During the late hours of Friday 12th March, Carl Fail was returning home from the University of Bolton Stadium having just won on his professional boxing debut against the undefeated Jordan Dujon.
Being based in Northampton, Carl’s journey to Bolton and back took several hours but that was nothing compared to the decade of amateur experience that he had accumulated in preparation for this fight.
So when the car eventually pulled up outside his home at 1:30am the following day, he was warmly greeted by his family who had stayed up to congratulate him on his return.
For the past year, Carl has been living with his twin brother and fellow boxer Ben, who had made his professional debut in September.
The twins share the house with their cousin Tim and his partner Sue, who have a 12-year-old son, Shaun, who has autism.
Shaun and the entire autism community have become powerful inspirations behind the boxing careers of both Carl and Ben, and they are reminded of this every time they step into the ring.
“He is a wonderful kid and he has pure love in his heart,” said Carl, who is managed by MTK Global. “Autism is something that is very close to us.
“I have autism on my shorts for every fight; as did Ben when he made his professional debut, so it’s something that we will continue to do and we’re proud of it.
“We would like to raise awareness because you’re not really educated about it going through school and college, or helped to understand about it.
“It’s not their fault if autistic people do something in a certain way and they shouldn’t be picked on for it; it should be a positive, and helping them to learn should be encouraged.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing many people to spend more time at home, living with Tim, Sue, and Shaun over the past 12 months has given Carl an even greater appreciation of autism.
“Life always has its challenges, and it’s difficult when Shaun is always switched on and you have those sleepless nights, but he’s a really happy young man.
“Kids are always doing mischievous things and Shaun is always up to something, whether you know it or not.
“He’s a cheeky chappy and very good at getting what he wants. Most kids nowadays want iPads and toys, but he just wants attention and love.
“He likes a routine of waking up, having breakfast, going to school on the bus, and when he comes home we just speak about day-to-day things. He’s only started to talk in the past two years.
“There are a lot of positives with autism, and all we can do is keep putting it out there and keep broadcasting it.”
Carl’s boxing journey has seen him crowned the best amateur welterweight in England and allowed him to travel abroad to represent his country, winning silver in the European Union Amateur Boxing Championships four years ago.
But whether he is competing in Bolton or Bulgaria, home has always been important in the Fail family.
“We lost our dad when we were 15 years old, and Tim stepped up and took that role of helping us with our careers and to follow our dreams.
“He’s always liked boxing but had never coached before, then one thing led to another and he ended up training us, and now he is one of our full-time coaches.
“He knows me and my twin so well, so everything he sees in the gym and in the ring he sees through our eyes and adapts to us.
“He knows our body language and he knows what works for us and what doesn’t, so over the last eight years he’s developed into a really good coach, and he and Sue both sacrificed a lot for us.
“When I look back, going professional has been the best decision I’ve made in my career and I’m happy to be where I am right now.
“Every time me and my brother fight, we are always humbled by the support that we get. Northampton is a very sporting community with some good fighters.”
Having lived and breathed the sport since they were young through their local boxing club in Far Cotton, Carl and Ben have learnt how boxing is a perfect vehicle for learning and growing, especially as it helped them channel their own energies into a promising career.
“My dad always loved fighting, he brought us up around watching warrior films so we had that mentality from a young age.
“When we went to a year seven transfer day [where primary school children are able to experience a day at secondary school before joining] me and my brother ended up fighting with two kids from the other schools. We actually ended up making friends with them and they took us to the boxing gym, and from there the rest is history.
“There’s a saying we go by, ‘you can’t go swimming without getting wet’, and when you are training and fighting, that’s how you find out who you really are.
“No matter what, I always try to stay positive when I’m in the ring and thinking about the fundamentals – my jab, keeping my hands up, and attacking with force.
“Boxing is about discipline and routine, and it’s fun as well. One day I hope we can get Shaun training or enjoying boxing too.”
Within a week of fighting Dujon, Carl completed a six-mile run and took part in some shadow boxing to start preparing for his second bout – an impressive stoppage win against Kristaps Zulgis in April.
It’s not just about the belts and titles, though, as making his name on the world stage comes with greater opportunity to raise awareness of autism.
“I want to be world champion, that’s always been my dream since I was a little kid, but you have to take one step at a time. I love my family, and I do this for them and because of Shaun.
“Now I’ve just got my first pro fight out of the way, I’d like to get up the rankings and hopefully get another British title in the next couple of years, and then we can go from there.
“I’ve already had a few schools message me to help educate about autism – a bit of education can go a long way in helping people – and I would love to talk to more schools and help spread awareness.
“Then one day, when I’m fighting on a big platform, the message will go out to thousands of people.”