by Simon Garner
All in all it has been a pretty good year for British boxing but we’ve had some big low points. Amir Khan had a few solid performances followed by a 54 second blow-out against Breidis Prescott in which we were forced to watch the Olympic silver medalist shudder and come crashing down like a drunken mother-in-law dancing at her child’s wedding. Although his star is somewhat diminished following this performance, he redeemed himself with one-sided defeat of Oisin Fagan in December.
Joe Calzaghe was floored twice by two first ballot hall-of-famers with a combined age of over 80 but still managed to come home with two decision wins. One heavily contested the other…less so… His fight against Roy Jones Jr. was a joke at the very least. The Italian Dragon was well aware that the four-weight world champion was shot to kingdom come after his performances against Tarver, Johnson and more recently against the flabby former welterweight Felix “Tito” Trinidad. Although he won convincingly, he embarrassed himself by not only taking this fight, but by the way he conducted himself in it as well.
Ricky Hatton won a closer-than-it-should-have-been contest against Juan Lazcano in front of 57,000 fans in his home city of Manchester, and quickly dispensed with the services of long-time trainer Billy Graham. He soon hired Floyd Mayweather Sr. and a rejuvenated Hitman emerged with a convincing TKO victory over top light-welterweight Paulie Malignaggi and in this writers opinion has put forward a strong argument as being a top-10 pound-for-pound fighter again.
The big name in British boxing in 2008 was one David “Hayemaker” Haye. He came into the year as undisputed cruiserweight champ following his convincing victory over former champ Jean-Marc Mormeck and took Enzo Macarinelli’s WBO title from him in a two-round demolition which made the Swansea native look like a slow, plodding journeyman without a plan. I’ll leave you to ponder that thought for a second…….
….Anyway, Mr. Haye went on to bigger and better things in 2008. He moved up to the heavyweight division and immediately began calling out all the big guns. He provided a breath of fresh air to a division that had previously been as compelling to watch as the film “Pearl Harbor.” God I hate Ben Affleck!!
By running around like a child who’s eaten too many smarties (see http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=jnOANul82Tw&feature=PlayList&p=2B3506B6E3D18805&playnext=1&index=67) and launching some personal attacks on the Klitschko’s, he’s brought himself so much attention a title shot against one of the brothers is inevitable, even if he has to wait just that little bit longer to get his chance. As regular contributor to the BTBC, smoothstyle1 says: Honk! Honk! All aboard the David Haye bandwagon! Don’t worry smooth, I’m already there.
The end of year brought a long awaited world title win for Carl Froch who scored a 12-round unanimous decision over Jean Pascal. The Cobra had been subjected to so many disappointments in recent years with injuries to himself and to his opponents at the last moment, preventing him from reaching that next level. However, 2008 was the Nottingham boy’s year (hardly a boy at 30 I know, but I digress).
British Amateur Boxing had its best year of recent times with the highlight being James DeGale’s Olympic gold medal in the middleweight division. Most of the Olympic hopefuls have now turned pro and Frankie Gavin, Billie-Joe Saunders and DeGale are rumoured to be making their professional debuts on the Matt Skelton-Mark Rogan undercard on 28th February. The next generation looks very promising for British boxing.
As well as the Beijing boys, the British isles have a number of young fighters rising quickly through the ranks such as Nathan Cleverly (21, Super-Middleweight, Commonwealth Champion, 13-0), Paul Appleby (21, featherweight, British champion 13-0) and Kell Brook (22, welterweight, British champion, 18-0) who looks the best of the bunch.
Predictions for 2009
Boxing and British boxing especially, is in a very healthy situation at the moment and I completely refute Joe Calzaghe’s claims that boxing is a dying art (see http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/mma/boxing/12/10/calzaghe-dying.ap/index.html). British fighters had a great end to 2008 and as proven above, the talent pool is wide. So here we go, my predictions for 2009:
· David Haye will bring some life back to a division which has been on a life-support-machine since the retirement of Lennox Lewis. I’m not saying he’ll beat either of the Klitschkos but we’re gonna have some fun watching it.
· Joe Calzaghe’s gone. I have seen no clear indications that he’s going to return and there are no “big” names for him to fight. I appreciate we’d all like to see him against IBF/IBO Champion Chad Dawson, but Joe’s not going to get out of bed for anything less than a hall-of-fame fighter as was proven in 2008. Apart from Hopkins who Joe has refused to fight again (and thank god, the first fight was dire), there are none around. Therefore, he won’t fight again.
· Ricky Hatton is approaching the last couple of years of his career and so, will be looking for big money fights. There is no bigger name than Manny Pacquiao and a mega-fight on May 2nd is apparently almost done and dusted. Where he goes after that is anyone’s guess, I just hope it isn’t a rematch against Pretty Boy Floyd, as he’ll be out of there quicker than the Mancunian crowd can shout “who are ya” at the 5-weight world champ.
· Carl Froch will fight a mandatory defence and chase Jermain Taylor for that big money fight. Will it come? I hope so. He deserves it.
· Amir Khan will carry on learning and maturing under the tutelage of Freddie Roach, but given the current strength of the lightweight division, a world title shot is probably out the question in 2009. A match-up with former WBO super-featherweight champion Alex Arthur would be straightforward to set up as both are promoted by Frank Warren. A fight with a faded star such as Julio Diaz or Michael Katsidis is probably the best we can hope for , and a chance to avenge his first professional defeat against Breidis Prescott, would be too good too turn down.
· The other young hopefuls spoken of in this article will continue to prosper but world title shots are probably a few years away. The Olympic boys should fight 6-8 times in 2009 according to Frank Warren so by the end of the year, we should have a good idea of where they’re headed.
2009 IS Boxing.