Friday, 14 December 2012

Brits in action home and away tonight

Tonight at the Excel Arena in London, George Groves puts his Commonwealth super middleweight title on the line against ageing gatekeeper Glen Johnson. Johnson retired after his last fight back in July which he lost by way of unanimous decision against Andrzej Fonfara in Chicago. The lure of another big payday has brought the legendary Jamaican back to the ring.

Johnson has a reputation, and a big one at that, for giving fighters of any level the fight of their lives, and I see no reason why tonight will be any different. It is true that at the age of 43 and having been close to retirement for many years, with actual retirement coming back in July, that Johnson is most certainly no longer in his prime. But it must also be pointed out that during the 3 years he has been in his forties, he has given Chad Dawson, Tavoris Cloud, and Carl Froch as much as they could handle.

It must also not be forgotten that Johnson has only lost once inside the distance and that was in his very first loss, all the way back in 1997, and at middleweight, against Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins. His other 16 losses have been by decision and I would estimate that almost all of them were very close or even controversial.
What we know for sure is Glen Johnson is coming to fight, coming to win and most certainly won’t lay down for Groves.

Groves is an upcoming hot prospect at the weight that at the age of 24 already has signature wins over big national rivals James DeGale and Kenny Anderson, Mexican contender Francisco Sierra, and the resilient Ghanaian Charles Adamu and has already held British and Commonwealth titles.

A win for Groves will further add to his resume at the weight and steer him in the right direction for a world title shot in the next 18 months. But he won’t be given the win easily, that is for certain.

Groves was the first person to stop Charles Adamu and could fancy his chances at becoming the first person to stop Johnson. But, Johnson has one of the toughest chins in the history of boxing as he has shown time and again.

VERDICT: I think Johnson will give Groves arguably his toughest fight to date but I expect Groves to pass this big test by winning a unanimous decision. A stoppage is unlikely in my opinion.

On the undercard, Billy Joe Saunders fights Nick Blackwell for the vacant British middleweight title. Saunders’ Commonwealth title will also be on the line.

Saunders entered the professional ranks around the same time as the other big name Olympians from 2008 did, but did so with the least attention on him. Despite this, he has really started to show himself to be a good prospect.

Of his 15 wins to date, 10 of them have been by stoppage, and all of them have come inside the first 2 rounds. He has shown he isn’t a one trick pony though, as he has also beaten some good domestic level foes over the distance; foes such as former Commonwealth champion Bradley Saunders and domestic contender Gary Boulden.

Nick Blackwell has a few good wins and has held the English title, and I expect him to put up a fight. But if Saunders is in the mood I think this fight could end early. I think Blackwell will survive the early rounds, despite Saunders’ obvious power, but I’m not sure he will make it to the end.

VERDICT: Blackwell makes it out of the first 2 rounds but I expect Saunders to end it soon after that; perhaps between rounds 4 and 6.

In Germany, Michael Sprott rematches Edmund Gerber. They fought back in September in a controversial fight which ended with the referee declaring Sprott had had enough in round 4, despite Sprott and viewers certainly disagreeing. This resulted in Sprott pushing the referee to the canvas.

Michael Sprott has all the experience in the world, having fought 55 times, many of which were against some of the world’s best at heavyweight. In his 16 years as a pro he has shared the ring with the likes of Kubrat Pulev, Alexander Dimitrenko, Ruslan Chagaev, Alexander Ustinov, Lamon Brewster, Alexander Ustinov, Matt Skelton, Danny Williams and Audley Harrison.

He is a resilient fighter, with a fairly tough chin, and has always given his all in the ring. Even at this late stage of his career at the age of 37, he’s still taking top European fighters like Kubrat Pulev and Alexander Dimitrenko, to the late rounds - he went 9 rounds with Pulev and 12 rounds with Dimitrenko.


Gerber is a prospect in age alone. At the age of 24 people are entitled to think he may become a contender at heavyweight. However, with no malice intended, I really don’t think that will happen. Gerber has shown very few signs that he might actually become quite good.

He has gone the distance with fighters like Darnell Wilson, Maurice Harris and Samir Kurtagic who are all in their late 30s and have developed into journeymen over the years. You would expect a top contender to be defeating opponents like this fairly early on. I don’t believe a fighter like David Price would have too much trouble doing that.
The fight is only over 10 rounds, so the championship rounds have been cut out which could be a saviour to Sprott and his 37 years.

VERDICT: I originally thought I would predict Gerber to win by stoppage in the middle rounds, perhaps round 6. But the more I look at Gerber’s limited ability the more I think it could go the distance. What the heck: Gerber wins on points.

Finally, the most high profile fight of the night is in California, as Amir Khan returns to the ring for the first time since his 4th round stoppage loss to Danny Garcia back in July.

Khan is coming off of 2 big losses on the trot, albeit one was very controversial. So he will want to bounce back with a big victory tonight. He has the perfect opponent in order to get such a win too: Little known Carlos Molina.
Molina is coming up from lightweight to accept what is clearly his biggest fight to date and will be giving away height, reach and natural weight advantages. The fight is obviously a confidence boosting fight for Khan as he tries to get back to winning ways.

I don’t know much about Molina so the only thing I can say is that he might have a puncher’s chance, which you would think quite a few fighters would have against Amir Khan. But, aside from a lucky punch, I can’t see Molina being able to trouble Khan.

