Archive | March, 2012

Sunday Sparring

25 Mar

This week I brought you the news that WBO light heavyweight champion, Nathan Cleverley, is to defend his title on April 28th against Robin Krasniqi, at the Royal Albert Hall, London. However this fight is now in doubt. This is due to the WBO refusing to sanction Krasniqi as an opponent. The WBO are instead insisting that the undefeated Welshman must make a mandatory defence first.

They said, “Nathan Cleverly’s fight with Karpency was sanctioned with the provision that the winner meet his mandatory opponent 120 days from the day of the bout.”

Cleverly’s promoter Frank Warren is now locked in talks with the sanctioning body in order to come to an agreement. Should they not, it is likely Cleverly’s team will opt to face the WBO’s mandatory, rather than risk being stripped of the belt.

After we unfortunately lost the hotly anticipated bout between number one ranked and former WBA lightweight champion, Brandon Rios, and former featherweight king, Yuriorkis Gamboa, it has now been announced that the undefeated Rios will now take on 29 year old Cuban, Richard Abril, for the now vacant WBA lightweight title, on April 14th.

The fight between Rios and Gamboa was seen to be in doubt when the undefeated Cuban star, Gamboa, failed to show at the first media dates of the contests press tour. Gamboa had stated that he had not yet signed the fight contract at the time of the press dates, and was not going to unless changes were made. Ultimately, changes were not made and Gamboa walked. Now we will instead see his fellow Cuban fight for the belt, which was stripped from former holder Rios after he failed to make weight for his defence against Britain’s John Murray.

Abril, who currently holds the WBA interim lightweight title, brings to the ring a respected record 17-2 (8KOs) but it is unlikely he will be able to not only draw the same crowd his countryman would’ve or be able to offer any challenge to a highly rated young fighter in Brandon Rios.

This weekend saw action from all areas of the globe. Sheffield once again staged a big domestic match up, however this week is wasn’t on the same levels as the War of the Roses. Gary Buckland make a successful first defence of his British super featherweight crown against Paul Truscott. The former Prizefighter winner, Buckland won with an almost shutout victory against Middlesborough’s Truscott. It was evident from the start that there was only going to be one winner, Buckland almost scored a knockdown in the second after landing a big right. Only the ropes could save the challenger from suffering a 10-8 round. Truscott being on the ropes became a regular feature of the fight as he surrendered the centre of the ring, allowing the champ to take control of the bout and outbox his opponent to unanimous decision victory.

The Civic Centre in Wolverhampton saw former world cruiserweight champion, Enzo Maccarinelli get back to winning ways as he snatched away the British title from Shane McPhilbin in what was a night of controversy in the midlands. Maccarinelli, who had been considering his ring future not too long ago, got off to the worst start in his British title challenge as Nottingham’s McPhilbin put the former cruiserweight king on the canvas in the opening round. However the bell for the ending of the round surely saved Maccarinelli from a horrible defeat when it sounded 47 seconds early. Despite being on highly unsteady legs the challenger was able to close out the round, mostly due to McPhilbin’s lack of ability within the ring. Maccarinelli went on to win the majority of the remaining rounds to record a unanimous decision victory, in what was a very messy bout. The happenings within the ring are already under review and it is highly likely there will in fact be a rematch later in the year.

European lightweight champion Gavin Rees made a successful defence of his crown in what was an easy nights work in Paris. The 31 year old Welshman won with a seventh round TKO against Anthony Mezaache, in what was a bloody affair. Rees was in control from the off and made a big statement in the opening round when he landed a stunning right hand to put the challenger off balance. The second saw more of the same as the champion landed two more big right hands, before the third round saw a nasty clash of heads, which left the Frenchman cut and pouring blood. As the blood flowed so did the punches. Rees piled on the pressure in a hope to force the stoppage but the challenger hung on. After a terrific job from Mezaache’s corner, he came out refreshed and was able to find his way through the Welshman’s defences to land some sweet combinations. His fight back was unfortunately short lived, Rees once again went to business as an overhand right dropped the challenger and he proceeded to finish off the Frenchman with a burst of punches forcing the referee to step in. Rees now improves his fight record to 36 – 1 (17KOs) his only loss coming in his first defence of his WBA light welterweight championship to Ukrainian Andriy Kotenlnik. The Welshman hopes that the successful defence can keep him on the path back to a world title, but in a hotly contested division, the 31 year old certainly faces an uphill battle to get there.

