The British Heavyweights: THEY’RE ALIVE!
Somewhere online or in print between now and next Monday there will be an article headlined ‘Frampton Comes Alive,’ a 1970s musical reference to the IBF Super-Bantamweight champion Carl Frampton who makes his maiden title defence this Saturday in Belfast against Chris Avalos.
Boxing’s pulse, overall, has come alive of late too. For so long the sport has resembled an aging, once great man who keeps recalling the good old days over and over again with anyone that will listen, knowing all the while that the odd trip to the seaside and a sponge bath from the nurse are all he has to look forward to. Thanks to a prescriptive mix of Al Haymon, free-to-air boxing, a middleweight monster and the biggest fight of the century finally being signed, no one can doubt there’s still some lead in the old sport’s pencil.
Just as unlikely, the same can now be said in Britain for our heavyweight scene. 118 years ago British-born Bob Fitzsimmons was the legitimate world heavyweight champion after his famous “solar plexus” punch downed Gentleman Jim Corbett in round 14 of their legendary contest. Since then names such as Gunner Moir, Tommy Farr, Brian London and Henry Cooper have approached the final hurdle only to fall when the obstacle in front of them was just a bit too big. We’ve never been blessed with a plethora of world-class heavyweights, but then along came Frank Bruno, who broke our hearts again and again, before Lennox Lewis emerged and in 1992 we stole — I mean, reclaimed — him for our very own. A few years later Bruno actually made good, right here in England too, before falling again to Mike Tyson.
In 2015, we now have a boxing landscape which is virtually unrecognizable to that of just a few decades ago, with Great Britain boasting an intriguing mix of heavyweight potential featuring character, power, charisma, adversity and the unknown: we’ve got it all. Ingredients from that concoction continued mixing its own recipe for success last weekend in Berlin and Monte Carlo, and now moves on to London and Belfast this Saturday night as the British heavyweights, unlikely as it may seem, take the spotlight.
David Price, a man who now describes himself as “dangerous” because he has nothing to lose, last weekend made it four wins out of four since teaming up with German promotional giants Sauerland at the beginning of last year. A sixth round TKO over Irineu Beato Costa Junior saw Price’s pursuance of a dream, once teetering on the edge thanks to consecutive losses to Tony Thompson, haul itself up with a bit more grip than fingernails. The Liverpudlian’s job of rebuilding himself has been slow and attached with the label of Mr Forgotten. At 6′ 8″ and a right hand to knock out any heavyweight, Price shouldn’t be forgotten or ignored, but instead carefully monitored by those with their matchmaking hats on.
Eight hundred miles away amongst the glitz and glamour of Monte Carlo, Hughie Fury was matched with Andriy Rudenko, a boxing gamble in the principality if ever there was one. Fury, 20, had not fought since May 2014 due to a potentially career threatening illness. In that time Rudenko had a rough row with the world-rated Lucas Browne, losing a unanimous decision over 12 rounds. The Ukranian had 27 fights to Fury’s 15, as well as an 11-year head start having been born in 1983 compared to young Hughie born in 1994. The result of their fight? A near-perfect performance from the baby heavyweight Fury.
Hughie is a diligent boxer with a ring craft that should blossom in the next 12 months under the tutelage of his father and trainer, Peter Fury. As his famous cousin, Tyson, proved against Dereck Chisora, explosiveness with the power, size and strength of the modern day heavyweight isn’t always required. A career most definitely on the up as Peter is now eyeing up opponents such as Mariuz Wach for next time out.
Moving on to this Saturday night and the attention of the British heavyweight scene will be taken up by the bigger Fury, Tyson, and Dillian Whyte.
Tyson Fury: you’ve seen; you’ve heard; you know. The 6′ 9″ loveable rogue has a personality bigger than his lofty height and before the end of the year should have the chance to become Britain’s first world heavyweight champion since his not-so-best-friend David Haye.
When Fury climbs through (or should that be “steps over”?) the ropes on Saturday night at London’s O2, in front of a big crowd and HBO Sports President Ken Hershman, only Christian Hammer will stand between Fury and a match against champion Wladimir Klitschko. Promoter Frank Warren has returned from America and has been quoted as stating: “HBO are forcing Klitschko into a fight [against Fury]; he’s going to have to vacate or fight. And the fight against Wilder is a very exciting one that Showtime wants.”
Dillian Whyte’s stock will hopefully continue to rise on Saturday when his 14th outing, a spot on the Carl Frampton-Chris Avalos undercard against Beka Lobjanidze , lands crucially on ITV4, a channel that is the fun cousin of the more recognised ITV1.
ITV was once synonymous with boxing. American stars, Nigel Benn, Chris Eupbank, Michael Watson, Naseem Hamed to name but four, all evolved before our eyes on terrestrial TV. Joe Calzaghe, Carl Froch and, more so, Amir Khan, had varying degrees of exposure on the 60-year-old network. Whyte now has a chance to become known on the street and by the fans for his ability, rather than a win over Anthony Joshua in the amateurs.
And what of Joshua? The Olympic Gold Medallist returns in April after a spell out with injury. The charismatic, hard-hitting golden ticket to success (still to be confirmed) will look to make some sort of significant impact in 2015, while Kevin Johnson will look to thwart that on April 25 in London. A Joshua victory and particularly a Joshua stoppage in that fight will send his fans, his promoter and SkyTV commentators into orbit, where superlatives don’t grow anymore as they’ve all been used on ‘AJ’. That aside, there’s a sense of inevitability that Whyte and Joshua will meet again, but don’t bank on it anytime soon. “Let it come to the boil,” as they say. Can’t wait.
So there we have it. David Price; the comeback kid. Hughie Fury; young body, old head. Tyson Fury; the throne awaits. Dillian Whyte; man on a mission. Anthony Joshua; the chosen one.
What about David Haye?
To be continued…
— Shaun Brown