Khan will also be fighting his first fight with Virgil Hunter in charge of him so it will interesting to see what changes they have made to Khan’s overall gameplan.

I expect that gameplan to be rather simple: Stick to the basics, keep the jab going strong early on, move smartly any time Molina tries to land while close, throw flurries when the opportunity arises, and finally go for a knockout when the time is right. I think Khan will do what is needed and expect nothing less than a knockout.

VERDICT: Khan wins by knockout or stoppage by the middle rounds. I have gone with round 7 myself.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Great British boxing action this weekend

At the Aintree Equestrian Centre in Liverpool Friday night, exciting British heavyweight champion David Price defends his title against veteran Matt Skelton. Many people have already waved this fight off as being a pointless defence as Price looks almost guaranteed to win via an early stoppage. I disagree with these people.

Price won the British title, the oldest belt in boxing, against Sam Sexton just two fights ago and his first title defence was against Audley Harrison in his last fight. He needs to defend it twice more to win the title outright. I think this should be his first priority before even thinking about anything else. The Lonsdale belt is among the most prestigious title belts out there, even today, and should be held in very high regard.

The rumours before the Audley Harrison fight were that he could fight Skelton afterwards, followed by the winner of Richard Towers vs Lucas Browne. If Towers is unsuccessful, and Browne wins, Price would be unable to defend the British title against him as he is Australian; only the Commonwealth title would be on the line. This would therefore still leave an interesting third British title defence open to Price. How about a final title defence against Dereck Chisora or Dillian Whyte? Better still, a clash between himself and fellow giant Tyson Fury?

Time to drop the British title and move up a level? I think not. I can only speak for myself, but if I was given the chance of owning a British Lonsdale belt or a generic “World” alphabet title, I would choose the British title every single time and have a piece of history in my possession.

David Price should beat Skelton, and most probably will, via an early stoppage. If he does, I think this would be a very significant win for the tall Liverpudlian. Nobody stops the likes of John McDermott, Sam Sexton or Audley Harrison early on but that is exactly what David Price did to them. Throw in the fact he now has 8 wins within the distance in his last 8 fights and it’s evident the man has some power in his fists.

Skelton has lost 6 times, each time to very capable opponents, and only 3 times within the distance. Those 3 times were against tough Irishman Martin Rogan (TKO 11), Italian prospect Francesco Pianeta (RTD 8) and top heavyweight contender Kubrat Pulev (KO 4).

Despite 4 losses out of 5 from 2008 to 2010, he seems to have bounced back in recent months. He has 3 wins this year already, one against prospect Tom Dallas, and only a close split decision loss to Michael Sprott in 2010 prevented him from winning the Prizefighter tournament.

Skelton may be 45 years old, but he is in good shape, very rugged and the only guy to beat him in fewer than 8 rounds is a guy who I rate as only second to the Klitschko brothers.

If Price is able to stop Skelton early on, I think the heavyweight division should be put on high alert as this guy’s power will be coming for them very soon.

Verdict: Price will stop the durable Skelton within the first 3 rounds despite all of Skeltons’ efforts to remain in the fight.

At the Manchester Arena, also on Friday night, we will see Commonwealth welterweight champion Denton Vassell defend his title against fellow undefeated Briton Ronnie Heffron.

Heffron has some decent domestic experience with wins over guys like Peter McDonagh, Barrie Jones and Kevin McAuley but he hasn’t yet fought anyone on Vassell’s level. He will be happy with this title opportunity though and will be going in there in determined mood.

He tends to fight up close to his opponents, taking punches in order to throw some. I see him going to the body a lot in this fight as he tries to wear Vassell down.

Vassell isn’t shy of a fight himself though. He will see this as another day at the office and will give Heffron back everything he receives.

With wins over Lee Purdy, Samuel Colomban, Bethuel Ushona and plenty of domestic level success as well as 97 rounds boxed as a professional, Vassell has the edge in experience and quality of opposition. I see this as being a very competitive fight between two good prospects.

Verdict: I’m going with Vassell’s experience and heart to outdo Heffron on points. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Heffron pulled off an unlikely points decision either, perhaps setting up a good rematch.

Also, on the undercard former England cricket star Andrew Flintoff makes his professional boxing debut. Many fans are wondering why he would make such a move at his age (just short of 35), but only he will really know.

At 6ft4, close to 20 years of professional sporting experience and a supposedly hard punch (according to those training him), it would seem as though he has all the credentials to do well in boxing. We must also take into account that playing cricket requires guts; having a ball weighing 160 grams thrown at you at speeds of up to 100mph isn’t for wimps, and those helmets are about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike.

But, we must remember he is nearly 35 and has a history of injury problems. In the early days of his career he was criticised for his fitness levels and since then injuries have blighted much of his career. He has suffered injuries to his foot, back, groin, shoulder, knee and most notably has had reoccurring ankle issues.

As a cricketer, he was the star of the 2005 Ashes series as England beat Australia for the trophy for the first time in 18 years, he won BBC Sports personality that same year, and at his peak he was rated as one of the world’s best players. But that was in cricket, this is boxing.

His opponent is undefeated American Richard Dawson, who fans will know even less about. All this fan knows about him is he is quite a few inches smaller than Flintoff. Will this be significant? Only time will tell.

Verdict: Who knows what to expect?! Richard Dawson is the favourite to win but i wouldn't gamble on this in a million years.

