Askin talks comeback and Dickinson defeat
Matty Askin; “I just fought the wrong fight against Jon-Lewis Dickinson”
By Michael J Jones
After recently suffering his first defeat at the hands of County Durham’s Jon Lewis Dickinson, Blackpool’s Matty Askin has vowed to get back to winning ways and become British champion. The 6ft 4ins cruiserweight, who dipped to 13-1 (9) with the ten-round decision loss, realises he made too many mistakes against neat-boxing Dickinson.
The bout was chief support to the thrilling lightweight slugfest between Derry Matthews and Anthony Crolla and Askin went down unanimously by scores of 98-93, 97-93 and 97-93. The bout for the English belt saw Dickinson, now 11-2 (3), box intelligently behind the jab to sweep the early rounds as Askin appeared listless and unable to adjust. Matty’s trainer Bob Shannon even asked his tiring fighter towards the end of the contest whether he should stop the fight (which brought an expletive reply).
The Blackpool “Assassin” gamely came forward in the later rounds but it was far too-little, too-late. Former Prizefighter champion Dickinson now looks set to take on the winner of the Enzo Maccerinelli-Shane McPhilbin rematch later this year as the beaten fighter is left in the wilderness for the time being.
Livefight caught up with 23-year-old Matty, who has just started full training again to get his thoughts on the Dickinson fight and find out where he goes from here-
LF) So Matty, commiserations on your first pro defeat. Have you watched the fight yet?
MA) Thanks. I’ve only just watched it a few days ago. I couldn’t talk to anyone for three weeks as I was so cut up about losing but I’ve just started training again now and I’ll hopefully be back around September.
LF) What do you feel went wrong in your fight with Jon Lewis Dickinson?
MA) When I watched the fight I could see all of the mistakes I was making. It was just inexperience really, Jon Lewis Dickinson is not as good as me, I just made it easy for him. I did nothing we had worked on in training; I got hit and just started loading up. Basically he ‘turned up’ and I didn’t.
LF) He’s been stopped a couple of times on injury yet the odd shot that got through he took well; did that surprise you?
MA) The thing that surprised me the most was his discipline in the fight. No matter what happened he refused to be derailed from his game-plan I really didn’t expect him to be capable of that. He boxed a good fight and I’m not kidding myself, I know I lost.
LF) At one point after the 7th round, your trainer asked you whether you wanted him to pull you out of the contest. How serious do you feel that threat was?
MA) Well, you saw my response to that (laughs). No I think he could just see I was struggling and wanted to give me a boost and get me going. It did feel like I wasn’t in the fight at that stage, like I said, I made it easy for (Dickinson).
LF) You said before the fight that your camp had been intense; do you think you may have over-trained?
MA) Training went very well and honestly that’s the best I’ve ever trained for any fight. I was driving to Manchester from Blackpool six days a week and felt a bit run down by the end of camp so maybe I’ll discuss changing that around a little with my team, but otherwise, I couldn’t have been fitter.
LF) A loss can effect a fighter in different ways; do you feel like the defeat has knocked your confidence at all?
MA) Not in a boxing sense no. I’ve got that experience now of tasting defeat, I know what it feels like and I don’t want to feel like this again. I shouldn’t have lost and I just hope I get a rematch down the line to put things right.
LF) If you got a rematch in a few months what would you do differently in a fight with Jon Lewis Dickinson?
MA) Take a gun in with me (laughs)! No seriously, I’d just keep cool and I wouldn’t react to getting hit by loading up on my shots. It sounds funny, but I’d probably try going on the back-foot more too. In the first round I boxed like that and had some success but as soon as I got hit I lost my composure.
I think another thing is if me and Jon Lewis fought again I’d have the fear that I never had before the first fight. I just thought I’d beat him and that was that, but now I know he can beat me it’ll give me that edge for next time.
LF) Shane McPhilbin fights Maccerenelli next month in a rematch and Dickinson should get the winner. You may have to wait a little while to get another shot at your victor?
MA) I want the rematch but I’ve got to speak to my team and see where we go from here. I think (Dickinson) would beat Enzo or McPhilbin but I just want to fight the winner. Hopefully I’ll be back in September to get back on-track. I still want to be a champion and I’m also out to prove I can box, and not just hit hard.
LF) Matty thank you and good luck on your comeback.
MA) Thanks mate anytime.
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Jean Pascal: Congratulations to Carl Froch
Jean Pascal has released a statement congratulating Carl Froch on his epic win at the weekend over countryman Lucian Bute.
The former WBC light-heavyweight champion knows all too well what it's like to travel as an then-unbeaten fighter into Nottingham to face their local hero.
"Congratulations to Froch on the IBF World Title. The fight was very intense and interesting at the same time." said Jean Pascal in an open statement to the boxing media.
"I was torn between the two fighters because I'm connected to both of them; one from my home town and the other is a good friend of mine. I knew it was going to be a tough fight because Bute was undefeated and Froch is an impeccable fighter. But it was evident early on who was going to be victorious.
"The sport of boxing is very unpredictable. Unfortunately last night Bute didn't perform his best and I do wish him the best of luck in the future. This fight has definitely motivated me even more to reclaim my belt and to take my position as World Champion again. I appreciate everyone's support and enthusiasm. And remember, I will fight anybody, anytime, anywhere, even if I have to go to Mars to fight a martian." he concluded.
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Bradley Pryce talks to Livefight
“Billy Joe Saunders will have to be world class to even be competitive with me” Bradley “Sugarsweet” Pryce
By Michael J Jones
NEWPORT veteran Bradley Pryce is his usual truculent self before his bout with Commonwealth boss Billy Joe Saunders on June 1st. Pryce, now 31-years-old and 33-10 (18), is coming off a ten-round points success over another strong prospect in Patrick Mendy. The talented Welshman was bullied early by former Prizefighter champion Mendy before taking control in the middle rounds to eke out a deserved 96-95 decision.
