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August 13, 2014
August 13, 2014
Frank Maloney

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Well I think the goings on this week with Frank [now Kellie] Maloney’s announcement [that he will live as a woman while undergoing gender reassignment] supersedes any other news in boxing, at least in Britain.

When I first heard the news on Sunday I was convinced it was a wind up. I have known him and worked for him on his shows for many years and counted myself as a friend of his brother Eugene, who like me was a big fan of rugby league, and at no time was there any suggestion in our conversations of Frank’s inhibitions. Then after the initial shock I had two trains of thought. The first, after reading the article in the Sunday Mirror, was what a tormented person Frank must have been. But knowing how the papers can play on your emotions, as let’s be honest their business is to sell papers, I wondered how the hell someone is able to conceal these feelings from the world without any hints of it becoming public.

Then reading the article again and trying to read between the lines to find the truth from fiction, it felt uncomfortable as I had been in his company on many occasions and it is hard to believe that the life he had led as a boxer, promoter, manager and any other job he did in boxing, which is a male orientated sport had been the path to take if you felt this way about yourself and your body.

I know he was somewhat flamboyant but he had disappeared for so long why not stay out of the limelight? What is more important, your quality of life as you want it to be, or the money?

August 13, 2014
August 13, 2014
Kell Brook

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KELL Brook faces his biggest test this weekend when he takes on American Shawn Porter for the IBF welterweight title in Carson, California (part of the Los Angeles sprawl). It’s a fascinating fight, with opinion split as to who will win.

Porter has improved hugely over the last couple of years and looked particularly impressive destroying Paulie Malignaggi last time out in April. But then Brook is unbeaten (like Porter) and much fresher than the “Magic Man” was when I watched Shawn beat him in Washington DC four months ago.

The omens supplied by history are both encouraging and discouraging for Brook. The Sheffield talent may or may not be aware that it was in the month of August, albeit 99 years ago, that a British boxer went to the USA and wrested the world welter crown from an American – Ted “Kid” Lewis outpointed Jack Britton over 12 rounds in Boston on August 1, 1915.

Lewis subsequently met Britton in six more world title fights and won only one of them (another was drawn). But the measure of the Aldgate star’s achievement is that the next time a Briton dethroned a world champion in the USA was Alan Minter beating Vito Antuofermo for the middleweight crown in 1980.

Just 15 days after Minter’s exploit came a fight that Brook supporters will want to gloss over. On March 31, 1980, Dave “Boy” Green challenged the fabulous Sugar Ray Leonard for the WBC welterweight title in the USA and was knocked cold by a left hook in round four. The Chatteris brawler had already been knocked out by Carlos Palomino in a world title bid (in London) and by Jorgen Hansen in a European championships clash in Denmark, so putting him in with Leonard was asking too much. At least Brook will go into the Porter match with a 100 per cent record and his confidence intact.

Another over-ambitious match featuring a Brit challenging an American for the world welter title in the USA came in July 2001, when Adrian Stone travelled to Las Vegas to face Sugar Shane Mosley for the WBC belt. Bristol’s Stone was a decent fighter at European level but Mosley was at his peak, having beaten Oscar De La Hoya the previous year; Adrian was knocked out in three rounds.

So in whose footsteps will Kell Brook follow on Saturday? Will he emulate Ted “Kid” Lewis or suffer the same fate as Green and Stone? The last two were arguably past their best when their US chance came, whereas Brook is at his peak now. Win or lose, he will surely let Porter know he has been in a fight and go back to Yorkshire with his reputation enhanced.

For the full Brook-Porter preview don’t miss this week’s issue of Boxing News

August 12, 2014
August 12, 2014

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“It’s a terrible business,” said one of the men responsible for staging what he called “the biggest British boxing event of all-time”. A sighed followed, then a shake of the head. Promoter Eddie Hearn elaborated, “It’s so hard to turn a profit on a regular Saturday Fight Night. If we didn’t have Froch-Groves 2, we wouldn’t have half the business we’ve got this year.”