Mexican legend Erik Morales could only watch on this weekend as firstly he lost his WBC light welterweight crown on the scales before being soundly dominated over twelve rounds by undefeated American Danny Garcia. After the title became vacant, Garcia was able to claim the belt by defeating ‘El Terrible.’ That he did with a convincing unanimous decision points victory in Houston, Texas. Garcia came into the fight the far more aggressive fighter and the 24 year old out the legend on the canvas with a hurtful left to the chin in the eleventh round. Garcia moves to 23-0 (14KOs) and is in prime position for a big future in what is one of the most highly competitive divisions in the world today. Unfortunately the now 35 year old Morales is now surely look at hanging up the gloves for a second time as his last hurrah has come to an end. The undercard in Houston feature big hitting world contender James Kirkland against fellow top ten raked Carlos Molina. Kirkland was able to come away with the win after Mexican Molina was disqualified at the close of the tenth round. The fight had been a highly untidy affair. The thoroughly entertaining Kirkland’s attack was nullified by Molina’s controversial but smart tactics. The Mexican made it seemingly impossible for the big hitter to get away any clean shots. After most attacks Molina would hold on up close getting his head in the face of the Texan, upsetting the KO specialist. The tactics led many to believe he should’ve been penalised for his actions, however the referee failed to act. The big talking point came at the close of the tenth round. After Molina got entangled in the ropes Kirkland was able to land a right hand to put Molina on the deck. As he was down the bell sounded to end the round, prompting his cornerman to enter the ring for the break, he was quickly informed by the referee to leave. During the episode the referee was still administering the count to Molina, and the round was being considered live. After Molina had received his count and deemed able to continue, the referee got word from the fight supervisor that the cornerman had broken the rues by entering and Molina was disqualified. The decision was considered to be completely outrageous as the bell had sounded and the round was over, therefore the counterman was well within his rights to set up for the break. Also although up to this point he had fought scrappily, Molina was believed to be ahead on points and the decision ultimately robbed him off a victory. The matter is to be looked into and as yet no announcement has been made as to what will happen.

 

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Fight Preview – ‘El Terrible’ still going strong

22 Mar

After suffering four successive defeats and opting too retire back in 2007. Few would have envisioned Erik ‘El Terible’ Morales making a return to the ring to win a world title in a fourth different weight class. However at the close of last year the battle hardened Mexican did just that. In September 2011, The 35 year old warrior beat fellow Mexican Pablo Cesar Cano for the vacant WBC light welterweight title.

Saturday night see’s ‘El Terible’ make the first defence of his WBC crown. He takes on undefeated American fighter Danny Garcia at the Reliant Arena in Houston. Although the far younger, fresher boxer at the age of 23, Garcia lacks the big fight experience that Morales has built up over his 19 year professional career. But recent wins over former world champions Nate Campbell and Kendall Holt surely must have given Garcia a taste for older victims and is hoping to add Morales to his ever growing list of scalps. In his old age it has become apparent that Morales has lost his blinding hand speed that fans have witnessed over the years. However, what remains is the sublime boxing skill and ring knowledge. He may have lost to Marcos Maidana in April of last year, but he showed that he can still pull out combinations under intense pressure and that he still loves a slugfest. That fight was scored in so many mad ways that the result was ultimately defunct in the eyes of some fans. Some had it a draw, some had it a win for Morales, some Maidana. What we saw though was a modern day classic, that put Morales’ name firmly back in the world title picture.

