By Clive Bernath: Around this time last year I wrote an article entitled //www.secondsout.com/uk/column_49692.asp">Young prospects to watch in 2003, profiling three young boxers that in my opinion were the best three genuine (not hyped up) prospects Britain had to offer at that time.
Well, I’m pleased to say that all three, Roman Greenberg (heavyweight), David Haye (pictured //www.mr-will.co.uk">Mr Will) (cruiserweight) and Carl Froch (Super-middleweight) did not let me down.
All three have continued to impress and remain unbeaten, though all three sailed close to the wind on at least one occasion.
Firstly, in the case of the 21 year-old Greenberg, he fought eight times in 2003, starting off by knocking out Polish doorman Piotr Jurczyk in less than a round.
That was followed by a second round stoppage win of the overmatched American Calvin Miller in Miami Florida in March. Whilst in Miami he was observed by legendry Muhammad Ali trainer Angelo Dundee. The wise 81 year-old openly said that Greenberg was the finest heavyweight he had seen since Ali and has agreed to advise Greenberg in the future.
But lets not get too carried away. Whilst the Evans/Waterman fighter is an undoubted talent he is still only 21 and has a long way to go. Following the Miller win Greenberg fought twice more in Miami, stopping the capable Troy Beets in three and Tracy Williams in two.
He also knocked out Nottingham journeyman Gary Williams in one round and forced the normally durable Luke Simpkin to retire at the end of the fourth round.
The two wins over British opposition were routine but manager/trainer Jim Evans wanted Greenberg to get some rounds under his belt as the previous 12 fights had not seen the Russian born boxer lose a single second of any of the 39 previous rounds let alone build up a sweat. So he drafted in tough Ukrainian Konstantin Prizyuk, who had previously lost a points decision to John McDermott. That did not work either, Greenberg was punch perfect in knocking out Prizyuk inside one round.
Now, I did say that all three prospects I chose suffered minor scares along the way and Greenberg suffered his in his last contest of 2003 against Lithuanian Mendauga Kulikauskas.
Southpaw Kulikauskas dropped Greenberg on the seat of his pants in the second round with a flash knockdown. Greenberg seemed more embarrassed than hurt but clearly lost the first two rounds as he was beaten to the punch by the quicker Kulikauskas. Being as Greenberg trades on his hands down style and fast reflexes the first two rounds were not too encouraging. Manager Evans wanted to see what his young prospect was made of and in the following three rounds he found out. Greenberg, who admittedly went into the bout with both hands damaged and no southpaw sparring, sprang to life and handed Kulikauskas a merciless beating until the fight was stopped on a cut in the fifth round.
2004 will see Greenberg step up in class. The plan is to be knocking on the door of a European title by the end of next year. There has been much interest from many promoters and television networks both in Britain and the US. I for one will be studying Greenberg’s progress very carefully in 2004.
What we must not forget though is that Greenberg is still only 21. And whilst our other heavyweight hope Audley Harrison does not have time on his side at 32, The Russian born Jew has all the time in the world and must not be rushed.
Cruiserweight David Haye also produced the goods in 2003. He fought eight times, culminating in a devastating first round stoppage win over Tony Dowling to win the vacant English cruiserweight title.
Prior to that though, Haye was dumped on the seat of his pants in a routine six rounder against Danish based African Lolenga Mock. Mock, a blown up heavyweight floored Haye with a right on top of the head in the second round. Haye was hurt and admitted as much afterwards but he showed his character by recovering well and by flooring and stopping Mock in the fourth round albeit controversially.
David was well aware of his critics suggesting that he may be just another hyped up prospect that was floored by a pumped up light-heavy-weight but proved that that was far from the case against Dowling for the English title.
Haye entered the ring with his head down as though he was in deep concentration. He knew an impressive performance against the reasonably durable Dowling would redeem him in the eyes of the media and an impressive performance is what he produced. From the opening bell he punished Dowling with every shot he threw before flooring him a number of times and stopping him after just 1.35 of the opener.
So whats in store for the Lion and SEM promoted prospect in 2004? I would think that Haye will make one or two defences of his English title before moving up in class, possibly a challenge to British and Commonwealth champion Mark Hobson. Then it will be on to the European stage.
At Super-middleweight Carl Froch, though still very much a novice, has thrown down the gauntlet to all our domestic 12st fighters with I presume the exception of Joe Calzaghe and Brian Magee.
Froch also won his first title this year. Following a tough first fight of the year against cruiserweight Valery Odin, Froch looked good in dismantling local Nottingham rival Michael Monaghan (rsf 3) and Varuzhan Davtyan (rsf 5).
But it was in his last but one fight back in October that he faced his toughest test to date against Russian hardman Vage Kocharyan. Kocharyan had already proved to British fight fans what a handful he could be by flooring and losing out closely on points to former WBC super-middleweight champion Glenn Catley previously and yes he did give Froch a torrid time.
The 26 year-old came through on points over eight (78-75) but he was wobbled in the last by the persistent cagy southpaw. Prior to the Kocharyan fight Froch had been out since April, through injury and maybe in hindsight should have been eased back with easier opposition.
What does the future hold for Froch in 2004? Very difficult question. In the case of Greenberg, he is being openly guided towards the world heavyweight title so will more or less pursue the tried and tested route against experienced American journeymen followed by over the hill former champs. With Haye, as I said he will go the British title route then Europe. But the aforementioned route could be more difficult for Froch next year.
By that I mean, yes he could compete with British champion Tony Dodson but then Britain and Europe are pretty strong at 12st with Joe Calzaghe, Robin Reid and Brian Magee while on the European front Danes Mads Larsen and Mikkel Kessler as well as German Mario Veit. Could all prove one step too far at the present time.
Still, Froch is talented no question. Maybe 2004 is spent gaining experience against quality former champions then in 2005 I have no doubt he will be ready for an assault on Europe.
December 19, 2003.