McPhilbin: The underdog champion
There was a real life ‘Rocky’ feel about Shane McPhilbin’s thrilling last round ‘come from behind’ British title win over Leon Williams last January. And in an interview last week, the grounded Bulwell cruiser told boxing writer Glynn Evans how he intends to prolong his Hollywood tale when he faces off against hammer-fisted former WBO champion Enzo Maccarinelli on Friday.
You’re quite a character. Where did the ‘Mr Block’ nickname originate?
Come on! I’ve got a massive square head ain’t I? Always had it and, at school, everyone called me ‘Blockhead’. Now, everyone knows me as ‘Block’. If I introduce myself I say my name’s ‘Block’, not Shane. I’ve even got it tattooed on me!
You received just three weeks notice for your British title challenge to Leon Williams. What kind of shape were you in?
It was just before Christmas and I was actually in the pub when I took the call. I put down the drink and got in the gym the next day. I had to accept because you never know when the next title call will come, if ever. We trained really hard for a fortnight then had a week ‘wind down’. Win or lose, we didn’t expect the fight to go beyond six rounds.
What was with the shades and pork pie hat ring entrance?
It all started as a bit of a joke when I fought Rhys Davies for the Midland Area title. I came into ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ just as a bit of fun, to relax me. It took a hell of a lot of effort for me to get myself down from over 19 stone so I thought that was a fitting occasion to do it and it’s all built from there. I’ve always really wanted the ‘Blobby’ song!
How badly hurt were you when Williams decked you late in round one?
I must have been pretty stunned because I honestly didn’t remember getting dropped! I vaguely remember the ref counting in my face and walking to the corner but I don’t remember being hurt as such. I was only stopped twice as an amateur and that’s the only time I’ve been over as a pro. I came back to win rounds two, three and possibly four so I can’t have been hurt that bad.
Nevertheless, you were well behind by the close. Given the short notice, was there ever a stage when you felt like turning it in?
Not especially. Like I say, I didn’t expect it to go beyond round six so, when it got to round ten I was really proud of myself and all of a sudden a second, third, fourth, and fifth wind kicked in at the same time! At the end of round ten Carl said : ‘Just two more. Let’s have a go’.
I knew I’d hurt Leon towards the end of round 11. Going out for round 12, I felt as fresh as the first round. Perhaps it was adrenalin, I don’t know. But I knew it might be the last time I was ever in this position so I just went for it and ‘Bingo’! When he went down I just saw red. I was screaming at Leon: ‘Go down!’ Once I wobble ‘em , I’ve always been a good finisher. When I land flush, nine out of 10 cruisers can’t handle it.
You’re a renowned party animal. How did the victory celebrations go?
Well I had to miss out on Christmas and the New Year to prepare and it was my birthday on January 11 (two days before the fight) so, add all that to winning the British title, and I had an awful lot of catching up to do. I don’t remember too much of it but was getting ‘flashbacks’ for a couple of weeks after!
Has winning the British title changed your philosophy to the sport, altered your life style, enhanced your self-belief?
Definitely. I’m thinking more seriously now. It’s made me realise I could actually do something. When I turned pro, I never considered challenging for a British title. My goal was to fight for a Midland title, not win one, fight for one! Having the Lonsdale Belt around my waist means so much, it’s changed me life!
You open your defence of the title as a 9-1 underdog in a voluntary defence against Swansea’s Enzo Maccarinelli. You could easily have swerved the challenge. Why didn’t you?
To be the best I can be, I’ve got to box the best opponents available. Along with Muhammad Ali, Enzo Maccarinelli is one of my all time heroes. To fight with him for the British title is a massive honour for me. I’ve so much respect for the way Enzo goes about his business. He’s a very respectable guy. Since the fight was proposed, he’s not slated me once. In fact, he’s praised my performance against Williams. The chance to actually beat him would be absolutely amazing. He’s still one of the best in the world.
You’ve fought at heavyweight, whereas Enzo has campaigned at light-heavy recently. You’re naturally bigger and effectively fighting on home turf at Wolverhampton Civic Hall. Could those factors be key?
Hope so. I do have to come down a bit to make weight so I should be physically stronger and no one’s really seen the punches I’m capable of throwing yet. I’ve had a good six weeks to prepare and condition wise, I’ll be spot on. My power’s really coming on and I’ve had plenty of time to practise everything I need to practice.
Wolverhampton isn’t Nottingham but all the Midlands stick together and I’m hoping we’ll have a good crowd. I can’t see why it weren’t Nottingham but I’ve only fought there once as a pro. I’m used to travelling. You’ll certainly hear all the Bulwellians!
I’m expecting Enzo to try and box me. He’s in the Last Chance Saloon and if he doesn’t make it he’ll probably retire so he’s got a point to prove. He’ll want to blow me out early so he can force the fight with Nathan Cleverly. Eventually I see us mid ring having all out ‘war’. Hopefully, it’ll be my bombs that succeed!
Watch Enzo Maccarinelli vs Shane McPhilbin on Friday, March 23 from 9.30pm live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky 456, Virgin 546). For more info visit www.boxnation.tv
Photo by Philip Sharkey