News November 2017

Irish Raging Bull talks explosive career, Donald Trump offer & regrets


Darren “Raging Bull” Corbett talks to Livefight

By Michael J Jones

IRELAND, JUNE 1997 and Irishman Darren Corbett enters the ring against Commonwealth cruiserweight champion Chris Okoh. The champion is a perfect 14-0 and the WBC’s number one contender. In physical appearances the fight looks a mismatch with Okoh far more sculptured than his stocky challenger but his opponent shows no fear at the Ulster Hall, Belfast.

“Chris Okoh was a good fighter but he’d gone off the boil of late” Darren Corbett, now 45-years-old, tells Livefight from his home in Belfast. “I’d watched his fight against Denzil Browne and it was a boring fight. I said I was confident I’d knock-out either man.”

The Okoh fight was short and brutal. The unbeaten Londoner looked a million dollars in the first as he banked the opener but his rugged Irish opponent got into range in the second and his heavy hands were soon to cause devastating consequences…

The younger Corbett first began making waves in the early 90’s with a string of big knock-outs as a super-heavyweight. Despite admittedly not living the life as an amateur fighter, Corbett was talented enough to become a five-time Irish amateur champion and impressed many with his power-punching style.

“I loved fighting in the amateurs but I didn’t train properly, even smoking and drinking the day before the fight. When I boxed Willy Clyde I’d had about twenty pints the day before the fight! At the end of the day I was knocking everybody out but I just didn’t want to train.”

The Clyde fight of 94’ has become a Youtube classic and features Corbett savagely knocking his rival spark out in the second just moments after receiving a standing count himself. A huge left hook detonated violently against poor Clyde’s head as he appeared knocked out standing before slowly crashing to the deck.

The explosive win wasn’t the only time Corbett impressed onlookers even once catching the eye of a certain future President of the USA…

“I boxed a former Golden Gloves champion in Philadelphia named Ike Green” recalls the “Raging Bull”. “I knocked Green out and after the fight Donald Trump came up to me with a proposition for me turning professional. He said ‘you can be a world champion, but if you don’t become a world champion, you’ll be a millionaire’.”

“He wanted me to be trained by Joe Frazier, with a guy named Mike Doyle as my manager and Trump taking over the promoting. Turning down that offer was the biggest regret of my life. I had two big regrets in my boxing career; not taking that deal and also signing with Barry Hearn. All I wanted to do back then was to party with the boys and I just thought there would be other offers like that in the future.”

“Another time I fought a lad named Mike McKenzie from Birmingham” continues Corbett of his amateur days. “He was being given the big build-up for his upcoming pro career and had just been given a big spread in Boxing News. He’d agreed terms with Frank Maloney but we faced each other in an Ireland vs England tournament and I knocked him spark out in the first.”

With a sledgehammer punch in either hand, charisma in and out of the ring and a fine amateur pedigree under his belt, Corbett, turned pro as a heavyweight in 1994. His first two bouts were just three days apart with both ending inside the first round.

“I never took it seriously as an amateur but as soon as I turned pro I never smoked or drank. I stopped David Jules in the first and then, three days later, I took on Carl Gaffney who was a very big guy of about 6’6” and was about thirteenth in the UK rankings.”

Although he would navigate to 10-1-1 (6) as a heavyweight, Corbett made the decision to move down to the cruiserweight division in his search for a title fight. The 5’11” puncher improved greatly as he showed faster hands and greater mobility during his fights.

“I was never a heavyweight as I was just too small” comments Darren who lost over two stones in weight (28lbs) in his transition from heavyweight to the 190lb division. “I had a couple of fights (at the lower weight) and felt good so I was very confident I could beat Chris Okoh and move on to become a world champion.”

After wiping out the respected Ray Kane, and later, Noel Magee in Irish title fights, Corbett would face the favoured Okoh in Belfast not even three years into his pro career. Okoh had looked sensational in stopping Franco Wanyama to lift the Commonwealth belt two years earlier but had appeared jaded in his last couple of fights though swore he would be back to his best for Corbett.

The champion looked solid in the first but Corbett started getting closer midway through the second before a heavy left-hook floored the Londoner at the end of the round. The bout was permitted to continue into the third but Corbett, in front of his passionate local fans, was not to be denied.

A final, clubbing right-hand took out what little remained of Okoh in the third as a new star of the division emerged in the form of the “Raging Bull”. In a memorable celebration, Corbett, who would often celebrate a knock-down wildly, leaped into the air before dropping to his knees in his elation and shuffling around the canvas still on his knees.

“Not even that went right” chuckles Corbett over twenty years later. “I injured my knee cartilage doing that (celebration) and later needed an operation in New York to correct the damage.”

Now 15-1-1 (10) and a perfect 5-0 (4) as a cruiserweight, the 25 year old Corbett looked set for a world title shot following his eye-catching Commonwealth title victory but the next seventeen months brought only thankless, marking-time fights as a bonafide title shot eluded him repeatedly.

“I think if it was up to Barry Hearn I’d still be packing out the Ulster Hall defending my Irish title” says Darren, a little needle creeping into his thick Irish brogue. “I kept selling out the Ulster Hall but getting paid hardly anything. You go to most Commonwealth champions now they’re on fifty-sixty thousand as champion. I got £2,500 for Chris Okoh.”

