By Frank Warren
It was fantastic to see boxing receive royal recognition in the New Years Honours List last week.
Olympic champions Anthony Joshua, Luke Campbell, Nicola Adams plus Performance Director Rob McCracken were all rewarded by Her Majesty with MBEs. A hearty congratulations to all for the acclaim they have brought to our sport.
Coach McCracken and his substantial back-up crew deserve props for a job well done in delivering a post war record medal haul for Team GB. However, so too do all the trainers at amateur clubs across the length and breadth of the country who groom and produce our Olympians from scratch yet get scant recognition and even less reward for their efforts.
With a three and a half year gap before the next Olympics in Rio, our elite amateur boxers have some important decisions to make. In contrast to when the 2008 Beijing Olympians returned, there are presently no rich pickings to be had due to the harsh economic climate, especially in female boxing or the lighter weight categories where Hull bantamweight Campbell campaigns. Both could be forgiven for continuing to capitalise on the extremely generous central grants and remaining under the amateur umbrella.
Campbell’s skill set is perfectly tailored to the amateur code and the recent addition of the British Lion hearts to the World Series of Boxing might provide better opportunities. Funded by Eastern Europeans, the WSB is a ‘half way’ house competition between city teams which allows fighters to compete for pay over five-three minute rounds, without head guards and singlets, whilst retaining their amateur status.
Not so for super-heavyweight Joshua. The chiselled 6ft 6in, 18 stone giant from Watford could not only make a mint if he vaults to the pros, he could also replicate the likes of Frank Bruno, Lennox Lewis and David Haye and become world heavyweight champion, still the richest prize in sports.
‘Big Josh’, whose contract with Team GB is believed to expire at the end of March, has already scaled the summit in the unpaid ranks and can go no higher than Olympic gold medallist. His stock will not increase greatly, even if he tops the podium at this year’s world amateur championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan in October, where the competition won’t be markedly different or any more challenging than what he has already conquered. However, it will undoubtedly diminish if Josh does not return with the bacon.
Unlike for London 2012, where the big fella enjoyed home field and received the rub of the green in wafer thin points decisions over Cuba’s Erislandy Savon in his opening bout, then again over Italy’s defending champion Roberto Cammarelle in the gold medal decider.
Despite his relative youth and inexperience, Joshua has already exhibited many qualities which convince me that, with expert guidance, he could evolve into a genuine superstar of world professional boxing relatively quickly. At just 23, he has plenty of time to make the technical and fitness adjustments that transcend the pro-amateur divide. He appears to grow noticeably stronger as a contest progresses, which will suit the longer fights in the pro arena. He always comes to fight, which will please the paying public, and his chin appears stout. Clearly he is an explosive puncher, particularly with his right hand, and he showed during the Games that he has a solid set of stones.
I’d strongly advise him to come and join the British professional heavyweight party where the likes of David Haye, David Price, Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora are already revelling. It wouldn’t be long before he’d be filling his boots in blockbuster stadium fights.
One London 2012 medallist who has taken the plunge into the pros is Anthony Ogogo. The 24 year old from Lowestoft won a bronze in the 75KG middleweight class, upsetting the Ukrainian world number one in a thriller en route. He has penned a deal with Oscar De La Hoya’s LA based Golden Boy Promotions and is expected to debut in Brooklyn, USA in early February.
A former Norwich City triallist who has also featured in the Big Brother house and recently posed naked for gay lifestyle magazine Attitude, Ogogo has a colourful background story and plenty of talent and charisma. However, he was dropped several times by a Brazilian southpaw in his Olympic semi which could be a worry.
We did sit down together but I didn’t make him an offer. Still, I wish the likeable Anthony all the luck in the world on his new venture.
It was confirmed last week that likeable lightweight Gavin Rees is to be duking up with tasty WBC lightweight king Adrien ‘The Problem’ Broner over in Atlantic City, USA on February 16th. Don’t expect it to be pretty. ‘The Rock’, 32, who I steered to the WBA light-welter crown, has lost just once in a 39 fight career that now spans 15 years but is he destined to be another Welsh lamb sent to the slaughter? The 23 year old champion from Cincinnati promises to be far too young, fresh and lively.
Joe Frazier's youngest son Derek is following in his father's footsteps and entering the boxing ring.
Heavyweight legend Joe passed away in November 2011 and Derek aims to honor him by lacing up the gloves.
Derek said "After his death, I thought I wasn't going to do anything in life. I felt lost. This gives me a chance to honor my father, to prove to people that just because I look nice and sweet, I can get rough-and-tough, down-and-dirty in the ring like my dad. I'm a Frazier. I wanted to see if I could do it."
His first fight is part of a self-improvement reality TV show Made on MTV and carrying one of the most famous surnames in boxing is bound to attract a lot of attention.
Frazier's other sons Marvis and Joe Jr. both fought but did not hit the same heights as their father, while his daughter Jackie Frazier-Lyle lost to Muhammad Ali's daughter Laila.
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