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Frank Warren on Chisora's Turn, Froch-Groves, More

By Frank Warren

It seems Mum’s the word this summer.  The tributes which tennis star Andy Murray and cyclist Chris Froome recently paid to their mothers following respective successes at Wimbledon and The Tour De France left me pondering over the role of boxing mums.

Fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, eh. It’s a mother’s natural instinct, of course, to protect her kin from harm and, often, a prospective boxer’s first obstacle is persuading mum to agree to their participation in the toughest of all sports.

Before a young amateur turned pro, it was once customary to meet with their parents prior to signing contracts.  Today, given the increasing single parent families, I’ll invariably just meet with the boy’s mum.

While the majority are content for re-assurance that their offspring is in responsible, caring hands, a few are averse to meddling. I’ve had a few lecture me as to the kid’s training schedule or who his next opponent should be!

Understandably, all want the best for their boy but, after that initial meet, maternal support comes in a variety of forms. Several are partial to hollering ‘tactical’ advice from a ringside seat. Some will frenetically pace a corridor at the arena, anxious to be present but unable to watch. Others swerve the venue completely, maintaining a vigil at home, seeking comfort with a candle and a prayer.

While Dereck Chisora is yet to achieve anything remotely resembling the feats of Mssrs Murray and Froome, his mum should be credited for helping with his career resurrecting victory over touted US prospect Malik Scott at Wembley Arena last Saturday.

History shows that the enigmatic Finchley heavyweight is utterly fearless about sharing ring space with any rival prizefighter; as spats with Tyson Fury, Vitali Klitschko and David Haye testify.  Nevertheless, boxing’s self-styled bad boy lives in trepidation of the formidable Ma Chisora.

Whenever he transgressed a variety of the sport’s rules and regulations during his early years in the profession, it was always his God-fearing mum who Chisora most feared answering to.

Four successive title defeats – albeit in elevated company – then a lumbering performance whilst shamefully overweight in his comeback in April forced his mum to read the riot act; shape up or find an alternative career. She even threatened to confiscate his gym kit!

Suddenly, Dereck was all ears. A dietician was recruited to address his wayward eating habits and, in career best shape, he rebounded to ice the Yank, previously unbeaten in 36.

Whilst Scott’s cornermen all shouted and hollered that their man was fit to continue, the fighter knew his race was run and it’s telling that he offered no dissent at the stoppage.

Victory sees Chisora elevated to mandatory challenger for the European title and, anxious to keep him busy, slim line and out of mischief, I’ll be showcasing him again on my debut promotion at Hackney’s Copper Box on 21st September.

Once again, a future at world level is beckoning. All thanks to mum!

***

It increasingly appears as though 2013 will prove a vintage year for British boxing.

With Froch-Kessler II a thing of history and Cleverly-Kovalev, Saunders-Ryder and Haye-Fury already signed and sealed, we learnt this week that Carl Froch will defend his IBF and WBA super-middleweight belts against London rival George Groves.

The bout will take place on 23rd November at the Manchester Arena, the third pay-per-view event in six months on Sky Box Office.  Froch enters as a 9-2 on betting favourite, it is an intriguing match-up laced with imponderables.

‘The Cobra’, who will be contesting his 11th successive world championship, holds a huge sway in top flight experience and will enjoy notable edges in height and reach.  However, several of those title fights have been dilapidating affairs, predominately because Froch openly opts to warmonger in every outing.

While he is blessed with a strong chin, Froch has never been the most difficult opponent to tag cleanly. And trust me, Groves hits seriously hard.

‘The Cobra’ is finally coining the material rewards and status commensurate with his standing as one of the top fighters in British boxing. However, scalping young Groves certainly won’t earn Carl anything like the kudos accrued for his belt winning brace against Lucien Bute and Mikkel Kessler last season.

And at 36, he certainly isn’t getting any better. Will Froch be able to motivate himself fully for a dust-up against a fighter who used for sparring. Remember, this is a mandatory affair forced upon him by the IBF, not a defence of his own choosing.