What will we see in the Texas encounter? Morales will look to grind down Garcia. Use his experience to outbox the unbeaten fighter, he may try to unsettle him buy drawing Garcia into a war. Obviously the 23 year old has never been beat, so the knowledge on how to beat him simply isn’t there. Morales, on the other hand, has been beaten before, seven times. But only two of those have come by knockout. Coming in back to back losses to pound for pound king Manny Pacquaio. If Garcia is to have any success he will need to try to outbox the Mexican from a distance. Use defences to counter, and try to avoid been pulled into the trenches. That I see, is the only way he is going to outpoint Morales. I don’t see Garcia knocking out Morales. He does have some power, but he has never KO’d a top level fighter. Not only that but Morales has a strong chin, you only have to look at his past fights to see that. Before he has taken the best Barrera had to offer and made the distance, three times. Personally, I can only see ‘El Terrible’ giving Garcia a lesson in boxing and beating him over twelve rounds.

The bill in Houston also see’s the clash between two top ten ranked light middleweights. Knockout king James Kirkland looks to continue his return to form with another early victory against Mexican fighter, Carlos Molina. Kirkland was on the receiving end of the power shots back in April of last year, again on the undercard of a Morales bout, when he was KO’d in one round by Japan’s unknown Nobuhiro Ishida. The fight was meant to be simply a formality for then unbeaten Kirkland, but he was put down three times in the first by a fighter not known for his power punching. Kirkland put the loss down to his switch of trainer, After the bout he returned to Ann Wolfe. Wolfe was Kirkland’s trainer before the knockout specialist was sent to prison in 2009 on firearms charges. The return to Wolfe has seen a rejuvenation in the career of Kirkland. After a couple of warm up bouts, the 28 year old stepped up in challengers by taking on fellow big hitter Alfredo Angulo in a WBC title eliminator. In a classic match up, Kirkland came out the victor against highly ranked Angulo with a sixth round TKO. The fight, considered to be one of the fights of the year, featured both men being put down multiple times before Kirkland eventually forced the stoppage with a series of big hits. Molina is going to offer Kirkland a far different challenge. The Mexican is more of a boxer than Angulo was and comes into the bout on a ten fight unbeaten run. His last fight being a win over former world champion Kermit Cintron.

Although he has suffered losses in his career, the Mexican has never been knocked out. So it will be interesting to see how Kirkland reacts if the fight does eventually make the distance. Will he be able to outbox Molina? Or is his game limited to throwing bombs? On the other hand how will Molina’s chin stand up to the punishment Kirkland has to offer? In my opinion this fight is only going to go one way. Knockout victory for Kirkland. Although Molina can box, I don’t think he will no what hit him when one of Kirklands bomb’s lands flush. Hopefully the victory will set up a war between fellow banger and WBC champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.

The main event is not an easy one to predict. How the weekend’s event will unfold is also an unknown. But what I do know is that in a contest between big firing fighters such as these, don’t blink.

Cleverly London bound

20 Mar

Boxing is to return to Royal Albert Hall. April 28th will see WBO light heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly make the third defence of his crown against Germany based Serbian Robin Krasniqi. Undefeated Welshman Cleverly has so far had a relatively easy ride as world champion. After being awarded the title, because of champion Juergen Braehmer’s reluctance to enter the ring, back in 2011. Cleverly has made a string of low profile defences. Other than domestic rival Tony Bellew, Cleverly’s defences have not been very highly anticipated. His most recent defence against lowly ranked American Tommy Karpency was more of a public workout in his Cardiff home and led to the 25 year old to be criticised as to his credentials as a world champion. However Krasniqi, although not the big name many were hoping for, will most definitely offer something Clev may not have seen before.

After an un-impressive start to his professional career, Krasniqi has gone on a 35 fight winning streak and has seven KO’s in his last eleven bouts. The WBO European champion is certainly making a big step in class and it will be interesting to see how the 24 year old handles the pressure. Both are the same height and have similar styles. Krasniqi likes to both counterpunch and be the aggressor within the ring. Although not a big name in the UK it will certainly be a good match up. Krasniqi won the WBO European belt with a fourth round TKO of Abdelkahim Derghal in October of last year and made a successful first defence this January with a twelfth round TKO of Hakim Zoulikha. 

