The former Brian Dillon's man taking on Britain's rising star on the Usyk-Joshua undercard

Petar Nosic has swapped the phone in Abtran for a place on one of the world’s biggest sporting stages this Saturday.

Petar Nosic pictured at Brian Dillon's Boxing ABC.
Petar Nosic pictured at Brian Dillon's Boxing ABC.

ON SATURDAY NIGHT, the most heralded British boxing talent of his Olympic cycle, Tokyo silver medalist Ben Whittaker, takes to the professional ring for the second time on the undercard of Oleksandr Usyk’s heavyweight world-title rematch with Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia.

And if you’re in Ireland, and if you ever found yourself dealing over the phone with the energy provider Green Star, there’s a fair chance you’ve already met Whittaker’s opponent.

There are no Irish boxers, per se, on the running order for Usyk-Joshua II but there will be a vested interest in one Petar Nosic, the 6-0(3KOs) Bosnian super-middleweight who hung up the phone in Abtran’s customer services facility in Cork for the final time in 2020 and will take to the world sporting stage two years later, live on Sky Sports Box Office.

IMG_20210606_065309 Petar Nosic.

Nosic, 23, was first approached about Saturday’s potentially life-changing opportunity only a fortnight ago by his trainer-manager, Bosko Misic. That it was offered to him at such short notice was no skin off his nose.

Unlike the kind of journeyman opponent who would typically be summoned to swallow shots from a boxer of Whittaker’s fast-rising stock, Nosic has ostensibly trained full-time since first lacing up a pair of gloves back home in Bosnia in 2015.

Indeed, when he moved to Cork three years later, fresh out of secondary school, it was in pursuit of a day job that would first and foremost support the dedication of his mornings and nights to his dream job.

That dream is now starting to meld with reality, but it is a reality to which Nosic has fully awoken just two days before he stares British boxing’s most blue-chip prospect in the eyes for the final time.

“When I first found out about this fight with Ben it was really, really exciting,” he tells The42 from his base in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. “But now that I’m here… Everything, I guess, has settled in.

I actually feel comfortable here. I’ve been thinking about this for the last seven years, since the first day I started boxing. I always knew I would go very far, to the world-top level, so it’s not a surprise for me but it’s definitely a great opportunity to show my skills before the whole world, pretty much.

“So, yeah, I’m not surprised — I am excited. I feel like I belong here.”

When trainer-manager Misic first asked his fledgling pro if he wanted to fight on the Usyk-Joshua undercard in Saudi, Nosic’s answer was as certain as it was immediate: ‘Yes. Who’s the guy?’

That ‘the guy’ is Ben Whittaker was quite the twist because, as Whittaker’s team well knew, Nosic has already unsuccessfully shared the ring with the dazzling West Bromwich man: back in November 2015, representing Bosnia, he was stopped by Whittaker in the second round of a European Youth (U18) Championship curtain-raiser in Poland.

gb-boxing-team-media-day-copper-box-arena English up-and-comer Ben Whittaker. Source: Adam Davy

“That was my first year actually training boxing,” Nosic says. “I won my national championships (Bosnian U18s) when I had been training for only five, six months and I went to the Europeans: that was my first big competition.

“So, when I fought Ben Whittaker for the first time, I had only been boxing for seven or eight months. I wasn’t really ready for that level; not ready physically and even less ready mentally.

“His team definitely know about that fight — but that was seven years ago, you know? I was a beginner, then. Now, I’m obviously more prepared. I know what I’ve come here to do.

“But Ben has also improved,” Nosic qualifies. “He took silver at the Olympics and is obviously a very, very good boxer. So, we’ve both improved in our own ways… and we’ll see what happens Saturday.

“It’s actually a good thing but I think they’re definitely underestimating me. See, I see this as an opportunity to show myself to the world, you know?”

Two and a bit years after that amateur defeat to Whittaker, Nosic and his friend, David Boras, finished school and decided to take in more of the world for themselves.

“It’s really tough to both train and support yourself financially in my country”, Nosic explains, “so that’s why I went to Ireland: to try something new. I like to be independent, to make my own money, and that’s a lot tougher where I come from. In Ireland, you can work a nice job, support yourself, and still train.

“Most people from my country would go to Germany”, he elaborates, “but I don’t like the language! My English was already really good…

“…Even though, when you go to Ireland, the accent is a little bit different than what you hear in the movies!” Nosic laughs. “So, I had to relearn everything!”

With that in mind, there is probably no need to remind you that Nosic chose Cork as his new home.

He moved into a house “near the port, about a five-minute walk from the city centre” with four other people. “It was great,” he says, “and our landlord was actually a legend.”

