Nottingham's Leigh Wood heading to Featherweight
LONDON (6 JULY) Nottingham's Leigh Wood is eyeing a move up to featherweight in the near future, with sights set on winning a British title, but is first looking to put on a dazzling display on July 25 at Derby Arena.
The all-action 26-year-old is considered one of the dangermen of the super-bantamweight division, given his awkward style and heavy hands, but those days, he feels, are soon to be behind him.
“Being down at that weight really took a lot out of me and, to be honest, I think my time as a super-bantamweight is over,” said Wood, 14-1 (7 KOs). “I see my future at featherweight now. I'll be even more dangerous at that weight, I think.
“Samir Mouneimne and Ryan Walsh are boxing for the British featherweight title and I wouldn't mind facing either one of them at some point. You've also got Josh Warrington, who is just creeping outside of that level and is getting towards the fringes of world-class. I could be hot on his heels within sixteen months, maybe less. It all depends on how fast he moves with his career. But that's also a fight I'd like to have one day.
“I want a title fight as soon as possible. John Ingle has been talking about getting me one in September or October and that's why I'd like to get a good six rounds under my belt on July 25. I don't want to fight someone who just falls over.
“But I've been knocking out opponents lately and when it's time for them to go, it's time for them to go. Hopefully they can find someone who is tough enough and durable enough to last the distance and it will stand me in good stead for a title shot later this year.”
Wood's one championship chance so far came last February, when he met Doncaster's Gavin McDonnell for the vacant British super-bantamweight title. Despite a spirited effort, Wood was stopped in six rounds. It stands as the only loss on his career record – it forced him to get better.
“I've improved massively since that fight,” he said. “What you learn from a loss is invaluable. You can keep winning all you want, but a lot of the time you aren't learning anything. You're not improving. When you lose, you realise exactly what it is you need to improve on.
“Before the McDonnell fight I was a bit power-happy and a bit too eager to get the finish, but now I don't reveal my cards. I hold something back. I introduce the power slowly and by surprise. I leave something in the bank for when it might be needed later in the fight.
“I'd love a rematch with McDonnell, though. If the fight happened the day after, I'd have known exactly how to beat him. But boxing doesn't work like that.”
First things first, Wood looks to continue his run of knockout wins on July 25.
“I think I'll be fighting a lively opponent who is going to test me,” he said. “It won't be a journeyman or someone I will easily beat. I've asked for a test.
“I just want to entertain and stand out from all the other fighters on the card. I want to be exciting to watch, as I always am, and give the fans something a little different to what they see from all the other boxers in the show. I like to be different. I want people to walk away at the end and say, “That Leigh Wood stood out. He was impressive.”
*** Tickets for Blackwell vs. Jones can be purchased from the Derby Arena Box Office on 01332 255800 or by visiting www.derbylive.co.uk ***
Crolla: Sir Alex Ferguson call got me through dark times
CROLLA: SIR ALEX CALL GOT ME THROUGH DARK TIMES
Manchester hero boosted by United support
Anthony Crolla says he is still stunned by the support from former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and the rest of the football club after his attack in December – and wants to repay that faith by ripping the WBA World Lightweight title from Darleys Perez at the Manchester Arena on July 18, live on Sky Sports.
Crolla’s World title dreams looked to be all over when he confronted burglars that were trying to break into his neighbour’s home, and the brave boxer suffered a fractured skull and broken ankle in the attack – forcing him out of his January World title date with WBA Lightweight king Richar Abril.
After the attack, support for the 28 year old flooded in from fans and peers from the sporting world, and after making a full recovery and landing a shot at new champion Darleys Perez, ‘Million Dollar’ says that the throng of well-wishers were the driving force behind his recover – and
“I still pinch myself when I think about the call from Sir Alex,” said Crolla. “I really thought it was a wind-up at the time, but as he kept talking I realised it was really Fergie – it was unbelievable. I was feeling pretty low and not really knowing what the future held for me, so getting that call with Sir Alex wishing me all the best and knowing he’d seen what had happened to me was a great boost.
“After that call I Wayne Rooney sent me a signed shirt from the United boys, which was brilliant as I am such a big United fan.
“But as well as the backing of United, the support I have received since the attack has been overwhelming. People always say that you should win World titles for yourself but winning this belt would be the best thank you I could give to everyone that has helped on my road to recovery.”
Crolla’s date with destiny against Perez is part of a huge night of World title action in Manchester as Crolla’s gym-mate Scott Quigg defends his WBA World Super Bantamweight title against Kiko Martinez.
There’s a pair of tasty tussles for vacant British titles as stylish duo Chris Jenkins and Tyrone Nurse lock horns for the Light Welterweight strap and big hitting pair Sam Eggington and Glenn Foot promise a war for the Welterweight crown.
