British boxer Carl Froch
British boxing has provided many fans with a substantial antidote to international disappointments this year. Whilst the rest of the world frustratingly awaits a mouth-watering Mayweather / Pacquiao clash, our domestic warriors went about their own work with varying degrees of success.
Jason “2 Smooth” Booth, a man synonymous with adversity, was the first of a handful of home fighters fortunate enough to challenge for their maiden world title opportunity this past year. Booth was matched against wily Canadian southpaw and IBF Super-Bantamweight champion Steve Molitor.

Molitor was no stranger to upsetting the masses on British soil. In his previous visit, Hartlepool’s Michael Hunter was coolly disposed of in six rounds. Booth himself had been able to halt Hunter in a British title effort preceding the date with Molitor, recording a victory in even quicker time. Understandably, a sense of optimism surrounded the occasion, with a hope that Booth’s journey from a former life of alcoholism to a world title tilt through hard work and continuous perseverance would culminate in a Cinderella story like conclusion. 

Jason Booth came up short against Molitor
Unfortunately for the fans in attendance at the Rain ton Meadows Arena in Tyne and Wear, the outcome of the fight did not match the optimistic expectation. Booth put in a performance to be proud of however. For the first four sessions, it looked as though it was to be Booth’s evening. With a buzz saw like work rate, Booth set about trying to prevent Molitor establishing a rhythm, with a darting body attack, utilising his speed advantage to rack up the points with quick combinations. As the 2nd half of the fight progressed, Monitor appeared to stir and begin to put together the cleaner, more eye-catching work consistently to the end that negated Booth’s aggressive game plan and helped secure a majority decision win that provided a good night’s entertainment regardless of the result against the Nottingham fighter.
Rendall Munroe
Another Super-Bantamweight world title challenger who was unlucky enough to feel the sting of defeat in 2010 was the Leicester’s very own “Boxing Bin-man” Rendall Munroe. The Commonwealth and European champion ventured to foreign climes to challenge Japan’s WBC Super-Bantamweight ruler Toshiaki Nishioka, undoubtedly hoping that his exemplary home form would translate into the ultimate reward of a world title belt when he travelled to the far East to face his foe.
Nishioka, a fellow Southpaw from Tokyo showed great accuracy and range from the opening bell, often switching from head to body in order to provide an unpredictable test for the challenger. Though Munroe remained active throughout the fight, he was unable to land anything of any real consequence, down in the main part to Nishioka’s slippery style, cunningly evading incoming pressure and responding with hard, swift bursts. The champion’s variety and speed of fist and foot coupled with an impressive elusiveness betrayed the stereotype of a prize-fighter who is reaching his mid-thirties as he boxed his way to a comfortable unanimous victory and Munroe’s acknowledgement that the better man had indeed emerged with the win.
Super Six World Boxing Classic
In contrast to the disappointments suffered by the aforementioned Booth and Munroe, WBC Super-Middleweight boss Carl “The Cobra” Froch has continued to entertain this year. Whilst I have been at times frustrated with Froch’s apparent disregard for defensive boxing, there is never a danger of him featuring in a boring contest. Froch began his boxing year in April against extremely capable Dane and former world champ Mikkel Kessler in a Super six Woeld Boxing Classic tournament match.

Kessler was coming off a loss against the American Andre Ward, as he struggled to cope with the speed and flashiness of the undefeated opponent. Many felt that due to the loss, Kessler was perhaps on the slide as a fighter. The fight with Froch proved otherwise. In a back and forth battle in which both men proved their toughness and tenacity by withstanding each other’s work, with a couple of knockdowns to boot (though Froch’s knockdown of Kessler in the 5th was ruled a slip) Kessler was awarded the fight on a unanimous verdict in the 12th.

Froch showed displeasure at the result, but the result could perhaps have been averted by a more urgent output from the defending champion, and a much more effective use of defence, which surprisingly looked to have improved in the Cobra’s next paid outing against the highly dangerous “King” Arthur Abraham. It was in this clash that the Englishman regained his vacant world championship and redeemed his damaged reputation.

Before their fight, it was thought by myself and many others that German based Armenian Arthur Abraham would provide Carl Froch with his sternest test to date. The former IBF Middleweight champion possessed a number of attributes that were liable to create a potential nightmare for any prospective opponent. With a metal jaw that has been subject of an array of fistic abuse partnered with a visibly effective high guard that looked to be impregnable against all but the most accurate of punchers.

It was clear that a strategy in total contrast to the typical brawling that Froch’s audiences have become accustomed to was needing to be implemented. Such a thought can’t have been lost on the Cobra either, as he reaffirmed his status as the world’s supreme Super Middleweight by providing an amazing display of brilliance. His jab remained the key weapon he utilised throughout the encounter, and became the backbone for every major attack that Froch launched.

