By Frank Warren
Given all the hard men who’ve grafted in the local docks and pits, it’s always been a mystery to me why the sports mad north-east of England has struggled to produce more world class prizefighters.
Prior to last December, only Annfield Plain cruiserweight Glenn McCrory had made it to the sport’s summit, capturing the IBF crown back in 1989.
Subsequently, Sunderland bantam Billy Hardy and Hartlepool super-bantam Michael Hunter faltered in valiant challenges for global glory.
Remarkable then that this evening, at what should be a full Newcastle Arena, two battlers from the region, Darlington’s Stuey Hall and West Rainton’s Martin Ward, go head-to-head for the former’s IBF bantamweight world crown.
There’s been plenty of needle brewing between the one-time drinking pals and former sparmates.
Hardcase Hall cemented a fairytale rise to stardom in December when he upset quality South African Vusi Malinga in an unforgettable 12 round battle in Leeds. A reformed beach bum, Stuey’s lately been giving motivational talks at school assemblies!
Already 34, he’ll be keen to capitalise commercially and he’s in the privileged position of having a plethora of world grade domestic rivals at or around his weight – such as Paul Butler, Carl Frampton, Scott Quigg, Kid Galahad, Jamie McDonnell and Lee Haskins.
Unbeaten Butler, the brilliant box-fighter from Ellesmere Port will be ringside and no doubt touting his case for the summer showdown British boxing is craving.
Challenger Ward, 26, the reigning Commonwealth king, endeavours to become the first representative from Britain’s fight loving traveller’s community to capture a boxing world title – slipping in ahead of more touted prospects Tyson Fury and Billy Joe Saunders.
If victorious, he’s promising to showcase the world title belt from the highest hill at Appleby Horse Fair this summer!
I think that’s unlikely, though. Ward certainly has the evasive southpaw skills to frustrate Hall for periods but ultimately the champion should prove a bit too rough and ready.
The undercard is loaded with local talent that augurs well for the region’s ring future.
Slick British cruiserweight champion Jon Lewis Dickinson from Birtley embarks on a ‘pick ‘em’ defence against Rotherham puncher Neil Dawson. JLD stuffed 2008 Olympic champion James DeGale in the amateurs and his younger brother Travis, also a pro, twice scalped George Groves, one time on a first round stoppage.
Mallet fisted world amateur medallist Bradley Saunders from Sedgefield debuts at ten round level while former England amateur captain and hot prospect Josh Leather from Middlesbrough, feature at light-welterweight.
It promises to be a top night. Catch all the action live by tuning into BoxNation.
I’m not alone in believing that Frankie Gavin is the most gifted technician in British boxing, bar none.
After a few teething problems early in his pro career, the 28 year old Brummie southpaw – still England’s only ever world amateur champion – has really matured both as a fighter and an individual over the past two years.
Unbeaten in 18 with 12 stoppages, the exquisitely skilled stylist makes his first start of the year tonight when he puts his Commonwealth welter strap up for tender against Sacky ‘The Snake’ Shikukutu on the big Newcastle bill.
The useful Namibian has lost just two of 21. With 12 kayos himself, he clearly has heavy fists but tonight I predict they’ll be swiping fresh air.
Phantom Frankie – nominated this week to fight for the European title – should not only contest a world title before this year is out, he should win one.
Expect Belfast to be banging next Friday evening when the latest Irish sensation Carl Frampton goes to war with grizzled Mexican veteran Hugo Cazares in a final eliminator for the WBC super-bantam title.
The city’s futuristic Odyssey Arena will be rammed to its 9,000 capacity and no one creates a bigger din than the Belfast fight crowd.
Like his manager and childhood idol Barry McGuigan, Frampton, 27, is not only a tenacious little scrapper but also a fine ambassador for our sport.
He will unquestionably encounter stiff resistance from Senor Cazares, a typically sinister Aztecan who’ll be entering the pro ring for the 50th time and boasts 15 world title fights on his CV.
The Mexican southpaw is quality – a two weight world champion - but Frampton, dubbed ‘The Jackal’ has raw strength and power that would not be out of place several divisions above the 122lb class he inhabits.
He should be too fresh and hungry, and I fully expect him to rubber stamp his right to challenge champion Leo Santa Cruz, another Mexican, later this year.
Amir Khan gets a high-profile role on the big Floyd Mayweather-Marcos Maidana card at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas, on May 3rd that will be shown live on BoxNation.
While he missed out on a shot against Mayweather this time, a strong performance against the tough New York based Puerto Rican Luis Collazo will enforce his case that he has to be the next man to face Mayweather.
By the time gets in the ring against Collazo it will have been just over a year since his up-and-down thriller against Julio Diaz in Sheffield. Through no fault of his own he vetoed a challenge to IBF welter king Devon Alexander in December on the understanding that he’d get the lucrative May gig with the ‘Money Man’.
Despite romping to victory in the fan poll which Mayweather instigated to determine his next opponent, Khan was replaced with Argentine bomber Marcos Maidana - a man the Lancastrian had previously beaten himself - following his sensational win over the previously undefeated Adrian Broner.
Now Khan faces his ‘Fight For The Right’ against Collazo who gave a prime Ricky Hatton fits over in Boston eight years ago. The former world champion is presently in the richest form of his 14 year career and knocked-out the one-time future star of the sport, Victor Ortiz, inside two rounds in January.
Khan, who’s never in a dull fight, should be too quick for Collazo but it’s certainly no forgone conclusion.
It’s a cold hard fact that diehard boxing buffs have to subscribe to BoxNation if they are to savour the biggest stars from around the globe.
Within a 30 day period, starting with Frampton-Cazares next Friday, the Channel of Champions will broadcast Enzo Maccarinelli’s audacious WBO light-heavyweight challenge against German bad boy Juergen Braehmer on April 5th.
The following Saturday, a brilliant double header; full coverage of my ‘Power of London’ bonanza from the Copper Box Arena – featuring capital stars Frank Buglioni, Tony Conquest, Bradley Skeete and Mitchell Smith in title action – followed immediately by Tim Bradley’s mouth-watering WBO welter defence against Manny Pacquiao.
And there’s just no let up. On April 19th, subscribers get to feast on the triple world title bill from Washington D.C fronted by Bernard Hopkins world light-heavyweight unification spat with Kazakhstan’s Beibut Shumenov.
And last week, they secured live UK rights to showcase the incomparable Floyd Mayweather’s welter unifier with Argentine banger Marcos Maidana. Amir Khan and Cincinnati showman Adrien Broner garnish a stacked undercard.
All that for just £10 a month. What better Mother’s Day present?!
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