by Paul Magno
Just a little over two months…but utterly crucial to the legacy of the modern era of British Boxing. Will this be remembered as a Golden Era for UK prize fighters or will it just be another class of talented pros who ultimately proved to be just a step shy of the elite? The answer to that question will be fleshed out after the following 64-day period of make-or-break challenges facing the best of the United Kingdom.
The gauntlet begins this Saturday, the 25th as WBC Super Middleweight Champ, Carl Froch puts his title on the line against former Middleweight kingpin, Jermain Taylor. The 168-pound class has beefed up considerably since the days of Joe Calzaghe’s title reign, but Joe is long gone, resting comfortably in retirement. The heavy lifting has been left to Froch, who now finds himself in the position of defending the UK’s unspoken reign over the division. It’s Froch who’s left to do battle in a much deeper division with the added pressure of continuing the tradition of Eubank, Collins, Benn and Calzaghe.
To his credit, Froch has jumped right in and will be taking on one of the division’s best. A win gives him some breathing room…A loss could show the world that, all along, he was merely a 2nd tier player who benefited from there being 4 separate world title belts. To Froch, this test comes down to a negation of his career or a justification of his status as a world class player.
The next challenge to the UK legacy comes on May2nd in the form of Ricky Hatton’s battle against Manny Pacquiao. While it’s no shame to be beaten by Pacquiao at this point, a blow-out similar to Hatton’s loss to Mayweather will just go to paint Hatton as a borderline champ who was several notches below the elite; An “also ran” on the world stage who keeps getting big fights based on his likeability more than his skill or talent.
A win, though, puts Hatton into the Hall of Fame and probably earns him the reputation of being one of the all-time greats at 140 lbs.
Jump ahead to June 20th as David Haye makes his much-anticipated run at a Heavyweight title by taking on the division’s best, Wladimir Klitschko. Haye’s accomplishments at Cruiserweight were considerable, but his true legacy and reputation will be determined by how well he does against Klitschko.
After all the talk and hype surrounding this bout, anything but a stellar win will be a let down for “The Hayemaker.” And a loss- especially of the KO variety- will result in the instant disintegration of his personal legacy. A decisive loss to Wlad will turn Haye into a bit of a punch line in the sport and a poster boy for fighters who think they’re better than they are.
But…a win instantly validates everything Haye’s done or said over the course of his career and it puts him on the very short list of world class Heavyweights from the UK. A decisive win over both of the Klitschkos earns him a spot in the Hall of Fame and brings him closer to “all-time” consideration.
While, basically just starting his path to “all-time” status, Amir Khan has been thrust into the spotlight and on the 27th of June finds himself in his biggest task. Khan will be moving up to 140 lbs to challenge for his first world title against veteran WBA Jr. Welter Champ, Andreas Kotelnik.
Can the UK’s version of the Golden Boy withstand another loss at this point in his career? Will a loss send Khan into a downward spiral similar to that of Audley Harrison? This is a very risky move by Khan’s promoter, Frank Warren; Basically a roll of the dice that the 22-year old prospect has what it takes to take care of the crafty Kotelnik. It’s essentially an all-or-nothing move that has the feel of desperation more than utter confidence.
So, it’s going to be a very interesting 64 days starting this Saturday. Will this be redemption for British Boxing’s current generation; A confirmation of “Golden Era” status? Or will it be proof of yet another generation of talented British fighters who just weren’t at the elite, world class level? We’ll see as, arguably, the UK’s biggest fighters get ready to face their biggest challenges.
At the very least, it’s going to be a fabulous 64 days for fight fans everywhere.