The high guard was indeed penetrated numerous times, and it looked at some points as though Abraham could be stopped. As the final bell signalled the end of the evening in Helsinki, Finland, and with the scorecards presenting a landslide win for Froch, It was made amazingly clear that “The Cobra” has certainly not lost the venom that is necessary to be able to continue to strike with considerable force.

Moving down in weight, the Super-Featherweight division ushered in a surprise addition to its ranks in September 2010. Ricky Burns (left), Coatbridge Scotland’s Commonwealth champion looked like something of a sacrificial lamb to the slaughter, after hard hitting Puerto Rican Roman “Rocky” Martinez, had halted his last three opponents early, including Dagenham’s Nicky Cook, the man he initially overwhelmed in four for the WBO crown.

But Burns failed to adhere to the pre-fight script however. After falling in the first round, Burns realised that boxing to victory would be the safest course of action. The Scot never allowed Martinez to stand and slug for long periods, which is what ultimately, earned him the title. There were a few nervous moments when Martinez was able to fulfil his approach to the fight and push forward in a bulldozer-like manner.

Burns’ chin withstood the power and he was always able to offer a convincing show of bravado and weigh the proverbial scales of the fight down in his favour once again. Words cannot quite do justice to the magnitude of Burns’ achievement on September 4th, but the scorecards offered a fitting tribute to Britain’s latest addition to World class boxing. All three judges scored the contest for Burns, as he elatedly came to terms with the magnitude of what he offered. He defended the championship exactly three months later against Andreas Evensen and out boxed his challenger to a shutout victory, thus ending his working year on a high.

LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 14:  (L-R) WBA light-welt...
WBA World Heavyweight champion David Haye (right with Amir Khan) will not be complaining over his output this year. A mandatory defence of the belt he wrested from the huge waist of Russian mammoth Nikolai Valuev came in April.

The adversary was tough American John Ruiz, a man known for his durability and ability to give any heavyweight in the world a tiresome nights work. It seemed that Old Father time had also paid a visit to Ruiz at London’s O2 Arena. Though the challenger was extended to the ninth round before the referee had seen enough, it was clear from the start that the sharper Haye would have simply too much for him.

Ruiz was abruptly put down in the 1st, from a “Hayemaker” right hand. The fight followed a slower path with Haye opting to box his rival until the 5th, when another explosive right detonated from Haye and put Ruiz down again. From there, the fight descended into a mere survival exercise for the challenger.

A swift volley of shots introduced Ruiz to the canvas once again in the sixth and it took a further three rounds for the sensible option to be taken, with Ruiz pulled out from proceedings in the ninth when the corner threw in the towel.

Such a sparkling Haye performance left the boxing public chomping at the bit for a Haye/Klitschko unification fight, or at the very least, a clash with a top rated contender. The date for a David Haye return was pencilled in as the 13th November, and a top opponent was promised.

The boxing fraternity waited… Enter Audley “A-Force” Harrison, a man with the apparent criteria for the task of stepping in the ring with Haye. Both hardcore and the humble fans were vocal in their protestation, as the “Hayemaker” declared that the public were anxious to see the borderline farcical match-up above any other that had been mooted that year. 

The arrival of the 20,000 plus fight goers who bought tickets for the event was testament to the influential nature of pre-fight publicity rather than the competitiveness of the occasion. The contest was marketed as Harrison’s last hurrah in a sense, and whilst I myself criticised the fight profusely, it pains me to admit that I too, briefly bought into the SKY hype machine and believed, even if only for a short time, that Harrison would stand any slither of a chance against the frankly better equipped David Haye.
Those who paid to view the “fight” on PPV or first hand at the Manchester Evening News Arena would have left feeling grossly short changed. Haye destroyed Harrison in three rounds, without breaking a sweat. Harrison landed one (yes one!) jab in the three rounds he survived and left the venue without an ounce of respect from the majority of the watching crowd. Haye retained his title, and now will hope for a more fruitful 2011, with a fight with a Klitschko looking to be a promising prospect at the time of writing.
Khan overcomes his Acid test in Maidana
Amir Khan proved many doubters wrong on the 11th December and passed what was considered to be his “acid test” with brutal skill and courage. Marcos Maidana was supposed to ruin the rebuilt Bolton fighter’s script and re-establish the critics’ viewpoint that the WBA light-Welterweight titlist’s chin was incapable of withstanding any impact. Khan remained insistent that this was not the case, and had cited weight making problems at lightweight as the number one reason for his repeated trips to the mat.

Khan, under the proven strategic genius of trainer Freddie Roach, elected to pick Maidana apart gradually rather than have to contradict those critics of Khan’s chin with a practical display. The plan worked perfectly. Khan began at a monstrously fast pace, putting punches together in clusters and hunting both the head and body with startling accuracy. Maidana was down in the first from a breathtaking body shot that had the Argentine writhing in agony on the ring floor. Remarkably he made it up and the fight continued, with Maidana seemingly rescued by the sound of the bell.