St. Helens’ Martin Murray boxes at Super Middleweight for the second time in quick succession as he targets some huge domestic battles at 168lbs, and there’s a host of young talent on display in unbeaten Gallagher’s gym duo Hosea Burton and Marcus Morrison, while there are outings for Prizefighter Lightweight champion Jono Carroll, former Team GB starlet Charlie Edwards, Sedgefield’s Jeff Saunders, Middleton’s Liam Taylor and Chapel-en-le-Firth’s Jack Massey.
Tickets are on sale priced £40, £60, £80, £100 and £150 through www.manchester-arena.com or by calling 0844 847 8000. VIP’s are available exclusively through www.matchroomboxing.com priced at £300.
Understanding A Weighty Subject
Weight has become a heavy topic.
Recently, as much time seems to have been spent debating what happened on the scales as how the fighters involved performed in the ring the following night. There have been convenient catchweights and forfeited titles. Pounds and ounces have cost pounds and pence.
Two weeks ago, Tony Bellew scaled 203lbs for his cruiserweight fight with Ivica Bacurin and Martin Murray came in at 172lbs for his super middleweight debut against George Beroshvili. Twitter may not be the home well-reasoned opinion but the number of people criticising the pair for “missing the weight” suggested that there may be a certain level of paranoia or ignorance creeping into matters.
Maybe the sheer number of weight related issues cropping up nowadays is clouding things or maybe – although boxing may be a working man’s sport - some fans are as unbendable on the issue of weight as the powers that be at Wimbledon are on their all white dress code.
Not every “missed” weight is a mistake or the result of unprofessionalism or laziness and it is routine for fighters to be given a leeway of a couple of pounds for non-title fights. Cutting weight can be a horrible, energy sapping process and it makes little sense to spend fight week frantically working off the final pound or two unless there is a tangible reward to be gained.
“Every fight around the world, if it isn’t a title fight they don’t make championship weight. There are quite a lot of reasons for it,” said promoter, manager and trainer David Coldwell. “Making a championship weight is very hard work for a lot of fighters. When they don’t have to make that weight and their opponent isn’t gonna make the weight then they aren’t gonna do it. If you’re gonna have dig at somebody like Bellew for weighing in 3lbs over his championship limit then what about every single show up and down the country. Lightweights weigh in at light welterweight because it isn't a championship limit. Welterweights weigh in at around 10st 10lbs or 10st 12lbs. It’s all the way through. Have a look at the BoxRec schedules and see what fighters have weighed and where they’re ranked. Nobody does it unless it’s a title fight.”
Martin Murray echoed Coldwell’s remarks. “With my last fight coming a bit sooner than planned I asked Eddie [Hearn, the show’s promoter] what weight would he expect me to be and he said around 12st 3lbs or 12st 4lbs. I could have made 12st if I’d wanted but with it being a non-title fight there was no point so I came in at 12st 4lbs,” he explained about his weight at the Echo Arena.
“It’s just people that haven’t got a clue, but people who love to moan and criticise,” continued Coldwell. “If you’re that way inclined that you want to bitch and moan about a fighter because you don’t like them then you’ll look for any little reason to slag them off. Listen, if it’s a championship weight that you miss then, yeah, you’re open to criticism.
“The problem is these days that there aren’t the opponents around that there was a few years ago. You haven’t got the same flexibility you had to build kids up and get the same learning fights as you did before. There aren’t that many opponents about so you end up having to get a foreign opponent across and you genuinely don’t know what he’s going to weigh until he gets there. The amount of times we’ve agreed a weight with a foreign manager and when they turn up they’re heavy on the scales. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that people don’t see.”
According to Jason McClory of Longshots Sports, who spends his days discussing pounds and ounces in his role as a manager, promoter and head matchmaker for Frank Warren and Queensbury Promotions, knowing when to get a fighter to step onto the scales under championship conditions is almost as important as knowing when they should step into the ring with a higher calibre of opponent.
“If there’s a lad I’ve been matching and developing as a boxer, I don’t usually ask him to make bang on the weight until their last eight rounder,” McClory says. “I manage Tommy Langford and [one of] his last fight’s was against Wayne Reed. It was a non-title fight but it was ten rounds, as in order for Tommy to qualify for a title he needed to box at weight and have a scheduled ten rounder under his belt. That’s the first time he’d had to make bang on the middleweight limit [Note: Langford won at the weekend and moved to 13-0 (4)]. It’s not until their last eight rounder or first ten rounder that I say let’s have it on the weight.
