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Ray Winstone: “I have a great smell when it comes to trust”

As a youth boxer, Ray Winstone was three-time London schoolboy champion and fought twice for England, winning 80 of his 88 fights. He talks about playing gym owner and trainer Bill in Jawbone, a tribute to his old boxing club mentors

Why did you want to get involved in Jawbone?

Well, number one was Johnny. He had such a passion for this idea, and I said yes. Then you think, ‘here we go, I gotta read this script now, what’s it going to be like?’ And I fell in love with it. I’d already said yes anyway, but it’s a bonus to get such a great emotional script, such an honest script.

What aspects of it could you relate to?

It was close to Johnny’s heart for different reasons than it was to mine, because Johnny was fighting some demons, I guess. When I was younger I’ve tried to get on council accommodation and I know what that process is. Having a wife and child and one on the way, trying to get a council place was fucking horrendous. It’s all about points and I don’t know who gives you points, who takes them away. My character is based on four different men, the two prominent ones were Johnny’s trainer Mick Carney and my trainer Tony Burns. Playing these men I really respect, I was in my element. It gave me a buzz to be in the business again.

Were aspects of your personality formed in a boxing gym?

I have very strong morals about certain things, about family, about friends. I have a great smell when it comes to trust. I can be unforgiving, for the right reasons I think, but most of all I have respect for others. Until they cross the line. You stand in a ring with someone and look into their eyes… I had 88 fights and there was one man I boxed out of 88 that I disliked. I had the upmost respect and friendships with the other 87.

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Where would you have been without boxing?

I have no idea. From my club alone we had one guy who ended up running the floor in the city, Marky Newman; Tony Marchant became a prolific writer in TV and film, there was three or four guys who went on to be actors, others run their own businesses now. We had three or four world champions came out of the Repton as pros, but forget about that for a moment, the rest of the kids went on to do something with their lives.

Did it make you good at taking knocks? 

I didn’t like taking too many knocks. I’ve still got a straight nose.

Who would have won in a match between you and Johnny?

He was the better fighter. John would have been a pro, would have probably boxed for a world title, or at least a European title. He never boxed when I was boxing. I know he looks as old as me, but he’s not. He took a lot more knocks than I did.

Jawbone is in cinemas from May 12 and will be available on DVD from June 5

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