A year in boxing can always throw up the highs and lows, big fights and occasions, the good and the bad, the blood and the glory, the sweat and tears and the abiding memories, that make us embrace boxing with a protective hold.
|Haye, still the Heavyweight champion|
This year has given us four world champions to finish with, 2009’s British boxer of the year David Haye continued to top the UK boxing pile has heavyweight champion of the world, and although the year for him ended successfully, the defence against Audley Harrison and the challengers lack of effort, then the aftermath of the fight and the pending British Boxing Board of Control‘s investigation into it and talk of with-holding some of Harrison’s prize purse, tainted not only Harrison’s reputation, it dented Hayes, and also proved to be the no win fight predicted.
Time is running out on Haye’s career and with talk of an October 2011 retirement plan already set in place, It will be a now or never year if he is to eventually fight one or both of the Ukrainian Klitschko brothers, who lay claim to the other versions of the world crown jewels at heavyweight and simply the only fight that matter for them and Haye, with little challenge of note coming from anywhere else for either side, each need each other to create their career defining fight, biggest ever purse and ultimately their swan song finale.
After a bad start to 2010 for Carl Froch, ended it in fine fashion and retained his WBC super middleweight crown he had lost in April to former Joe Calzaghe victim Mikkel Kessler. Froch won every round when out-pointing German danger man Arthur Abraham in a fine display of controlled boxing and a disciplined master class in Helsinki on the 27th November. The title became available when Kessler was forced to give up the belt after being diagnosed with an eye condition, which meant the fight against former middleweight champion Abraham would be for Froch’s old belt. With the chance to jump back to the top of the tree, Froch took it with two very good hands.
|Ricky Burns super featherweight champ|
In what was an upset for the bookies, but a great win and achievement for the British boxing under dog, when Ricky Burns became the boxing ‘Flower of Scotland’ in an unforgettable night at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow on the 4th September, giving an whole new meaning to ‘Burns Night’ in Scotland, giving Burn’s over night boxing stardom.
Getting off the floor in the first round, Burns went on to dish out his own poetic justice, out-punching, out boxing and unanimously outpointing the highly regarded, unbeaten Puerto Rican world title holder Roman Martinez, to snatch his belt and be crowned the new WBO super featherweight champion.
Burns finished off the year by making his first defence of the title, widely out-pointing Andreas Evensen in December. 2011 holds exciting times for Burns and his dedication to get back on a long winning streak after his loss to Carl Johanneson in 2007, then going on to secure a title shot and winning it against the most highly rated super-featherweight out there, was what dreams are made of and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
|Amir Khan British Boxer of 2010|
The world championship cherry on the British boxing cake, was Amir Khan’s second title defence and win against Marcos Maidana in December. Khan progressed again this year after a successful 2009 – and 2010 saw the Bolton boxer make his American debut under the tutor-ledge of Freddy Roach in LA.
He made the first defence of his WBA light-welterweight title at New Yorks Madison Square Garden in May against Brooklyn’s Paulie Malignaggi, stopping the home fighter in round eleven. Then on 11th December in Las Vegas, Khan the the boy became King Khan the man, when taking on the dangerous number one rated challenger to his title, the big punching Argentinian Maidana and in the fight of the year answered a lot of questions and lingering doubts about whether or not he could mix it with the highest level fighters. Beating Maidana on points, in what turned out to be a terrific fight with Khan producing the goods when it mattered. His speed, power, skills and ultimately his punch resistance, were too much for Maidana and Amir ran out a clear winner in the end. After having Khan fans on tenter hooks in the last three rounds, Maidana shown why he was the mandatory contender and so highly rated. Khan’s popularity after the fight has increased ten fold and the American fight fans have really taken to him, impressed with this humble kid from Lancashire who is as endearing out of the ring as he is brave, honest and damn good in it. Khan helps many charities, opens his gym to locals to train and gives a lot of his time to help many causes. This year also saw him visit Pakistan during the terrible floods and was on the ground helping families first hand who had been effected. Khan is a credit to British boxing and his family and the way he finished the year against Maidana was great.
The Prizefighter series, staged by Matchroom promotions has been a real welcome bonus to British Boxing and has filled many a weekend a midweek slot for fans. Giving fighters a shot at a sizeable prize fund, bringing a mixed bag of boxers together in an 8 man, 3 round battle, in one night of pugilism in its rawest form. Long may it continue to grace the boxing calender.
And so onto the Best of 2010 in the British boxing year, that was chosen with the help of our fans who had voted on the website and with the help of my boxing friends and experts.