It was tough to sympathise with a man knee-deep in a cash pile, but the promoter unquestionably feared a sophomore slump. The saga was over, a chapter closed, and history told him it wouldn’t get any easier from here. To the disappointment of us all, Carl Froch and George Groves were no longer entwined and a brief period of post-event mourning led to for fans, media and the promoter bracing themselves for an anticlimactic few months, if not years. After all, what could possibly top the incredible sight of 80,000 Britons filtering into Wembley Stadium on a balmy May evening to watch two bitter rivals conclude a compelling storyline they had first created back in November? Hard-nosed pessimists suggested it was all downhill from here.

But Hearn was different. He couldn’t afford to think that way. He couldn’t even afford to bask in the moment and marvel at what he helped produced. Before he knew it, his focus had turned from Saturday night to Monday morning. He was back on the phone. Fights were being made with renewed vigour and hope.

“That event made me think that the fights I thought were big could definitely do the numbers I was hoping,” he said. “A couple of months before I offered Amir Khan three million quid to fight Kell Brook. Those numbers are fine. Kell will get less but, as of now, he hasn’t done what Khan’s done.

“But seeing Froch-Groves 2 made me think I can offer a lot more. I know Brook-Khan would sell-out Old Trafford. I’m not sure about Wembley, because it doesn’t strike me as a London fight. If Brook beats Shawn Porter, though, it sells out a Wembley-sized venue.”

There are many reasons why Froch-Groves worked and many reasons why it was something of an anomaly in this day and age. Firstly, it worked because Carl Froch is rightly considered the best fighter in Great Britain today. He’s the closest thing we have to a bonafide world champion and, though not quite the number one in the division, remains unquestionably the biggest draw at super-middleweight in 2014. He’s also a guarantee. You know what you’re going to get from ‘The Cobra’ when purchasing a ticket to one of his fights. He rarely disappoints.

Secondly, George Groves has, in the last twelve months, established himself not only as a talented young contender, but arguably one of the most articulate and interesting characters in the game. He talks better than most, is able to create story-lines through his antics and, having learnt the tricks of selling a fight from David Haye, one of the sport’s very best salesmen, is fully aware of what it takes to flog a product to the masses. It’s an art lost on many. Even Froch, as great a champion as we’ve ever produced, has hardly embraced the idea of promoting himself and his fights in such a way. Instead, he prefers to let his fist do the talking. More often than not, they do.

Still, it was this combination that worked so well; Froch’s history and accomplishments paired with Groves’ intelligence and confidence. The clincher then arrived in the form of the super-middleweights’ first fight, which, in addition to being the domestic fight of 2013, was also shrouded in the kind of controversy that piqued the interest of the masses. It was the kind of controversy that appealed to an online generation caught up in conspiracy theories and video clips. In the on-demand era of the rewind and re-watch, no fight boasted better playback-ability than Froch-Groves 1. In time, the stoppage became a talking point, and social media sites welcomed the discussions and the hashtags. The rematch inevitably followed.

“It was the right product at the right time,” said Hearn. “Yes, we promoted it well, yes, Sky promoted it well, and yes, it had the controversy of the first fight, but, ultimately, it was just a great product. It was a great rivalry. Those two names belonged together. Brook-Khan has that same kind of feel to it.”

For now a fight between Amir Khan and Kell Brook lacks two of the key ingredients which made Froch-Groves such a perfect marriage. It lacks the authenticity of world title belts, the kind Froch brought to the party, and it’s also without a charismatic talker, someone who, like Groves, can press the right buttons at the right time and create sub-plots. But that’s not to say it doesn’t have other things going for it.

Should Brook defeat American Shawn Porter on August 16, he’ll have both a world title and plenty of momentum. His profile will receive a timely boost and he’ll be armed with something Khan may wish to nab at some point. Also, a fight between the pair carries some needle, which is often all-important, as the two have been going back and forth for a couple of years now. It has some back story. It has spice. Not only that, the fight itself is one that appeals for the simple fact that it will likely be aesthetically pleasing. Both men have styles that are easy on the eye; quick, explosive and athletic talents who like to throw punches in bunches and mix it up. Like any Carl Froch fight, drama and excitement in Brook-Khan is almost a certainty.

