By Terence Dooley
Birmingham's Frankie Gavin turned professional under the guidance of Anthony Farnell in February 2009, Britain's 2007 World Amateur Games gold medallist opted for a move to Manchester in order to avoid hometown temptations as he launched a paid career that many felt was destined to end in world titles aplenty. Gavin is still undefeated, 11-0 (8), but is no longer based in the North West after deciding to relocate to London due to a few personal problems and difficulties settling into his new home.
Now working with Jimmy and Mark Tibbs at the TKO Gym, Gavin admits that the early days of his career have not gone according to plan despite picking up Irish and WBO Inter-Continental titles, telling me that he had to start over again in order to reverse a loss of form that saw him go the distance in his last two to post decision wins over Young Mutley and Curtis Woodhouse.
“I'm enjoying it,” revealed Frankie when assessing his new life in London. “For this fight I've been sparring Billy Joe [Saunders]. I needed to change a few things, I'd gone a bit stale, which was no fault of Arnie's, and just needed a change in scenery.
“It is all starting again for me now. I'm at a new gym, really excited and can't wait to get going again. I'm on good terms with Arnie, we're still friends and I've got nothing but respect for the man. You probably won't see the difference in this fight but you will see a difference in future.”
Gavin had barely dropped a round going into the Woodhouse contest, Curtis surprised everyone by dusting off his own boxing skills and dragging the defending titlist to a close split decision loss. Although he felt he was clearly winning the fight, Frankie was told to up the ante going into the last two stanzas, he did just that to pull out a result that Gavin had cannily confirmed by sneaking a peak over an official's shoulder.
“I thought I would just walk through Curtis and boxed terrible to be fair,” his analysis of the early rounds with Woodhouse. “I went in there with the tactics of thinking I could do what I wanted and it didn't work. I came to the corner and they were saying it was close but I thought I was doing enough, he was missing a lot, I was landing more and making him miss so I thought I was winning easy enough. When they said that to me I knew I had to step it up and did that in the last rounds.”
“Nah,” he shrugged when asked if he had worried when MC Mark Burdiss confirmed that “We have a split decision”. “I saw the official next to me and saw that I'd won on the scorecards otherwise it may have been a nervous thing when the split decision was read out. Curtis and me became good friends after the fight. Like I said, I raised things for the last two rounds so now am working on doing that from the first round so people don't make it that far.”
The Tibbs work in tandem. Jimmy has brought countless champions through during his decades in the sport. Mark followed his father into the ring both as a boxer and trainer. The two are now complementing both sides of Gavin's game.
“I'm working on movement, power and strength work. I never did a lot on strength before, which is mainly my own fault, but now I'm doing strength work every day. Jimmy's more technical and Mark has you taking your opponent's head off so it works well. There's never a time in the guy when you're not being watched, there's no hiding – I never would do that but there's not way you'd get away with it.”
Nicknamed 'Funtime' during his amateur career, Gavin dusted off the moniker upon turning pro. What started out as an ironic noms de guerre became a constant reminder that one or two people in the trade have their doubts about Frankie's commitment to living the life. Recent results turned the tag into the punchline of a bad joke, prompting Gavin to ditch 'Funtime' for good.
“I think that was blown up,” he shrugged as talk turned to his former handle. “It was my amateur nickname but people caught onto it – I'm no different than any other fighter. The name made people think there was more to it than there was. 'Funtime' is gone, I'm just Frankie Gavin now.”
Junior Witter could be added to Frankie's plate by Christmas should the 26-year-old overcome Frank Haroche Horta to make the second successful defence of his crown at Salford's Bowlers Exhibition Centre this Friday night. The BBBoC have mandated a Gavin-Witter clash as a final eliminator for Lee Purdy's British crown. Purdy defends against Colin Lynes on November 9th.
“He's difficult to get to and I'm difficult to pin down so we'll see who gets who first,” Gavin's thoughts of the Witter contest. “Junior Witter is fine for me, no problem. But it is not going to be exciting unless one of us gets to the other one so I've got to be clever, quicker and stronger – I'm more than up for it. Junior's a former world champion so would be a good name on my record.
“Then I want the winner of that [Purdy-Lynes], no disrespect to either of them as fighters but I've stood next to them and they're not bigger than me. I'm not small. I'm tall and nothing worries me at the weight. Both can punch but both can be punched.”
Ah, the weight, isn't it? The single biggest issues of Gavin's career thus far, with many convinced that the boxer could boil down to light-welterweight if he truly set his mind to it. Frankie, though, insists that years of chipping lbs away as an amateur took his toll and that his body feels comfortable at 147.
“I can do 10st but can't do the rounds at the weight,” he argued. “I feel bigger and stronger at welterweight. I think I burned my body out as an amateur, it doesn't come off as easily but I was only 10st 13lb yesterday [the 14th] and that is fine – I was where I like to be at the check weigh in instead of with three days to go.”
Horta is no stranger to these shores, the Frenchman took British prospect Mark Thompson close to defeat back in 2007. The former French national welterweight title-holder used movement on the outside to negate the big punching Heywood hope and landed enough sneaky straight lefts when inside to come within a point of a draw on referee Steve Gray's scorecard.
A little bag of tricks that night, Haroche worked his way into the contest gradually; he had previously taken Frederic Klose all the way before dropping a majority decision. The 31-year-old has never been stopped, has not lost since 2009, Leonard Bundu for the EBU-EU belt, and will hope to give another British boxer fits.
“I know he's a southpaw like me. He gave Thompson problems but I'm confident that I'll be able to deal with him and start to show some of my true form,” Gavin's prediction.
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