Matt Maher: The boxing journeyman waiting for fight No.235
“People think I’m crazy, I know that,” says Kevin McCauley.
“But I just love boxing. I still get the buzz every time I step into the ring. There is nothing quite like it.”
For McCauley, the past few months have been tough in that respect, yet thankfully his wait is almost over.
When the 40-year-old takes on an as yet unnamed opponent at the BT Sport Studios on September 12, it will end comfortably the longest gap between bouts in a professional career which began in 2008 and has seen him fight on average once every two-and-a-half weeks.
The wait for fight No.235 has been close to unbearable.
“I’ve got itchy fists, to be honest with you,” laughs McCauley, who trained for the majority of his fights at his own gym in Lye. “I’m getting withdrawals! I just can’t wait to get back out there.”
It only requires a quick glance at McCauley’s record to understand why so many who do not know boxing might question his sanity.
His 234 fights so far have delivered 15 wins, 12 draws and 207 defeats. He hasn’t tasted victory since November 2017 and the last 53 fights have finished with the other man’s arm being raised.
Yet his career has been no failure. The keener eye, for instance, will notice he has only been stopped short of the distance 14 times, a statistic which hints at a durability which ensured the phone has never stopped ringing.
McCauley is a man prepared to fight anywhere at any time and when viewed in the context of what he wanted from boxing and what he has achieved, his career has been extraordinarily successful. He is no bum and certainly no fool.
“I opted for the money side of it, really,” he says. “I knew I was never going to be a world champion and I never needed a medal.
“I will go anywhere to fight, as long as the money is there.
“I did judo to a decent level as a kid but picked up an injury and then discovered beer and women and gave up on my training.
“I ended up working as a roofer through most of my 20s and that was tough. I realised I could earn more money from fighting so decided to give it a crack.
“I was 28 when I had my first professional fight and most people said I was too old for the sport, including my dad! About 230 fights later I think I’ve eventually earned his respect!”
Boxing has provided a steady living for Brighton-born McCauley, whose purse for a fight can range from as low as £400 to well into four figures.
At the same time, he has performed a priceless role for a sport which simply could not function without the willingness of journeymen to spend their weekends travelling the country, often at very short notice, to provide the opposition for prospects looking to build their records and experience.
In a five-week span between February and his last outing in March, McCauley fought in Aberdeen, Doncaster, Liverpool, Brentwood and Bolton. Rarely does he complain about his casting as the boxer who simply isn’t supposed to win. Instead, he takes pride in the fact few opponents can ever claim to have had an easy night.
“My last fight is on YouTube and if you watch it back, I clearly won,” he says. “But at the final bell they gave it to him by a point and that happens.
“I’ve won a lot more than 15 fights but ultimately I am there to do a job.
“I’d say I am one of the better journeymen. I will always have a go. I’ve been in against kids who were highly-rated but turned out to be poor.
“I remember getting the win in one fight and I actually apologised to the trainer who said: ‘Don’t worry, he deserved a good hiding, it’s his own fault’.
“In 234 fights I have probably only been properly floored three or four times. Those have been the times I’ve thought ‘f***, this kid is good’.
“I have held my own against good, decent opponents. I feel like I could get in the ring with anyone now, to be honest.
“My only regret is that I didn’t start sooner. I think if I’d been nurtured as a kid and brought through the system I would definitely have won a British title, without a shadow of a doubt.”
Much as McCauley has missed boxing these past few months, he knows he cannot fight forever.
He turns 41 next month and while he hopes to get his licence renewed again in March for another year, his thoughts are already turning to the next stage of his career and the gym he is setting up in Market Harborough, close to his girlfriend’s home. In addition to bringing through the next generation of fighters, McCauley also hopes to utilise the degree in criminology and social care he recently obtained from the University of Wolverhampton.
“That came about when my ex-wife told me I was thick and only good for punching people,” he says. “I thought right, we shall see about that!
“I went and did an access course and then a degree. I want to work with young offenders and hopefully the gym can be part of that.
“I’ve got my trainer’s licence and my manager’s licence is on the way. There are a lot of good kids out there who just never get an opportunity and I’m hoping to give a bit back. In the next few months we should be up and running.”
That is the future. For now, the prime focus is September 12.
“The thing about being a journeyman is you are never in the shape you want to be,” says McCauley. “You never train that much because you are always fighting anyway. These past few months I have had the chance to train harder than I have for five or six years.
“I just can’t wait to get back in there. I want to go out with a bang, that is for sure and not on the canvas either. If the kid I’m facing next month thinks he is in for an easy night, he is in for a shock.”