Something’s Got to Change, Frankie

Something’s got to change, Frankie.

Frankie ‘Funtime’ Gavin was given an opportunity last night. An opportunity to show the world that his elite amateur pedigree would finally transfer to the professional stage. He didn’t take it; he didn’t even make a grab for it.

Now, for the record, anyone who enters a boxing ring willing to put it all on the line both physically and mentally for the viewer’s pleasure has nothing but my respect, admiration and more. I shouldn’t have to say that but sometimes there’s a reason to.

Gavin, now 29, has produced one masterful high since he turned pro in 2009: a seven round clinic against Denton Vassell in 2013 that showed he was levels, even planets above his opponent and (we thought) the domestic level. Unfortunately, he’s had difficulty retaining his momentum. Bradley Skeete almost showed he was Gavin’s equal when they met last November in a fight where the credit went to Skeete and another question mark was attached to ‘Funtime’. Concerns about his development had been temporarily erased in Gavin’s courageous losing performance against European welterweight champion Leonard Bundu earlier in the year. Ironically, losing to Bundu brought Gavin acclaim, while beating Skeete garnered him criticism.

The Birmingham fighter, who must find a way to go back to 140lbs where he might not look as sluggish and one-paced, nonetheless was presented with a golden ticket last night. The big stage, a pay-per-view show, 18,000 people and the chance for us all to say, in defeat or victory, “Finally! He has arrived”.

Brook-Gavin 1
Gavin, right, was an easy mark for the confident Brook.

Kell Brook, who is proving to be something of a formidable force at 147lbs, said beforehand: “Frankie is getting nowhere near this (IBF) belt”. Brook’s words were prophetic, but he forgot to mention that Gavin wouldn’t get near him in the ring.

For six rounds Brook dominated. From round one his stiff jab prodded the challenger and forced him into his shell so quickly that the fight looked over before it had really got underway. Gavin depended on his own clever jab followed up by single shots, something that’s got him through the British scene, but that seemed to be it. Brook was having a more competitive second defence than his mandatory against Jo Jo Dan simply because of duration, rather than any threat Gavin posed.

Brook was a heavy favourite, and rightly so, and whilst I and many others fully expected him to triumph I did expect Gavin to dip into his box of tricks and give Brook a problem or three to think about.

The champion’s distance and timing worked early and he found it relatively easy to bully Gavin, who couldn’t use his renowned balance and movement to get out of the way. But in a week where Chris Algieri abandoned his traditional tactics for a more aggressive, go-for-the-throat performance against Amir Khan, there was little to nothing like that from Gavin.

Reckless abandonment is never a wise idea but there was not even a flicker of a flame in Gavin that gave his fans and guys like me – who have retained mountains of belief in him for too long now – something to believe in. Something that made us think at the beginning of each round: “Now he’s going to show what he can do”.

Brook-Gavin 2
Gavin did very little to pressure Brook or make him uncomfortable.

Most of Gavin’s problems resulted from Brook’s surpassing skills and confidence. Ever since becoming world champion the Dominic Ingle-trained star seems to have embraced the mantle and looks a different man inside and outside the ring. Getting a second chance at life after surviving a horrific machete attack in Tenerife last year might be another reason for his positive transformation. Whatever the case, it looks like it is going to take something very special to rip Brook’s prized possession away from him.

As for Gavin, it’s frustrating to write something like this about a boxer who has bundles of talent. His future is seven pounds south and he needs to rebuild some self-belief. This can be done in a few fights in front of his home fans in Birmingham. We still might see the very best of ‘Funtime’, but at 147lbs it is never going to happen.

He sampled the big occasion and took part in his first world title shot, but failed to deliver in the end. Tellingly, after witnessing an enthralling support card of knockdowns, cuts, drama, blood, glory and world class ability, some fans had had enough of the main event and, sadly, began leaving the venue. So much drama had been pierced by an anti-climatic main event.

Frankie Gavin is one of the most talented fighters in Britain but something’s got to change.

– Shaun Brown

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