Ted Cheeseman had a hot start before returning to earth, while Fitzgerald is coming into form at a good time; Danny Flexen on a cracking British title fight
While Robbie Davies Jr and Lewis Ritson populate the main event in Newcastle next week (October 19), the chief support is arguably even more intriguing. Ted Cheeseman will make a mandatory defence of his British super-welterweight title against Scott Fitzgerald. I am reluctant to label this a ‘crossroads’ clash because given Bermondsey’s Cheeseman is 24 and Fitzgerald, from Preston and 27, the loser can certainly come again. It is, however, a case of two fighters meeting in the middle given one flew out of the blocks only to be stymied in recent times, while the other confounded high expectations before only recently beginning to fulfil his undoubted potential.
Cheeseman, 15-1-1 (9), could seemingly do no wrong through his first 15 pro fights. Critics suggested he took too many shots but the aggressive, forceful style employed by the Londoner proved too much for a variety of domestic operators and foreign veterans. Not only that but the Tony Sims-trained box-fighter was rarely in a dull fight. Having only met four opponents with losing records, Cheeseman picked up quality wins over the likes of Tony Dixon and Lloyd Ellett, before passing an entertaining gut-check against dangerous American Carson Jones in February 2018. By the end of the year he was British champion, courtesy of a brutal beatdown of awkward and game Asinia Byfield.
Little did the enthralled fans realise however that Cheeseman was hiding an insidious demon. A serious gambling problem had gradually stolen his focus and, with his first child on the way, Ted began to struggle mentally and emotionally. In February 2019, a shot at European champion Sergio Garcia, thought to be winnable, developed into a drubbing with the memorably painful sight of Cheeseman, in the later rounds, walking forward, hands down, into accurate, hurtful blows. In the aftermath of his first professional defeat, Ted finally confessed his problems and, belatedly, sought help. His June comeback, a draw with an inspired Keiron Conway, saw Cheeseman, now with a clear head and a young son, return to marauding form but some of the limitations highlighted by Garcia remained. He still struggled with lateral movement and was too hittable. This fight will tell us just how much of the old Cheeseman – the head movement, the variety – is left.
Fitzgerald, unlike Cheeseman, was a standout international amateur. The longtime GB rep won Commonwealth Games gold in 2014 and turned over in a blaze of glory, signing with Matchroom. Eight of his 13 victories (nine inside schedule) have come against adversaries with losing records so he was very much protected during his apprenticeship, but still found himself dropped by underrated journeyman Adam Jones in Fitzgerald’s fifth contest. Working in a good gym under Dave and Mike Jennings, Scott, an extrovert character, was rumoured to struggle with his weight and general discipline outside the ring. He also seemed to receive rather less coverage that other touted British prospects, perhaps due to his not training in a major city or lacking that ‘name’ on his ledger.
These drawbacks came to a head in September 2018. Lined up to face big rival Anthony Fowler sooner rather than later, and weighing 155lbs, the closest he’d ever been to the championship limit, Fitzgerald laboured badly against Craig Morris, a decent fighter but one who had recently lost at Area title level. Going into the 10th and final session, Scott was behind but found a big left hook to end matters with just 47 seconds to go. The highlight-reel finished failed to obscure a poor performance and, when the Fowler fight was scheduled for the following March, Fitzgerald was a significant underdog. When he needed three attempts to make the 154lb limit, this only exacerbated existing concerns.
Fitzgerald got it all right on the night, though, having trained as hard as he had as a pro. He outboxed Fowler for long periods in a close 10-rounder, showed serious resolve in a tough 9th and sealed the career-best victory with a final-session knockdown, as the Liverpudlian poured in to end matters himself. Fitzgerald became a star overnight and took Fowler’s place as mandatory for Cheeseman’s British title.
Scott was initially going to meet Brian Rose in the interim but injured his hands and shoulder, withdrew and has been on the shelf since the Fowler triumph. Cheeseman was out in June so has been more active recently. He probably lacks a bit of momentum following the Conway draw but should have the desire to prove his doubters wrong, in the same way Fitzgerald did before beating Fowler.
It all adds up to what will likely be a compelling contest, with two men who prefer to trade than play chess meeting in or around their physical primes.