Most are predicting a short, painful night for “Sugarsweet” at the York Hall Bethnal Green against the rapidly-improving Saunders. The Hertfordshire southpaw, 13-0 (9), has won three of his last four contests in the very first round and blew away Tony Hill last time out in just 30 seconds (to win the vacant title). The former Olympian is the firm favourite but has never faced anyone as experienced or confident as Gary Lockett-trained Pryce, nine years his senior.
Livefight caught up with Bradley with just two weeks to go and found him, as usual, in a supremely bullish mood-
LF) Hey Bradley, how’s training going?
BP) It’s going great thanks, absolutely spot-on.
LF) Most are predicting a painful night for you against Billy Joe Saunders; how do you respond to that?
BP) Well it’s fine for me as it means the pressure is off me for the fight. I’m the underdog and people are saying I haven’t got a chance but that’s fine, I’ll take it on the chin. The pressure is off me and I feel better for it.
LF) What do you make of Billy Joe Saunders as a fighter; he seems to be improving his punching-power in recent fights?
BP) I don’t really know because I’ve never seen him box. I’m not actually a big fan of boxing, I never watch it at home or anything like that. I watched (Saunders’s) last fight; it was all over in 30 seconds. That was ok (to watch) but I couldn’t watch a twelve-round fight.
I haven’t a clue about his style but that’s the same in every fight; I’ll work the guy out when I’m in there. I know my experience will take me into the late rounds and then I can take over.
LF) You beat Patrick Mendy last time out; how did you rate your own performance in that fight?
BP) I thought our tactics were spot on, we knew he’d be strong the early rounds and I took some punishment but we planned to take over in the late rounds and that’s what we did.
LF) Most people logically say Saunders is more skilful and hits harder than Mendy; do you feel you can raise your game from that performance?
BP) Oh definitely. My confidence was low before Mendy but it’s up again from that win and I feel back to my best.
I’m expecting Saunders to be fitter than Mendy but our basic tactics will be the same; keep it close for the first six rounds and then step it up to take over in the late rounds. I’m so much fitter now than before. I’ve trained all the way through from January and I’m honestly the fittest I’ve ever been. If I was in this shape for my losses I’d be still undefeated now.
I know the situation; they think I’m an easy first defence for him, a bit of a name to knock-out but I’m going to shock a lot of people in this fight. I’m not a middleweight, I’m a light-middleweight. For Mendy I weighed in at 11st 3lbs with Jean-shorts on, I was probably only about 11st 1lb!
LF) A little while ago I asked your trainer Gary Lockett who he thought in the UK could make an impact on the world stage and one guy he said was Billy Joe Saunders. Would you like to comment on that?
BP) (Laughs) Yeah but I don’t rate anyone I box because I’ve never watched them until I’ve fought them! We see this as a great opportunity and we’ve trained and prepared very hard for this. I always said I’d improve with age and I truly believe I have, I’m doing things in the gym now and it’s just flowing. I’m extremely confident and I’ll say this; Billy Joe Saunders will have to be world class to even be competitive with me for this fight. I’m the best I can possibly be, I couldn’t have trained any harder and there’ll be no excuses after the fight. I look forward to winning impressively and putting on a good show for the crowd.
LF) Thanks Bradley and good luck.
Natasha Jonas May Diary
Last week, Liverpool's Natasha Jonas cemented her place at the London 2012 Olympic Games by reaching the semi finals of the World Championships in China.
Needing to finish as one of the top three Europeans in the lightweight division to confirm a place, Tasha bested the Norweigan entrant in their quarter final bout on Wednesday morning to reach the semi final. Victory for the Tajik entrant over the French boxer ensured that Tasha qualified for the Olympic Games alongside teamates Nicola Adams and Savannah Marshall.
The trio are the first ever female boxers to represent Great Britain at the Olympic Games as the sport makes it's debut this time around.
In her latest exclusive diary for Livefight, Tasha talks about that fantastic two weeks in China.
I got back from China yesterday and it’s been mad. Loads of friends and family met me at the airport and we had a little do last night.
The training camp before the World Championships was a long one. I think it just feels like that because we knew we were gonna be there for such a long time but once the tournament actually started it was brilliant.
You try and treat it like any other tournament but it was hard because we knew were so close and that it was our only chance to qualify; it was either success or failure. To make things worse, we [Myself, flyweight Nicola Adams and middleweight Savannah Marshall] turned up thinking that if we got to the quarter finals we would qualify for the Olympics. We went to the delegate’s meeting the day before the tournament started and realised that we had to be one of the top three Europeans! At least four or five of the best boxers in the world at my weight [60kg or lightweight] are Europeans so when I found that out I thought ‘Oh God!’ It was a bit of a smack in the face but I just had to get on and do it.
The draw was done after the delegate’s meeting. That could have been nerve-wracking but on Team GB they only tell you who you’re boxing that day. Obviously if you wanted to see who you could be fighting you could go on the AIBA website but I don’t. I just take every day as it comes. It’s worked for me in other tournaments before so I’ve stuck with it.
I beat Rebecca Price [18-8], Sandra Brugger [23-11] and Laishram Devi [25-22] but still wasn’t assured of being one of the top three Europeans. As I walked out for my quarter final the Tajik girl was boxing the French girl. If the Tajik girl won and then I beat Ingrid Egner from Norway, then I would qualify for the Olympics. The Tajik girl was only two points ahead. I’ve come back from two points behind before so I know that two points is everything but nothing at the same time.