Though Khan’s hand speed and variety were the cause of much distress to the ever-advancing Maidana, the challenger’s destructive power remained a worrying factor throughout the night. He connected numerous times with jolting uppercuts and hooks that gave khan something to consider, but only once managed to cut the ring off for a period long enough to inflict any lasting damage, due to khan being able to slide away when cornered.

By this time however, it was too little too late for the South American. Questions and concerns over Khan’s chin were put firmly to bed with evidence from the tenth round. Khan was caught with a number of leg shaking shots, but amazingly, just as he had confidently declared in the run up to the moment, withstood it all. Khan had the presence of mind to cover up adequately enough and reply with enough regularity to prevent Joe Cortez calling a halt to the bout. The bell signalled much more than just the end of the tenth round.

It was a metaphor for what will hopefully be the end of the scrutiny surrounding Khan, and also an example of courage and valour that showed that the one notable chink in the Englishman’s armour has been suitably improved. Amir Khan survived another desperate rally from Maidana in the final stanza, but gritted his teeth to deservedly clinch the unanimous decision victory. The future looks blindingly bright for the light welterweight division on this final offering of the year, and Khan will be keen to establish his dominance in 2011 by taking on the other divisional gatekeepers to an undisputed title, Americans Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander.

Nathan Cleverly
Aside from the British combatants who were engaged in world title fights, 2010 also brought a number of fights that showcased the potential World stars of the future. Nathan Cleverly remains at the forefront in terms of imminent success at the top level.

Having completed his studies at Cardiff University, the Welshman has successfully secured the interim WBO light heavyweight title against the awkward Nadjib Mohammedi. As a result, Nathan should be challenging for the full version of the title next year, a fight that is more than likely to materialise against the winner of the Juergen Braehmer / Beibut Shumenov WBO/WBA unification fight that takes place on 8th January 2011.

Matthew Macklin also strengthened his ambitions for a World Middleweight championship opportunity by producing a fight stopping performance over replacement fighter Shalva Jormardashvilli in September at the LG Arena in Birmingham.

His December 11thperformance over Ruben Varon in defence of his European title was far less convincing however, and Macklin was far more laboured in his approach, even though he got the victory he needed to remain on course. IBF Middleweight king Sebastian Sylvester may soon be persuaded to risk his belt against “Mack the Knife”. 

James DeGale
Amateur Rivals George Groves and James DeGale remain on a collision course after a perfect year for both men. Groves began the year in destructive style, taking out Grigor Sarohanian in three rounds in Essex.

This fight set him up for his first twelve round title face off against Commonwealth Super-Middleweight ruler Charles Adamu. “St. George” Coolly dismantled the African champion, derailing him in 6 easy looking rounds. Alfredo Contreras was beaten in another 6 in Las Vegas, whilst Groves was forced to dig down much further than previously required in the fight of the night against Kenny Anderson on the Haye-Harrison undercard, climbing off the floor to stop the game Scot in his most commonly brutal round, the sixth.

DeGale went about his work with far more silk in his style as well as dynamite in 2010. He disposed of Matthew Barr in two, Sam Horton in five and Carl Dilks was controversially waved off in the opener in September. His crowning glory for 2010 came on December 11th, where DeGale gave a performance that went far beyond what his career statistics as a professional would suggest, using a blend of speed, power and boxing guile to reign supreme over season Liverpudlian British champion Paul Smith, who was stopped in nine.

Gavin Rees
In another British title scrap at Lightweight, John Watson faced former world light welterweight champ Gavin Rees and fought bravely against a punishing onslaught, unable to cope with the energetic aggression of “The Rock,” who after suffering some punishment from a briefly rejuvenated Watson in the middle rounds, rediscovered his early form and went onto win the amazing slugfest by an eleventh round TKO.
There are also a number of other fighters who impressed considerably in 2011. John Murray maintained his winning form against Gary Buckland and Andriy Kudriavstev, winning wars of attrition in respective defences of his British and European titles.

Matthew Hatton also seems to be reaching his potential at Welterweight after arriving on the European scene, winning the EBU title and negotiating two successful defences of it, most recently with the type of body shot brother Ricky would have taken pride in, when knocking out the Swiss Roberto Belge in three. Fellow Hatton Promotions stable mate Scott Quigg continues to delight at Super Bantamweight, winning the WBA international title and increasing awareness of his talents with every positive performance. 

Stephen Foster Jnr.
In a fantastic comeback to the ring Stephen Foster Jr. became the new European super featherweight champion, scoring a third round technical knockout over Leva Kirakosyan. Foster can really give it a good go in the coming year and this no nonsense pro from Salford can use his new title to get the big opportunities he deserves.
With other notable wins and successes for many British fighters domestically, of which more we will cover soon. The past year has really been a wake up for British boxing and one that can give the coming year an impetus to push on from this.
2011 has the potential to equal the excitement of this year. The above has shown that whilst certain fights have failed to materialise, the British boxing scene continues to thrive and is a more than adequate companion to satisfy any aggrieved boxing fan.
By Jamie Albrecht – British Boxers boxing correspondant.

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