By Alan Hubbard
Tonight is the night when we should be dusting down our best bib and tucker, polishing the winklepickers and turning up at the swanky Savoy Hotel in London to honour the Best Young Boxer of the Year at the annual Boxing Writers Club dinner.
Alas, both the best sports bash of the year and the award have been cancelled for the first time in 67 years, ko’d, like so many other functions, by the coronavirus.So the malady lingers on, hitting sport, including boxing, hard.
But the fight game has been punching back with vigour and considerable success by holding televised bouts behind closed doors. Many of these are unearthing great young talent which augurs well for the future once Covid is conquered. Gyms are full of youngsters skipping ropes and punching bags, with aspirations of eventually emulating the many role models which boxing has produced.
Much of this fresh talent is gravitating towards Frank Warren’s Queensberry regiment where they know that talent will be well nurtured. Had the Best Young Boxer award taken place this year at least three of Warren’s wonderkids would have been strong contenders for the trophy which must go to a boxer under 25. Brad Foster, Hamzah Sheeraz and Dennis “The Menace” McCann surely would have been high on the list of nominees.
So I have been holding a “virtual vote” in my own mind and I think I would have gone with 22-year-old stylist Foster who won the British and Commonwealth titles last year and brilliantly defended with a unanimous decision over James Beech jnr on the initial show from the BT studio in July.
Like many Queensberry cadets all three are undefeated and I might well have voted for 19-year-old bantamweight McCann had he fought more than seven times. In those contests he demonstrated that he is, alongside last year’s winner, Daniel Dubois, (another Queensberry man) the most exciting young prospect in the land, the “new Naz” according to Frank.
I’d bet on him to win next year although 21-year-old super-welterweight Sheeraz (11-0) is similarly both increasingly popular and exciting.
As I said, these closed door shows have been a sort of Opportunity Knocks for the youngsters. Every bill I’ve seen has included at least a couple of kids, if you call them that, who seem set for careers that are more than merely promising.
Last Saturday night, for example, the eighth Queensberry closed doors promotion in which headliner Liam Williams spectacularly dispatched a shell-shocked British middleweight title challenger Andrew Robinson in less than a round, featured similarly impressive victories by 21-year-old big hitter Mark Chamberlain (now 7-0) and Willy ‘Hurricane’ Hutchinson (13-0) of whom astute pundit David Haye declared: “He’s definitely one for the future.”
These two are among Hall of Fame promoter Warren’s 80-plus stable of fighters, who run the whole gamut weight divisions from world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury through to super-flyweight Sunny Edwards, 24 and 15-0 who is one of the many outstanding starlets in the stable.
It was an interesting coincidence that BT should televise the show from their Stratford studio on the night the BBC featured the final of Britain’s Got Talent. Those of us watching the boxing would appreciate that British Boxing’s Got Talent too.
Loads of it.
It is a shame that we could not have seen more of it in what has been virtually, if your pardon the phrase we have come to accept as the new normal, because of the pandemonium over the pandemic. Actually the situation may be partially responsible for the new wave of young youngsters coming into boxing. Many have no work, and with jobs hard to come by, young amateurs are turning pro sooner, and others who have never boxed are turning up at gyms where they are quickly attracted to the discipline and dedication the sport demands.
There is quality as well as quantity among some of these newbies and it is a shame that there could not have been a full programme of shows this year to allow them all to flex their fists. What I particularly like among the Class of 2020 is that trainers are encouraging them to employ the once forgotten art of body punching. So many bouts are ending these days with shots to the ribs or solar plexus that can be even more effective than punches to the head. There has been plenty of evidence of this in recent shows.
What I also like about this new wave is that all seem to be decent young men, fan-friendly, bright-eyed and as articulate in their interviews as they are with their fists. They have respect for their opponents too and it does seem that the Noble Art is currently setting an example for certain other major sports which are mired unacceptable behaviour by players and bosses.
Heavyweight David Adeleye, cruiserweight Jordan Thompson, light heavyweight Tommy Fury, super featherweight Archie Sharp, lightweight Sam Noakes and super lightweight Henry Turner are among several other Queensberry prospects in a stable adorned with such luminaries as Tyson Fury, Daniel Dubois, Joe Joyce, Carl Frampton, Anthony Yarde and Jack Catterall.
With youth having its fling, the blockbuster Dubois-Joyce scrap now scheduled for November 28, without ppv, a mouthwatering clash between Yarde and Lyndon Arthur at the Royal Albert Hall on December 5 where Warren will be celebrating his 40th year as a licensed promoter, and the prospect of a taste of Tyson Fury before Christmas, we have a sport where, in difficult circumstances, Queensberry is doing its best for the absent fans, via BT, to show that it has not forgotten them and to remind them just how good a spectacle boxing is.