“When the board or world governing bodies are looking at the fights, the first thing they’ll look at is the weights and they’ll say “He says he’s a middleweight but has he ever made middleweight?” so when they’re ready for title fights, I get them to make the weight a day before so they can say they’ve done it. It’s another box ticked. There’s no point in killing these kids to make the weight for an on the day weigh in. It takes it out of your body cutting weight. They’re professionals so they should be able to do it anyway but I think it’s important not to ask them to do that too early in their careers. Let it not be about making weight but the learning process.
“Weight dominates a big part of my job. I think weight issues have always been there but a lot of times these days they are being used as an excuse and, even more so, to gain an advantage. At the lower stage of a boxer’s career it’s always been there. You make a fight at 10st 3lbs for a six round light welterweight fight and the journeyman normally comes in bang on the weight and no end of times the prospect, home fighter or whatever you want to call him comes in at 10st 4lbs or 10st 5lbs and they end up having to pay a weight forfeit. That’s becoming more and more common. They like to be full time professionals and then they don’t make the weight.
“I think when weights are agreed outside of championship fights, if they miss the weight by a good amount - half an ounce here or an ounce there with different scales and so on, you know, you can kind of wear that - especially when they have somebody else from the same gym who comes in bang on the weight, then I think that’s a liberty.
“You can always tell when somebody is guilty of missing the weight and it’s their fault because they kick up at the weigh in and say “Well, we won’t fight then!” The reaction of a guilty man.”
Missing an agreed upon weight limit – either through a genuine inability to shed the final few ounces or consciously, in an attempt to gain an advantage – may result in being big, but it certainly isn’t clever.
A failure on the scales affects not only the man due to stand in the opposite corner but the show promoter, the status of any titles due to be contested, ticket buying fans and any potential broadcasters. Last but not least, the fighter missing the weight may in some instances gain an advantage for that one particular contest but will likely suffer severe financial penalties and a withering of his professional reputation. A boxer who makes his living as an opponent is likely to have trouble finding regular work if he continually ignores agreed upon limits and a hard hitting prospect isn’t going to find many willing rivals if he is going to compound any difference in skill by also outweighing them. Fighters will always attempt to boil their bodies down to the lowest possible weight before rehydrating and attempting to use that extra size and strength the following night but if that is the route they are going to take, it is their duty to ensure they never fail. Rehydration limits which restrict how much a fighter can weigh on the day of the fight can help solve matters but for shows with a same day weigh in, there is scant time to find a solution.
“If it’s a championship fight and we weigh in at 2pm on the Friday ahead of a Saturday fight then depending on the governing body they have between one and two hours to take the weight off,” explains McClory [note: The BBBoC allows one hour]. “If they can’t take the weight off then you end up with a situation where only the guy who has made weight can win the title or a champion loses his title on the scales. There is normally a fine too. Depending on the gravity of it and which show it’s on, it’s at least £100 per lb and I’ve been at some shows where it’s been £1000 per lb.
“If it’s a six-three’s on a Saturday show, then you can’t take any weight off. It’s then a judgement call for the guy who’s come to fight and has stepped onto the scales. If he’s fighting somebody who hasn’t got a big punching record they may well take it but want money, £100 per pound or whatever. That will be decided there and then at the scales. As long as somebody has made weight, they’re in the right. Then it’s a case of what will it take to make this fight happen and an intermediary will have the two trainers negotiate between each other. If a known puncher comes in two or three pounds overweight then the journeyman’s trainer might turn around and say “We’re not taking the fight. I’m not putting my guy in there with somebody bigger when he could get seriously hurt.” At which point the fight’s off.
“Just because a fighter has stepped on the scales and made weight, it’s a misconception that he gets his full purse. If the fight doesn’t happen it’s a case of negotiation. If you go to the board you’ll be lucky to get a third. So if you were on three grand, you’d do well to get a grand out of it. What I’ve done in the past is say “Look, you haven’t fought and I’ve got to refund tickets because this guy isn’t fighting so here’s half [the purse]. A lot of opponents will take that because it isn’t another loss on the record and they’re fit to fight the next week if a show comes up. Then we deal with the fallout from that with refunding the home fighters tickets.”
To America, and although 2015 has produced some excellent match-ups, the traditionalists amongst us are dismayed by the way weight limits are now seemingly gerrymandered to suit the whims of boxers and their teams. Miguel Cotto being allowed to dictate what Daniel Geale could weigh when he was supposedly defending the WBC – and lineal – middleweight title is probably the most talked about case of legalised rule bending as the honest but low profile Australian was left with little choice but to accept the stipulation in exchange for the payday and opportunity but rival 140lb champions Danny Garcia and Lamont Peterson striking a gentleman’s agreement to meet at 143lbs and put their light welterweight belts into cold storage is almost as blatant.
