By Frank Warren
Christmas has come early this year for bantamweight Stuey Hall.
The 33 year old from Darlington didn’t even join the pro ranks until he was 28 and was twice repelled in European title challenges yet, this evening he gets to challenge for the vacant IBF title against South African southpaw Vusi Malinga.
The fight takes place at the fabulous First Direct Arena in Leeds and, with a raucous 5,000 strong home crowd roaring every punch he throws, Hall has a great chance of providing British boxing with its latest Cinderella story.
The South African has unquestionably battled in stiffer company and comes from good fighting stock. His uncle is the great Sugar Boy Malinga who outpointed Nigel Benn to win the WBC super-middle title in Newcastle in 1996.
And Vusi shall be motivated to win tonight to honour the memory of his father who passed away earlier this year.
However, the Gauteng native has fallen short at world level twice before, being iced inside a round by Hozumi Hasegawa in Japan in 2009, then comprehensively shut out by Mexico’s formidable Leo Santa Cruz 18 months back. He is also older, shorter and more shop worn than Hall.
They breed them industrial tough up in the north-east and Stuey is a proper fighting man who’s never been floored, never mind stopped, in a ring career that began at the age of 11.
Once an ABA finalist, he developed his skills sparring travelling lads from this hometown’s sizeable gypsy community and later by brawling barefist in the bars and clubs, during a five year ‘bender’ in Ibiza!
Though he was edged out by future world champion Jamie McDonnell and the impossibly awkward Lee Haskins in the 2011-12 season, the former roofer is an altogether fitter and smoother operator today.
He looked very polished whilst schooling world rated Texan Sergio Perales over 12 rounds in his last outing.
Tonight’s opportunity arises because Doncaster’s McDonnell was stripped for failing to fulfill his mandatory obligation within the stipulated time frame. Big up to handlers Mike Marsden and Dennis Hobson for navigating Hall’s passage to contest the vacant belt.
The man from ‘Darlo’ knows this is likely to be his only chance at elite level so expect him to give every ounce.
Tentatively, I’ll go with the man who plays golf off a 12 handicap to club Malinga to defeat over 12 thrilling rounds and become the north-east’s first world champion since cruiserweight Glenn McCrory in 1989. BoxNation televise live.
Heading up the undercard is Birmingham welter Frankie Gavin who rivals Joe Calzaghe and Naseem Hamed as the most naturally gifted fighter that I’ve been involved with. He faces a very late replacement in Welsh warrior Bradley Pryce who he will meet in a ten-round above weight contest. When original Commonwealth title challenger Joseph Lamptey encountered visa issues and was unable to enter the country, Brazilian Juliano Ramos was found, but then he had passport issues and could not travel. A real nightmare before Christmas!
Having cleaned out the domestic ranks and secured a Lonsdale Belt outright, the reigning British and Commonwealth king is now anxious to launch an assault on international opposition.
Already ranked in the top ten by the WBA, WBO and IBF, the brilliant southpaw now covets a mandatory slot that will guarantee his shot at a world title.
The 147lb class presently has the deepest talent pool in world boxing with the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Juan Marquez and Tim Bradley among its runners and riders.
However, since relocating to Brum and re-uniting with amateur mentor Tom Chaney, the 28 year old from Hall Green has eradicated the antics that compromised his early pro career. He is now close to the form that established him as England’s only ever world amateur champion.
Mayweather aside, Frankie’s skill set is comparable to anyone in the division and with 12 stoppage wins on his perfect 17 fight slate, he is more dangerous than generally credited.
Expect him to crash the world title scene in 2014 and ultimately feature in huge civil wars with either Amir Khan or Kell Brook.
I wouldn’t hesitate to pitch Frankie against Adrien Broner, the Yank groomed as the sport’s next megastar but who fell from grace dramatically in Texas last weekend.
A sizeable percentage of fight fans will have rejoiced long and loud after the 24 year old Ohioan – previously unbeaten in 27 – had his jaw snapped and was twice left kissing the canvas at the feet of Argentina’s irrepressible Marcos Maidana.
Regular readers will be aware that I have long held reservations about Broner who was once touted to meet Scotland’s WBO lightweight king Ricky Burns.
Stylistically, he tried to mimic the unique Floyd Mayweather but he lacked the ‘Money’ man’s balletic footwork and consequently was too easy too tag.
A huge TV draw in the US, especially with the younger hip-hop generation, the former super-feather and lightweight world champion arrogantly campaigned up at welter because he was either too lazy to shift surplus timber or possessed an overly inflated opinion of his talent to handle naturally bigger opposition. Either way, he was brutally exposed.
Despite his audacious talent, his lewd and vulgar demeanour, in and out of the ring, plus his utter contempt and disrespect for fellow fighters earned him several enemies among the sport’s purists.
Hopefully, Maidana has dispensed a long overdue and very public dose of attitude adjustment. Ego popped, Broner might struggle to comeback from this. If he does, maybe it’ll be a blessing in disguise.
The first sign that the decade-long Klitschko dominance of heavyweight boxing could be closing out came earlier this week when elder sibling Vitali surrendered his WBC crown to focus on a political career back home in the Ukraine.
Though probably less skilled than Wladimir, ‘Dr Ironfist’, now 42, was the sturdier of the brothers and owned the heavier fists.
He has to be acknowledged as one of the most dominant champions of the modern era; victorious in 15 of 17 world title fights and undefeated since Lennox Lewis shredded his face in 2003.
A gentleman beyond the ropes, Vitali was a perfect role model for our sport; always arriving for battle in pristine fighting fettle.
Capitalizing fully on his 6ft 7in, 18 stone frame, Klitschko mastered the mechanics of the sport, devising a formula that, whilst far from exciting, rendered him nigh on invincible for a decade.
Nevertheless, his withdrawal has breathed much needed oxygen into the stale division. California’s Chris Arreola and Canada’s Bermane Stiverne get first crack at winning his vacated belt but expect the scramble between a chain of evenly matched contenders – such as Deontay Wilder, Kubrat Pulev and our own Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora – to be intense.Tags: Frank Warren
There’s plenty of potential blockbusters to be made to re-ignite fan interest and restore the division to eminence.