A Tale Of One City. Flanagan and Crolla.
The chances are you’ve seen Murch. You may not know who he is but you’ll have seen him. He regularly pops up on your television screen up carrying a title belt into the ring and most of Manchester’s fighters have shadow boxed in front of a mirror fitted by his glass company. Today, he has brought Terry Flanagan’s world title belt back after looking after it for ‘a few weeks’. The WBO lightweight champion perches on the edge of the ring at Steve Maylett’s Finest Boxing Gym and has a good look at the newly polished strap. “It looks alright, that,” Flanagan says. “Murch keeps it at his house. I’m not bothered about belts really. What do you reckon Murch? Get another few at different weights?”
It might end up being just another one of many title belts then? “Hopefully. That’s the plan.
Are you taking it with you again, Murch?”
Murch also knows WBA lightweight champion, Anthony Crolla. He has his own little boxing club which runs out of Anthony Farnell’s Arnies Gym, just two and a half miles further up Oldham Road than The Finest Boxing Gym is situated. Crolla,regularly helps out at the famous Fox amateur club which takes over Arnies on the nights when Murch and his gang aren’t home. It seems like everybody in North Manchester either knows Flanagan, knows Crolla or knows somebody that knows them. And it seems like every single one of those people wants to see the two local lightweight world champions fight.
“It’s all I’m hearing,” Flanagan, 26, says. “Everybody I speak to just keeps asking, ‘When will you fight Crolla? When will you fight Crolla?’. I went to the City match the other day and everybody was asking when I’m gonna have him or ‘when will you smash up that red c***?’ All I can say is that I want the fight. I know people who know him that tell me that he wants the fight too. Well come out and say it then. It’s the biggest fight out there. I know people are saying that there are bigger fights out there at lightweight at the minute but there aren’t. Two lads from the same school both holding world titles in a unification fight. it’s unheard of. I think it should happen right now while we’re both champions. If one of us loses our title it won’t be as big.”
The Finest Gym is tucked away in the corner of a small industrial estate behind a row of Vietnamese restaurants and cafes in Ancoats, just outside Manchester city centre. We are only a couple of minutes walk from Manchester’s fashionable Northern Quarter with its trendy bars and eateries but Ancoats has always been a self contained and tight knit working class community. In recent years, fancy high rise apartment blocks have sprung up and the area has been regenerated. It’s as if the area realised that it needs to reinvent itself to avoid being cut adrift. It’s highly appropriate that Ancoats is the place that Flanagan is proud to call home. He would much rather just do his work and go home but it is as if he has suddenly become aware that, sadly, being good isn’t enough nowadays.
“I’m not really one for the limelight. I don’t really like the attention. I just want to get in and fight and if I do want to fight somebody, I don’t really want to be calling them out. I’m a champion too and I’m defending my own world title. I’m not fussed. I hope it does happen but I know in a few years it’ll end up getting turned around on me and it looking like I didn’t want the fight. If we both want it, it will happen. I’d say I’m fighting nobody but him and he’d say he’s fighting nobody but me. I think he manages himself and I don’t know what his contract is with Matchroom - I don’t think he’s got one - so if he want’s the fight, he can have it. People tell me he wants the fight but he obviously doesn’t because if he did, it’d happen.
“I think it’s Joe [Gallagher, Crolla’s trainer] personally [preventing the fight taking place] but if Ste said to me that he didn’t want a fight and I did, then I’d keep telling him to make the fight. Just like Crolla did with the John Murray fight [which resulted in a 10th round TKO for Crolla]. Joe didn’t want that fight but Crolla talked him into it. I think he needs to start doing that now. It’s a big payday for us both and it’s nothing personal. I like Anthony, he’s a nice guy. I just think we should have a unification fight and find out who the best in the area is, never mind the world.”
Steve Maylett arrives to oversee the regular afternoon training session in the steaming gym. Maylett and Flanagan are extremely similar, much preferring the working talk of the gym than having to answer the same old questions from passers by and people like me. Still, the recent attention must have come as something of a surprise to the pair. After all, Gallagher suggested in an interview with Sky Sports after Crolla’s excellent stoppage of Ismael Barroso that not many people outside of the boxing business actually know who Flanagan is and that a fight with brilliant former WBC lightweight champion, Jorge Linares, is their priority.
“Joe Gallagher should have been lay in bed on that Monday morning with a hard on over his fighter making a successful world title defence but he was thinking of excuses as to why the fight with Terry couldn’t happen instead,” Maylett says as he looks at some new ’Team Turbo’ t-shirts that Murch has dropped off. “I got a phone call the day after the story went out and I just answered it with, ‘Go on, Joe’ because I was annoyed about it. Joe said that what he had said had been misinterpreted. He said that the fight can’t happen yet and that they’ve put together a bucket list for Crolla that has him fighting Jorge Linares and going to Las Vegas. I just told him that it can happen and that we want the fight.