During his reign as world champion, Cleverly has come under pressure for his level of opponents. The match up with Bellew was highly anticipated due to the friction created between the two at the press conferences, and the fight itself was a fight of the year contender. But more has been expected from the young Welshman. You can always make the argument that you can only face what is put in front of you. Other than fighting other top ten ranked opponents, there is little else out there. However it wouldn’t be the first time Cleverly’s promoter, Frank Warren, has come under fire for providing below par opponents. In the past Frank has done magnificent work to get his fighters to a world title. But once they win, it has become a routine procedure for Frank to almost baby his fighters with a series of easy defences. Frank did wonders to get current WBO lightweight champion Ricky Burns his shot at the WBO super-featherweight crown against Roman Martinez, but like Cleverly, his reign was a disappointment. Defences against little known Joseph Laryea and unfit former world champion Nicky Cook led the champ to come under fire from critics, and most notably the ducking of undefeated American youngster Adrien Broner, was a big talking point. Has Warren been keeping his world champs rapped in cotton wool? or has he simply been preparing them for tougher tasks.

April 28th also see’s an interesting bill stateside. The Staples Centre in Los Angeles hosts the rematch between 47 year old WBC champion Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson. Should Cleverly come through his own defence that night it is widely believed, that his next defence will be a unification bout this summer against the victor of that bout. Now if that was to come off, I doubt few will still be criticising the choice of opponents.

The true middleweight champion

20 Mar

St.Patricks Day. New York City. Madison Square Garden. It was the perfect setting for an Irishman to realise his dream. But on this occasion, Birmingham born fighter Matthew Macklin came up short against the worlds premier middleweight, in what was a thrilling night of action in the city that never sleeps. After eleven rounds of toe to toe action and big shots from both warriors, Macklin was put down twice in the penultimate round and his corner retired him during the break.

His opponent was Sergio Martinez, a fighter ranked currently third in most pound for pound rankings, he currently holds the Ring Magazine middleweight championship and if it weren’t for some dodgy dealings from the WBC, he would still be their middleweight champion. However the titles are fairly meaningless, as he is considered to be by far, the best middleweight there is, by most in the boxing community. But at 37 years of age and a un-impressive performance against Macklin’s fellow Brit, Darren Barker. Some were doubting if ‘Maravilla’ still had the ability that he showed in tearing apart the division two years ago.

It was always going to be a big ask for the 29 year old Macklin. In his previous outing he had put in a career best performance to beat WBA champion Felix Sturm, only to be robbed of the decision. His high tempo physical approach in that bout earned him the respect of the boxing world. Macklin was a fighter who had previously been seen as an exceptional European level fighter, but never good enough to step up in class. But Martinez’s style was different and it would take a completely different approach if Macklin was going to come away with the win.

To the action. Macklin came to the ring first, being cheered on loudly by the New Yorkers. The city, steeped in Irish history, came out in force to cheer their man on at Madison Square Garden. The atmosphere was electric and Macklin’s ring walk music only spurred on the green and gold dressed cloud to higher levels. Macklin came in confident, focused and not at all overawed by the grand occasion. But it wasn’t solely Irish within the Garden. Martinez’s Argentian brothers and sisters were also making themselves heard as ‘Maravilla’ came to the ring with a big smile across his face. Although he new Macklin was no pushover, the worlds premier middleweight knew victory was the only outcome.

In the first round their was no caginess, no feeling each other out. Both fighters got straight to it. Martinez’s slight reach advantage allowed him to take control as he repeatedly fired out a ferocious jab, often connecting with the left. Macklin wasn’t there to be a spectator though, he himself attempted to dog his way inside and unload on the Argentinian. Although there was a high work rate coming from both men, few meaningful blows were landed other than the jab of Martinez, which was so strong it already had left marking on the Brit’s left eye. Un-deterred by his early damage, the 29 year old continued to charge the inside. But Martinez’s superior skill and movement made him to slick and Macklin struggled to catch him with his body blows. At the close Macklin was stumbled with a solid left hand from ‘Maravilla.’ Something that would happen far to often throughout the contest.

