My Shoulder Injury

It had been a frustrating few months since I drew with Badou Jack in New York and I was keen to have my next opponent announced but my shoulder was still playing up.

I’d suffered an injury several weeks before I fought Rogelio Medina 12 months previously but I decided to fight through the pain, as I did earlier in the year against Jack. I knew I couldn’t go on like that because I was only operating at 60 to 70 per cent and looking back, that showed during the Jack fight because I only threw seven jabs in that fight and I wasn't able to throw a hook. Thankfully I’ve been good enough to get away with not being at my best, but I was almost found out in New York!

Despite the shoulder injury, I was very close to agreeing a fight with Callum Smith in the summer. We agreed to fight on 1st July 17 at The O2 but in the end, he decided to go down the WBC route. I’m confident I would have won the fight, even with the shoulder injury and for Callum Smith, it could have been his best chance of beating me. 

With the Smith fight off the cards, I decided to get my shoulder sorted once and for all. I’ve been plagued by injuries for the last few years and each time have required an operation to put it right. I’ve had two operations on my groin and I know I felt and performed better after each recovery so was keen to address the shoulder.

Another surgery I had after the Jack fight was a nose operation as I had a deviated septum. With this Injury I couldn’t breath through one nostril at all. With this injury I would often have my mouth open because I couldn’t breath through my nose correctly. This also has been plaguing me for a couple years but once again I feel very confident my performances will improve after this.

People have commented on my performances – saying I wasn’t fit or that I wasn’t at my best but it’s been a long time since I’ve gone into a ring feeling 100 per cent so in May I went up to Manchester to see Professor Lennard Funk, the best shoulder specialist in the country and one of the best in his profession in the World.

In medical terms, the shoulder operation was for a ‘diagnostic arthroscopy’ and ‘ACJ stabilization’, in short "a scrap and tighten up". The doctor also checked me out for another condition called "Os Acromiale" which is a condition where bones don’t fuse together properly. 

There were three options for the surgery. First a scrape out of the inflammation, Second a scrape out and tighten up of the ligaments or a third option, to take bone from my hip and graft it onto my shoulder, Thankfully I avoided the third and was advised to have the second option.

The surgeon initially thought it was just an inflammation of the joint and that my ligaments needed tightening. But when I went under the knife they discovered it was much worse than they had anticipated. I had a 180 degree tear around my shoulder, my AC joint needed stabilising and to top it all off I had a tear in my rotator cuff as well – not great for a boxer! 

I’d been boxing with the injury since I won my World title against Andre Dirrell in 2015 and people keep asking why I swerved the operation for so long. Even though I couldn’t throw a hook in my last couple of fights, I didn’t know it was as serious as it was. I had no control over it and it was stupid really but me being me, I didn’t want to waste all the hard work that had gone into my training camps. The surgeon said that if I’d kept boxing, eventually it would have popped out.

It’s unbelievable that I was able to box at such a high level. Badou Jack keeps going on about holding me to a draw back in January but I was a one-armed bandit in that fight! I don’t want to make excuses because I’m still the champion, but if we boxed again without my injuries, I’d win comfortably. I guess we’ll never know because Jack’s moved up to light-heavyweight so I want to put that behind me and focus on the future.

Recovery has been a really frustrating process because I’m so used to training each day. I had my arm in a sling for the first three weeks so that limited me in terms of my rehabilitation but once that was off I was able to start strengthening my arm. I did lots of different movements, had lots of physio and loads of massages. I’d say the first six weeks were the most tedious but it all helped to build up the muscle again. 

I was punching again by the end of this September, sparring by mid-October and my goal was to defend my world title just before Christmas 2017.

The shoulder will never be 100 per cent again but that’s the same after any operation. The most important thing for me was that I’d be back fighting in the ring with no pain for the first time in a long time.