BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Ted Cheeseman reckons his addiction to gambling saw him lose close to £1million.
And Bermondsey’s British super-welterweight champion has insisted his failed February European title challenge was a blessing in disguise, as it sparked him into getting professional help.
Cheeseman, 23, had won 15 fights straight before dropping a unanimous points decision to Spaniard Sergio Garcia when he headlined Greenwich’s 02.
The South Londoner had alluded to issues behind the scenes but opened up fully on Matchroom Boxing’s Born Fighter show, which aired over the weekend.
“In the last five or six years I have gambled heavily,” said Cheeseman. “I wouldn’t like to put a number on it. It’s high – hundreds of thousands if not touching a million, because I have had a lot of money in the last five years.
“I was betting silly money – hundreds and thousands. As much as I did well to keep it a secret to a lot of people, even some of my close family, my missus knew.
“I came from nothing, that’s what you’ve got to understand, so it becomes an addiction. When I was 16 and 17 I was tight, because I didn’t want to waste money. But then I started hanging out with older people and they were always getting big money.
“Then I started getting big money. It becomes normal to go and spend five grand a night, to go to Selfridges and spend 10 grand on clothes and shoes – to buy yourself a nice 15 grand watch.
“But to sustain that lifestyle when you are boxing? You might not have a fight for five or six months. I’m going to eat into it and I want to get it back. You look at a pair of trainers for £600 and think I’m not wasting money on that – but two minutes later you have done three grand in an hour, that’s the addiction part.
“The last fight was a blessing in disguise. If I’d won it I’d have got massive money for my next fight and all I would have done is the exact same thing again and by the time my career finished I’d have ended up with nothing.”
Cheeseman confessed to trainer Tony Sims about his gambling straight after the Garcia reverse.
“As much as I told him I didn’t want to be honest,” he said. “I thought it would be better to keep it secret. But I knew Matchroom [his promoter] would end up finding out – it would get out. I thought an opponent might try to use it as a dig.
“Tony and another man in the gym got me help and I’ve been clean since then.
“Before I wasn’t worrying how long is this training session going to be? I wanted to get it done so I could get in the bookies and have a bet – to chase money I’d lost the day before.
“I used to gamble because I was bored.We train 11am-1pm and I’d get home by 2pm – the next session might be 8pm. You can’t get a normal job in between because you are using energy, you can’t go out with your mates and do everything you want to do because you are using energy. Realistically you are stuck at home.
“Going to the bookies, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. There is no better feeling when you win and it’s a horrible feeling when you lose – but there’s another good feeling when you are back chasing it.
“It was mentally draining. Close people were saying you have got to stop, I’d say: ‘I earn the money and what I do with the money is up to me. I would have done my whole purse in ticket money before I got to the fight.”
Cheeseman has a three-month old son.
He makes the first defence of his British belt on Friday night against Kieron Conway at Bethnal Green’s York Hall.
“When you stop an addiction the best thing is you get a conscious back – but the worst thing about it is you get a conscious back,” he said. “You get emotions back, you go through the guilt stage – what I lost, what I did and who I could’ve helped.
“As much as I’m recovering and getting better, I still have hard times.
“I’ve met people getting help who had 30 grand a week – but when it gets a hold of you, it gets a hold of you. It is easier to get people doing well because you have a lot more time and a lot more money.
“Lots of times I said I wanted to stop – but I didn’t want to stop, because nothing went wrong. I didn’t have a consequence – but when I lost my fight it was my first consequence.
“I lived a false life. If I was sat here as European champion I would have been on the phone before I came here putting bets on online and twitching to have a look at the cash-out while doing this interview.
“I’ve got a second chance to re-ignite my career, a second chance to go and earn another load of money. I’ve got so far living life like a movie. A lot of people won’t believe it but the real people around me know.
“My last fight gutted me and killed me for weeks. I went back to the Intercontinental [hotel in Park Lane] and cried my eyes out. I told my missus and Tony I was never boxing again, never setting foot in a ring again.
“But I’ve got an addictive personality and another addiction is training. I train like an animal. Everything I do is hard.
“It’s nice to know I’m going into a fight and I’m not in control of my ticket [sales]. I’m getting a full purse and I’ve not spunked it. It’s not my biggest purse but it probably is – because I’d have already wasted it before I got to the fight.
“I never paid Tony after my last fight. He said: ‘Don’t worry about it, we’ll sort it out another time’. It was gutting because I sort of mugged him off. He put me through the whole camp – it’s his job as well.
“My mum and dad gave me everything they possibly could but they are working class people. I had to work hard to get where I am.
“I want my boy to not have to box. I want to be able to get to where he has an account he can’t touch until he is 18, have a house that he owns outright.”