When Idris Virgo emptied the contents of his water bottle over his recent opponent, Scott Williams, there was a collective outrage across the world of boxing. The act itself wasn’t cause for concern. This is after all, a sport where pain is the aim of the game. So not the ‘what’, but the ‘who’. Williams’ record currently stands at 0-8. That is zero wins and eight losses. To the uneducated this is a joke. To those who know, Williams and his ilk are the lifeblood of the sport – to be respected and revered.
Whichever camp you’re in, read on to find out what life is like in the away corner.
Kevin “Creepy Crawly” McCauley is the very epitome of “have gloves, will travel”. Before entering the world of boxing (amateur or professional), McCauley moved from Brighton to the midlands. A brief taste of his future life on the road. Ideal preparation for years spent as a journeyman. He admittedly had no interest in the sweet science as a child. Nor is he the stereotypical troubled youth who found his way into a gym to keep his nose clean. Not until his late twenties did Kevin lace up a pair of gloves. He does however credit another combat sport for helping build his strength and confidence.
“I was 27 when I started. I did judo for a few years from the age of about 12 to 18, to a good level. I weren’t really interested in boxing. My dad boxed as an amateur but I weren’t interested. I was about 29 turning pro. I just thought I’ll get in there and earn some money and see what happens. I moved from down South to the midlands and thought you’re never too old. I had 4 amateur fights – won 2 lost 2. To be honest I wanted to have a scrap!”
“I liked it but I always thought [in the amateurs] there weren’t enough rounds. I wanted more rounds and got the option to turn pro and go on the road, earn some money so I thought I’d have a go.”
Some boxing fans may struggle to fathom the mentality of turning professional to lose but that is the unfortunate reality for many. Without a solid fanbase in the hundreds, willing to buy tickets to support the embryonic stages of your career, many talented amateurs have been lost by the wayside. It sounds almost cynical to hear Kevin talk about that early decision but his honesty is refreshing as he details his experiences .
“It’s all about tickets. There are kids in boxing about 12-0 who sell a shitload of tickets but you know you’re not going to get knocked out because the kid’s not good enough. It builds their record up to obviously a title shot at some point.”
While a lot of boxers have been left to rue the global pandemic, Kevin responded in typical adaptable fashion. Having taken many fights on but a few hours’ notice, this is not a man who lets opportunities pass him by.
“I’ve had dips in my training. I’ll always have a go but with this Covid thing you don’t want to be stuck in doors. While there was no boxing on I saw it as an opportunity. My dad has had cancer so I’ve come back to Brighton [to be with him] so I’ve got back into training. I’m now just waiting on a call for my next one.”
The wry chuckle from the man affectionately nicknamed Creepy Crawly – a moniker given by stablemate Lennox Clarke – hints that he still holds future ambition despite over 200 career losses. Although he admittedly accepted life on the road, he didn’t initially take defeat too willingly.
“Funnily enough when I just got started there were fights that I won clearly and they didn’t give me a round! A prime example was Steve O’Meara who was big name. Early on in my career I fought him, could’ve been a draw and they gave every round to him. I know if I go through my record I have 40 or 50 fights. Probably more than 50! Without a shadow of a doubt. A lot of close ones and all the draws are wins. It’s just the way it works.”
This preferential treatment isn’t something that the former Midlands Area champion believes is exclusive to the small hall scene.
“Look at [Anthony] Joshua for example. If they thought he’d lose [against Andy Ruiz] they never would’ve set the fight up. You know, there was so much pressure on him and that is where a good raw kid who doesn’t sell a load of tickets could pose a problem. I won a Midlands title, I won a Masters title early on, beat a few kids and giving murders to kids. But you never see them on YouTube! The videos never come out! I fought Eggington and I felt I was up going into the 7th round. I was doing well with my boxing but he caught me with a right hand, I went back to the ropes. I thought I’ll come back off the ropes with a nice little dig and the ref jumped on me without a count! I went nuts! I was absolutely fine. There are so many times I feel like I’ve already lost before I get in there. You feel like you’re 2 rounds down before you start. That bit is hard.”
It is hard not to sympathise with the journeymen of the sport in this regard. We have long since argued against the lack of meritocracy at all levels of boxing. In what should be the purest form of competition in the world, there are too many murky factors at play. In short, the business side has become far heavier than the sporting element. Not that Kevin comes across as jaded or despondent. He acknowledges the hardship but also that it can work in his favour.
Without naming names and going into specifics, he hints that he has previously been encouraged to take prospects the distance but his fighting instinct (and boxing ability) has veered in a different direction.
“There was one kid, the plan was to box and take him a few rounds, show him my skills and I went down thinking I’ll stick to the jab. Every jab I threw his nose was going everywhere! I thought fucking hell! So I walked him down all night and I ended up winning. Even his trainer said I deserved the win!”
Just one of the many twists and turns of being on call to box every week.