British Boxer of the Year: Amir Khan
Some years the boxer of the year almost pick themselves, when one fighter overall stands out above the rest. But this year became almost a dead heat between Khan and Carl Froch, with Ricky Burns getting more than his fair share of mentions and votes. Froch was inspirational coming back from his first career loss to Kessler to look like he was a new fighter out-pointing the fancied Abraham winning every round. Froch’s recent record reads as an who’s who in the world super middleweight division, his last five fights being against Jean Pascal, Jermain Taylor, Andre Dirrell, Mikkell Kessler and Arthur Abraham. But it was Amir Khan who tipped the balance in our favour and in the votes from our website and Facebook fans. Khans away wins in the US against Malignaggi and Maidana, the latter in box office high stake drama on the Vegas strip, caught our imagination like no other fight and fighter this year.
Young Boxer of the year: Nathan Cleverly – The young Welshman still only 23, and as well as being the British and Commonwealth light-heavyweight champion, this year also added the European belt and the WBO interim world title, to his collection , whilst picking up a degree in mathematics along the way. Still unbeaten in 21 fights, 10 wins by KO. It is a terrific feat for a young boxer in such a short time and we think deserving as the young boxer of the year. Look for Cleverly to have a fantastic 2011 and bring back a legitimate version of the light-heavyweight championship. Cleverly has recently talked about moving his training camp from Wales and sights London or Manchester for his new camp base, where he believes he will be able to get the adequate sparring and fight preparation. Cleverly has always reminded me and a friend of mine of a young Tommy Hearn’s and Cleverly might want to find the man who made the ‘Hitman’ Manny Steward, who would be a great addition to join Cleverly and his trainer and Dad Vince.
British fight of the year: Anthony Crolla vs Andy Morris. In a fight that exceeded even the pre-fight expectations Anthony Crolla rallied from being behind to stop eventually stop Andy Morris in the seventh round to win the English super featherweight title. The fight had a high rate of skill, bravery and punching power and in a real Manchester derby showdown the two took part in a fight that will be shown to future generations.
Round of the year: Amir Khan vs Marcos Maidana – Round 10 – A round that can still have you losing your breath when you watch it back. Khan withstood Marcos Maidana’s massive knockout blows to eventually go on to out-point the Argentinian banger who hit Khan with everything he had in round 10 of their epic battle. Proving that the Bolton man can take a shot after all and he is the real deal in world boxing.
Comeback of the year: Steve Foster Jnr. Since losing to Alex Arthur in 2007 for the WBO super featherweight title. Boxing’s forgotten man Foster, drifted out of the game, having only one fight in 2008 and not fighting at all during 2009. The Manchester fighter was unlucky that night against Arthur and pushed the Scotsman all the way over 12 rounds, losing on a close unanimous decision. But it was more to do with personal issues that kept Steve out of the ring. Foster had to cope with the illness of his baby son, while wondering if his career was over. Four-year-old Kai was diagnosed with acute myasthenia, a condition that causes muscle weakness, which meant Foster had to spend hours by his bedside at Liverpool’s Alder Hey hospital, in between training for fights. It would be a challenging enough situation at the best of times – but with bills mounting as his fight career ground to a halt, it left the 30-year-old on the brink.
Then Foster joined Hatton Promotions after breaking from Frank Warren. Hatton promised to get Foster a European title shot if he did the business in the ring. Foster did just that and after 3 wins in 2010. Hatton was true to their word and delivered Fosters shot at big-hitting Armenian, Kirakosyan, and Foster jumped at the chance, despite being the rank outsider, having not fought beyond six rounds since the Arthur defeat, Foster turned in the performance of his career, with a stunning third round knock-out of Levan Kirakosyan in October to win the European strap. Turning around his boxing career and his life.
I knew I was the underdog, but I had to take the opportunity, Nothing else was happening for me, I had no money. It was a chance to get my career going again. I wouldn’t say I thought about retirement, but if I hadn’t won that night, it would probably have been the end of my career. That was why I was so sure I would win. I had a look at myself in the mirror and said, ‘This is it’. It was the only route I had. I’d hit rock bottom. I had so much to prove and I wanted to show everyone that I can still mix it with the best. If I hadn’t won I’d probably have steel toecaps on and be working on the building site with my dad. But now I want to defend this title, fight for a world title and make some proper money for my family before I retire.” – Stephen Foster Jnr.
Most progress 2010: James DeGale – Coming into 2010, James DeGale had just 5 professional fights behind him. By the end of the year he sits at the top of the British middleweight summit, having dethroned highly rated champion Paul Smith, stopping a seasoned durable fighter in the 9th round. But it was the way in which DeGale went about his business that really caught the eye of even his critics. Paul Smith is nobodies push over, but DeGale in just his 9th fight looked a fighter way beyond his years and what his inexperienced fight record may suggest. But this is no fighter learning the game, DeGale is a one off, a fighter that comes along every few years with a high octane energy and unshakable mental belief that he is the best, and no one and that’s no one is going to beat me! and with an Olympic Gold medal behind him! DeGale really looks like a British boxer to follow Haye, Khan, Froch and Burns as our true world class prospect. Just wish he would cut out the corny entrances and dramatic poses! or change the script. Other than that DeGale is the business!