“It’s not complicated at all. They just don’t want it. Back in Prizefighter [in a star studded 2012 lightweight edition of the one night shootout that Flanagan came through to win] we knew that had Anthony reached the final to face Terry, they would have pulled him out of the fight. Other people know that too.
“Everybody who goes watching Crolla knows who Terry is and everybody who goes watching Terry knows who Anthony is. Joe said to me that it doesn’t sell but I told him it sells out the Manchester Arena.”
The Manchester Arena - which stands just a few hundred yards from us - has become something of a second home to Crolla in recent years with six of his last seven fights taking place there. In that time, Flanagan has steadily built his own fanbase. The atmosphere at the Velodrome was insane the night he won the title when Jose Zepeda's shoulder separated and he attracted a bigger following to the famous arena on the night of his greatest performance; a two round demolition of respected American, Diego Magdaleno. Flanagan glances up at a banner hanging on the gym wall advertising his latest victory, a unanimous decision over Derry Mathews in Liverpool.
“I went to the Barroso fight myself. I know a lot of people who got cheap tickets and got tickets reduced. I got mine for free!” he says. “It was nowhere near full. I think there were bout four or five thousand there. When I fought Diego Magdaleno the second tier was open and there were easily as many people there as there were for Crolla. It’s alright people knowing him but what do they know him for? Being a good guy and people like Wayne Rooney tweeting him. I didn’t see Rooney or Michael Carrick at ringside. They let you see what they want you to see. It’s bullshit. They’re conning the public. Half of the arena was blocked off with a curtain and it was only the bottom tier open. It was nowhere near full.
“Look, I want to fight the best. I could get a few more voluntary defences in and a few quick paydays but I want to fight the best. I want to fight Crolla before he loses that title. There are four equal lightweight world champions. Rances Barthelemey, Anthony Crolla, Linares [recently stripped of his WBC title after suffering a hand injury. Dean Zlaticanin and Emiliano Marsili will contest the vacant title] and me. We should all fight each other. Me and Crolla should fight, those two fight and the winners meet. It’s not the end of the career for whoever loses. I just don’t know why they’re saying we could fight him or fight him. Fight somebody ten minutes down the road. “
All of the talk about the distance apart that the fighters live shouldn’t cloud the fact that Flanagan and Crolla are two of the top lightweights on the planet. Local rivalry tends to divide people into definite camps when they weigh up the fight. Hold a straw poll on Lightbowne Road in Moston and every single person would pick Crolla to win. Ask everybody in The Clarendon pub in Monsall and they will choose Flanagan. The fighters themselves have the utmost respect for each other and know exactly how hard a task they would face should the fight ever be made. However, Flanagan wasn’t as impressed as many were by Crolla’s knockout of Barroso.
“I thought he [Crolla] looked strong and big. What happened is exactly what I thought would happen, it just happened a bit quicker than I thought. Barroso was doing too much and throwing when he didn’t need to throw. No disrespect to Crolla but you only have to look at the man. He was twice the size of him. He didn’t make the weight right. He was training like a madman here in our gym on the Thursday. He did eight rounds on the bags and was running up and down, skipping and doing pads in a sweatsuit. I don’t do anything in the last week. I tick over, touch the pads and talk about tactics. He got off the scales and had a two litre bottle of coke and a sandwich. It says it all. They’re trying to say he just beat the most dangerous guy in the lightweight division. Well, if he beat him so comfortably he shouldn’t have any problems taking on me then should he? It’s a good win for Crolla because of what Barroso did to Kevin Mitchell, even though Mitchell was shot. They talked him up as if he was this big, dangerous monster. He was tiny.”
Which begs the question why, if a relatively obscure Venezuelan like Barroso could be built into a monster by Matchroom, why cant Flanagan? ‘I know,’ he shrugs, acknowledging that it is a question which would bring the conversation right back around to the start. “There’s no point in keep going on about it is there? It just annoys me. I’ll just concentrate on my fight on July 9th on the Tyson Fury bill. You know what’ll happen though then. They’ll say that they don’t know what I’m doing and arrange their own date and opponent. I’d have happily waited for the fight but if they don’t want it, they don’t want it.”
There is no training this afternoon for Flanagan, he has sparring the next morning so he says his goodbyes and wanders off. With his belt. I help Maylett load some bin bags of rubbish into Murch’s van and wander over to my car . “It’s got to happen hasn’t it, mate?” says Murch as he shuts his door. “Yes, Jimmy. It’s got to.”
