By Terence Dooley
Edinburgh's Kenny Anderson (166¾lb) won the vacant British super middleweight title courtesy of a stoppage of former WBC world titlist Robin Reid (also 166¾lb) in Sheffield last night. Anderson, 29, started slowly at the city's Motorpoint Arena before flooring his 41-year-old opponent with a sweeping uppercut in round five and then applying the finishing touches when Reid got to his feet to force referee Ian John-Lewis to halt the contest at 2:45 of the fifth.
Despite many predicting fireworks from the get-go, both men started slowly and cautiously in round one, with Reid tying Anderson up when in close. “The Widowmaker” responded to these tactics by hooking his leg around Reid's leg and flinging the former champion to the canvas. Ian-John Lewis missed the foul, but fortunately for both men, and the fans, Reid opted against pulling a “B-Hop” and was soon on his feet and ready for action.
Indeed, Reid, now 42-8-1 (29), landed the harder, cleaner blows throughout the early going, he also worked Anderson's body well, but the fight started to slip away from him in the fourth as Anderson's nagging, persistent jab began to break the co-challengers rhythm.
However, Reid's body shots had started to stray low early in the contest, by the fifth they were borderline. Lewis pulled the Runcorn man up for one low blow and deducted a point from his scorecard, which proved to be moot anyway as Anderson finally landed his right uppercut – a shot he had tried to pull the trigger on a few times in the preceding rounds – to take the fight away from Reid, although the “Grim Reaper” bravely tried to see the round out after hitting the deck.
Anderson, though, would not be denied and finally put his punches together with velocity and authority to net the British title that had been vacated by George Groves due to three projected mandatory defence dates falling through for one reason and another. Eddie Hearn, who promoted the show, now has another champion to work with and there are fights out there for Anderson – Paul Smith is next up and Rocky Fielding, a Matchroom fighter, was an interested ringside observer last night.
As for Anderson, his takedown in the first-round suggested that, should boxing not work out for him, he could more than hold his own in MMA. “Robin tried the bully tactics and the intimidation tactics, but that isn't going to work against me,” said Anderson when speaking to BoxingScene about the body slam.
“I'm the man in there. I'm the dominant one. When he started mucking about, holding on and getting me in headlocks, I wasn't going to tolerate that and did what comes natural. I flipped him over, he didn't like it and that broke his heart. It wasn't a ploy that I went out there endeavouring to do, I just reacted to his old-school tactics.”
As for Reid, he is now 42-8-1 (29), but he could have easily rolled around a bit and tried for a NC or DQ. Anderson, however, pointed out that Reid does not have quit in him, as proven by Reid's protests after Lewis's stoppage despite everyone else in the arena agreeing with the official's call.
“Nah, he's too much of a man for that (trying to get the DQ or NC), so all respect to him,” said Anderson. “Robin maybe realises he hasn't got the attributes he had, but he tried all the tricks in there, and if I was him I'd probably try them myself, but he is too much of a man to be bothered by something like that. He was on his feet and ready to fight, that's the type of fighter Robin is. I am genuinely happy to have a name like that next to mine on my record.”
Reid managed to wing in a few right hands, although the 18-1 (13) British champion did not recall the individual shots. “I was aware of his power, he hits hard, but nothing troubling, so I'll have to watch the video to see how hard they were,” he said.
“I've never shared the ring with someone like that, other guys you can just walk through, so I don't think (trainer) Kevin (Maree) will be happy with that, but I was in control and everything was done under my own terms. When you're in that ring, everything is easy – it is my ring, my time and I say what happens.”
Anderson's performance drew out the critics, with many arguing that he started too slowly and lacked hand speed on the night, but Maree had ordered his man to pace himself and Anderson had taken this advice to heart.
“It is a championship fight – 12-rounds – and you have to pace it,” stated Anderson. “I used the jab to break his rhythm. People were writing Robin off based on his performance in Prizefighter (in March 2011), but that isn't a reflection of his ability as that was in a three-round fight. If our fight had been over three (rounds) then you'd have seen a difference, I'd have started fast, but it was a championship fight and Kevin is a master tactician when it comes to getting my mind on things like that.
“We prepared for 12, people were expecting a knockout, and some asked me which round they should bet on, which was borderline offensive to a man like Robin Reid, so we trained in the gym for 12 hard rounds of boxing. We didn't care if we'd have had to stink the room out and got booed. I'm a very selfish boxer in that way because I have a plan and I stick to it. We had Plans A, B, C and D, and, as the fight developed, it all came to fruition and worked out well.
