TOM STALKER: “THIS TIME I’VE GOT TO BE CLEVER.”
Ex Team GB Olympic skipper Tom Stalker intends to exact his own brand of rough justice when he re-convenes with gifted Welsh southpaw Craig Evans over what should be 10 quality rounds at Manchester Arena this Saturday. Both the vacant WBO European lightweight strap and a world ranking are at stake, writes Glynn Evans.
The ex amateur squad mates met for the same belt at the same venue in mid October. And while the judges couldn’t split them after 10 pulsating rounds, the general consensus was that Scouser Stalker had been shafted.
‘I thought I won the fight by at least three rounds. Most I spoke to saw it similar to that,’ states the ever chipper ‘Captain’, who was formerly ranked as the world’s number one lightweight after winning Commonwealth Games gold and medalling at the European and World Seniors.
‘I’d say that was the best performance of my career. It was my third fight with (coach) Danny Vaughan. We’re starting to gel – we’ve a great bond – and I’m finally starting to display more of my boxing.
‘In my head, I’ve won my last two fights (both draws) so it’s very frustrating. But that’s all in the past now. I know if I keep working hard, I’ll turn it round. I love what I do, every day I go to work at the MGM Grand. How many can say that?’
Their initial spat served as the 5ft 10in Stalker’s debut down at lightweight after commencing his pro career at 10stone.
‘Obviously the weight was more of a struggle than when I was at light-welter but I done it comfortable enough,’ he comments.
‘All the dieting makes me far more hungry in the ring and my height and long arms give me big advantages at 135 (lbs). Craig is a very good fighter, but if he dieted like I do, he’d make super-feather.’
As his mastery over Evans last time was widely acknowledged, some will be surprised that Stalker, already 31, opted for a sideways move by agreeing to a prompt rematch.
He explains: ‘It is more a case of me giving Craig the opportunity because most believe I won last time. But it was a great fight for the fans and I believe it will be again. I feel I’m improving every day under Danny at the MGM so expect to put in an even better performance.
‘Officially, I’ve been pro for three years but had eight months out with a ‘pec’ problem so really it’s just two. Anyway, boxing careers are marathons not sprints.
‘I’ve three daughters now (the latest addition arriving last month) and winning this belt will push me on to better things for both them and me.’
Already there are three blemishes on Tom’s 13 fight pro slate (10-1-2) but it appears nothing can douse his ambitions of replicating his amateur feat and dominating the world.
‘If all goes to plan this weekend, next year I want to defend the WBO European in great fights that move me up the world rankings,’ he says.
‘Turning pro, it was my goal to win a British title but (current lightweight champion) Scotty Cardle is me very good friend so it’d be a bit awkward. But I’d love to fight (23-0 Ghanaian banger) Richard Commey for his Commonwealth title. Sure, he’s a good puncher but I think he can be outboxed.
‘I’ve a lot of very good people rooting for me – Daniel (Kinahan, his manager) at the MGM, Danny Vaughan, Frank (Warren), BoxNation – and I want to make them all proud.’
His planned assault on the major belts in 2016, of course, will be dependent upon him righting a wrong against Evans on Saturday.
‘Last fight, at times, I stayed in the pocket too long and got tagged,’ he acknowledges.
‘I’m a good enough boxer not to get involved in wars. This time I’ve got to be clever and take that belt.’
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.