Whether it’s acting on the stage or competing in the ultimate sporting theatre of boxing, one local fighter is determined to play a leading role. Dan Mountney meets rising star, Jordan Stansbury.
Boxing is a sport often frowned upon for its violent nature, terrible injuries and sometimes, tragic deaths. There have been repeated calls for bans on all boxing down the decades but, it has survived and is now experiencing a surge in popularity not seen since the days of Mike Tyson.
The fight game is a superb spectator sport, whether witnessed live in some of the world’s biggest arenas or from the comfort of the sofa. The pre-fight build-up is filled with tension, confrontation and verbal warfare.
Coupling this inherent human drama with the emergence of what some are calling a golden generation of heavyweights akin to that of Ali, Frazier and Foreman, it has caused a drastic change in public opinion and great excitement among the boxing community.
For Jordan Stansbury though, boxing is more than just an enjoyable watch on a Saturday night, with a beer in hand, surrounded by mates. It’s a sport that has truly changed his life.
Born in West Byfleet, 20-year old Stansbury began amateur boxing a just over year ago after enrolling at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham on a degree course in acting. He now trains and fights at the town’s local boxing club.
Most youngsters develop an early interest in sports such as football, but Stansbury discovered a liking for boxing midway through secondary school.
“It first started in PE, in year nine I believe,” he says. “That was the first time I ever put on a pair of gloves. We did a boxercise session one day, no contact, just pad work”.
Not satisfied with his first experience of boxing, Stansbury decided he wanted more, recalling what happened next with a laugh and a big smile on his face.
“I remember as soon as my teacher left the room, a mate of mine started asking if anyone wanted a quick spar. I agreed and we went to war with each other. I remember we hid the two pairs of gloves in a cupboard and most days after school we’d sneak into the dance studio and have a few rounds with each other.
“More and more people would turn up and everyone was eager to have a turn against me. I could never hit too hard because I must have been around eight stone at the time but, I was quite slick and hard to hit. After I had a spar with a really big rugby player, I ended up making him quit halfway through a round. I started to get interested in the possibility of training at an actual gym.”
However, in the years following his dance studio sparring session, injuries, weight issues and objections from his mum and dad against the sport, almost saw him quit boxing all together.
“From year nine up until my first year of university, I never took boxing seriously. Injuries mixed with my parent’s disapproval really sapped my motivation for the sport. I remember about a year before I came to UCA I was struggling really hard with my eating. It wasn’t anything psychological, I just never felt hungry, and I dropped down to around 115 pounds, which, even for my height, is dangerously low.”
Recovering from injuries and convincing his parents to let him train, Stansbury credits boxing with helping him correct his weight issues and making him physically stronger, whilst also making him aware of his physical limit.
“I managed to up my weight before uni started but, boxing itself gave me the motivation to convert my weight at the time into as strong as I could possibly be. In a perfect world I’d love to try and stack on another 10 pounds but that would mean fighting at middleweight which is far too high for me to fight at.”
Despite training hard from that moment on, the 20-year-old admitted that two losses in his opening two bouts made him ‘consider stopping fighting all together’ but he is now looking for a new opponent, with a March date on the cards.
“I’ve just done my medical and [I’m] looking to fight again. I think it’ll most likely be March, provided training goes well and I don’t pick up any injuries.”
With an eagerness to return to the ring in the near future, Stansbury is aware that he must make the weight for his next bout – something he has not done in his previous two fights, putting him at an obvious disadvantage – in order to show his quality and secure his first win.
“I need to be aware of my weight due to the fact that I turned up to my last two fights as a lightweight, which was the division below what I should have been fighting at. And now I intend to fight at the top end of welterweight, which is a good eight kilos different. I feel a lot stronger at this weight and hopefully my next performance shows that, or maybe not. Who knows, we’ll just have to see.”
But, what can fight fans expect from Stansbury in the future? Could it be on the stage rather than inside the squared circle?
Having spoken at length about a potential future in boxing, he maintains that the sport his just a hobby for him, with his main focus on university and progressing his promising acting career.
“A few people I know in the sport told me about the potential I have to go and compete as a journeyman in a few years’ time, provided I knuckle down and get a good record, but I don’t see my life going that way. Boxing is my hobby but, I want acting to be my lifestyle.”
Despite making it clear that his future may lie away from boxing, Stansbury does believe that the sport has helped his acting, boosting his confidence and putting his stage fright into perspective.
“I suffered from a lot of stage fright which I had trouble dealing with. After starting boxing those fears instantly vanished. I knew that if I could go up into the squared circle at York Hall, where the likes of AJ [Anthony Joshua] and [David] Haye have boxed, and literally fight another human being, then I would have zero trouble performing some Shakespeare in front of my mum!”
In light of mentioning Joshua and Haye, what does Stansbury think about boxing’s apparent renaissance having endured a rocky period of controversy?
His eyes light up, having been given the chance to talk about the stars of his sport, immediately naming Joshua, the face of British boxing and the sports new golden boy as the reason for the upsurge in interest.
“I’d say the strongest reception so far in the past decade has to be [for] Anthony Joshua, without a doubt. People who have never watched a boxing match in their lives stand a good chance of knowing who he is if you ask them.
“I’d put it down to his persona. Big, brilliantly built, handsome guy with a sweet and child friendly attitude, what’s not to love for the general public?
“More and more people are showing an interest in the sport, maybe not doing it themselves, but hosting fight night parties and alike. It’s starting to bring boxing back into a new golden age.”
The phrase ‘golden age’ has become one of the most used in contemporary boxing, and for good reason.
Joshua is the current IBF World Heavyweight Champion with legend Wladimir Klitschko firmly in his sights, should the Englishman beat Eric Molina this Saturday. But Stansbury is more excited about two other fights on the same card as Joshua, while also highlighting Shannon Briggs’ next fight as one to keep an eye on.
“Haye-Bellew has definitely caught my eye,” says Stansbury, “but after their recent antics I’m also very excited for Whyte-Chisora, though I have feeling the fight won’t live up to the hype.
“After the whole drugs allegation I do wonder who the board will put in front of Shannon Briggs. And that’s definitely a fight I want to see. You could put that man in an empty room and her create an interesting atmosphere!”
As for Stansbury’s boxing career he is thoughtful about how long he can see himself continuing fighting for, highlighting the issues that have often plagued the sport as key to his future in the ring.
“I’ve promised myself that I won’t step in a ring as soon as I turn 30, with all the stuff about head damage and that going around I’m far too concerned for my own health. My style really won’t help me in the long run as I tend to be an aggressive ‘slugger’ when I can, often leading to me taking big shots myself.
“Saying that, if in a few years a pro contract finds its way to my table I may find it hard to resist. I don’t think about that too much though”.
Whether it be boxing or acting that Stansbury chooses to follow, it’s clear to see that he is going to go far.
Driven, determined and motivated to succeed in whatever path he chooses, combined with his honesty, integrity and talent, the 20-year old is definitely one to watch out for in the future.