Psychologists, scientists, and even numerous fighters suggest that boxing is 90% mental and 10% physical. Who would argue? There is no doubt that, to do what they do boxers need to have absolute belief in their own ability and an unshakable nerve before they even begin to rely on their physical capabilities in combat. Some fighters could benefit from lending credence to the importance of the psychological aspect of the sport by giving their boxing brain a metaphorical six-pack.
Unbeaten British talent Archie Sharp is showing that he has the necessary mindset to succeed in a sport that relies so heavily on mental toughness. He is supremely confident and after rampaging through much of the domestic super featherweight field with as much purpose as a peak Mike Tyson ring walk, he believes that he is now ready to take on the best fighters in the world, declaring, “I’m more than ready now to push on for world title fights.”
Sharp’s assault on the division began to pick up momentum after his win against the enigmatic Leon Woodstock, with victory earning him the WBO European title in 2018. He has since added the WBO Global trinket with wins against Declan Geraghty, Jordan McCorry, and Jeffrey Ofori on the way. It has given the 26-year-old a very good ranking with the WBO, and he hopes to continue that impressive run, on October 29th. Looking to move to 21-0, Sharp headlines an MTK Global card in London against Alexi Kabore, the first defence of his WBO Global belt following his victory over Mexican Diego Chavez.
Not one to be content with his achievements to date, Sharp is looking to move onto bigger and better tests though, and despite not being the boastful type, he is not afraid to unequivocally state his intentions in terms of ambition. He firmly believes that he belongs at the top and that means looking beyond British level. He told me, “At the minute (domestically) the super featherweight division is thriving, there’s some great fighters out there, some great fights that can be made. I believe Zelfa Barrett has got a high ranking with the IBF and myself with the WBO, I think once I get my world title and I bring that to the UK, then if there’s anyone domestically at that level, then it makes sense to have big world title fights here in the UK, but where I am at the minute, I didn’t start boxing to be a British champion, I know it’s great and it’s a great achievement but for myself, it’s always been a world title, that’s the benchmark I’ve always set for myself.”
Achieving that goal, he believes, is all about staying focused allowing his ability to take care of the rest. Of his upcoming fight on October 29th, he said, “That’s key for me, just keeping the momentum going, staying busy as much as I can, I’m blessed, I’m very fortunate that I’m out again in October and we will see where the rest of the year takes us, if I can get out again, even better.
“My ability has always been there and the skill, so with the opponents I’ve faced, even Chavez the Mexican, they set me up for the 12 rounds, you know, get the rounds under my belt, but ability wise, I’ve been boxing fighters with great ability since day one, the likes of the McCormack's in the amateurs and a list full of great fighters that I’ve boxed over the years, even in sparring, so the actual ability that I have has never been in question.”
Being in the ring with so many different styles has helped the development of Sharp, but he acknowledges that there is even more to come, adding, “The thing is, I haven’t really been able to showcase my skills properly, I’ve been in the ring with some good opponents don’t get me wrong but for myself, I do believe that when the pressure is against me and the odds are against me, That’s when everyone will see the best Archie Sharp.
“I feel there was a bit of that when I boxed Woodstock, I was the underdog and had my first title fight in his back yard, I boxed very well, stuck to my boxing, stuck to my gameplan and got the decision and won.”
Given that he hasn’t yet shown the full repertoire of his skillset, I asked whether some of the elite level fighters in the division are treating his record with contempt, he admitted, “I think you’re right, a lot of people are probably sleeping on me, I think Shakur Stevenson (WBO champion) mentioned a few times like, who am I and things like that, but I am sitting at number two in the rankings with the WBO, so it is just a matter of waiting for them fights and it is going to be my time to shine and when I get the opportunities to fight these opponents, I think everyone will see what I have seen in myself and what other people have seen in me from day one.”
I don’t doubt that when the opportunities present themselves, Archie will grasp them. Up until this point, he has taken every challenge in front of him without hesitation, and that includes going after the WBO belt held by Shakur Stevenson, a fighter many consider to be on the cusp of superstardom. You could say that he hasn’t waited for opportunity to knock, he has opened the door and marched down the path to meet it. It again refers to his positive application and belief in his boxing ability. That self-belief is owed partially to a very competent amateur grounding. Sharp has always had an excellent pedigree, but his amateur path was not quite as decorated as it may have been. That is not to say he didn’t achieve, but it is a mark of the man that he is gracious enough to acknowledge, it could have been even better. He told me, “I was doing so well in the amateurs, I look back now and I’m glad everything panned out the way it did, because it was only really when I turned pro that I started to live the life properly. When I was younger, I was dedicated, but I was limited, I was in and out of camp, I think it is fair to say I wasn’t 100% committed as an amateur.”
It is a refreshingly honest statement to make and not one which should draw criticism, he was younger and didn’t appreciate the level of commitment required, now he does. It isn’t an indictment on his dedication, rather a barometer of where he was at that time. He explained, “Even though I had all of the success that I did, it’s scary really to look back now and I think if I had the dedication I do now, when I was in the amateurs, then the Olympics would definitely have happened, I do believe that.
“I think it’s fair to say that when Pat McCormack and all of them got their little step onto the GB platform, I pulled out of a fight and they took my space to fight in the world games and then because of me messing around, not eating properly, not making the weight, I decided to pull out of competition and another stepped in, took my place and ended up staying there, so who knows what would have been?, but yeah, I was talking about it yesterday in the gym about what I could have actually achieved.”
That experience has not scarred Sharp in any way, he is not regretful and there have been countless other times where he could have lost his positive focus, not least when the pandemic hit. “It has definitely been a scary period for sure out there, especially when the pandemic was on its way over and starting to pick up, I broke my arm, some could have expected doubts to creep in then, but do you know what? To be honest with you, I have such a great team and my advisor has given me some proper good words as well, you just have to trust the process, that is all you can do, that’s what I have done, stayed strong, stayed mentally well, used that time to be with my family and now it has passed and before you know it, we’re here and momentum is flying and I’m in the best shape, body feels fit, I feel strong, making the weight better than before, so everything has just worked out exactly how it should have been planned.”
If everything goes to plan Sharp will close in on an opportunity for the WBO title having worked his way through the rankings, it could lead to a dream date in the states and the world title he craves. He told me that there is a superstitious barrier that would be broken should he fight in what many consider to be the fight capital, Las Vegas. “I’ve always said that I would never go to Vegas until I’ve boxed or unless I’m fighting there. When I was 21, everyone was going to Vegas, it’s always been my dream to fight in Vegas, that’s why I’ll never go to the place until I’m lined up to fight there. Also, Dubai as well, there’s a big attraction to fight out there, but more so Vegas at the minute, it’s been a dream of mine since a kid.”