Liam Reardon shot to fame when he starred on and won Love Island back in 2021. Now the Welshman, who has been boxing since he was a youngster, has his eyes set on a career in the ring.
The Sportsman caught up with the former bricklayer to discuss his history in the sport, what it’s like training at the Matchroom gym alongside some of the best fighters in the country and the current stigma around celebrity boxing.
Most people know you best from Love Island, but they might not know your story and your history with boxing. Can you fill people in with your connection to the sport?
Like you said, most people know me for Love Island. But people who really know me know that I’ve boxed for most of my life. I started when I was about 12 or 13 and just started out in the local gym. And it was actually a church, the gym, it was an old church. So it was a proper, you know, Mickey's gym from Rocky. It was very similar to that.
I remember going down and I just loved it. I wasn't any good [laughs], but I loved it. As I carried on through the years and as time went on, I got better. And at certain times I took it more seriously, and then less seriously.
When I was younger I wanted to fight but then I started going out and it just wasn't a top priority at that point, which is, you know, a bit silly. But then I started working and it became my number one priority to be honest. And then come, I think it was 2020 or 2019, I was taking it really seriously. I planned to fight through the amateurs. And then obviously COVID happens, so all the amateur bouts are off and I ended up going on Love Island.
I feel like I've got the fundamentals of being a good boxer. I'm not starting from scratch. I just want to go for it. I'm 23, I'm still young, youth is on my side. I don’t want to be 30 plus and wishing I’d went for it and I hadn’t gone for it. So now’s my time and I’m going for it.
Was there anything in particular that triggered that in you?
[Boxing] was something I did everyday anyway, just not very competitively. You’ve got the likes of Jake Paul and these boys, who picked it up in the past four years and I’ve been doing it for years, I’m still doing it everyday now, so why shouldn’t I go for it?
I thought it’d be difficult being in the position since doing the show - it’s kind of difficult to go down the amateur route now. So this new kind of boxing, Misfits etc, is a great opportunity. I plan on getting on there, fighting on it and doing really well - proving to people that I am serious about it and I do love boxing, and showing them what I can do.
I know there’s a lot stigma at the moment around the celebrity and YouTube boxing but if you’re training six, seven days a week, twice a day, you put all your time into it and you really want to fight, who’s to say your not allowed just because you’ve got a celebrity sort of background?
Like Jake Paul and KSI, they’ve got this background and people don’t like the fact that they think they can just go into boxing. But if they’re fighting and they’re working their b******* off to get there, who are you to say they can’t? And the guys who criticise it are probably just sat on the sofa at home who don’t even lift a finger, and they criticise these boys who are training their arses off.
I understand there's a stigma because they think they can come into the sport and earn all this money. But the world is evolving. We’ve got people like KSI who doesn’t do a nine to five, you’ve got kids who don’t work a nine to five earning millions of pounds. Social media has changed so many things, so I think you've got to kind of just get used to it and change with it.
One thing about your own journey that shows how serious you are a bit is the fact that you've gone and worked somewhere like the Matchroom gym, training with Tony Sims and some incredible fighters there. What's that been like for your development and what sort of experience did you get with those guys?
Huge amounts. I've been a big fan of a lot of the boys in the gym for years. I've looked up to these boys, especially [former lightweight world title challenger] Kevin Mitchell. When he was fighting, he was a cracking fighter and I was only a kid when I was a fan of Kevin. To then be in the Matchroom gym being trained by Kevin, being around Tony Sims, Felix Cash, Joe Cordina, John Ryder, Conor Benn - it was a great environment and I can learn a lot off of the boys.
They are so serious. It’s their life, so if I’m around that, it’s going to mentally put me in the right place. It was an honour to be there to be honest. People were dying to be in our gym and I'm training there, so I’m very grateful.
You rattled off a few big names there, what’s the sparring been like?
I haven’t been sparring with the pros, it’s been more with some of the guys who go around the gym and train. They’ve fought but not at a professional level, I’ve been sparring with them at the moment. So I’m going to up things now in the coming weeks, probably look for more sparring partners.
I’d like to fight in May, so we need to up the training and it’s quite hard because there’s not a lot of people in my size. We’ve got Demsey [McKean] and Jordan [Thompson] who train in the gym as well, they're big lads, but they’re a bit out of my depth for a bit, them boys are.
You say you're targeting a May fight, have you given any thoughts on who that might be against?
Look, I’m not too sure. I’m not going to be one of those guys who start shouting and calling people out straight away because I haven’t proven myself to anybody yet. Until I do that, I haven’t got a leg to stand on. I don’t want to be acting a fool. I need to prove myself first before I can call out the bigger names.
Which have you found the most nerve wracking? Is it walking onto Love Island or is it walking into the Matchroom gym and being surrounded by some of the best fighters in the country and the world?
When I first walked into the Matchroom gym it was very nerve racking. It’s like when you see someone you’ve watched on Instagram or TV for years, and all of a sudden now you’re next to them, you’re talking to them, you’ve got to start hitting the bag in front of them and being on the pads; it’s all nerve wracking. I’ve been there for 18 months now and these guys have become my mates, my friends, which is mad to say.
Love Island - THAT was nerve wracking. I went from being a bricklayer back in Wales to all of a sudden now on cameras everywhere, walking into this villa, the Love Island villa which I’ve watched for years on TV - yeah, that was nerve wracking. And then coming out was an experience all over again because now millions of people knew who I was, which was bizarre.
Since Love Island I just want to keep on capitalising on things and keep doing things. I always said boxing would be the route I’d go down and it’s still a route I want to go down now. I could not get involved and still earn money, and do Instagram work, but I want to get in the ring and improve myself and put myself on the line.