Leak, Gomez and Massey all progress
It was another packed weekend of boxing in the North West. On Friday night, PBE returned to Bowlers Exhibition Centre and the following evening the VIP Promotions roadshow pitched up in Buxton. The weekend’s results won’t have a significant impact on any rankings and there were no shock outcomes, the ‘home’ fighters completed a clean sweep over the two nights, but for those who attend shows in the North West regularly there were plenty of points of interest.
Anybody whose interest was piqued by the attention Anthony Leak (3-0, 2 KO’s) has recently been generating may well have googled his name and been greeted with a list of news articles rather than his BoxRec page. The 26 year old middleweight has had a troubled past but is finally attempting to settle down and make something of himself. “We are what we are,” said Leak as he got changed after his third round stoppage of Georgi Valevski on Friday night.
Much has been made of Leak’s amateur victories over fighters like Callum Smith and Tommy Langford but they are distant specks in the past and should be treated as no more than pointers to his potential. Eight years away from the ring is a long time and Leak has a lot of ground to make up but he is still young enough to have maintained two extremely important aspects of his style; speed and timing. A nervy debut last November was followed in February by the type of explosive appearance that can catapult a fighter to the forefront of minds.
Earlier on Friday afternoon I perched myself on the edge of the ring at the Finest Gym watching Steve Maylett talk his fighters through a technical sparring session. Maylett was preaching the benefits of the exact body shot that began Valevski’s demise on Friday. Leak also seems to be grasping the ‘in and out’ style that fighters from The Finest Gym are renowned for, making opponents fall short before stepping back in with fast, straight punches. When Leak cuts loose on the pads, he is a site to behold. The challenge for Maylett will be getting him to control the fire that is clearly driving him on and continue to remember the technical skills he possesses. That fire burned a little too fiercely at times on Friday night - Leak hit Valevski while he was down and picked up a warning for pushing him over – but if he can use it to his advantage, it could become a potent weapon.
Francis Warren is clearly taking a keen interest in Leak’s development. He has been at ringside for his last two outings and and feels that the best way to help Leak settle into his new life is to keep him busy. Leak will feature on the big BoxNation bills but keeping him active on lower profile bills like Friday evening’s event will serve a dual purpose. They will get Leak physically accustomed to the rigours of training day in, day out and also build his fan base.
Away from the ring, Leak is confident and friendly and seems to appreciate that he is fortunate to have been given another opportunity to make the most of his talent. That gratitude will inevitably translate itself into an over eagerness to impress. “Was that alright, Steve?” asked Leak as we made our way back through the rundown venue to the changing room, past the stage scenery and sci-fi character mannequins that get wheeled out when Bowlers converts itself into a rave venue.
Once he relaxes into the routine of being a professional fighter and learns to deal with the new positive attention that is coming his way, Leak should develop into a serious problem for anybody on the British middleweight scene.
I’ve been ringside at all but one of Michael Gomez Jnr’s professional fights. It is almost three years since the 22 year old turned professional with plenty of hype and a stoppage victory and since then, he has in turn disappointed and frustrated. Gomez has fought only seven times (all wins, two early) and has been unable to settle on a gym, a trainer, a promoter, a weight class or a style of fighting. Quite a quintet.
A few months ago, Gomez’s tour of the Manchester boxing scene saw him pitch up at Anthony ‘Arnie’ Farnell’s gym in Failsworth. Maybe stung by past experiences with high profile fighters, Farnell simply won’t entertain fighters who aren’t willing to match his level of dedication and Gomez had the law laid down to him immediately.
So far, so good. Gomez has knuckled down at Arnies and has become a popular member of the gym. Some high class sparring with mystery flyweight ‘Phil’ [more of whom soon, hopefully] seems to have bought him on in leaps and bounds and he clearly enjoys being treated like just another member of the team rather than “Gomez’s son.”
For some fighters, entering the ring seem to provide a few minutes of calm from their whirlwind private lives and there was some typical ‘will he - won’t he?’ rumours surrounding his participation during fight week but, when he did make it to the dressing room, Gomez was as sharp and relaxed as I’ve seen him and seemed surprised himself about just how good he felt at featherweight. “I’m sharp as fuck. I feel different than I have for all my other fights. I’m gonna smash him. Arnie, you might as well stay stood on the ring apron. It’s gonna be quick.” he said in between simple but correct and quick combinations on the focus paddles. He also looked different, decked out in a pair on off the peg shorts and a plain black cap. The famous family sombrero nowhere to be seen.
Gomez didn’t “smash” Ignac Kassai but he hurt him early with his short, snappy punches and continued to walk him down until the fight was stopped in the third round. He wasn’t perfect but he seemed comfortable with what he was doing and showed some much needed menace when the chance to finish the fight presented itself.
Gomez may well look back on Friday night as a pivotal moment in his career. Rumours swirl around the Manchester fight scene that Gomez’s heart isn’t really in the sport and doesn’t want to test himself but on Saturday night he seemed extremely happy with his lot. Following his victory he called out former stablemate Artif Ali (who boxed his way to a safety first six round decision on the same card) and declared that he is no longer “Just Michael Gomez’s son, I’m my own man.” A statement that drew shouts of support from Michael Snr who was stood with the fans, far enough away to give his son his own space but close enough to offer his support. Gomez is extremely unpredictable and the possibility always exists that he changed his mind about his future in the sport as his car left the venue car park but, hopefully, the penny has dropped.
On Saturday night, Buxton’s beautiful Devonshire Dome converted itself from ornate tourist attraction to seething bear pit (ok, that maybe a bit of a stretch) for local hero Jack Massey’s latest outing. The Grade 2 listed building has become one of the more unique and popular venues on the local calendar and this was the fourth consecutive time that Bobby Rimmer trained Massey has packed it out.
If you live outside the spa town, you may not have heard too much - if anything - about the cruiserweight hope, but the unbeaten 23 year old has been forging quite a reputation for himself. Buxton’s isolated location has helped Massey (12-0, 6 KO’s) bring an event style atmosphere to the town and a series of knockout victories have helped ‘One Smack Jack’ to capitalise on his captive audience. A well-heeled Devonshire Dome fight crowd is treated to opera singers, a three course meal and clean toilets.
Understandably kept safe whilst learning his trade and building his fan base, Massey stepped up slightly when he faced Russell Henshaw on Saturday night. Don’t paint me as a Brexiteer for mentioning this but for prospects that have made it to Massey’s level, British is best. Henshaw may not be a world beater but he was a known commodity with a winning record. There is much more to be gained from impressing against an opponent like Henshaw than there is from knocking over a non descript Eastern European.
Massey was too quick and too clever. The first punches he threw established his range and rather than adopting a safety first attitude, he chose to close the show. Henshaw was on his feet but unable to defend himself when the fight was stopped as the bell sounded to end the very first round.
Massey is part of a flourishing north west cruiserweight scene. BoxNation viewers will soon be able to monitor his progress and compare and contrast his development with that of Manchester’s exciting 6ft 7in tall knockout artist, Jordan Thompson. Sale’s unbeaten Sam Hyde [who scored a second round knockout on Friday night to move to 9-0-1, 4 KO’s] should also be in the mix by autumn.
This weekend, the show continues. On Friday night, Black Flash Promotions stage the English light middleweight title fight between Matty Ryan and Sonny Upton and VIP Promotions have Adam Ismail defending his Central Area welterweight title against Andy Colquhoun in Wigan. On Saturday, attention turns to the Manchester Arena and the eagerly awaited world lightweight title rematch between Jorge Linares and Anthony Crolla.