Encouragingly, it’s not the only domestic showdown that could do big numbers at an arena or stadium in the next twelve months. There are others, too, all of which have been injected with fresh hope following the monster that engulfed Wembley back in May.

For one, it seems Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew will meet again in November in a repeat of their October 2011 encounter. Another rematch, its appeal comes from the competitive nature of their first bout and, more importantly, the deep-rooted dislike they appear to have for one another. That, more than anything, will make a domestic fight tick all the necessary boxes. And though the likes of Cleverly and Bellew don’t quite boast the profile required to headline stadiums, their second match is a safe enough bet for most indoor arenas in the country.

“That’s another one that will get a boost from Froch-Groves 2,” said Hearn. “Fans are hungry for all-British match-ups right now and we’ve realised that’s the way to go. Chuck a bit of needle into the equation and you’re on to a winner. Bellew and Cleverly would have been a big anyway, but it will be much bigger now thanks to the impact of Froch-Groves 2.”

Another all-British clash that has long been mooted, and would sell extremely well in both Belfast and Manchester, is the super-bantamweight pairing of Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg. Sure, it lacks any detectable bad blood, but there is a clear rivalry between the pair and, should Frampton defeat Kiko Martinez for a second time in September, there’ll be the added bonus of both the IBF and the lesser-regarded WBA regular titles on the line should they meet. What’s more, the promotional criss-crossing both have experienced in recent years adds another layer of intrigue to what is already a fascinating blend of styles.

The same could be said of a possible middleweight fight between the former Olympian Billy Joe Saunders and the truculent son of a legend, Chris Eubank Jr, who are both unbeaten professionals and, unlike Quigg and Frampton, have become synonymous through mutual dislike. Theirs is a rivalry as hate-fuelled as any in British boxing right now and it has the potential to get even bigger; Eubank, of course, already has the surname, and Saunders, if he keeps on track, could wind up with a world title in the not too distant future.

Yet, while the likes of Cleverly-Bellew, Quigg-Frampton and Saunders-Eubank Jr whet the appetite and presumably pack indoor arenas, their appeal is similar to that of the recent ill-fated heavyweight rematch between Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora. Big, bigger than the norm, but not Froch-Groves big.

As such, the best and most direct route to a Wembley redux is to look at the two participants who made it happen in the first place; Carl Froch and George Groves. Both men’s hopes of a Wembley repeat have been enhanced by the re-emergence of James DeGale, who seemingly always appears close to a return with Groves, and is closer still to a shot at Froch’s IBF title. No fight in Britain carries greater needle than one between Groves and DeGale, and no fight carries greater importance, right now, than one between Froch and DeGale. Certainly, these two fights best represent British boxing’s chance of a swift return to the national stadium.

It remains questionable whether the aforementioned fights top Froch-Groves 2, though, because at this point there’s little in the way of a dynamic between Froch and DeGale, and a potential bout between Groves and DeGale requires world titles. Froch-Groves 2, on the other hand, possessed the triple threat; world titles, first fight controversy and a narrative that positively overflowed with talking points, putdowns and memorable moments.

That’s not to say world title belts are the be all and end all of stadium fights. Quite the opposite, in fact. Prior to Froch-Groves 2, the two most recent examples of big stadium fights in this country took place without so much as a genuine world title in sight. Ricky Hatton and Juan Lazcano attracted 55,000 fans to the City of Manchester Stadium in 2007 and David Haye and Dereck Chisora convinced 30,000 to fill West Ham’s Upton Park in 2012. Fringe and intercontinental belts aside, neither used world titles as a selling point. They couldn’t.