On Saturday night, at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast, Tyson Fury fights experienced American heavyweight Kevin Johnson. Fury is the favourite to win but HOW is another matter.

Johnson has only lost twice in his 9 year professional career and they were to Vitali Klitschko on points in 2009 and to prospect Tor Hamer over 3 rounds in the Prizefighter International heavyweight tournament back in June. He also has 173 rounds under his belt which is 80 more than Fury does. So the experience is in Johnson’s court in this fight.

He has some decent wins too but nothing too spectacular; the best probably being against Alex Leapai, Devin Vargas, Damian Wills, Terry Smith, Matthew Greer, and Robert Hawkins.

Tyson Fury can actually boast a better record with wins against notable challengers such as Dereck Chisora, Vinny Maddalone, Martin Rogan, Neven Pajkic, Nicolai Firtha and John McDermott.

Fury garners as much praise in the boxing community as he does derision. Personally, I have nothing but praise for the boxing giant. At 24 years old, he has already had 19 fights and many of which against good domestic challengers or former/current world contenders.

His fights are entertaining, his character has brought interest to the heavyweight division both at home and abroad, and he has fought a full array of talented boxers that no other young heavyweight boxer even comes close to.

Show me the record of any other 24 year old heavyweight out there today who has a better record than Tyson Fury. I can assure you this is a challenge that nobody will take up.

Can he stop the tough American within the distance? I think he has the power to do so but Johnson did go the distance with Vitali Klitschko; although that was 3 years ago.

Verdict: Fury wins a unanimous decision after a gruelling fight.

On the undercard, I expect John O’Donnell and Chris Eubank Jr both to record unanimous decision victories. 

Friday, 23 November 2012

Ricky Hatton Returns

Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton returns to the ring after a near 3 and a half year layoff. Fans of the ferocious former light welterweight King will be excited by his return and cynics will of course be wondering what his return is all for.

Personally, I don’t think it’s a smart move on his part as I have watched boxing long enough to know that comebacks are very rarely successful. For every success, there are a dozen failures. But I suppose it all depends on what one would rate as “success”. Is he returning to lift more world titles? He’ll be competing at welterweight where he has only fought twice before; against Luis Collazo and Floyd Mayweather Jr; if so, can he compete against the current crop of welterweights? The list of top fighters currently on the welterweight scene include Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley, Devon Alexander, Marcos Maidana, Robert Guerrero, Kell Brook and Victor Ortiz. I’m not sure how many bookmakers would make Hatton favourite against any of those fighters.

As for this fight, Hatton starts as the favourite but Senchenko was a world champion up until his last fight. But that fight resulted in him being stopped by Paulie Malignaggi, a fighter not renowned for his power.
If Hatton brings at least 75% of what he once had I think he can beat Senchenko within the distance. He looked in peak shape at the weigh in earlier today so that is already half of the work done. Hatton’s power and body assaults should be enough to wear Senchenko down and force a stoppage in my opinion.

I wish him all the best and hope he succeeds in his plans and will reserve judgement until after he has fought Senchenko.

Verdict: I don’t think the fight ends before round 6 but I don’t think it goes to the full 10 rounds either. So I’m picking an 8th round stoppage for Hatton.

The undercard is just as intriguing as the main event.

Britain’s top 2 super bantamweights Scott Quigg and Rendall Munroe battle for the WBA interim title. Quigg starts as the slight favourite but Munroe should never be counted out. Quigg will have his work cut out for him if he is going to try to stop Munroe inside the distance. This means he will probably try to outbox Munroe over the 12 rounds.

In their first fight back in June, which ended in the 3rd round due to a clash of heads, Munroe pressed the fight pressuring Quigg early on. Quigg tends to do the pressuring in his fights so this could prove to be a tricky fight for Quigg if it goes the distance. Munroe is nowhere near finished and can still be a big player on the European scene. Quigg is the deserving favourite but I think it will go the distance and that means he will have to be at his absolute best to beat a top British fighter in Munroe. A stoppage win for Quigg though would be a big accomplishment and set up a potential mouth watering fight against Carl Frampton.

Verdict: I think Quigg wins on points. However, do not be at all surprised if Munroe has his hands raised at the end.

Also, Stephen Foster Jr challenges British super featherweight Gary Buckland. This could be the best fight on the night potentially. Buckland is odds on favourite to win and I’m not sure many would dispute that. But some are picking Foster to pull off the upset.

Foster doesn’t have a great deal of big wins but he’s only been beaten 3 times, all over the distance, and to top fighters. He will be aiming to stifle everything Buckland does on the night and will definitely have some success. His overall success on the night will depend on how well Buckland can handle the pressure.

Buckland on the other hand has some really big wins in recent years against the likes of Gary Sykes, Paul Truscott and the super featherweight Prizefighter tournament in 2010. He has been in quite a few brawls and Foster will be aiming for another. Expect to see another Buckland vs Sykes II.

Verdict: I expect another brawl and think the odds on Buckland to win might be a bit low. I think he will win a really close points decision but Foster could win this one no problem. Rematch to follow?

Martin Murray won’t know much about the little known Venezuelan Jorge Navarro but that shouldn’t stop him from winning comfortably.

In any fight where the opponent is unknown it makes predicting a knockout very tough. We must ask a lot of questions: How good is his chin? Can he punch? What’s his stamina like?

