Junior Witter to fight for WBC title in London
15.08.06 - Bradford’s Junior Witter has waited patiently for his opportunity to challenge for the most prestigious title in boxing. Finally, he has it, in what will be one of the biggest fights in London for years. On a Hennessy Sports event at the historic Alexandra Palace on September 15th 2006 Witter will meet American DeMarcus Corley, promoted by Don King, for the WBC super lightweight title. The action will be covered live by Britain’s premier boxing broadcaster Sky Sports. It will be the first time that the green belt has been contested in the Capital since Lennox Lewis met Francois Botha at the London Arena in July 2000.
Article posted on 15.08.2006
That was also the last instance of a Brit successfully contesting a WBC title fight, be it in a defence or a challenge, on home soil..
“This is the kind of fight I am in the sport for,” said promoter Mick Hennessy, head of Hennessy Sports. “I set out to promote fighters along the traditional title path, from British, Commonwealth and European right through to genuine world honours. They don’t come any bigger than the WBC. I am very proud to be bringing their title to the UK and I know Junior is very proud to be contesting it on home soil.”
The process of securing the fight has been a lengthy one, for both fighter and promoter.
Witter’s time looked to be drawing near way back in June 2005 when the WBC - as a reward for his win over Lovemore N’Dou in an eliminator and his outstanding form at British, Commonwealth and European level - installed him as their number one contender at 140lb.
His progress towards the Championship was severely delayed, however, when opponents nominated to meet him in final eliminators - for the right to establish who would face then champion Floyd Mayweather - withdrew on several occasions.
Matters were finally kick-started when the WBC, under long-term lobbying from Hennessy, waived the need for him to contest a final eliminator earlier this year given the lack of suitable opponents prepared to step up and face him.
He was happy to take the direct shot at Mayweather his new found status as mandatory contender afforded him, but shortly afterwards the widely regarded pound for pound king relinquished.
Former world champion Corley was subsequently nominated as his co-challenger for the vacant crown. A purse bid was called for but through lengthy negotiation with his counterpart Don King, Hennessy was able to secure a private deal and bring the fight to London. The fight has been scheduled for some time, with both boxers being given plenty of notice. Final terms were agreed and contracts signed earlier this week.
“Fair play to Junior Witter,” added Hennessy. “If any fighter deserves an opportunity like this, it’s him. He has done everything he can to get this fight. He got himself in the mix the proper way by winning British, Commonwealth and European Titles. He was recently named European champion of the year.
“He has been prepared to fight anyone to get his opportunity for the title. He fought Lovemore N’Dou, a top-class operator, in America, in an initial eliminator and was prepared to face any of the people put in front of him in a final eliminator. It’s refreshing in this day and age when there is a lot of ducking going on to see a fighter so confident in his own talent.
“Junior could have taken other opportunities. And not just for fringe titles. He was offered a fight against Ben Rabah for the IBF title but let it go to concentrate on what he and his team consider a harder, more worthy, contest for the WBC title.”
Witter’s loyalty to the green belt stems from the desire to fulfil a childhood ambition.
“The WBC belt is the one I have always dreamed of winning,” began Witter, 33(19)-1-2. “As a kid that was the belt I always wanted. That is why I have held out for it for so long. If they are honest, I think it is the title most fighters want in their heart.
“I always knew I would get my opportunity in the end. I’m glad it’s finally here and now I am going to do my best to keep the belt in Britain.”
Given his Championship pedigree, his chances of doing so are strong. Since the only defeat of his career - when he took Zab Judah the distance despite only being called up on just seven days notice to challenge for the IBF title in June 2000 - he has racked up eighteen wins, stopped 15 opponents, (all but one inside four rounds), and won 8 genuine title fights.
His win over N’Dou in February 2005 on his US debut was especially impressive. He became the first to ever floor the Australian based South African, (twice), on the undercard of Howard Eastman’s challenge to undisputed middleweight king Bernard Hopkins in Los Angeles.
Corley, however, has outstanding form of his own. In 2001 he won the WBO title with a sensational first round stoppage of Felix Flores, despite taking the fight just 5 days beforehand. He made two successful defences before losing to common opponent Judah, also at the hand of the judges.
Whilst Corley, 31(17)-4-1, has suffered two defeats in his five fights since, both have been at the very highest level. He performed admirably on both occasions.
In May 2004 he lost a decision to Mayweather, but not before heavily staggering the ring legend. In February 2005 he lost to Miguel Cotto, another star of the division, in a breathtaking war. He had his man out on his feet before being, some believe unfairly, stopped in the 5th.
Understandably, Witter is full of respect for his co-challenger.
“Corley is very good. A very dangerous fighter,” he said. “His record speaks for itself. He has a good solid chin and is a good solid puncher. He rocked both Cotto and Mayweather. He is the kind of fighter that I will lose to if I am not at my peak form. But I will be. I have to be for this fight.”
As, no doubt, Corley will be, making this a highly competitive fight between two world-class fighters in the best shape of their careers. The protagonist from this side of the pond is one who believes it will be well worthy of its WBC championship.
“It’s going to be an intriguing fight. Whilst we are both big punchers, we are both also thinking fighters with unorthodox styles. It’s going to be a technical fight with explosive battles thrown in. It’s going to be one of those fights where you are watching and then boom. That’s how it’s going to be,” finished Witter.
The Hennessy Sports ‘World Honours’ event takes place at the Alexandra Palace on Friday September 15th. For more information please visit www.HennessySports.com. Tickets priced at £35 Unreserved, £60 Outer Ringside and £125 Ringside Laminate, (with access to private bar), will be on sale from 16/8/2006 on: 0870 060 1795.
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