Avanesyan/Mosely victor secures crack at the winner of Thurman v Porter
If any were needed, British-based Russian welterweight, David Avanesyan, has been handed even extra motivation ahead of his forthcoming fight against ring legend ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley in Arizona this weekend with the news that the winner will be named mandatory for the WBA regular world title, currently held by Keith Thurman.
The contest against Mosley, a former three-weight world champion and two-time Ring Magazine pound for pound fighter of the year, at the Gila River Arena in Glendale Arizona on Saturday (28 May) will be Avanesyan’s first defence of the WBA interim title he won in November last year.
The former Russian amateur international only arrived in England in 2014 but, since then, he has quietly risen through the rankings to firmly establish himself as a bonafide world title challenger. Guided by North West manager and promoter Neil Marsh, and trained in Newark, Nottinghamshire, by Carl Greaves, Avanesyan is obviously delighted at the news that, should he beat the 44-year old Mosley, he will face one of the biggest names in the division later in the year; Thurman, widely recognised as the best fighter on the planet at 147lbs, defends his title against former IBF belt holder, Shawn Porter, at the Barclays Centre, New York, on 25 June.
Speaking from America, where he and his team are acclimatising themselves ahead of this weekend’s fight, Avanesyan said: “What can I say? It just gets better and better. The title fight in Monaco [v Venezuelan Charlie Navarro] was amazing. [The fight against] Mosley even more so. But the news [I will fight] for the world title against Thurman [or] Porter is hard to believe. I am very happy.”
Referring to his manager and promoter, Neil Marsh, who has trumped a number of more well-known promoters and managers in securing the title fight for his charge, Avanesyan said: “I can’t believe what Neil has done for me in just over a year. The last few months I have started to call him Santa Claus for the gifts he gives me. I’m so grateful to him, to Carl, who is a great trainer and motivator, Martin [Cullen], Jamie [Murphy] and everyone who has helped me on my journey – from the hotels we stay in to the matchmakers who make the fights. Of course also special thanks to [WBA President] Gilberto Mendoza for [naming the winner of this fight as] mandatory for the world title.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to change my life forever. Neil promised me three things; a good belt to be able to get a good fight and make my name; a fight that will be the key to America; and a big money fight against one of the big names. I don’t want to look beyond Mosley but I am so hungry for this [Thurman or Porter] opportunity. The plan has gone perfect. I will not let him or my team down. All I can say is bring on 28 May. I’m 100% ready and raring to go.”
The chance to face Thurman or Porter is one that many of the world’s top welterweights, including Sheffield’s current IBF king, Kell Brook, have been keen to grasp for some time, and is both a coup and a huge statement for Marsh and the team behind Avanesyan.
Marsh said: “I’m delighted at this news, one we have worked very hard for since David, Carl and I teamed up for the Navarro fight. He and Carl, who has been so supportive, work great together. Everything we tell David he listens to and acts on. I’m so pleased for him. He deserves it. It’s his reward for all the hard work and trust he has placed in us. It makes us all look forward to the Mosley fight even more – what further motivation do we need?”
Echoing Avanesyan’s thanks for both his team and the WBA for naming the winner of Saturday’s contest as mandatory for the regular title, Marsh added: “I firmly believe that many people play a part in any success story and this news is for all of them. Lots have helped us and I thank every one of them. I would personally like to thank the WBA and Gilberto for all their help and guidance and a special thank you to Carl, an excellent trainer who has been so easy to work with and completely understanding of how everything works in trying to secure David fights at this level. He understands the game. Also thanks to Jamie Murphy for his world class support and everyone who has played a part in ‘Team Ava’. Now it’s all down to David. I’m 100% certain he will win and we can start planning an even bigger fight against either Thurman or Porter later in the year.”
Highlighting the momentum the small but focused team behind Avanesyan’s rise, trainer Carl Greaves added: “I’m proud to be part of this great journey – it’s a great story, you could not write a better script. It’s a fantastic achievement to get such a big fight and thanks to Neil for getting it. David is great to work with. He is unbelievably talented and so determined to succeed. I’m sure he will grab this chance with both hands. I can’t wait for the weekend now, and look forward to working with David in future ahead of what I am sure will be even bigger nights to come.”
David Avanesyan v Shane Mosley for the WBA interim world welterweight title, and WBA final eliminator, takes place this Saturday (28 May) at the Gila River Arena, Glendale, Arizona. It will be screened free on terrestrial TV in the USA by the CBS Sports Network and is also on BoxNation.
Hennessy views Eubank belt offer as a publicity stunt
Eubank Jr has to make three successful defences of the belt to call it his own
LONDON (24 MAY) British middleweight champion Chris Eubank Jr has offered to return his Lonsdale belt to its former owner, Nick Blackwell, despite not owning the belt outright.