I just concentrated on my own bout and my team didn’t say anything until afterwards. When I turned around they were saying ‘You’ve done it!’ but I still didn’t know what they were talking about. When I got to my corner and they told me that France had lost I went “Yes!” I’ve waited for that moment since 2009 when they said women’s boxing was gonna be in the Olympics.
Every time we’ve been away and gone a long way in a tournament they always give you a week off. They’ve just said that we’re gonna be doing more of the same…..and a bit more! If we thought it was hard before then it’s gonna get harder. People have been asking if I feel any different but it’s exactly the same. You just know that you’re going somewhere at the end of it. I didn’t wake up the next morning a whole new changed person. I just know where I’m going now.
See you next month!
For sponsorship opportunities, contact @martyf70 via twitter
Junior Witter talks to Livefight
Livefight interview: Junior “The Hitter” Witter
“Matthew Hatton is a tougher fighter than Ricky was” Junior Witter
By Michael J Jones
UPON claiming the British welterweight crown recently with a clear decision over old foe Colin Lynes, Sheffield’s Junior Witter became domestic champion for the second time. This victory came some ten years after first claiming the light-welterweight version against Alan Bosworth. The Ingle-trained veteran, now 41-5-2 (22), has had a stellar career that has seen him win British, Commonwealth, European and WBC titles over the last 15 years, beating some tough fighters along the way. However, Witter is known just as much for the one man he never faced than the scores of contenders he bested.
Witter turned pro in January 1997, boxing a six-round draw with Midlands Area champion Cam Raeside, 8-1 at the time. Taking on dangerous opponents in risky fights was to be a trend all through the switch-hitting fighter’s career. Just four months after turning pro, Junior took on come-backing Andres Panayi on a Sky Sports-televised show in Reading. Panayi was 23-6-4 (12) compared to the prospect’s meagre 3-0-1 (1) ledger. As would be the case throughout Witter’s career, Junior was always at his best with his back against the wall. The inexperienced novice was given a stern test by the St Helens bruiser before a big uppercut brought a sudden end to the proceedings in round five giving Junior his second stoppage victory.
“All the way through my career I took on tough fighters” reflects Junior, now 38-years-old. “I always had to do things the hard way but it made me the fighter I am today.”
The tough early bouts were good for the young fighter’s apprenticeship, yet many thought the Ingles had bitten off more than they could chew when the opponent for Junior’s tenth fight was announced as world-class power-puncher Jan Bergman. The world-rated South African was a formidable 35-1 (27) when he came to Manchester for the six-rounder. To say nobody gave Witter a prayer is an understatement; on paper, it looked like a near-suicide mission. Junior reflects, “They brought him here so he could have a warm-up before another title shot, he’d only ever lost to Kostya Tszyu” remembers Junior. “I was with the biggest promoter here (in the UK) in Frank Warren, but still had to do things the hard way. They thought I was a warm-up but, because I beat (Bergman), he never got another shot for two years." Witter won a deserved 59-57 decision over the dangerous South African to move to just 8-0-2 (2). The bout was way down the undercard at the Nynex Arena on a huge bill that also featured Carl Thompson and Naseem Hamed (plus a certain Ricky Hatton), but it was still the first eye-catching win for the 24-year-old.
Witter stayed busy and posted good wins over the likes of former British champion Mark Winters. It seemed only a matter of time before the Sheffield stylist gained a British title shot of his own. Fate however, threw a far bigger challenge at the young prospect’s feet when Jason Rowland was forced out of his IBF clash with champion Zab Judah. The Glasgow bill was headed by Mike Tyson’s short-lived clash with Lou Savarese and it looked like Judah would be forced out completely until Witter agreed to step in with only nine days notice. Again, it seemed an audacious move to match the feather-fisted, 15-0-2 (3) Witter with the 22-0 (17) Judah, a superstar-in-the-making to many knowledgeable fans and experts.
I ask Junior if he really thought he could win the contest beforehand, “I just knew in boxing anything can happen” begins Witter. “I kind of went in thinking I’d try and nick it and run, which I did for the first six rounds. I won the first half of the fight but lost the second half. I know he won the second half bigger than I won the first but it was still close. I was still fresh at the end which angered me as I knew I could have given more in the last few rounds” admits Junior before adding “that fight made me; I’d pushed one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the game. It made me realise what I was capable of.”
Aside from pushing Judah, Witter also worked hard in the gym to develop his strength; working with weights with Dominic Ingle to improve his punching-power. “I changed a few things with my training, I’d gone twelve rounds easily with Zab Judah and also, it just seemed to click into place, I suddenly had more confidence in myself” explains the former WBC champion.
The resulting difference in Witter was nothing short of startling; going 15-0 (15) over the next five years, picking up the British, Commonwealth and European titles. Gone was the light-hitting back-peddler of old, Junior was now more aggressive, stronger and actively looked for the stoppage in every fight. The red-hot form was eventually rewarded with a WBC eliminator with teak-tough Lovemore Ndou at the Staples Centre, Los Angeles. The bout, which doubled as a Commonwealth title defence, seemed another risky assignment for “The Hitter”. The Australian-based South African was known for being a granite-jawed, come-forward fighter who had pushed several world-class fighters to the wire. Just two fights previously, Ndou had given the 19-0 Miguel Cotto a hard night’s work over the full route and many picked him to be too strong for the Sheffield contender.
On a bill topped by Bernard Hopkin’s boring points win over Howard Eastman, Witter out-classed Ndou, dropping him twice and taking a unanimous decision on the judges’ cards. Towards the end of the bout, Witter, knowing he was streets ahead, slackened off the pace and stayed out of trouble. Ndou finished strongly but it was too little too late as Witter impressed again. “A lot of people thought I’d lose that fight” states Junior, “I knew he was good and tough but I knew after going in with Bergman and Judah what I could do.”
