Bare knuckle fighting is my new focus and it is going to be big, says Ely’s Tyler Goodjohn ahead of his O2 fight

PUBLISHED: 21:06 04 January 2019

Tyler Goodjohn is fighting Marc Navarro in the Indigo Arena at London's O2 later this tmonth.  Picture: KATH SANSOM

Tyler Goodjohn is fighting Marc Navarro in the Indigo Arena at London's O2 later this tmonth. Picture: KATH SANSOM

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The tough world of bare knuckle boxing is the 2019 focus for Ely’s champion boxer Tyler Goodjohn, who takes on his second, and eagerly anticipated, bout at London’s O2 this month.

Tyler Goodjohn, English light welterweight English Champion,with coach Mike Sawyer. Picture: KATH SANSOMTyler Goodjohn, English light welterweight English Champion,with coach Mike Sawyer. Picture: KATH SANSOM

From a 10 year old never picked for the football team because he was overweight, to English boxing champion in his twenties, Tyler is now forging ahead with the change of direction into a sport he says will be as big as Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC).“A lot of people think bare knuckle fighting is pure aggression, pub brawl, with no skill,” he said.

“But you can’t get in that ring without skill. It is fast paced. You must be spot-on, holding your fists right, guarding your head, you can’t afford to take silly shots or lose focus. That’s when you get hurt.”

With two minute rounds compared to boxing’s three and an 18 knock-out count compared to 10, bare knuckle fighting is high octane stuff.

“I want to be the champion in my weight category. I am focused,” he said.

Tyler Goodjohn, English light welterweight English Champion,with members of Haddenham Boxing Club, where he has trained since he was 10. Picture: KATH SANSOMTyler Goodjohn, English light welterweight English Champion,with members of Haddenham Boxing Club, where he has trained since he was 10. Picture: KATH SANSOM

The 27 year old owns and runs El Warriors gym and boot camp barn in his home village of Wentworth where he is confident for his fight against kick boxing cage fighter Marc Navarro on January 26.

The bout is among a 12-match fight night, which guarantees edge of seat adrenalin, at the 3,000 seater Indigo stadium at the O2.

It is a far cry from the youngster who began boxing at Haddenham Boxing Club in 2001 because he was fed up of being left on the football bench because nobody wanted to pick “the fat kid who couldn’t run fast.”

“From the first moment, I loved boxing. I lost my first seven fights in a row. Had I been older my pride might have taken a bashing, but I was young and didn’t care.”

Tyler Goodjohn at the age of 10 when he first stated training at Haddenham Boxing Club. he says he began because he was overweight and was fed up of not being picked for the football team. . Picture: KATH SANSOMTyler Goodjohn at the age of 10 when he first stated training at Haddenham Boxing Club. he says he began because he was overweight and was fed up of not being picked for the football team. . Picture: KATH SANSOM

So he trained hard, honing his skills, and by the age of 11 he won his first fight in Luton.

He went on to the semi finals of the Schoolboys Championship in 2003, the Golden Gloves championship finals at the age of 15 and at 16 the Junior ABAs.

By 18 he was professional and at the age of 23, in 2014, he became English light welterweight champion, putting the tiny Haddenham boxing club, well and truly on the map.

Run by Mike Sawyer, this stalwart boxing coach, with 65 years boxing experience, beams when he talks about Tyler.

Tyler Goodjohn in training with his coach Mike Sawyer Picture: KATH SANSOMTyler Goodjohn in training with his coach Mike Sawyer Picture: KATH SANSOM

“Tyler is a very good fighter, we are really proud of all he has achieved,” he said.

So why the switch from professional boxer to bare knuckle fighting?

Tyler, who moved back to Cambridgeshire from Essex where he was training buddies with World Heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, said: “I fell out of love with it. If I had my time again I would stay amateur. I love the sport, don’t love the politics.”

So, in the summer of 2018 he gave everything away, including his gloves, and decided to focus on El Warriors.

Tyler Goodjohn, English light welterweight English Champion,with members of Haddenham Boxing Club, where he has trained since he was 10. Picture: KATH SANSOMTyler Goodjohn, English light welterweight English Champion,with members of Haddenham Boxing Club, where he has trained since he was 10. Picture: KATH SANSOM

However, within a month, he saw a BBC programme on bare knuckle fighting and felt the buzz.

