By Clive Bernath
The new British boxing season is but a few weeks away and there are some excellent domestic match-ups out there to be made. But, for one reason or another, these fights rarely come to fruition, mainly because of the ever-increasing politics that plague the sport like an incurable disease. Here is my wish list of potentially great fights that could happen were it not for the huge obstacles placed in the way by promoters and other influential forces in the sport.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if every potentially great fight could be made? Unfortunately, because of the ‘politics’ between various members of the fight fraternity, most of these small hall gems will never happen. But let us, for a few moments, imagine that all Britain’s licensed promoters had a very pleasant get together, put their differences aside and agreed that all the country’s top boxers and prospects should fight one other to find a true champ from each division. All right, I’ve got more chance of winning the lottery, but just imagine.
Heavyweight: Excluding Lennox Lewis, how about Herbie Hide vs Danny Williams. After Lewis, they are the two big names and that is a genuine 50-50 fight. There is a legitimate case for both men to emerge as the winner. Herbie is the more experienced and has the greater hand speed while Williams is the naturally bigger man and has huge potential. It would take a brave man to pick a winner, but I would have to lean towards Williams on points.
Cruiserweight: Johnny Nelson would be favoured to repeat his win over Manchester’s IBO champion Carl Thompson, but it would still be interesting to see the outcome of a second fight.
Light-heavyweight: Imagine a mini knockout tournament between Clinton Woods, Darren Corbett, Neil Simpson and Tony Oakey. Simpson already lost (controversially) to Corbett on points two years ago, but the Coventry man has improved since. Woods would probably emerge the victor, but Oakey is the one who may surprise a few people. Nevertheless, great fights for the fans.
Super-middleweight: Welshman Joe Calzaghe reigns supreme. With all due respect to Glenn Catley, David Starie, Robin Reid and Toks Owoh, Calzaghe would start a massive favourite. But there is an intriguing fight out for him against former undefeated British and European champion Dean Francis, who has recently been released from prison after completing a two-year prison sentence. He is due to make a return in Sheffield on September 13 and, providing he can still make 168lbs, a Calzaghe showdown would be very appealing.
Middleweight: Like Calzaghe, Howard Eastman is very much the main player in the division, having disposed of Robert McCracken in impressive fashion earlier in the year. But there are some nice lower profile fights that can still whet the taste buds of the genuine fan. Ryan Rhodes vs Lester Jacobs for instance. In the official British boxing yearbook, Jacobs’ age is listed as 38 years-old, but he is unbeaten in a professional career, spanning 27 fights. Rhodes is still only 25, but has had a full career that has seen him become British champion and a two-time world title challenger. The contrast in their respective career’s is vast to say the least, but that is what makes the match-up so intriguing. Even with the 14-year age gap, old man Lester can still pull off a stoppage win.
Junior middleweight: This is probably the hottest of all the weight divisions in Britain at the moment. Adrian Stone, Steve Roberts, Richard Williams, Wayne Alexander, Takaloo, Anthony Farnell or even Gary Lockett and Michael Jones, would make excellent scraps. Who is the best of this bunch is anyone’s guess, but watching this little lot square off would make for tremendous TV viewing. Before Stone was cruelly exposed by Shane Mosley, he would have been my pick of the bunch, but now any one of them could emerge victorious. They all have strengths and weaknesses.
Welterweight: The obvious match-up would be Commonwealth champion Jawaid Khaliq against British title-holder Harry Dhami. For the Pakistani and Indian communities in Britain, that is a massive fight. Styles make fights and theirs would blend well. A pairing between Irishman Neil Sinclair and Roberttown boxer James Hare is another notable fight. Khaliq is the pick here. He has an incredible chin and that would be enough to see him home against any of them.
Light-welterweight: Junior Witter has been making a lot of noise recently about getting it on with Manchester prospect Ricky Hatton. Yes, it’s a fight that should happen, but it would be a real stinker. The fight I would much prefer is Hatton against Commonwealth champion Eamonn Magee. I would have far more confidence in finding a needle in a haystack than picking a winner here. But, if pressed hard enough and barring cuts, I’d have to go for the ‘Hitman’.
Lightweight: Liverpool’s Colin Dunne proved he was the premier fighter in the 135lbs division when he outpointed Billy Schwer last year. But there are still two fighters out there that he has to prove himself against, one is Michael Ayers and the other is Bobby Vanzie. I would be happy to see either of the aforementioned battle it out with Dunne. Ayers vs Dunne would be a cracker, like their first fight, but Dunne would prevail this time. But he would come unstuck against a slippery customer like Vanzie aka ‘The Viper’.
Super-featherweight: British-based Bulgarian Tontcho Tontchev recently lost his 24 fight unbeaten record to Mexican journeyman Luis Lizzaraga, but a tear-up with British champion Michael Gomez is still a mouth-watering prospect. Tontchev’s Eastern European style against the aggressive come-forward style of Gomez would certainly be worth watching. Verdict, Tonchev by stoppage in the middle rounds.
Featherweight: Despite Naseem Hamed’s sole career defeat at the hands of Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera, the Sheffield showman is still clearly the No.1 in Britain. The clash I would like to see here pits veteran former WBO champion Steve Robinson against new boy Scott Harrison. The Scotsman is improving all the time and would stop the game Welshman in a good honest scrap.
Super-bantamweight and below: Michael Brodie is the dominant force at super-bantam, but at bantamweight a Noel Wilders vs Nicky Booth clash is a must. It’s a fight Wilders can edge on points. While at flyweight, Irishman Damaen Kelly vs Peter Culshaw has been talked about for long enough - so lets get it on! Kelly is my pick by late stoppage.
If you disagree with any of the above, or have any thoughts on your own match-up, please email me at clive.bernathclive.bernathsecondsout.com