Conisbrough's Joe Hayden set for professional boxing debut after switch from football
Footballer-turned-boxer Joe Hayden will make his professional debut in the ring on Friday night.
The 22-year-old, from Conisbrough, will face Russian fighter Evgenii Vazem at the Magna Centre as part of GBM Sports’ latest fight night.
Hayden played for Maltby Main and Frickley Athletic as a teenager and the defender also had a loan spell at Rossington Main.
But he switched sports after joining ‘White Rhino’ Dave Allen’s stable of up-and-coming fighters.
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“I’m absolutely buzzing for it because I know how hard I’ve been training and that I’ve done everything properly to a tee,” said Hayden. “I feel ready so I’m excited.
“I’m coming up against a tough fighter. I’ve been watching a few of his fights on YouTube so I know what to expect.
"I was doing well with the football but I had a bad injury – I dislocated my knee – and I struggled to get back into it after that,” he explained.
“Boxing was always my second sport growing up as a kid. I always played football and then in the off-season I’d go to the boxing gym.
“Football came first but after the injury I switched round and took the boxing more serious. Now I’m fully focused on the boxing.
“I’ve always been a big team player and obviously I’m on my own now in the ring but we’ve turned it into a team sport. With myself, Dave and the other lads it’s a real team unit and we push each other on.”
Hayden lost his first amateur fight at the age of 18 but won four contests last year after linking up with heavyweight star Allen.
“It’s been class working with Dave,” he said. “We’ve got a good relationship – a good balance between friendship and work. We’ve got that instant switch from having a bit craic with each other and then when we go to work we put our serious heads on.
“I think it was just after the first lockdown when I started working with Dave and we’ve been training pretty much every day since.
“It didn’t quite work out with the amateurs due to people pulling out and fights not happening so we decided to go for the pros. Why not? I’m ready for it.
“I had five amateur fights which is not a lot at all but where I’m lacking in experience I’ve made up for with time in the gym and sparring.”
Hayden’s career may have taken a very different turn if it wasn't for boxing.
He still works as a nursing assistant at Rampton Hospital, a high security psychiatric hospital in Retford, but has reduced his hours to focus on his future in the ring.
“It’s a good job and I did really enjoy it,” said Hayden.
“I would stick to it and go down the nursing route and go to university and study to be a registered nurse if things didn’t work out with the boxing but I’ve got to take this opportunity with the boxing and I’ve got to make sacrifices.
“It’s always there as a back-up if needs be but I’m fully focused on the boxing.
“I feel like it’s given me confidence,” he added. “You’re looking after people and you have to be a bit authoritative.
“Before that I was a bit of a shy lad and I didn’t want to tell people what to do. Being in a job like that, and having to express myself differently, it’s definitely helped me out with my character.”