Be it pulled pork or sagging pants, trends and crazes – both good and bad, you can decide which is which - usually work their way across the Atlantic eventually but so far British boxing has yet to embrace the idea of catchweights being used in title fights. The possibility of the BBBoC following the lead of the world governing bodies and sanctioning a catchweight bout for a regional or national title or – God forbid – a Lonsdale belt seems a long way away.
“I had a situation where I wanted to do a super featherweight area title fight. We couldn’t get that title but the lightweight one was available,” said McClory. “I toyed with the idea of making the fight a pound above super featherweight so that we had a title on the line and that it was under title conditions. I don’t think catchweight should be done in title situations if I’m honest but we needed a title for the fight. I think outside of titles they can fight at whatever weight they want though.”
“Catchweight’s are great unless there’s a title on the line,” agrees Coldwell. “I don’t agree with this where you’ve got a middleweight title fight being fought at a catchweight. At the end of the day, Cotto’s the middleweight champion so his opponent should be able to weigh up to 11st 6lbs. If Cotto wants to weigh in under then that’s not a problem. He can come in at 10st 10lbs if he wants but if he wants to be middleweight champion and defend that belt then the other fighter should be allowed to come in at anything up to 11st 6lbs. I believe that for all champions. You can’t start dictating to the organisations that people can’t come in at the championship limit because in the rules of that organisation it says that [a middleweight] fight is made at a maximum of 11st 6lbs.
“At the end of the day that’s the fault of the sanctioning body. The fighter can try it on and the manager and trainer can try but ultimately when it goes for approval and the organisation has to sanction it they should say no. Unfortunately the sanctioning bodies want that big fat cheque.”
Within the past two months Nicholas Walters forfeited his WBA featherweight title on the scales after failing to make the 126lb limit. Frankie Gomez weighed in 6 1/2lbs over a 141lb catchweight limit for his fight with Humberto Soto and was summarily dropped from his position as main support to the HBO televised ‘Canelo' Alvarez - James Kirkland fight and Liverpool’s Paul Smith scaled 4.4lbs over a catchweight limit of 172lbs for his fight with pound for pound star Andre Ward and was fined $45,000. He also rehydrated to above a determined amount the following morning and forfeited a further $15,000 [which Ward later returned]. Three different - and severe - punishments for the same offence, yet still the infringements keep occurring. Boxing has the weapons to punish offenders but the potential riches on offer to potential champions mean that weight can become a secondary consideration. Maybe imposing much stiffer financial penalties is the only solution.
“I was working with Adam Booth and Andy Lee when Peter Quillin didn’t make weight and Andy got a nice big chunk on top of his purse,” said Coldwell. “You have to pay a fine [if you miss weight] and it’s the same for any fight right the way down to undercard fights. If the home fighter comes in heavy then the opponent ends up getting a few hundred quid more. That’s what is in place. The problem is where these guys are saying they aren’t bothered about paying the fine. They must have too much money!
“Some people are saying that if you bought back the same day weigh in then it’d eliminate the problem but I don’t think would. You still agree to make a weight, you still stand on the scales and a guy comes in heavy. Then it’s right there and the fight other happens or it doesn’t. It doesn’t make any difference whatsoever. At least [with a next day weigh in] if somebody comes in overweight you can do what I did on a show this year. It was Ryan Fields against Joe Lovell. Lovell came in overweight the day before and so he was given a certain amount he could go up to on the night of the fight and no more and he made that. At least you can regulate it a little bit whereas if it’s on the day you’re stuck with it and they either fight or they don’t.
“Do people still seriously think same day weigh ins will stop people struggling to make weight? Fighters are always going to try and make the lightest weight that they can because they’re under this illusion that they will kill themselves to make a limit but be massive on the night. They’re forgetting that they’re weakening themselves to make the limit. If it’s a day before weigh in, yes they’ll get 30 or so hours to get their fuel in but they’re not going to be at their optimum level. If they’re doing that on the day of the fight then they’ve got even less time to recover. I’m not an advocate of same day weigh ins.”
McClory agrees that hitting fighters in the pocket is the only viable solution to the problem but also feels that for true championship calibre fighters, making the weight is as much a part of the job as actually fighting. If boxers and their teams educate themselves about how to lose weight and stop trying to engineer weight limits to protect unbeaten records or rankings, deterrents shouldn’t be necessary.
“Obviously you could put contractual things in there like if your guy misses weight we still get paid. I think that’s the biggest deterrent. If you’ve got a fighter who keeps missing weight then put it in the contract that if he doesn’t come in on weight then I still want paying my full purse and I’m not fighting. That’ll stop the guy doing it because the promoter would say he’s never working with him again.