Trainer of the year: Robert McCracken– McCracken, GB Boxing’s Performance Director and Head Coach, highly successful year for GB Boxing. The squads’ achievements this year included two gold and four silver medals at the Commonwealth Games, three silver and two bronze medals at the European Championships and two silver medals at the Women’s World Championships. Under McCracken’s leadership the male and female squads have moved on to a new level and a combined total of 32 medals in seven elite international competitions in 2010 is testament to the energy and hard work of Rob and his team of coaches. McCracken is not only setting the standard for amateur boxing in this country but the once very successful fighter is also one of the country’s leading professional coach’s and was inspirational in Carl Froch’s punch perfect win over Arthur Abraham, that saw the Nottingham man regain his WBC Super middleweight title.
Running Robert close included Joe Gallagher, Johnny Eames and Jim McDonald. Gallagher has a healthy camp of fighters up in Manchester, lead by European champions John Murray and Matthew Macklin and at present has the longest unbeaten professional trainers winning streak and ends 2010 with two European Champions, one English Champion undefeated Olympian. Many Amateur titles including an NACYP, Junior ABA titles, three Nations Gold and an ABA finalist, accumulating in a 41-0 winning run.
Johnny Eames is a trainer who puts his life and soul into the game. Johnny, who in his coaching career has trained many well known fighters to championship success including Graham Earl, Tony ‘Oakey Kokey’ Oakey, Ross Minter, Patrick Mullins, Kevin Lear, Martin Power and Matthew Marsh and with partner Derek Grainger (right) continues to train a competitive camp of fighters at their Ultrachem TKO Gym in Canning Town, London. He also puts his time into helping local charities. This year was the Boxer & Celebrity Football Tournament, in aid of the Indee Rose Trust, at Brockwell Stadium, Canvey Island in July, which saw many boxers gather to take part including David Haye and Ricky Hatton and many other stars of the ring and screen.
Jim McDonald has done wonders bringing James DeGale through the professional ranks with ease and moulding his skills into a professional fighter of high class. McDonald’s dedication has a trainer, mirrors that of when he was a fighter, he is a credit to the game.
I would also like to take this chance to give a personal mention to Steve and Shaun Egan, who are the trainers at Egan’s boxing academy in Wythenshawe Manchester. Taking over the reigns of the club from their late father Jimmy Egan. The brother’s have continued the great man’s legacy in taking the local lads from the streets of the large council estate that is their home, and making champion boxers of them year after year. Tyson Fury was under the Egan’s wing from the first day as a kid he walked through the gym doors, through to winning the ABA heavyweight title, before leaving them when he turned pro.
The Egans are what make British boxing great, giving all their spare time to unselfishly help create not only boxers but make champions of people. But they are only one of many grass root clubs up and down the country, and although I cannot mention them all here, would like to thank you for your persistence and commitment which will never go unheralded within the walls of the game.
Knockout of the year: Audley Harrison vs Michael Sprott KO12– Behind in the fight and having fought the best part of it with just one hand, produced the most dramatic knockout of the year. Bringing a left hook from the souls of his boots he landed the million pound left hook punch that lay Sprott out cold, face first on the canvas and set up Harrison’s shot at the world title against David Haye in what was billed as the ‘Battle of Britain’ It turned out to be the ‘Blitz’ as Harrison shown non of the bravery and will to win that he had done in finding a way to beat Sprott. Haye knocked Harrison out in round 3, after Harrison hardley threw a punch back.
Most exciting fighter of 2010: Carl Froch – Carl Froch seems to be willing to lay it all on the line in every fight he is in. We kind of rate a classic fight on a toe to toe battle, usual with both fighters hurt, then coming back to over come diversity, much like the Khan, Maidana fight. Well Froch seems to do that every fight. But recently against Arthur, shown a complete change in tactics by outboxing the German. But was never shy of engaging and staying in range of an Arthur counter longer than might have been advisable. But Froch was just too fast and too good for Arthur and Froch not only came back to claim his world title, but did it in style.
Promoter of the year: Frank Warren – Warren celebrated 30 years as a boxing promoter with a series of big shows that he has cemented his place in British boxing history following on from his big shows from the 80’s and 90’s with our champions of the past, he continues to do so, with our stars of the future. This year Warren has stepped up to the plate again and has not been afraid to push his fighters into big fights. Notably James DeGale’s challenge to Paul Smith after only his 9th professional fight. And a challenge that paid off with DeGale claiming Smith’s British super-middleweight title in December. The fight topped the bill at Liverpool’s Echo arena as part of the ‘Return of the Magnificent Seven’ show, which was the follow up to his ‘Magnificent Seven’ show at the LG Arena in Birmingham in September featuring his top fighters. This followed the big Upton Park bill in May Kevin Mitchell failed in his world title attempt against Michael Katsidis. All in all Warren leads the way, but British boxing wouldn’t be what it is if it wasn’t for Frank Maloney, Hatton promotions, Hennesy Sports, Hayemaker, Matchroom, Steve Woods VIP, Spencer Fearon’s Hard Knocks, Steve Goodwin and many others around the country who have carried on the traditions from the likes of Jack Solomons, Mike Barrett, Jarvis Astaire and Mickey Duff. And long may 2011 continue in the same vain.