“When I boxed Noel Magee, the show sold out in two days. There was a long historic rivalry between our areas in Ireland that went back decades so everyone wanted to watch the fight. Magee ended up getting twelve grand while I got just £1,500. The numbers never made any sense to me.”

“Often my brother would get more money selling tickets than I did for the actual fighting!”

Corbett kept winning and won two further bouts in 1997, the latter against awkward southpaw Rob Norton with Corbett edging the unusually quiet twelve-rounder by just half a point (via the old UK scoring system).

“Even by then my head wasn’t right and, in my eyes as a fighter I thought he won. I boxed that night for not even 3k and he won the WBU belt straight after our fight.”

Entering 1998 there was much talk of Corbett facing reigning WBO champion Carl Thompson but the Manchester fighter instead took on former super-middleweight champion Chris Eubank over two contests as the Irishman was left in the fistic wilderness.

“By then, I was world rated and thought a title shot was just around the corner. I really fancied me being able to knock out Thompson but he kept delaying signing for the fight. Instead Thompson fought Barry Hearn’s best mate Eubank.”

“I thought it was strange the first fight (which Thompson won by close decision). A big, strong, cruiserweight should be banging out a little super-middleweight no problem at all. I thought I’d be next (to challenge for the WBO title) but they had a rematch and I couldn’t believe it (when it was arranged).”

“I remember Johnny Nelson coming up to talk to me and saying ‘Carl Thompson is sh*t scared of you he doesn’t want anything to do with you.’ A while later Nelson got the shot at Thompson to become the WBO champion and that was that.”

In November 98’ Corbett was matched with former light-heavyweight contender Bruce Scott. The Jamaican-born Scott had suffered an embarrassing defeat recently to journey-man Tony Booth but had returned with an upset knock-out of Dominic Negus and had whipped himself into the shape of his life for the Corbett fight.

“The truth is I should never have been in the ring that night” sighs Corbett. “I’d been involved in a five-car pile-up just a week or so before the fight and had damaged the vertebrae’s in my back. It was in the November and Christmas was coming up and I wanted the kids to have all their toys so I went through with it.”

The two men were no mood to engage in a jabbing spectacle and instead unloaded power punches on each other in ring centre. The fight went back-and-forth but eventually Scott would find the punches to end matters in the tenth to hand Corbett his first loss as a cruiserweight.

“My movement was affected and I couldn’t fight the way I wanted. I felt OK to continue but the referee stopped it. It’s not Bruce Scott’s fault (Corbett was injured) just one of those things.”

After another defeat five months later to France’s Stephane Allouane, the demoralised Corbett would make the decision to move down a further weight to the 175lb light-heavyweight division. His first fight at the new weight would be against Coventry’s Neil Simpson for the IBO Inter-Continental title.

“It was my first fight at the weight and I wasn’t happy with fighting for the money I was on so just went through the motions. I couldn’t tell you who I thought won as I’ve never watched it back…”

Simpson was boxing very well when felled by a Corbett body-shot in the sixth. He recovered and appeared for many to have done enough to score the upset though the judges handed a split vote to the Irishman.

Later, a proposed rematch was in the works for the two with the British title on the line but it was later scrapped. Corbett thus had to watch his former rival become the British, and subsequently Commonwealth, champion.

Corbett’s form and activity was patchy after an IBO win over John Lennox Lewis in 2000. He would box just eleven times in as many years though featured in two Prizefighter tournaments in 2009 and 2010 respectfully.

In the 2009 edition, Corbett would beat Micky Steeds in his first bout before losing to eventual tournament winner Ovill McKenzie in the semi-final.

“It was a bit crazy really, I only agreed to enter Prizefighter as I wanted revenge over Bruce Scott. I’d not been in the ring for two years and had to lose three-and-a half stone in just a few weeks but I’m a fighter it’s just one of those things.”

For the record, Scott lost his very first contest to John “Buster” Keeton who would lose on points in the final to McKenzie.

Corbett would fare no better the following year when he would also bow out in his second contest to another eventual finalist in Nick Okoth. Two years later, Corbett was up to a career-heaviest 244lbs for his final contest; an injury defeat to fellow Irish-man Conall Carmichael in Belfast.

His final record reads 29-8-1 (16) though the bare statistics fail to show one of the biggest punching fighters to ever hail from Ireland and who provided many a memorable night for Irish fight fans.

“It’s simple really; some fighters get looked after and others don’t” reasons Corbett of his career. “I always wanted the biggest challenges as I knew that would bring out the best in me but, for whatever reason, Barry Hearn didn’t want me to be a world champion.”

“Nearly every time I boxed it was in front of a full house and with TV involved. It was always the same I’d go and see Barry Hearn and he’d just shrug it off that people were avoiding me but why were undercard fighters even getting more than I was as the main event?”

“My proudest moment as a fighter was becoming the Irish champion. There’s nothing can beat being the champion of your own country and I did both as an amateur and professional. I never made any real money and my career was derailed by too many lay-offs and not getting the right fights but that’s life.”

It seems sad that a fighter who brought so much excitement and attention to Irish boxing is so disillusioned with the sport but Corbett can be proud of the career he had. Not only was he a murderous puncher but he also had true ring charisma that only a select few can boast of having.

You simply couldn’t help but smile at Corbett’s antics whether they be a prefight Elvis impersonation, clowning after dropping an opponent or those wild ring celebrations. The “Raging Bull” never won a world title due to the dreaded ‘boxing politics’ but could really fight and could well have been a solid world champion with more luck and opportunity.