“What I call the proper fighters, they make the weight and proper fighters aren’t worried about a zero. George Groves wasn’t bothered about keeping his zero. Derry Mathews wasn’t bothered about keeping a zero. They wanted to become world champions. Ovil McKenzie wasn’t bothered about his zero and if he wins his next fight we’ll get him a world title fight.
“Science has moved a lot and some fighters purposely crash the weight and it doesn’t do their bodies any good. Look at Enzo Macarinelli. He came down from cruiserweight - granted he wasn’t always a 14st 4lb cruiserweight - but I was with the team when he fought Juergen Braehmer over in Germany [at light heavyweight] and he made the weight so, so easily. It’s just about drinking plenty of water through your training, eating the right things, no salt. Very simple things. If you’re eating well, training hard and doing your strength work it should come off easily. Ovil is very old school with it and never struggled making the weight. All these older professionals who you would think would be doing things the old fashioned way like Derry Mathews and Enzo, they don’t. They’re absolute model professional when it comes to making weight.”
Julio Cesar Chavez and Roberto Duran are two of the sport’s greatest and most well respected figures and both regularly fought non-title, negotiated weight fights during their championship reigns but many of these fights were fought away from the wall to wall coverage that exists nowadays. When those fighters prepared for meaningful title fights in the public eye, they ensured that the only drama and controversy the fans spoke about was generated inside the ring rather than around a negotiating table or at the weigh in. The issues surrounding weight limits won’t be solved by the boxers deciding to cut out the carbs or running that extra mile. Fans, officials, promoters and fighters need to work together. With a bit more knowledge and understanding on the viewer’s side, some stricter rule enforcement on behalf of the governing bodies and the small minority of fighters and teams that choose to play with weight limits respecting the sport and their opponents, maybe we can get back to talking about battles in the ring rather than battles with the scales.
Bellew remains on track for third title tilt
Courtesy of Coldwell Boxing
Liverpool’s Tony Bellew returned from a nine month absence last weekend to halt experienced Croatian, Ivica Bacurin, in the last session of a scheduled ten rounder. The Liverpool man dominated proceedings from the get go and after dropping his resilient opponent multiple times, he finally got the job done seconds before the final bell. Hopes within Camp Bellew are firmly attached to a third world title shot and trainer, Dave Coldwell is insistent that the time is right for his hungry charge.
“We’re not far from where we want to be and I see things falling into place for Tony now,” buzzed Coldwell. “Last Friday was our fourth fight together and the things we’ve been working on for the last eighteen months are beginning to look the part. We’re closing in on something really special after only spending such little time together but the pair of us are so desperate for it to work that we are willing to put in everything to make sure we have the best chance of succeeding at the very top level.”
Bellew’s preparations provided several nervous moments for Coldwell as the daily grind of the Sheffield trainer’s demanding workouts were accompanied by illness in the final three weeks of camp which meant Bellew was not at full potential by the time he reached the ring. This information was touched on in the immediate aftermath of the fight and Coldwell reveals that it wasn’t ideal with such big fights looming.
“We had to be patient on fight night and make sure there was enough in the tank to go the distance just in case Bacurin was a tough nut to crack. He paced himself well and controlled the fight and a lot of the things he did made me very happy. There’s still more for him to show of course but because of the build up he wasn’t able to go out there and give the fans what they wanted. That will come in time and if it arrives on the big stage then it’ll be well worth waiting for.”
Oscar issues scathing statement on Haymon lawsuit situation
LOS ANGELES, (July 1, 2015) - Golden Boy Promotions Founder and Chairman Oscar De La Hoya released the following statement today in the wake of Top Rank Boxing's lawsuit against Al Haymon and his affiliated entities.
"I applaud Bob Arum and Top Rank Boxing for stepping up on behalf of fighters not only in their own stable, but all across the sport. Those like Bob and myself who have spent the bulk of their lives around boxing understand that the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act is a crucial piece of legislation that serves to protect boxers and enhance the sport. Golden Boy Promotions will continue to push forward with our own lawsuit to ensure our wonderful sport continues to grow in a competitive, just manner."
Background on GBP Lawsuit:
On May 6, 2015, Golden Boy Promotions filed a $300 million lawsuit against Al Haymon and his related companies alleging repeated violation of antitrust laws and the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act. The case was filed in Federal Court in Los Angeles.
Robbie Davies Jnr signs with Neil Marsh
By Gary Shaw
The amazing success boxing manager Neil Marsh has enjoyed in the past 18 months looks set to continue as he welcomes new signing Robbie Davies jnr this week.
