By Frank Warren
Dating back to when Cornish born ‘Ruby Bob’ Fitzsimmons dumped ‘Nonpareil’ Jack Dempsey 13 times to bag the world title in New Orleans, way back in 1891, the middleweight division has long served as a fertile hunting ground for British prizefighters.
Since the war, domestic greats like Turpin, Downes, Minter, Benn and Eubank have flourished at world title level in the glamour 160lb class.
Of our current rich home crop, Matthew Macklin, Darren Barker and Martin Murray have all challenged valiantly but abortively for various world titles during the last two years.
Unbeaten Murray, held to a draw against German Felix Sturm in Mannheim in December 2011, gets a second bite against Argentina’s WBC boss Sergio Martinez in Buenos Aires next month. I wish him well but it could be a painfully unproductive trip, especially as the Argie will have the new Pope routing for him.
Maybe better bet to extend Britain’s 11st 6lb heritage is Hatfield traveller Billy Joe Saunders who penned a new promotional deal with me this week.
The unbeaten 23 year old defends his British and Commonwealth titles against Manchester hardman Matthew ‘El Torito’ Hall in Bethnal Green this Thursday and, as the challenger – a former European challenger down at light-middle – doesn’t possess a reverse gear, it can’t be anything but a humdinger while it lasts.
That might not be very long as southpaw Saunders possesses seriously concussive power. A former Beijing Olympian whilst still in his teens, I believe he has all the hardware needed to realise his dreams of becoming the first Romany gypsy to win a world title.
I’d willingly pitch him against any of Britain’s touted Holy Trinity right now and be confident he’d prevail. Ultimately, I expect him to rise to super-middle and get stuck into the likes of George Groves and James DeGale. He’s a serious talent with a massive future.
The domestic heavyweight scene needed a gee up following David Price’s recent shocking knockout defeat and it came last Tuesday when former British and Commonwealth king Dereck Chisora had his British licence
After shedding a few cobwebs and hopefully accruing a much needed win in a 10 round international contest on the undercard of Nathan Cleverly’s world title defence at Wembley Arena on April 20th, I’ll be looking to manoeuvre ‘Del Boy’ straight back into championship contention – ideally in a crack at Price for his old belts at a big arena this summer.
That would accord both with an opportunity for redemption and would certainly get the juices flowing.
For me, Chisora is equally as big a prospective British world champion as the more touted David Price or Tyson Fury. The latter registered an impressive 12 round points win over Chisora at Wembley in July 2011 when Del was at his absolute worst; over-weight and riddled with personal problems. However, I’m not sure big Tyson could repeat the trick if Chisora brought his ‘A game’.
Heavyweights bloom later than fighters in lighter divisions and Chisora is still only 29. Physically, he was a beast at a young age, winning the senior 2006 ABA super-heavyweight title in just his 20th amateur bout.
After just 14 pro outings, he’d bagged the British, then Commonwealth crowns with back-to-back stoppages over Danny Williams and Sam Sexton.
Subsequently, in addition to the Fury reverse, he was robbed blind challenging for the European title against Finland’s world rated Robert Helenius in Helsinki, was edged out by Vitali Klitschko in a fabulous WBC world title tilt in Munich, then blasted out in five by David Haye in their score settler before over 30,000 at Upton Park last July. All four contests were competitive and exciting.
At his best, Chisora is bull strong, deceptively skilful, combative and courageous. He has always been cast as the ‘pantomime villain’ if it helps shift tickets and, anyway, a bit of ‘edge’ has certainly never harmed in the fight business. Loved or loathed, he’s never ignored.
I have never condoned the well chronicled antics that led to his licence being revoked last April but have always found Dereck to be an articulate, charismatic and amiable individual. Thirteen months have now passed since Munich and, following a course of anger management, there are signs that he is belatedly acquiring the mental and emotional maturity that will allow him to realise his considerable potential.
Refreshed, re-charged and suitably humbled post Haye, he still has an enormous amount to offer.
Bernard Hopkins continues to defy time. In New York last weekend, at the ripe old age of 48, ‘BHop’ smashed his own record as the oldest ever world champion by emphatically outscoring Florida’s previously unbeaten and much avoided Tavoris Cloud to capture the IBF light-heavy crown.
I was delighted. The upset win should serve as a timely motivational incentive to Nathan Cleverly who defends his WBO claim to world 175lb hegemony against mandatory challenger Robin Krasniqi of Germany next month.
I’ve invited Hopkins to be my ringside guest for that with a view to matching the champions in a huge unification spat at a British soccer stadium in the summer.
That would not only accord ‘The Executioner’ an opportunity to spread his gospel beyond the Americas for the first time, but also provide a chance for him to avenge his defeat to Joe Calzaghe, another Welsh light-heavy, who outhustled him in 2008.
JC and ‘Clev’ are former stablemates with similar high energy styles and that is why I pick my man to drown Hopkins with leather and finally assume his mantle as a true world superstar.
Boxer Curtis Woodhouse went on the road this week to twatter a twitter who’d been giving him a lot of stick.
The cowardly keyboard warrior has now been named and shamed. On live TV he finally came face to face with Curtis and apologised for his tweets. Perhaps other ‘Trolls’ will take note and think twice before sending abusive remarks on social media platforms.
Whispers are that Channel 5 has allegedly pulled the plug on boxing. Where does that leave Tyson Fury and James DeGale?
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