What both fights did have, however, was some kind of hook. Manchester had ‘The Hitman’, as big a ticket-seller as this nation has ever seen, and the East End had the promise of ill will spilling over as two foul-mouthed renegades looked to settle a spat. If history has told us anything it’s that, for the most part, Hatton and heavyweights sell.

To that end, the long-term future of stadium fights in this country will likely rest at the sizeable feet of our young heavyweights, notably, Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua. Those two behemoths are in their mid-twenties, full of potential, and seemingly on a collision course. And should this happen with a world title or two up for grabs, there can be little doubt it would be primed for a football stadium.

Already the building blocks are in place. Fury, a polarising figure, but one who’s eminently watchable, has shown the ability to crossover and, in name alone, raises curiosity and intrigue outside boxing circles, while Joshua, the 2012 Olympic gold medallist, is charming where Fury’s cheeky, ripped where Fury’s loose, and PC where Fury’s Positively Crude.

Whatever the contrasts, both men, should they continue winning, seem destined for the biggest stage. “Joshua will be filling Wembley Stadium one day,” assured Hearn, the Londoner’s promoter. “Not in the next 18 months, but one day. He’s the ultimate. He’s a crossover star. A lot of that is to do with his success at the Olympics and his exposure on BBC1. He’s a national hero, very humble, and he looks like a superhero. He’s got it all.

‘But you’ve got to be able to fight. All the signs so far point to him being able to handle himself, but at what level? I watch him spar and see enough ability there to confidently say he’ll one day fight for the heavyweight championship of the world. There’s no doubt in my mind. Can he win it? I believe he can. Time will tell.”

World titles are one thing, a night at Wembley Stadium another thing entirely. To win or defend a world title at the national stadium has now, thanks to Carl Froch and George Groves, become a fresh dream shared by all boxers up and down the country. The bar has been raised. So too has the sport of boxing.

August 12, 2014
August 12, 2014

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Teak-tough Mexican Raymundo Beltran is the next fighter set to test unbeaten upcoming star Terence Crawford, and the seasoned 29-6-1(17) contender doesn’t agree with those people who feel Crawford is the world’s best at lightweight.

One win removed from his hugely controversial draw with then WBO king Ricky Burns, Beltran now aims to claim the belt from the slick boxer who relived Burns of the title. And Beltran is not worrying about the prospect of boxing in Crawford’s hometown; nor was he overly impressed by the champion’s recent stoppage win over Yuriorkis Gamboa.

Q: You against Crawford is a big, big fight – do you agree with what many people say, that Crawford is the best in the world at lightweight right now?

Raymundo Beltran: “No, I’m not sure I agree with that. The media, the business, they build a fighter up. I mean, he is good, he is a talented fighter, but the best, no, I don’t say that.”

Q: How many of his fights have you seen?

“I saw the [Yuriorkis] Gamboa fight, and a couple of others. He has done well, but I think they can hype a fighter up. Against Gamboa, I knew he [Crawford] would win, and by stoppage. It was meant to be. Gamboa, he makes a lot of mistakes and he is not strong enough, and Crawford is so much bigger [than Gamboa]. I’m not taking anything away from his win, but I knew it would happen. But I am much stronger than Gamboa.”

Once again, as in the case with the Ricky Burns fight, you will be going up against the WBO champion in his own backyard. Have you any concerns, maybe about being robbed again?

“You know, I can’t really think about that; I’m not thinking about that. I will just go in there and do my job, and do the best I can. I will perform anywhere. We all know boxing is corrupt, we all know that. And we all know that if it goes to a decision, they will give it to him. But I can’t think about that. If I did, my head would be messed up, to the point where I couldn’t perform; where my body wouldn’t respond. I have to think that, in the ring, nobody can control what happens. I mean, I know the judges can, but this fight is big and will be on T.V, so everyone will see. If they do rob me, everyone will see it. But I don’t complain. I know how boxing works.”

Just talking about the Burns fight – most people everywhere feel you definitely won. You and Crawford have a common opponent there, yet some feel you looked better against Ricky – flooring him and breaking his jaw – than Crawford did; even though he got the decision you never got?

