Oldham’s Mark Heffron tries to win a British title at the third attempt this weekend, writes Elliot Worsell
ALTHOUGH it is said you should never waste time on regrets, Oldham’s Mark Heffron has for almost four years been ruing the day a British middleweight title fight against Jason Welborn turned into a British middleweight title fight against Liam Williams.
A switch of opponent necessary but largely unappreciated, this sliding doors moment left Heffron with a considerably tougher challenge than the one he originally anticipated and, alas, resulted in the first professional loss of his career (stopped by Williams in 10 rounds).
“I probably would have been British champion back then,” Heffron told Boxing News, “if I hadn’t ended up with Liam Williams.”
Now, as a super-middleweight, Heffron gets the chance to win the Lonsdale belt all over again against Lennox Clarke, the champion, on Saturday (July 16) at the Copper Box Arena. This will in fact be Heffron’s third attempt at winning the British title, having lost a second shot in November 2020, when forced to retire on his stool (due to eye swelling) following four rounds against Denzel Bentley.
“It was very frustrating, but that’s life,” he said of that loss. “You have your ups and downs and just have to take it on the chin and go again.
“I’m more seasoned now (because of those defeats). I’ve got the experience and I’ve been in this position many times now. I know what to expect.”
Not only that, given his long-running flirtations with the belt, Heffron has also had plenty of time to imagine how it will feel when a British title is finally put around his waist. “It’s for both the British and Commonwealth belts, which are major titles, so I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I’m really motivated for it and I feel it’s a fight I can definitely win. I’ve been itching to be involved in a big fight since the Bentley rematch and now it’s my time to go.
“Every British fighter wants that British title. You win that British title and then you go on to fight for more titles, other major ones. It’s one of the best titles you can win as a British fighter and winning it would mean the absolute world to me. Win this and I’ll be over the moon. I can’t even put it into words.”
At 30, Heffron knows it’s time to make his move and make good on his undoubted potential. He has realised as well that his best form is likely to be witnessed at super-middleweight rather than at middleweight, the division in which he has campaigned for the bulk of his 12-year pro career.
“When I turned pro it was at super-middleweight,” he said. “When I then decided to go down to middleweight it all sounded good on paper – you’ll be an absolutely massive middleweight – but it was a big struggle getting down to that weight. It’s all well and good getting down to 11 stone 6, but you have to then be able to perform at that weight. There was nothing in me at that weight. I was pretty much dead.
“Naturally, I walk around at about 12 stone 8 or 12 stone 9. I’m happy with that. I’m eating good. I’m never really hungry. When I was making 11 stone 6, I’d eat my tea and within half an hour I’d be starving again. It was horrible. All camp my mind was constantly on my weight and it was hard to concentrate on my opponent or the fight.”
Able to now do both, Heffron accepts that Lennox Clarke, the current British super-middleweight champion, will be no easy task this weekend. Indeed, beaten just once in 22 fights (a split decision against Lerrone Richards in 2019), Clarke, 20-1-1 (8), is an aggressive, busy type, who last time out upset the highly-touted prospect Willy Hutchinson inside five rounds.
“I’ve had my eye on Lennox Clarke for the last few years,” said Heffron, 27-2-1 (21). “It’s a fight that has been spoken about a few times. It’s been put to me before and I’ve always said, ‘Yeah, that would make a good fight.’ We’re both similar fighters. I can box-fight, whereas Lennox is more of a come-forward brawler. He’s a big, strong lad. Our styles will probably make for a good fight.
“He’s got a good right hand, he throws a lot of jabs, and he likes to target the stomach quite a bit. To be honest, I don’t want to sound disrespectful, but he’s quite straight up; quite a typical fighter. But he’s big and strong and I can’t wait to fight him.”
Never one to take the easy route to victory, Heffron concedes that his next British title fight will likely be as exciting and, at times, tough as his first. Given their two styles, he expects nothing less than action in the presence of Clarke and claims to be more than ready for it, too.
“You’ve got to get yourself in the right mindset,” he said. “I’ve gone through this fight many times in my head, both in terms of how it will go and how Lennox Clarke will come out. I’m very prepared for this fight. I’ve had a solid camp and I’m more than ready for a 12-round war if that’s what it ends up being.
“There are going to be times when I have to use my boxing and there are going to be times when I have to stand and have a good go with him. But I’m fully prepare to do both of those things.”