By Steffan Garrero and Sean Davies
Born: Merthyr Tydfil
Record: Won 12 (1 KO), Lost 2 (2 KOs)
Welsh boxer Kerry Hope has completed a shock move from the south Wales valleys to Los Angeles. We asked him why he has left the Iron Town of Merthyr for the Californian sunshine...
Q: Most people last saw you fight at Rhydycar Leisure Centre in Merthyr, then your next bout was in California with Golden Boy Promotions. Can you explain to us how that came about?
I made the move out to California after receiving a phone call off Talon Boxing.
The way things were going in the UK it felt like my career was slipping away. In my [last fight in the UK] I lost due to a clash of heads which was unlucky as I was winning the fight up to the stoppage. [I then had] the rematch called off after Taz [Jones] pulled out, plus a series of fights called off last minute thereafter.
So I got to the USA, I spent two weeks training with John [Tandy] and sparring down at Freddie Roach's Wild Card gym and things have been going really well.
[John] has a relationship with a list of promoters here and not long before the fight he met up with two of Golden Boy's matchmakers who said they were going to get me on the show.
Q: After successive defeats in the UK, your US career got off to a winning start against Daniel Stanislavjevic. Tell us about the fight and your performance.
Hope suffered a horrendous cut against Taz Jones in his last UK fight
My career has got off to a perfect start in the US. My last two fights in the UK, one was a case of bad fortune because that's the only way Taz could have beaten me that night and the other [against Matthew Hall] was just complacency and my preparations were poor.
Being 11-0 you sometimes think you're going to be a world beater, but Matthew Hall was a reality check and, fair-do, he's a class fighter and has proved it with what he did to Bradley Pryce in capturing the Commonwealth [light-middleweight title], so it made me realise I need to keep my feet on the ground.
But back to my last fight and US debut, I was honoured to be on a Golden Boy card and Danny S was a tough fight. He didn't stop coming throughout and has fought a lot of high-class opposition so you can look at it as a good win for me on a comeback trail.
Q: Have you made any plans about how long you see your venture in the US lasting?
If all goes well I'm out here until the end of October with the possibility of another two fights before I extend my visa.
I'm out here in November for a possible showdown with former world champion Kassim Ouma then - if that goes well - I can make future plans with regards to the length of time I'll spend in the US. It's definitely something I want to do and hopefully I can continue my career here.
Q: How does a US fight night compare to the experience in the UK? And how were you received by the crowd?
The whole venue was a totally different set-up compared to the likes of the Millennium Stadium or CIA [Cardiff International Arena] back home. It was in the Club Nokia which is more like a nightclub and they had music playing continuously throughout the fight.
The crowd were loving it. I'm never in a dull fight but you could tell they wanted to see a right tear-up with blood everywhere (ha-ha!).
It was good in a way because you had the likes of Bernard Hopkins and Shane Mosley in attendance, I'm sure Oscar [De La Hoya] will be present at future events.
Q: You've fought under Frank Warren's Sports Network Ltd and headlined the first Calzaghe Promotions night. Who's your promotional deal with these days?
Its been great working with Frank Warren at the beginning of my career and headlining the first Calzaghe Promotions.
I am currently without a promotional contract, but as I said John had a relationship with a list of US promoters to get me fights so until the time comes that I get offered a deal that's how it will be for now.
Q: Any ideas about your targets? In the UK the path might be a British title, followed by Commonwealth or European then world. Is there an equivalent pattern in the States?
I'm taking things one step at a time for now, that's been my problem in the past. I need to keep winning and future goals will unfold. It's good to have a target but winning is my main option to reaching that target. Not trying to run before I can walk in a way.
Q: Have you found much knowledge of Wales' great boxing history in America in the States? Do they know the history of your fellow Merthyr man Johnny Owen?
I was at the weigh-in [before the Stanislavjevic fight] and some guy asked me where I was from. I just said 'Wales', then the next words out of his mouth were that he was at the same weight as a guy called Johnny Owen. I didn't mention his name until he said.
But I'm fully aware of the history behind his tragic last fight, being a Merthyr boy. The fight against [Lupe] Pintor took place directly opposite the Club Nokia, so for me it was a bit strange being a superstitious person.
Q: I noticed that James Todd has joined Talon Boxing on a trial. Did you persuade him to make the move?
Record: Won 2, Drawn 1
Toddy is a good friend of mine and we have had a good relationship from our Newbridge days as well as the close relationship I have with Enzo Maccarinelli, another Swansea boy.
I always keep in touch with both so I spoke to James before arriving here, he told me that he was considering throwing in the towel because he didn't know where his future lay in the sport. I just said to him not to be stupid because he's only 21 and he's got a future. I had a word with John and he agreed to having him here on trial. But all is going well, he's enjoying it and it gives me someone to chase when we're on our runs (ha-ha!).
Q: What do you expect to gain out of training with John Tandy and Talon Boxing? How does it compare to the Calzaghe gym?
Hope says training sessions under Enzo Calzaghe were gruelling
With the training in [the Calzaghe gym in] Newbridge it was a case of drilling yourself to the ground every training session and that's not good. You can only burn yourself out. Sometimes it was just heart alone that would get you through your sessions.
Some people think I'm crazy when I tell them what we used to go through. I'm not for one minute putting [former trainer] Enzo [Calzaghe] down because he's a great trainer and a good motivator, but I just felt I needed to make the move for myself. I had too many distractions back in Merthyr and boxing is only a short career.
The training at Talon, however, is second to none. We have a set schedule on a daily basis and everything is done in the Lake Arrowhead mountains over a mile above sea level which is high altitude and I believe it's taken my fitness to another level.
Every training session is one-on-one with John and he's an excellent trainer. We go down to LA for sparring twice a week and everything - including the nutrition provided in camp by his wife Michelle - is all you need to get the best performance out of yourself come fight night.
Q: Did you speak to Enzo Calzaghe about the move? Is everything ok between you and the Calzaghes?
I haven't spoken to Enzo for a while as my phone is cut off here, but I have a lot respect for Enzo. He introduced me into a gym full of champions like Joe [Calzaghe] and Enzo [Maccarinelli] and gave me the opportunity to work with these guys on a daily basis. I looked to them as inspiration to drive my career forward. So I want to keep things amicable with him for all he has done for me.
It was last Thursday that I spoke to one of the Golden Boy guys as I entered the Nokia. He said to me that he had spoken to Joe and he wished me all the best for my fight, so I thank him for that - and I hope he wins Strictly Come Dancing (ha-ha!).
Q: You were thwarted out of an appearance when we were at Madison Square Garden last year [when his opponent failed to make the weight]. How much did that hurt? How do you rate your chances of getting back to boxing's Mecca as the headline act?!
Missing out on a dream fight in Madison Square Garden was a moment in my career that I can't explain but everything happens in life for a reason.
I just hope the opportunity comes about in the future. It's all about winning, I suppose, and I guess the best place I can be right now is the US to help me achieve that.