“I never connected properly because he is a clever fighter, rolling and riding shots, so it is hard to land cleanly. Robin was obviously aware of my own power. I knew he was tough before I went in the ring and didn't think I could just blast him out because if I'd have thought that it would have been a different type of fight.
“I would have preferred it if he had been able continue, but I'm a horrible bastard in that way because I'd have liked to have stopped it better. Any fighter will tell you that they would keep going, but that's where the safety side and your trainers help you out. I don't think Robin wanted to get stopped like that, but he can be proud and I’m happy with my performance.”
The only blip came after the fight when a Board official informed Anderson that Groves had refused to give the belt back and they had to resort to grabbing Jamie McDonnell's British belt just to have something to hand over to the winner. McDonnell was on shortly after Anderson, he wanted to carry his belt to the ring with him, so the new champion was stripped of his title, much to his annoyance.
“George has kept the belt and refused to hand it over for me and Robin,” said Anderson. “That's not rubbing anyone up the wrong way, that's just plain wrong and shouldn't have happened. It is unbelievably childish gesture from them. It is disgusting. Get a grip of yourself. All I wanted was to fight him (Groves), so how petty is this?”
Kevin Maree also expressed his disappointment over the missing belt, telling me that Groves had shown a lack of respect to both Anderson and Reid. “It is completely unprofessional, which you expect from them,” said Maree. “It is wrong to do that to both these fighters and it wouldn't have just hurt Kenny, what if Robin had of won and found that he didn't even have the belt he'd worked for? Everybody backstage here tonight heard about him doing that before the fight and they all thought it was completely disgusting, so we had to borrow the belt from McDonnell then hand it straight back.”
Now the trainer of a British champion, Maree shouldered the responsibility for his man's slow start, arguing that they had deliberately planned to ease into the fight before cranking things up as the rounds ticked on.
“I think Kenny can learn from fighting someone so clever who takes his time and picks his punches,” he said. “If anything then blame me (for the slow start). I told Kenny to take it slowly, pick his punches and planned to let him off the leash at the halfway stage rather than go wild early. It broke Reid down, neat and tidy, and then he won it. I knew we couldn't mess around and sent Kenny out to box to orders.
“I don't care what anyone else thinks. No disrespect to anyone else, but I sent him out to box like that because if he'd have opened up then it could have left openings. It was about winning the fight and walking out with the British title, however briefly, so if people complain then it means nothing to me because Kenny's now the British champion.
“Reid's a former world champion, not many people get to go in with former world champions and Robin tries to lure you on and counter you, so we worked on that. You don't have to get hit, it is about how you deal with someone like that, who is a noted punches, so why trade off with him? I now have the British champion, which is what we wanted.”
Former champion Paul Smith is next in line for Anderson, who now has a former world title-holder's name on his record, and the two camps have already started to build towards the fight, which is likely to be characterised by mutual respect.
“Paul has showed a lot of respect and we really appreciated that,” said Maree. “(Smith's trainer) Joe Gallagher wished us all the best. I've got a lot of respect for Joe and all the Smith family. I would love that fight, and that is no disrespect to Smith or because we think we'd win – it is because they're all very good fighters, Paul's very respectful and we'll get a respectful build-up, which, for me, would be an absolute blessing. It would be great to go into training knowing that we'd be facing a fight like that. Paul's a fantastic fighter and people would want to see it.”
He added: “We get fights now, that was the mission behind this patience. We've not had major backing. Tonight, Kenny won the title and no matter what happens we will now get fights, they will go to purse bids and people have to go for this title.”
What do we make of the missing title issue? Members of one or two forums have already switched the blame to Groves, especially given that the Board members on site last night did the same thing. However, when a champion wins the British belt he gets to keep it for two-weeks then has to hand it back to the BBBoC. If the champion wants to take the belt out for events, photos shoots etc. then he has to get in touch with the Board.
Therefore the most pertinent question is when did Groves last sign the belt out and when did the Board get in touch with him to ask for the title back? Did they give him enough time to do this, especially considering that he got married recently and then went on honeymoon, and why didn't an official note the lack of a belt on Friday and bring in a Lonsdale belt that could be used on the night without having to nick McDonnell's title for a hour or so?
Until those questions are answered the blame will continue to fall on Groves and people will assume he has refused to give the title up, but naming and shaming without due consideration isn't always the right way to go and someone from the Board, or Groves's team, should clear it up as the lack of an answer just leaves a void for speculation, which is not good and leaves Anderson without the title that he has dreamt of winning since turning pro in 2006.