernard Hopkins of the Lightweight division. However, me serving as a Jehovah's Witness, meant that I was being a hypocrite. Psalm 11:5 states quite clearly; 'Jehova himself examines the righteous one as well as the wicked one, and anyone loving violence his soul certainly hates'. For this reason, I knew I would have to make provisions in other areas, as I would not, and could not continue partaking in something that I know goes against my religion. There are other scriptures relating to this, but I don't want to seem like a 'basher', that's not me. I'm no different to anybody else. I don't think I am better than anybody else; it's just that my beliefs may run against the majority.
DP: Do you think you'll always look back on your career and wonder what 'might have been?' or do you have time to set the record straight?
BV: I believe I could have gone all the way, as my skill is such that it makes me a fighter who will always be hard to beat, but it also put me in the 'who need's him club', which hindered my progress greatly. Politics prevented me from fulfilling my potential, but I don't, and won't feel regret or resentment when it's all over, as I know that my life will be richer, and more enjoyable once I have hung up the gloves. I have a security blanket that will never let me down in my family and my faith and wouldn't trade that in for £100,000,000!
DP: The career has been a roller-coaster of promoters, wins, losses, politics, knockouts, knockdowns and clashes with authority. What is your biggest regret in or out of the ring when you review your almost 10 year career?
BV: I guess my biggest regret was leaving my Promoter Tommy Gilmour Jnr., after the European title pull-outs. After Casamonica pulled out for the 3rd time, I lost my head and hastily met with Frank Warren in London a day later, signed with him and then my career took a downward turn, and to be honest I fell out of love with the sport. Tommy Gilmour is a good man, and a good promoter, and although our split was less than amicable, we do speak when we see each other on the circuit, which I'm happy about.
DP: A move into the media appears to be opening up for you with the BBC, is that an option for your post-fight career, the media?
BV: Yeah, amongst other things. I am hyperactive, and was born that way, and no doubt, will die that way. I have heard of the horror stories concerning retired fighters, who can no longer deal with life outside the ring. I aim to keep myself busy. I'm involved in modelling and extra work, I am currently looking to open a gym in Bradford with a partner, I have a minor business already, selling children’s wear, www.tofftots.co.uk, and I do jobs for the B.B.C, both in radio and T.V, so I have enough to be getting on with. Most importantly, I will be able to concentrate fully on my Witnessing, which is obviously at the top of my list of priorities. I am optimistic with regards to my future. One thing is for sure, once I retire, that is the way I will stay…retired!
DP: Any final messages?
BV: Yeah, my next 2 fights will showcase the best of 'The Viper', so to all my fans…yes, I have got some (laughs)…Make sure you're there, I'll have a special surprise for you all. I want to fight Stewart and win, then fight for some sort of title, I want to leave the sport the way I started it. Winning. I owe it to myself to prepare completely and properly and win those two fights.
DP: Thanks for talking to me again Bobby. BV: No problem, cheers Dave. Maybe Bobby Vanzie, a fighter whose career has been plagued by controversy and some misfortune, could be one of the few to find peace as his career reaches its conclusion…or maybe it depends on the next two fights. In boxing there is always another fight.