Boxing


Alex Arthur retains his title in fight of the year contender

alex arthurBy Andrew Wake: Edinburgh’s interim WBO super featherweight champion, “Amazing” Alex Arthur, fighting in his first hometown contest for over 18 months, retained his title by unanimously outpointing Manchester’s Stephen Foster Jnr 114 – 111 (twice) and 113 - 112 in a bout that is a sure fire contender for fight of the year.

The first few rounds were tough for the man ranked number seven in the world by Ring magazine as Foster Jnr, a former WBU champ at 126 pounds, bullied him onto the ropes and landed the cleaner shots, most notably several fabulous overhand rights that seemed to buzz the defending champion.

In the third frame Arthur looked sluggish early on and allowed Foster Jnr. to dictate the pace, but as the round entered its final 60 seconds the two combatants went toe to toe, landing some hard leather, and the crowd were up on their feet screaming. I scored it even.

It wasn’t until the fifth that Arthur, now 26 – 1 with 19 KOs, began to take control as he opened up with a series of combinations to the body.

Arthur knocked the challenger’s head back with a sharp left cross early in the sixth causing a frustrated Foster to leap forward and catch the champion with the top of his head. Referee Terry O’Conner correctly ordered the judges to take a point away for this infringement.

A further head clash in the eighth did not help Foster’s cause but this time Brummie referee O’Connor decided to the let the action continue without any more deductions from the scorecards. Arthur continued to target Foster’s midsection with chopping hooks.

Interviewed at ringside before the start of the ninth, Britain’s World light welterweight champion, Ricky Hatton, felt that Arthur’s physical advantages were beginning to be the fight’s deciding factor. He said, “I think the size and strength is beginning to take over now. Foster had a good start but Arthur’s strength is showing.”

The ninth was a barnstorming round as both men got off clean and hard shots. Foster appeared to be edging the frame with his right hand until the champion connected with a vicious body shot, not dissimilar to the one Hatton landed to finish Jose Luis Castillo in June, and the Mancunian challenger had to take a knee.

Before the start of the eleventh, Arthur’s corner told him to press the action as they believed that Foster was tiring badly. The champion came out swinging and had Foster Jnr. in trouble with a 6 punch combination to the body but Foster Jnr. held on courageously and then, out of nowhere, landed a right hand over the top that sent Arthur crashing through the lower ropes. “Amazing” Alex was up early in the count but was on rubber legs and had to bravely hang in to see the round out.

Foster looked for the knockout he needed in the twelfth but the Edinburgh native frustrated him with some nice movement and insured that the WBO strap remained in his possession.

After the fight, Arthur admitted that he had struggled to make the super featherweight division’s 9st 4Ibs limit and said, “I was not happy with performance. I should be much better.

“I knew he (Foster Jnr.) would be strong in the early part of the fight. He’s from Manchester, that’s their thing.”

Asked about how he had managed to survive the knockdown in round eleven, he responded, “I’ve got balls of steel. Joe Calzaghe, who is my hero, has been knocked down by lesser opponents and stormed back to win, and that’s what I did.”

Prior to the contest Arthur had cited his desire to move up to lightweight and challenge for a world title there, but also stated that he will remain at 130 pounds until he becomes a “proper” world champion. The dream of being the WBO’s main super feather titlist could become a reality in early 2008 as the Puerto Rican organisation have let it be known that they intend to strip regular champ Joan Guzman if he does not agree to accommodate the Scotsman.

Undercard

Coatbridge’s 24 year old former British and European super featherweight challenger Ricky Burns outpointed Stourport on sea’s experienced Billy “Gypsy” Smith by 60 points to 54. The fight was competitive throughout but Burns’ work was cleaner. He landed some chopping rights throughout but Smith, now 11 – 59 – 1, continuously came forward and gave the Scotsman a tougher night the wide scores suggested.

Despite being knocked down by a hard left in the third John Simpson, the current British featherweight champion, moved to 17 – 5 (6 KOs) by beating Dewbury based Syrian Youssef Al Hamidi on points over eight rounds 77 – 75.

WBU middleweight champion and WBO number one ranked contender Gary “The Rocket Man” Lockett dropped Finnish journeyman Kai Kauramaki three times on way to a second round stoppage. The KO victory brings to a close a disappointing year for the Welshman whose last contest was on the undercard of stable mate Joe Calzaghe’s clash with Peter Manfrdo Jnr. back in early April. He said that he is looking forward to 2008 and is relishing the prospect of potentially taking middleweight kingpin Kelly Pavlik.

Super middleweight prospect Kenny Anderson, in his fifth professional bout, maintained his 100% knockout streak by halting former British Master champion Simeon Cover in the sixth round.

Article posted on 16.12.2007



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