Exclusive: South Wales boxer Craig Evans talks to Gair Rhydd after European title triumph

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After 414 days and three gruelling fights, it is no surprise Craig Evans is relieved to have seen the back of arch rival Tom Stalker.

The Newport-based fighter enjoyed the biggest night of his blossoming career as he claimed the WBO European Lightweight title with a stunning win at the Motorpoint Arena.

After two draws against Stalker – a relatively unprecedented scenario in boxing – Evans was a man on a mission and finally overcame his Liverpudlian counterpart via majority decision.

The pair went toe-to-toe for the third time, trading huge shots from the first bell to the last and ensuring a big crowd in Cardiff were on their feet throughout.

But Evans was certainly the classier operator as he landed cleaner, more precise shots throughout which gave him the edge with the judges.

After taking a few days to reflect on his achievement, a delighted Evans was in little doubt that he deserved his win in a fiercely contested encounter.

The likeable 27-year-old has hailed the role his vocal supporters played in his win – and he is now keen to draw a line under his dramatic trilogy with Stalker as he eyes a shot at a World title in the future.

“I’m absolutely buzzing!” Evans declared. “It’s a great feeling, waking up and knowing you’re Champion.

“I’ve watched the fight back, and I felt I won it comfortably. I’m just glad the judges agreed.

“My view of the fight was that I boxed him, didn’t get dragged into the mix like I normally do with him, and stuck to my game plan.

“From round one, I thought I was comfortable and I felt I won the fight by a good six to eight rounds in the end.

“I thought I had that extra edge, definitely. The crowd, when they are chanting your name it spurs you on and it does help you out big time.

“In round five or six, when you were chanting, it was awesome. It gets you through the hard times in a fight and makes those shots a bit easier to take. I felt comfortable in every round really, and I thought I brought it home easily.

“It definitely feels like a big relief. I was a bit disappointed with the first one because I thought he just nicked it to be honest.

“But the second fight, I thought I definitely won that one and it ended up as another draw. After winning the third one I feel like I’ve won the trilogy and that’s the end of it.

“It’s a great feeling because it went on for so long, and I can move on to bigger and better things now hopefully.

“I’m not sure exactly where we’ll go, I’ll just have Christmas off now, recharge the batteries and go again in the New Year.

“I’m waiting to hear off Frank Warren (promoter), and he’ll let me know what he thinks is the best route for me from here.

“Hopefully, sometime, I’ll get a World title shot. That’s everyone’s dream in boxing, but we’ll just take it step by step from here.”

There was a definite feeling of bad blood in the build up to the latest instalment of Evans vs Stalker.

After both fighters felt hard done by in previous bouts, a ferocious rivalry erupted between the two that was clearly visible in both of their efforts on fight night.

And whilst Evans is now willing to respect Stalker, he insists the feeling of animosity between the pair was genuine.

“It was definitely genuine (the rivalry),” he admitted. “With the things he comes out with, I disliked him and was determined to beat him.

“After the fight, I can definitely respect him. He’s an awesome fighter and we had three great contests together.

“It’s the way boxing is, after everything that goes on we’re everyone’s friends and all have that respect for each other.”

Whilst his rivalry with Stalker lasted over a year, Evans’ journey to hold the European belt has been a long one.

He has revealed how strong family connections with the sport led him to take up the sport as a youngster.

“I started off when I was a young kid, about nine,” he explained. “My older brother started fighting, Christian Evans, so I just followed him and it started from there.

“My Grandad was a fighter, Selwyn Evans. He boxed all his life and I looked up to him when I was a kid.

“It’s my full-time job now, I’m a professional boxer and it’s just great that I’m able to do what I love every day.”

Although Evans is living out his boyhood dream, life as a professional boxer still comes with a number of sacrifices.

Training camp brings about a gruelling schedule in the build-up to fights, with up to three separate workouts a day in order to get in shape.

He stated: “I train every morning, from about 10:30 until 12:30, then I go home and do my roadwork (running) in the evening.

“If I have a strength and conditioning day, then I’ll train three times a day, but it’s mostly twice a day in the build-up to a fight.

“It’s pretty hard work and can be quite intense, but it’s all worthwhile when it comes to fight night and you can get the job done.”

But the hard work certainly appears to be paying off for Evans, who trains alongside World Champion Lee Selby, Olympian Joe Cordina and a number of other top fighters at St Joseph’s Boxing Club in Newport.

He is one of a number of Welsh fighters who are rapidly rising up the ranks, and there was plenty of talent on display on the same night Evans won his belt.

Hot prospect Liam Williams, who headlined the show, put in another impressive display to stop Gabor Gorbics in the eighth round.

Youngsters Jay Harris and Alex Hughes also won comfortably – and Evans is hopeful he can be at the forefront of a golden era for Welsh boxing moving forwards.

“It’s a massive time for Welsh boxing, and hopefully now they can bring more shows to the country,” he added.

“We’ve got some really good fighters at the moment who are doing well, so if we can keep fighting on home soil like we did last weekend it will only help us all.

“Like I said, it gives you a boost when the home crowd is cheering you on and it would be a lot better if we could fight on home soil instead of going away all the time.”

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