Frank Warren Column: 13.11.15
Domestic dust-ups are the lifeblood of British boxing, and have been since fighting men first pulled on the gloves – then called ‘mufflers’ – in 18th century. Even before then, when combatants bare-knuckled down to it in roped-off meadows and the estates of the landed gentry.
Unfortunately these days pairing home-grown rivals is not as easy as it once was but when they happen there is no greater atmosphere in the arena or lick-lipping anticipation among the fans.
Britain is a nation rich in super-middleweight talent and I would like to see the couple who had such whirlwind wins last weekend now get it together.
Anyone who knows boxing knows that Callum Smith and Jamie Cox, both unbeaten and blistering punchers with almost identical records, would put on a terrific scrap, one that would be right up there among the fights of any year. It is a natural match, and one I believe the Board of Control should make for the British title.
Both showed their class, as well as their devastating finishing power in their respective one round conquests of Rocky Fielding in Liverpool and Hungarian Ferenc Albert in Dublin.
I thought Swindon’s Cox, who had been out for a couple of years, looked in superb shape in winning the WBO European title in just over a minute against an opponent whose recent record showed he was no slouch.
Jamie’s southpaw slugging looked more compelling than ever. He has not lost an ounce of his power venomous power. He has a great pedigree from being an ABA champion upwards and he deserves first shot at Smith’s newly-acquired British title. And it is a fight I would take my man to win.
Of course there is always a chance that Liverpudlian Smith would give up the belt rather than face Cox but, if that is the case, it doesn’t say too much about him, does it? But why would he do that? He and Jamie is a really big fight and the winner would be a worthy contender for any of the super-middleweight world titles.
I know Cox really fancies his chances against either Fedor Chudinov or Badou Jack, who he has already beaten in the amateurs. I’d put him in with any of the current world champions because he’s not a baby, he’s 29 and probably now at the peak of his career.
His strength is just unbelievable and he has certainly controlled some of that earlier wildness – both in the ring and out. He’ll be the first to admit he’s been a bit of a hothead at times, but he’s got himself together really well under trainer John Costello.
Smith was equally impressive in blasting out a three-times floored Fielding in a similarly brief encounter but the difference between them was that he got caught a few times in the exchanges whereas Albert barely laid a glove on Cox.
Of course, it may be difficult to make from a promotional point of view because of their different camps, but surely it is one the Board should order. So let’s get it on.
Kelly’s ’aye’ for Beefy
Talking of domestic duels, has anyone here seen Kelly? Jimmy Kelly, that is.
If you have, you will know that he is one of Britain’s outstanding young prospects and as such an ideal opponent for Callum Smith’s little brother Liam, who he challenges for Beefy’s WBO super-welterweight title on the Andy Lee-Billy Joe Saunders Xmas Cracker bill a the Manchester Arena on December 19th.
Before Liverpool’s Liam won the title we were talking about making him and Kelly for a British title fight, but things have moved on apace and now the 23-year-old Mancunian has a great chance to step onto the world stage and make a huge name for himself in what is a terrific local derby.
This is by no means a mismatch. Kelly is 16-0, had an outstanding amateur career and has acquired the WBO Youth title and Silver belt.
On the undercard when Smith cunningly gunned down John Thompson last month he defeated Martin Fidel Rios to capture the WBO Intercontinental title and earn his number eight world ranking.
He reckons he is ready for the big shot – and to become one.
I am sure the fans will agree when they see the sort of spirited fighter the kid from Wythenshawe, who has the devilish finishing power of Ricky Hatton, really is.
Trained by the astute Ensley ‘Bingo’ Bingham Kelly’s middle name is Kilrain – which his ex-boxer father gave him after the famed bare knuckle champion.
Interestingly trainer Bingham, the former two-time British super-welterweight champion, himself challenged for the same WBO world title against former top American pound-for-pounder Ronald ‘Winky’ Wright, but lost on points at the then Nynex Arena in November 1996.
Kelly may have been weaned mainly in the small halls, but then so was Terry Flanagan before he got his world title shot. Now the WBO champ is ranked as the world’s second best lightweight so this is a massive opportunity for Kelly to follow in the footsteps of his Mancunian mate. Liam will go in as favourite but I believe Kelly will give him one hell of a fight.
He certainly jumped at the opportunity when it was put to him, once all the talk about Smith meeting Shane Mosley had evaporated.
To be honest, that was never really a runner, although Sugar baby is a charismatic character – and doubtless would have sold quite a few tickets. But the fact is he is 44 years of age, looked pretty ropey in his bout against Ricardo Mayorga – his 59th – even in winning – and I know the WBO and the Board of Control had doubts about sanctioning it. The Board had asked for his medical records but never received them.
Instead we have a live and exciting match-up that that has all the ingredients of a potentially classic world title fight between two Brits bristling with youth, ambition and the unbridled passion of a genuine Liverpool-Manchester derby.
Interestingly it happens to be the first Liverpool v Manchester world title showdown in the boxing ring in 82 years. Manchester won then with the legendary Jackie Brown defeating Ginger Foran for the NBA world flyweight championship.
Boxing shows the way
With all the murky goings–on in major international sport at the moment not least the latest scandal in athletics (and fight fan Lord Coe has a real battle on his hands here) at least boxing can hold its head high.
Of course I’m not saying it’s squeaky clean – there are worrying doping issues in our game, too – but in my view it is now closer to the original ideal of the old noble art than it has been for many years.
Just look at the conduct of all the fighters involved in last week’s shows in Dublin and Liverpool; not a bad word was exchanged between any of the respective rivals in the main events. And the camaraderie and mutual respect shown afterwards as they hugged and either consoled or congratulated each other was deeply impressive and an example to other sports.
I particularly liked the manner in which Irish hero Jamie Conlan and his prospective rival Paul Butler sat together after Conlan’s four-rounds victory over Argentinean Adrian Dimas Garzon.
They chatted amicably, with Conlan saying “thanks for coming over mate’ to Butler as they shook hands. It is hard to conceive that this pair, who looked like bosom buddies as they spoke with BoxNation on the ring apron, could be knocking bits off each other early next year.
Butler v Conlon is a big fight for little guys and I am trying to get it as a final eliminator for a world title.
Meantime, Butler has an important date in Manchester when he challenges for the vacant WBO European super-flyweight title against then former two-time European champion Silvio Olteanu, a tough Hungarian who fights out of Madrid, in Manchester on December 19th.
The Ellesmere Port fighter, who previously held the IBF world bantamweight title, is still focused on winning a second world title in a lighter weight division even though he came up short in his attempt at IBF king Zolani Tete in March when he was stopped in eight rounds.
Since then, the 26-year-old has smashed his way back with a win over Gustavo Molina in five rounds in July and then destroyed Hector Rolando Gusman last month with one devastating left to the body in the first round.
Singh gets later show
On the subject of impressively quick performances, there was another from our Star of India, Vijender Singh, in Dublin, ruthlessly putting away his opponent in the first round. Ok, so Dean Gillen previously had only two fights, but this also was only Vijender’s second as a pro. His two appearances have been quite early on because of the time difference in India, where millions tune in on TV to watch him. But when he fights again in Manchester on December 19 he will promoted up the card so home fans will have a chance to see just how sure-fisted a pro prospect he is becoming.
Tomorrow in Hubbard’s Cupboard: Why Tyson Fury needs his head examined.