By Nick Halling
Significant changes to the structure of Rocky Fielding’s support team should ensure that the Liverpool based super middleweight remains at 168 pounds for the foreseeable future. Fielding’s last outing, against Charles Adamu, saw him hit the scales at nearly seven pounds over the limit, forfeiting his Commonwealth belt in the process as well as drawing a firestorm of criticism.
A move up to light heavy seemed both logical and necessary, but not so, according to a dietician who has been brought on board to monitor what Fielding eats. The nutritionist, who lists prospective Premier League hopefuls Liverpool Football Club among his clients, has done all the necessary measurements on Fielding’s body, and has concluded that the fighter will still be comfortable at 168 pounds without losing any muscle mass.
Trainer Oliver Harrison remains in charge of the camp, with Paul O’Donnell continuing to take care of strength and conditioning. But Fielding has often struggled on the scales, and the Adamu debacle has made everyone finally accept that, in Rocky’s case, a dietician is not a luxury but a necessity.
Fielding was heavily criticised for coming in so high, but while his weight was the headline grabber, it didn’t tell the whole story. The Liverpudlian had also damaged his right hand, and had toyed with the idea of pulling out of the fight altogether.
That Liverpool bill had been jinxed as it was, with Fielding’s original opponent, Tony Dodson, pulling out with ear problems, to be followed in swift succession by headliner Stephen Smith (elbow surgery), Callum Smith (hand) and Paul Smith (elbow infection). Had Fielding withdrawn, the entire bill might have been scrapped.
Already nursing an extremely sore right hand (thankfully nothing more than deep bone bruising incurred in his last sparring session of the camp), the left also went during the fight with Adamu. This helps explain why Fielding’s performance tailed off the longer a dull, plodding fight went on, and it simply capped what the fighter himself described as a nightmare two weeks.
The nightmare isn’t quite over yet. Fielding enjoyed a short break in the sun last week, but having returned, he and Harrison are expected to be called in front of the British Boxing Board, where Rocky’s wallet is likely to be considerably lightened by a fine.
Reports continue to swirl around Merseyside that Fielding’s next fight will be the all-Liverpool dust-up with British champion Paul Smith. That’s just wishful thinking. Smith is due out again later this month in Cardiff, and in the longer term, continues to target WBO boss Arthur Abraham. Instead, Fielding will almost certainly be granted his wish of fighting for an International belt when he is next in action in July in his home town.
A big name opponent is reportedly being lined up, with former world middleweight title challenger Peter Manfredo reportedly the name in the frame. The American is 33 and past his best, but having been in with the likes of JoeCalzaghe, Jeff Lacy, Sakio Bika and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr (losing to all of them), he would represent a meaningful step up in class for Fielding. It would be a fight he’d be expected to win, and victory would propel him to the next level.
Boxing wanderer Anthony Ogogo continues his transatlantic nomadic career this month with a flight over to America last week ahead of his latest outing on the Mayweather/Maidana undercard.
It’s a massive profile-building opportunity for the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist, a chance to catch the eye on a bill which will be seen around the world.
One man not making the trip is Mickey Cantwell. The former pro was a regular in Ogogo’s corner for the boxer’s first four professional fights, but was not present last month when Ogogo stretched his record to five unbeaten against Greg O’Neill in Glasgow. The word is that Cantwell is no longer part of Ogogo’s team.
This should not be a major cause of concern for a boxer noted for his self-sufficiency. Living in the Eastern coastal city of Lowestoft, Ogogo has always been prepared to travel as a matter of necessity. For this reason, he doesn’t have a fixed training base when he is in the UK, but his skillset makes him highly desirable as a sparring partner.
Two weeks ago, for example, he was working with Carl Froch ahead of Froch’s return with George Groves. He also spent time with Darren Barker ahead of the Londoner’s world title duels with Daniel Geale and Felix Sturm. Ogogo is always in demand.
Officially promoted by Golden Boy, Ogogo continues to divide his time between the UK and the US, popping up in a semi-regular capacity on Matchroom shows in his home country. After his latest fight, he plans on spending time on the West Coast to sample working and sparring in a variety of American gyms.
A smart operator who understands the business side of the game, Ogogo knows that an impressive showing on the Mayweather card will only add to his market value. It’s a massive stage for him, and according to camp insiders he’s physically and mentally well-placed to seize the moment.
Lytham lightweight Scotty Cardle is expected to be in action on a bill in Glasgow next month, and the word is that his handlers have decided it’s time to take the stabilisers off and see just how good their man is.
Former WBO featherweight champion Scott Harrison is said to be under consideration as the opponent. However, there are doubts whether the now 38-year-old Glaswegian still holds a licence to box. It’s been 13 months since his last outing, a 10-round reverse against Liam Walsh, and his circumstances remain unclear.
Last week, the Scottish Sun newspaper ran a story that Harrison is now broke and living on benefits. If that story is true, he’d presumably not to have his arm twisted too much to be tempted back for a payday against Cardle.
Cardle’s an interesting one. He’s unbeaten now in 14 pro fights, without ever really quickening the pulse. With a long and impressive amateur career behind him, he doesn’t need a long apprenticeship in the pro game. His best performance was his last one, an eighth round stoppage of former British featherweight boss Paul Appleby in March.
There are two knocks against him. One is that he lacks power: the Appleby stoppage was only his third. The other is that he picks up too many cuts around the eyes. There’s no disputing that one, which is why he has Ricky Hatton’s old cutman, Mick Williamson, on speed dial.
But he has a big upside too. He’s fast, accurate, busy, and according to sources in the Gallagher gym in Bolton, where he trains, possesses more snap than we’ve seen. Certainly he was sharp against Appleby. The former champ was pushing him hard: Cardle found another gear as the going was getting tough, and the manner of the stoppage, with Appleby all over the place, suggests those gym reports might just have some foundation to them. The important thing is that when questions have been asked of the fighter, he has come up with the correct answers.
But the British lightweight scene remains cluttered with contenders. British champion Martin Gethin defends later this month against former belt holder Derry Mathews. The winner must face the capable Manchester southpaw Terry Flanagan.
The vacant Commonwealth crown, outrageously stripped from an injured Mathews, is being contested by two useful Ghanaians later this month. The winner of the forthcoming all-Welsh dustup between Gavin Rees and Gary Buckland, will also be right back in the title picture. And then there are the three lightweights at or around world class: Ricky Burns, Kevin Mitchell and Anthony Crolla.
That’s a lot of genuine contenders for Cardle to push his way through, but there’s a sense that now is the time to find out exactly where he stands on the talent ladder. Whether or not it’s Harrison in the other corner in June, Cardle’s days of fighting journeymen and makeweights is definitely over.
Nick Halling is a commentator for Sky Sports.