By Terence Dooley
Manchester’s Bob Shannon welcomed yet another Scottish boxer to his Fighting Fit gym last month when Aberdeen’s Matthew McAllister came down south for some sparring sessions with Shannon’s welterweight Commonwealth champion Denton Vassell. McAllister, the younger brother of former Commonwealth lightweight titlist Lee, posted a six-twos decision win over Kevin McCauley at his home city’s Beach Ballroom venue on Saturday night and the 24-year-old prospect will hook up with Shannon again ahead of his next fight.
“My mum’s not well at the moment, so we couldn’t go up for the fight to corner him, but we’ll do it on the next one,” said Shannon when speaking to BoxingScene about McAllister. “It was a surprise, I got a phone call from his manger, Tommy Gilmour, asking if Matty could come here and spar with Denton.
“When he had a night off from sparring, I did some coaching with him and he said he was surprised at how technical I am and how much I know. Within five-minutes, we’d worked on a few things that he was doing wrong and he said he’ll be back down here now this fight is past him.
“His brother Lee is a respected fighter. They all train together with their dad and brother, David, so he wasn’t looking for a new trainer — he just came here for the sparring. We hit it off and I hope I can take him to the next level when he next comes down here. I’m looking forward to it, he’s going places, he is 6-0 with two knockouts, and Tommy said he has got great potential.
“It must be something about me and Scottish boxers, I had [former British welterweight champion] Kevin Anderson as well. I love working with them because they’re usually from fighting families and are always nice lads. He’ll mix his time between here and working with his brothers, so we can all push him on as he’s ambitious and the sparring will help him.”
As for Vassell, the 20-0 (10) boxer is ticking over in the hope of securing a fight with British champion Frankie Gavin, 15-0 (11). A meeting between the two is still in the works.
“Denton’s working really hard in the gym in the hope it happens,” he said. “We’re working on his footwork because Frankie’s very quick and Denton will need to get to him as we know Frankie’ll be elusive.”
Vassell has great in-house sparring in the form of David Barnes, who takes on fellow southpaw Craig Watson on a Coldwell Promotions bill at Manchester’s Bowlers Arena on June 1st. Barnes, 26-2-2 (11), warmed up for the fight by out-pointing Ivan Godor on March 8th; Watson, 22-5 (9), beat Mark Lloyd by fourth-round retirement on the same bill.
“That’s going to be a great fight,” said Shannon. “Craig’s a real ‘Cinderella Man’, he pulls it out the bag on big fights. We’ve got a Manchester derby, two southpaws, and Craig just might have the power edge in the early rounds, but Dave carried his power late into a fight when he was at his best and we’re getting him back there again. Dave’s going to have to be at his best to beat Craig and his experience over the years will be key.
“Dave’s doing a lot of running at the moment, his fitness is great and we all know he has skill and ability, so he just has to produce all that on the night. The great thing about this fight is that it is make-or-break for both of them. Neither lad can lose this one and expect to move on to a title, so Dave knows that he has to win this if he wants to fight for titles. Craig knows this as well. In fact, both guys know the strengths and weaknesses of the other, so we should get a good fight, as they’ll both be prepared for anything the other can do.
“I know Craig well, he beat my fighter Ali Nuumbembe on a cut to win the Commonwealth welterweight title in 2007, which was a really disappointing night for me and Ali, so I know what to expect. He also had a very good win over Matt Hatton [in May 2008] and won the British title when he got his revenge on John O’Donnell [in February 2011], but he had two tough nights against Lee Purdy [suffering back-to-back fifth-round TKOs in 2011] and has been easing his way back into things. We won’t take him lightly, not at all.”
Outside his own camp, Shannon has been keeping a close eye on Tony Bellew in recent years; he believes that the 30-year-old Liverpudlian can overcome Isaac Chilemba when the two meet on May 25 to decide who will get a crack at WBC light-heavyweight titlist Chad Dawson. Despite Bellew’s struggles in their March 30th draw, Shannon feels that the “Bomber” will have learned a few valuable lessons and will be a different proposition second time around.
“Of course he can,” said Shannon when asked if Bellew can get past Chilemba. “I just think his timing was out. You’ve got to credit Chilemba — he was very slippery and hard to pin down. Tony’s had better nights, but you have to look at Chilemba, who had his own world title ambition and a trainer, Buddy McGirt, who is very experienced. It could have gone either way, but I agree with the verdict.
“It was not a loss. Tony’s just got to come again, get his timing right and work on a few things — he’ll still become a world champion. I’ve always found Tony a sensible lad and a true professional, he can be rough and tough in there, but he’s also skilled and powerful, so he may have got a bit frustrated with his opponent — it showed in the fight and between rounds.
“If you can’t get your timing right, and miss with shots, then you get frustrated and can lose a bit of your own quality. Tony’s just got to step it up to the next level with an opponent like that, double on his jab and come through with his punches better.”
He added: “This was a learning fight for Tony. People forget that he’s been fast-tracked in his career. If he learns from the last time, and I hope he has, then it will help him win a world title. You can’t allow an opponent like that to make you drop your own pace and work-rate, if you do that then they will nick points off you.”
Please send news and views to [email protected] or Twitter @Terryboxing.