Experiences make us or break us, and boxing can deliver them from an early age.
While stripes are earned in the ring from a knockdown, a cut or a back from the brink victory there are moments in a fighter’s life when adversity has already been overcome before the professional path begins.
The scale of such can vary but the pain of losing a fight as a boy, rejected by Team GB for Olympic selection and a hand injury which required an operation have already ensured that Jack Bateson should be mentally ready for the scars of battle that will come his way in the future.
The 26-year-old undefeated Super-Bantamweight from Leeds is yet to lose a round in a professional boxing ring. Opponents such as Brett Fidoe, Scott McCormack and Elvis Guillen have formed his apprenticeship which he hopes will come to an end this Sunday when his ring record hits the dozen mark when he takes on two-fight novice Matt Craddock in Liverpool.
So far Bateson has dominated and been in control of his fights, never truly having to scale the mountains of trouble that a higher quality of opponent may offer as they become more challenging and more demanding.
But, Bateson has already been moulded by experiences that he believes will stand him in good stead for whatever lies in wait.
“I really do believe that,” he told proboxing-fans.com when he was asked if an inner strength has been manufactured inside of him because of the defeat, disappointment and pain he has already gone through in his life.
“Everything in my life has happened for a reason and I do believe everything does happen for a reason. It does mould you. If I had gone to the Olympics, I might not have decided to go professional; I might not have been motivated to do as well as I am hopefully going to do in the pros.
“It’s given me that fuel for the fire. It has moulded me into the person that I am. It’s made me think differently about things.
“Boxing is everything to me but it’s not the be all and end all. Without boxing we’ve all still got lives but for the time being I’m going to put my all into boxing and make it my life and hopefully it all works out for me.”
As a child Bateson’s interest lay in football. Boxing was for his elder brother Tom, who boxed Josh Warrington as an amateur, and for his father Mark who has been promoting shows in Leeds for years.
Jack would go along and watch training. The interest never picked up any momentum until Tom stopped boxing and their father would often ask if the younger Bateson fancied tagging along with him.
Before long Jack had his first fight in Hull which he won. The victories began to mount up, double figures were in his W column and then he would meet Joe Fitzpatrick in an event where both were representing their countries, England and Ireland respectively.
Bateson lost by a point 5-4. Heartbreak for a youngster who had not experienced the negative concoction of feelings that a loss would bring and could be difficult to handle at such a fragile period of growing up.
“I remember crying,” he recalled, “and saying to my Dad I was gutted because I never really used to take it seriously. Luckily I was talented enough to win fights as a schoolboy but from then on I took it dead serious and I never wanted to feel that feeling again.”
From then on Jack knew that boxing would be his life, his career and a world where he could make his dreams come true.
“I think I had a feeling when I got picked to represent England that I could do alright at it. I was hooked from that moment I lost, and I was in the gym on the Monday and I knew this was what I loved and what I wanted to do.
“My dream was from then to one day be a World Champion or go to the Olympics. I think at the time you don’t know anything about the Olympics. All you think about is these professional boxers winning world titles and what not.”
Bateson’s amateur career would go on to be draped in medals. Gold at the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2011, gold at the ABA championships in 2012 and bronze at the European Championships a year later.
Dipping his feet in the World Series of Boxing provided a memorable and successful time with Team GB overall but during the interview it felt like this was overshadowed when he was overlooked for selection to go to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
“From about 15-16 onwards I thought I would be an Olympian,” he explained. “I will go to the Olympics and I will win a medal. That was my ultimate dream then. I was too young for 2012 and then everyone was saying Jack you’re set on for 2016, everyone thought I was set on for it.
“Building up to it about a year before the Olympics I’d won two ABA titles and I was sort of in the running for it. I’d moved up to Flyweight.
“There was me, Charlie Edwards and Andrew Selby. Charlie Edwards had just gone pro and I think Andrew Selby was having a break and he’d fallen out of love with the sport at the time. I thought this is my time. Everything was set out perfectly. And then Muhammad Ali was coming through the development ranks but was never really a worry in my eyes.
