The Rocky Road to
When David Villa-Clarke first met Chris Evangelou, in 2004, Chris was a novice boxer with three or four fights to his name. David challenged him to go for the Beijing Olympics and Chris accepted the challenge. They talk to Andy Coote about the journey
avid Villa-Clarke is a Regional Manager for one of the country’s largest life insurers. He has been a tennis coach and has run several London Marathons. It was as a result of the Marathon running that he found himself working with a church leader at his Apostolic Church in North London who, himself, intended to run the London event. From there, an Olympic journey began. David formed an informal running club at the church and Chris Evangelou came along as he had heard that “David was good with motivational skills”, something he felt he needed. They met for a day to talk about the direction that Chris’ boxing career should take. Chris was then a novice boxer with very few fights to his name. David wasn’t sure “that his purpose was the best it could be” and suggested that Chris consider setting a big goal such as winning a Gold Medal at the Bejing Olympics in 2008. Chris “just laughed at me”, remembers David but something must have clicked because “we talked about how he might do that and what it would take to make it happen.” David began working with Chris informally. “He would turn up at the running club and I would really push him to be as fit as he could possibly be.” After Chris and his family came to watch David take part in a charity boxing contest at York Hall in Bethnal Green, a more formal mentoring arrangement was agreed. The first step on the journey to Beijing was to get some competitive experience built up. David was unsure whether Chris really believed he could get to the standard required
Summer 2008 - rapport
for Olympic qualification, but he went along with it. “He wasn’t the average guy to become a boxer. He was very thoughtful and seemed to know his own mind. He needed to win some fights and then go into the ABA championships, always keeping that goal – of winning an Olympic Gold Medal - in mind.” Using a mixture of visualisation, affirmation and challenge, Chris began on a winning streak that took him to the ABA Championships and, eventually, to an ABA Novices final. On the way there, Chris was faced with a challenge that epitomises the working relationship they had.
me anxious. David recognised this and began to explore with me previous times when I had felt this way and had gone on to be successful. He then began linking those experiences to the fight I was about to take part in and I began to calm down”. David recalls the same fight. “I had him visualise replacing Ben’s head with that of a baby which took away some of his fear of the guy.” “By the time I climbed into the ring,” Chris recalls, “my confidence level was at nine or ten on a scale of ten and I just knew that I was going to win. I did win by quite a margin. In fact I beat him hands down.” In 2005, Chris became ABA National Novice (under 20) champion beating Amir Unsworth of the Army by the narrow margin of 11-9. David used an anchor to help Chris to keep calm and fight to plan. “Boxers often fight according to the crowd reaction, hitting harder when the crowd gets excited. I told Chris to dig in and fight in the style he had used to win previous fights and especially a Gold medal bout in Sweden. We anchored this to the crowd chanting ‘Sweden’ and, when they did, Chris knew he would win and have nothing to fear.” David has become part of Chris’ ‘essential’ back up team and they work together regularly. His father and brother are also in the team and often travel to fights to support him. Chris notes that, on those occasions, David is often “the voice on the end of the phone, helping me to bring the best out of myself ”. David undertook an NLP course about three
He wasn’t the average guy to become a boxer. He was very thoughtful and seemed to know his own mind As Chris tells it, “my first fight was against a member of my own club who we called Ben the Barbarian. Ben was a very tough fighter and he had hurt me in sparring at the club some three years beforehand and we hadn’t sparred since. It was my first fight in the ABA’s is in the Northwest division and I was fighting my biggest nemesis with a reputation for being a hard man. About an hour before the fight David took me off to the Tesco cafe nearby and sat with his notebook and pen and analysed how I was feeling. I have a tendency to think too much sometimes and that makes