Witter, now highly ranked by the WBC, didn’t rest easy with his new rating and posted distance wins over Andres Kotelnik and Colin Lynes in defending his titles. The Kotelnik victory was particularly note-worthy as the talented Ukrainian would go on to lift the WBA crown three years later as well as handing Argentine banger Marcus Maidana his first defeat.
Witter eventually got his longed-for world title fight in September 2006 at Alexandra Palace, London against American southpaw DeMarcus Corley. Fighting for the title vacated by Floyd Mayweather (who had just moved up to welterweight), Witter boxed sensibly to take a deserved 118-112, 117-112 and 116-113 verdict over Corley, who recently stopped Paul McCloskey.
“It was brilliant” says Witter with pride when remembering that night. “It was the realisation of a dream. I boxed well but Corley never really committed to his punches, he just tried to steal it. If he’d have come-forward more and opened up I would have knocked him out but I still controlled that fight and won well.”
Witter made his first defence against fringe contender Arturo Morua before taking on a far tougher opponent in Vivian Harris in Doncaster. Former WBA champion Harris had just seen off Stevie Johnston and Juan Lazcano back-to-back and seemed at his best again after losing his title in shocking fashion to unheralded Carlos Maussa two years previously. Witter, by now 33-years-old, was aware of the danger Harris posed. “He was the favourite definitely, he was 6’2” tall (actually just under 6’) and on a good run. He came in absolutely tremendous shape; one of the reporters even told me before the fight he felt sorry for me!”. Witter boxed a master-class against Harris, dropping his bewildered challenger several times before ending matters in the seventh stanza. The WBC champion looked better than ever and a long reign seemed ahead of him....or so it seemed.
In May 2008 Witter signed to face mandatory contender Timothy Bradley. Not many people had heard of Bradley despite his good-looking 21-0 (11) record, but the shaven-headed Californian proved a revelation during his bout with Witter. The early rounds were a chess match but in the sixth “Desert Storm” unleashed a powerful overhand right to deck Witter heavily (only the second time to date Witter's suffered a trip to the canvas). The dazed champion rose to see out the round but Bradley kept the pressure up to win a split decision in a bout most saw as a clear one for the new champion. I ask Junior if he, like everyone else, had underestimated the stocky Bradley before the contest. “I did underestimate him yes. I should never have gone through with that fight; my head wasn’t in the right place.” Witter reveals a little about the run-up to the Bradley defence, “my Dad had his first bout of chemotherapy just days before the fight. For weeks I was running him to and from the hospital every day and fitting my training around it. When it came to the fight, I just didn’t want to be in there. I thought I’d just win, that I was good enough to prevail anyway” admits Witter sadly. “I still thought I just about nicked it” Junior surprisingly adds. Between his first defeat to Judah and the loss to Bradley, Witter had gone an incredible 21-0 (17). Witter didn’t fight much in the next two years. He had been inactive for nine months when facing off with unbeaten Devon Alexander for the WBC title vacated by Bradley. Witter injured his left hand and was getting a steady beat-down when pulled out by his corner after the eighth session. He would endure another 18 months hiatus after the painful defeat.
After the layoff there would be no easy comeback fight as the former champion ventured all the way to Canada to take on local fighter Victor Lupo Puiu over ten rounds. Puiu was a decent fighter at 18-1-2, but facing him on home turf after a long absence from a boxing ring seemed a recipe for disaster. It proved to be the case as the returning fighter was beaten unanimously. “It was a mistake I guess (taking the fight) but I knew the risks before the fight and I still thought I’d win. I didn’t box well but, even giving him the fact that it was on his promoter’s show, I still thought I earned a draw” reasons Junior.
Four months later, the former champion took part in Prizefighter, beating Nathan Graham and Kevin McIntyre before being edged by Yassine El Maachi in the final. “The biggest surprise for me is the fact that El Maachi got that decision over Colin Lynes. When their bout finished I thought ‘it’s a rematch with Lynes in the final’, I couldn’t believe it when they gave it the other way” says Witter. “I thought I just about beat him in the final but I thought Lynes beat him easily” states Junior who lost a majority decision in the final.
After Prizefighter, Colin Lynes lifted the British welterweight title against favoured Lee Purdy and many gave him the edge in his rematch with his former conqueror. The fight at the Hillsborough Leisure Centre, Sheffield, never quite caught fire but Witter looked solid in winning unanimously to be domestic king again. Junior admits Lynes was better than when first they faced, I ask what is next on the horizon. “Depends on what the politics allow. I’m not gunning for anyone in particular I just want to win more titles and earn good money. I like the thought of a (Paulie) Malignaggi fight; he’s got a world title and I know I can beat him” says Witter matter-of-factly.
A Junior Witter interview wouldn’t be complete without discussing his long-time rival in the light-welterweight ranks. Ricky Hatton turned pro the same year as Junior and developed at roughly the same rate. The two were both title holders in the division and a bout between the two would have been a massive event at any point from 2000 to 2007. That the eagerly anticipated bout never took place is commonly seen as a gross injustice.
Witter called out Manchester’s “Hitman” at various points, but was at first advised that the clash would happen once the two fighters had gained in popularity by Frank Warren (who promoted both). Frustratingly, the excuses never stopped as the British fans were denied a genuine grudge fight between two evenly-matched UK fighters. Witter has clearly mellowed towards Ricky and spoke without bitterness about his former nemesis. “Ricky is known to be a decent guy, one of the lads and I hold no animosity towards him at all. I understand it was the politics that kept us from fighting, at the end of the day, nobody wants to get beat-up do they?”. Junior continues “I’m annoyed the fight never took place because it robbed the British public of a great fight. It would have sold-out absolutely anywhere and been a real event.”