The gesture was made this morning on ITV1's Good Morning Britain, but Blackwell's friend and former promoter, Mick Hennessy, aware that Eubank Jr needs three successful defences of the title before he can call it his own, is of the opinion that it's not much more than a publicity stunt at this stage.
"On the face of it, it seems like a really kind gesture from Chris," said Hennessy, "but, unfortunately, he has no right to make those sort of claims. The belt he currently has isn't his to give away.
"Once he has made three defences of the title, and won it outright, he can do what he wants with it. It will be his to keep. But, until then, anything he says in relation to handing the belt over to Nick has to be viewed, in my opinion, as pure opportunism."
Eubank Jr won the British middleweight title on March 26, 2016 at The SSE Arena, Wembley. In accordance to the time-honoured rules, though, he must make three successful defences of the belt to claim it outright (at which point a new belt is created). If unsuccessful, or if he decides to vacate his position, the same belt is then passed on to the next champion.
Makubu: I'll turn Bellew's dream night into a nightmare
Ilunga Makabu has told Tony Bellew that he’ll turn his dream night at Everton FC into a nightmare when they clash for the vacant WBC World Cruiserweight title at Goodison Park on Sunday May 29, live on Sky Sports.
Makabu brings a fearsome KO record to Merseyside with 18 of his 19 straight wins coming inside the distance, and the 29 year old says he will silence the hometown support and make Bellew his latest KO victim.
“People expect me to be scared of the occasion as the stadium will be full of his people cheering him and booing me,” said Makabu. “Tony must not wait for his people to get behind him to start fighting – as once we are in there, no-one can help him, it’s just me and him!
“People can come to support, and I’m happy for this as I like seeing lots of people. I’m ready to fight Tony and handle whatever he brings. I can’t wait to fight him.
“I am the King of Knockouts and for sure I will knock him out. I’m not going to be surprised and the people shouldn’t be shocked when they see me knock Tony Bellew out. I’m not going to wait for this fight to go the distance - I will knock Tony out much before then. He won’t be able to survive 8 or 10 rounds with me, let alone 12 – no way.”
Makabu’s clash with Bellew is part of a huge night of action at Goodison Park as Stephen Smith looks to bounce straight back from his brave World title challenge by taking on Daniel Brizuela for the vacant WBC Silver Super-Featherweight title, and he’s joined on the bill by his Super-Middleweight brothers Paul and Callum.
Birkenhead’s Sean ‘Masher’ Dodd faces Pasquale Di Silvio for the vacant WBC International Lightweight title, while Tom Farrell meets Kofi Yates in an eliminator for the English Super-Lightweight title.
Liverpool Heavyweight favourite David Price is back in action and there’s a host of young talent on display including British Light-Heavyweight champion Hosea Burton, Preston’s Commonwealth gold medallist Scott Fitzgerald and Merseysiders JJ Metcalf, Paul Economides, Gerard Carroll, Craig Glover and Steve Brogan.
Tickets are on general sale now priced £40, £60, £100 and £200 and can be purchased by visiting www.evertonfc.com/eticketing, or by calling 0151 556 1878*. Alternatively, tickets can be purchased in person by visiting the Park End ticket office or our City Centre ticket facility in Everton Two, Liverpool One. £350 VIP tickets will be available exclusively from www.matchroomboxing.com
Charlo twins and Lara celebrate wins
LAS VEGAS (May 21, 2016) - On a night Erislandy "The American Dream" Lara successfully defended his WBA Super Welterweight Championship with a hard-fought 12-round unanimous decision over Vanes "The Nightmare" Martirosyan, undefeated brothers Jermall and Jermell Charlo, of Houston, became the first twins in boxing history to hold world titles in the same weight class.
Jermall Charlo (24-0, 18 KOs) retained his IBF Junior Middleweight World Championship with a unanimous 12-round decision over former world champion Austin "No Doubt" Trout (30-3, 17 KOs) of Las Cruces, N.M., in the second of three world title fights on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® from The Chelsea inside The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
In the opening bout of the three fight telecast, Jermell Charlo (28-0, 13 KOs) earned the vacant WBC Super Welterweight World Championship by rallying from five points down to register an eighth-round knockout over John "Da Rock" Jackson (20-3, 15 KOs), of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands (Video highlights: http://s.sho.com/1VeFFVq).
Lara outpointed Martirosyan in the main event by the scores of 116-111 twice and 115-112. There were no knockdowns. Martirosyan had a point deducted for a low blow in the 11th in a rematch of a May 2012 fight that ended in a technical draw.
Born one minute apart, the identical twins celebrated their 26th birthday this past Thursday, May 19. Jermall is one minute older than Jermell.
Jermall Charlo stuck to his game plan and fought behind his jab, throwing 292 jabs and connecting at an 18 percent clip. It was a balanced attack from both fighters, but the power and accuracy from the physically bigger Charlo was a difference.
