Ruiz Jr vs Joshua 2: Tom Little vows to topple world amateur champion
Ring walks at 8.45pm on Saturday for Ruiz Jr vs Joshua 2, live on Sky Sports Box Office
By Shaun Brown
Last Updated: 05/12/19 9:30pm
Tom Little's boxing journey began as a referee. It then took him to a nightclub in Luton for his professional debut and eight years later, he now finds himself in Saudi Arabia fighting on one of the biggest boxing cards in recent years.
His role as a 'referee' is a reference to his traveller background where a member of their community is called in to enforce a strict set of rules between two men who settle their disputes with their fists. Little wasn't there to fight, he was there to lay down the law but instead found himself on the receiving end.
"I got set upon by two lads," Little recalled to Sky Sports days before his fight against former amateur starlet Mahammadrasul Majidov on the same bill as Anthony Joshua's rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Box Office.
"They set upon me and I felt myself getting out of wind. I was getting out of puff. They did what they did but in our culture you do the right thing, so you've got to come out and have a fair go. In the end, the lads didn't want any of it."
The Hertfordshire heavyweight decided to get fit and was spotted in a gym by former British lightweight champion Graham Earl, who told him to forget the nonsense of fighting on the streets and to do something with the skills he possessed.
Seventeen fights on and Little has found himself boxing in Latvia, the York Hall and the O2 Arena, taking on some of the best heavyweight prospects around and the hardest hitting. Now the spotlight shines on him on the grandest stage of 2019.
I do think I'll catch him. I know he can be hurt. I won't be shy to let my hands go.
"From what I can see movement is his kryptonite," said Little while assessing his opponent, who made his professional debut in September.
"I do think I'll catch him. I know he can be hurt. I won't be shy to let my hands go. Anybody that knows me knows I've got a heart the size of Hertfordshire. He's got no hope of me quitting when things go tough or against my plan."
Little's career saw him test himself against the likes of David Price, Daniel Dubois and Filip Hrgovic in 2018, while his sparring travels have seen him trade leather with the likes of Joshua and Dillian Whyte.
"I've had the best sparring the boxing world can offer," he beamed.
"The way I look at anybody is they've got two arms, two legs, one head. I make myself a sponge. I've been around them a lot and acquitted myself very, very well in all my spars. They've actually been shocked by my boxing intelligence."
🗣"I spent six months in the gym and that's why you see a boxer's lean physique." 💪— Sky Sports Boxing (@SkySportsBoxing) December 4, 2019
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Little admits that boxing saved his life. His job of fighting for money is to ensure that his children don't have to. His words as a father and a fighter are a mirror image of themselves. Everything is from the heart, whether it's on how he performs in a fight or how he assesses himself as a parent.
"The whole reason I do what I do is so my little boy and my little girls never have to take a smack in the mouth in their life," he says. "I just want them to be comfortable.
"If my little boy has never got to do some of the stuff I've done growing up, then that means I've done well as a father. It would break my heart if my little boy was running about doing stuff I used to do. That would mean I failed as a father. I just want security for my kids."
Little firmly believes that he can challenge for British or European honours in the future and is desperate to prove that belief, not just to himself but to those that disagree as well.
First up though is the task of Majidov and a chance for him to change his life and become an overnight name in the heavyweight division.
"I know I'm in there with a puncher and I know at certain times in this fight things are going to get really hard for me but I know I'll see it through the other side. There's no other way but a victory for me," Little declared.
"I like being in good fights, I like being in big fights. People look at my record and sigh. I take fights that a lot of people wouldn't take.
"If I do lose a fight then at least I'll be able to sit down when I'm done and tell my kids my record wasn't perfect but I fought everyone and I never turned down a fight in my life."
Watch Ruiz Jr vs Joshua 2 on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Box Office, from 5pm. Book it via your Sky remote or book it online here. Even if you aren't a Sky TV subscriber you can book and watch it here.