From speedway protégé to middleweight great: Lee Cutler describes his career in sport…
Few fighters in world boxing can use the word “undefeated” to describe themselves. But Bournemouth’s own Lee Cutler can. Cutler currently holds a 7-0 record, with four of his wins coming by knockout. Despite fighting in a weight class not suited to his size – the middleweight division – the Parkstone resident is ranked No. 13 in the UK. But this is only the beginning. “I’m the youngest in the top 15 and I’ve had the least amount of fights out of the boxers that high. So if I get one more win, I’ll be inside the top 10”.
LIFE AS A DUAL SPORT ATHLETE
Formerly a speedway rider, it’s safe to say that Lee Cutler made the right decision ditching the oval track for a life between the ropes. The transition from speedway to boxing was brave. At the time, Cutler was a highly-regarded speedway prospect at the Under-15 level, after finishing second in several British tournaments and competing against riders who have gone on to race professionally. But speedway wasn’t cheap, and the financial investment was hard to recoup (even for the elite riders). For that reason, he decided to pursue a career in boxing.
“You get out what you put in with boxing, whereas with racing it wasn’t like that,” he explained. “The more money you had, the better you would do. Especially when you got to that top level, it was more about how much money you had than the talent”. He carried on by joking, “All you need to be a boxer is gloves, a skipping rope and a towel”.
Lee had a successful amateur boxing career and started making a name for himself in the sport. However, he just missed out on the 2016 Olympic team as he had a few issues with his weight. His disappointment from being excluded from the GB team fuelled his motivation when he moved to the pros.
“My wins have come in good fashion. I’ve faced some tough lads who either haven’t been stopped, or if they have, I’ve done it quicker than others”. Although he’s thrived in the middleweight division, he believes super-welterweight is where he belongs. “100% I’ll be better at super-welterweight because I’m quite small for a middleweight. I’m still stopping these big lads at middleweight, so I’ll be a lot stronger if I moved to welterweight”.
DESTINED FOR GREATNESS
The 24-year-old idolises Canelo Alverez and aims to replicate his style in every bout. “I’ve always been told that I box a bit like him. When I have a spare five minutes after training, I’ll watch clips of him and what he does. He’s a fighter. He might not be the most technical, but he has a good style and that’s what makes fights”.
It is testament to Cutler’s commitment to the sport and mentality that he wants to improve by watching others. “My coach irons out the problems, but I definitely learn a lot from watching people and start taking little bits from every fighter and add all sorts to my game”. This is a mindset of every top athlete.
The Parkstone ABC representative has sparred with multiple English Champions and household names. Including the likes of Chris Eubank Jr. and Josh Taylor. In these sparring sessions, Cutler held his own and never came away feeling deflated or as though he’d been “battered”. The Bournemouth boxer certainly made an impression with the Eubank corner, as he said he still receives calls from his representatives regarding another sparring session.
“It gave me confidence, because at my level, I should be nowhere near the level he was at. He was IBO World Champion at the time, and I was holding my own with him”.
FEELING THE PRESSURE?
Being in the same ring as these stars taught Cutler a lot but it also played a part in building his confidence. “The main thing I learnt was that it’s just a mental game… You turn up having seen these guys on TV and growing up idolising them, so straight away you’re thinking, ‘I’m not on their level’. It’s a natural reaction.
“But then you start catching them and frustrating them and you think, ‘Is he going easy on me?’ But no… I am just on their level. I was a fan, but now I’m in there for my own reasons. It’s not just to be a punchbag — I’m there to show my stuff”.
Cutler has received great feedback from the coach of former World Heavyweight Champion, David Haye. As well as the coach of former super-middleweight World Champion, George Groves.
Alongside Chris Billam-Smith – who himself boasts a 10-1 record in the cruiserweight division – Lee Cutler is a flag bearer for the Bournemouth boxing scene. But he doesn’t feel pressure just yet. “The only pressure I feel is being a full-time fighter. I have a lot of sponsors and I want to perform for them. Next year, when I get on some TV shows, then the pressure might be on”.
After climbing the amateur ranks together, the pair have established themselves as formidable opponents in their respective divisions at the professional level. Cutler reflected on the early days of their career. “When we were doing it, boxing wasn’t as big as it is now [in the Bournemouth area]. There must be over ten boxing gyms around. But when we were fighting in the amateurs it was just Poole ABC and Bournemouth ABC”.
Billam-Smith is six years Cutler’s senior, and despite both having completely different styles, Cutler was able to learn from his elder statesman. “I learned a lot from his mindset. We would both go running on Saturday mornings and talk about boxing. I’d pick up little things from watching him on the bags and then I would try that”.
A TITLE IN 2021?
Cutler has his eyes set on 2021 and the boxing world is anticipating a breakout year for the 24-year-old. As for his next opponent, it’s still unclear who that will be. However, the Bournemouth boxer relishes the challenge of facing a high-ranked super-welterweight. “If I get the right fight now, especially against a super-welterweight, I’m ready to go. I’ll take any of those fights now”.
However Cutler knows this is unlikely, as he described his situation as “being in no man’s land”.
“I’m not a big enough name for these lads to fight me, but I’m also too big a risk for them to take me on”. Boxers in the top 10 are wary of fighting a relatively-unknown quantity like Cutler, who has an impressive winning record. The risk of tainting their reputation with a ‘shock loss’ outweighs the reward of beating an up-and-coming fighter.
Having sat on the sidelines for most of 2020, Cutler is eager to get back into the ring. In 2021 he hopes to be crowned Southern Champion. “I should pick up a southern area title fairly easily — I know I’m better than all of them. When I’ve defended that, I can move onto the English title, towards the backend of next year”.
With only seven professional fights under his belt, Lee knows how important it is for him to get experience. “I want to focus on getting some ten-round experience, because I’ve only gone past six rounds once. When I’m around the ten-fight mark, I can focus on the big boys like Cheeseman, Eggington, Sheeraz… I wouldn’t mind having the opportunity to fight any of those boys”.
As for his long-term goal, “the British title is definitely my first major goal and when I’ve won that, it’s anything from there. Shoot for the stars and if I’m anywhere amongst them, I’ll be happy”.
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