Marvin Bartley decided he wasn’t cut out to be a boxer when a bigger kid biffed him on the nose.
But the Hibs midfielder has never lost his love of the fight game and now he’s aiming to carve out a new career as a promoter.
Rather than spend his afternoons playing on X-box or PlayStation or walking his rottweiler Diego, Bartley has been working at putting on his first show in the hope of showcasing young boxers from his hometown of Reading,
And, he revealed, he’s picked up vital tips from one of boxing’s best known fight fixers, Barry Hearn, who was chairman at Leyton Orient when he was turning out for the London club.
Bartley said: “Barry got me into some brilliant shows that he put on. He’s the best in the business in Europe so it was a great learning experience to go down to Matchroom and learn how they put on a show. I’ll look to take on some of that going forward.
“I’ve set up back in Reading to help the young professional fighters there who are finding it hard to get out competing in shows. Until now they’ve had to travel to Wales, which is a couple of hours away, or into London so I’ve seen an opportunity and I am in a privileged position where I have some money to put in to give them a chance to showcase their skills.
“I’ve been a lover of boxing for a long time. I used to do it when I was younger until I got punched on the nose by a big kid and decided to stop. I was always going to get hit at some point so there was no chance I’d ever have gone anywhere with boxing. It was lucky it was early rather than later in my boxing life.
“I decided football was a bit safer but boxing is still a big passion.”
Bartley revealed he’s had great interest in his venture, the 29-year-old said: “Reading is a big place so I’ve had an awful lot of interest from boxers. My first show is on March 26, so we’re just putting things together now. My phone is ringing off the hook but it’s been exciting so far.
“It’s something I can get into now because I work part-time hours as a footballer. I used to go home and sit playing the X-Box or PlayStation, but that’s all stopped now.
“Most days I’m home by 2.30 pm, so I can really get my teeth into these shows.”
And Bartley believes Diego appreciates his new distraction, saying: “I think I was doing his head in because I kept wanting to walk him. He’d look at me as if he was thinking ‘not again’, so I needed something else to keep me busy and give him a bit of a break.”
However, Bartley’s first boxing show coincide with Hibs’ home game against Dumbarton but he’s hoping some of his team-mates can help earn him the day off by getting called up for international duty that weekend.
He said: “The show falls on the international break, so I’m kicking the lads up the backside to make sure they keep performing so they get called up for their countries. If they don’t then our fixture won’t get postponed and I’ll be in trouble.
“But my brothers are helping me and they’re based in Reading so if I can’t make it down everything will still be fine.”
Meanwhile, Bartley insisted he and his team-mates won’t have any trouble in getting their heads round playing at Livingston this evening, the vital Championship match sandwiched between two Scottish Cup derbies with Capital rivals Hearts.
He said: “No game is low key. In professional football every game should be a high. If you start looking at games and think that’s a low and this one’s a high your attitude is wrong and it’s time to pack in.
“Every time the boys step across the white line we’re buzzing to play football because we’re privileged to be in the job we are. So we’ll treat Livingston the same way we treat Hearts. We approach every game in the same way.
“We’ll allow everyone else to get excited about games and what’s coming up but in the dressing-room we are very level headed and concentrated on each challenge as it comes. We’ve got some old heads in that dressing-room, I hate to call myself one of them but I am, and sometimes we have to rein the younger boys in and remind them every game is important.
“They’ve bought into that mindset now and everyone is pulling in the same direction to get the success we’ve had up to now.
“Everyone else might be more interested in Tuesday’s derby, but there’s no chance of us getting ahead of ourselves. We’ll go in and put in a professional performance.”
That said, however, the fall-out from Sunday’s clash at Tynecastle continues to make waves, Hearts boss Robbie Neilson having accused Bartley and his team-mates of having over-celebrated coming back from two goals down to force a replay thanks to Paul Hanlon’s last-gasp equaliser.
But Bartley countered: “Well, he celebrated when they scored their goal. I saw him lift up his assistant on the touchline, so maybe he should just concentrate on that. If we want to celebrate we will. If he has a problem with it then that’s down to him.
“To be honest, the dressing-room wasn’t that buoyant after the game. We were very unlucky to be 2-0 down because we were the better team and their goals came against the run of play.
“Obviously we were happy to get the replay, but overall I think we should have won the game based on the performance we put in. The boys are level headed, and we set the bar high for ourselves so we were more of a mind that we should have won rather than celebrating the draw.”