Former Super Bantamweight Champion Esham Pickering says his life was changed drastically after being ‘robbed’ challenging for the Commonwealth Super Bantam title.
By George Edwards | @george_journo
“Football was my first love,” declared Esham Pickering. Something of a surprise, given that the 45-year-old went on to be a European boxing champion. I travelled to his gym – Epic Golden Gloves– in his hometown of Newark, to discuss his career with a relaxed Pickering, having just finished a morning sparring session.
As the kids around him grew up, Pickering “stayed the same size and was bullied out of football a little bit.” He still dreamt of sporting success though, so he turned to Dick Dorgney, “the face of boxing in Newark,” to get him into the boxing landscape.
Despite leaving it late to enter the ring, Pickering was quick to rise into the professional world. “I started at 15 and had 47 amateur fights in four and-a-half years, which wasn’t easy. The gym was only open twice or three times a week but you have to put the work in.”
Chasing a professional career, Pickering moved to Sheffield and Brendan Ingle’s club where four world champions have been moulded, including Johnny Nelson and Nassem Hamed. “I drove there on my own. It was a very confident gym. We had champions all the way back to Herol Graham who is always said as the best fighter to never win a world title from Britain.”
“My first fight, it was a right buzz. I won in the fifth round with a cut eye left hook. I was still a kid. There are some 20-year-olds that are like Mike Tyson, a beast, but I wasn’t. I did really well to build my confidence. I had 11 fights in my first year and won them all.”
Five months later, Pickering encountered his first title fight. “I went for the British title live on Sky Sports. I lost on points but it was a great learning curve. It was a bit too soon for me; the guy was bigger than me with more experience. He had more title fights than I had fights!”
Five fights later, Pickering did it. “I won the Commonwealth title by K.O in the 5th round and it was brilliant. Everything just came together over the next two and a half years. I had good success, I beat everyone by K.O. (knockout) and won the European [Super Bantamweight]. I went to Sheffield with nothing and it took me six and a half years to get something out of boxing.”
“I lost on points for the British title, got knocked out for a world title and then robbed. That’s the proudest moment. Not many people come back from a bad knockout.”
A year out of the ring due to a lack of opponents halted Pickering’s progress, which was a huge turning point in his career. “Boxing was my life. When I was European Champion, it would’ve been a great time to be active. I was in my prime years so I would have excelled and maybe even won a world title. I was dedicated and just waiting for that phone call.”
He returned in May 2005 and five months later fought Sheffield Boxer Michael Hunter. “I knocked him down in the first, knocked him down in the second and won the third but he just kept on coming. He never bothered me but he was pressing all the time. I thought I just won it but it was in his hometown and he won on the split decision.”
“From there, my career went downhill. I lost a few things like my house and things went wrong. I was working on the bins and doing a few different things.”
Upon retirement in 2010, Pickering knew he wanted to stay involved in the boxing world, and he now continues to inspire young boxers in his hometown. “Now I’ve got my boxing club, Epic Golden Gloves in Newark. Coaching’s tough but I enjoy it and hopefully I can get some champions out of Newark. I’ve made a British European Champion so if I can get someone to a world title it’ll be great.”
Never count Esham Pickering out; he doesn’t go down without a fight.