What did Witter make of the many excuses given to him for the fight not taking place? “He said to me that he’d never fight me because I had called him out; six weeks later he called out Floyd Mayweather live on TV!” laughs Witter. I’ve played out the Ricky Hatton-Junior Witter fight many times in my head; I ask Junior what his tactics would have been if the fight had happened? “I would have boxed him on the back-foot and let him walk on to everything” states the British champion, “then I would have come forward and hurt him.”
There has been talk of the new champion defending against Ricky’s younger brother Matthew in the near future. The bout makes sense for both and Witter would welcome the challenge “I’ve no qualms about fighting Matthew, if (team Hatton) fancy it I’d take the fight in a heartbeat.” I have to ask whether beating the brother of Ricky Hatton would bring satisfaction to Junior after his frustrating history with the older sibling. “No, it wouldn’t be about Ricky if me and Matthew fight. There’s still a bit of needle, me and Matthew have never had an argument, but we’ve never seen eye-to-eye either” reveals the 38-year-old. “Matthew is tougher than Ricky was, but Ricky was a bit more skilful so they are different to fight tactically” concludes Junior.
Another top-rated welterweight in this country is Witter’s friend and stable mate Kell Brook. The two have sparred often and Brook has been quoted recently as saying he would favour a Witter-Matthew Hatton clash. “Kell’s strong” Junior explains about his friend, “he believes in himself and really wants to hurt you in there. That can be an advantage, having that attitude. He has a tough fight coming up with Carson Jones, who’s coming to win and has stopped his last eight opponents but if he wins that will open doors. I believe he can go all of the way.”
It’s been a long road for Junior Witter but he remains upbeat. He still believes in himself and wants to win more titles. “It’s onwards and upwards now, I’ll fight anyone” promises Witter, now sporting a purple hair-style. “I’ve always had it hard but I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. There’s been the odd fight I was expected to win but most have been tough assignments I’ve never had an easy ride. I’ve had to work really hard for what I’ve achieved”
Witter has clearly slowed down over the last few years and has lost to a few fighters he would have toyed with in his prime but he still has the experience and durability to remain a test all but the very best. The recently-engaged “Hitter”, who lives with his partner in Sheffield, still has his final chapter to write in boxing. A match-up with Matthew Hatton would be an intriguing fight as would a contest against highly-rated prospect Frankie Gavin at this stage. There’s also plenty of other names out there in a good domestic division such as Lee Purdy, Commonwealth champion Denton Vassell plus great prospects such as Ronnie Heffron and Bradley Skeete. Witter will do well to keep his British crown for any length of time but don’t rule out an Indian summer either; count him out at your peril.
Natasha Jonas qualifies for 2012 Olympic Games!
Natasha Jonas has cemented her place at the London 2012 Olympic Games by reaching the semi finals of the World Championships in China.
Needing to finish as one of the top three Europeans in the lightweight division to confirm a place, Tasha bested the Norweigan entrant in their quarter final fight on Wednesday morning. As the Tajik entrant beat the French fighter, the result ensures that she qualifies for the Olympic Games.
Can Tasha go on to reach the final?
60kg: Natasha Jonas v Rebecca Price (Wales) - last 64
Natasha Jonas wins 18-8.
Jonas eased into a 4-1 lead at the end of the first round against the Welsh boxer. The Rotunda boxer scored with shots to both body and head to extend the lead to 8-3 going into the third. Price upped her work rate in the third, but with Jonas adding an extra point, there was no way back in with the Liverpudlian running out a comfortable 18-8 winner.
First hurdle overcome for Jonas, who goes into the last 32. And a mention for Rebecca Price who gave Jonas a strong test in her first bout of the tournament.
60kg: Natasha Jonas v Sandra Brugger (Switzerland)
Natasha wins 23-11
Natasha moved into an early 6-2 lead scoring with a couple of straights, with her opponent nicking a point at the end of the round. The second saw the Rotunda southpaw extend the lead further with a series of clean hits and a couple of heavy blows in the third left her Swiss opponent lagging behind going into the last and Jonas ran out a comfortable winner with a place in the last 16.
60kg: Natasha Jonas v Laishram Devi (India)
Natasha wins 25-22
In a thrilling encounter in which Natasha was never ahead until the final bell, the Rotunda boxer eliminated the Indian by a margin of 25-22. The opening round was edged 3-2 by the Indian, and then the scores poised at 10-9, Tash still behind by a point, despite inflicting the first of two standing counts on her opponent. Natasha grew stronger as the bout wore on as the Indian tired, and a fine array of shots from the Liverpudlian southpaw in a fantastic final round saw her through to an impressive win against a difficult opponent.
Frank Maloney's Anfield Dream
Frank Maloney’s Anfield Dream?
By bringing professional boxing to the Aintree Equistrian Centre tonight, promoter Frank Maloney and his heavyweight hope David Price are not only making pugilistic history (it is the first time boxing has been held at the home of the Grand National) but are also building on a Merseyside sporting legacy that enjoyed its finest days in the 1930s and 40s.
Maloney’s and Price’s dream is for the popular scouser and proud Liverpool FC fan to top the bill – ideally for the World title – at his beloved Anfield. Whilst this may seem a pipedream to many, it wouldn’t be the first time the football venue has hosted top class boxing. Indeed, by holding tonight’s massive show at Aintree, Maloney is already on the way to emulating (and perhaps surpassing) the huge shows that were last seen in the city in the decades before and after the Second World War.
Back then of course, and even without television, boxing was a far bigger sport than it is today and its grip on popular culture much deeper and wider; there were far more fighters - with over 150 in the flyweight division alone; there were more shows - with dozens held up and down the country every week; and more supporters – weekly crowds of at least 4000 at the Liverpool Stadium in St Paul’s Square, shamefully demolished in 1987 and now a non-descript car park behind Old Hall Street, were a regular occurrence.
