Anthony Farnell Breaks Down Gavin vs. Barnes

Saturday week's British welterweight clash between Birmingham's Frankie Gavin and Manchester's David Barnes pitches together two of the most mercurial domestic 147lb talents of recent vintage.

Champion Gavin, England's only ever world amateur champion, is now unbeaten in 16 as a pro and just one notch from securing permanent custody of the coveted Lord Lonsdale Belt. A future at world level beckons.

Opposing him is fellow southpaw Barnes, a former four time national schoolboy champion who reigned undefeated as British titleholder at both welter and light-welter in the pros.

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Boxing writer Glynn Evans could think of no one better qualified to preview the clash than Failsworth trainer Anthony 'Arnie' Farnell, who previously coached both principals. Here is Farnell's assessment.

"For those boxing fans who enjoy the smarts and science of the game this fight is unmissable.

"I've known David Barnes since he was a teenager training up at Brian Hughes' gym when I was a pro myself. He was only an amateur and quite a bit younger and lighter than me but, trust me, you had to be mindful when sparring with him. He could really dig.

Back then, as a junior amateur, David was a different type of fighter. He was formidably strong, far more mature physically than most other lads his age group and he walked right through everybody. He was like a little Mike Tyson.

It was only as he got older, and the opposition became tougher, that he began to embrace the elusive, safety first approach that he's associated with today.

We were gym mates together at Brian's for only about six months before I left. After I retired and became a trainer, I worked with David again for two fights in 2006, just after he parted with Brian himself.

He was a wicked talent. He had this natural awkwardness, could really string combinations together and had a very hurtful right hook to the body. Technically, he didn't really have any glaring deficiencies and he also had a very sharp boxing brain.

And Dave was a decent guy. From his 'street' haircuts and flashy clothes, you'd think he'd be a loudmouth but he was the total opposite. He was quiet and kept his own company. He was always polite, nice to be around.

Any shortcomings he had were mental. He was very much an 'on top' fighter. If you gave him time and space he looked fantastic. But you had to get him believing in himself because David wasn't naturally a very confident kid. He could be a bit of a worrier.

If he knew he was due to spar someone decent the next day, he'd find an excuse not to turn up. But if they just arrived at the gym without him knowing, he'd step in and acquit himself fine.

He had a proper kayo dig. I could really feel that when I took him on the pads or body belt. But at some stage he lost the confidence to plant his feet when it came to delivering on fight night. I never really saw it again after he controversially won the British (welterweight) title against Jimmy Vincent.

He won the Lonsdale Belt outright in double quick time and the night he stopped James Hare in six rounds, back in 2004, he looked really, really special. I thought he was on the cusp of setting the world alight. However, for whatever reasons, he failed to fully fulfil his potential.

You started to hear rumours. Perhaps he thought he'd made it before he actually had. He started to let himself down with his dedication. At mine, he failed to show up for sparring. He told me he was ill but I heard he was out on the town. That's when I slung him out of my gym. If they don't want to do it, then I don't want them.

Frankie Gavin trained at my gym from his pro debut in 2009 until his poor performance (wpts12) against Curtis Woodhouse. All told that was 11 fights. He was addictive to be around. He could be a pain in the arse cos he just doesn't shut up but he's such a funny guy. And he's a great friend to have, will do anything for anyone. He struggled to get proper rest because he'd be up till one or two in the morning, running round doing favours for people.

When he first arrived he was already a fantastic mover and a great thinker but still very amateurish in his ways. He used to defend solely with his foot movement and, when forced back against the ropes, he had a very bad habit of just covering up with his gloves in front of his face. He'd block but not counter back.

However he adapted to the pros so quickly because he was prepared to listen and he had the confidence to try what I showed him straight away. He picked new techniques up instantly and learned to fight inside in no time at all. Gradually, we sorted his defence out, got him to sit on the ropes, really relaxed, countering back.

People talk about Frankie's speed – and he is quick – but it's his instinctive command of distance and his timing that are most impressive. He has a little lean in, draws the shot, then makes you miss, makes you pay every time. Effortless! He could also really dig in when he needed to. On his debut, things weren't going well and he was badly cut but he showed a lot of balls and forced the stoppage.

This might surprise people but in the weeks beforehand, and in the changing room on the night, Frankie gets really, really edgy and nervous. But it works to his advantage, makes him really, really sharp and focussed. It's only once he walks to the ring that he starts to relax.

Technically, there really wasn't much to hold him back. My one slight worry was whether he'd be competitive at world level as a welterweight because some of those top guys fighting in America like Antonio Margarito and Kermit Cintron are absolutely huge. But lately he does seem to be gradually growing into the weight more.

Frankie hit a bad patch around his fights with Young Mutley and Woodhouse and we parted. People talk about Frankie having 'demons' but I'm not too sure. It's possible that all the stardom and money came for him a bit too soon. The career of a professional boxer is very short so you have to live like a monk. You can do all the partying and daft stuff after you retire.

Still he's really got his act together back in Birmingham under Tom Chaney and I'm genuinely happy for him. The arrival of his second child has been fantastic in settling him. We still talk regular and I genuinely hope he lives up to his potential rather than wastes his talent.

The Frankie Gavin of today against the David Barnes of around the time 'Barnsey' stopped James Hare would be close to a 'pick 'em' fight. If David has conquered his insecurities then he's a hard fight for anyone, trust me. If 'Barnsey' is right and he hits anybody flush on 'the spot' they'll go. So you never know.

In his younger days if you gave Barnes an inch he'd try to take a mile but, in Bob Shannon, he's now with a trainer who will really work him in the gym and who's an excellent motivator.

I expect the first round or two will be cagey but once 'Barnsey' discovers he can't connect with Frankie, he'll change direction and try and stick in on him. That's when Frankie will up the pace with his feet, tire him out, make him miss, make him pay.

It could be clear points or late stoppage but, at this stage of their careers, Gavin wins easy. Right now, it's Frankie's time."

User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by wja1966 on 09-20-2013

Totally agree with that prediction and its a shame because Barnes was a monster fighter

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