“Then I picked up a nose injury in sparring and I had to get an operation on that. During this time there was a European Championship and Muhammad Ali was the next person behind me and he went to that. I think he won a fight and got beat, he got cut or something. My injury then was absolutely fine, and they [Team GB] took a bit of a shine to Ali.”
“As things went on and the qualifiers were coming up, they said you two are going to have to box in a box-off to decide who goes to the qualifiers.
“That was fine by me but a couple of weeks before the fight he pulled out and I ended up having to fight someone from Bulgaria. They brought someone over for me anyway just because I’d sold a lot of tickets for the event in Sheffield.
“I fought and then the qualifiers came up and they picked Ali. I was gutted, I was distraught because I thought with him pulling out of the fight there can only be one choice. If I’d been beat fair and square and he’d been picked I’d have been fine with that, but he went to the qualifiers and got beat. I thought right, my turn next. And he got picked again! And from that moment I thought it’s not going to happen.
“He qualified as did all the other GB boxers. I really fell out of love with the game. I had a bit of a break. I didn’t even watch much of the GB guys at the Olympics. I watched my close friends, but I fell out of love with the game.
“After a couple of months of ticking over and spending time with my family I got back in with GB, did another year with them and moved up to Super-Bantamweight in the amateurs. I won a couple of good tournaments, had a couple of WSB fights and thought right I’m going to turn pro. I need something new to aim towards.”
September 1, 2017 was the moment when the new goals began. A straightforward first round win over Zsolt Sarkozi inside Leeds United’s Banqueting Suite at Elland Road banished the memories and put a band aid over the pain of losing out to Ali.
Eventually as Bateson rolled on with 10 fights in two years that band aid was no more. The GB experience is just that, an experience, a memory that is part of who he is today.
“I’m not even upset now talking about it but at the time I was distraught because this had been everything that I’d worked towards but right now it just feels like a distant memory.”
More positive memories have enriched Bateson’s life including his friendship with fellow Leeds warrior Josh Warrington.
The IBF Featherweight champion has played a big part in inspiring Bateson and has been a good ear for advice as Bateson strives to emulate what his friend has done.
Jack has known him throughout his own boxing career and was thrilled to have Josh walk him out before his debut.
“I said, ‘will you walk me out?’ And he said, ‘oh yeah, a pleasure.’ Josh walked me out for my debut and a couple of years later he went on to win a world title. That’s a great memory for me looking back at me and Josh in the photos I’ve got.
“My Dad always said to me look at how hard Josh works,” he added, “and look at where he’s got to. A lot of kids that were probably better than him and beat him in the amateurs have fallen off or they got distracted. Josh stuck at it, stuck through it and he’s learned and learned and learned. And now look where he is.
“He’s actually come up the hard way. He turned pro with not much backing. He went [the route of] English, British, European, he fought on my Dad’s show about four years before he went on to win one of his major titles. He’s done it the hard way and everything he’s got he fully deserves and he’s an inspiration for sure. He’s just proof in the pudding that hard work does pay off.”
Bateson himself would love to have the English Super-Bantamweight title as the first reward for his efforts.
A fight against current champion Michael Ramabeletsa was due to take place last October on the undercard of Josh Warrington’s third world title defence against Sofiane Takoucht.
Bateson’s hand injury put paid to that forcing him to pull out just two weeks before the fight. Bateson would relish the fight once again and under the management banner of MTK he will undoubtedly be given such opportunities.
“I want titles in the very near future and the sooner they come the better for me and whether that be the English or whatever that may be I feel like I am ready now.”
Crucially Bateson is enjoying himself as a fighter too. During a lunch with Warrington, Bateson was given some advice. The champion spoke of his first world title opportunity against Lee Selby outdoors at Elland Road and how he embraced moments such as the ring walk. “Take it all in and do your thing,” he told Bateson.
“I think the whole thing about not making the Olympics and realising that there’s less pressure on myself,” Bateson said. “It’s made me enjoy it a lot more and as I’ve grown into the person and fighter I am, I feel like it is important to enjoy it. Be confident but be on it. I’ve done all the hard training so you might as well enjoy the moment.”
Written by Shaun Brown.
Follow Shaun on Twitter: @shaunrbrown