"It wasn't a struggle, it was a great experience," said Charlo after his second successful title defense. "I want to thank God for allowing me and my twin brother to see this day. History.
"Austin is a hell of a fighter. He's a beast. This was my first time going 12, but it didn't matter because I knew I was in shape.
"My game plan was to execute with the jab. I knew he was going to try to stop me, but that didn't happen. There's no way you can tame a lion.
"It felt good because I knew my brother would get the job done. We belong on this level. We need these titles to get the big fights and we're going to keep these titles to keep rising.
"I changed my mind -- we're going to stay right here (at 154). Making 154 pounds wasn't as bad as everyone made it out to be."
"Hat's off to Jermall Charlo. He fought a hell of a fight," Austin Trout said. "I felt like I did enough to win. They won't give me a close decision, so it's time to start taking these cats out. But I can't make excuses. I fought my ass off, Charlo fought his ass off and hats off to him.
"I'm going to live to fight another day. You're going to see me back. We're warriors out here.''
Two minutes into the eighth round, Jermell Charlo, trailing 69-64 on the three judges' scorecards, landed a perfect counter right hand to Jackson's left eye. As Jackson dropped his guard to insure his mouthpiece was in place, Jermell connected with two more right hands that sent Jackson falling forward into his corner. Defenseless and seemingly out on his feet, referee Tony Weeks stepped in immediately and stopped it at 0:51.
"It's history," said Jermell, who entered the match as the WBC No. 1 contender and became the 66th ShoBox: The New Generation fighter to capture a world title.
"We did it. A lot of fighters don't come out of Houston and we did it. I'm waiting for my brother next. We've been boxing for all of these years and it had to happen.
"I was behind. He was boxing, he was moving around a lot. That was unexpected of him. I thought he was going to come out to brawl. I had to make an adjustment and I did.
"When he started slowing down, I was able to catch him with a shot. I knew that if he could have continued he could have come back so I had to hit him."
While both were selective with their punches, throwing just 427 combined shots through eight and a half rounds, Jermell was the more accurate fighter. The new WBC champ landed 23 percent of his total punches, including 34 percent of his power shots against Jackson.
"It was a journey to get here," said Jackson, the WBC's No. 2 contender going in and son of former world champion Julian "The Hawk" Jackson.
"I feel like I was ahead and I came up short. He caught me with a punch and I was trying to fix my mouthpiece. Then he hit me and I was out. It hit me in the eye, but my mouthpiece was coming out. I was trying to push in my mouthpiece back in and he hit me. I knew where I was. It dazed me, but I wasn't knocked out.
"It's boxing. It was a great fight. I felt I was winning the fight, I got caught and that was it.
"I dedicated the fight to my dad and I hope I didn't let him down. I fell short. You win some and you lose some."
Said the elder Jackson: "I'm proud. It took a lot for us to get this far. I know my people are proud. We are strong people and we are coming back."
SHOWTIME's Steve Farhood called the Lara vs. Martirosyan rematch "a typical Lara fight."
"As usual Lara's style is extremely difficult for the judges to score," Farhood said. "He's so selective with his punches, yet he lands such a high percentage of them. And to make it even more difficult, a lot of Martirosyan's body punches were blocked. The judges agreed on seven of the 12 rounds. It clearly was a close fight and what got Lara over the top was the 10-8 score in round 11.
"We benefit from the use of replay. Watching the punch that brought the deduction on replay, I believe that it wasn't a low blow.
"Lara did what Lara does. Martirosyan fought about as well as he could. The difference was Lara's accuracy and ring generalship. I think Martirosyan's competitiveness made it a good fight."
Lara, 33, was making his fourth title defense. "This is normal," said Lara who landed 60 percent of the 160-plus power punches. "This is boxing, not baseball. Low blows and headbutts happen. I'm a very intelligent fighter and at no point did I feel this fight was going to be lost.
"My mother and kids are still there so it would be a great privilege to go fight in my native Cuba. Everything is possible in this world. I didn't think I'd be champion of the world and here I am.
"I want to tell Team Vanes thank you for giving me the rematch. I'm ready to fight anybody. I'd like to fight Canelo.
"The Charlo brothers are my teammates and having three of us going back as champions is a great thing."
Martirosyan, the aggressor throughout, disputed the decision.
"I was chasing him all night," he said. "I put on the pressure. I thought I did enough to win. That was not a low blow. Replays show the trunks were high.
"I never ducked anyone. No one wanted to fight Lara. I stepped up and fought him again. I'll fight anyone."
Undefeated IBF No. 1 contender and mandatory challenger Julian "J Rock" Williams (22-0-1, 14 KOs), was interviewed between fights by SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING's Brian Custer. Williams, of Philadelphia, has been calling out the Charlo Twins.