Then, as now, Liverpool boxing fans were able to feast on some of the best boxers in not only the country, but also the world – Dom Volante, Jimmy Walsh, Joe Curran, Nel Tarleton, Ginger Foran, Alf Howard, Ernie Roderick and Peter Kane, all champions or contenders at the very top level of their sport.
For fans, promoters and even the media however, having such a rich source of boxing talent does, on occasion, present a problem – albeit a good one, and one which Maloney shows tonight he is more than happy to accommodate; for the most famous names in boxing require the most meaningful fights, the toughest opponents and the most significant titles. This in turn means they must appear at the largest venues.
Such was the interest when Nel Tarleton fought his great friend Dom Volante for the Northern Area featherweight title (a British title eliminator) in 1928, that the old Liverpool Stadium was deemed too small to house all those interested. Eventually, almost 12,000 saw the bout – won by Tarleton and promoted by the great Liverpool boxing promoter Johnny Best – at the old Breck Park Greyhound Track. Renamed Edinburgh Park in 1953 the site behind the famous Dockers Club will soon become a Tesco superstore.
Best had been the city’s main promoter for at least a decade by then, but when the old Stadium in Pudsey Street (now the site of the demolished Odeon Cinema in London Road) closed in 1930, he was left with a dilemma – where to hold his weekly shows that had proved so popular in the past. The answer? Best took his shows on the road for a couple of years whilst the new Liverpool Stadium in St Paul’s Square was built – to New Brighton, Southport and even Wrexham FC.
With a taste of the large, open-air shows that were growing in popularity around the country at the time, Best faced another problem when his greatest star, featherweight Nel Tarleton, was matched with Sheffield’s Johnny Cuthbert for the latter’s British featherweight title in October 1931. With no venue anywhere big enough to hold such a contest, Best hit on the idea of asking Liverpool FC if he could hold the show at Anfield. It was a bold move.
After much negotiation, and an appeal for spectators not to encroach onto the Anfield turf (most of which was covered in decking to allow floor seating anyway) around 30,000 saw their local hero win on points over the then championship distance of 15 rounds. The stage had been set.
Over the next 18 years a total of 27 shows were held at the L4 venue, the most famous being Peter Kane’s world flyweight title victory over the American Jessie Jurich in 1938 – over 42,000 witnessed this fight; Ernie Roderick’s British welterweight title victory over Jake Kilrain in March 1939 and Tarleton’s draw against Panama Al Brown in June 1932 (when Brown was World bantamweight champion) and his loss on points to Freddie Miller for the World featherweight crown in September 1934.
There were even two shows held at Anfield during the Second World War, one of which – Roderick v Eric Boon in September 1940 – taking place whilst a dogfight between British and German planes took place overhead. The last Anfield boxing show came in March 1949 – when Liverpool’s Stan Rowan outpointed Scotland’s Jackie Paterson to win the British and Empire bantamweight titles. ‘Only’ around 12,000 saw this contest.
A pipedream? For those who remember walking up to Anfield on balmy summer evenings in the 1930s and 40s, hearing the announcer introduce their local heroes over scratchy temporary tannoys and then, together with tens of thousands of other fight fans, cheering them on to win British and World titles it certainly isn’t a pipedream. Neither should it be for Maloney or Price. Big Pricey fighting for the World heavyweight title at Anfield in 2013 or 2014? I’ll see you there.
Gary Shaw MA
Sports historian and author of The Mersey Fighters and The Mersey Fighters 2 as well as two books on Liverpool FC. He is currently researching a new book on Liverpool boxing – Mersey Fighters 3
Mark Potter talks to Livefight
Exclusive interview with former British heavyweight contender Mark Potter
By Michael Jones
“I wasn’t fancied against Butterbean; they put him in a five-star hotel and me in a crappy B and B!” Mark Potter
By Michael J Jones
FIRMLY in the British title mix in the late 90’s/ early 00’s was hard-hitting heavyweight contender Mark Potter. The 6’1” former British and Commonwealth title-challenger, now 37-years-old and a firmly-established MMA star, had some memorable ring wars in a 21-5 (13) career.
Mark’s most famous contest came in October 2000 against future Mike Tyson conqueror Danny Williams. Aggressive Potter stormed into a points lead before fellow Londoner Williams rallied with a dislocated right shoulder to stop Mark in six pulsating rounds. It was easily one of the best domestic heavyweight contests ever seen in recent years on these shores.
Potter was forced to retire from the pro game in 2003 after suffering a cuts stoppage to future British champion Michael Sprott. The tough Londoner ran a pub in Walthamstow for a while before compiling an impressive 21-0 (21) record on the unlicensed circuit.
Mark, who looks in arguably even better shape now than when he was boxing, made his MMA debut in May 2010. Currently 5-2 (5) in his new sport, Mark has won rave reviews with his all-action, seek-and-destroy style.
Surprisingly gentle and loving away from the ring, Mark dotes on ten-year-old daughter Rosie who he spends time with every week at his home in North East London. Mark lives there with his partner Hannah and seems a contented guy.
Mark took the time out to speak to Livefight about his drama-filled fight career, from amateur and pro boxer to leading MMA contender.
LF) When did you start boxing, what first got you interested and how old were you when you had your first amateur fight?
MP) I started boxing at 13-years-old after spending most of my childhood doing Karate. I had a fight in school one time and was so tired from it I decided to go to a five-star boxing club in Harold hill to sort my lungs out. I was useless to be fair and just fought like a windmill with not much skill at all.
I had a problem getting my ABA licence as I had convulsions before the age of two which stopped the ABA from issuing me a licence. So not many of the coaches gave me much attention. I ended up training myself the majority of the time. My idol was Julio Cesar Chavez and I had a video of two of his fights (versus Edwin Rosario and Roger Mayweather) which I watched over-and-over. I just worked on that left hook to the body over and-over.
