Holding a perfect record through seven professional fights, Nathan Watson [7(2)-0] is definitely not short of motivation.
The Belfast-born Queenslander has shown a high level of boxing acumen since making his debut in 2019, skills that have him eyeing the sport’s greatest heights.
It is not the climb towards title belts that has the 25-year-old fired up ahead of his upcoming bout on July 9 though. Nor is the fact that opponent Fano Kori (8-5-1, 5 KOs) will be, on paper, his toughest challenge to date.
Instead, there will be a certain reminder of home that will serve to inspire Watson on to victory on the night.
“A couple of family members are coming over for it – my Mum, Dad and brother,” he told The Inner Sanctum.
“[It’s the] first time I’ll be seeing them in over three years. That’ll be good. I’m pretty excited to see them.
“This’ll be their first time seeing me box live as a professional. They’ve seen me box as an amateur plenty of times and they’ve gotten to watch on TV.
“They’ll be there ringside and that will be something special.
While this ringside reunion will almost certainly form a sentimental memory, Watson admits there were times in which he doubted that his career trajectory would even carry him to such a moment.
Having left the familiar confines of his home city’s Saints Boxing Club for a contract with Brisbane’s Fortitude Boxing Gym, the Irishman’s desire to spread his wings soon hit unexpected speedbumps despite a strong start.
Not long after stopping Michael Dan (3-25-1, 1 KO) in his first fight ‘Down Under,’ the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a halt to a promoter’s ability to run shows. A less than ideal situation for a hungry young fighter looking to make a name for themself.
On top of this, a severe ankle injury caused further headaches and interrupted progress.
In all, Watson spent a year on the sidelines as a result. Even worse, he was left questioning whether uprooting his entire life was truly worth it.
“I’m still a Belfast boy,” Watson proudly stated.
“But I just didn’t imagine or visualise myself and my girlfriend keeping our lives there.
“I thought to myself, ‘if there was a good time to turn pro and try and see if we could make a life and future for it, now’s the time.’
“When COVID hit, there was just no end goal. No fight dates confirmed, so we didn’t know and were just stuttering along.
“Then I ended up injuring myself, doing grade two ligament damage in my ankle, so I was out for a couple of months.”
To make matters worse, Watson’s troubles were further compounded when, at the height of his challenges, he mutually parted ways from the Fortitude team.
This itself became a source of frustration, given the Super Welterweight had turned down previous offers from home and Canada. With these virtually off the table, the choice to return to the ‘Emerald Isle’ was a foregone conclusion.
Or so it seemed.
As the old saying goes, ‘when one door closes, another one opens.’ In Watson’s case, this played out through a chance meeting with another head coach in ‘the River City.’
After two weeks of growing pains with United Fight Team’s John Bastable, the duo have not taken a backward step.
“We were actually on the verge. My girlfriend and I were about to jump ship back home,” Watson recalled.
“We thought, ‘we had a crack, we’ve been here for two years and had one fight. It’s not working out.’
“Then John Bastable reached out to me just as we were about to make up our minds about whether we were going to go home or travel around Australia to see a bit before we went back home.
“He put it to me straight. He said, ‘listen, if I don’t like you and I don’t think we’re going to gel well together, I’ll just tell you and you can be on your way.’
“It’s all well and good to say you like a fighter, you want a fighter to box for you, but it’s having that fighter that you click with.
“You don’t want to waste the fighter’s time, you don’t want to waste the coach’s time.
“But we’ve clicked well together, we get on well and six fights later, we’re still undefeated together.”
With a strong support network sitting in his corner, Watson believes he is now in a position to map out his in-ring future.
Although it will be the presence of his family that stokes the internal flame for the July 9 bout, there has not been any ignorance shown towards goal setting.
Here, ascending through the international ranks of the division sits top of the agenda.
“My goal is to get those regional belts. You want to start to climb up and try to get into the regional and World rankings,” Watson said.
“I want to push onto the regional stages and start getting ranked and have an international fight soon.
That is not to say that there is an oversight of the aforementioned Fano Kori’s ability, or that he is looking past his opponent. Rather, there is full awareness of the hard-hitting challenge he is presented with.
The Perth-based, Sudanese-born fighter has only lost to the best competition Australia has to offer, such as Cesar Mateo Tapia (14-0, 9 KOs), Koen Mazoudier (10-2, 4 KOs), and Ben Mahoney (12-0, 6 KOs).
A Watson win then, would serve as further evidence of his growing reputation as one of the nation’s rising prospects in the weight class.
“I’d say he’ll be ready to go and I’d say he’s going to want to come out and try and prove a point. He’ll want to come up and burst that bubble,” Watson concluded.
“It was a good pick from the team. I trust my team in the way they’re bringing me up.
“Fano’s had a bit of an amateur career and he’s only lost to the top boys of the division in the professional game.
“It’s a good step up.”
Nathan Watson vs Fano Kori forms part of ACE Boxing Group’s July 9 card and will air live on BEIN sports and Fox/Kayo.