"I can't get the fights I deserve," Williams said. "But I've got a good team. I have Al Haymon and he got me the mandatory for the winner of Charlo-Trout. Guys know it's a rough fight if they step in with me. And they know 99 percent of the time they will lose.
"Jermall Charlo is an undefeated champion. I'm undefeated. That's what boxing is all about - two young, hungry champions going at it in their primes. So, I am interested in fighting Jermall Charlo."
On Charlo saying he's sick of reading your tweets and he'd like to shut you up...
"Well, he doesn't have to wait much longer so he doesn't have any choice now," Williams said. "I'm the mandatory and if he wins, we are going to fight next."
Ricky Burns says Scottish fans will raise the roof
Ricky Burns has told Michele Di Rocco to prepare for a red-hot reception in Glasgow when they meet for the vacant WBA World Super-Lightweight title at the SSE Hydro on Saturday May 28, live on Sky Sports.
Burns returns home to take his shot at history as winning the title would see him become Scotland’s first ever three-weight World champion and only the second Briton to achieve that feat.
The Coatbridge ace has not boxed in Glasgow since June 2014 and admits he’s missed the passion from his faithful following – and wants them to raise the roof at the stunning Hydro on Saturday night as he bids to
“I've been boxing away from home a lot and not really been in Glasgow much so it's great to be back,” said Burns. “It's always a great night up here and Di Rocco isn't going to know what's hit him when he walks out on Saturday night.
“The Hydro is a brilliant venue, fighting in Glasgow is always great – the fans are unbelievable. We're expecting a great night of boxing and I've been there for a couple of gigs and I remember thinking 'what would it be like to fight here?' The Commonwealth Games was great there and now this is the first professional show there - when I win that belt it will be the first of many.
“I was happy to stay at Lightweight and I could go back there, but the chance to fight for a World title at a third weight in Glasgow is massive. I cannot wait – it's a great venue to host a big fight like this for me.
“The last couple of years have been up and down for me, but I don't need any extra incentive on this fight, it's a massive chance for me to create history.
“It's a brilliant bill with so much up and coming talent and some big title fights, so I just want to get out there and do the business.
“Everyone that knows me knows that I am grateful for this chance. I couldn't ask for a bigger fight, especially coming back to Glasgow after two years away. I have to approach this like any other fight though, I know it's a big one but I just have to focus on winning and nothing else.”
Burns’ shot at history against Di Rocco is part of a huge night of action in Glasgow as Tyrone Nurse heads into the Lion's den to defend his British Super-Lightweight title against local favourite Willie Limond and Newcastle's Jon Lewis Dickinson meets Belfast's Tommy McCarthy in an eliminator for the British Cruiserweight Title.
Olympic Bronze medallist Anthony Ogogo returns from injury, Conor Benn fights for the second time in the paid ranks, Islington Middleweight John Ryder is in action and there's a host of young Scots on display, including Commonwealth gold medal winner Charlie Flynn, Joe Ham and Lewis Paulin.
Tickets for Glasgow are on general sale with those in the £40-£100 bracket available from the SSE Hydro website http://www.thessehydro.com/ and on 0844 395 4000 and 0800 952 0110 (accessible). VIP tickets at £200 are exclusively available at www.matchroomboxing.com
Liam Williams talks Liverpool return, Blackwell aftermath and blasts keyboard warriors
By Michael J Jones
A FRUSTRATING predicament for any young fighter to navigate is inactivity. Being confident and tenacious counts for nothing when you're on the side-lines because of injury, cancelled fight dates etc. One such fighter in the said situation is Clydach Vale's Liam Williams.
Despite just three rounds of action in nearly two years, the Welsh puncher has still made waves in collecting the British and Commonwealth titles with back-to-back blow outs of the usually durable pair of Michael Lomax and Kris Carslaw. Now 13-0-1 (8), the former six-time British amateur champion is braced to return next month in Liverpool in an eight rounder.
The June 4th bill at the Echo Arena promises to be quite a night with Jazza Dickens, Paul Butler and Liam Smith all featuring in respective title bouts.
For the 23 year old Williams though, it's all about picking up the pace on his career after a nightmare 18 months plagued with unavoidable absence.
“It's been very frustrating period to be honest” confirms the British and Commonwealth light-middleweight champion. “I had my hand injury, then I was meant to defend my titles against Nav Mansouri in February but I had to pull out as I was unwell, then he injured his Achilles heel (scuppering an April 2nd date).”
“It's a heavy-duty sport and these things can happen you just have to deal with it.”
“Training has been spot on for my return. I've trained really hard and my hand (once thought to be career ending) has been holding up apart form the odd ache and pain.”
