By Nick Halling
After winning the Lonsdale belt outright last Saturday, Lee Selby will now move up and challenge for the European featherweight title. That was expected. The big surprise last week, however, was the news that former European super bantamweight boss Rendall Munroe has been made the mandatory. No date has yet been set for the contest for the vacant belt, but it could come as early as next month.
While Selby’s star has been on the rise for the past two years, Munroe looked to be finished last November, when he was stopped in 6 by the power of Scott Quigg’s body shots. The two had first met in June 2012, but frustratingly, that encounter was ruled a technical draw after three rounds following a clash of heads which left the Leicester fighter with a badly gashed eye.
“That was so hard to take,” said Munroe. “I’d put so much pressure on myself for that first fight, and everything had gone so well. I’m 100 percent certain I’d have won. I put all my eggs in one basket for that one, and when it was stopped because of the clash, I was devastated. I remember sitting in my hotel room that night thinking it was all over for me. It was my last chance to go somewhere.”
Munroe insists that he was still down when he met Quigg in the return. “There was a lot on my mind, and mentally I just wasn’t right,” he said. “I was finding myself wondering why I was back at this level after boxing for a world title (he’d been outpointed by Toshiaki Nishioka in Japan two years earlier for the WBC belt). I’d done everything in the sport bar winning that world title, and I just felt that the dream was slipping away from me, so what was the point of carrying on. No disrespect to Quigg, he’s a very good kid, as he’s just proved. But if you’re not right mentally in this business, you’ve no chance.”
Munroe looked set to walk away from boxing and return to the role he loved, working the bins in Leicester, a job he had never really wanted to leave. But when he asked for his old gig back, they had no room for him, and suddenly, the one-time Boxing Binman literally had nowhere to go. Soon, old habits kicked in, and he found himself back in the gym again, staying in shape, running and, for the first time in a long time, lifting a few weights. And he began to enjoy himself once more.
“I could never really do weights in the past, because making the (super bantam) 8-10 limit wasn’t easy. But I was loving it back in the gym, and then one day my trainer, Jay Shinfield, asked me if I wanted to spar, and I fancied it again. It felt great. Everyone in the gym was telling me to come back, that I’ve still got plenty left in the tank. So I did. I stopped a kid inside a round, (Laszlo Fekete in May) and it felt good. Jay told me afterwards, it’s a good thing they didn’t give me my old job back!”
Munroe followed that up with a 10 round points win over Andy Townend in an English super featherweight eliminator last month. Then, with various East Europeans turning down the prospect of facing the impressive Selby, the roulette wheel starting spinning, and when it stopped, Munroe’s number came up.
“Ever since I heard the news I’ve been smiling to myself, because it looks like people have recognised all the hard work I’ve put into this business. I’ve always been in boxing because I love the sport and I want to be a world champion. It was never about the money for me, that was always a bonus. And now, all of a sudden, I’ve been given a second chance, and I’m determined not to let it pass me by. Selby’s a decent lad, but I’m going in there to win and grab this opportunity with both hands.”
At 33 years old but with batteries fully recharged and refreshed mentally, Munroe possesses the experience and southpaw skills to make this matchup a close one to call. He may no longer be the Boxing Binman, but Rendall Munroe might just be the British comeback story of the year.
After battering the brave but overmatched Mexican Marco Lopez on Saturday night, Kevin Mitchell immediately called for a matchup with Derry Mathews, in what would be a mouthwatering lightweight domestic dust-up. Mitchell and his promoter, Eddie Hearn, would like that to happen in December.
However, Mathews has had a hard two years, and has been ordered to have a much-needed break until 2014 by his trainer, Danny Vaughan. If this fight is to happen, the Commonwealth champion will have to be made an offer he cannot refuse.
“I wont be fighting Mitchell. Nothing in it for me,” Mathews said. Unless there’s a serious payday involved, expect the Liverpudlian to stay on the sidelines until the New Year while Mitchell looks elsewhere for his next engagement.
The professional debut of Vasyl Lomachenko will be watched with great interest in South Wales this weekend. Craig Evans was one of the Ukrainian’s many victims during his glittering amateur career, losing to him 15-1 in the 2009 World Championships.
“I was very young when I went out there, and to be honest, it was a really big achievement just to be there,” he said. “I tried my hardest, and learned a lot, but the better man won. He’s one of the best I’ve ever fought.”
The Welshman also has no doubts that Lomachenko has the potential to be a world champion in the professional ranks. “He’s sound technically, a good mover, and he’s very strong. He broke my nose, so that set me back a bit! You could really feel his shots.”
Evans clearly benefitted from his painful experience, turning pro himself in 2010, and racking up a streak of 10 consecutive victories. Initially with Lee Beard in Manchester, the southpaw lightweight made the switch to Tony Borg’s gym in Newport, South Wales, two fights ago for logistical reasons, simply to be closer to his Blackwood home.
However, sharing a gym with quality operators like Lee Selby and Gary Buckland is also helping his own career to progress. Coincidentally Selby’s brother Andrew, who boxed for Great Britain at last year’s Olympics, is another to have felt the force of Lomachenko in person: they met in the World Junior Championships in 2006.
“I’m hoping to be out next on December 7th, and of course its my dream to be a world champion one day,” said Evans.” It’s all going well so far, and I’m just taking it step by step.” And will Lomachenko fulfil his potential in the pro game? “Definitely. He’s a future world champion for sure. He’s got the pedigree, all the attributes, he’s certainly one to watch.”
Nick Halling is a commentator for Sky Sports