Parting shots

The full offer by Donald Trump to Corbett was; a 30k signing on fee, a car, an apartment in the US, former world heavyweight champion Joe Frazier as head coach and a part-time job as a barman. God only knows how vastly different Corbett’s boxing career could have been if he had taken the offer.

Joe Frazier in his prime was 5’11”, 200lbs and had a terrific left-hook. He would have been superb as head trainer to Corbett who (as a cruiserweight) was the same size and also had a brutal left-hook.

Corbett was only 220lbs when he was a heavyweight but always appeared thickset and heavier than he looked.

Ovill McKenzie would win Prizefighter 2009 while Jon-Lewis Dickinson would win the year after. The two men would face each other a few years later with McKenzie stopping Dickinson in two rounds.

Corbett was said to have been sparring a fighter named Mark Baker for his rematch with Neil Simpson. Corbett reportedly turned down the Simpson fight due to not being happy with the money being offered. Baker duly stepped in and Simpson beat him by a single point to become British light-heavyweight champion. Corbett was said to be distraught afterwards having watched the fight.

Corbett stated to Livefight for his fight against Tyler Hughes in 2001 he knocked his opponent out in eleven seconds (including the count). The show’s promoter then ran off with the money leaving him to answer to some aggrieved Italian Mafia members who thought Corbett was involved with ripping them off. One apparently even showed the Irishman a machine gun to underline his point.

Annoyingly when you think of how a world title fight eluded Corbett, Bruce Scott, following his victory over Darren, would fight in successive world title fights against WBO champion Johnny Nelson and WBC champion Juan Carlos Gomez.

When Darren Corbett told me he worked in a bar I assumed he was a doorman but he actually is a bar-man. People often make the mistake that he owns the bar and comment he “must have done OK in boxing”.

The bout with Carl Thompson was at one point scheduled but Thompson pulled out citing an injured knee. It was considered ludicrous at the time that Eubank, who had never boxed above the light-heavyweight limit and was coming off a sound thrashing by Joe Calzaghe, would get a shot at Thompson’s title though both fights were memorable affairs.

Chris Okoh only boxed one more time after his devastating defeat to Corbett. A timely reminder how one fight in boxing can sometimes change an entire landscape.

Corbett's draw was with Garry Williams while his first loss was to Roger McKenzie. Both were considered journeymen which surely prompted the move down in weight for Corbett.

Kovalev claims ref Tony Weeks on Team Ward


By @Livefight

Sergey Kovalev criticised the performance of referee Tony Weeks during his loss to Andre Ward - and alludes to an epidemic of referees that side with the 'home' fighter.

In broken English, he believes Gennady Golovkin's draw decision against Canelo, draws parallels with his own thoughts on the game:-


Robbie Davies jnr hometown rematch with Syrowatka on hold - O’Hara Davies offer not acceptable.


The chance for Liverpool’s highly rated super-lightweight, Robbie Davies jnr to gain both revenge and redemption in a rematch with Michal Syrowatka – the tough Pole who took his unbeaten record in July – has had to be put on hold after the Polish no.1 asked for a delay due to, firstly, an unspecified injury, and then personal problems.

Although a date and venue had been selected – December 2nd at Liverpool Convention Centre – posters printed and a rematch clause from the first meeting executed, Syrowatka was forced to pull out just as Davies jnr. was in the process of moving up a gear in his own preparations.

Whilst not uncommon for boxers or their backroom team, the news still came as a blow to Davies’ manager, Neil Marsh, who had prepared studiously ahead of the one contest his charge wanted above all others.

Marsh said: “We are all really disappointed in the news obviously. We had booked a date at the venue for November but then were allowed to move it to December once we were told about the injury. A few days later however, we were asked to postpone it for a bit longer as Syrowatka told us he had personal problems he needed to sort out and so wouldn’t be able to fight in December at all. It’s a blow but the Convention Centre have been fantastic with us - very understanding. Equally, we completely understand Michal’s issues and we are working on the fight taking place in the very near future.”

Whilst not the news Team Davies were hoping for, Marsh was characteristically relaxed about the situation. He said: “It’s not the news we wanted but sometimes these things happen in boxing. The good news however, is that the rematch clause I inserted into the original contract has been activated, the management of the venue are patient and the fight will definitely happen, probably early in the New Year.”

The delay has also boosted the chances of the contest being screened live on TV, a situation that Marsh hadn’t contemplated when he originally made the rematch. He said: “Robbie wanted the fight badly, and he wanted it at home, in his own city. We backed him and looked at venues and dates without even thinking about TV – but the delay has now opened the door to the possibility of it being screened live. Robbie is an exciting fighter and the more people get to see him win the better.“

Expanding on the fact that Davies wanted the return more than any other contest despite a number of options being available, one of which was believed to be Ohara Davies, Marsh said: “We discussed alternatives, some of whom were supposed bigger names. Eddie Hearn offered us the O’Hara fight and Robbie was keen – he wants to shut him up once and for all, especially for the disrespect he has shown Robbie on social media, but the offer wasn’t acceptable. At all. It was nowhere near what we wanted which makes us feel that they weren’t serious about it in the first place, but it’s no great loss; Robbie was adamant – this was the fight he wanted. He wants to make a statement and doesn’t want his loss to go unavenged. “

“Although he was ahead at the time of the stoppage Robbie felt he wasn’t right on the night and so he wants the rematch to get it out of his system if you like. We know he’s better than Syrowatka and he’ll prove it when the fight does get made. I’ve advised him to stay patient and once he wins we can return to our journey – to get back inside the WBA top 5 and work towards a world title.”

