Brown posing after a win (pic Sean Waisglass)
By Sean Waisglass: Cruiserweight "Cowboy" Dale Brown, 33-3-1 (21), will attempt to cross the threshold tonight on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights (broadcast from the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida) and finally win a world title. He'll face off against American O'Neil "Give 'Em Hell" Bell, 23-1-1 of Georgia for the vacant IBF belt stripped from Kelvin Davis. Brown of Calgary Alberta, Canada (home of the Calgary Stampede rodeo, hence the nickname), has been a pro for a decade now, and at 33 years of age, this cowboy will likely ride off into the sunset if this last shot doesn't swing in his favour.
If you scribbled some tattoos on the shaven-headed Brown, he'd make a perfect cruiserweight version of Oba Carr or Angel Manfredy, his chrome-domed crafty-boxing contemporaries whose well-rounded skills made them perennial contenders in their divisions, but whom always seemed to come up short against the top tier (often as a result of shaky chins).
Brown got his first taste of the big time when he was put in against then-undefeated ex-Olympian and IBF champ Vassiliy Jirov on the undercard of Trinidad vs De La Hoya in '99. It was a very good nip and tuck inside battle that saw Brown doing some nice work and keeping the cards close against the favourite. But then Jirov's rib-crunching signature southpaw left to the body put an abrupt halt to Brown's challenge in the 10th.
His next significant bout was five months later against the unknown and undefeated prospect Wayne Braithwaite for the NABF title that Brown had held for over two years, but vacated to face Jirov. Again, Brown boxed well, only to have a broken nose throw off his momentum, and result in a TKO loss in the eighth round to the hard-charging future world titleholder. The third time to the top was not a charm, as Brown faced off against Jean-Marc Mormeck in France in late 2002 for the WBA strap, and ended up with the same result as against Braithwaite (without the broken nose).
After the Mormeck loss, Brown surprisingly broke from trainers/promoters Interbox in Montreal (who had world titleholders Dorin and Lucas at the time), and decided to return home to Calgary with his family and join up with some hometown trainers. A year later he managed to secure a new promoter in Florida's Warriors Boxing. Warriors got Brown back in contention with ESPN televised wins over fringe contenders Rich LaMontagne and Robert Daniels. Brown looked revitalized, sharply taking apart the rugged LaMontagne over 12, dropping him twice, then smoothly outworking the seasoned vet Daniels (despite a silly split verdict in Florida via a sleazy judge voting for the Miami-based Daniels).
He's again in tough against Bell, a hard-hitting full-sized long-armed bruiser who was in a war with stripped champion Davis two years ago, and came out with a gutsy knockout win in the 11th round after getting dropped hard himself.
Brown is no stepping-stone in this fight - he's got skills. Brown uses good head movement and blocking to set up angles for swift and solid leads counters, and works off a nice jab as well. Countering is what he does best, but he also packs a sneaky right hand that can surprise, and Bell has notably been to the canvas a handful of times already. Brown also does his groundwork to the body early and then often, enabling him to soften up foes for the later rounds, when the well-conditioned Brown can still put out. The prime concern for Brown and his team is of course, getting hurt by the heavier-handed Bell, whose only had one win go the distance. But of note, two of Brown's KO loses came while on his feet, and the third via a body shot, so he doesn't exactly have a glass jaw behind his chin.
Looking fresh and focused these days, there will be no excuses from the humble and down-to-earth Brown if things don't work out tonight. The very Canadian in character Brown is a straight shooter who has always been realistic about his career, and a poor showing tonight will set him back far enough that only short money or journeyman status will be in his future, and he likely knows it. On the other hand, Bell has clawed his way to the top of the division and gained the respect of the fans and media, so if Brown can finally tie together his best boxing qualities (well regarded by ESPN analyst and ex trainer Teddy Atlas) he'll finally get out from under the shadow of contendership and be a legit world title holder. Then the Cowboy will likely be saddling up for a unification rematch with Mormeck, an admirable goal expressed on a recent episode of In This Corner, Canada's weekly boxing news show on the ESPN counterpart TSN.
May 20, 2005