'The support in Leeds is unreal': Boxer Jack Bateson's rise to success from a Meanwood gym to eyeing up titles
Boxer Jack Bateson is proud to represent Leeds. Abbey Maclure speaks to the unbeaten pro about his glittering career, the pandemic and being inspired by Rob Burrow.
Jack Bateson was nine years old when he got the bug for boxing.
Born into a boxing-obsessed family in Moortown, the unbeaten professional fighter and former GB athlete didn't care much for the sport in his early years.
Jack was eventually pulled into the ring by his dad Mark Bateson, a coach and former amateur boxer, after his older brother quit the sport.
"Growing up, for most kids it’s usually football, but for me it was boxing," Jack, 27, told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
“My dad and my uncle were both coaches and boxed when they were younger.
"My brother was the boxer of the family but I was never bothered. Then my brother quit boxing at the age of 12, when I was nine, and my dad kept pestering me to come down to the gym.
“I eventually agreed just to shut him up a little bit. Before I knew it, I had the bug.”
Jack was trained up by his dad and uncle, spending a couple of years at Sharky's Boxing Club in Meanwood before moving to Burmantofts Amateur Boxing Club where he trains to this day.
When he was 12 fights in, he had his first fight representing England at the age of 12 - and lost.
"I was devastated," Jack said.
"I realised how much I loved the sport and never wanted to have that feeling again. It drove me to get to where I am now.”
Jack's determination to win saw him establish a glittering amateur career for Team GB, scooping gold medals at the Commonwealth Youth Games 2011 and winning two national ABA Championships.
He won a bronze medal at the European Championships in Minsk in 2013, a dream come true for the Leeds lad.
"Before I got on the squad, it was always the dream to wear the GB kit and represent my country," Jack said.
"I travelled the world and saw countries I never would have seen if it wasn’t for boxing.
"I feel blessed to have been able to represent my country. There’s no feeling like winning a tournament and being on the podium with the national anthem playing.
"It’s a special feeling.”
Jack made his professional debut in 2017, scoring a first-round technical knock-out against Zsolt Sarkozi at Elland Road.
He's gone on to win 12 further professional fights, cementing his place as one of the top boxers in Leeds.
Jack cites his close friend and Leeds superstar Josh Warrington as one of his inspirations, but he was inspired by another sporting hero growing up.
"I used to go to Leeds Rhinos matches when I was younger, when there were the likes of Rob Burrow playing," Jack added.
"He was the smallest player on the pitch but always the one with the biggest heart. I was quite small growing up and he was an inspiration to me."
Jack is now eyeing up title fights and his drive is unwavering, despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the sport.
He overcame the toughest test of his career with a points win over Joe Ham in April this year, maintaining his unbeaten record.
"I’m always looking to what’s next, how I can go one better," he added.
"I’m my own worst critic and I’m always looking to do better than what I’ve done before.
"I don’t think I’ll ever be fully satisfied, but I hope that by the time I retire I’m happy with my career and everything I’ve done in the sport."
Supporters from Leeds have travelled far and wide to watch Jack fight over his career and he's excited to get back out in front of a crowd when restrictions allow.
“It's been unreal," Jack said, thanking people in Leeds for their support.
"I don’t think I’d be where I am today without the support of the city.
"Whenever I box, everyone comes out to support me, wherever it is. I’ve been lucky to have a lot of my pro fights in Leeds, but even when I was an amateur and fighting all over the world, I was getting the same support.
"I can’t wait to get the crowds back and put on a show and have everyone cheering me on. I’ve really missed it.”
What's next for Jack?
Fighting without the roar of the crowd has been an unexpected challenge for Jack over the last 15 months.
As coronavirus restrictions are eased, Jack is setting his sights on a professional title - which he'd love to win in front of a Leeds crowd.
“I’ve been pro for nearly four years now, so I’m ready for the next step," he added.
“When the crowds can come back, it would be great to get the Leeds lot behind me again and get my first title.
“My training has been constant through the pandemic, but it has affected my motivation in a little way. There's not always been fight dates; we’ve all been training and training with no end goal.
"But it’s tested how much we want it and I’m sure those who want it as badly as I do will come out on top when it’s all over.”
Jack's advice for aspiring young boxers
Jack has climbed the boxing ranks, from his early days training with his dad in a Meanwood gym to scooping medals for Team GB and maintaining an unbeaten professional record.
During his impressive amateur career, Jack secured over 100 wins from 120 fights.
It wasn't an easy graft and he has dedicated his life to the sport, skipping evenings spent with friends after school for rigorous training sessions.
But Jack wants to encourage young people in Leeds to get into sport for the life lessons, skills and rewards it brings.
“I would definitely advise kids to get into boxing because the opportunities it’s given me in life have been unbelievable," he said.
“Sometimes you feel like you’re missing out as a kid, when you’re training all the time and missing out on stuff with your friends.
“But it truly is worth it, for the opportunities it will bring. Some of my best memories in life are from boxing.”
Jack’s determination to keep smashing his personal records is something to admire and he has shared his advice for aspiring boxers.
“As long as you’re enjoying it; keep grinding, keep working your way through,” Jack added.
“It will all be worth it.”
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