Upset of the year: Ricky Burns vs Rocky Martinez – Ricky Burns wasn’t meant to be the man to dent the unbeaten record of the Rock from Puerto Rico. Martinez with 24 straight wins going into his defense against the Scot. Martinez had promised to make short work of Burns and he almost carried his prediction out to the letter. Dropping Burns in the opening round. But although the crowd winced at the thought of a one round blowout. Burns was obviously not hurt by the shot and was more off balance than dropped by the punch and proved it by going on to outbox the champion over 12 pulsating rounds to become Britain’s 4th current world champion.
Event of the Year – ‘The Return of the Magnificent Seven’ by Frank Warren was a ground breaking show that celebrated 30 years for Warren in the boxing promotion business and with no expense spared in terms of pitching his fighters in against very handy opposition, his prize fighters and Olympian starlets never let him down. Although for one Warren fighter the Magnificent Seven was not a good film re-run for him. Welshman Enzo Maccarinelli, was knocked out in round seven by Germany’s Alexander Frenkel during his European Cruiserweight Championship fight in Birmingham and it looks like 2010 is the end for Maccarinelli after a relatively successful career that saw him lay claim to a world title. We wish him the best of luck in his career out of the ring.
Pick for 2011 – While it may be customary to pick just the one prospect. It doesn’t seem right to have to narrow down any talent that might be on equal pegging or chomping at the bit for a big future in the boxing ring. So having the artistic freedom to list a few British boxing prospects or champions waiting to step up to world level. Here are some that have been voted for and discussed, and are names who are expected to come to the fore in the coming year and beyond. Proving that British boxing has a bright future.
Here are a selection that were picked by us and our fans.
Kell Brook, Nathan Cleverly, John Murray, Darren Barker, Paul McCloskey, James DeGale, Matthew Macklin, Ryan Rhodes, Derek Chisora, Walsh brothers, Scott Quigg, Frankie Gavin, Gavin Rees, Karl Place, Carl Frampton, Terry Flanagan, Rhys Roberts, Mark Heffron, Joe Murray, Stephen Smith, George Groves, Tyson Fury, David Price, Tom Dallas, Anthony Crolla, Steve Foster Jnr. Callum Smith, Martin Murray, Matthew Hatton, Martin Murray, Paul Edwards, Kris Hughes, Ricky Owen, Prince Arron are a only a selection of the British fighters who can move onto bigger and better things in 2011 chosen by our fans who voted this year end.
British Boxing’s Loses: – It is also a time tor us to reflect on the people who have passed this past year. Boxers and fight people who’s names may only spring to the minds of the ardent fan. But the fight figures who have again past on to the boxing ring in the sky, and who have all helped here on earth, to keep the boxing machine oiled and running, to pass onto the next generation of tenants.
Rendall Munroe went over to Japan in October to challenge for the World Boxing Council super-bantamweight title against the brilliant champion Toshiaki Nishioka in Tokyo. It was a dream to far for the down to earth Munroe and although he failed to become our 5th world champion in 2010, Rendall still holds his head high, he is a real boxers boxer and can come again next year. It was nice to see John Simpson over come his career setbacks and after many close decisions go against him over the years he was this year to win the British featherweight title again against Martin Lindsay in the champions home town at Belfast’s King’s Hall, beating the champion on points in a toe to toe battle, and handing Lindsay the first defeat of his professional career. Lindsay is a class fighter and will almost certainly re-group and comeback stronger. But John Simpson deserves great credit for his persistence and never beaten attitude which typifies the man and fighter.
Seeing Lennox Lewis raise Frank Bruno’s hand when the two British hero’sstepped in the ring to embrace and were cheered to the rafters at the MEN arena, prior to the Haye, Harrison fight, was a special moment in British boxing folklore and outshone the main event for me. Their presence that night, and you poignant moment of the former bitter rival’s in a ring together seventeen years after they met in very different circumstances. Then it was for the heavyweight championship of the world, it was October 1993 at Cardiff Arms Park in Wales, but in Manchester that night on November 2010, they were brothers in arms and the moment, respect, the crowds adulation for them and the hairs standing up on the back of my neck, will stay with me has much as their fight has.
By Chris Maylett – British Boxers Editor