One Last Time for Welsh Warrior Sugar Sweet “Even now I’ll be a league above Sarkozi”


By Michael J Jones

ON DECEMBER 1st in Bristol, the long career of Welsh warrior Bradley “Sugar Sweet” Pryce is set to conclude when the former Commonwealth champion faces Dan Sarkozi over eight rounds. It will be the 36 year old’s 63rd pro fight in his eighteenth year as a pro fighter for his contest at the Dolman Exhibition Hall.

It has been quite a journey for Pryce who turned pro in 1999 and, after prevailing in his first sixteen contests, it has been a career of various ups and downs. Now 38-24 (20), the bare numbers do little justice for a tough and talented boxer who has met consistently high class opposition since his debut.

Typically, December 1st opponent Sarkozi is no push-over for the soon-to-be retired Newport veteran. Seven years younger at 29, the Bristol-based welterweight brings a respectable 10-2 record to the contest as well as home advantage.

Pryce has seen it all before however and Livefight caught “Sugar Sweet” in a confident mood a few days ago when we called to talk about the Welsh-man’s final contest.

“People have expected me to retire for a while now but I just kept going” Pryce tells Livefight. “I’ve made the decision and actually chose this fight to end my career with. I looked at all the shows for the end of the year and noted Sarkozi was without an opponent for December 1st.”

“I called Chris Sanigar and the fight was made. Sarkozi’s a welterweight so the fight will be at 10st 12 and an on the day weigh-in.”

“Training has been going very good, I’ve just been ticking over trying to get my weight down. I’ve not been this low for eight or nine years but it’s a good weight for me. I’ve been taking fights the last few years at middleweight and super-middleweight so it’s nice I’m going back to a weight where I’ll be at my best again.”

Much was expected of Pryce when he turned pro in the late 90’s. A former multiple Welsh ABA champion who was also a full ABA champion, the young Welshman impressed for much of his 76-4 amateur career before turning pro under Frank Warren with Enzo Calzaghe as head trainer.

Pryce quickly established himself as a formidable force as a super-featherweight/lightweight and raced to 16-0 (10) while showing lightning-fast hand-speed, dazzling skills and supreme confidence. It seemed only a matter of time before the streaking prospect was mixing it at the top level but, as often the case in boxing, potentials can fall short with even the most talented fighters.

“I was an excellent amateur but I never really gave a hundred percent at any stage of my career” reveals a reflective Bradley. “I was never fully dedicated and it showed in the way my career has gone. Right now for this last fight, I’m probably the most dedicated I’ve been my whole life. I’m not eating rubbish, not drinking any crap and living cleanly the way I always should have been living.”

“You do wonder sometimes what could have been but I’ve still had a good career and I’m proud of it.”

It was the dangerous fists of Ted Bami that would end the unbeaten run of Pryce and, in the years following, terrific wins would follow shocking defeats as the Newport fighter struggled to find the consistency required to succeed at the highest level.

In 2006, the 24 year old Pryce would upset Ghanaian Ossie Duran to lift the Commonwealth light-middleweight title in what would prove the highlight of his pro career. The Welshman would stay the Commonwealth champion for three years before a bitter loss to Manchester puncher Matthew Hall.

“Winning the Commonwealth title was probably the biggest high of my career but the lowest was definitely that loss to Hall” comments Bradley of his shocking two-round loss that clearly still rankles him some eight years later.

“I wanted the rematch to put it right but it never came off.”

In the years following his disappointing title defeat to Hall, Pryce has continued to box a high calibre of opponent and has often drawn praise for brave distance defeats against the likes of Sergei Rabchenko, Chris Eubank Jr and Billy Joe Saunders but admits his passion for the sport has declined in recent years.

“These last few years I’ve just been going through the motions really, taking fights where it didn’t matter if I won or lost, away from home and at higher weights. It’s been better in a way as there’s never been any real pressure on me but I feel I’m not nervous at all about this being my last fight and I’m training harder for this one than I have for years.”

The 36 year old entered 2017 off a points defeat to Irishman Luke Keeler in Dublin but, just two months later, would suffer his first inside-schedule defeat in over seven years to the heavy-handed prospect Zach Parker. The contest was waved off in the fourth as Parker moved to 10-0 and has since shown his punching power when stopping Luke Blackledge in the first.

“He’s usually a light-heavyweight or super-middleweight but they made it at a catch-weight so I took the fight. I probably should have turned it down, but I didn’t want to say no, so I took it and he was a very powerful boy and caught me with a good shot.”

Pryce would slip to another points defeat in June before suffering another knock-out to Scott Fitzgerald in his last bout two months ago.

“That last one against Fitzgerald he just caught me. I could have continued but they stopped it.”

The Fitzgerald reverse was Pryce’s only sixth inside-distance defeat in nearly two decades and 62 bouts. Now comes Dan Sarkozi on December 1st and Bradley, as always, is talking a very good fight ahead of the contest.

“I’ve never seen him fight but people told me about the fight he had with (another Welshman) Gareth Piper a few years ago. Piper was 1-8-1 but everyone said he won well with no problems. That was a while back but I still feel Sarkozi shouldn’t be in the same league as me.”

