When Simon Vallily won gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, it was as a 25-year-old man who was turning his life around following a stint in prison that had ended just a couple of years earlier. He’d already boxed as a youth, and took the sport back up upon his release, developing into a promising amateur.
“He’s frighteningly good,” trainer Rob McCracken said at that time. “We’ve got two years to work with him and there’s a real possibility he could win the Olympics [in 2012].”
Vallily, too, had hopes of representing Great Britain at London 2012 as a heavyweight (not a super heavyweight, mind you), but didn’t qualify for the Olympics. In fact, he didn’t even represent Great Britain at the European qualifiers — that honor went to Warren Baister, who lost to Tervel Pulev in the quarterfinals. (Baister would go on to turn pro, but his career was cut short after two years due to a bad ankle injury.)
Vallily is now 34 years old. He went pro in early 2013, and was 9-0 when he ran into Mairis Briedis in 2016 in Liverpool. Briedis, who would go on to win a world title and is still a top cruiserweight, cut Vallily down in three rounds. A draw with Arfan Iqbal and another loss to Craig Glover in 2018 sent Vallily up to the heavyweight division, where he’s won four straight against lower-level foes.
On Aug. 1, the veteran will return to action on the first Matchroom Fight Camp card, facing Fabio Wardley, an unbeaten 25-year-old prospect managed by Dillian Whyte.
Wardley (8-0, 7 KO) has won his fights thus far, but always with the clear belief — from himself and others — that there’s a lot of work for him to do. He could be vulnerable, then, against a veteran opponent who has some skills and some legitimate experience — experience that Vallily believes will help him score the upset and derail Wardley’s rise up the British ranks.
“I think that experience will play a big part in this fight,” said Vallily. “People keep on going on about the guys Fabio has sparred with, but I’ve been around the block and I’ve sparred with some of the best lads in the world. I’m not going to bang on about it.
“10-ounce gloves and no headguards — believe me, it’s a whole different ball game. It’s going to be a big eye-opener for him.”
That’s not to say Vallily (17-2-1, 7 KO) has disrespect for Wardley, mind you. He’s not saying the younger fighter can’t hack it, merely that he won’t be able to do so against him.
“I’ve had a look at him, and you can see he’s got a bit of talent. He’s tricky, he’s fresh, he’s going to come and he’s going to be fit,” Vallily added.
And Vallily is also not unaware of his own past struggles as a pro. Now, he says, is the time he’ll put it together.
“Totally disregard my professional career to this point, because to be honest with you it’s been a total shambles. This is where it starts now, and unfortunately for Fabio, this is my coming out party and not his.
“He’s not going to see the final bell. Sorry, Fabio, but you’re going to sleep, mate!”
Matchroom’s Aug. 1 card will stream live on DAZN in the U.S. and air on Sky Sports in the U.K., featuring Sam Eggington vs Ted Cheeseman in the main event, James Tennyson vs Gavin Gwynne for the vacant British lightweight title, Jordan Gill vs Reece Bellotti, and more.