Tim Rickson reports…
- Basildon boxer calls time on a remarkable pro career
- Competed in three different weight divisions, dropping down each time
- Took an eight-rounder in just his third pro fight
- International Challenge Belt winner at Super-Middleweight
- Three title fights in six contests
When a 28-year-old Paul Hilz walked into Southend Boxing Club, he wouldn’t have guessed that seven years later he would be retiring from a remarkable professional boxing career.
He also wouldn’t have believed that he would experience 14 unlicensed fights, losing just one, and lifting two Cruiserweight titles before going on to signing a professional contract and competing in three title fights.
It was after a second-round stoppage defeat to Birmingham’s unbeaten Middleweight prospect Tom Stokes on May 12th that prompted the decision to close the curtains on an unbelievable career.
The father of four from Romford travelled to Birmingham on May 12th to fight in the away corner against top prospect Stokes (9-0).
It was Hilz’s first bout at middleweight and first fight away from home, up against the youngest and best fighter he had ever faced. Ultimately, it resulted in the first stoppage loss in his career, also.
Post-fight, Hilz called time on an extraordinary boxing career that saw him have 20 fights in total, winning 15 bouts and collecting three belts along the way.
What’s most astonishing of all is that Hilz first stepped foot in a boxing gym when he was eight-years-old and a bloody nose put him off for life. It ended up not quite being for life as, 20 years later, he went back again and the rest is history.
After a successful stint in the thriving Essex unlicensed boxing scene, Hilz signed pro contracts with promoter Carl Greaves and, when first up in front of the British Boxing Board of Control, he was initially refused a boxing license but wouldn’t give up and finally made his long-awaited debut in November 2014.
30 months on, Hilz explained his reasons for walking away, “These boys coming up are always younger so I’m going against the grain and the pro game is all about levels, it really is, it’s all being well having plenty of fight in there but when someone comes at you throwing shots that are a third quicker and sharper than yours.
“Stokes was the youngest boy I ever fought and I felt it. It’s all being well trying to catch them with that one big shot but he’s quick with good reactions and he’s not gonna want to get caught.
“There’s nothing else I can do in my career, I’ve already exceeded my expectations. I can’t better myself in any way so anything I do will only be a backwards step; I’ve pretty much done all I can do.
“I couldn’t go out as an away fighter and just stay safe, it’s not me, I’ve got too much pride and I just couldn’t do it.
“I know I can’t cut it with these rising prospects and I’m not going to be a stepping stone for these young lads.
“I’d be living the life but not living the dream.”
Hilz could easily return to the Grays Civic Hall – a fortress to his army of boxing fans – where he had five of his six professional fights but that’s something that he also doesn’t wish to do anymore.
He enlightened, “My manager Carl Greaves could have got me a half-decent opponent to fight against at home but I never wanted to be a boxer that takes people’s money to pump up my ego.
“I’m gutted, devastated, could sob my heart out for days but it’s not worth risking my health. It’s not right. I’ve only got one brain, one set of eyes.”
The reaction to Hilz’s defeat and subsequent departure has caused a flood of incoming messages from family, friends and fans.
“Lots of people have messaged me and said I’m an inspiration to them and it’s been overwhelming,” he said. “To think they look at me and get some form of inspiration is something else.”
Looking back on a career that spanned four years in the unlicensed and two-and-a-half years in the pros, Hilz listed his personal highlights, “I know it sounds silly but when I look back at my boxing career, my highlight would be the experience that I just had – fighting away in Birmingham.
“Obviously, there’s the things that look good on paper like winning the International Challenge belt but that experience was great, the whole set up was just something else – massive changing room, headlining the show and treated like a star, and it just felt big and professional.
“The weigh-in was at the Barclaycard Arena along with the Sky Sports show and the headliner Kal Yafai comes up and gives me a big man-hug with his world title on his shoulder and wished me luck.
“It just felt crazy weighing in at Barclaycard Arena with World champions and Sky Sports there.”
Hilz may be retiring from competing in professional boxing but he has no immediate plans to walk away from the sport that he loves.
“Because I’ve got a gym, nutrition and recovery all backing me, I’m keeping them all on as sponsors and going to set up a programme where I can train fighters. I’m gonna get my seconds license as well so I can help Kev in the corner whenever he needs it.
“I’ve come down from 18st 4lbs and fought in three different weight divisions. I can teach people how to get conditioned. I’m very headstrong and believe in mind over matter so I think I can help with the mental side of things as well.”
Hilz came into boxing at an advanced age but still manage to achieve the impossible during the short time he had and, fortunately, his inspiration will continue to live on from the other side of the ropes.