“He doesn’t look too tough but, at this stage of my career, everyone’s a tough fight for me these days.”

“It’s in his neck of the woods in Bristol but he’s got no stoppages on his record so I’ll be the one with the power at the weight and can end the fight inside schedule.”

“I’ve come to the decision and I’m definitely ending my career now. Boxing puts far too much strain on the mind and body. I’ve not been put through too much in recent years but I’m training harder than I have in years and I want to go out with a win.”

As our conversation reaches its climax I ask what the future will hold for the long-time pro boxer?

“I’ll still have to go out and work unfortunately but I’ve been working in security for a while now and will carry on with that. It’s hard work doing shifts but it could be worse. I’ll be spending more time with my girlfriend and kids once I’ve retired from boxing.”

“I’d just like to thank everyone who has bought a ticket and is coming down to Bristol to support me for this last fight. The last few times I’ve boxed it’s just been a mate and my girlfriend and that’s it so it’s nice to get a few supporters again for this fight.”

There are many who witnessed Pryce’s amateur career and the way he began his pro journey and tell you he massively under-achieved. That may well be true but it’s still been a terrific career filled with classy performances in victory and brave showings in defeat.

The Welshman has also battled bulimia and alcoholism through various stages of his fighting years but is still in remarkably good nick after 62 bouts. The former long-time sparring partner of Joe Calzaghe has not scaled the heights of his one-time gym mate but has left his own mark on Welsh boxing as a tough and courageous competitor.

The old version of Pryce would have had too much flair and speed for Sarkozi but these days the playing field is even and victory is not guaranteed, especially away from home. Livefight feels the younger man may just pinch a close decision in front of his home fans but look for Pryce to give him something to think about along the way.

Parting shots

At one time in the Calzaghe gym were Pryce, Joe Calzaghe, Gavin Rees, Enzo Maccarinelli and Gary Lockett. Only Pryce failed to win a version of the world title (Lockett held the WBU belt for a while).

Pryce would make six defences of the Commonwealth title, including brilliant stoppages of Anthony Small and Martin Concepcion, before Hall beat him. He maintains his camp for the Hall fight was his worst one as he crashed weight and had little left by fight time.

Bradley is one of only ten men to have stopped the legendary Peter Buckley in 300 fights. The two had previously gone the distance but Pryce got him out in one in the return.

Pryce first brought himself attention in the pros when he stopped Gary Reid live on Sky Sports. That night, he looked like a lanky Prince Naseem as he speared Reid repeatedly with flashy combinations while barely taking a shot in return.

For the majority of his 24 defeats, even ones which occurred in his prime, Pryce took the fight at very late notice. Even some of his most famous victories were taken at last minute.

Pryce didn’t box in Wales as a professional until his eleventh fight.

When the Welshman took Ricky Hatton protégé Rabchenko the full twelve rounds in 2011, it broke the Belarusian’s eleven-bout KO streak. Pryce took the fight at late notice but gave Rabchenko a good fight.

The two men would meet two years later with Rabchenko, boxing on home turf, taking another decision.

Prospect Prync Oliveira Jr ready to make noise at 147lbs


Exciting prospect "Prync" Oliveira talks to Livefight

By Michael J Jones

THIRTEEN YEARS ago, three-time world title challenger Ray “Sucra” Oliveira ended his thrilling career after sixty pro bouts. The New Bedford slugger, who netted the record for most punches thrown in a fight and also for the most thrown in a single round, vowed to stay involved in the sport which, as he put it, “taught me to be a man”.

The 49 year old was true to his word and now trains fighters in a thriving gym in Massachusetts. One star boxer in his stable is son Ray “Prync” Oliveira Jr who is currently 9-1 (2) after turning pro three years ago.

Junior took to boxing relatively late after a troubled youth but is now a solid prospect who has already drawn comparisons to his famous father.

“I didn't have a big amateur career, I had thirty fights as I never started boxing until I was seventeen” Ray Jr tells Livefight. “I had my first amateur fight when I was 19-years-old and turned pro when I was twenty four. I like being a boxer; I get paid to beat people up!”

Oliveira Jr turned pro on his 24th birthday with a third-round knock-out of fellow debutant Angel Valdez. Fighting as a junior-middleweight, “Prync” suffered his only defeat last April when dropping a contentious decision to (the also unbeaten) Casey Kramlich.

“It was frustrating losing my undefeated record like that” sighs the 27 year old. “I knocked him down and felt all he did was run for the first four rounds. I feel I won the first four rounds and, with the knock-down I scored, it should not have been possible to slip up on the scorecards.”

“I'm not going to bull anyone, he probably won the last two (rounds) but I should have won that fight.”

The six round majority decision was awarded to Kramlich by scores of 57-56 (twice) while the third judge had the contest all even at 56 points apiece.

“I've been fighting at 154lbs and there is never a wide variety of guys at that weight and we've often had to get middleweights to drop weight to fight me. I've been coming in 153-152 every time and that's why I'm moving to welterweight to continue my career.”

For the record, Oliveira Jr was around 178lbs in his amateur days though has appeared comfortable competing at 154.

Since his controversial defeat, the 5'9” puncher has returned with a victory. In September he scored a split-decision over tricky southpaw David Wilson to record his ninth career win.

“For the future, my plan is just to keep working hard and keep winning” comments Ray. “We've got a few pro's in our gym and some amateurs and my father also gets us great sparring.”

