DESPITE – or perhaps because of – the glut of alternative titles available to Britain’s boxers, the Lord Lonsdale Challenge Belt remains one of the sport’s most coveted prizes.
But the requirement for four British title fight wins to take home the hardware means many national champions move on before securing its permanent ownership – especially if they appear destined for international honours, which bantamweight incumbent Ukashir Farooq most certainly does.
The undefeated Glaswegian has observers predicting big things, but he has always said he wanted to win the Lonsdale belt outright, and has set about the task like a man in a hurry. He has completed the task in less than 11 months, and in a manner of rare dominance at this level.
The final piece of the Lonsdale jigsaw was placed inside three minutes at the Radisson Blu Hotel, as Farooq brushed aside once-beaten Bristolian Duane Winters with imperious ease. A left hook to the body landed with an audible thud, Winters gasped almost as loudly, and then dropped to his knees without a hope of beating referee Mark Lyson’s count. The 10 was duly tolled at 2-59.
It had taken fewer than a couple of minutes to firmly establish the gulf in class between champion and challenger. The story was told in the vocals of Winters’ small but passionate band of support, who had travelled a long way north for things to go south so quickly. Their early enthusiasm, scored by songs and chants, soon changed track into anguished pleas for their man to do something.
He could not. Farooq employed his trademark head movement that has earned him the nickname of “The Untouchable”, and Winters frequently missed. Farooq, meanwhile, found his challenger’s lean body an inviting target, and began striking it with increasing frequency and force. The tactic, employed against a man who looked gaunt and pale, speaking perhaps to a late weight cut, would soon bring about the emphatic finish.
Farooq also won in the first round when he claimed the vacant belt, against Jamie Wilson in September. In between that night and this, “Kash” dominated Iain Butcher over the distance in November, and then thrashed Kyle Williams in five in April. His reign has been one of the most impressive British title tenures in recent memory – but it might not yet be over.
Looming over proceedings, and stationed at ringside for this Saltire Boxing Promotions event, was Farooq’s natural rival Lee McGregor, a fellow undefeated Scot who holds the Commonwealth belt and is held in equally high regard.
Glasgow versus Edinburgh, with two belts up for grabs and undefeated records on the line, it is one of the best domestic match-ups that can be made right now – and both men say they are keen for it.
“It’s no secret that’s the fight I want,” said McGregor.
Farooq concurred: “I want the fight, so does Lee, and we want to give the Scottish fans what they want.” The Scottish fans, yes, and just about everybody else, too.
Unbeaten Aberdonian southpaw Boris Crighton was required to go the distance for the first time as a pro, and in beating Darryl Sharp over six rounds, he also went twice as long as ever before. He handled it well, finishing much stronger than his Middleton opponent. Crighton never stopped looking for the finish, but Sharp spat – sometimes literally – defiance throughout. Referee John McGuire, who handled all three undercard bouts, scored 60-55.
Stone-faced teenager Craig Morgan’s final-round knockdown of Nicaragua’s Rafael Castillo put the finishing touches on a tidy night’s work for the Kelty southpaw. Morgan increasingly found his range as the bout wore on and was in fine form by its conclusion. Now undefeated in six outings, he won 40-35.
Naheem Chaudhry rarely wins, but he usually tries to. Not on this night. The Blackburn journeyman realised early on he was mismatched against experienced Dublin southpaw Declan Geraghty and decided instead to focus on going the distance – something he has never failed to do. The 40-36 scoreline was a formality.
The Verdict Farooq might be world class – but he has local business to take care of.
Ukashir Farooq (118lbs), 13-0 (6), w ko 1 Duane Winters (116 1/8lbs), 11-2 (1); Boris Crighton (174lbs), 5-0 (4), w pts 6 Darryl Sharp (174lbs), 5-58-1; Craig Morgan (128lbs), 6-0, w pts 4 Rafael Castillo (127 lbs), 14-55-3 (6); Declan Geraghty (147lbs), 19-4 (4), w pts 4 Naheem Chaudhry (142lbs), 2-52-1 (1).