Roberto Bolonti lasted the full 12 rounds with Tony Bellew last weekend despite the latter being odds on to win within the distance. So we could see the same again, afterall Murray only has 10 knockouts from 24 bouts.
However, rumours are that if Murray wins he could receive a world title shot at Sergio Martinez in April next year. I think that should act as the ultimate motivation booster. If he can’t get up for that then he’s in the wrong career.

Verdict: I expect Murray to stop his opponent by the middle rounds; maybe round 7.

Also: Sergey Rabchenko should beat Cedric Vitu before round 6.

Friday, 9 November 2012

WBC light middleweight title eliminator in Las Vegas

In the main event this weekend in Las Vegas, light middleweights Erislandy Lara and Vanes Martirosyan battle it out for a shot at WBC champion Saul Alvarez.

The bookies seem to know who they think will win as they have made Lara a big odds on favourite. Is he really THAT likely to win?

Lara has certainly fought the better quality opposition. He fought, and beat in the eyes of most observers, Paul Williams in 2011. He followed that up with a first round stoppage of Ronald Hearns and then a unanimous decision win over Freddy Hernandez. Add the draw with Carlos Molina and a late stoppage win over Grady Brewer in 2010 and his career has started to shape up nicely in the last 2 years.

He is considered by many to be a high risk, low reward fighter and accusations have been made against numerous opponents from fans and media alike claiming he is being “ducked” by many of the top fighters. He certainly is a dangerous southpaw fighter.

Martirosyan had an extensive amateur career in which he won numerous awards in the USA and beat some top fighters. His pro career has been a lot less inspiring to date though. Having made his debut 7 years ago he has had 32 fights but not one against top contender status. However, this fight changes all of that.

Also, it must be made clear that despite the lack of world class competition he has still been showcasing his talents. He has a good orthodox stance, a boxer puncher style and loves to throw combos when the time is right.
In this fight he will have a 3 inch height advantage over Lara which could play a big part in the outcome. However, Paul Williams also had a big height advantage and it didn’t trouble Lara much at all.

One last thing to consider: This is boxing. Martirosyan is promoted by Top Rank and is an undefeated American star. I’ll leave that thought with you.

Verdict: If you believe that in this fight the best fighter will definitely win, then Lara by points is probably the best bet. But, if you are slightly cynical of the higher echelons of boxing then Martirosyan by decision could be a very good bet.

On the undercard, talented featherweight Mike Garcia fights Jonathan Victor Barros in what could be a very competitive bout. The undefeated American starlet will be favourite to win and further showcase his skills to the world. Most in the boxing world think the young star is the real deal and I agree. He has all the talent in the world, power, speed, good defence and furious attack. He is a star in the making in my opinion.

However, Barros is no slouch himself. He has all the experience in this fight having fought some of the best fighters in the world and once holding the WBA title. He will definitely put up a fight against Garcia and has a chance to win.

Verdict: Garcia is just on the up and up and I think he will prove how good he is. Barros has never been stopped so the smart money is on points. But the brave money is on a late stoppage.

Action packed card at the Staples Center on November 10

The Staples Center in L.A will play host to a great night of boxing this Saturday. 

In the main event Abner Mares defends his WBC super bantamweight title against Anselmo Moreno.
These two fighters are among the top four at the weight. The other two are Nonito Donaire and Guillermo Rigondeaux. The winner of this must be closing in on a place in the top 10 p4p rankings.

Mares is a slight favourite at the bookies which I think is fair. The Mexican warrior is a very good fighter and has a fantastic resume holding wins over the likes of Vic Darchinyan, Eric Morel and Joseph Agbeko. But, his first fight with Agbeko was shrouded in controversy as the Mexican landed continuously throughout with low blows without any deductions being given and then in round 11 the ref called a knockdown for Mares which made the fight impossible for Agbeko to win by then. Most observers would agree Agbeko was hard done by in that fight. Also, a draw to Yhonny Perez in 2010 and we see that Mares can be beaten.

Anselmo Moreno has an equally impressive record with wins notched up against Vic Darchinyan, Nehomar Cermeno, Volodymyr Sydorenko, Tomas Rojas and Mahyar Monshipour.

He is a very awkward southpaw who is constantly on the move. But, when he plants his feet and throws he does land at will. Add in the fact he has a height advantage of 2 inches and a reach advantage of nearly 4 inches and I think the bookies may have called this one wrong.

Verdict: I’m going with the upset here. Moreno makes it tricky for Mares for much of the fight and wins a close decision win.

Britain’s Nathan Cleverly will also feature in what will be just his second fight in the USA, but first as WBO light heavyweight champion. He will defend his title against Shawn Hawk who stepped in at just a week’s notice after Cleverly’s team struggled to find him a suitable opponent after several scheduled fights had fallen through.

On paper Hawk shouldn’t pose too much of a problem in theory but this is boxing and an upset is always only around the corner. His two biggest wins to date were decisions against respected American fighters Otis Griffin and Henry Buchanan but he has yet to fight an elite fighter. He has spoken about his belief that he will pull off a miracle win this weekend and he will need to be at his very best to do so. Even then, it might not be enough.

Cleverly has also yet to fight an elite fighter but he does have two big wins against undefeated opposition in Germany’s Karo Murat and fellow Briton Tony Bellew. The latter was quite controversial though with many claiming Bellew deserved the nod on the cards.

It is agreed that Cleverly has the skills and speed and his power is possibly a bit underrated. But he will need to prove all of this against top opposition if he is to be remembered in a similar way to his fellow Welshman Joe Calzaghe.