Nosic first found work as a kitchen porter in Tequila Jack’s, a Mexican restaurant and tequila bar on nearby Lapp’s Quay, before switching to Abtran in Mahon where he worked in customer services for Green Star. The more conventional hours of the latter gig better facilitated his life’s priority: boxing training.

292708916_1988705181518099_1541386957344429722_n Members at Brian Dillon's Boxing Club.

There is no great romance to how Nosic wound up boxing out of Brian Dillon’s ABC, the club which has been operating from Dillon’s Cross on the northside of Cork City since 1981 and once counted Roy Keane among its young combatants. “I just searched for ‘boxing clubs’ on Google Maps and I went to the nearest one,” Nosic laughs.

But long-lasting friendships were soon born.

“See, I hadn’t even looked for any clubs before I moved to Cork because I had to get a job first — and open a bank account and things like that — before I could even think about boxing training.

The first time I went to Brian Dillon’s, I remember I was waiting in front of the door and Denis Desmond, the coach from the club, came up to me. I said, ‘Hi, I’m here to box if you have space for another member.’ He asked me where I was from, if I had trained before; we spoke for maybe five or 10 minutes. But after the first training session, he saw that I was focused and dedicated and really wanted to make something out of boxing. It became a really, really good relationship for me.

Nosic, still a teenager, went on to represent Dillon’s in the Irish U22s, the Munster Championships, the Celtic Box Cup and, eventually, the Irish Elites (or Seniors). Along the way, he fought some of the country’s top names at light-heavy and heavy, including Tommy Hyde, Tony Browne and the late Kevin Sheehy.

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He describes his first entry to an Irish national tournament, the U22s in 2018, as “a little bit weird, to be honest”, in that he felt as though he was an outsider competing against “somebody who is their own”. By the time he entered the 2020 Seniors, however, “it felt like home.”

No sooner than Ireland had begun to feel like the perfect fit, though, did Nosic find himself booking a flight home-home.

“It was a decision I made in the moment, early in the pandemic,” Nosic recalls. “I wasn’t really planning on going back. But Brian Dillon’s was closed with Covid restrictions, I couldn’t go to work… So — like everybody else, to be clear — I was locked in the house, really bored… You couldn’t even really go outside at one point. And I couldn’t train.

“I don’t just train to keep myself in physical shape but to keep myself in a good place mentally. So, I’m always in shape, I’m always ready to fight, but I don’t train only to prepare for a fight.

Then, one week, they said we could finally go back to training. I was getting ready for training when my coach called me and said, ‘Oh, we can’t anymore, they (the government) just changed lockdown measures.’ And that was the moment. I bought a ticket home straight away — for the following week. And that’s when I called my parents and was like, ‘Yeah, I’m coming home. I can’t stay here any longer.’

“I actually didn’t ever plan on staying in Ireland for three years,” Nosic adds. “I thought it’d be maybe a one-year thing. I met a lot of new, amazing people. I’m still in touch with most of them. It was a really, really great experience.

“I’ve been back home now for not even two years, but hopefully I will go back to Ireland — at least for a vacation. I’m planning on that because I want to check my friends there because… Y’know, I miss it sometimes. The people are really, really amazing. I will definitely be back.”

Upon his return to Bosnia in 2020, Nosic “immediately” began training in the Boksacki Klub Kralj Tomislav, Capljina, with his longtime friend Bosko Misic, under whose tutelage he had boxed to several national championships before his move to Ireland.

They then sat down and mapped out Nosic’s future in the sport: “plans, goals, expectations; everything.” He remained amateur for a further year before turning over last summer. He has since racked up six straight wins, three of them quick, on the Bosnian and Croatian professional circuits.

Ben Whittaker, whose amateur pedigree speaks for itself — as did his silky skills and one-punch finish on his pro debut in Bournemouth three weeks ago — will pose a totally different problem this Saturday night.

Nosic, though, has not flown to Saudi Arabia for the pay packet or to simply add his name to the CV of a potential British boxing great. He wants to tear up Whittaker’s plans, change his goals, lower his expectations, and ruin everything.

“I could never go in with the mentality just to stick around until you hear the last bell,” he says. “That’s not the way I think. That’s not the way I process things. Every time I have ever been in the ring, I have gone in there to win. I go in there to try to finish the guy.

Whatever happens happens — but I’m always confident in my preparations, I know what I have to do. I’ve sacrificed the last, I don’t know, seven or eight years of my life training constantly to get an opportunity like this. I’ve never had a training camp in my life: my whole career is training camp. Even when I’m on holiday, I train.

“So, that’s where the confidence comes from and I need to have that mentality. I can’t go into a fight just to put up a good fight, you know? I fight to win.”

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