In a scoop for Marsh, the unbeaten light welterweight joins his current stable of stars such as Kevin Satchell, the European flyweight champion, Jazza Dickens, the British super featherweight champion, and English bantamweight champion Ryan Farrag, who earlier this month was given a shot at the vacant European crown.
Davies jnr., son of exciting local light middleweight star of the 1970s, Robbie Davies, was formerly a top amateur with Knowsley Vale ABC and has amassed eight wins from eight professional contests (five by stoppage) in a little over two years, although he has yet to fight in 2015 due to a mixture of injury and inactivity.
Robbie said: "I'm made up I've signed with Neil. What he's done for his fighters in the last year and a half is fantastic and I want to be a part of it. We got on straightaway and I could see he was as committed to his boxers as everyone says he is. When we asked to talk to him about signing he dropped everything and came over that day. He spelled out what he thought we should do and it's perfect for me. I haven't fought for a while so have got a fight in Sheffield next month and then we can start to work towards titles."
A clearly thrilled Marsh said: "I'm absolutely delighted to have signed a contract with such a talented kid as Robbie. When I heard he was available I wanted to sign him 100%. I know I had lots of competition for his signature and I’m very grateful he has trusted me with guiding his career. I'm determined not to let him or his team down. I know he can really fight. He's one of he best prospects in the country for me. Now it's up to me to get him out as quickly as I can and then take him to the title fights where he belongs."
Davies will continue to be trained by the respected Dave Tonks in Speke. Marsh added: "I'd like to thank Ste Lathem, Paul Smith and Dave for the part they played in ensuring the signing of Robbie went so smoothly."
Davies will have a six rounder in Sheffield on 18 July.
Bellew, Smith, Fielding and Murray. Echo Arena review
Since stepping up in class, Tony Bellew, now 24-2-1 (15), has been much more of a Stealth Bomber than the carpet bombing Avro Lancaster that blitzed its way to the British title.
During his final couple of years at light heavyweight, the Liverpudlian’s cautious approach was partly due to the rigours of boiling himself down to 175lbs and a fear of failure with a world title shot within reach. At cruiserweight, he seems perfectly aware that even the slightest mistake could prove critical when sharing the ring with a man weighing north of 200lbs and rations his risks accordingly. Bellew’s sensible approach to his fighting has more in common with the trainee accountant in him than the “I carry power!” lunatic that he transforms into on fight nights but the cruiserweight division is one of the most under rated but dangerous in the sport and - for a former light heavyweight mixing with some big men - boxing cautiously is far more likely to reap rewards than a gung ho approach. We’d all love to see the man who demolished Danny McIntosh and drew battle lines with Ovil McKenzie return but, as Bellew, 32, himself would put it, he’s the one doing the fighting and outside of his close circle the opinions of others “aren’t worth a carrot.”
Although he has yet to face an elite cruiserweight, Bellew has stopped three of his four opponents and caused enough damage to suggest that he is a stiff puncher at the weight. His fights with Valery Brudov, Julio Cesar Dos Santos and Ivica Bacurin and have resulted in a total of seven knockdowns. “What about Nathan Cleverly?!” I can hear you shouting at your screen. Well, I’m willing to put that whole event down as a bizarre anomaly and – funnily enough – the fight didn’t remain on my Sky+ box long enough for me to rewatch it.
Sometimes, however, a touch of urgency is needed and on Saturday a rise in tempo would have probably resulted in an earlier night. Bacurin was exactly the type of opponent that Bellew would take great pleasure in adding to his highlight reel and the fact that he was either unable or unwilling to put his foot down and put together the sustained period of pressure that would have almost certainly bought the fight to an end before the eventual tenth round conclusion lends credence to his post-fight comments about not wanting to take any chances following an injury and illness ravaged build up. Pressure will be key if Bellew gets a long discussed shot at IBF champion, Y-P Hernandez, later this year. The Cuban is extremely talented but shuts down during fights and can be outworked and hurt.
With Hernandez due to board a flight and defend his IBF belt against Victor Ramirez in Argentina in July, Bellew is likely to have a few months to perfect a gameplan and his conditioning before his expected title shot. He will need to fight on high alert but if he can up his punch output enough to ensure Hernandez has no time to rest yet also choose the right moments to attack with venom, Bellew may just cause more problems than many expect.
Callum Smith’s decision victory over Christopher Rebrasse was exactly the type of fight the promising 25 year needed. As Smith’s trainer, Joe Gallagher, said before the fight, Rebrasse was the first opponent Smith has faced who had prepared specifically for him. The former European super middleweight champion is a talented fighter who knows exactly when to counterpunch, when to cover up and how to apply forward pressure smartly. He lacks the weight of punch to be truly world class but had Smith allowed his concentration to slip during some close middle rounds, Rebrasse would have snatched his opportunity.