Eventually, the ABA gave me a license when I was 16. I had my first fight with Stuart Livermore and I won a tight decision. We rematched on their show and I got my first KO, thus giving me the greatest feeling in the world and one that gave me the greatest thirst for more (knockout victories). I had 18 amateur fights winning 16. I won the ABA London novices and lost my last amateur fight to Audley Harrison by cut eye in the second round after I battered him in the first.
LF) You had a pretty stern pro debut, taking on the 9-1-1 son of Joe Bugner, Joe Jr. That was a tough bout to start with, were you concerned taking on someone so much more experienced than you over six in your first pro bout?
MP) I started off my pro career by fighting on the undercard of Prince Naseem Hamed at Wembley (Hamed’s world featherweight title defence versus Juan Cabrera). I was put on the bill two months before the fight but three weeks prior to the fight they said I had to fight Joe or nothing. I'd sparred Joe a few times in the gym in Walthamstow and he boxed my head off to be honest. I accepted the fight anyway and then Jimmy Mac' (Jim McDonnell who was Joe's trainer) said it “has to be over 6 x 3’s.” I still accepted, so they took the fight. I outworked him in every round, hurting him in every stanza.
I got caught with his elbow with ten seconds to go (in the final round) and ended up on the floor. I got up at ‘seven’ and the ref gave me the mandatory eight count. I got my arm raised instantly; a rather surreal start to my career.
LF) You won some impressive stoppages in your next few fights before travelling to France to take on vastly more-experienced Antoine Palantis. You suffered your first defeat on points over eight rounds. How did the fight end up in France and did you think you lost that contest?
MP) I took the fight at a weeks notice and I didn’t find out who Antoine Palantis was. It was rather dumb of me but that's just me (laughs).
I got to Paris, drove to this tiny town in the middle of nowhere, they’d stuck me in a poxy hotel that reminded me of the hotel Villa Bella from 'Only fools and horses'.
I found out all about Antoine from locals as his picture was everywhere around town. I also found out he was a southpaw just before I walked into the dressing room, once again, dumb on my part. As for the fight, I couldn't really tell you much about it as he lunged in with his head seconds into the fight and nutted me in the face. I hit the deck hard and the ref stood me up. Apparently my legs were ‘gone’ and I was wobbling all over (the ring). I couldn't tell you how the fight played out as the next thing I remember was standing in the shower in the dressing room.
I visited the hospital on the following Monday and they told me I had concussion. I remember spells of the fight and as I came out the dressing room to leave, I remember getting a standing ovation from the crowd. I asked my trainer at the time, Alan Mortlock, what round did I get knocked out in? He said “you lost on points”. Quite a few people messaged me over the next few weeks to say I got robbed but, to this day, I haven't seen the fight. That's life I guess.
LF) You fought Keith Long the year after in Wembley and lost another close one. He was only 2-1 but far better than those numbers indicated. Were you convinced you'd done enough in that eight-rounder?
MP) The Keith long fight was a robbery. I won six of the eight rounds and I believe one (round) was even and one to him, but that's boxing for you.
LF) Probably your first big win was against big Danny Watts for the Southern Area title. He was considered a top prospect but you hunted him down and stopped him in six, what do you remember about that contest?
MP) Yeah Danny Watts was a great crossroads fight for both of us. Once again I'd sparred Danny and he'd handled me quite easy. I really fancied the fight as when I spar is a complete contrast to when I fight for real.
Danny was a big lump with a great dig. I worked on the overhand right over the jab for that fight and it worked very well. I dropped Danny in the fourth and I sat on the stool and my cuts man Denny Mancini told me “he'll have a big round this round so box sensible and move.”
He was spot on and Danny came out strong and lively. The end of the round Denny told me “he's spent now, pressure him straight off'.” Spot on again and the referee eventually stopped the fight after Danny took a barrage of blows.
LF) Another two victories and you took a late-notice shot at Danny Williams for the British and Commonwealth titles. You boxed well early on to build a solid-looking lead on the scorecards but what happened in the sixth has gone down in British boxing history. I'm guessing you must be pretty frustrated to lose that fight after it looked like you were holding all of the aces after five rounds?
MP) The Williams fight came about as the British champion, Michael Holden, relinquished the belt after falling ill. Frank Maloney offered me the fight the Sunday before at a boxing awards event. I jumped at (the opportunity), I'd watched Danny and sparred a lot with him. I'd worked him out that he planted his feet a split second before he punches. I was really hyped-up for the fight and about two hours before the fight I was dripping in sweat and ready to go. Danny hits hard but I didn't think devastatingly so.
The fight started and I dropped him for a flash knockdown (in the first), which the ref missed, but never mind. I stood with him in the first but in the second I got hit off the shoulder to the back of my head, I slipped on the advertising board and the ref gave me a count! I got up, moaned (to the ref about the incorrect count), and then tore into Danny some more.
The third round I was controlling the fight. His shoulder popped out and was hanging (by his side) and, to be honest, I thought it was just him being ‘flash’. I continued (to box) my fight, my way. The arm popped back in seconds before the end of the round. It was all working again in the fourth and fifth round. I had a great fifth round, hurting him numerous times, but I was breathing heavily. I sat on the stool and once again Denny shouts at me, “take a round off and just box.”
So the sixth gets under way and I'm in control and enjoying things. Then his shoulder pops out again and this time I noticed it, 'wow'. I charged in again-and-again, rather dumb thing to do and just before I got caught (by Williams’ big left) I was actually thinking about holding aloft all three belts then ‘BANG’, I was on my arse. I opted to go to one knee at the second knockdown to get a blow (rest). The third knockdown was a push and I decided to take a knee, the ref thought otherwise and called it off. Chuck in a load of low blows that Danny threw, and that's the fight.