Ray Sr was a well-known crowd-pleaser who had incredible contests with the likes of Charles Murray, Vernon Forrest, Vince Phillips and Ricky Hatton. As well as fighting for world honours, “Sucra” would also lift the NABF and IBU titles whilst competing in an extremely tough era for 140-147 fighters.

“I've had a few fights where people have compared me to my father” smiles the welterweight prospect. “The way I've thrown punches has drawn comparrisons. Sometimes I like to sit down on my shots but other times I like to go toe-to-toe and slug it out.”

“There's always a little uncertainty with moving down a weight but we'll see how it goes and if I feel strong there. I'm working extremely hard to get to where I want to be but the main goal is just to keep winning and putting the hard work in.”

Parting shots

After a patchy education as a youth, Oliveira Jr is currently studying for a Masters Degree in Sports Facility Management.

Every one of “Prync's” nine pro bouts have been at the Twin River Event Center in Lincoln.

The young pro is a father of two.

For his last fight with David Wilson two judges scored to Oliveira Jr by 58-56 while a third judge made it 59-55 to Wilson.

This interview came about while I was researching Oliveira Sr for the 'Ricky Hatton Our fight' series. Ray was telling me about his fight with Hatton when he put Junior on the phone to talk.

The record of 9-1 (2) might suggest a lack of punching-power but the aggressive prospect can definitely punch with the low KO percentage more due to the fact he has fought mostly young eager boxers who came to win.

Ricky Hatton Our Fight Part 4 Vyacheslav Senchenko


Ricky Hatton Our Fight Part 4 Vyacheslav Senchenko

By Michael J Jones

IN PART FOUR of Livefight’s exclusive Ricky Hatton series we talk to the last man to ever face “The Hitman” as a professional fighter. Ukrainian Vyacheslav Senchenko would face the Manchester legend five years ago and, after Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquaio, would become only the third man to best Hatton.

Senchenko had, only a few months previously, lost his WBA welterweight title via TKO to “Magic Man” Paulie Malignaggi and was already 35-years-old when he got the call to face the long-absent Hatton in Manchester. It would be the English-man’s first fight for three-and-a half years and would prove to be a one-off comeback fight.

The Fight

The two men squared off against each other on November 24th 2012 with the bout scheduled for ten rounds in the welterweight division. Both men weighed in identically at 146½lbs and the bout was the main event at the Manchester Arena. The venue, formerly the MEN Arena, was the setting for many memorable nights for the hero-worshipped Hatton.

Even the aging version of Hatton would draw a sell-out crowd of 10,000 to the venue with tickets sold out in under 48 hours despite no word of Ricky’s opponent or who was to feature on the undercard.

Both kept a dignified respect ahead of the contest but the main subject on everyone’s lips was the return of one of the most popular post-war British fighters of all time. Much had been documented about “The Hitman’s” fragile mental state and substance abuse in the aftermath of his first retirement following a crushing knock-out at the hands of Pacquiao. Ricky had battled depression and suicidal thoughts but insisted he wanted to become a champion once more to make his children proud.

There was also much discussion regarding the 34 year old Hatton potentially facing former victim Malignaggi should “The Hitman” prove victorious against Senchenko. The brash New Yorker had just made a winning first defence of his WBA belt and was keen to avenge his 2008 loss to Hatton in the near future.

“After the defeat by Paulie Malignaggi I thought about finishing my career and, at that very moment, I received the proposal to fight Ricky Hatton and I gladly agreed” Vyacheslav Senchenko tells Livefight five years after his famous contest with Hatton. “The fact that Ricky returned to boxing didn’t surprise me because he realised he wanted to take away the belt from Malignaggi (who Hatton had already beaten).”

“Well, before that he had to fight one fight first against me. Before our fight there was an agreement that by beating me Hatton would then meet Paulie. I didn’t feel disrespected by the fact (Hatton and Malignaggi had a deal), I didn’t think about it or whom had agreed what deal, it was just very important for me to win this fight and I did my best and proved victorious.”

Nobody seemed overly interested in what the tough and experienced Ukrainian was doing before the fight as all the attention appeared to be on the hugely popular Mancunian.

“I was given some confidence that Ricky was returning from over three years away and he had to drive all that weight he had gained in his time away from the ring. I realised that it would be hard for him to gain physical shape after a long time out.”

“I had nothing to worry about as I was sure I could defeat Ricky and the fact that everybody was against me I really did not mind. I was very well prepared psychologically.”

Focussed purely on the fight and paying little mind to the build-up, Senchenko went to work…
“My preparation took place in Donetsk under the guidance of Igor Gapon and my chief sparring partner was (feared Russian) Ruslan Provodnikov” continues the articulate former champion. “There was no special tactic I implemented, but we worked on combinations which were to bring me success in the fight. My task was to keep Ricky at distance and my combination of straight right, left to the liver was my favourite combination.”

“I often practised this move in training and (the move) passed this battle!”

Hatton began the contest in a frenzy but very early in the fight it was apparent his timing was off as he missed punches he once would have landed with ease. The returning “Hitman” won most of the early rounds on work-rate alone but the tough Ukrainian was fighting a good fight himself; taking plenty of punches on his arms and gloves and offering good jabs and right-hands on the counter.

By the middle rounds both had taken their licks in a hard fight but Senchenko’s greater accuracy was proving critical as the gripping fight wore on.