In the third round Macklin finally made some headway as Martinez’s early efforts had sapped some energy from the older man. The high tempo approach from the challenger allowed him to get to Martinez and land some strong shots. Enough to take the third round. Macklin came out in the next round full of confidence and landed a good early combination, but this would not be the same for the rest of the remaining minutes, as Martinez continued to back the challenger against the ropes, and the Argentinian landed a solid left uppercut to nearly drop Macklin. The middle rounds were where the Brit had his most success. He fought through Martinez’s strong jab and hurtful left hooks to simply overrun the 37 year old with a series of punches. At the close of fifth both were trading blows in what was a thrilling round. One common feature throughout the fight was the mutual respect between both men, as each blow landed the two traded smiles and laughter, each fighter knew they had hurt the other and the friendly competition was brilliant to see.

 

Macklin made a clear breakthrough in the seventh round. His high work rate led to Macklin landed a solid right which rocked the champion, he then followed it with another and after a slight stumble the Argentinian touched the canvas for it to be considered a knockdown, and ultimately a 10-8 round for the challenger. Unfortunately this would prove to be where Macklin’s success ended. The knockdown only enraged ‘Maravilla’ as he came out firing and seemingly went into a higher gear that Macklin could simply not handle. Martinez’s ability to land shots from positions only he could know repeatedly shook Macklin. The constant clean blows took there toll as Macklin’s face showed the scars of battle. Macklin continued to work hard, but Martinez’s left was doing great damage to wear away the Birmingham man and the eleventh round saw the breakthrough Martinez was looking for. Macklin continued to fight hard but he was beaten to the punch every time. At the close of the round a big left from the champion dropped Macklin hard and the 29 year old was visibly stunned. He got up and came back at Martinez, only to be struck by the same left at the bell. Again he made the count, but Macklin’s trainer Buddy McGirt made the decision that his man had taken too many shots and that is was the best decision to remove him from the contest. Macklin although wanting to continue, offered no protest. Clearly he also felt that Martinez had reached a level, that he could simply not keep up with.

 

Ultimately it seemed that Macklin’s high effort throughout the earlier rounds had lowered his punch resistance level. Earlier in the fight he was soaking up the lefts with relative ease, but in the eleventh they were simply too much for the challenger. A lot of respect has to go for the champion. Tactically the performance was sound. Yes, he may have taken more shots that he had intended to. But after being put down he simply went to a level few would be able to take. Since the bout Saturday night, ‘Maravilla’ has taken some criticism for his performance. But personally, I think that is a tremendous amount of disrespect to both men. Macklin performed amazingly to give Martinez a hard fight, few other middleweights would have taken what Macklin gave and Martinez also delivered a great performance to halt the challenger, in what in now his fourth straight KO victory. Few other champions can boast that record with the same level of opponents.

It is hard to see what Martinez will do next. Ever since the WBC effectively stripped him of his title, without actually doing so, and pretty much handed it to Mexican Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. the boxing community has called out for the two to get it on. But Chavez’s promoter Bob Arum, has seemed reluctant to send his prized lamb to the slaughter. With that, it is most likely Martinez will find it difficult to find a high quality opponent. Although he does possess a world title, he is simply to dangerous an opponent for some to take the fight. A possible move up in weight to super middleweight may be an option as at the level there are many big name opponents for ‘Maravilla’ to get his hands on.

A lot of respect has to go to Matthew Macklin. For years he was seen as a good, but not great fighter. In his pursuit of success, he has travelled across the globe to face two of the best fighters in the world, in Felix Sturm and now Sergio Martinez. Other boxers may have taken the easier path to a world title, but not Macklin. He will eventually win a title, and when he does it will be widely celebrated, because he most definitely deserves it.

Simply too ‘Special’

19 Mar

Skill, class, power, speed, timing, conditioning and raw talent. These were the attributes which led British welterweight star ‘The Special One’ Kell Brook to a unanimous decision points victory over domestic rival Matthew Hatton on Saturday night. The 25 year old fighter from Sheffield put on a dominant display against the former European champion in front of a 10,000 strong crowd in his home town. The win extended the young boxers undefeated record to 27 and put him in a strong position for a future shot at a world title. Kell was already ranked within the top ten of the worlds sanctioning bodies and by overcoming Hatton, he vanquished his last rival within the domestic scene to firmly establish himself as the best. On the night Hatton once again showed a great deal of heart in what was his 50th bout however, as his name says Kell was on the night too ‘Special.’

