Ohara Davies on his latest scandal, playing the villain, and leaving his character behind
"People change every day. I came to a point in my life, and my boxing career, where I had changed but I couldn't show that change because everyone expected me to act in a certain way."
By James Dielhenn
Last Updated: 04/01/18 4:06pm
Somewhere beneath Ohara Davies’ flashy sunglasses lies a sensitive soul, writes James Dielhenn, but that has been lost amid volatile outbursts that have reached their crescendo. Rediscovering his true identity will be the biggest challenge of his career so far.
The problem with creating a monster is that you then have to control it. Davies has struggled to separate his brash alter ego from reality, he admits, and gravely misjudged his latest online slanging match resulting in a setback more damaging than the loss of his unbeaten record.
Davies has apologised for being oblivious to the Hillsborough disaster, and its fallout, but has now studied the event after he was accused of insulting its victims during a back-and-forth with Tommy Coyle on social media, culminating in his next bout being cancelled as a punishment. Davies had been baiting Coyle into a fight for weeks, as he has become accustomed to doing, but at some point in the past year the character he created for himself became difficult to discipline.
I felt like it wasn't me anymore. That was a phase that I wanted to leave behind but I felt like I had to keep up my image.
"I feel like I have lost the real me," Davies exclusively told Sky Sports. "Since the build-up to the Josh Taylor fight it hasn't been in me, and I have felt like I needed to act in a certain way.
"The Derry Mathews fight humbled me. Since then, it has all been an act. It has been forced. I meant everything I said in the build-up to fight Mathews but, since then, I have become an act. I haven't meant anything.
"The last time I enjoyed [the act] was before the Mathews fight. Before the Josh Taylor fight I didn't feel like acting arrogant, and people noticed how I didn't say much. I felt like it wasn't me anymore. That was a phase that I wanted to leave behind but I felt like I had to keep up my image.
"Then I didn't want to say the things that I said to Tom Farrell, I wanted to be humble. When I won I didn't say anything."
The confrontational and antagonistic attitude, borne from a disrupted childhood in parts of London that you think twice before visiting, saw Davies angrily confront Floyd Mayweather last year. Some gall for a 25-year-old prospect. Before knocking out Mathews last March, Davies insulted his entire fan base in an explosive Liverpool press conference. His villainous charade then took him to Glasgow where his perfect record was ended by Josh Taylor, a result that is rubbed in Davies' face daily on social media alongside even worse abuse.
Until now, he accepted the rough with the smooth, admitting on Twitter: "My mouth has always been my tool to generate interest and, with a limited amateur career, it got me further than I would ever be by staying silent."
He actively preferred being the bad boy throughout 2017 but the Hillsborough furore that stemmed from his Twitter account has acted as a splash of cold water.
"I was booed for things I intentionally said [last year]," Davies said. "I said certain things to Derry Mathews and I meant them. They booed me because they knew the full intent of what I said. Whenever I have had anything to say, I have said it. But this incident I have not enjoyed because it's not in my character to say these things.
"I will disrespect opponents. I disrespect them physically, I disrespect their fight records, I disrespect their boxing ability, but no way would I ever mock a tragedy. I am outspoken but I know where to draw the line.
"People think they know me, but they don't. People think I'm more arrogant than I actually am. I've never had issues with other fighters in my gym - if I'm the way you perceive me to be, how could I have lasted so long?
"People have tried to paint me as a bad guy but I'm not."
And therein lies the irony - after a year spent as the bad guy, complete with entrance music from wrestling legend The Undertaker, Davies is now backing away from that character after it outgrew him.
"People change every day. I came to a point in my life, and my boxing career, where I had changed but I couldn't show that change because everyone expected me to act in a certain way," he said.
"I had been trying to entertain fans but now it has backfired.
"If I become humble some people will say: 'where is the arrogant Ohara?' But if I continue this act some people will say: 'he hasn't learned from his mistakes'. It's a no-win situation.
"After my fights you have seen the real me, but during the build-ups I have been vain. From now on, you will see the real me. Depending upon what my future holds, the fans will see the real me. The fans might like it or they might not, but it will be real."
Davies received notable support from snooker player Ronnie O'Sullivan to whom he responded. But there will no social media blackout, he confirmed, in the mould of Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton, who deleted his Instagram account this week after causing controversy.
"I've been keeping my head down. Everything is uncertain, I'm not sure what my future holds. Time will tell," Davies said.
"I've been reading about Hillsborough and I respect how hard they fought to get justice.
"I will always be a success in life. I've been in worse situations in my life. I've got through worse, so I can get through this. I will not let this break me."
There is no upcoming fight to prepare for, and at the moment, no gym to attend in the most testing period of Davies' career. It will provide a much-needed opportunity for self-reflection, before he relaunches himself without the shackles of the character he could no longer control.