Following a blistering first-round knock-out of Lomax in November 2014 to claim the vacant British belt, Williams had to then wait 13 months for his next bout last December. Ring rust wasn't an issue however, as the heavy-handed Welshman hammered tough Scottish contender Carslaw in just two rounds to hand him his first inside-schedule defeat.
“I never have any ring-rust as I train very hard day in and day out whether there's a fight lined up or not. I'm always in the gym and sparring so it's never a problem.”
Was he surprised at the ease of victory over Carslaw who had never come close to being stopped in 27 contests but ended the fight down and out from a stiff jab?
“It was a bit of a shock how quickly (the stoppage) came but I knew I'd catch up with him in four, five or six rounds. I didn't expect it to be that quick but, without sounding big-headed, I know if I catch anyone cleanly they're going to go over. I just saw the opportunity and took it.”
Despite only one bout in 2015, Williams received welcome exposure when featured in the BBC documentary “The Valley's Fighter” last year. The hour-long program covered Williams' career as well as looking at some of the great Welsh fighters through boxing history.
“Yeah it was good to do and an honour to be featured with all the greats of Welsh boxing. I actually live a stone's throw from where Tommy Farr used to live; literally a hundred yards or so. I think people got to see what I'm about and also what boxing is all about. Some think it's easy boxing but they gained an insight of what goes on behind the scenes.”
In March this year, Williams was in the corner of Nick Blackwell on that fateful night he faced Chris Eubank Jr in defence of Blackwell's British middleweight title. As a gym-mate and friend to Blackwell it must have been a harrowing night and a tense few months for Liam seeing first hand the undoubted risks of boxing...
“It really wasn't a very nice experience” begins Liam on the difficult subject. “It was terrible what happened to Nick but also, it hasn't changed a thing about how I feel about boxing. The one thing I'll keep with me is not to be stupid in fights or in the gym and go to war unnecessarily. I don't think Nick's damage was done in a fight but more the punishment beforehand (in sparring).”
How is Nick now nearly two months after the Eubank Jr fight?
“He's back on his feet and he’s been back to the gym a few times. He comes down, has a chat and we all eat together. It's nice to keep him in the loop even it's just once a week. We don't want him drifting away now he's stopped boxing.”
Following Blackwell's head injury and subsequent hospitalisation to treat a bleed on the skull, a few social media users were quick to attack the actions of Nick's trainer Gary Lockett for not pulling his man out sooner when way behind on points and also cut with a nasty-looking facial swelling.
Hindsight is a great thing, Blackwell being pulled out sooner would have almost definitely reduced the damage which was done but he was the defending champion and, although behind in the match, had turned fights around before (most noticeably against John Ryder to win his title). He hadn't been down or badly staggered in the bout and few could have predicted what was to follow the contests frightening conclusion...
“It affected us all (the criticism) as we're all close in the gym” sighs Liam. “We took stick but we all just carried on. I know it would have had a minor affect on Gary but anyone in that position would have been affected after that happening.”
To show the mentality of a select few online boxing “fans”, there were some who even, unbelievably, slated Blackwell while the boxer was in a coma fighting for his life just moments after the shocking news broke.
“It's shocking isn't it?” comments Williams of the many anonymous “keyboard warriors” who plague Facebook and Twitter. “I think there's just a few stupid, ignorant people who know nothing about boxing and say anything just to get a 'Retweet' or a 'like' or some followers. I think they're just pathetic.”
Thankfully, the few stupid comments/status' were heavily out-weighed by a vast out-pouring of love/ respect/ concern for the brave injured boxer. The true fans understood the situation.
Back to the future I ask who William's opponent might be on June 4th and what could follow after his next fight?
“I think I know who my opponent is next month but I can't say right now as it's not confirmed yet. We're hoping it's someone durable to give me some rounds. Once that fight is out of the way I'm hopefully going to defend my British and Commonwealth titles in July against (undefeated Londoner) Ahmed Patterson. He's my top contender so it should be him and with luck it will be in Wales but we'll have to see.”
Williams was a decorated amateur who won numerous Welsh and British titles but as a pro has only had fourteen contests in four and-a-half years. Since his first big win against Ronnie Heffron in July 2014 he's engaged in just three contests but has looked very impressive every time out.
“I still feel fresh and inexperienced and I've got a lot of learning to do” accepts the 23 year old. “I know (my career) is going the right way but I'm not getting carried away with it all. I'm hoping to be busier from now on and push on for more titles.”
“I'd just like to thank my sponsors, my team and fans for continuing to support me in my boxing career.”