Without fully committing to an upset just yet, the Nottingham man may have his hands full with ‘Saint George’.

A two time senior ABA champion in his teens, Groves also enjoyed a meritable international amateur career prior to vaulting to the pros, aged just 20.

At 25, he is approaching physical maturity and, in trainer-manager Adam Booth, can he devise a game plan during training camp to steer Groves through some inevitable sticky patches from the corner on fight night?

With 19 consecutive wins, 15 by stoppage, the challenger is armed with the confidence of a man still to experience defeat inside a professional ring. Ranked highly by all the major sanctioning organisations, the west Londoner could’ve cherry picked any of the champions to challenge. He is to be commended for headhunting Froch.

Bright and articulate, he’ll be right up for the psychological shenanigans that shall pan out in the build-up and he has already riled Froch by travelling to Denmark to aid Mikkel Kessel ahead of the Dane’s recent superfight with ‘The Cobra’.

No one disputes Groves’ talent and pedigree. The main contention revolves around whether the opportunity has come too soon. He is no stranger to the canvas either in the ring or the gymnasium – he concedes Froch dropped him in one of their spars – and the key to beating George is probably to jump on him early.

Ominously, Froch has flown out of the traps first in recent fights, if Groves can weather the early onslaught, this could get very interesting. ‘The Cobra’ endured a close and draining battle with Kessler and, with one eye on retirement, how deep is he willing to dig if it gets down and dirty in the latter third of another arduous fight?

***

Big up to Billy Joe Saunders for a sensational performance against unbeaten Gary O’Sullivan last Saturday night at Wembley Arena.

The Hatfield middleweight ace didn’t put a foot wrong as he out-boxed the tough Irishman over twelve rounds to add the WBO International belt to his British and Commonwealth titles.

Saunders will now look to claim another unbeaten scalp when he faces bitter rival John Ryder in the highly-anticipated showdown in September.

***

British boxing received sad news this week when likeable welterweight Billy Smith took his own life.

Sadly Billy, like his brother Ernie, ended his life all too early and like Ernie, he will be missed around the circuit.

Billy had an amazing record of 161 fights and whilst losing 145 of them, he only failed to hear the final bell on 5 occasions and did become Midlands Area Champion on two occasions.  His record reads like a who’s who of British boxing and is littered with many men who went onto win respected titles, among them current World Champion Ricky Burns.

British boxing and many Champions owe Billy a great debt for his services to the sport and I sincerely hope that this is recognised when this years gongs are handed out.

My deepest condolences go to Billy and Ernie’s family.

***

Too often the egos of administrators have compromised the honourable sport of amateur boxing.

Following the latest bout of petty squabbling between the home nations, AIBA, the international governing body, have suspended the Amateur Boxing Association of England from participation in all its competitions.

As things stand, the nations best emerging young talents are prohibited from entering the European Schoolboy Championships which begin in Dublin next week.

English participation at the World Seniors in Kazakhstan this October is also in jeopardy.

Our gifted young boxers graft far too hard to be treated as sacrificial pawns in the mess.  A resolution needs to be reached as a matter of urgency.

***

One of the all-time greats in Emile Griffith sadly passed away this week at the age of 75.

Although he held world titles at welterweight and middleweight and was in the Hall Of Fame, he spent decades haunted by his fatal beating of Benny Paret in the ring and rumours of his sexuality.

Griffith and Paret were 1-1 going into their third fight in 1962, when Paret taunted him with a slur which was gutter Spanish for homosexual.  Griffith pummeled him in the twelfth round with 15 unanswered uppercuts and several hooks with the referee stepping in to stop the fight.  Paret died 10 days later.

How times have changed with Puerto Rican fighter Orlando Cruz, who challenges for the Vacant WBO World Featherweight title in October, becoming the first boxer to come out as openly gay.

***

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