The event billed as the ‘War of the Roses’ brought together not only the two best welterweights in the country, but two fighters from parts of the country filled with a history of warfare. Lancashire and Yorkshire have long been great rivals, and with the two warriors coming together, it gave the fans great reason to continue their long time rivalry. Matthew Hatton, the fighting pride of Manchester, came into the ring to a cauldron of hate from the pro Brook Sheffield crowd. The atmosphere was simply electric. Boo’s rung around the arena as Hatton made his ringwalk, but the former European champ was unfazed. As Kell came into the ring he saluted his fans, and much like his rival nothing could break his focus from the task at hand.

To the action. Brook started strongly getting on with the job straight away, taking the centre of the ring and working his way into establishing a strong jab. He continued to back Hatton into the corner, picking his shots wisely as he took the opening round with a high work rate. Hatton tried but failed to land any meaningful shots and ended the round with a bloody nose after Brook landed a heavy right lead. Hatton looked to work the fight on the inside and upset Brook, take the younger man out of his rhythm. But the hard work was unfortunately in vain as the undefeated man was just too slick, too skilled and his defences stayed solid. He moved well and let his hands go with combinations to give the Mancunian trouble. In the third Brook continued to have control of the bout and looked very comfortable fighting on the front foot backing Hatton into the corner, his speed and his timing was having great effect. But Brook did show some chinks in the armour as Hatton got through with a right hand.

Although he was getting hurt, Hatton refused to back off, however his style was only making it easier for the Sheffield fighter as he started to up the tempo and unload the combinations. In the fifth Hatton came out swinging, hoping to hurt the far superior fighter. But he was swinging and missing. Brook was just going through the gears as he used the sweet combinations to set up the power punches. Brook was able to lend shots and Hatton was under big pressure, he did well to stay on his feet, the ropes should be thanked for that. Once again Hatton started the round with great effort, but he continued to take punishment as he was wobbled with a right hand. Each round Matthew was to start strongly but fade throughout the latter stages, he wasn’t landing enough, he wasn’t throwing enough quality shots and it was only making it easier for Brook. Each punch was timed to perfection and the jab kept the points coming.

In the ninth Brook caught Hatton early on with a left hook, and with the Mancunain also being off balance, he was sent to the canvas. Although it wasn’t a telling blow, it still put Hatton down and that sent shockwaves down the spine of both men. The mental effect that had for both fighters was incredible. Hatton, angry from being put down tried to land a big blow of his own, all to no avail. Brook full of confidence was never unfazed and continued to land heavy blows. In the tenth round, Hatton finally had some success. After trying to land big shots round after round, he landed a left on Brook to leave him momentarily unsteady. But the previously untested chin of the undefeated fighter held strong as he came out for the eleventh strong. Brook’s combinations once again hurt Hatton, he was backed into the corner and put up against the ropes. He was in trouble and he went straight into defensive mode. With no way of winning the bout other than by way of knockout Hatton once again came out swinging. But he was punished, once again the combinations were unloaded and he was hurt once again at the close. Unfortunately Hatton’s effort and heart was never enough to defeat the far superior fighter. Kell was simply too quick, too strong and too powerful for the older man. As we went to the scorecards, the fans within the Motorpoint arena knew it was simply a formality. Brook was announced the winner with a unanimous points decision. Although little prize was at stake from the bout, the win was by far the most meaningful of Brook’s professional career. To get a win in front of his home fans was huge. The opponent was his toughest to date and he made it look easy. The win will no doubt be a massive stepping stone to he elite of world boxing.

Post fight everyone wanted to know the answer to one question, “What’s next?” For the past year everyone has talked about one opponent, Amir Khan. The former world champion has stated his intentions to step up in weight in the near future and a fight with Brook is most definitely on the cards, should he get through his rematch with Lamont Peterson. But would a fight against the former unified light welterweight champion be to soon for Brook? Yes he came through a tough opponent in Matthew Hatton, but Khan is a step up in class that I don’t believe Brook is ready for. What Kell needs next is either a former world champion, another top ten ranked opponent. Someone such as Jan Zavec would be a big ask for the 25 year old. Should they look to take the world title option with the WBO,WBC and IBF all out of the question, the winner of the bout between Senchenko and Malignaggi for the Ukrainian’s WBA belt should be a natural challenge. In my honest opinion Brook would handle either of those with great ease.