Smith maintained his composure after damaging his hand early in the fight and pulled away down the stretch with some nice straight punches and the left hook to the body which has become his trademark. The unanimous decision in his favour was fully deserved but the 120-107 card handed in by Tim Cheatham was extremely hard on Rebrasse. It was an excellent piece of matchmaking, a highly skilled fight and the best performance of Smith’s career.
17 fights into his professional career, all wins with twelve coming early, Smith’s style is now pretty much set. There will obviously be tweaks made to cater for different opponents but his use of range, body attack, excellent fundamentals and seemingly unflappable nature are an excellent set of qualities to fall back on. If I were to be picky, I’d like to see him look over some tapes of Larry Holmes and alternate the weight, speed and timing of his jab and add a touch more head movement but Smith looks likely to grace the world stage for years to come.
The last time an opponent tried getting to Rocky Fielding quickly, Luke Blackledge found himself on the canvas within a round of what was seen as Fielding’s toughest test to that point. Brian Vera tried the same trick on Saturday night. Vera may have spent his career operating on a different plane to Blackledge but the Texan only managed to last around two minutes longer than the man from Accrington. Fielding, 21-0 (12), continued his habit of saving his most devastating performances for his most important nights. The 27 year old has won every title fight he has been pitched into by stoppage and also stopped all three opponents in the Prizefighter tournament which first shot him to prominence over five years ago.
David Price’s description of Fielding’s “slashing” punches is perfect. His punches seem to have a whip like quality to them and come from wide angles and he uses his uppercut to great effect; a must for a rangy fighter whose opponents will seek to get close to him.
It is a rarefied time for British super middleweights. James DeGale holds the IBF title and a place amongst the very best in the division and George Groves gets a third chance to claim a world belt when he takes on WBC champion Badou Jack later this summer. Callum Smith is matching Fielding step for step and Frank Buglioni has a shot at Fedor Chudinov’s WBA belt in July. Carl Froch, meanwhile, is still deciding whether to continue his storied career or end having fought in front of two men and a dog on Clapham Common. Or something like that. Fielding may be benefitting from flying under the radar. There is very little pressure on him and every time he has been given a test, he passes it with flying colours.
“In an ideal world we’d be free to choose,” sang The Christians. Ideally we’d get Smith v Fielding for the vacant British super middleweight title in early September. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” sang The Rolling Stones.
It was good to see Martin Murray, 30-2-1 (13), get rid of Georgia’s George Beroshvili in the second round of his marking time fight this weekend. The bigger the fight, the better Murray, 32, performs and he is loathe to risk injury in fights that he knows he will win. The last thing he needed during his return to Sky Sports was a procession of the type we witnessed when he fought Karim Achour, Sergei Khomitsky or Max Bursak.
Lots of fighters claim that a move up in weight will help them become more powerful and more energetic but in Murray’s case, it seems entirely likely. He was a massive middleweight and, as he says, he won’t need to add muscle to move the 8lbs up to super middleweight, he will simply take 8lbs less off. If a diminished Murray gave the best 160lb fighters on the planet plenty to think about, it will be interesting to see how the top fighters at 168lbs deal with him at full bore.
Photos courtesy of Lawrence Lustig
Tommy Langford talks late sub Vikingo, sparring Callum Smith and Gavin departure
By Michael J Jones
NEXT SATURDAY in Dublin, middleweight hope Tommy Langford faces late sub’ Julio Cesar Avalos as he bids to make it thirteen victories unbeaten as well as pick up the vacant WBO InterContinental belt live on BoxNation. The 25 year old was due to face decent German Ronny Mittag before Mexican Avalos, 15-4 (7), got the call late last week.
On a show which also features top pros in Jamie Conlon, Patrick Hyland and Stephen Ormond in respective bouts, Langford is eager to put on a first class performance in his first title bout after being side-lined for a short period with injury.
His last contest (in which he suffered a small rupture to his left eardrum), was a highly impressive dismantling of experienced southpaw Wayne Reed. Busy, sharp and barely wasting a punch, the Devon-born Langford put on a brutal exhibition of body-punching to force the referee to stop the contest in the fifth round.
The victory, far more clinical than most had expected, raised the Birmingham-based prospect’s record to a perfect 12-0 (3) and he has made excellent progress since turning pro nearly three years ago.
Livefight spoke with Tommy last week to get his thoughts on his upcoming title bout vs “Vikingo” as well as his hopes for the year ahead.
LF) Your last contest was in February against Wayne Reed, you must have been very pleased with your performance that night?