Verdict: Cleverly wins a unanimous decision on the cards with perhaps a few close rounds.

IBF bantamweight champion Leo Santa Cruz defends his title for the second time against Victor Zaleta. The champion will be expected to beat his opponent who has never fought at bantamweight before. On paper it looks like a one sided affair and I think that is how it will play out in the ring. Unless Santa Cruz has completely underestimated his fellow Mexican he should win this one comfortably.

Verdict: Santa Cruz to win comfortably. Decision or knockout? That’s for you to decide. He has a 55% KO ratio but his opponent has never fought at the weight. I favour the decision.

Finally, Alfredo Angulo returns to the ring for the first time since his battle with James Kirkland a year ago. He has spent much of the last year trying to remain in the USA after immigration issues. He will be fighting little known Raul Casarez. Angulo will be very likely to win this fight which looks like a gentle fight to get him back into the swing of things. I don’t know much about Casarez but I can’t see Angulo losing to anybody other than a top contender at the weight.

Verdict: Routine win for Angulo and good to see him back in the ring. Probably a knockout victory in the mid to late rounds. I’m going round 8.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Barclays Center in New York hosts big night of boxing

The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York offers up a fantastic night of boxing tonight. The event will host four world title fights as well as an action-packed undercard.

Danny Garcia, coming off of a huge win over Amir Khan, will defend his titles against former foe Erik Morales. The Mexican legend has been in the news for all the wrong reasons these last couple of days because of a supposed failed drug test which jeopardises the bout. It looks like it will go through though.

I don’t see anything other than a Danny Garcia winner. Erik Morales is long past his best and never reached the heights of glory that he one reached at super bantamweight up to super featherweight all those years ago. I think we will see Garcia consolidate his place as one of the world’s top light welterweights and stop Erik Morales late on. Verdict: Garcia KO 10.

Devon Alexander and Randall Bailey fight in an intriguing bout for the IBF welterweight title Bailey won off of the previously undefeated Mike Jones in his last outing. If there is thing which is utterly predictable in this fight it is that both fighters are totally unpredictable.

It wouldn’t be out of place to say these two both have a case of Jekyll and Hyde about them. Devon Alexander once looked like he could be the next big thing at light welterweight after big wins over Junior Witter and Juan Urango. But poor showings against Andriy Kotelnyk, Timothy Bradley and Lucas Matthysse made people question his heart and talent.

However, a step up to welterweight back in February against the tough Marcos Maidana put Alexander’s name right back out there. It was arguably Alexander’s most impressive win to date and has lead to his world title shot against the newly crowned champion Bailey.

Bailey also has his ups and downs in the ring. Although he has fought some of the best fighters of his generation, he has tended to leave the ring empty-handed when he has come up against the top opponents. His world title glory of 1999 seemed a long time ago until June when he managed to dethrone Mike Jones in one of the biggest shocks this year. Down on all three scorecards going into round 11, he pulled off an unlikely stoppage to win his second world title. He may be 38 years old but the power remains and as long as it does, he will always have a puncher’s chance.

Verdict: I do give Bailey a chance of pulling off a stoppage win at some point late on but I think the smart money is definitely on Alexander running rings around him and boxing his way to a unanimous decision. Alexander UD.

Paulie Malignaggi has been on a good run recently notching up four wins on the bounce, the last of which was against Vyacheslav Senchenko in which he won the WBA welterweight title. He has always been known for his sharp boxing skills, tough chin and resilience and should prove too much for his Mexican opponent whose biggest claim to fame up until now was his 10th round loss to Erik Morales a year ago.

Verdict: The smart money is on Malignaggi to win a unanimous decision but I’m thinking he’s good enough to get the stoppage in this one. Malignaggi to win between rounds 9 and 11.

In possibly the toughest fight to call on the night, WBO middleweight champion Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam makes his first defence since inheriting the title from Dmitry Pirog against fellow undefeated fighter Peter Quillin.

On paper I think this fight is about as 50-50 as they come. But personally I don’t see anything other than a Quillin victory. Quillin has recorded some good victories to date over the likes of Winky Wright (UD) and Craig McEwan (TKO 6) and has shown he is one of the top prospects at the weight.

N’Jikam has been a bit of an unknown quantity and somewhat avoided fighter in the last year or so. His title shot never seemed to materialise but now that he has one I’m not sure how long he can hold onto it for. I see a lot of flaws in his game; He moves too much and doesn’t really plant his feet when he punches, he gets hit too often and he seems to lack power.

Both Quillin and N’Jikam like to fight on the back foot but I think Quillin does it more efficiently. I can’t see both fighters fighting in a more defensive stance in this fight so I expect Quillin to do the pressuring. I think this pressuring will eventually lead to a stoppage win for Quillin.
Verdict: Quillin TKO 8.

Kell Brook headlines Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield against Argentinian

Tonight at the Motorpoint Arena in his hometown of Sheffield Kell Brook will attempt to win a shot at the IBF welterweight title as he goes up against hard-hitting Argentinian Hector David Saldivia in a world title eliminator.

Saldivia’s name might not be in the minds of many boxing fans but that isn’t surprising. The best opponent he has faced is Said Ouali in a WBA title eliminator two years ago which ended in disaster for him as he floored the Moroccan in the first round but ended up getting floored himself and then stopped in the very same round.

Perhaps we shouldn’t rule Saldivia out just yet though. Afterall, he does have 32 knockouts from 43 fights.

