By Thomas Lyons
Nowadays, we hear about many backstories of how fighters got into the sport of boxing, from tough upbringings and having to overcome adversity to get themselves into a position to kickstart their career. For Somerset’s Ryan Wheeler, it’s certainly been a rollercoaster ride to the where he is today; fit, healthy and full of ambition. But the first few years of his life have changed his outlook on life and becoming a professional boxer.
Diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer, spotted by doctors in his neck, Wheeler had to undergo chemotherapy before making a full recovery and being able to get back to living a normal life. Wheeler has defied the odds from the very moment he was born and now strives to be the best version of himself, letting his fists do the talking in the boxing ring.
Nicknamed the ‘Somerset Stallion’, the 24-year old opened up about how he got into boxing from an early age and sets his sights on a fruitful career in the sport.
Q/A forum with Ryan Wheeler (12-0-1):
Growing up must have been tough, having to overcome such a scary period of your life being diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. Was that ability to fight through adversity with you from an early age and help mould you into the boxer you’re today?
“I often think when training gets tough or I’m aching from previous training sessions, nothing can be as bad as what I have already been through. If it wasn’t for the cancer my life could have been very different and I may not even be Boxing now. When I left school I applied to join the British Army as a Paratrooper. I had completed all the fitness tests down at Pirbright Selection centre, but I was then refused entry due to my medical history. Joining the Army was always my dream, Boxing was just a hobby. After being told I couldn’t join the army I had to rethink my options and decided to take boxing on full time and I signed a professional contract.”
When did you start to develop a passion for boxing and what was your sole motivation to become a boxer?
“I originally started boxing after getting into a fight at school. The other guy beat me up pretty bad. After the fight was broken up we were both taken to the head teacher. I had to ask him how he was so good at fighting, he then told me he was a boxer. We then became good friends and I started going along to the boxing gym with him. At first, I only wanted to get better than him. The more I trained the more I enjoyed it. I then went on to compete.”
Have you always had ambitions to reach the pinnacle of the sport, to become a world champion?
“As I mentioned before I never dreamed of even being a professional Boxer. I always wanted to join the Army. I used to watch Ricky Hatton as a kid. When people use to talk about professional boxing I would compare myself to the top world champions such as Ricky Hatton and could never imagine myself being like them, to me they were incredible!”
12-0, made the perfect start to your professional career. Is this now the transition period where you’d like to be stepped up and possibly fight for some big titles this year?
“100% I feel like I’m ready! I’m currently getting world-class sparring and starting to get the right backing. I had huge support in my last fight with over 200 fans travelling out to support me.”
How far away do you see yourself fighting for a Commonwealth or British title? Is it a case of keep winning and when the opportunity presents itself, taking it?
“Recently been talking with my management team we are definitely looking to continue taking steps up. But at the same time I’m only 24 I still have time on my side”
Being under the tutelage of Chris Sanigar and that stable of elite fighters with the likes of IBF champion Lee Selby, Andrew Selby, former British champion Jazza Dickens etc, how has this helped propel you as a fighter having top class sparring camp by camp?
“I’m very fortunate to have such great fighters around me. I definitely believe sparring with the best will help me improve. Not just watching them train but the advice they give me is very important.”
What have you learnt from sparring Selby, stylistically? How much have you improved mixing it with these elite fighters?
“I have learnt to stay composed it’s difficult sometimes when you are fighting a more experienced and higher level fighter to keep relaxed.”
Someone who has campaigned in your weight division and recognised as one of the pound-for-pound best in Lomachenko steps up to Lightweight to face Linares on May 12. How do you see that fight unfolding? Is this Lomachenko’s breakthrough fight?
“Lomachenko is a Hero! Superhuman. I watch him most days whilst on the exercise bike in the gym or just sat at home. I’m always trying to learn. In my opinion, he’s the best ever already. Not just at boxing, he is a superior athlete.”
What’s your opinion of Mayweather protégé Gervonta Davis? He makes his return to the ring against Jesus Cuellar next month after a very inactive period in his career and do you believe he’ll live up to the hype?
“If I’m honest I’m not a massive boxing fan. I like to watch the big fights and I admire Lomachenko for his effortless talent & his athleticism. I did see Gervonta Davis when he boxed Liam Walsh and thought he looked strong but I haven’t seen much else of him.”
Domestically, the 130lb division is thriving at the moment. Most notably we have Martin J Ward at the top of the pecking order, defending his European title against James Tennyson. Who wins that fight?
“Again not much of a boxing fan and haven’t actually seen Tennyson but I did spar Martin J Ward back last year. I thought he was good. Super fit & a nice guy too.”
Wishing Ryan the very best of luck and hopefully see him in the big fights soon!