After the defeat it is difficult to see what Matthew Hatton will decide to do next. He is still an excellent fighter and most definitely can compete at domestic and European level. However at thirty years of age it is hard to see if he can mount another attack on the worlds finest. At this current time, the welterweight division is possibly the strongest it has been for many a year and to get into a world title position Matthew needs to take out the best. Unfortunately on this showing, it is a big ask. But Matthew shouldn’t look at retirement, he still has a lot to give in the game and the only thing that will stop him is his own ego. Some in his position may look at a challenge at British level as beneath him. However Hatton has never won a Lonsdale belt and to have that on your record is a magnificent achievement, one Matthew should be proud of.

Fight Preview – Battle stations

16 Mar

 

When announced earlier in the year the event titled the ‘War of the Roses’ was considered to be the most highly anticipated domestic clash since the turn of the century. In recent times young Sheffield fighter Kell Brook has been lighting up the ring with dazzling performances, showing off his sheer class and boxing skill. After cleaning up the domestic division, Kell moved on to face and ultimately dominate world ranked welterweights Lovemore N’dou and Rafal Jackiewicz. This enabled him to claim the number one welterweight spot in the domestic rankings. However he jumped to the summit of the rankings without facing the man who previously held the position. For years Matthew Hatton was seen as Britain’s nearly man. A skilled welterweight who was somewhat unfortunate to live in the shadow of older brother and former two weight world champion Ricky Hatton. For years Matthew travelled the world with his brother, fighting in the grandest arena’s on his brothers undercards. But never managed to reach the same heights. It wasn’t until 2009 when Ricky had all but retired that Matthew finally started to make a name for himself. A quality performance against N’dou, which unfortunately ended in a draw and a European title win against Gianluca Branco allowed Hatton to emerge from the darkness. After defending the EBU title twice, Hatton moved up to bigger things. He made a bold challenge against young Mexican starlet Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez for the WBC light middleweight title in the younger man’s Mexican backyard. Although Matthew could not come away with the win, he certainly made a name for himself. He withstood everything the big man could throw at him and replied with thunder and lightning. Giving the 21 year old one of his hardest test today. However their was certainly no future for Matthew at light middleweight and he smartly returned to his natural division.

All that leads to Saturday 17th March at the Motorpoint arena in sheffield. After making his American debut in December 2011 Kell returns to the steel city to challenge his one remaining domestic foe. However the challenge is no easy feat. After Hatton’s earlier career blip he has had a new lease of life in the ring, only getting better with age. Like Kell he aims to prove he is the best in the country and this win will move him forward to greater challenges at the highest level. Kell is the superior boxer, his speed, his timing and his power has been evident throughout his undefeated pro career. He can both blow away opponents and grind them down over twelve rounds, he has a box full of tricks and certainly has the skills to outbox most fighters in the world today. Hatton isn’t so finely tuned, however what he brings to the party is heart. Not at one point will Matthew stop coming, and he will certainly take everything Kell has to offer and does not lack the power to throw back at him. It would be hard to find a blend of styles that is more perfectly matched. The skill of Kell against the determination of Matthew. This is precisely why it is so highly anticipated. This is why so far it has sold over 10,000 tickets. It is very rare in the boxing industry that we ever get the best v the best, and on Saturday albeit domestically with have exactly that. I have no doubt in my mind that all fans will go home extremely happy with the nights events.

As for making a prediction. Well anything could happen in this one. Brook could shock the Sheffield crowd by simply overpowering Hatton in the opening rounds. If Hatton is at all underprepared we could be looking at an early night, but this is highly unlikely. Hatton will take Brook’s best and fight back, If this bout doesn’t reach the final bell I will be very surprised. Then it all goes down to how the judges see it. Will they prefer Brook’s skill? or Hatton’s aggression? In my mind I think were going to see a Brook unanimous decision. The crowd is going to be a big factor, the Sheffield crowd will no doubt be cheering loudly for every single blow landed by their man. But Hatton’s are known for bringing an army of fans to any fight so don’t expect them to be re-enacting a library situation Saturday night.

