“I’m not perfect, but I’m trying.” The words Anthony Joshua chose to describe his 11th round stoppage of Wladimir Klitschko, and a mantra Barrhead boxer Gary Rae is all too familiar with.
Joshua became the unified heavyweight champion of the world after an epic battle against the man who ruled the division for an 11-year stretch in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium last month.
Both boxers suffered knockdowns in a bout which will go down in history after it lived up to the manic pre-fight hype. Joshua put Klitschko down in the fifth before being sent to the canvas by the Ukranian in the sixth. The 27-year-old’s legs did an impression of a drunk in the midst of a three-day bender when he got to his feet and he looked set to be beaten for the first time in his pro career.
But he battled through before coming out firing with an 11th-round blitz which the 41-year-old was powerless to fend off.
Gary Rae watched back in Barrhead with his mouth wide, stunned at the Olympic champion’s powers of recovery.
Although competing at totally different ends of the boxing spectrum, Rae has more in common with the heavyweight superstar than you might think. There is a little under a year between them in age, both have perfect pro records, albeit Rae has 16 fewer wins and his three victories have come against far more modest opposition.
Those are somewhat loose links to say the least, but both boxers came back from the first knockdowns in their careers in their last fights to win.
Rae was put down by Simas Volosinas in March. That was a sign of what the Barrhead man already knew, he is far from perfect, but he says he won’t stop trying to get close in an attempt to climb the boxing ladder.
He said: “I thought it would be Joshua early or Klitschko late, I never imagined Joshua would be able to take him out in the 11th.
“It was as if something happened in the corner, but he came out like a man possessed in the 11th and he caught him clean, you could see the finish was on right there.
“Joshua looked gone in the sixth and the seventh round. I know it’s a totally different level, but I was really proud of him for getting up off the canvas to win, that’s what I had to do in my last fight.
“It was great to see, he said ‘I’m not perfect but I’m trying’, that’s a great attitude from someone at that level and really inspiring.
“Anthony Joshua seems to capture a whole different audience and he’s putting boxing in a better light, that can only reflect down the line to people like myself.
“It’s not just hardcore boxing fans, it’s mums and dad and more crossover fans into the sport.”
Rae is set for his fourth pro fight on June 3 at the Lagoon Centre in Paisley and has another bout pencilled in for September.
He is under no illusions about his next target. He has a title shot firmly in his sights.
He added: “It’s gone to plan so far really. I said I wanted seven fights in the first year and with these two and hopefully one before Christmas that’ll take me to six, I’d be happy with that because that’s a good, busy year.
“I know where I’m at but I feel I’ve made a good start in the pros.
“I would expect to have a couple of fights early next year, maybe with a couple of six or eight rounders. After that I’d be looking for a shot at a Scottish title or a British Challenge title, something to get my name on that ladder.
“After that people around England might look at me for a possible opponent for somebody at the British title level.”