DISILLUSIONED and frustrated, Joel McIntyre stood on the brink of walking away from boxing.
Frozen out of the title picture and with nowhere left to turn, the Leigh Park light-heavyweight’s career had hurtled into a brick wall.
The year which the 28-year-old believed would be his breakthrough was suddenly set to be his last in the hardest of sports.
Managerial issues and the labyrinth mechanics of boxing had taken McIntyre to a place where he’d had enough.
‘It had got to the stage where I thought I’d just have to give up,’ McIntyre said, as he reflected on a testing period.
‘I was drifting. I got to the point where I was considering retirement and what else can I do?
‘What else could I do with my life? It wasn’t working.
‘I had good things in mind at the start of last year with a new manager. I had high hopes.
‘But things went slowly and carried on that way. I felt I was going nowhere.
‘I’ve been a bit slack at times in the past, I admit that.
‘It is what you create. But when there’s not been a lot staring in my face I’ve thought, sod it, I’ll just go and get boozy.
‘Then the management issues came up and that was a bit of a nightmare sorting it out.
‘My sponsor has been behind me, though, telling me to stick at it.
Luckily, the management got sorted and, from there, it was all go.
‘Now I’ve got the motivation to be professional.’
December 10, 2016, was the evening it all changed for McIntyre in the uncelebrated boxing venue of Liquid nightclub, Portsmouth.
Madison Square Garden it ain’t, but it provided the setting for a night the 15-1 man will never forget.
It was there the former Bourne Community College student settled the score with old foe Miles Shinkwin.
And, after being forced to wait 29 months for the opportunity, it was on home soil he made good on the most emotional of conversations with his dying boxing inspiration.
McIntyre had gone into the contest mourning for his grandad and father figure, Albert Williams.
He’d buried the man who’d fired his boxing passion nine days before he stepped into the ring with the rival who’d defeated him on points for the Southern Area title in 2014.
McIntyre told his idol he’d succeeded in becoming English champion in his final days – a move which he believes put the former Wecock ABC trainer at peace.
Then came the crowning night when Shinkwin was floored on the way to a defeat showcasing all of McIntyre’s potential, a contest rightly placed on the fight-of-the-year shortlist.
‘It was a good night,’ said the John Murray-trained boxer, as he succinctly worded a career high.
‘He was moaning about the venue and the abuse he got – but he did come to the weigh-in wearing a Southampton shirt! It’s not surprising he got stick!
‘I said to my grandad I’d won the title before he died, so I was never going to let him down. He was the reason I got into boxing. He was a fan.
‘When I was younger all I was interested in was WWF wrestling. I used to watch the big fights, though, with him like Calzaghe, Bruno and Hamed. He was a massive influence.
‘I have a great relationship with my dad now, but didn’t so much when I was younger.
‘So my grandad was my father figure, a hard man, and someone I looked up to.’
Although not possessing a big knockout record, the Shinkwin win offered evidence of fast-improving strength as McIntyre reaches his boxing maturity.
He now has it all to look forward to as he bids to re-establish Portsmouth in the professional boxing mainstream.
That’s a far cry from a troubled childhood which saw McIntyre lurch the wrong side of the tracks.
The noble art, however, once again proved the salvation of a lost soul.
‘I was getting into all kinds of trouble,’ McIntyre admitted.
‘I’d been chucked out of school, I was hanging around doing nothing and everyone was on my case to do something.
‘I was going out a lot at weekends and fighting. I was knocking grown men out, left, right and centre. It was happening every weekend at one point.
‘I was causing my mum so much heartache and grief. It was terrible, really.
‘Eventually, my sister put me on a gas course. I met this lad on the course – he told me he was a boxer, and, with what I was doing, I should go along because it would help me.
‘He said I was knocking people out all over the place on the street, so I should go do it in the ring! That was how it started.’
McIntyre’s path took him hurtling towards the professional ranks after just 12 amateur contests.
