Boxing


Six Busy Weeks for British Boxing, As titles are won, lost and defended

David Hayeby Mark Wilson Smith - We are only half way through the year and already there has been plenty of activity for British boxing fans to mull over. This is down to the fact that over a very busy six-week period we saw most of our leading stars involved in high profile bouts. With some heartache but mostly good results, we look back over the fights that have made for such a fascinating time.

Going back to April 3rd, which was the start of our busy period, we saw David Haye outclass John Ruiz. A Haye victory was always going to be a safe bet, but it was his tactics on the night that impressed me.

There are still question marks over Hayeís stamina, and he knew that going in there and trying to blast out Ruiz would have been energy sapping and unwise, given that Ruiz had only been stopped once in his career.. Instead, a strategy was formed that would allow him to conserve energy and go the full distance if necessary. Hayeís game plan was to fight on the back foot, allowing the Latino-American to plod forward while being economical and picking his shots. Even when Ruiz was dropped twice in the first round, Haye stuck to the script and it worked a treat, forcing a stoppage in the ninth round. Fantastic!

I was a little disappointed that in the days following the fight, as Haye announced that he plans to have only four more fights before retiring at the age of 30. To start with, it may be difficult to secure the kind of legacy he is after in such a short period of time- although if he bows out with wins over both the Klitschko brothers, then he will be held in very high regard. Further, I donít think Haye did himself any favours by making his plans public. He is being touted as the saviour of Heavyweight boxing; a lot of people are coming back to the sport because of his explosive style and personality, but will the wider public and casual boxing fans get excited about something that already has an end date? We want to think that this is only the beginning of a great boxing adventure, not something with the end already in sight.

At the time of writing, Haye and Adam Booth are in talks with Wladimir Klitschko over a potential match-up. However, there are still a couple of problems to be overcome before this fight can take place. Firstly, Haye is tied to Sauerland Event for his next two fights, and both the Klitschko brothers are not keen to work with the German promotional company. Secondly, there is still the obstacle of the Valuev (promoted by Sauerland) rematch to be sorted out. Hopefully the big Russian will step aside and allow Haye-Klitschko to take place. It could even benefit him, as if Haye wins his fight with Klitschko then there would be the newly acquired WBO and IBF titles on the line, as well as his old WBA belt. A possible solution being suggested is that Haye will be allowed to fight Wladimir, if Valuev can challenge WBC champion Vitali Klitschko. We shall see what happensÖ

Also in April we witnessed Audley Harrison put himself in the mix for a shot at the world title. I was genuinely delighted for big Audley when he knocked out Michael Sprott in the last round to become the new Euro champ.

I went to watch one of his first professional fights, which now seems like ages ago, and have always liked the big man, although that is more down to Audley the man rather than his achievements in the ring. At the time, I felt that it was a mistake for Audley to be headlining events the moment he turned professional. Like all boxers, he started to learn the ropes against lesser opponents, but this should have been done on under cards, not as the main event and under the microscope. The expectations put upon him at the start of his career were huge, but Audley himself didnít really help matters by making so many ambitious claims.

I do give Audley a lot of respect for the fact that he has always done things his way. He set up his own promotional company right from the beginning to look after his own career and he has never given up on his dream of landing the world title. There have been many set backs along the way, but Harrison hasnít stopped believing and a shot at the title could be just around the corner.

He will have a spell on the sidelines due to the injury he picked up in the Sprott fight, but could be back in September to face Alexander Dimitrenko, the mandatory challenger for his European title. People close to Harrison have been urging him to relinquish the Euro title rather than defend against Dimitrenko 29-1 (19) - with a possible shot at the world title so close, even without defending the Euro belt, they think that this fight is an unnecessary risk.

It is still doubtful that Audley could beat any of the current champions, but assuming he gets his chance, a challenge for the Heavyweight championship of the world, a European title, a Prizefighter victory, and an Olympic gold medal surely deserves some credit from even his harshest critics.

Unfortunately things took a turn for the worst at the end of April, as Carl Froch was defeated by Mikkel Kessler in the Super Six Boxing Classic- a defeat that ended his reign as the WBC Super middleweight champion.

Before the Super Six tournament began, I would always have picked Kessler to beat Froch, but Kesslerís dismal performance against Andre Ward made me think that the contest would be a more even affair. Unfortunately for Froch, Kessler returned to form that night to win by a unanimous decision.

Froch should have seen the warning signs long ago- he took far too may shots in the fights against Jean Pascal and Jermain Taylor, but has done nothing to shore up his sloppy defence. Those fights were then followed by a disputed spilt decision win over Andre Dirrell, which many American pundits felt Froch lost. Despite all that, Froch still had a less than perfect defence against Kessler and was generally too laid back during the early part the fight. It was only in the later rounds, well behind on points at this stage, that Froch moved up a gear and tried to find the winning punch, as he had done against Taylor. By then it was too late- Kessler held on for a deserved points win.

Carlís behaviour following the fight has left a bad taste in the mouth. He claims that he was on the receiving end of a biased decision in Denmark and then threatened to withdraw from the super six tournament if his next fight (against Arthur Abraham) was held in Germany. The suggestion being that if the fight did happen in Germany, then he could possibly lose because of Ďanotherí dodgy decision. The result of this is that the fight with Abraham will now be held in a neutral country, due to Frochís protests.

The annoying thing is that the reputation of boxing is being damaged when there was absolutely no foul play involved. Froch is a good fighter with a huge heart and great knockout power, but he was beaten fairly by the harder working Kessler and so should look to himself, not to the judges, to find the reason for that.

Amir Khan made a good start to his ĎAmerican careerí with a very predictable win over Paulie Malignaggi in front of 8,000 fans at Madison Square Garden.

Although Khan stopped his opponent in the eleventh and most people gave him all but one of the rounds, he didnít look quite as polished as he normally does. It wasnít really until the later rounds that he started to look like the slick, fluid Amir that we know so well. Perhaps this can be put down to the fact that his training schedule was disrupted with a move to Canada and the fact that Malignaggi is still a tricky, fast moving opponent. In any case, it was still a good performance by Khan and it was great to see him do well on his American debut.

Following the bout, Amir delighted boxing fans all over the world when he said his intention is to unify the division with fights against Devon Alexander and Timothy Bradley, as well as a possible showdown with Marcos Maidana being mentioned. Further good news was that Khan insists that he will fight in the UK again and not solely in America.

As for Malignaggi, I have never really rated the New Yorker that highly, and losing to Khan was as predictable as it gets. He talks a good game in the build up to fights, but has never truly delivered at world level- just ask Cotto, Hatton, Diaz, and now Khan.

To round off our six weeks of high activity, I now turn briefly to Kevin Mitchell. Mitchell fought on the same night as Khan but with decidedly less success. In front of almost 20,000 fans at Upton Park football ground, with a rock band and X-factor singer as part of the show, he was stopped in three by WBO Interim champion Michael Katsidis. After the fight, it was very disappointing to hear Mitchell admit that he cut corners in training and didnít fully apply himself. This was a fantastic platform to launch himself into the big time and into the hearts of British fans. He wasted that opportunity and has rightly come under fire from his promoter, Frank Warren. Mitchell has talent and is still relatively young, 25, and will probably get another chance- letís hope he shows a bit more dedication next time.

Article posted on 20.05.2010



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