The 26-27 bus route through Liverpool is arguably the region’s most notorious journey. Commencing and ending at the city’s bus terminal, the voyage takes in the most deprived parts of Merseyside, both north and south, transferring its passengers from one hostile area to another.
Commuters can witness the cosmopolitanism of Toxteth, a section of Liverpool battered and bruised from riots in 1981, and then again thirty years later, before continuing along Sheil Road, a mile-long stretch of concrete where drug fiends and prostitutes operate on a 24-7 basis, providing a harrowing backdrop that would require a dozen Travis Bickles for a thorough cleanse. Liverpool’s iconic Anfield Stadium is up next, towering above terraced houses in a proud working-class community, and then along Scotland Road before arriving back at the voyage’s genesis.
Tony Bellew boarded the bus nightly as a teenager finding his way in a sport that would ultimately grant him a cluster of honors as he regularly crossed the divide from his Smithdown Road home four miles across the city to Rotunda ABC. With the former world champion now comfortably retired, a wealth of Liverpool prospects possess dreams of emulating “Bomber,” and one of those knows that bus trip as well as anyone.
Meshech Speare has been around boxing for as long as his memory allows him to reminisce. A mature youngster with noticeable advantages in strength and power, Speare’s upbringing in Liverpool’s L8 community inevitably brought his fighting prowess to the Golden Gloves gym, a short walk from his childhood home. There, Speare, surrounded by a decorated squad of talented fighters, including future Olympian Anthony Fowler and Jazza Dickens, a world title challenger, demonstrated a natural talent for his beloved pastime. Despite receiving an adequate apprenticeship, Speare decided that he needed a change and new surroundings. He crossed the city all the way to Everton’s Red Triangle base.
“I had to go there to become a better fighter,” recalls Speare, now tutored by Derry Mathews and Merseyside’s boxing godfather, Georgie Vaughan. “I’d get the bus on the odd occasion there, but I’d also run there some nights as it was a good little distance that got me plenty of miles each week. I’d have a big rucksack on with all my gear in, run the ERT, train with the lads for a few hours, and then I’d run home. I’m laughing now thinking about such a routine, but it didn’t bother me as a kid as I saw it as just putting miles away to help me with my boxing.”
With a plan forged to make boxing the focal point of his adolescence, Speare’s strategy was somewhat diverted when he became a father at the age of fifteen. By his own admission a troubled youth, Speare’s time split between the gym and streets provided contrasting results as national titles alternated with gang problems—where the consequences could’ve been fatal. With the birth of his first daughter, Speare knew in which direction he had to go.
“Being a fighter was what I always wanted to do from an early age, and I was in the gym at eight years of age impressing my coaches. It was what went on outside the gym that was the problem. I wasn’t one of these kids who’d carry a knife or gun because I could fight, and I believed in myself. Toxteth was a rough environment growing up, and they say that you become a product of your environment and that was me as a teenager. Having a baby at that age wasn’t what I had in mind when I was fifteen, but you have to react to it, and that was an eye-opener for me. I knew at that moment I had to give boxing all I could.
“Here I was, a lad who was just used to going the gym some nights and then hanging around the streets at other times until all hours, and then, all of a sudden, I’m going to be a dad. There’s literally no preparing for it. You have to adjust straightaway and do whatever you can. It’s not like you can carry on what you’ve been doing and be a father when you feel like. The moment I found out was when shit got real for me, but it was the wake-up call I needed as I have no idea how my life might’ve turned out.”
Speare’s street education, a valuable commodity in some quarters, offered no platform for a prosperous future, but his constant journeys to Paul Stevenson’s Red Triangle gym brought numerous opportunities for personal and professional growth. He launched his paid career in 2017 with a dominant decision win over Luke Fash down the road from Liverpool in nearby Manchester. Amateur gongs, widely tipped for Speare, were neglected in favor of pro purses, and the decision to disregard his vest was a straightforward one that has so far been justified.
“It would’ve been okay to get more amateur titles, and they give you a little bit more pull when you turn over, but being a pro fighter is what I’ve always wanted to be, and everyone knows there’s a lot of politics in amateur boxing, so I just wanted to push on with fighting pro. Turning over at the ERT was an easy choice for me, and I had some good nights there with the lads, but sometimes you think a change is needed and with Derry and Georgie now training me, I know I can push on. I’m still young, there’s no rush for me, but I’m excited about what the future holds.”
Now twenty-two, and a father of three girls (with another child on the way), Speare, a man before he was prepared to be one, cites his family as his sole inspiration. An inattentive hardhead as a youngster attracted to the potent stench of inner-city woes, Speare selected boxing when other desirable, yet consequential, career paths may have appeared more simple and appealing. Following stints as a doorman to supplement his boxing income, Speare is now a full-time fighter, and it’s a role he’s enjoying thanks to the personal reminders that greet him most days.
“My little girls are all I need to make me realize what’s important. They’re everything to me, and I owe it to them to give my very best to boxing because they want it as bad me. Listen to this, my daughter was in school recently, and she drew this picture of me with a belt around my waist, and she was telling everyone that I’m going to be world champion. How can I not want to succeed and be the very best I can be when I have that sort of inspiration pushing me on? I want to be world champion, and I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to get there, and it’s all for my family.”