The young contenders
Khan, Murray, Cleverly, Bellew, Chisora, DeGale and Gavin... Adam Smith hails our new crop of fighters.
Last Updated: 29/09/10 6:50pm
The Magnificent Seven rolled into Birmingham last weekend and provided a unique, live, rolling and enticing feast of action for us.
Frank Warren's ambitious show had a little bit of everything. Drama, knockouts, upsets, flat performances, amazing bursts, courage, and fierce determination.
James DeGale kicked off this unique event in sizzling style. There had been verbals exchanged and plenty of needle between the slick Harlesden southpaw and his opponent, Liverpool's decent Carl Dilks. Despite rumours of weight-making difficulties for our Olympic gold medallist, DeGale was brimming with confidence in his usual charismatic style.
It was a step up in level for 'Chunky' - and he relished every second. Dilks looked totally out of his depth, and just couldn't handle the speed, movement and angles created by the exceptional DeGale. The stoppage was quick, and possibly a tad premature, but there were no complaints from Dilks,and no doubting the manner of victory for DeGale.
I said it the moment I met James DeGale, and I'll say it again now. This fighter has the X-factor. He has the talent. He has the personality. He has that certain something that is made for television. Magnetism; plain and simple.
Frank Warren called out DeGale's arch rival George Groves with vigour straight afterwards, and the offers and counter-offers have been flying around all week. Personally, I think this fight should be stirred around in the pot for a while yet. It could be absolutely massive; but not now.
What we did find out after the second big fight of Saturday night is that Manchester's sawn-off shotgun aggressor Matthew Hall has called it a day. In an honest and revealing post-fight interview with Ed Robinson, the amiable former Commonwealth light-middleweight champion held his hands up and admitted he'd found his level.
The European belt was just a step too far for the brave Hall - who didn't go down without one of his usual fiery wars - against the rock-hard Lucas Konecny. It was like watching a mirror image, as the two hardmen went toe-to-toe in a real 'phone booth' battle.
The difference was Konecny's accuracy, strength, defence and sheer refusal to wilt. An exciting clash - which although heart-breaking for Hall, showed the competitive nature of the matches on this Birmingham blockbuster.
Third up was the clash of the unbeatens between Wales's emerging Nathan Cleverly and Germany's Karo Murat. Glenn McCrory and I were fortunate enough to be in the commentary seats for this WBO light-heavyweight eliminator.
There was action all the way, and although it became more one-sided as the rounds ticked by, it held your attention at all times. Murat was dangerous. He was unbeaten in 22 fights, and was a former European champion; yet Cleverly took the fight right to the German, in kamikaze fashion.
Cleverly unloaded barrage after barrage of quick, classy attacks. I love fighters who really use the uppercut to good effect, and the bright Welshman flowed in this department.
There were a couple of moments in the middle rounds, when we wondered whether Cleverly's extraordinary pace and work-rate - matched with Murat's steely resolve - would lead to the tank emptying. There was also debate in the corner; with Dean Powell giving different advice to Nathan's father Vince, and Frank Warren raging at ringside at the tactics!
What it was though was pure box office - and thrilling. Cleverly stayed in the pocket and fought the fight out of the German, who was stopped and beaten for the first time. It was THE performance of the night.
We all thought Kell Brook would provide thatin his much anticipated meeting with Chorley's stalwart Michael Jennings, but the Sheffield hot-shot couldn't really find his rhythm. Still, Brook progressed towards world level, when Jennings was pulled out with a cut eye.
No such anti-climax in the stirring battle between Derek Chisora and Sam Sexton. This was a really enjoyable one as these two heavyweights showed both speed and game-plans in their meeting for the British and Commonwealth crowns.
Chisora had won their first fight, but was made to work harder by a stubborn Sexton, whose tactics were to out-last the flashy North London fighter. At one stage, I felt they might pay off, but Chisora was brilliant. He showed skills, grit, and quick punching to get the job done in nine absorbing rounds.
Chisora ticked more boxes for me last Saturday. There's been bold talk of him moving up to tackle Wladimir Klitschko before Christmas, but that could just be a big bridge too far at the moment. I think he might fight for a world title somewhere down the line though. He reminded me of those mid-80's American heavyweights who were speedy and good to watch.
Unfortunately Enzo Maccarinelli looks like he will always be remembered as a former world champion. The likeable Welshman had done well to re-build after a couple of nasty setbacks, but lost his European Cruiserweight title in sickening fashion. Maccarinelli was boxing ok and doing more than unbeaten Alexander Frenkel, until he walked into a huge left hook - which floored him extremely heavily.
Enzo did so well to even get up, but referee Erkki Meronen shockingly allowed him to continue. Maccarinelli was then knocked out in chilling fashion. He was given oxygen and slowly came round, but should never ever have been allowed to box on after that first knockdown. Enzo should call it a day now. He has so much to offer youngsters in the fight game.
The evening ended with a slightly anti-climactic feel - maybe because we were all tiring by this point! It was disappointing that Birmingham favourite Matthew Macklin couldn't finish the night with the proposed blockbuster against Darren Barker - but such is boxing. Macklin had to make do with just getting the job done against Georgia's Shalva Jomardashvili - and regained the European middleweight crown he never lost in the ring.
Very late on, Frankie Gavin's razor-sharp speed and reflexes were too much for Michael Kelly, who was halted in five, but Don Broadhurst lost again - this time to Najar Ali.
It was a boxing bonanza - and the feedback I've had this week is that people loved it!
This weekend, we have another double does of fight action for you this weekend, with two of our best young fighters back in action!
Tonigh (Friday) we have a glittering black tie gala event at the Park Lane, Hilton, for Frank Warren's annual DEBRA charity show, to raise money on behalf of people in the UK with the genetic skin blistering condition Epidermolysis Bullosa.
Fight fans will also have the chance to see the talented, brash and exciting Liverpool light-heavyweight Tony Bellew. I firmly believe that the new Commonwealth champion is a star of the future. Unbeaten in 13 - and oozing with confidence and personality - he defends his crown against the awkward Darlington southpaw Bob Ajisafe.
I love watching Bellew. He's fast and explosive, and although Ajisafe is decent, I can't see him holding up Tony. The Evertonian nut (well, there has to be something wrong with him!) should move onwards in style.
Bellew's rival Nathan Cleverly will be one of our guests. That is going to be a pearler of a clash... somewhere down the line!
Saturday Fight Night comes from Wigan with a real boxing showcase for the Murray brothers. European champion John aims for his 30th straight win against tough, seasoned campaigner Andriy Kudryavtsev. The Ukrainian has won 34 of 41, but Murray should be too fresh, too strong and too classy in a crowd-pleasing battle.
Younger brother Joe gets live billing too. The 23-year-old former Olympian has won all 7 so far, but has rather slipped under the radar with the likes of Frankie Gavin, James DeGale and Tony Jeffries getting more attention. Joe gets his prime time showcase this week. Can he follow big brother John to title success?
The North West's leading current fighter Amir Khan will be joining us to assess possible future foe John Murray, before he jets out to the States to begin his long training build-up for his December mega-match with ferocious Marcos Maidana.
Khan, Murray, Cleverly, Bellew, Chisora, DeGale and Gavin; Seven of the magnificent new breed coming through. The young blood. The young guns. British boxing is firing.