Kell Brook is coming off of a majority decision win over tough American Carson Jones in July in which he was criticised somewhat for what seemed to be a lack of stamina late on. It would certainly look like something Brook’s team needs to work on, and which Brook acknowledged in the press shortly after the victory.

Brook knows all eyes will be on him to shine on Saturday night and I don’t believe he will let his fans down. Saldivia has the power but he doesn’t have any real significant wins. This is probably a step too far for him.

Verdict: This fight reminds me a little of Amir Khan vs Breidis Prescott. The only difference is I see the South American being stopped in the early rounds in this one. Brook by 3rd or 4th round KO.

On the undercard, I see Jamie McDonnell getting a routine early stoppage win (round 3 or 4) over late replacement Darwin Zamora. The latter is unfamiliar at bantamweight having campaigned at lower weights throughout his career and I don’t think McDonnell should have too much trouble with him.

I also see Kenny Anderson score a stoppage victory over veteran Robin Reid. Anderson will be hungry to keep impressing as he seeks a British super middleweight title shot. Anderson should win before the mid rounds in my opinion. Anderson to win by round 5 or 6 sounds about right.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

British great Jimmy Tibbs discusses his 30 year career as a trainer, his days fighting in the ring, his thoughts on Kevin Mitchell's world title opportunity and more

This summer I got to meet established British trainer Jimmy Tibbs at the Trad TKO gym in east London. He has an invaluable amount of experience as I would learn from our conversation. Nowadays he can be found in the corner of talented lightweight Kevin Mitchell. He kindly gave me much of his time with which we discussed his long and successful career in boxing as a boxer and then as a trainer, his son Mark’s career in boxing, what it takes to be a good trainer, his thoughts on Kevin Mitchell’s title opportunity against Ricky Burns and more. You’re one of the most well known figures on the British boxing circuit. How long have you been in the boxing business?

Jimmy Tibbs: The boxing business, all my life; since I was 11 years of age. I’ve been training fighters for 31 years; 1981 was when I started training Terry Lawless’ fighters. Then I went on to Frank Warren after 6 years. Before that I was a fighter myself and fought from middleweight to light heavyweight. Can you tell us about your amateur record?

Jimmy Tibbs: I won the schoolboys for Great Britain twice, I was NABC champion twice, junior ABA finalist, North East Divisional champion senior, London semi-finalist against Mark Rowe. We were among the best at the time. I beat a guy named Eric Blake; he was a big puncher. Mark Rowe beat him too. No disrespect to him because he was a good puncher; when he hit me on the chin I saw stars! He went to the Olympics which was good for him and good for us because we beat him. I went all around Europe too so I had a great amateur career. How many amateur fights did you have?

Jimmy Tibbs: I had about 76-80 fights. I lost 6 but I reversed most of them. Then at 19 I turned professional Terry Lawless and Mickey Duff. I had 20 fights but got injured and got in a bit of trouble. You had a pro record of 17-2-1 and then retired after just 4 years. Why was that?

Jimmy Tibbs: Well, it was a combination of things really. Not living the right life, I’m ashamed to say. But I make sure my fighters now live the right life. There was no one behind me who I could really look up to and say “Look Jim, this is what I want you to do. I promise you, do this and it will work”. Like I say to the fighters I train: “I’ll show you how to do it and it will work”. I didn’t have any guidance that way but I’m not blaming anyone else; I blame myself entirely. I got into a bit of trouble and ended up going to prison so that was the end of my professional career. You fought in some fantastic venues including York Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Wembley Arena (Empire Pool back then). Which was your favourite?

Jimmy Tibbs: I’d say the Royal Albert Hall. I fought there about 15 times there as a pro and about 4 or 5 times as an amateur so I was pretty used to fighting there. Wembley Arena was good too but you have to pack the place; I was on a few Billy Walker cards and he used to sell the place out. I fought at Highbury on the undercard of Muhammad Ali vs Henry Cooper. I fought a guy called Tom Calderwood who was the brother of Chic Calderwood, the British light heavyweight champion. I stopped him in 2 rounds. You fought on cards featuring numerous legends like Henry Cooper, Jack Bodell, Joe Bugner, Howard Winstone, John H Stracey, Alan Rudkin, Johnny Clark, among others. Did you get to meet any of them?

Jimmy Tibbs: I fought on the undercard of Floyd Patterson vs Henry Cooper too. I met a few of them. I met Ali, I sparred with him too. It was just for publicity. I’ve got photos of me in the ring with him; gloves, headgear on, the lot. We sparred for half a round; He hit the deck, I didn’t even touch him. It was all for publicity. I was a big ticket seller at the time, as was Ali obviously so it made for publicity. Where did that take place?

Jimmy Tibbs: He took me up to where his training camp was in White City. It was good publicity for me. Did you ever receive any advice from any big name boxers?

Jimmy Tibbs: Willie Pep, one of the greatest fighters ever; he gave me advice. I met him in Nottingham with Terry Lawless, my dad and my wife when I was only 20 years of age. He said to me “Keep your boxing going, box ‘em”. He was a great boxer so he knew what he was talking about. I could punch as well as box so I used to soften them up first if I could then go to work on them. What was Willie Pep doing over here?

