By Altaf Mubarik
Many boxing pundits have said over the years: “You don’t need huge muscles to be a good boxer — it’s not a bodybuilding contest”, and Frankie Gavin, 16-0 (12), proved this point over the weekend when he out boxed Denton Vassell, now 20-1 (10), to unify the Commonwealth and British titles. Over the years, we have seen the likes of Joe Calzaghe reign over the super middleweight division with a similar physique to Gavin and it illustrates the fact that bulky muscles can slow you down, as Vassell found out to his cost.
Vassell was widely seen as Gavin’s toughest test to date but Frankie made easy work of him by commanding the centre of the ring and counter-punching at will en route to a seventh-round TKO win. “It was a lot easier than I expected,” said Gavin when speaking to BoxingScene.
“I trained and prepared for a long hard fight. It was the plan to command the centre of the ring. In the centre he can’t trap me in the corner. The plan was to hit and not be hit — I was focused on what I was doing and not what he was doing.”
When Vassell tried to work on the inside he was cleverly tied up by Gavin. In fact, to the surprise of some people, Frankie often looked stronger in the clinches and pushed Denton away at will. Maybe the Birmingham-based boxer is a natural welterweight after all and the move up to 147lbs is finally paying dividends because he looked comfortable at the weight and was not weight drained.
This is arguably the first time for a few years that Frankie has had peace of mind in and out of the ring with no issues affecting his training camp. He regularly sees his kids and appears happy with life. This peace of mind was visible during the press conference, the weigh in and the actual fight. We are finally seeing the Frankie Gavin of old, the same classy boxer who was the only British fighter in history to win the world amateur championship.
Gavin did not appear to be hurt throughout the contest and masterfully took a couple of steps back after every attack in order to keep Vassell out of range. The speed (physically and mentally) of Gavin was the determining factor; he was always a couple of steps ahead and made it difficult for Vassell to land many clean power punches. Some fans were worried for Frankie after seeing the brilliant shape Vassell was in at the weigh-in, where Vassell looked almost Timothy Bradley-esque, but this ripped physique did not equate to punching power.
“I did not feel the power of his punches,” said Gavin. “He’s definitely not a big knockout puncher and he did not intimidate me at all. I wanted the fight and specifically asked for it when people were ducking him. It is not about muscles, really, because he’s always ripped, even when he’s not in training. However, when I’m in shape it shows that I trained really hard.”
Gavin now has various options, he could go down the traditional European title route or hope to get himself to a world title eliminator slot after a couple of fights. However, I expect Frankie to defend the Lonsdale belt one more time in order to keep the belt before challenging for other titles. He said: “I don’t mind either really. I will need to speak to Frank (Warren) and see what he has got planned”.
Many British fans would like to see Gavin defend his Lonsdale belt against Lee Purdy. Some might say that it is a step back because Vassell beat Purdy in 2010, but Purdy has improved considerably since. Given that Purdy has fought for a world title it will be a good measuring stick to ascertain whether Gavin can move in to world title ‘contender’ status.
“If the money is right then why not?” said Gavin. “I think Purdy would give me a tougher fight than Vassell. However, he’s also a one-dimensional fighter and doesn’t punch on the move. All you need to do is give him angles to make it harder for him.”
Hundreds of loyal fans travelled from Birmingham to Liverpool for Gavin’s fight against Vassell. They have been travelling far and wide to continue their loyal support but some would like Frankie to finally return home to defend his British title in Birmingham. “That’s what I want to talk to Frank [Warren] about,” said Gavin. “I have no clue where I will fight next.”
A potentially huge British fight in the future would be against Kell Brook, but Gavin needs to mix it in European and world class before stepping up to fight Brook or possibly even Amir Khan.
“I would say I’m 2-3 fights away from the likes of Kell Brook,” admitted Gavin. “But I am definitely closing the gap.”