“I’ve been in the pub on a Friday night and had a call off the boss saying “You’re boxing tomorrow!” I better get up early and go for a run! The away corner is a completely different game to the home side but it is a much more fun atmosphere. There are some great boys on the circuit. Errol Johnson is my manager and he is with me most of the time. It might be a house second if he can’t make it. More often than that lads like Paul Mann, Matt Sturgeon or Ben Wilkes. They’re all ex-pros who I respect. As long as I have someone to wrap my hands though I’m alright. It don’t matter to me.”
While the journey isn’t quite over for McCauley, he has his head screwed on enough to have half an eye on his future beyond boxing.
“I’m 41 [years old] now so I can’t make welter anymore. Like I say, I was 12 stone 7 a few weeks ago. I worked really hard for a month and made 11st 2lbs. I still do the job and made it a decent fight on his first fight. I’m still competing. I don’t want to get brain damage. I have a brain scan every year and just passed a degree a few years ago so everything’s ticking alright you know.”
“I’m about to open a gym so I’m looking to give a bit back. Get some lads on the road – manage, train and carry on fighting as well. Hopefully give the kids a bit of influence and see where things go from there. It’s hard, what we do and I sometimes think the arm-chair boxing fan doesn’t really appreciate what the away fighters go through. It’s not the easiest sometimes.”
Not that he doesn’t enjoy himself when the opportunity arises.
“I’ve been a bit cheeky over the years! Again when you do something every bloody week, you get bored of it. I’ve got to make my job more exciting and enjoy it! Sometimes I do it too much but I’m getting paid. I’m not getting arrested!”
Out of all of the boxers I’ve seen live, Kevin McCauley is possibly the man I’ve seen more than any other. He has boxed in the North East against the likes of Glenn Foot, both Tom and Joe Hill, as well as Daniel Cope and Chad Ellis, the latter being part of the Matchroom Boxing show at Newcastle Arena. A bout of which McCauley has mixed opinions.
“On an Eddie Hearn show, I dropped him [Ellis] once but it was called a slip. So I thought I’ll have him here and I caught him with the same shot and dropped him but they eventually gave it to him by a point! I thought ‘What’s going on here?’ I won that fight! Like this weekend, I didn’t win. You do what you can and I’ve got unlucky a couple of times. I know when I’ve won and have a little bit of banter with the lads. People think being a journeyman you’re happy to lose but I know when I’ve lost. Sometimes you’re in and think this kid is a bit sharp! Some kids you think they haven’t done the roadwork, I’ve got a good chance here. It just depends. Sometimes you do a bit of background. Josh Frankham [his most recent opponent, who Kevin fought live on BT Sport] is a 4 time amateur champion and Tyson Fury’s cousin but nothing really to go on. You’re going in blind effectively! Sometimes I’ve gone in against a southpaw and been training for a right hander! The whole night is either spoiled or will go really well and you can sneak a right hand through.”
So when will the end finally arrive?
“Well without all this Coronavirus I’d probably be at 250 fights by now already! I’m doing alright, I ain’t dribbling. Having the life as a boxer is the most important thing – to make it. Having a nice home life, a bit of money behind you. Some kids can’t train full-time, they have to work. It’s not just a case of going down the gym and being special. There aren’t many special kids about. You have to train and get special. There is no one better to teach them though. I’ve been in with British and European champions so hopefully I’ll get a few champions [in the gym]. Coaching, managing and may even go down the promoter’s line eventually.
Kevin’s degree in criminology also has the potential to play a part in his future plans.
“Criminology was going to help me get better at crime or stop people getting involved in it! Maybe help some of the kids who come to the gym. Managing these kids is a full-time job, they’re like babies. My boss is always moaning! ‘He doesn’t want to fight him or him,’ you have to kind of nurse them. I thought I’ll use the weeks other than just training. Hopefully I can maybe help out with ex-criminals at some point but at the minute I’m trying to get the gym established and up and running.”
“My drive for my future plans for the gym [are fuelled by] my gorgeous other half Cate Whitmore who unfortunately had an accident about 4 years ago leaving her disabled and with a full spinal condition, which has potentially ruined the quality of her life. She’s my drive for boxing as well as my children Lily and Harry, because any pain I go through isn’t a patch on what she goes through on a day to day basis. [She is] still driven to push me to succeed as well as the gym I’m opening.”
A sincere thank you to Kevin McCauley for his time. It was a genuine pleasure speaking to him and we are proud to get a small part of his story out there for boxing fans.
With that in mind, we are sure boxing fans around the country would love to show their support for a true warrior of the sport. All too often we hear tales of woe and how boxing neglects former fighters and there isn’t long term support in place.
The last thing we want to do is patronise or embarrass Kevin, yet we have decided to set up a JustGiving page here for anyone who would like to support Kevin and his family. It goes without saying that they will receive all of the money donated and we won’t take a penny.