Christmas is only around the corner as we enter the final month of the year but Boxing has already served up a couple of early presents. A couple of
weeks back saw Boxing’s most famous active fighter Manny Pacquiao take to the ring once more against old rival Juan Manuel Marquez for the legendary Filipino’s WBO Welterweight title. Las Vegas heaved to the swell of a big time fight atmosphere as the circus that surrounds Pacquiao enveloped the fight capital of the world. The fight ended in a controversial decision but there can be no denying the ever-increasing popularity of Pacquiao and a super-fight with fellow top pound for pound rival Floyd Mayweather would surely break all boxing box office records if it happened in 2012.
Last weekend Britain had three fighters in major title fights, most notably Manchester’s John Murray challenging Brandon Rios for the WBA Lightweight title in Madison Square Garden. His namesake Martin Murray, also of Manchester, took on long reigning WBA Middleweight Champion Felix Sturm in the holder’s backyard in Germany and Dereck ‘Del Boy’ Chisora ventured to Helsinki to take on Finnish Heavyweight prospect Robert Helenius for the European Heavyweight title. It must be said that all three had their work cut out as they faced quality opposition as away fighters and were clear underdogs going into their respective fights. It was no surprise that all three lost but it was surprising how well each performed considering their circumstances.
John Murray fought very well for the first half of his fight against Rios and proved that he has World Class toughness at the very least before he was comprehensively broken down and stopped in the 11th round in New York. He can hold his head high after a courageous effort, unlike Rios who came in overweight and lost his title on the scales before the contest had even begun. He must surely be contemplating spending the rest of his career at Light-Welterweight and beyond after this fight and judging by his display against Murray he will have to improve drastically if he is to give Amir Khan and co problems up at 140 pounds.
Martin Murray managed to go one better than John by snatching a draw against Felix Sturm in their WBA Middleweight title fight. I saw the fight slightly differently giving Sturm the edge in the points department as I believed his work was more effective and he controlled large parts of the contest with educated pressure. Martin did prove that he belongs at World level though and can look forward to many exciting fights including potential match ups against fellow Brits Darren Barker and Matthew Macklin.
The best performance of the three British title challengers last weekend was undoubtedly Dereck Chisora, who totally redeemed himself and his floundering career by controlling his fight against Robert Helenius from start to finish. ‘Del Boy’ proved he has a granite chin after surviving a first round scare against the big punching Finn and went onto dominate proceedings by using clever head movement and generally outworking the far taller ‘Nordic Nightmare’. The end result was a preposterous split decision loss for the London man but Chisora can now look forward to a potentially lucrative 2012 as rematches against both Helenius and previous conqueror Tyson Fury could, if successful for Dereck, propel him into the Heavyweight World title scene.
The past couple of weeks have been hectic, I’ve filmed the Strictly Coming Dancing Christmas Special which you can have a giggle at on Christmas day, I tried my darnedest and you never know you may be surprised by my dancing skills…!! I attended the CYP Boxing Championships on November 24th on behalf of the EABA, which took place at Harlow dog track. It was good to see the burgeoning English amateur talent is as plentiful as ever. On the night I was there James Branch, the son of former professional Light heavyweight of the same name, stood out. This tall rangy southpaw possesses fast hands and beautiful skills and is one to watch. As is Johnny Saunders from Kent who is another talented kid at 67kg, however he was pushed all the way by a tough Liverpool lad. These were just a few names from a bunch of very talented young lads that prove the amateur game is thriving. On the 25th I was in Limerick speaking at the International City of Sport Conference to end their year as European City of Sport. A very interesting day.
On November 27th I attended the Jaguar Academy of Sports Awards at the Savoy. This is the second year of the awards and I was pleased, as an Ambassador, to nominate young Patrick McCann, an outstanding amateur boxer from Market Harborough, as a bursary winner. This young man has already won a plethora of titles not just domestically but internationally as well. He’s already won a brace of 4 Nations Titles, a European Gold and 3 National School Boy Titles and again this year he captained the English team when they competed in the GB Championship’s winning Gold again. Bearing in mind this young man is still only 15 years old, it is safe to say he has a bright future ahead of him and he is fully deserving of his Jaguar Academy of Sport bursary.
My old mate Ian Gillian (less of the old) and his always ebullient wife Bron invited myself, my wife Sandra, my eldest boy Blain and his girlfriend Isabella to travel on their bus with them and the rest of the Deep Purple band to their gig at the O2 Arena on Nov 30th. We met them at their Hotel, took the bus to Westminster Bridge and traveled down the river by boat to watch them perform with the Frankfurt Philharmonic to a sold out crowd. What a night, it was magnificent, the combination of the orchestra and the band was electrifying. Finishing with Smoke on the Water and Black Night sent the crowd into a frenzy, truly unforgettable.
I was back in Ireland on the 5th of December to promote my book on the RTE Daily Show. My young Commonwealth Champion Carl Frampton defends his title on the 28th of January at York Hall in London against Scotland’s Kris Hughes. He’s looking forward to a busy year but all his focus will be on Hughes and January 28th.
That’s about it for now, I can’t wait for this weekends Sky Boxing shows. Amir Khan is involved in a possibly career defining fight with Washington D.C’s Lamont Peterson in the USA’s capital city. This night of great action is kicked off by a very exciting bill from Peterlee Leisure Centre in the North East, featuring Ashley Theophane defending his British Light Welterweight Title against local man Nigel Wright and a full supporting undercard. Bye for now.