From Brixton gangs to boxing at the 02 | Isaac Chamberlain
Raptors Gym, located in Sutton, Surrey, is tucked away. Located in a large warehouse space, you wouldn’t know it was there unless you knew it was there.
Downstairs is relatively quiet, with a few people going through their gym session gym, but upstairs is a flurry of activity. Multiple punch bags, mats, weight rooms and a boxing ring form a training hub home to multiple professional fighters. One of these fighters is Isaac Chamberlain, one of the UK’s leading cruiserweight boxers.
As you watch Isaac train, the sheer speed, power and intensity of his training shows the dedication and determination he has to be the best. Yet things could have be very different for Isaac.
Growing up in Brixton, Isaac was exposed to extreme violence at an early age, with his cousin being stabbed to death just after finishing his GCSE’s.
“Growing up in Brixton, there was a lot of gang violence. My mum didn’t want me going down that route so she brought me to the gym to get away from that.”
Boxing became ‘an obsession.’ Isaac admits that in the beginning, he was getting ‘beaten up’, but the praise and belief he received from the coaches was something he had never experienced before.
“That’s what kept me coming back. I kept wanting
to hear those words of encouragement.”
“I’d never heard that from teachers, from parents, nothing. That’s what kept me coming back. I kept wanting to hear those words of encouragement.”
Whilst it may have started as a way to keep Isaac out of trouble, it soon became a ‘lifestyle’ and at no point did he question his commitment to the sport. The disciplined, regimented lifestyle that comes with being a professional boxer may put some people off, but for Isaac, it became his life.
Isaac signed to Matchroom Boxing and made his professional debut in 2015, beating Moses Matovu at the O2 Arena.
He went on a 9-0 unbeaten streak, before losing to Lawrence Okolie on points. The Okolie fight, which headlined at the O2, proved to be a catalyst for change in Isaac’s career.
“Back then I was training with my uncle. I was trusting his experience instead of how my body felt. I was running eight miles, sparring 12 rounds and then running eight miles again. It was too much.
“After the fight, I found out he took money from my fight purse and that caused me not to work with him anymore.”
“I’m so loyal, I would have stuck with him anyway.
I would never have left if he hadn’t took the money.”
Isaac acknowledges that because it was family, it made it a lot harder to walk away.
“After the fight, everyone was saying ‘Isaac your training ability is too much, it has gone past what [your uncle] can teach you.’ I didn’t care about that. I’m so loyal, I would have stuck with him anyway. I would never have left if he hadn’t took the money.”
On reflection, Isaac is glad he left and is now coached by Angel Fernandez, who’s previously coached the likes of of Amir Khan, David Haye and Luis Ortiz.
As well as honing his skills with a new, world class trainer, Isaac can include Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua, Dillian Whyte and Oleksandr Usyk amongst his list of sparring partners.
Isaac recalls flying out to Alabama for a month of sparring with Wilder in the lead up to his world title fight against Bermane Stiverne, and being warned on arrival it wasn’t going be easy.
“You could get hurt, you can get hit with a punch and
still be feeling it for the next couple of rounds.
You have to know how to survive that.”
“The manager came to the hotel and said ‘If you want to go back now just let me know because he’s not going to go easy.’
“The sparring came, a Puerto Rican guy was sparring before and tried to really unload on Deontay. Deontay threw a right hand and BOOM, the guy dropped flat on his head.
“I was thinking, ‘What the fuck am I doing here?!”
However, Isaac made a lasting impression, with Deontay Wilder’s brother calling him out for giving Deontay the ‘best sparring session.’
Whilst he admits that Deontay upped his game, hitting him with an uppercut that left him thinking he was ‘back in London’, the experience was invaluable at such a young age. Yet he knows there is much more to the sport than technique.
“You have to be talented but you also have to be tough and gritty, you have to know you can take a punch because it’s not always going to be plain sailing when you get into that ring.
“We had nothing. I have to be grateful I’m living my dream.
I’ll never forget where I’ve come from.”
“You could get hurt, you can get hit with a punch and still be feeling it for the next couple of rounds. You have to know how to survive that.”
To keep getting in the ring, you need to be 100% dedicated, driven and determined. There can be no back up and for Isaac, there are no excuses.
“Everything I do, the life I can live, all depends on
what happens inside that ring. It’s kill or be killed.”
“When the going gets tough, you’ll know. You’ll either sink or swim. I know what I’ve come from, I didn’t have a pot to piss in when I was young. We didn’t have a pound for mufti day, we used to have bread and syrup for breakfast. We had nothing. I have to be grateful I’m living my dream. I’ll never forget where I’ve come from.
“If I know there is a plan B, I’ll think of it in my head and think ‘I’ll go and do that.’ Mentally, there is no Plan B for me. Everything I do, the life I can live, all depends on what happens inside that ring. It’s kill or be killed.”
Nothing embodies this attitude more than Isaac’s 6th fight against Wadi Camacho for the BBBofC Southern Area cruiserweight title.
In the third round of the fight, his first shot at a title, Isaac dislocated his shoulder.
“I’ve got to go in the ring and think
‘You have nothing, I’ve worked harder than you,
I’m more talented, I’m better.”
“I was thinking, ‘why me? I work so hard and this is happening to me.’ In the third round the corner popped it back in, my eyes were fluttering with pain, but I thought there’s so many supporters out here, shouting and screaming my name.
“I thought ‘today is a good day to die boy, I don’t even care, whatever, let’s go’ and we just went for it.”
That fight put Isaac on the map. After going the full 10 rounds, Isaac won on points and the fight later got voted 2016 fight of the year.
Overcoming such a challenge so early has added to Isaac’s confidence in his ability.
“You just have to have that belief in yourself, not to the point of being arrogant or cocky, but in your head you’ve got to be like, ‘Nobody’s touching me, I’ve got this.’
“I’ve got to go in the ring and think ‘You have nothing, I’ve worked harder than you, I’m more talented, I’m better.”
The sky’s the limit for Isaac. In the future Isaac wants World Championship titles, and pay per view fights but more importantly, he wants to be the best fighter he can be.
Having now moved to Sutton to be closer to the gym, everyday is a training camp for Isaac.
“I have my own place now, I’m more focused, everything is boxing orientated.”
No doubt you will be hearing a lot more about Isaac Chamberlain in 2019, and with Angel in his corner, everything is possible.