A CITY divided.
A friendship going back nearly two decades put to the test.
They said they would never face each other in a professional contest, some rules are meant to be broken.
The beating heart of Blackpool’s impressive boxing scene showcased on the undercard of a world title fight between Anthony Crolla and Jorge Linares.
Another time and place then this could easily have been a world title fight itself, instead it’s for the WBA International middleweight strap, Jack Arnfield’s (with Michael and Dave Jennings) belt that he won impressively over John Ryder in September 2016 then defended in a grudge match with Mick Hall just two months ago.
His opponent is none other than friend of nearly twenty years, a sparring partner of thousands of rounds, Blackpool’s Lion and former world title challenger, Brian Rose (under the erstwhile guidance of Bobby Rimmer and company).
What Rose brings in top level experience, Arnfield brings in heart, the pair know each other inside out but, come Saturday night, and the ‘Battle for Blackpool’ commences in the Manchester Arena, all that goes out of the window.
Rose may have lost three of his last seven outings, but look at the calibre of them, they aren’t losses to be ashamed of and he’s still got plenty left in him that’s for sure. Rose is the same person now as he was when he started out over a decade ago, just wiser and more battle-hardened.
What of Arnfield? He took some time away early in his pro career and has been stifled with options in the middleweight division as others moved ahead. However, the wins over Ryder, and most certainly Hall, set him up nicely to go into Rose and beyond.
Their careers have ran parallel, but in often different directions. They both have what it takes to be a champion and they’ve both won championship belts. Come Saturday night though and something has to give as the champion Jack Arnfield takes on the challenger Brian Rose.
“It’s not about bragging rights it’s about winning a fight, another fight, for me,” explained Jack.
“Granted it has divided the town, and rightly so considering the interest in it and it would have been nice to have had it in Blackpool but to have it here in Manchester, on this show, makes for a great support fight on what is a massive show.
“We always said that we’d never face each other but he’s had a couple of losses over the past few years so I feel it’s the right thing to do.
“I’ve had a busy six months or so and defeating Ryder was a great win and experience, whilst Hall, and that stoppage, that was very satisfying for me especially after what had gone before – it certainly put to bed any illusions he may have had.”
Slightly differing in opinion though Rose is still at a loss as to why his sparring partner and friend took the fight, adding: “He has no right to call the shots and share the ring with me.
“No disrespect to him but I have to, and will, beat him and move on. He had other options to take so why take me, I really don’t understand why he has done what he has.
“Now I see it that, in beating Jack, it gives me extra status in the rankings and maybe winning the title will put me back where it did the last time around, and that’s in world title contention (Rose defeated Joachim Alcine for the WBO Inter-Continental strap back in 2013 which afforded him the world title eliminator against Javier Maciel six months later).
“When I faced (Demetrius) Andrade for the world title he was a smooth operator and nobody would blame me for taking it and if I went for it again, which I would, then it would be a different, even better fight than the last time.
“Jack though, I really believe that he’s not at my level and certainly not the level of fighter in which I’ve been in against.”
With the champion, Arnfield, now in his decade year in the paid ranks this is certainly a step up in opponent, and challenge.
Having lost to Nick Blackwell for the British in November 2015 (a title Rose won outright at super-welterweight in 2012, Tommy Langford presently holds the middleweight version), Arnfield has since enjoyed success over Alistair Warren and Dan Blackwell as well as those WBA title victories.
Facing Rose though, for Arnfield, tops those wins, some would say rightly so, especially what it can do moving forward.
“This is my biggest fight to date that’s for sure,” Arnfield stated.
“It’s my world title fight and winning gives me a big step in the right direction. I’m higher than him in the rankings so it’s right for him to get back up there and for me to start getting those big names on my record.
“Yes he’s a threat to me but we’ll resume our friendship after the fight has been won or lost.”