Catterall, Barrett and Blackledge win in Bolton
A raucous crowd in a busy small hall can provide a far better atmosphere than a few thousand fans rattling around in a large arena. The Premier Suite at Bolton’s Macron Stadium hosted BoxNation’s latest offering last night. The fights came thick and fast and the fans watching in the close, compact venue were able to to see two of Britain’s brightest prospects continue their progression through the ranks at close quarters and also got to see an entertaining mixture of quick knockouts, strange opponents and talented imports.
Jack Catterall, 15-0 (9 KO’s), defended his WBO inter-continental light welterweight title and positioned himself for a shot at British 140lb champion, Tyrone Nurse, with a convincing twelve round decision victory over Joe Hughes.
Hughes, 25, has done tremendously well to reach title level despite being born with Erb’s Palsy which affected the development of his right arm. Sadly for Hughes, a decent right hand is an essential tool when attempting to take on a southpaw with the sense of distance and timing that Catterall has and the man from Malmesbury was just unable to sustain any periods of offence. Hughes will continue to be a force at English title level.
Catterall dominated a tough, determined opponent and seemed to complete the twelve round distance comfortably. Once again, the 22 year old from nearby Chorley appeared totally unfazed by the crowd and occasion. There can’t be many more businesslike fighters operating in Britain at the moment. Catterall transforms into a deadly serious, dark eyed menacing figure once he enters the ring. Catterall’s trainer, Lee Beard, talks about his strength inside and the solid, ram rod nature of his punches but Catterall is also a clever fighter. Hughes’ lack of activity with his right hand hampered his own attack but also restricted the amounts of openings Catterall had to work with. ‘El Gato’ never became overly predictable and managed to stay active throughout. Nurse will pose a whole different set of problems with his movement, range and fast hands but if Catterall is as good as many in the sport believe, he should be able to rise to the occasion.
Harpurhey super featherweight Zelfa Barrett continued his rise with a spectacular knockout of Chris Adaway. It would be unfair to describe Adaway as a journeyman as he always comes to fight. Sadly for the man from Plymouth, his aggressiveness cost him dearly last night. Barrett, 10-0 (4 KO’s) and from Harpurhey, is a master at capitalising on openings and Adaway’s determination to win left plenty of gaps. The damage was done by some big, accurate right hands but those heavy shots were set up by a rangy jab to both head and body. Adaway was dropped three times before the fight was waved off midway through round two.
Barrett is ready for title contention now. He is scheduled to contest an international challenge belt in July but should be looking at Central Area and English belts before the year is out. Exciting times for the 22 year old ‘Brown Flash’.
Luke Blackledge, 21-2-2 (7 KO’s) defended his Commonwealth super middleweight title with a fifth round stoppage of Ishmael Tetteh. Blackledge found Tetteh a stubborn obstacle for three or four rounds which made the Ghanaian’s swift capitulation even more difficult to understand. Being charitable, maybe Tetteh suddenly realised that his best efforts had made very little impression on the 25 year old champion from Accrington and decided to sit the remainder of the fight out. The British Boxing board of Control stated they will be investigating Tether’s performance before releasing his purse.
Blackledge will be looking for a higher profile fight next time out as he looks to climb the british rankings.
Ciaran McVarnock, 6-0-1 (1 KO), got the first stoppage victory of his career with a first round TKO of Ruslan Berdimuradovs. The Latvian was put down by a right hook to the body and despite beating the count, quickly realised he was never going to win and looked for the most comfortable piece of canvas. Belfast’s McVarnock trained hard through the discomfort of a damaged right hand and had to cope with his opponent being changed four times during fight week. The 24 year old bought a sizeable following from Belfast and was delighted after the fight.
Wythenshawe light middleweight, Macaulay McGowan, moved on to 10-0 (1 KO) with a hard earned eight round decision over Chris Jenkinson. McGowan fought through a tough couple of rounds before getting a second wind and claiming the final couple to earn a 78-74 victory. McGowan completed eight rounds for the first time in his career and will probably feel a lot better about things this morning than he did last night.
Kiryl Relikh defended his WBA inter-continental light welterweight belt with a four round stoppage of Brazilian opponent Joachim Carneiro. Relikh looked like a real handful during the first six minutes, firing in fast, sharp tight punches and hurting his Brazilian opponent repeatedly. His fire dimmed a little during the third and fourth rounds but he was still landing enough solid punches to force Carneiro’s corner to wave the fight off midway through the fourth. It was Relish’s 21st consecutive victory and his 19th stoppage. He will have one eye on Ricky Burns’ upcoming WBA world title fight with Michele Di Rocco.
Vijender Singh W TKO3 Andzej Solda
Jimmy Kelly W PTS8 Michael Mora
Dale Coyne W PTS4 Christian Hoskin Gomez
Jack Flatley W TKO1 Valentin Stoychev
Jordan Thompson W TKO1 Mateusz Gatek