GAA star-turned boxer James Freeman kicks off professional career with victory

James Freeman, coaches Dan Anderson and Paddy Gallagher after Saturday night's win. Picture: Mark Mead
Andy Watters

JAMES Freeman completed more competitive rounds (four) last Saturday night than he had in his entire boxing life up to that point.

The Armagh middleweight made his debut as the last of the 12-fight card and it was past midnight when he finally got started against veteran London journeyman Jordan Grannum.

Freeman had damaged his right hand in sparring but, having sold a vast amount of tickets in his native Cathedral City and with a large support there to cheer him on, he went through with the fight and worked hard to score a points win.

Still very raw, he ran out of gas in the final round but there was evidence in his crisp jab and cross-handed defence that the box/fighter has ability to go alongside his ambition and courage.

“I think he still has a lot of experience to gain,” said his coach Dan Anderson.

“You have to take on board that he didn’t have an amateur career. That’s more rounds than he ever got before. When he fought on the semi-pro circuit he was knocking boys out and we had to explain to him that, when you step up to being a professional, it’s a different game.

“It’s a big learning curve for him and that was an extremely hard debut but, at the end of the day, he’s got rounds in the bank and that’s all I wanted for him. I just wanted rounds for him and he got four rounds which I would prefer to a stoppage because he’s learning on the job.

“This guy is going to take five-to-eight fights of learning before we even consider him for anything serious. It’s all experience at this stage.”

Freeman also had former Commonwealth Games champion and British welterweight contender Paddy Gallagher in his corner on Saturday night. Anderson sees ability in the former Armagh GAA star but he isn’t going to rush him along.

“I wouldn’t be working with him if I didn’t see potential in him,” he said.

“He came to me and he’s able to hold his own against other professionals at a decent level in the gym. That’s why we gave him the opportunity. We talked about what was best for him and he wanted to give it a go – he’s already had a career in amateur sport as a Gaelic player for Armagh so he’s done with amateur sport and he wanted to give professional sport a go.

“Tonight he got valuable rounds and learned a valuable lesson that pro boxing is no joke. It’s a big step up to pro boxing to fighting on an unlicensed show but he’s got rounds in the bank and he won his debut. What else can you ask for?”