Whoever comes away with the win Saturday night can look forward to big things. Both are ranked very highly in the world rankings and this bout is being seen as the last stage for who moves up to challenge for the ultimate prize.

Still ‘Saint’ George?

15 Mar

The highly anticipated rematch between British super middleweight champion George Groves and Kenny Anderson has unfortunately been postponed. On Monday it was announced that the undefeated lonsdale belt holder Groves, had suffered a back injury in training. The injury has led Groves to be unable to train properly and was given no other option but to postpone the bout when he failed a fitness test. Monday also saw the announcement that Groves was to be made the mandatory challenger for Robert Stieglitz’s WBO super middleweight title and that the bout was to go to purse bids.

The rematch which was due to take place Friday night at London’s Wembley Arena, was a fight which many boxing fans were looking forward to for a number of reasons. The two previously shared a ring back in 2010, on the undercard of the world heavyweight title fight between Groves’ stablemate David Haye and Audley Harrison in Manchester. The bout then was not as high profile as it was due to be today. Groves was the up and coming fighter defending his Commonwealth title against unbeaten Scot Anderson. The bout turned out to be a domestic fight of the year contender. To the surprise of many in the arena Anderson put the young super middleweight on the canvas early on, giving the Londoner the first big shock of his short professional career. However he rallied back to dominate the Scot and break him down to a stoppage in the sixth. Although Groves had hurt Anderson with some heavy shots, some – including Anderson- felt the stoppage was premature. The fight was seen as Groves’s coming of age. It was his toughest test to date and set him up to move on to greater challenges. The next year he would rip away the British title from long time rival James DeGale in a heated encounter at London’s 02 Arena and make a successful first defence with a stylish second round TKO against former belt holder Paul Smith.

The announcement of the rematch was nothing but a joy for British fight fans, and nobody was looking forward to it more than Anderson. The Scot was full with confidence after the knockdown and was clearly upset that the referee stopped the bout. Fortunately the BBB of C gave him another shot when they made him Groves mandatory challenger. The 29 year old is convinced that he had the champions number and that he was going to take the lonsdale belt home with him. Unfortunately due to the injury suffered by Groves we may never see the bout. Although it was only postponed with new things coming to light, such as Groves bump up in the world rankings. The fight may never take place. Groves withdrawal has led to cries of outrage from the boxing community. Not only has the 23 year old’s decision cost Kenny in terms of his training hours, his purse and his chance at glory, but it has led to the entire undercard being put back. For young fighters such as Billy Joe Saunders and Frank Buglioni, they want to get ring time, they want to get hours under the belt to prepare them for the higher levels of professional boxing. The postponement has obviously derailed plans for the fans. The fans who would’ve been travelling from far and wide to see a great fight, who have paid hard earned money to see a great fight. Rumours a floating around that Groves has simply faked the injury, so that the fight would not have scuppered his chance at the world title. If this rumour is true, Groves should hang his head in shame.

With the announcement of Groves being made mandatory challenger, Monday saw the bout go to purse bids for which promoter holds the rights to stage the contest. The bid was won by Stieglitz’s promoter SES boxing, which I have no doubt will wish to stage the fight in Stieglitz’s German backyard. Although young and inexperienced at that level, Groves certainly does have a fantastic chance of stealing the title from the German. His unbeaten fight record of 14-0 (11KOs) is a statement of the 23 year old Londoners power. The wins over Anderson and DeGale displayed his heart to fightback and to put everything on the line to win and finally his two round destruction of Paul Smith shows his ruthlessness and sheer class in the ring. He may lack the experience but he certainly has the tools to cause an upset. After the injury was announced, Groves stated that his next fight would be for the WBO title. Casting doubts over the rescheduling of a rematch with Kenny Anderson. However he will come under immense pressure to face the Scot after this withdrawal. Should Groves be successful in Germany, Groves-Anderson sounds ten time juicier with a world title at stake.