“I expected Hatton to start the fight very active and my task was not to impose clinching and close-quarter combat” reveals Vyacheslav now 40-years-old. “In the second half of the fight, I felt Ricky was starting to get tired and, in our plans, it was my intention to give my best and finish the fight ahead of time.”

After eight rounds the contest looked even on points though the judges all had Hatton in a slight lead. Worryingly, the former two-weight world champion was slowing down and beginning to mark-up heavily just as Senchenko was coming on strong.

“I knew in such an even fight the victory would not be given to me (by the judges) so I was counting on the maximum (effort) before the last round (to get the stoppage). When I floored Ricky I thought he would get up. You have to give him his due he tried his best to but he could not.”

In the ninth with Hatton weakening seemingly by the second, Senchenko drove a sickening left hook to the ribs to send the Manchester star down and out. A look of desperate agony was etched on Ricky’s pale face as referee Victor Laughlin consoled the once-great fighter. The physical pain of the ripping left to the kidney gave way to emotional trauma as Ricky wept.

Even after coming to the UK and besting one of our modern greats, there was still little credit given to Senchenko. As he celebrated arguably the finest victory of his career, the cameras were back on a despondent Hatton as the beaten man quickly re-announced his retirement from boxing.

Senchenko would return to the UK the following year to face Kell Brook in an eliminator for the IBF title but, after wobbling the Sheffield star, was halted in the fourth round.

“For Brook, I didn’t build the fight up correctly and never fulfilled the plan for the fight. I had an injured left hand and Brook was physically superior to me (uninjured). I managed to shake him but, before that, I was missing a lot of heavy blows. He caught me on the back of the head and afterwards I could not recover.”

The Kremenchug fighter retired two years later with a 37-2 (25) record and keeps his hand in boxing in the capacity of being a trainer of young professionals like his former rival. The retired champion is also a shareholder for Sparta Boxing Promotions.

“I had met Ricky at the WBA conference (before the fight) and we talked and he really is a good and friendly guy. As a boxer, I respected him very much as he was a real fighter with a big heart. We’ve never met since our fight but I have been following his coaching career and he has proven himself a very good coach.”

“I wish Ricky every success for his future as a trainer. Please give Ricky my regards and my respect and thank him for our fight.”

Parting shots

This fight would mark the only time in his career Hatton would lose a professional fight in the UK.

Scores at the time of the stoppage were 78-74 and two cards of 77-76 all for Hatton. Most had it even or Senchenko slightly ahead at the time of the stoppage.

There was talk for months before the fight of the return of Hatton who was training and sparring hard even weeks before the comeback was confirmed. After working for most of his career with Billy Graham and a short stint with Floyd Mayweather Sr, Hatton worked with Manchester fight guru Bob Shannon to get fighting fit for Senchenko.

Hatton was never as effective at the higher weight of 147lbs. At top level as a welterweight he appeared sluggish when struggling to out-score Luis Collazo, was knocked out by Mayweather before losing his return against Senchenko.

Class-act Vyacheslav conducted this entire interview online. Livefight was very grateful for prompt and full answers to all our questions.

Senchenko was the WBA champion for three years but made only three defences in that time before Malignaggi toppled him seven months prior to the Ukrainian’s bout with Hatton.

Hatton’s last great performance was stopping Malignaggi in eleven rounds in Las Vegas in 2008. Malignaggi was a stylistic nightmare for Senchenko and, even though it was close on the cards, most thought Paulie was clearly ahead when the fight was stopped on a TKO in the ninth.

The Hatton contest was only Vyacheslav’s fourth pro bout outside of the Ukraine.

Many had questioned the selection of Senchenko as a comeback opponent for the returning Ricky Hatton without a warm-up first. Even a prime “Hitman” may have struggled with the tall, rangy and technically sound Senchenko. Hatton’s trainer Bob Shannon even stated his reservations about the match ahead of the contest.

Ricky Hatton Our Fight Part 3 Ray Oliveira


By Michael J Jones

IN THE FAMOUS career of Ricky Hatton, you could say his evolution from contender to genuine world-class operator occurred in the year 2004. Following two unusually quiet performances it was heavily rumoured Hatton was giving promoter Frank Warren constant ear-ache about wanting to step up to fight for world honours following a lengthy reign as WBU champion.

With a bout against IBF light-welterweight champion Kostya Tszyu in the making, the undefeated Manchester star marched right through the respected Mike Stewart before being matched against experienced contender Ray “Sucra” Oliveira at the Excel Arena, Dockland, London. Although, at 36-years-old, a few seasons past his best, Oliveira was nonetheless a sturdy test for Hatton.

A three-time world title challenger who had earned his reputation the hard way with thrilling fights against some of the best sluggers of the 90’s and early 2000’s, Oliveira was known in boxing circles as a teak-tough slickster who could both box and punch.

The Fight

The two men faced each other on December 11th 2004 and both pugilists remained respectful in the build-up. The 26 year old Hatton was a perfect 37-0 (27) while Oliveira was 47-9-2 (22) and ten years older at 36. One advantage Oliveira had was height and reach, towering above the 5’7” Hatton at nearly six feet tall with a wingspan some eight inches superior to his Manchester rival.

As well as being a good body-puncher, Hatton was also known for having a high work-rate which often swamped opponents and prevented them getting their own shots off. For Oliveira, he was no stranger to high-volume punch stats and had featured in the highest punch count in boxing history in a 1993 WBO challenge against Zack Padilla when the two men threw a combined 3020 punches.