“You know, I thought so too. But he [Crawford] has his business and his team behind him – they wouldn’t allow him to get robbed. Me, I’m just by myself. They could make sure he got a fair shake; no-one did that for me. But again, I’m not complaining. I don’t need anyone apart from my team to help me win. And I have no hard feelings; I want to say hello to all the English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh fans over there.”

How do you see the fight with Crawford going? Do you see yourself being physical with him, as the big and strong lightweight that you are?

“I think the fight will be very tactical, not so much physical. I’ve got to be smart in this fight. I can’t allow myself to make mistakes.”

Will you be sparring with Manny Pacquiao as you have ahead of a number of your fights?

“I don’t think so, no. I’ll be having my own camp, with my own sparring partners. I’ve already started training actually. I will step it up on September 1st, but I’m already getting myself ready.”

You’d love a KO against Crawford, obviously!

“Yes, I’d love a KO if one comes. But as long as it’s a good fight, where the people enjoy every round, that’s what is important. I just want to perform, enjoy myself and have fun, and give a good fight.”

Is this the fight where you finally get hold of the WBO crown that many people feel should already be yours?

“Yeah, this time God is on my side. I will be fine in this fight.” 

August 12, 2014
August 12, 2014
Boxing Sheffield Ponds Forge 17

Boxing Sheffield Ponds Forge 26-4-14 Kirly Relikh right in action in his fight with Ty Gilchrist

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Belarussian prospect Kirill Relikh has signed a long-term promotional contract with Hatton Promotions and is now targeting a showdown with experienced Aussie Chad Bennett.

Relikh, 16 -0 (14), has been trained by four-time world champion Ricky Hatton since February this year and will return to the ring in his home city of Minsk on September 10.

Should he come through that fight, he’s been promised a mandatory shot at the aforementioned Bennett’s WBC EPBC light-welterweight championship.

Bennett, who has recently called out WBA champion Jessie Vargas, won the title on Friday night with a fifth round stoppage of the unheralded Indonesia Stevi Ongen Ferdinandus, and Relikh is willing to travel to Australia to be his first challenger.

Hatton Promotions is keen to make the fight happen and will be looking to complete negotiations with Bennett’s representatives within the WBC’s time limit of 90 days.

“I’ve already beaten one Australian in Ty Gilchrist quite easily and I can’t see Bennett being much tougher,” Relikh said through a translator.

“He’s got a good record with more than 40 fights, but he’s not really fought anyone and I’ve heard boxing fans in his own country don’t take him seriously.

“I expect to go to Australia, beat him and have the fans singing my name.”

Ricky Hatton has handled the careers of a myriad of top class fighters since launching his promotional company in 2009 and he believes Relikh can be as good as any.

“Kirill has that raw potential that really gets trainers excited,” Hatton said. “When he first came over he was a little bit upright, like they are from that part of the world, but I remember taking him on the pads and thinking ‘wow, what have they been feeding this guy?’

“You’ve only got to look at his record, 14 knockouts in 16 wins, to see that he can punch. We’ve added a few subtleties his game now and the sky’s the limit.”

August 12, 2014
August 12, 2014

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Softly spoken 23-year-old Emanuel Taylor, 18-2 (12) says he will defeat Adrien Broner next month and then achieve his goal of winning a world title at light-welterweight. Coming off a good July points win over Karim Mayfield, “Tranzformer,” as Taylor is known, feels the controversial and outspoken Broner has made a big mistake in agreeing to fight him.

Q: First of all, which of Adrien Broner’s fights have you seen and what do you think of him in general?

Emanuel Taylor: “I’ve seen the Marcos Maidana fight and the fight with Paulie [Malignaggi]. All I care about is doing what I have to do on the night to get the W. I think he’s a great fighter. He’s good at what he does. He talks a lot but from what I’ve seen he’s a great fighter.”

You don’t think Broner is more of a hype job?

