I’ve interviewed Andre Sterling several times, right from his very first professional fight. He’s always incredibly friendly and humorously honest, it shines through his unwavering confidence. I like the man. Also we’re both from Lewisham, so there’s that too. His British Light Heavyweight Title final eliminator this Friday (June 21st ) against Craig Richards is an enticing battle.
Andre and one part of his coaching team, Ian Andrews, agreed to talk to Southpaw Jab about their appearance at York Hall on the Matchroom Boxing NXTGEN show- headlined by Conor Benn and Ted Cheeseman’s respective fights. Richards versus Sterling will see Andre enter as underdog, but it’s a role the team are used to. Andrews explains,
“We fought Kirk Garvey on their show [as the away fighter]. We was the underdog. We beat him. We fought Ricky Summers on a big 02 show. We was the underdog. We beat him. We are the underdogs again but people don’t see what we do in the gym. Andre has had tough fights and won them.”
Sterling elaborates further, “I go in with the mentality of ‘I’m going to win’. Seek and destroy! I know it’s a tough fight, but I’m gonna win, I love this sport.”
In 2017 Craig Richards held the Southern Area Super Middleweight Title, Andre won the Light Heavyweight version by outpointing Kirk Garvey last November. Richards stepped up a weight, but was defeated by Frank Buglioni for the British Light Heavyweight Title at the tail end of 2017. Buglioni, says Ian Andrews, was Richards’ “only credible opponent. And he lost.”
Yet to taste defeat himself, Andre has an endearing mix of confidence, common sense and playfulness.
“I say this all the time, he’s [Richards] a fighter innit. He’s got two hands and two feet and he’s gonna come to do what he’s gonna come to do. But I’m gonna win, I always win, I’m always the underdog and I always win. I’m the number one in Britain in my opinion.”
The current British Light Heavyweight Champion, Joshua Buatsi, might disagree with that statement. Sterling and Buatsi have history from the unpaid ranks, and Andre has never been shy about his desire to fight again. What did he make of Buatsi’s recent win over Marco Antonio Periban (TKO RD 4) in the USA?
“A win is a win, he looked good but I can’t judge him on that performance. He was fighting an old super middleweight, so what did we learn? I can’t judge him on that.
Yes I’d want Buatsi next, but I’m focused on June 21st, I’m going to destroy Craig Richards first.”
Coach Andrews is less bothered about a specific fighter, the Lonsdale Belt is the main thing for him, “anyone will do for the British title. We have always said Andre will fight anyone… If Buatsi moves on and the belt becomes vacant, whoever is in line Andre will fight. Possibly Hosea Burton.”
Fight week here, and it’s a week Andre uses to, “wind down, spend time with my family and friends. Physically and mentally relax, good energy good vibes.
I’ve got a lot of my area coming, they’re all coming to the weigh in, too. I’ve sold all the tickets, my area loves me!”
Talking of his area, there’s another Lewisham light heavy making a name for himself on the small hall circuit, edging ever closer to titles himself- unbeaten Dan Azeez. Andre knows him, but says it’s strictly business,
“We don’t have a relationship other than we’re both from Lewisham and we train and spar at Peacock, he’s a good sparring partner.”
What, if any, effect did the knockdown against Ricky Summers have on the man Ian Andrews describes as “poetry in motion”? Andrews is not concerned at all, “It was Andre’s first time on a big show at the O2 so maybe a bit of nervous energy, but he got up and won every round. He’s shown heart and determination.
The Richards fight is a great opportunity for Andre. We have always said to be the best you must beat the best. It is for Bryan and me to prepare Andre for any challenges put in front of him and that’s what we intend to do. When we say he is ready, he is ready!”
Finally, a question some fighters love to answer, and some politely (or otherwise) decline to. What is the outcome of Craig Richards versus Andre Sterling going to be, in Andre’s opinion? He doesn’t hesitate,
“It’s not going past round six, but if he does well, round eight- max!”
It’s a strong NXTGEN card on Friday, well worth tuning in for. With Ted Cheeseman, Conor Benn, Reece Bellotti and Shannon Courtenay all on the bill, Richards versus Sterling could still be fight of the night.
Tickets priced £40, £70 and £130 VIP are available to purchase NOW via StubHub (www.stubhub.co.uk).