Super8 boxer Michael Sprott can be a softie
Boxers don't strike you as the sentimental type. Their trade is, after all, to beat another bloke into submission.
There is, however, a softer side to Michael Sprott.
When he strides into the ring for the toughest first-up Super8 contest against Irishman Martin Rogan next week, two names on his shorts provide the proof.
Sprott's late sister, Ginette, took her own life when the mother-of-two stepped in front of a train after a long battle with depression in 2009. Though no longer in his corner, she continues to offer inspiration.
"She followed my boxing and always wanted me to do well so I always wear her name on my shorts," the Englishman said.
Twelve-year-old son, Darnell, also takes pride of place on his trunks.
"I don't want him to box. I want him to use his head for something else."
A 17-year veteran of 61 fights, Sprott's career highlights include capturing the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles with victory over Danny Williams, and knocking out Audley Harrison in 2007 to claim the European crown. He also went the distance with David Tua's final conquerer, Alexander Ustinov, and beat Brian Minto in one of two prize fighter successes.
"I've had a rollercoaster career; ups, downs and turnarounds. I've seen a lot of the world through the sport and met all kinds of people."
During the early stages of his career, Sprott had stints in furniture removals, on a building site and as a tyre fitter, before forging an active reign in the pro ranks.
Up against German prospect Edmund Gerber, his competitive spirit was summed up two years ago when he pushed a referee to the canvas after disagreeing with a fourth round stoppage.
Despite being rocked, Sprott had placed both hands in the air and indicted he was keen to continue, yet still the referee called off the fight.
The incident saw him fined and suspended for three months.
"I was a little bit shaken but I was fine to continue. When the referee called it off I saw red and reacted. It's something I regret doing but it got me a rematch, which I won. I can take a lot, but once it gets to a certain point I blow. It's not something I'd do again. It cost me money."
Sprott is something of a veteran when it comes to these explosive style tournaments. The 39-year-old, who competes in his fourth such event, turned down a bout with British prospect Anthony Joshua (5-0) to chase the $500,000 prize pool in Auckland.
In previous UK-based tournaments, Sprott collected a comparatively small £32,000 ($64,000) purse.
"Everyone is going to be gunning for it.
"There are quite a lot of these tournaments going on around the world. It's what the crowds like. You've got to beat three fighters to win the tournament and the fights are over three rounds. It's very explosive.
"This tournament is like going back to amateur boxing. It's a 100 metre sprint. You have to get the points in early if you don't knock them out."
Sprott (40-21) believes favoured contender, former world champion Hasim Rahman, has the easiest route to the final, taking on Kiwi kick boxer Antz Nansen first up and, should he progress, either American Alonzo Butler or New Zealand underdog Brice Ritani Cole.
He rates Rogan - the 43-year-old who holds a 16-5 record - but backs his experience to prove the difference.
"It's one of the hardest fights in the tournament. I respect Rogan. It's going to be tough but it's not like I haven't been there before."