LF) It's strange after such a special fight like that there was never a rematch; was it ever talked about?
MP) I was desperate for the rematch. I couldn't get Danny out my head and I actually lost a fight a couple of fights later because I couldn't focus in the gym for thinking of Williams. Jimmy Mac, Danny’s trainer told me about a year later “Danny doesn’t want it, we don't want it and the promoter doesn't want it.”
So that was that, but I would've fought Danny in a rematch for nothing
LF) You lost that bout you mentioned to Alexander Vasiliev a couple of fights later, he was a dangerous fighter who had beaten scores of our guys in the UK. It just looked like you ran out of steam in that fight?
MP) The Vasiliev fight was the only fight I felt I let myself down in. I couldn't get Danny Williams out my head and I just wasn't motivated to train, or to fight, come to think of it. He never hit hard or fast but, hey, that's what you get for cutting corners (in training). I tried for a rematch (with Vasiliev) but he was booked up for the next few fights.
LF) After that bout you went unbeaten in five straight fights before taking on big South African Osborne Machimana. That was another exciting bout as you rose from two knockdowns to stop him in three. Were you surprised at how hard he hit considering he was considered reasonably safe beforehand?
MP) The Machimana fight came after rediscovering my hunger for the game. I started afresh with Tony Simms and loved every training session with him.
Machimana hit me the hardest I've ever been hit before. He dropped me at the end of the first then dropped me at the start of the second. I arose after the second knockdown and he rained punches on me and after a while my head went numb and I couldn't feel a thing. By the end of round two, I was pounding him in the corner. His cornerman had to lift him off the stall for the third and I ploughed into him with intelligent aggression. Combo after combo (hit him), then I cornered him, did a Ricky Hatton jump round and hit him with a left uppercut to the body. I stood in the corner praying he'd get up, I wanted to bludgeon him some more, but he was counted out.
Good fight to watch apparently (laughs).
LF) Following that great win you were matched with Michael Sprott for your old Southern Area title. He was in great form at the time and stopped you on cuts. That was officially your last pro fight; you were just 28-years-old. What did you do in the years after boxing? I hear you ran a pub for a while?
MP) Yeah I ran two pubs after boxing, it wasn’t my cup of tea. I then got into personal training, which I still do now to pay the bills. I tried to get my boxing licence back three times and got rejected (each time). The boxing board never gave me a full answer. It took three weeks (to process the decision) and the then Southern area head Robert smith, told me over the phone “I think they've turned you down!".
I got a letter afterwards stating that I hadn't been successful in regaining my licence. I went on the unlicensed scene, having 21 fights with 21 wins and 21 KO’s or stoppages.
LF) Tell me about the fight you had with cult legend Eric “Butterbean” Esch in 2008? You boxed him in an unlicensed bout in Blackpool and stopped him in just one round. He's considered a joke by many but he could really bang and stopping him (when he had gone the ten-round distance with Larry Holmes only a few years earlier), was still an impressive result?
MP) I trained hard for the Butterbean fight, Spencer Brown at the EBF (European boxing federation) arranged the fight.
I know everyone thought I was going to be another KO victim of his but my team never. I wasn’t fancied against Butterbean; they put him in a five-star hotel and me in a crappy B and B!
Noel Tierney, my trainer, wore a huge body-sheild and sparred me in the mornings. I was only allowed to hit the shield and a week before I broke his rib through the padding! Oopsy. I was also doing full sparring in the afternoon with a whole host of guys, including John McDermott. I sparred with heavy ankle-weights on so I'd be more fleet-footed for the fight. It worked alright.
On the night, he never got too near me, I felt very relaxed and strong. His face was a bloody mess after and was a pitiful sight. He did however catch me on the shoulder and lifted me about four feet across the ring. I remember thinking at the time, “if that was on the chin, I'm blowing bubbles!”
LF) Two years after that fight you started your MMA career; how did that come about?
MP) My MMA career got underway when Alan Mortlock asked me to have a go, well, the umpteenth time he asked! Every fight, apart from one, I looked at as a street fight and knowing I was good at that just thought 'go for it'.
LF) Inevitable question but how does boxing compare with MMA in terms of the training and quality of the fighters?
MP) I enjoy the MMA training very much, to be really honest it's given me a new lease of life. Training is intense and I guess a shock to the system. Imagine a wrestler starting to box? It's a boxer starting to wrestle. It’s about learning to relax whilst laying up the floor while someone is trying to fold you up (laughs).
As far as MMA being as tough as boxing training, I think the cardio a boxer goes through is second-to-none and that is another gift I've got to give the MMA world. They can't live with my cardio, I’m not blowing my own trumpet but I've got to be the fittest heavyweight in MMA. My heart rate is 42 bpm in the morning. I can also drop 60-70 beats in rest period over 45 seconds; this is my edge. Forget that I hit like a steam-train in them four oz' gloves (laughs). I think overall what MMA lacks in cardio it makes up for in technical skill on the floor.
LF) What do you still hope to achieve in your MMA career?
MP) For me in MMA, I just want to compete at a high level and get some titles. I still have that ‘never say die’ attitude and I live by the motto 'it is better to fail aiming high than succeed aiming low.'
If I can walk away with people saying “Potter can fight” then I've accomplished my task.
LF) Do you still follow boxing and, in particular, the domestic heavyweight division?
MP) I watch boxing still, it's still a great love of mine. I like David Price, he moves well and should take his time. Fury still looks rough around the edges but is nice and relaxed. I also think Dereck Chisora will get completely out-boxed by David Haye.
LF) Mark, many thanks for your time and all the best in your MMA career.
MP) Thank you for taking the time too. God Bless.