TL) Yes it was a night where everything went to plan. Wayne Reed did me a favour though; he came straight at me and came to fight. That enabled me to be able to land often in combos’ and was a bit of a dream come true that it wasn’t awkward and let me put on a good performance.
LF) You suffered a rupture to your eardrum during the contest; do you remember the damaging shot landing in the fight with Reed?
TL) Yes I actually remember the moment it happened. He caught me with a glancing shot, it wasn’t even particularly hard, but straight away I could feel a ringing in my ears but I was lucky in a way as it didn’t affect my balance at all.
I had to take a small amount of time out on the doctor’s advice but it’s healed now and I’ve been able to spar hard in the build up to this fight so touch wood.
LF) You were originally due to face 23-1 German Ronny Mittag who is a very correct and neat boxer but now you face the much shorter brawling Mexican Julio Cesar Avalos with just a week to go; how have you had to alter your preparation with the late switch in opponents?
TL) Well we’ve completed all the hard training and sparring now so it won’t change anything; I’ll just have to remember to punch a bit lower! My camp has gone really well and I can’t wait for next Saturday now.
Mittag was, as you say, very tall and a correct, stand-up boxer. I watched some footage of him and, while he was obviously decent, I think it would have been a good win for me. With Avalos, he’s a lot shorter, solid and doesn’t seem to go anywhere (durable). He’s also quite strong but I also think he’s never mixed with anyone of a high class in his career.
With my amateur background and all the different styles I’ve fought I can pretty much get to grips with any style of opponent. In the amateurs (where Tommy won a brace of tournaments and also represented England) I got used to taking on opponents you knew nothing about and I nearly always got the job done and this will be no different.
Avalos has got a bit of an odd style from what I’ve seen; he doesn’t come straight out to “have it” but throws wild counters and is a bit unpredictable. I’ve had excellent sparring with Callum Smith and a top Russian though so I’ll be ready for anything.
If he came to me with aggression that would be perfect but we’ll see. After that first round I’ll know what to do.
LF) Your long-time gym-mate and recent world title challenger Frankie Gavin has recently departed company with your trainer Tom Chaney. Any comment regarding that?
TL) I don’t know the ins and the outs but I know they both parted on good terms and it was all done in the right manner. I think Frankie is going with Maxwell McCracken now and dropping down to light-welterweight so I wish him all the very best.
LF) You have sparred many rounds with Gavin dating back to the amateurs will you miss that quality sparring?
TL) To be honest, I’m now a big strong middleweight and, with him going down to 10st, it’s probably too big a (weight) gap to spar now. When you spar often with someone a lot smaller than you it’s easy to start making mistakes and I know Frankie felt the same as he’d sometimes over-commit to a shot because I was so much taller.
All through my career I’ve had great sparring away from camp so I’ll continue to do that like this time I’ve done many hard rounds with Callum Smith*.
*Writer’s note: the sparring must have done Callum Smith good too as he put on a career-best performance to trounce tough Frenchman Christopher Rebrasse last Friday to move to 17-0.
LF) Providing you get past Avalos how would you like the rest of the year to pan out?
TL) Well I’m focussing on this fight right now but afterwards, ideally, it would be good to get out soon after. Hopefully I can put on another good performance and there’ll be more chance of coming back maybe the end of September then with luck be out again before the end of the year.
There’s no set-in-stone path at the moment I just want to continue to stay busy, gradually progress through the rankings then next year start targeting the major titles.
I’d just like to thank everybody who has bought a ticket to come and watch me over in Dublin and for those that haven’t tune into BoxNation as it’ll be a great night of boxing.
Langford vs Avalos prediction
Julio Cesar Avalos has a lot to contend with on July 4th. Taking a fight on just over a week’s notice, he’ll be boxing outside of Mexico for the first time and also facing a much bigger opponent who is improving with each fight and who may well be leagues better than anyone he has ever faced in the ring.
Avalos at 15-4 (7) has a relaxed style which Tommy can’t take for granted. The Mexican can appear slow and drops his hands on a regular basis but can whip a wide left hook or clubbing right on the counter. The Mexican, 25 like his opponent, hasn’t beaten anyone of note but should be pretty durable having only been stopped once in his four defeats. Without a huge punch, approximately five or six inches in height and reach disadvantage and nowhere near the skill-set of Langford the signs don’t look good for Julio Cesar but he should prove game.
Expect a painful night for “Vikingo” as Langford systematically breaks him down for a TKO in seven or eight rounds.
Tommy would like his team and also his sponsors; MAN Commercial Protection, Strategy Plus Online Marketing, Action Graphics, Panel Wizards, Atlas Pain Relief, Ringside UK and TR Sports Marketing.
Langford’s ruthless display vs Reed last time out-