Former NRL bad boy and ex-bikie back in the ring
FORMER NRL bad boy and ex-bikie Anthony Watts is trying to leave his past behind by focusing on full-time work, his toddler and training for a boxing career revival.
Watts, 33, is one of the main bouts at Boxing Mania 9 in Byron Bay next month and says becoming a dad two years ago has prompted his turnaround.
Based in Murwillumbah, NSW, with a fiance and daughter Luka, 2, he is working for a Gold Coast concreting firm and training five nights a week at Kingscliff Boxing Stables under trainer Nick Midgley.
Watts had a promising NRL career with the Cronulla Sharks, North Queensland Cowboys and Sydney Roosters before turning his back on it and falling in with bikies leading to various stints in jail.
But he says after clocking up four years in prison in his life so far he believes he's finally "grown up".
"I got out of jail in NSW and thought time to grow up. That was three years ago.
"My partner and little girl have made me grow up and I am in the right headspace to get into boxing, make a go if it and stay out of trouble," Watts said.
"Training has helped, I was in a bad place mentally. But I'm not angry anymore at the world. I'm actually happy with life for the first time - even when I was playing NRL I wasn't happy."
He will fight Western Australia heavyweight Hayden Wright on March 27 and hopes it will lead to bigger bouts and a potential rematch with - their previous 88-second fight was stopped after a swinging Watts threw his shoulder out.
Watts vows his Boxing Mania bout is "definitely not a one off".
"I want to fight against this bloke, get a win and then fight again pretty soon.
"I've always had a passion for boxing. But when I fought Gallen I probably could have taken a few more smaller fights and built my record up but at the time I thought I'll take that fight straight away.
"This time I want to build myself up a bit and try to make a career out if it.
"I learned a lot and feel I'm a lot better - more like a boxer not just throwing haymakers."
Watts last appeared before the courts in January last year when an allegation of threatening a man was withdrawn when the complainant failed to front up. Prior to that he pleaded guilty in a separate case to assault occasioning bodily harm for what a magistrate called an "unprovoked" attack on another man at a wedding. The victim suffered minor bruising and received $5000 compensation.
Mr Midgley said Watts asked about getting on a fight card months ago: "I said I'd give him a chance and didn't want any bad attention. He has been nothing but a gentleman, treated everyone with respect and hasn't touch a drop of alcohol.
"He's worked out what's good for him and I'm helping him get what he wants out of boxing."
Watts' boss Edward Butler, who employed him at Butlers Concrete Construction two years ago, said Watts had proved "enthusiastic, a good worker and reliable".
Mr Butler said he was putting Watts through a safety officer course: "I vouch for him. He's going well."
Boxing Mania 9 tickets are $50.