On Thursday night at the spiritual home of British boxing, life-long Evertonian and light middleweight boxer Steve Harkin takes part in the 20th edition of Matchroom Sport's eight-man, one night tournament. "Sparkin' Harkin" will be hoping to return to Merseyside with the coveted Prizefighter trophy and a cheque for £32,000 after a hard day's night at the York Hall in Bethnal Green.
Blue Kipper caught up with the Kirkdale fighter to hear his thoughts ahead of the biggest night of his career so far. Interview by Matt McCormack
For those that don't know, tell us how this opportunity came about.
It all came about through Twitter. Eddie Hearn [Managing Director of Matchroom Sport] announced that there was going to be a light middleweight Prizefighter. I'd had a conversation with yourself the week before, saying I'd like to do it. You were the first person to start the ball rolling I think and then a few of my mates jumped on the bandwagon after that, tweeting Eddie Hearn to get me put in it. It just went from there really.
Scousers always seem to do well in Prizefighter. Have you spoken to the other local lads about their experiences?
Yeah I have. That adds to the pressure doesn't it when you say Scousers always seem to do well! As I say, I'm looking forward to it, I just can't wait and I really fancy it myself and I really think I will do well. I've just got to perform on the night now.
How have preparations gone? Sparkin' Harkin: The Prizefighter Pugilist
It's gone brilliant. I mean, work have been alright and given a bit of time off and that to help me. I've got a quite demanding job really [outside of the ring Harkin works as a Site Agent at Fujitsu]. I have to be in work early, it's long hours so I've been up running at 4 o'clock in the morning.
How does training fit in around work then?
Well, I'm running at four, and then going right to the gym from work. I'm out the house from four in the morning and not getting in until half seven, eight o'clock, they're long days you know what I mean? It's just continuous like Groundhog Day! But it'll all be worth it in the end.
Have you done anything differently to prepare for Prizefighter than you would for a normal fight?
For my last fight I was fighting six rounds. But with this, going back down to three rounds now, obviously my sparring and things like that have been different. I've been doing the three minute rounds with a ten minute rest, back into three, out for a ten minute rest and back into three - just to get me used to it. It's been good.
What's your routine between now and Thursday night? Relaxing and just making the weight?
Yeah just relaxing really. I'm going to the gym now to do a little 'feel good' pads session, just a little light session. Then tomorrow I'll check weight and make sure I'm all alright and then we travel down early Wednesday morning.
One difference between this edition of Prizefighter and the previous ones is that the draw will be made in the ring on the night. Will not knowing your first opponent until the night affect your gameplan?
I don't think it'll really affect the game plan. We've all got to get in the ring and everyone is there for the same job aren't we? We're all in it to win it. You've got to just 'up' your game and go for it really. At the end of the day, everyone is in it for the same thing and everyone thinks they can win it.
Have you or your team studied any of the other lads in the competition or is it just a case of concentrating on your own game?
Yeah, my coach has a little look at them. I haven't myself and a few people have said 'how come you haven't?' but I'm just not like that. You can study someone like Takloo who's been there and done it all but his last fights have been 12 rounders - he's going to be a lot different I think to what you can see on the tapes. It's all about what happens on the night and you've just got to deal with it. I've done a bit of sparring with a few people and they've all been different. Hopefully I can adapt to whatever I get thrown in with there.
There are three Liverpool supporters in the competition, (Kris Agyei-Dua, Peter Vaughan and Nick Quigley) maybe unsurprisingly two of them aren't from Merseyside. Would it be nice to get one over on the Reds if you end up facing them?
Yeah not half! We spoke about this when we went down to do the promo stuff with Sky. The last question they asked us was who we supported. As soon as they got to me, I just said 'I'm a proper Scouser, me. I'm a Blue.' Nick said 'I'm a Scouser' but I said 'Ignore him, he's not a Scouser, he's a Red' then one of the other lads who's from London or somewhere said 'I'm a Red' and everyone burst out laughing. I said 'There you go, they are from everywhere aren't they!' - It was funny and we had a laugh over it.
You've gone on record saying it would be nice to face Nick [Quigley] in the final?
The first time I met Nick was when we went down to London for the promotional stuff. I know Tony and John [his brothers] but that was the first time I'd met Nick and we got on straight away. He's a nice lad so it'd be hard to fight and I'd like it to be in the final, so hopefully both of us will get there. It'll mean we've both done well to get there.
This will be the first time you've fought outside of the North West as a pro. Are you looking forward to fighting at one of the most iconic venues in British boxing history?
I've been reminded of that but I don't think it'll affect me in any way. If you box then you box, it's the same thing no matter where it is. The York Hall is a venue I've been to before in the amateur days and I've been to see friends fight there as well, so it'll be nice to fight there.
What would it mean to you to lift that Prizefighter trophy and walk away with the £32k prize money?
It just speaks for itself really. It'd be unbelievable for me. Obviously, I'm 29 now so this is one of the last throws of the dice. It would be unbelievable. You've seen what's happened to the past winners, it reinvents people's careers doesn't it?
Prince Arron won the last Prizefighter at light middleweight and is now British champion...
Yeah that's right. Look at Derry [Mathews] and what's it's done for him. It's put him back on the map.
Last time we spoke you said that your ambitions in boxing include winning titles - a good will open up some doors won't it?
Yeah, not half. I'm just looking forward it.
The Liverpool boxing scene is buzzing at the minute isn't it?
Yeah, it's one of the best and most active for a long time. It's flying at the minute! The number of lads is a huge thing as well, there's quite a lot who are active now, around the same age group and are looking to fight for titles. It's good to see, I know they're all good lads and are enjoying it.
And finally, have you got a message for your supporters?
Yeah to be honest, I'm made up. It's a bit of a crap time with it being on a Thursday and people are in work. Obviously with it being in London at York Hall, you've got to get a coach sorted and things like that. I'm made up for the people who've taken the time off work and are coming down to support me. I just hope I can do well for them.
Good luck Ste. Let's hope you'll be parading that trophy on the pitch at Goodison Park on Saturday afternoon.
Prizefighter Light Middleweights is LIVE on Sky Sports 1 from 8pm on Thursday. Tune in and support a fellow Evertonian
Update: Steve Harkin lost, in a split decision, to fellow Scouser Nick Quigley in his first fight.
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