By Frank Warren
Boxing is as much about great fights as it is great fighters.
The current battle for hegemony between British TV channels -predominantly BoxNation and Sky Sports - is suddenly bringing to fruition the match-ups which fans have been craving. As a consequence, 2013 now looks likely to be a vintage year here on Bash Boulevard.
This evening local heavyweight David Price attempts to exorcise the demons of his shattering knockout loss in February when he faces Washington DC’s Tony Thompson in a rematch at Liverpool’s Echo Arena.
‘Big Pricey’ deserves credit for boldly returning to the scene of the disaster against his vanquisher but it’s not a route that I’d have recommended. The Yank, a fleshy 18st10lbs for the first encounter, has landed in fabulous physical fettle this time. He’ll be acutely aware that he possesses the poke to perform a repeat execution.
Price should note that David Haye never rushed into a return after he ran out of gas and was stopped in five by Carl Thompson at a similar stage of his career yet still advanced to world titles in two divisions.
At 41, the Yank is no young buck and the 6ft 8in Price will no doubt be gambling that his superior size, jab and pace will see him home safely. There is much to commend about Price, both as a fighter and as a role model. He has the skills to protect himself and I’m sure he has been working hard on keeping focused. But it’s no foregone conclusion. If he gets careless and gets clipped on the whiskers again he will go!
Nevertheless, it promises to be a cracking fight this evening and let’s hope that the likeable Liverpudlian can stay shrewd and exact his revenge. BoxNation televise live.
Continuing on the transatlantic heavyweight theme, Finchley’s Dereck Chisora continues his comeback at Wembley Arena in a fortnight’s time against the much avoided Malik Scott. The winner will be in prime position for a crack at a World title.
The visitor, from the great fight city of Philadelphia, is a former Junior Olympic gold medallist and US amateur champion who has remained undefeated in a 36 bout, 13 year pro career.
Bookmakers are struggling to split the pair which tells you exactly how competitive the fight should be.
In August, coinciding with Cardiff City’s arrival in the Premiership, Nathan Cleverly defends his WBO light-heavyweight strap in the Welsh capital against Russia’s Sergey Kovalev; a collision of unbeaten and incontestably world class operators.
A month later, in the debut promotion at London 2012’s Copper Box Arena, my middleweight Billy Joe Saunders stakes his British title against Islington southpaw and Matchroom rival John ‘The Gorilla’ Ryder.
The hot prospects are collectively undefeated in 31 professional gigs and industry experts are fiercely split over who will triumph. These are the type of match-ups that get our sport buzzing.
Other domestic showdowns likely to materialise before the close of this year could feature Tyson Fury against David Haye at heavyweight plus Carl Froch and George Groves duelling for ‘The Cobra’s WBA and IBF super-middle straps. Expect formal confirmations in the coming weeks. Both are bang-ups that will have diehard and casual fight fans salivating.
All in all, it’s a right royal kick in the cobblers to all those doom mongers eager to issue the last rites over our sport. The fight game has seldom enjoyed such rude health.
One fighter in danger of being left behind in all the commotion is WBO lightweight squire Ricky Burns.
During his time with me the Coatbridge man profited from home advantage for both of his world title wins against Rocky Martinez and Michael Katsidis, at 130 and 135lbs respectively.
Burns’ stock was never higher than when he smoked Londoner Kevin Mitchell in four rounds, again on home court, last September.
I then had a signed contract lodged for Burns to meet IBF counterpart Miguel Vasquez in a unification spat in the UK. It was hardly my fault that the Mexican withdrew injured, causing a temporary postponement. Since eloping elsewhere, instead of unifying his belt the Scot was given life and death by unheralded Puerto Rican Jose Gonzalez.
On 7th September, he squares off against Ray Beltran, a decidedly ordinary Mexican who has already been defeated half a dozen times beneath world level. If Burns prevails, expect him to be cajoled into another meaningless defence against Anthony Crolla.
When I signed the then teenage Matthew Macklin to my company in 2001, I was confident that I’d be able to navigate the talented and marketable Brummie to a world title.
Instead Macklin opted to be the master of his own destiny – continually flitting between promoters, managers and trainers – but his decision making ultimately proved to be flawed.
Last weekend, in his third world title challenge on foreign climes, ‘Mack the Knife’ was paralysed by a crippling left hook to the body from WBA czar Gennady Golovkin and wiped out inside three over in Connecticut.
The 31 year old could still feature in blockbuster domestic dust-ups with the likes of Darren Barker, Martin Murray and Billy Joe Saunders but I seriously doubt he’ll re-surface at world level.
Conqueror Golovkin is one seriously vicious operator. He has now obliterated 24 of his 27 victims inside schedule, including all of his last 14. He obviously has explosive power but he shouldn’t be overlooked, he can box too. He shows great patience in finding the openings and picking his punches.
Once world amateur champion, the Kazakh has conclusively retained his belt on eight occasions and, with the queue to challenge him at 160lbs extremely short, he is now rumoured to be eyeing the 12 stone super-middle division, inhabited by Nottingham’s Carl Froch. Now there’s a fight for you.
Several of the industry’s wisest sages have long preached that British welterweight king Frankie Gavin is the most naturally gifted fighter operating on these shores in any weight class.
I’ve invested heavily in the 27 year old Brummie – still Britain’s only ever world amateur champion – yet in the past, Gavin has had a few problems and has been a bit of a rascal outside the ropes.
Thankfully, the southpaw magician finally delivered a performance worthy of the hype in Liverpool last Friday when he forced previously undefeated Denton Vassell to retire on his stool after seven rounds, nursing a double fracture of his jaw.
Undefeated in 16 with a dozen stoppage wins, the mercurial Gavin could now be on the cusp of something big in what is presently world boxing’s most glamorous weight category.
Expect confirmation very soon that Adam Booth and Mick Hennessy have agreed for bitter heavyweight rivals David Haye and Tyson Fury to clash on 28th September.
Price v Thompson is live tonight on BoxNation. Subscribe at www.boxnation.com