Upton brothers mark arrival as Sonny debuts for Ricky Hatton

Upton brothers mark arrival as Sonny debuts for Ricky Hatton

A PLASTIC stacking chair crashes to the ground and startles the home dressing room inside the York Hall, Bethnal Green.

Anthony Upton Junior glances over his left shoulder to see who or what is responsible for the noise. Behind, a boxing trainer places his hand on the shoulder of the fighter who moments earlier was counted out.

“It shouldn’t f**king happen,” shouts the boxer, picking the chair up and slamming it legs first onto the tiled floor. “It shouldn’t,” says the trainer after a pause. “But this is boxing.”

Anthony Upton turns away and continues to fidget, shifting his weight from foot-to-foot. His hands have already been taped in readiness for his debut fight as a professional, so Paul, his brother, lifts a water bottle to the fighter’s mouth.

Paul Upton wears some slight puffiness around his left eye – the only evidence from his second fight as a professional which took place less than 30 minutes previous. Then, the 25 year old recorded his second victory against Duane Green.


Watching closely, Sonny Upton leans back against the radiator in the dressing room. A year younger than Paul at 24 and three years older than Anthony Jnr , Sonny is trained by Ricky Hatton in Manchester and scheduled to make his debut in Bulgaria on November 16th (Saturday night on Box Nation).

“I’m up there with Ryan Burnett from Belfast (Youth Olympic Champion 2010),” he says. “Just blessed to be there, grateful to be there.”

It feels like a long way from the Liberties in Dublin to here but the way so far has been an easy choice. Boxing is in the Upton’s blood. Their Granddad recorded more than 200 bouts as an amateur and boxed for Ireland, just like some of his grandsons.

Pauly, Anthony Jnr and Sonny Upton Pauly, Anthony Jnr and Sonny Upton

There is more to their talents than genetics. Connections with Dublin were severed through the brother’s early years and they grew up near West Ham watching and wondering at local boxers like Kevin Mitchell and Colin Lynes. When they returned to Ireland they continued to learn their trade with the Westside Gym.

The weekends would roll around and they’d stretch their legs at the National Stadium on Dublin’s South Circular Road, faint, jab, evade and more often than not win.


Sonny is reminded of a night he fought Glen Murray from the famous St Saviours club, when he delivered a display of trickery, skill and ring craft that stunk of showmanship; that suggested a professional future.

Now he’s training with Hatton, drinking coffee in Hatton’s house, running with Ryan Burnett, soon set to be dancing around the ring in Bulgaria.

It’s been an apprenticeship for the brothers to get here. From the Westside gym in Dublin, they moved to Belfast to train with the famed Holy Family club under the tutelage of Gerry Storey.

“It was like a cauldron in that gym,” says Sonny, keeping one eye on his brother. “So small and busy with boxers, everyone’s body heat from training so hard. The heat was intense.”

But it wasn’t enough. Frustrated by judging decisions, Paul Upton returned home one evening and told his younger brothers that he was going to turn PRO.

There was interest from Johnny Eames in the TKO Gym, a gritty pugilistic trade centre in Canning Town. Anthony Jnr would follow, with Sonny making a lone break for Manchester once the collective decision to fight for a living was made good with their father.

Sonny will box in Bulgaria this weekend Sonny will box in Bulgaria this weekend

“He’d always back us,” says Anthony later. “There hardest thing for us was that we were going to be split up.”

Anthony Upton is stood in the ring now, his nervousness masked by a relaxed swagger. Between the ropes, beside him, stands his father, Sonny and Paul, two of his four brothers.

He coasts it, winning every round combining neat work with superior speed.

“That’s my trick; I make everyone think that I’m scared,” he laughs, in the dressing room afterwards “I didn’t want to show him that I was scared. I was nervous but I didn’t want to show him I was nervous. The fight was brilliant. I thought I done everything to plan. I boxed him well.

“My left hook is my signature shot. I couldn’t really get it off and when I did get it off I was in close. When I caught him he kind of backed off a bit.”

The three brothers are sat on a small couch inside the dressing room, wearing their sponsors T-shirts. They form an easy collective, masters of the same trade at different weights.


“Why did I turn PRO,” asks Anthony Junior in answer to the question. “It was my girlfriend, she wanted the money,” he jokes.

He explains how their father has taken a load of their shoulders through his commitment to sell tickets for their fights - a necessary part of life for all new professional and something that has shortened the career of fighters with real potential.

“Who the best of us,” asks Anthony again. “That man over there is,” he points to his father who is stood at the back of the dressingroom listening to the interview.

“Because without him,we wouldn’t be able to do it.”