‘Today’s boxers are just selfie champions’: Wayne Alexander pulls no punches as he recalls glory days

If Wayne Alexander was boxing now, he is convinced he would be a multiple world champion.

The Tooting-born boxer, now a referee, officially hung up his gloves in 2008 having won the WBU light-middleweight title four years earlier, but never quite reaching the heights he strived to.

He admits his own lifestyle held him back from more success but insists his pure fighting power could have made him one of the greats – and would do with the calibre of today’s fighters

“Social media has taken over now,” said the 43-year-old who grew up and learned to box in Croydon.

“You’ve got guys who are very average fighters but because they have 1000 likes on Facebook they think they’re a champion. They’re selfie champions!

“I would’ve been a world champion in this era. I would’ve earned more money and had bigger fights.

“You don’t have to be as good now as you did 20 years ago to get world title fights.

HEAVY HITTER: Wayne Alexander in action during the peak of his career

“The real boxing fans know I was a good fighter. A hundred years from now I’ll be known as a good fighter.

“That was my dream as a kid, to be known in the future. I wanted my grandchildren to be told ‘your granddad was a great fighter’.”

While he may not have achieved that level of success in the ring, the powerful and vicious left hook that earned him a minor world title and the win of his career against Mehrdud Takaloo will always be remembered.

“I’d been practicing that shot for years. It landed perfectly and there’s not many perfect left hooks thrown,” said Alexander.

“My balance, my stance, everything was perfect. It was the best shot of my career.”

December 9 marked ten years since Alexander last stepped into the ring.

That night he was to lose to Frenchman Serge Vigne in the first round and although he did not retire on his stool, that was that for Alexander.

He said: “I thought it was over but I didn’t accept it. I didn’t officially retire until 2008 but I was training on and off.

“My mind wasn’t right and I was offered fights with guys who years ago would never try and fight me.

“I didn’t want to become a journeyman or be used as an opponent. Losing was like death to me.”

Things could perhaps have been different for Alexander had he lived a little differently outside the ring during his career.

“If I had trained harder and lived the life I would’ve lasted longer. I won a world title but it was only minor,” he said.

“I know I could’ve won a bigger world title and lasted another three years if I had lived like a sportsman.”

STILL SMILING: Wayne Alexander is enjoying his new boxing career as a referree

Alexander admitted his natural boxing ability meant training was not taken as seriously as it could have been and non-athlete friends made for easy distractions.

Despite that, he still finished his career with an impressive record of 22 wins and three losses.

One of those losses came in his only major world title fight in odd circumstances.

In February 2001, Alexander was offered a shot at the WBO light-middleweight title with just 24 hours notice.

He fought Harry Simon but lost in the fourth round by technical knock-out after a rocking Simon in the second round.

“I had nothing to lose. I was expected to lose. It was a good payday!” he said.

“I felt like I could’ve beat him and I’m the guy that hurt him the most. He showed me what world class was about and was the best fighter I ever fought.”

If that was a valiant loss, the next one of his career was the opposite.

Alexander was in the middle of one of his ‘lazy periods’ when he got a call from promoter Frank Warren to fight journeyman Deryl Mellis.

Overweight at the time, Alexander lost two stone in six weeks and it was to cost him.

“I thought if I turned up I would beat him. But I trained to lose weight and not to beat him,” he added.

“I was living like a rabbit, eating lettuce and drinking water. I was coming out of the gym and not eating.

“I won the first five rounds and then I was like a car running on empty. In round eight he caught me and put me down and that was it.

“It was the worst moment in my whole career. I cried my eyes out, I cried like a baby.

“My whole world had crumbled. I lost to a journeyman and it was big talk in the game.

“I was embarrassed, I let myself down.”

Boxing can be a lonely sport in times of defeat but he would get his revenge on Mellis a year-and-a-half later when he beat him on points three months after knocking out Takaloo.

Ten years on from being in the ring as a fighter, Alexander is now back, but instead of throwing the punches, he is the man officiating them.

“It’s something I want to pursue,” he said.

“It’s the nearest thing to fighting itself although the first couple of times I did it I was shitting myself.”

It was a difficult journey to get there though, and he admits he was arrogant in the success he believed he would achieve in his career.

“When I finally decided to retire I was in limbo. It was a difficult time and I didn’t have a trade,” he said.

“I was a bit ignorant. From the age of 11 I thought I was going to be a boxer, a world champion, rich and famous.

“When I was told as a teenager to get a trade I thought no. I’m going to be world champion and travel the world.

“I’m going to be like Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank, why would I need a trade?

“I did believe I was going to be rich. I was that confident in myself that I would be one of the 5% who could retire after boxing.”

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