Ray also had the distinction of the highest punch count in an individual round when he and Vince Phillips unloaded an unbelievable 463 punches in the last round of their 2000 contest (won by Oliveira by decision).

“I’d been competing at 147lbs before my fight with Ricky Hatton and hadn’t fought at 140 for a while but I had a really good camp and was in great shape” Ray tells Livefight from his gym in New Bedford. “It was an honour to fight in London in front of 80,000 fans booing me but I loved it and I really thought I would win the fight.”

Hatton made his customary ferocious start and was soon sinking in hard left hooks to the ribs but the visitor stood his ground. The first looked to be edging to Hatton before a cuffing right-hand forced the older man to take a count late in the round.

“I wasn’t over-awed by Ricky’s work-rate as I’d had many fighters come at me like that and I had the record for most punches thrown in a boxing match. Even at that time when I was past my prime I could still throw (a lot of) punches.”

Following the knock-down, Ricky would proceed to sweep most of the early rounds but Oliveira had some success when tying the younger fighter up on the inside and slipping plenty with subtle movements of his head and body. Ray would also land some classy counters as Ricky would wade in much to the delight of the crowd.

Although the experienced American was the taller man with the longer reach, he neglected his advantages repeatedly to stand straight in front of the home fighter. Both men were showing the signs of war by the middle rounds with Oliveira injuring his ear in the third before sustaining eye damage which worsened as the fight wore on.

“Ricky’s power was good, he wasn’t the biggest puncher I’d faced but he was precise and smart in there and I always say the best boxing coaches are from the UK” comments “Sucra”. “My style was to work on the outside but he liked to work on the inside which was his game. I was like ‘Alright let’s go I’ll beat you at your own game’.”

“He was clever in there, I burst my ear-drum in the third, it messes with your equilibrium and affects your balance but he saw that and immediately started pounding on my other ear. I was Ricky’s final test before he was unleashed against the world champions. I understood that but we had a beautiful fight and I still get asked about it to this day.”

By the later rounds, Hatton had gained full advantage with the only question remaining; could “The Hitman” become the first to stop the tough Oliveira in 59 pro contests?

The question was answered at 1:38 of round number ten when a final barrage of punches floored the brave New England veteran for the full count. Referee Micky Vann waved the fight off at the count of ‘ten’, giving Hatton his 38th pro victory and making a huge statement to world boxing.

“It was bad enough with one ear-drum popped but, when the second went, my balance completely left me. I knew with one (injured ear-drum) I had to just try and (navigate) the distance but with the second (ear injury) my equilibrium had completely gone.”

“When I went down in the tenth, the ref’ said ‘how are you doing Ray?’ I said ‘real good but keep counting!’ (laughs). Ricky was a lot younger than me but I have no excuses as the better man won on the night.”

“We were ten years apart (in age) but I was in with a great fighter and I gave it my all. If I’d have been in my prime I feel I would have beaten him as I could have taken less and thrown more but that’s to do with a fighter’s pride; Ricky would probably say he’d have stopped me either way (laughs).”

“Tell Ricky he’s a great guy and was a terrific fighter and I’m proud to say I shared a ring with him.”

For Hatton, he would fulfil his dream of becoming world number one in his next fight six months later when stopping the legendary Kostya Tszyu in Manchester to lift the IBF world title. For Oliveira, he would box just once more; getting stopped again on a TKO to Emanuel Augustus eight months later.

Ray is still heavily involved with boxing and has his own gym in New Bedford, Massachusetts where he trains amateur and pro fighters including his son Ray Oliveira Jr. Junior is currently 8-1 as a junior-middleweight-come-welterweight with many already comparing him to his all-action father.

Parting shots

Oliveira would suffer a neck injury in his bout with Augustus where a seemingly light punch had him in obvious distress. Augustus worked only the body until the referee made a compassionate stoppage.

Ray was a former NABF and IBU champion and twice beat the favoured Charles “The Natural” Murray in upsets. “I broke my nose before each fight but still beat him both times.” He also snapped the unbeaten record of a young Vivian Harris.

Oliveira went the full route with punchers Vernon Forrest, Vince Phillips (who beat Tszyu and lost to Hatton), Padilla, Murray (twice) and Ben Tackie.

Ray was on a three-bout winning streak as a welterweight when he got offered the Hatton fight. It would be his one and only fight in the UK and his only pro bout outside the US.

The New Englander was set to return to the ring in 2010 aged 42 to face big-punching Joey Spina at 168lbs but, thankfully, the match fell through when Ray reportedly failed his pre-fight medical. Spina would KO late sub’ Antwun Echols instead.

Ray’s unusual nickname is Spanish for ‘Sugar’. He wanted to be distinguished from the other legendary “Sugar Ray’s”.

Sucra Oliveira was known for much of his fifteen-year pro career as an exciting TV fighter who was involved in numerous hum-dingers. It is therefore somewhat of a surprise that he never won The Ring Magazine’s prestigious “Fight of the Year” at any point. For the record, Hatton never won the accolade either.

The Oliveira victory would conclude Hatton’s reign as WBU champion with fifteen successful defences, including ten knock-outs.

When the retired Ray said he’d boxed Ricky Hatton in front of 80,000 in London it was hard not to think of Carl Froch…

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