Jimmy Tibbs: He was a very good publicity man for Mickey Duff because he had connections. His career was over by then. He said to me “I used to always have trouble with a guy called Tommy Tibbs”. I have heard of this Tommy Tibbs but he wasn’t in the same league as Pep. That was when Pep was at the end of his career and fighting welterweights. Terry Downes used to give me a bit of advice. I remember coming out at the Royal Albert Hall once and looking at myself in the mirror and Terry was like “Come on Jim, don’t get too excited”. It was all good stuff. I used to look up to Terry Downes and Terry Spinks too. We used to train over at the Beckett they all were or down at the Royal Oak where all the champions were. I opened the Royal Oak with Terry Lawless. Who was your favourite boxer from the past?

Jimmy Tibbs: My favourite fighter from the past was Sugar Ray Robinson. He was coming to the end of his career when I was coming up. He fought Terry Downes and Terry admitted he would have hated to have fought him when he was in his prime. Terry was another of my favourites. He was such a tremendous pressure fighter; he wasn’t a great puncher but he was a great pressure fighter and he could hold a shot, and he had a sense of humour. They had a press conference once and there was this woman from a newspaper who was new at her job. She asked Terry a question: “Mr Downes, you know I’m new at this job, but is it right you’ve always got to watch the other boxers’ eyes?” and Terry replied: “Well to tell you the truth love, I’ve never been knocked out by an eye” [laughs]. How did you get into training boxers?

Jimmy Tibbs: Well, my family had a scrap business around here, which I worked in when I got out of prison. The Greater London council wanted to put a road through the yard so they paid us out a settlement and we had to get out. To be honest I was fed up of the scrap game anyway and wanted to do something else so I took myself up to the Royal Oak just to see the fighters - Bruno, Kaylor, Pyatt. I knew Terry Lawless because he used to be my manager. He said to me “Jim, do me a favour. I’m going to America for a couple of weeks; would you help Frank Black out with the boys?”. This was back in 1981. I got on well with Frank so I said as long as it’s okay with him then yeah I’ll do it. So I helped train them for a couple of weeks. Then Terry got home, he rang me up and said he wanted to see me; he said “Charlie Magri and the boys want to write a letter to the board and want you as a trainer”. Well, I thought I’d give it a go so went full time up there. I was thrown in at the deep end so it wasn’t easy. How did you know you would be any good as a trainer? Was it in your blood do you think?

Jimmy Tibbs: Success! [Laughs] I’m not boasting but we’ve had a lot of champions; world champions, European champions, British champions, Commonwealth champions, Southern Area champions. What about right at the beginning before any of your success?

Jimmy Tibbs: When you know you’re getting respect from fighters; when you tell them something and you know they respect it. I mean 30 years ago I was a lot fitter so I’d get in the ring and spar with a few of them. I’ve done shadow boxing with Chris Pyatt, showing him what I want him to do, and they’ve all stood back clapping me. I’ve stood back and said “I’m doing it better than you’re doing it. This is how I want you to do it”. When you know your boxers are paying attention and believe what you’re saying you know you’re doing it right. A good trainer doesn’t want to kid a good fighter because it’s embarrassing. If you’re not good enough to be doing it then you either go and ask advice or you think about what you do want to do. Trad TKO gym owner and trainer Johnny Eames told me you’re a good inspiration and mentor. Do you think working in an environment with such good trainers helps you all learn more from each other?

Jimmy Tibbs: John’s always asked me anything if he needed help with something or if we need advice, we just have to ask each other. I’ve worked in his corner doing his fighters’ cuts. We all know if we need some advice we just have to ask. What makes a good trainer?

Jimmy Tibbs: You got to be dedicated to the job you’re doing, not frightened to take advice from other people, watch other fighters and learn. When I was a kid I used to go round all the pro gyms on my own and watch them. I always remember watching American fighters come over and they’d do 3 or 4 rounds in an English gym and then go home. I’d think they didn’t train hard but it was because they’d done all their hard training back in America. That’s what we do now; you bring your fighter down a week before the fight then they just tick over for the weight. On the issue of weight, do you think fighters make weight correctly nowadays?

Jimmy Tibbs: When fighters try to make weight by starving themselves, that’s the wrong way to make weight. Nowadays it’s done a lot better because there’s a lot of vitamins, nutriments and drinks on sale and people know what they need to eat to stay healthy. I mean when I was a pro making middleweight I would just tell the missus not to put any potatoes on my plate; just give me meat and greens. Now, that’s the wrong way to do it but we didn’t know no different. It didn’t do us mentally though because I’d still do 10 rounds no problem. Mickey Duff used to say “if you don’t make the weight, you don’t get paid”. A lot of it is psychological but the better way is how fighters make weight today. If you have to starve yourself to make weight you need to move up in weight. You’ve trained some very talented boxers. Who was the best boxer you’ve trained?

Jimmy Tibbs: I can’t just say one because they all had different styles and different make ups. Like Nigel Benn was very, very good at training. Some people said to me you might have a bit of trouble training him but I didn’t. You can’t kid fighters. If you have a fighter and you’re coaching him he knows if you’re right or not. Sometimes it doesn’t always work out like if another fighter is better than him but they know if you know what you’re on about and so they take notice of you. Nigel Benn took every word in that I said; same as Barry McGuigan, same as Frank Bruno, same as Chris Pyatt, same as Charlie Magri, same as Kevin Mitchell. I’m not just blowing my own trumpet but it used to make me feel good because I knew they credited me and so I knew what I was telling them was right. Kevin Mitchell has just been handed a title opportunity against Ricky Burns this autumn. What are your early thoughts on this fight?