“I messaged the organiser and asked to get involved.”

Before he knew it, he was in the ring with Scottish fighter Tony Lafferty.

Weighing in at more than a stone lighter than his Sottish opponent, Tyler beat him in the fifth round.

Tyler Goodjohn is fighting Marc Navarro in the Indigo Arena at London's O2 later this tmonth.  Picture: KATH SANSOMTyler Goodjohn is fighting Marc Navarro in the Indigo Arena at London's O2 later this tmonth. Picture: KATH SANSOM

“I went to war with a tough, tough man, but won. It fuelled me,” Tyler said.

His upcoming fight is with Marc Navarro.

“Marc called me out on Instagram, and I rose to the challenge.

“I am 11 stone and he is 12.4 so there is a big weight difference. There’s a lot of needles between us but I’m a confident and hard fighter. “I’m levels above him, I have a game plan and I plan to outbox him.”

Tyler Goodjohn fights at the O2 Arena later this month. Picture: KATH SANSOMTyler Goodjohn fights at the O2 Arena later this month. Picture: KATH SANSOM

The tension promises big entertainment for fans including Tyler’s solid supporters, the Fen Army.

And his message to young hopefuls?

“Leave your ego at the door. Boxing gives you a focus for life. It’s a discipline, motivational.

“Find something to make you feel proud. You can always go out with your mates and get silly and drunk, that’s all part of growing up, but find something else, so you can look back and have memories, know you’ve achieved.

Tyler Goodjohn, English light welterweight English Champion, is preparing for his second bare knuckle boxing fight at London's O2 arena. Picture: KATH SANSOMTyler Goodjohn, English light welterweight English Champion, is preparing for his second bare knuckle boxing fight at London's O2 arena. Picture: KATH SANSOM

“Boxing is great at giving these opportunities, whatever age or level you’re at.”

His parting words are a thank you to coach Mike.

“Without him my boxing career would not have been possible. He dedicates his life to encouraging young people. He certainly dedicated himself to seeing me do well.”

Tyler Goodjohn, English light welterweight English Champion,with members of Haddenham Boxing Club, where he has trained since he was 10. Picture: KATH SANSOMTyler Goodjohn, English light welterweight English Champion,with members of Haddenham Boxing Club, where he has trained since he was 10. Picture: KATH SANSOM

Tyler Goodjohn, English light welterweight English Champion, in the ring at Haddenham Boxing Club, where he has trained since he was 10. Picture: KATH SANSOMTyler Goodjohn, English light welterweight English Champion, in the ring at Haddenham Boxing Club, where he has trained since he was 10. Picture: KATH SANSOM

Tyler Goodjohn, English light welterweight English Champion, in training with a member of Haddenham Boxing Club, where he has trained since he was 10. Picture: KATH SANSOMTyler Goodjohn, English light welterweight English Champion, in training with a member of Haddenham Boxing Club, where he has trained since he was 10. Picture: KATH SANSOM

Tyler Goodjohn with his coach Mike Sawyer. Picture: KATH SANSOMTyler Goodjohn with his coach Mike Sawyer. Picture: KATH SANSOM

Tyler Goodjohn, in the ring with a member of Haddenham Boxing Club. He has switched from pro to bare knuckle boxer. Picture: KATH SANSOMTyler Goodjohn, in the ring with a member of Haddenham Boxing Club. He has switched from pro to bare knuckle boxer. Picture: KATH SANSOM

A board of photos includes Tyler Goodjohn atHaddenham Boxing Club. Picture: KATH SANSOMA board of photos includes Tyler Goodjohn atHaddenham Boxing Club. Picture: KATH SANSOM

Tyler Goodjohn, the teenage years  Picture: KATH SANSOMTyler Goodjohn, the teenage years Picture: KATH SANSOM

Tyler Goodjohn, English light welterweight English Champion,with members of Haddenham Boxing Club, where he has trained since he was 10. Picture: KATH SANSOMTyler Goodjohn, English light welterweight English Champion,with members of Haddenham Boxing Club, where he has trained since he was 10. Picture: KATH SANSOM

Tyler Goodjohn after his first bare knuckle fight with Tony Laffferty in June 2018Tyler Goodjohn after his first bare knuckle fight with Tony Laffferty in June 2018