FRANK WARREN’S SCRAPBOOK – 18.12.15
When the clock strikes 12 midnight in Manchester tomorrow I hope it will be signalling a symbolic acknowledgement of the coronation of a twelfth world champion for Britain.
I am backing my man Billy Joe Saunders to write a happy ending to this boxing Travellers’ tale by nicking the WBO middleweight title belt from around the waist of his classy Romany rival Andy Lee.
I can understand that some were wondering if this mouth-watering match-up was ever going to happen after the double postponement and all that has been going on in boxing these past few months; because of this it has been a bit of a hard sell.
But it is happening here and now and at last the pairing that that promises to bring a fitting finale to such a glorious year for British boxing is finally happening.
I am sure both Lee and Saunders will play their roles robustly in an intriguing encounter that has classic written all over it.
It is so evenly poised even the bookies can’t seem to split them.
No doubt the genuine respect these two guys have for each other will continue once the bell goes but that won’t prevent them battling with the fierce intensity that befits the warriors status both have earned.
There is a lot riding on this for the victor – not just the ultimate bragging rights of their communities – but because big money and big fights beckon with champions of the calibre of power-punchers Gennady Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs keen to march towards unification of the middleweight division, traditionally second only to the heavyweights as the most glamorous in boxing and arguably more competitive.
I fancy Billy Joe to produce the goods, as he has done in all his previous 22 bouts. There is no-one in British boxing with greater gumption or stronger resolution.
Moreover he takes a good whack on the whiskers while we know that the eminently likeable Lee, for all his wily skills, is vulnerable and no stranger to the canvas.
There is no doubt his ploy will be to outlast and outpoint Saunders, who some reckon tends to fade in the championship rounds, and that this was particularly evident against Chris Eubank jnr.
I disagree. I thought he won the eleventh and there was little between them in the twelfth.
Both Lee and Saunders have big hearts and whoever loses will go out on his shield.
It is clear they can’t wait to finally face each in the ring to settle the argument raging in the boxing-mad Travelling communities in the UK and Ireland – apparently with huge wagers being laid – about which of the two southpaw sluggers is the better man.
I believe it will be the younger, busier Billy Joe. But you don’t need a gypsy fortune teller’s crystal ball to forecast that this is going to be one hell of a pre-Xmas cracker.
A talent-packed bill at the Manchester Arena, which can be seen live on BoxNation (www.boxnation.com), features another home-brewed world title fight between Liverpool’s newly-crowned WBO super-welterweight champ Liam Smith and Manchester’s Jimmy Kelly jnr.
The fact that this is the first time for eighty-odd years that boxers from Manchester and Liverpool have faced off in a world title fight sprinkles even more spice on his tasty morsel.
Obviously Smith starts favourite, particularly after the devastating manner in which he acquired the title against John Thompson in October, but, but don’t diss Kelly’s chances.
He is unbeaten with has decent ring pedigree compiled mainly in small halls under expert tuition of Lee Beard, a manager and trainer who is shrewd enough know when a fighter is ready for such a major test.
Jimmy almost snatched my hand off when the offer to fight Smith was put to him and I know he really fancies the job.
This may be only the 17th fight for the 23-year-old but world titles have been won with fewer. Think Leon Spinks – he was just 7-0 when he beat Muhammad Ali.
I am not suggesting as shock of such magnitude as this or even Fury over Klitschko, but while I think Smith will win, young Kelly is certainly in with a fighting chance.
Talk about Christmas coming early. There are plenty more pugilistic pressies to be unwrapped on the night with six more titles on the line: Mitchell Smith defends his WBO Intercontinental Super-Featherweight title against George Jupp; Paul Butler challenges for the vacant WBO European Super-Flyweight Championship against Spain’s Silvio Olteanu; Tommy Langford defends his WBO Intercontinental Middleweight Championship against Poland’s Robert Swierzbinski; Commonwealth Super-Welterweight Champion Liam Williams and Kris Carslaw meet with the Vacant British title also on the line; Jack Catterall defends his WBO Intercontinental Super-Lightweight Championship against Mexican Noe Nunez Rodriguez – and here’s real quality cracker to pull with Tom Stalker and Craig Evans clashing again for the vacant WBO European Lightweight Championship after their pulsating draw in October.
Our undercard also features Merseyside favourite Joe Selkirk, fast-rising Indian superstar Vijender Singh, Anthony Yarde and top Manchester prospects Jack Flattley and Dale Coyne, plus Razza Hamza.
Surely enough to fill Santa’s sack for any fight fan!
Tomorrow: Take another peek inside Hubbard’s Cupboard