John Evans pens his new weekly column for British Boxers, ‘Evans Sent’ – His personal take on the latest rumblings on the British Boxing Scene.
The new British boxing season is upon us and a quick glance at this weekends schedule has filled me with hope for the coming months.
Saturday night will see two area titles contested. Steven Hale and Josh Morgan will contest the Central Area lightweight title in Doncaster while Sean Lewis and Adam Ismail will battle it out for the Central Area welterweight belt in Wigan.
Area and regional titles have been sadly—and badly—neglected in recent years. A check of the BBBoC website reveals that out of the 75 potential area champions, 62 slots remain vacant. The influx of gaudy, technicolour Intercontinental and International titles over the past couple of decades have pushed area titles further and further down the order of importance for most fighters and promoters who look for the quickest way to the summit of the sport and the larger pay checks.
In the same way that a mountaineer wouldn’t attempt to scale Everest without a solid base camp, area titles can acclimatise a young boxer to championship level and provide them with all important experience of what to expect when the challenges grow tougher and rewards get bigger.
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We’re seeing an increasing number of domestic level fighters sitting on the shelf for months on end, letting large chunks of their careers pass while they wait for that elusive British title eliminator or Commonwealth title shot to present itself. With a little extra confidence in their ability to beat a fired up domestic rival, they could be honing their skills in meaningful fights and beginning to fill their trophy cabinet. Winning an area title likely be the first official success of a boxers career and it is impossible to put a price of the confidence and self belief that can generate. Area titles also provide the invaluable education of preparing for a long distance fight and dealing with the rivalry generated by a local clash with an equally ambitious opponent. The sports long suffering fans would also be treated to more competitive fights.
Carl Frampton picked up the Celtic bantamweight title in the early stages of his career and Lee Selby claimed Welsh honours at featherweight but, in recent times, Jack Catterall is the most high profile fighter to have fought for an area belt. I am sure the promising light welterweight would vouch for the value of the title. He raised his stock markedly with a stunning knockout of Nathan Brough and the victory acted as a springboard for his subsequent success.
Let’s get the area title scene moving again. Everybody in boxing benefits from competitive fights.
Imagine complaining that a classical composer never turns his hand to happy hardcore or that a great architect has never designed a wendy house?
It wouldn’t happen, would it? Yet, in boxing, there seems to be an increasing minority choosing to criticise artists like Guillermo Rigondeaux, Floyd Mayweather, and Andre Ward because they decide to utilise their skills and ability to create abstract masterpieces rather than dispensing with them and turning their fights into easy to look at, colourful pop art.
This week, the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas was confirmed as the venue for November’s super fight between Ward and unified light heavyweight champion, Sergey Kovalev and amongst the relief that the fight had finally been agreed, the carping started. ‘Ward can win if he makes it a boring fight’ seemed to be the most prevalent school of thought.
Displaying the ability to fight through a crisis and eventually impose your will on the other man may provide fans with the perfect spectacle, but being able to suck every bit of drama out of a fight and make a world class opponent dance to your tune for the duration is arguably even more impressive. It might not be fan friendly, but it takes incredible discipline and skill.
Every boxing fan lives for that crackle of excitement that strikes when war breaks out but, surely, every fight fan must also appreciate a boxer performing at their peak, whatever their style? I sat riveted for every second of Jamie Conlan’s fight of the year brawl with Anthony Nelson but enjoyed Bradley Skeete’s tactically perfect dissection of Sam Eggington just as much. Conlan showed heart, guts and incredible mental strength but got dragged out of his gameplan by Nelson. Skeete produced a career best performance and sailed serenely to a safety first twelve round decision.
If Andre Ward is able to nullify Sergey Kovalev and turn what many see as a pick ‘em fight into a boring, one sided procession, then he will deserve to shoot directly to the top of the pound for pound rankings.
Sadly, he will receive far more credit should he decide to cast aside the qualities that have carried him so far and trade power punches with the dangerous Russian.
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