Jimmy Tibbs: Both guys are very fit and at the peak of their careers. Burns has always kept himself in good condition and Mitchell is in great condition at the moment. If he looks after himself he has another 3 or 4 years of good boxing left in him. As for the fight, without giving too much away, I think Kevin might move a bit better than Burns and has a bit more power. Both are great boxers. Who would you say is the best trainer around today?

Jimmy Tibbs: I don’t mean to sound big headed because I don’t like bigging myself up but I’m as good as anyone out there today. Freddie Roach is a great coach. He’s been at the top for a long time and keeps producing champions. But he’s in a great position where he’s on the west coast of America and they’re all going through there. All the Mexicans and Filipinos seem to go through Freddie now. I’ve actually worked in a corner with Freddie. I used to train Gary Stretch and then when they made the fight between him and Chris Eubank he went over to America. He said he was going to get Freddie Roach to train him. I said no problem as I was training Terry Lawless’ fighters anyway. So when they came over for the fight Freddie asked if I would do the cuts for him and I said yeah. Your son Mark was a boxer and is now a trainer. Has he always been interested in boxing?

Jimmy Tibbs: Yeah, he’s boxed since he was a kid. I remember once when I was in prison I picked up the Boxing News and went “that’s my son!”. John H Stracey had gone down Repton and he’d asked who that boy was and they’ve gone “that’s Mark Tibbs”. So he went “oh, let me have a photo done with him”, because we all knew each other years ago. A friend of mine called Dennis Docherty took mark boxing and he took my other son Jimmy to football. He was like a second father figure while I was away. Mark boxed for West Ham for a while but they ran out of trainers; that was then, they got good trainers down there now. He went back to Repton and won the Schoolboys, Junior ABAs, NABCs, he was a really successful amateur. Then he turned pro with Frank Warren. I thought he turned pro just a little too young but he wanted to turn pro and he did quite well out of it. How is he coming along as a trainer in your opinion?

Jimmy Tibbs: He’s a good trainer and he will get better. It’s like if you’ve been working on computers for 30 years and you should a youngster what to do, he’ll get it real quick. Well, when he’s gone on to do it for 30 years he’ll be better than the first guy. What he’s lacking right now is experience but he’ll gain that; like I advised him to cut the sparring down from 6 rounds to 5 rounds. If you’re sparring regularly you don’t need to do that extra round because you’ll just wear the fighters out. He trains some good fighters in Frank Buglioni, Tom Baker and Charlie Hoy and we both train Billy Morgan and Freddie Turner between us. I don’t interfere unless he wants some help but he knows what he’s doing. Would you say boxing still has a part to play in local communities and society as a whole?

Jimmy Tibbs: Yes, I think boxing is a great discipline and I think it’s a shame they took it out of schools as it stops bullying because bullies always get found out. You get to travel across the country and the world. Clubs don’t only take champions abroad, they take everyone so it’s a great way to meet new people and see new places. It teaches true discipline and everyone is the same. I’ve seen kids break down and cry back in the dressing room but we never used to take the mickey out of them. We’d say “come on, you can do it” and motivate them. It’s the same in the pro ranks. When we’ve been in the dressing room, I’ve had Kevin Mitchell, Frank Buglioni and a few other new kids and you can see the nerves and I’ve seen Kevin playing playing around and making out like he’s this or that and turned to me and say “It helps make them forget their nerves, Jim”. There’s a real togetherness in the dressing room. Did you learn a lot fighting for the great Terry Lawless?

Jimmy Tibbs: He was my manager, so I learnt a bit off him. He wasn’t a fighter himself so I didn’t learn too much from him on that side of the game. He was a very good manager, one of the best. He knew how to manage a fighter’s career correctly and bring fighters along at the right pace. He had world champions and European champions so he knew what he was doing. You grew up in West Ham during a time when they had some of the best footballers in the country. Do you remember those times well and the World cup victory?

Jimmy Tibbs: I turned pro in 1966 at age 19 so I remember the time well. Our local paper at the time was called the Stratford Express and Terry Lawless took me over there to have my photo taken with Bobby Moore. They used to have a competition for best sportsman of the year. Obviously that year Bobby Moore won it. I came third. I was still an amateur at the time. I met Bobby Moore, lovely man, a gentleman. I think I met Johnny Byrne. I’ve met Harry Redknapp and his son Jamie. Nice people. How well with West Ham do this year?

Jimmy Tibbs: Well, Sam Allardyce has done a good job in his time at the club so far so hopefully he can keep us in the Premiership. Do you see the end of your career in sight or are you just as motivated as ever before?

Jimmy Tibbs: Well, I can’t quit yet because I’ve got a mortgage to pay [laughs]. Hopefully I’ll be around for a long time to come. It keeps me young working with these youngsters and I like doing it. While I’ve got champions around me still, why should I pack it in? I mean I could retire but then I’d end up just playing golf every day. I’d soon get bored of that. Has it been an enjoyable time in your life?

Jimmy Tibbs: Yeah, we have a lot of laughs up here. It’s not a depressing job. We get to travel around the country and Europe. I had some great times with Frank Black, who was a co-trainer with Terry Lawless and me; we went round Europe together and even when Terry Lawless retired we stayed together and carried on training fighters. It hasn’t always been easy and has been hard at times but it’s all been good. Thanks Jimmy. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.