Boxing’s IBO International Middleweight Champion, Nathan ‘Hitman’ Heaney, is a man the city of Stoke-on-Trent has embraced as ‘one of our own’.
When you see him in pre or post-fight interviews, it’s easy to see why. He is humble and modest and always gives a positive outlook on the city where he lives. So much so that despite being a big fan of Stoke City, even rival Port Vale fans are behind him.
To give you some idea of what a gentleman Nathan Heaney is, he personally hand-delivers tickets for his fights to his army of fans in the Stoke area. How many professional boxers have you heard of that do that?
We, at Hoppers Guide, were cheeky enough to send him a request for an interview and, true to form, Nathan obliged, for which we are most appreciative!
The interview took the form of a series of written questions and answers via email and this is the transcript of that process.
Hoppers Guide Interview with Nathan Heaney
Hoppers Guide: First of all, for those that know nothing about Nathan Heaney, can you please tell us a little about yourself and your career up to this point?
Nathan Heaney: I’m Nathan Heaney, I’m a lad from Stoke-on-Trent and I am a professional boxer. I’ve boxed my whole life, as a young lad from the age of eleven and competed every year until the age of 26. At this point, I retired as an amateur boxer after ninety contests. After my first child, Ava was born, I had a year out from the sport and after that, that’s when I decided to turn professional.
HG: Which people have been your biggest inspirations in boxing?
NH: I’ve had many in my boxing life and my dad would be the first one. Prince Naseem Hamed was the first-ever person that really got me enjoying the sport and then after him, it was just a matter of Joe Calzaghe, Gennady Golovkin and more recently Julio Cesar Chavez Sr.
HG: What does a typical week in the life of Nathan Heaney entail?
NH: Very boring and repetitive!
Other than Stoke City ruining my weekends over the last few years, (and occasionally making them great!) my life consists of taking my firstborn daughter to school and then I get the first training session in. Once that is done I do my other household duties of the day and then get my second training session in that evening.
This is done five days per week, Saturday is a rest day and then a hill sprint session on a Sunday.
HG: How do you prepare yourself mentally for an upcoming fight?
NH: By ticking every single box needed.
Road work ✔️
Pad work ✔️
Get all those sorted and it certainly helps me. Make no mistake, it can still be hard in the lead-up with constant adrenaline rushes, but on the night I’m absolutely fine and even better when ‘Delilah’ kicks in.
HG: For those that aren’t aware of how boxers make money when they aren’t fighting, can you explain a little about contracts and sponsorship?
NH: On the small hall scene (where I started my first two and a half years as a professional) fighters make very little money (and certainly not enough to quit work for) but once you get a TV contract this can be easier to do.
For my first three and a half years as a professional, I worked as a teacher at Stafford college (I started teaching there in 2014 and become a professional fighter in 2017), where I did both roles full-time for the first two years as a pro. As I got sponsors, it allowed me to drop a day at work here and there, which helped.
I knew 2022 was going to be a big year and so this is where I took the plunge and went full-time as a fighter. As alluded to in your question, it was my sponsors who allowed me to do this without any major financial risk.
HG: Does this fully cover your ability to live and train as a professional fighter?
NH: It covers everything I need financially, but I’m very fortunate as not many fighters on the small hall scene get to this position.
HG: What is your relationship like with boxing promoter Frank Warren?
NH: Excellent! Frank has been a great man to me, and his son George Warren (CEO of Queensbury Promotions) has also been great. Frank loves what my supporters bring and loves having us on BT Sport
HG: In your last fight, you suffered a bad cut. How are you recovering from that and do you think the scar tissue will make you cut more easily in future fights?
NH: The cut was very deep and it took at least nine to ten weeks before it stopped being sore to the touch. I’ve been sparring for the last three weeks, so it’s all good. Will people aim for it? Most likely, but I just need to dodge a bit more!
HG: What are your ambitions and how much further do you feel you can go in boxing?
NH: My ambition growing up was to be signed by Frank Warren, so that was the first major one I achieved.
The dream I had way before that though was to play football for Stoke City… I was just better at punching than playing football. So, to play vicariously on the pitch in a fight at the ground would be phenomenal! After that… Well, I could retire a happy man but I do think the Stokies would sound good on the Las Vegas strip!
HG: What are your passions away from boxing?
NH: As a kid, it was football, football and football. Although I’ve boxed from a very young age (nine years old), I always wanted to be a footballer.
I started as a goalkeeper at ten years old pretending I was Gavin Ward, then as I got older I became a striker and then a winger (I had quite a decent pace to be fair!)
HG: Which people have been your biggest inspirations in life away from boxing?
NH: My Dad was an excellent role model for me growing up and he’s the main person who moulded me into who I am today, both boxing-wise and in how I conduct myself as a person.
HG: You have become synonymous with your walk-in to the Stoke City fan anthem, Delilah. How did this start?
NH: As a young kid there was nothing more I would have wanted than to play football whilst Delilah was being sung, and aside from ‘Oh when the reds’ is being sung, there’s nothing better. There was no other song I could walk into.
HG: Tell us a little about your love affair with Stoke City. Did you ever attend a game at the Victoria Ground? If so, what are your memories of the old place and how did it compare to the Bet365?
NH: I didn’t grow up in a football family per se (Mum and Dad weren’t into it), but when I was about eight years old my Uncle Bill (who lived on Campbell Road next to the Victoria Ground) introduced me to Stoke City and the rest is history.
I never attended the Victoria Ground, but my Uncle Bill used to take me for runs on the ruins of where the Victoria Ground used to be. My first game was in the Bet365, then known as the Britannia Stadium, and one of the early chants I can remember was ‘Chris Kamaras Barmy Army’. I was too young to realise how bad we were!
HG: Has the prospect of you fighting at the Bet365 Stadium been seriously discussed yet, or is it still just a dream at this point?
NH: I am hopeful of it taking place sometime in the coming year but we will have to wait and see how the chips fall…
HG: Do you follow any other clubs in the Stoke-on-Trent area?
NH: I don’t follow any other clubs, I have too many sports/family commitments and if I had any more (e.g. local non-league football, basketball etc.) I’d be divorced!
HG: Have you come across any boxers that you genuinely dislike, even when the pre-fight hype is done with?
NH: Many! I’m not for this ‘Oh it’s all to build the fight blah, blah’ rubbish. If a fighter disrespects me then that’s it. I see them as the bottom of the barrel and take great pleasure in beating them.
HG: If you could fight anyone in the world, whether a boxer or not, whom would it be and why?
NH: Ideally it would be Chris Eubank Jr. at the ground. He’s very good and has the profile to help sell the place out, but he is beatable.
HG: If you could change one thing about your career up to this point, what would it be?
NH: Absolutely nothing. Would it be great for me to be younger? Absolutely, but I wouldn’t have been mature enough for it.
HG: When your career is over, what do you want to be remembered for?
NH: A person who represented my city as best I could, whilst providing entertainment and enjoyment for anyone who watched my fights!
HG: Thank you for your time, Nathan! It’s been an absolute pleasure to ask you these questions and see the answers. We wish you the utmost of luck in the rest of your career and especially for that dream bout at the Bet365 Stadium!
“At break of day as that man boxed away, we were watching… WHOOOOAAAAHHH”