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From Prison to Pugilism: How Boxing Helped Richard Towers Turn His Life Around

BOLTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26:  Richard Towers of England celebrates victory over Daniel Bispo of Brazil in their Heavyweight fight during the Night of Champions Boxing at Reebok Stadium on February 26, 2011 in Bolton, England.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Rob LancasterFeatured ColumnistNovember 26, 2015

A heavyweight with a chequered history away from the ring, Richard Towers says he is in a "good place" right now. "I’ve never been nothing in my life, but now I’m making an effort to be something."

While it is a risk telling a man who stands at 6'8" that he's wrong, Towers is actually "something" already. He is a shining example of how one single moment can change a person's destiny for the better.

On April 2, 2007, Towers was released from prison after serving half of a 13-year sentence handed down for his part in a kidnapping. He was 27 when he got out. He had no qualifications, just a lot of connections.

A return to jail seemed inevitable, particularly when trouble found him in a hurry once he was a free man.

Yet a bare-knuckle brawl in a field not far from home actually resulted in Towers finding two things that would alter his life in a huge way—boxing and the man who would become his first trainer, Brendan Ingle.

Asked if the combination saved him from a life of crime, or possibly an even worse fate, he instantly replies: "No doubt."

Towers during one of his 16 pro fights
Towers during one of his 16 pro fightsDean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Ingle, the legendary trainer who shaped the careers of Herol "Bomber" Graham and Naseem Hamed, to name just two of his many success stories, provided the guiding hand that Towers so desperately required.

"I needed to go somewhere to take me away from society, because I didn’t think I was normal," he explained, having been asked why he suddenly started attending Ingle's famous family gym in Wincobank, a suburb in the city of Sheffield, England.

"I had no idea then what it took to be a professional boxer. But God had another plan for me, and that one fight (straight after leaving prison) laid out the path I realised I had to follow.

"Brendan took me under his wing, became the father figure every boy wishes for. I cannot say enough good things about him. He is an amazing human being.

"After being in the gym for just a week, the things he showed me left me eager [to learn more]. I was fascinated by what he taught me in such a short space of time."

Boxing had never really appealed to Towers—whose real name is actually Richard Hayles—during his youth.

He remembers seeing his father watch bouts involving Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank and Mike Tyson, but it never interested him. He, instead, was concerned with other things—"getting girls, and getting into the wrong way of life."

However, his mindset started to change during his time in prison.

There were fights with fellow inmates for money, and Towers realised during those illegal bouts that he had both the physical and mental capabilities to box.

"There’s no point on dwelling on things. But if I had been doing this when I was a kid, I definitely would have had more possibilities in boxing," he now admits.

"I was 27 years old when I got out of prison. I had a few amateur fights and then turned pro in 2009.

"Now I’ve had 16 fights, 15 wins with 12 stoppages. Where I go from here, only God knows. But I feel privileged to be in the place I am right now.”

Richard Towers has sparred with both Wladimir Klitschko and Tyson Fury.
Richard Towers has sparred with both Wladimir Klitschko and Tyson Fury.Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images

While Ingle is still a presence in his life, Towers has now teamed up with trainer and manager Adam Booth.

He is waiting to find out who he will fight next, but he has been gaining further experience through sparring.

Only recently Towers returned home following a stint in Wladimir Klitschko's camp, helping the reigning WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion prepare for his Nov. 28 date with Tyson Fury.

The trip was beneficial for more than just financial reasons, as he capitalised on a second chance to work with the Ukrainian, who has not tasted defeat since 2004.

"I was there three years ago in 2012. Just as it was back then, it was a brilliant experience," Towers—nicknamed The Inferno—revealed.

"Wladimir was, as always, a consummate professional, both inside and outside of the ring. I definitely saw a significant improvement in my work. Other people noticed it too.

"When I went there three years ago, I wanted to emulate everything he did. I watched him like a hawk, to the point where he probably wondered what was wrong with me.

"But there’s a reason why Wladimir is in the position he is in, and that’s because he’s as consistent today as he was back then."

Towers' time with Klitschko annoyed Fury, as the two Englishmen had sparred together in the past.

Both Tyson and his trainer/uncle Peter Fury took to Twitter to voice their displeasure at what they felt was a decision to work with the enemy:

Towers admits being branded a "traitor" did leave "a little sore spot," but he still hopes the Fury family are celebrating at the end of the bout with Klitschko in Dusseldorf, Germany.

"I don’t begrudge Tyson at all. I wish him the best of luck. I want him to win," the 36-year-old said.

"I’m sure he’s in the best physical place he could be. Mentally, only he knows if he's right.

"He’s got his work cut out, but he probably knows that. Aside from all the talking, I’ve got no doubt he’s going to give it his all.

"Wladimir is in the position he is in for a reason. I understand that. But I also understand that Tyson is a big man and is as game as a badger.

"He wants to be heavyweight champion of the world. I hope he gets it (the world title). It would not only be good for him and his family but also for British boxing as well."

Adam Booth is now Towers' trainer.
Adam Booth is now Towers' trainer.Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

As for Towers' own career, he trusts Booth to make the right choices.

The pair met through sparring sessions with David Haye, whom Booth used to train, and formed a working relationship after Towers decided he needed a change of direction following a defeat to Lucas Browne in 2013.

"With the Browne fight, I didn’t really know what I was doing," he confessed.

"I knew if I hit somebody I could knock them out. But, he [Browne] was the better man on the night. He took the opportunity to get rid of me—that’s the fight game.

"I felt then that it was time for me to move on. I had been to spar with David Haye and in the process made a really good friend in Adam Booth.

"I spoke to Brendan and he told me to follow my heart. Adam is similar to Brendan—he too is an amazing person.

"I'm fortunate I do not have to worry too much about something I know little about. I’m fortunate to have someone like Adam mapping my career out. I’ve 100 per cent faith in what he says.

“I’ve had a few injuries here and there. Now, though, I’m fighting fit. I’m ready to go whenever."

While still very much a work in progress, Towers adds: "I seem to understand what I’m doing now."

He might not quite know where he's heading next, but that doesn't really matter for now.

What does matter is that in making the journey from prisoner to pugilist, Towers has turned his life around. That, surely, could end up being his biggest victory, no matter what he goes on to achieve in the ring.

 

Rob Lancaster is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise stated

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