High up in the Gwent valleys, Blackwood lightweight Craig Evans has been smouldering for the last two months.
The 26 year old from Tony Borg’s upwardly mobile St Joseph’s gym in Newport was neither happy with the result nor his display following his high grade 10 round draw with Tom Stalker for the WBO European gong at Manchester Arena last October.
But the one time European schoolboy medallist and ex British amateur champ gets a swift opportunity to atone when the ex Team GB teammates renew acquaintance inside the same ring this Saturday.
‘It was a great fight for the fans and I like to be involved in fights that everybody talks about after,’ says the skilful southpaw who has lost just once (a prickly British title challenge to Scott Cardle) in 16 pro starts.
‘But I was very disappointed with my performance. It weren’t me. I was too flat footed. I started well then tired and I don’t know why. I changed my diet this time. Also my Nan died the Thursday before and I don’t use that as an excuse but subconsciously perhaps it drained me, I don’t know.
‘Tom showed he had a good engine which surprised me and he’s a naturally bigger boy. Credit to him. But I don’t think he can bring better than that. I was only at 50% capacity of what I can be.’
When quizzed on the ring apron immediately after the fight, Newport-born Evans conceded that he thought he’d been edged out. However, he has subsequently re-assessed.
He says: ‘I’m always extremely critical of my performances and, on the night, I thought I’d just lost. But when I reviewed the tape, Tom was nicking rounds by only really working in the last 30 seconds. Also, I scored a clear knockdown (ruled a slip) in round nine. Had that been scored, I’d have actually won.
‘Either way, I’m very pleased that we’re getting it back on straight away. I’ve had too much inactivity in my career so I’m really looking forward to it. Wales v England always adds a bit of spice.’
The super-fit Taff won 14 straight after entering the paid ranks as a super-feather but, in his second successive gig since jumping up to 135lbs, he flagged in the final quarter.
‘I’ll re-assess my division after Saturday,’ he says.
‘I can probably still make super-feather but the bigger fights are definitely at lightweight and it’d be fantastic to force my way into the mix with the likes of Terry Flanagan, (Anthony) Crolla, Derry Mathews, Ricky Burns, Cardle again …..’
And the man who once stretched the Ukraine’s double Olympic champion and current WBO featherweight king Vasyl Lomachenko to the final bell in a singlet and head guard, is threatening a vastly improved showing when he squares off with Stalker in what promises to be another ‘even money’ belter in Manchester this Saturday.
‘I’ve put more graft in, in the gym, left nothing to chance. I’ll be right on my game this time,’ he assured me.
‘How the fight goes will largely depend on what Tom brings but I guarantee I’ll be more patient, more focussed, not as tired.
‘I’ll give it my best as I always do and, if I get my plan right on the night, there’s only one winner. Me. Hands down!’
Frank Warren’s end of year title extravaganza ‘X-Mas Cracker’ is headlined by two massive world title showdowns with WBO World Middleweight Champion Andy Lee defending his title against Billy Joe Saunders and WBO World Super-Welterweight Champion Liam Smith making his first title defence against Jimmy Kelly. A staggering SIX further titles are on the line with Mitchell Smith defending his WBO Intercontinental Super=Featherweight title against George Jupp; Paul Butler challenges for the Vacant WBO European Super-Flyweight Championship against Silvio Olteanu; Tommy Langford defends his WBO Intercontinental Middleweight Championship; Commonwealth Super-Welterweight Champion Liam Williams and Kris Carslaw clash with the Vacant British title also on the line. Jack Catterall defends his WBO Intercontinental Super-Lightweight Championship and Adrian Gonzalez defends his WBO Intercontinental Lightweight Championship. Plus the undercard features Indian superstar Vijender Singh.