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Frank Warren on Gavin's Title Path, Katsidis vs. Earl II

By Frank Warren

We should discover the globe’s best lightweight this evening when the divisions two leading players, Terence Crawford and Yuriorkis Gamboa, go head-to-head for the former’s WBO title in Omaha, USA.

It’s the first world title to take place in the state of Nebraska since heavyweight legend Joe Frazier bombed out home favourite Ron Stander in five rounds 42 years ago.

Tonight’s principals both bring perfect 23 fight slates and both have logged 16 stoppages.

Crawford, 26, survived a bullet in the bonce after a dice game turned moody in 2008 to emerge as one of US boxing’s brightest stars.

British fans will recall him collecting the belt by waltzing around Scotland’s Ricky Burns for 12 rounds in Glasgow last March.

Gamboa, 32, represents his first challenger. A flyweight gold medallist at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, he defected from his native Cuba in 2006 and now resides in Florida.

Laser quick but brittle chinned, ‘The Guantanamo Cyclone’ was once coached by the late great Manny Steward and previously owned IBF and WBA straps down at featherweight.

Whoever prevails should storm into the mythical pound-for-pound rankings. Bookies have installed champion Crawford as a marginal favourite but it could go either way and should be a sizzler.

BoxNation screen live from 1.30am on Sunday morning.

***

It’s taken longer than I’d envisaged to navigate Birmingham welterweight Frankie Gavin to world class as a professional.

But Britain’s only ever world amateur champion will almost certainly contest a major world title in the next nine months if he can oust Italy’s European champion Leonard Bundu this summer.

I’ve secured home turf for Gavin and he’ll make his challenge at Wolverhampton Civic Hall on August 1st. Now it’s down to him to deliver on his boundless potential.

The Brummie has had his share of difficulties away from the ring but he’s still unbeaten in 19 fights and has already collected the Irish, British and Commonwealth titles without coming close to hitting top gear.

I’ve long maintained that Gavin is the most naturally blessed fighter active on these shores. His feline reflexes, balletic feet and sharp tactical mind render him almost unhittable when he’s truly on song.

But this is no ‘gimme’. The veteran Roman champion, a native of Sierra Leone, maybe into his 40th year, but he’s undefeated in 32 and ranked in the top four by the WBC and IBF.

A 2000 Sydney Olympian and former world amateur medallist, he’s reigned for almost three years and successfully retained his belt on five occasions. He looked top quality grinding down Colchester’s Lee Purdy for a twelfth round stoppage in London last December.

But victory will finally allow Gavin to crash the world 147lb scene inhabited by big money players such as Manny Pacquiao, Tim Bradley, Juan Manuel Marquez and our own Amir Khan. Already 28, there can be no margin for error if he is to reap the rewards that his talent merits.

***

In February 2007, Luton’s Graham Earl made an inspirationally brave but ultimately abortive challenge to Australia’s Michael Katsidis for the interim WBO lightweight title at Wembley Arena. Both were on the floor before the Aussie won in round five.

However, I’m greatly disturbed to learn the pair is fighting a needless rematch over in Toowoomba, Australia next Friday.

Whereas Katsidis continued to operate in world class, Earl was flattened in the first round in two of his subsequent three starts before retiring. He’s since been inactive for five years.

The fight can only have one conclusion and I sincerely hope Earl avoids serious harm.

***
Promoter 50 Cent will accompany his fighter Yuriorkis Gamboa into the ring tonight for his world title fight against Terence Crawford.

But the rapper will also play the role of a promoter in the new Hollywood blockbuster boxing movie "Southpaw" starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

***

While Floyd Mayweather and Cristiano Ronaldo are the modern day sports superstars, two bare knuckle boxers can be traced back to being the first.

Bristol’s Tom Cribb and American Tom Molineaux, who contested the first world boxing championship over 200 years ago before gloves were introduced, were the David Beckham’s of their day, attracting thousands to see them fight.

Now the story of their brutal fight - that Cribb controversially won - is going to brought to the stage in a play called Prize Fighters.

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