Talking boxing with… Wales wing Tom James
Cardiff Blues wing Tom James is starring for Wales in the Six Nations after returning from a six-year international exile. We managed to grab a little bit of his time to talk about another of his sporting passions, boxing
When did your love of boxing begin? Tell us your family’s boxing story…
My love of boxing started at the age of 10, my father used to train and coach at Bargoed ABC with Malcolm Webb. My brother, Robert James, won three schoolboy titles, three youth titles and three senior titles at welterweight. Robert used to box for Bargoed ABA, but used to go sparring down Fleur-de-Lys where Dai Gardener trained Robbie Regan.
When Robbie had to pull out of a fight after failing a medical, he gave the shorts he’d planned to wear to my brother. Robert fought wearing these shorts on many occasions with pride because Robbie Regan was his idol. We’ve called my brother Robbie ever since.
Who were your sporting heroes growing up?
Wayne Rooney, Robbie Regan and my brother, Robbie James.
What were your own experiences in the ring?
I never boxed but I’ve sparred with my brother on a few occasions. I’ve showed him a thing or two about boxing… (laughs).
Tell us about your early sporting career…
I had a natural ability in athletics when I was younger. My headmaster at the time, Mr Protheroe, spotted this and encouraged me to progress in this sport. After eight years in athletics, competing for Wales in 800m, 1500m and 3k, I lost the love for the sport and was keen to explore rugby instead.
I was 18 when I took up rugby with Merthyr Youth and, having played for their senior team in the Welsh Cup against Newport RFC, I was lucky enough to get noticed by Cardiff Blues. To date for the Blues, I’ve played 120 games, scoring 47 tries for the region.
Did boxing help you with your other sports?
The training demands set me in good stead for athletics and rugby.
Who are your favourite boxers of all time?
Mike Tyson, Carl Froch, Floyd Mayweather and Ricky Hatton.
And who do you rate on the current scene?
Anthony Joshua, Kell Brook, Lee Selby and Amir Khan. In British boxing I’m excited about the whole of the heavyweight division, David Haye, Joshua and Tyson Fury.
What was your favourite fight of 2015?
Brian Rose v Carson Jones II and Tyson Fury v Wladimir Klitschko. Nobody gave Fury a chance against the champion, but he proved everyone wrong.
Where do you like to watch the fights?
When I can I like to watch the boxing at the Grosvenor Casino in Cardiff ‒ there’s always an excellent atmosphere and the food is fantastic.
Pick one – Rocky Balboa or Apollo Creed?
If you were a boxer, what would be your nickname and ring-walk music?
I’d be the Merthyr Express and would walk in to All of the Lights by Kanye West.
Any chance we’ll see you follow Sonny Bill Williams from the rugby pitch to the boxing ring?
At the moment my future’s in rugby with the Cardiff Blues and I’m focused on winning more Wales caps, but I’ll always have a keen interest in boxing, so never say never.
Talking boxing with… Cardiff Devil Luke Piggott
The Devils’ Canadian centre Luke Piggott combines his career on the ice with ground-breaking scientific research at Cardiff University. We managed to grab a little bit of his time to talk about his interest in boxing
What are your thoughts on Ice Arena Wales?
It’s great! I had some concerns about it feeling like home when we first moved in but luckily it’s been packed out with fans every game we played there and it feels just like home. The atmosphere hasn’t been lost from BBT [‘big blue tent’], which I think is important.
How would you feel about the arena doubling up as a new home for Welsh boxing?
I think that’s a fantastic idea. There’s a great seating set-up for it and I think it’ll make an ideal boxing venue.
Who are your favourite Canadian fighters on the ice?
Bob Probert and Tie Domi were really tough guys. Probert especially was always entertaining to watch fight.
Does your boxing knowledge ever help when you’re playing?
I’m certainly not one of the guys who ends up fighting on the ice very often, but then I think having a good boxing knowledge would help!
Have you ever had any experience inside a boxing ring?
I’ve never tried boxing other than hitting the pads for work-out purposes. I wouldn’t mind giving it a try at some point, though.
Have you had chance to watch much boxing in the UK?
I tend to just watch the major fights when they come up. Things like the Anthony Joshua’s win over Charles Martin.
Pick one ‒ Rocky Balboa or Apollo Creed?
You have a really busy schedule, where do you go to relax?
I usually pop into the Grosvenor Casino Cardiff. It has a great atmosphere, lots of TV screens showing all sports and a fantastic choice of food.
In order of preference which is your favourite game, roulette, blackjack, slots or poker?
Poker, slots, blackjack then roulette.
Tell us a bit about your research work outside sport…
I work in cancer research and currently we focus on the development of new drugs so that they can realise their clinical potential. We’re currently working to get a drug into clinical trial that we have shown can slow and prevent the spread of cancer.