“I wouldn’t say that. He’s probably the biggest name I’ll have fought so far. But he’s used to fighting smaller guys; who he could push around and back up. He won’t be able to do that with me. I expect a lot of movement, lateral movement, from Broner. I’m training too hard for this fight, man! A win over Broner would be amazing. I’m right on schedule with my training. Camp has been a whole lot of hard work.”

For those that have yet to see you box, how would you describe your style?

“I’m a boxer-puncher. I can box when I have to, I can fight when I have to. It depends on the particular fight [which tactics I use]. I bring a lot to the table.”

And what was your amateur record and how did you first get into boxing?

“My amateur record, I had 186 fights with 20 losses. Most of my losses came at the start of my career when I was young. I won the national Golden Gloves five times in a row and I won the national PAL title three times in a row. I was too young to go to the Olympics so I turned pro (in March of 2009, aged 18). My dad got me into boxing, to keep me out of trouble; me and my brother. I went to the gym to watch my brother train and my dad pretty much forced me into it, to keep me out of trouble.”

As a pro you have two close decision losses, to Prenice Brewer in 2011 and to Chris Algieri in February of this year. Do you consider both defeats as fair verdicts?

“The loss to Brewer was a robbery. I won at least five-rounds (of an eight-rounder). Everyone said to me that I’d won the fight. The loss to Algieri, yeah, I lost that fight. I was rusty, I had been off for ten months. Not making any excuses, but my timing was off and not on point.”

And what would you say was your best win thus far?

“Last time out, I beat Karim Mayfield, I’d say that was my best win as far as when I’ve had to go the distance with someone. But my (eighth-round) TKO over [Victor Manuel] Cayo is probably my best win. That was a good win for me.”

And what would a win over Broner mean for you?

“It would be amazing. I plan on staying at 140 for a couple more years, until I win a title there. Then I’ll look at maybe moving up to welterweight. But first things first and I’m focusing on Broner.  I will beat Broner; he has made a major mistake in taking this fight!”

Who is the best fighter in the world at light-welterweight right now in your opinion?

“I’d say Danny Garcia is the best right now. He’s the man right now. But I sparred Danny, back when he was getting ready for the [Lucas] Matthysse fight (Sept. 2013). They kicked me out of camp, because I was giving him too much work. We did four rounds [of sparring] every other day until they kicked me out. I also like Mauricio Herrera and Lamont Peterson. I guess Herrera really won the fight with Garcia. My goal is to win a world title at light-welterweight. First I’ve gotta beat Broner. He talks a lot but at the end of the day, no matter what he does or says, we’ve still got to throw hands; we’ve still got to fight. His talking won’t win him the fight.”

You plan on putting a lot of pressure on him, bullying him?

“Well, I ain’t gonna give up my game plan (Emanuel also preferred not to say who he has been sparring with for the Broner fight), but I do expect a lot of lateral movement from him. I’m just gonna do my job, whatever it takes to get that W.”

Picture courtesy of Tom Casino/Showtime

August 12, 2014
August 12, 2014

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Aussie Sam Soliman will defend his IBF middleweight title against Jermain Taylor in the US on October 4.

Soliman’s manager David Stanley said they had been in talks with seven possible opponents, adding that they were “very close” to striking a deal with WBA “super champion” Gennady Golovkin.

But Stanley said Taylor (32-4-1) provided the most attractive deal for the 40-year-old from Melbourne, with the east coast venue for the fight to be confirmed later this week.

Taylor, 36, is a former WBC and WBO champion at 160lb and holds two wins over Bernard Hopkins.

He also came within 14 seconds of claiming Carl Froch’s WBC super-middleweight title in April 2009.

But a loss to Arthur Abraham six months later and a subsequent MRI scan which revealed that Taylor was suffering a minor subdural hematoma seemed to indicate his career was over.

But he was later cleared to box and returned in December 2011, and has won his last four against modest opposition.

Soliman, 44-11, won the world title by outpointing champion Felix Sturm in Germany in May this year.