That arrived in 2010, with the Steve Goodwin-promoted man embarking on a 16-fight career which has married undoubted potential with a tendency to coast at times.
The English title marked his graduation, however, and the challenge now is to deliver the British title this year.
In terms of prestige, there is little comparison between the belt McIntyre now wears and the strap in his sights.
Randolph Turpin, Chris Finnegan, John Conteh, Nathan Cleverly and our own Tony Oakey are just a few boxing heroes to have lifted it.
Now McIntyre bids to tread the same exalted path – with the dream to bring it back to a Fratton Park homecoming.
‘It would be amazing - tell me that wouldn’t be something,’ McIntyre smiled at the prospect of walking out at Pompey’s home.
‘My aim was the Southern Area before the end of the year.
‘I’ve gone beyond that. Now my aim for 2017 is the British title before the end of this year.
‘If I have to go on the road to win the British title, I’ll do it. I was prepared to do that for the English title, if necessary.
‘Every fight now is going to be life or death now. It’s do or die.
‘I want the British title, then to defend it on the pitch at Fratton Park – and I truly believe it can happen.’
Joel McIntyre on...
... A winning team
I’ve got a team around me I trust now.
I felt stuck with my old promoter (Mickey Helliet). I said I wasn’t going where I wanted and wanted my contract back. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but wanted my contract back to be able to make my own decisions.
I spoke to John (Murray) for advice and he mentioned Steve Goodwin, but my trainer at the time, Harry Andrews, was with Mickey so I knew it’d be difficult. Eventually, it worked out. I was talking to John for advice all the time so I went to him and he agreed to it. Then Steve Goodwin came up around May and we sorted it out.
I was supposed to be mandatory for the Southern Area title when I was with Mickey but I got frozen out.
I went into Steve’s office and the first thing he did was apologise for freezing me out!
He just told me he didn’t want me fighting his man and the other guy didn’t want to fight me (for the vacant title), so they put up more money to fight his man for the title. That’s what can happen.
He spoke honestly, apologised and said it’s just business. I understood that.
Straightaway you realise this fella knows what he’s doing. He came with a few ideas as well as John and it went from there.
The British title is the aim moving forward now.
It’s not going to happen immediately because (current title-holder) Frank Buglioni’s manager is my manager and he doesn’t want it until it makes business sense.
The rules are they get a voluntary defence, but if it’s made it’s made and I’d have to do it.
I’m willing to, and it would be an exciting fight if it was made. Frank’s a good friend but that does happen – it would be an interesting fight.
We know each other really well and it’s a fight I believe I could win.
So it’s going to be a (English title) defence to begin with, and there could be that derby with (Southampton’s) Chris Hobbs at some stage moving forward.
As far as profile building, my team think it can help me – but I need to defend the title within six months.
My team want it to happen and I don’t do a great deal of the thinking. I just have a team I trust.
Miles wants a third fight and said we’ve promised him it.
He hasn’t got anywhere to go, but I had to wait two-and-a-half years for my rematch.
I’d love to do it again, but if he has to wait he has to wait. I’d love to do it again, make it a trilogy and mop it up. I really would.
That picture is brutal (of a fierce body shot by McIntyre in their last contest). Cor!
Everyone says they are TV-worthy fights. Maybe there is situations with promoters, but a third fight would be brilliant.
There’s been a rivalry between us and words said in the past.
I can’t help but like the geezer really, though.
He’s as hard as nails. He’s a hard man.
The boxing business
It’s risky in this game.
If I lose I will be out of it.
I’m not the biggest draw locally and will not sell huge amounts of tickets, even if people now are starting to know me.
For someone like me who’s a dangerous prospect to take on a loss is a chance to get rid of me.
It’s a horrible business. A cut-throat business.
That’s the way it is.
I’m not blind to that, but it’s the sort of thing which spurs me on.
It’s been up and down my career. It was a slow start, but a hopeful start last year. Then it was going nowhere before the high at the end. I’ve surpassed my aims, so who knows what could happen this year?