Adam Smith on the boxing renassiance in the north west, from Amir Khan to Stephen Foster Jnr...
Last Updated: 30/09/10 2:58pm
The North West certainly looks best at the moment!
Exciting fighters, more and more fans, electric atmospheres and fun nights seem to be coming thick and fast from the current hot-bed of boxing.
Our sport has always operated in cycles and the main areas of attraction follow suit. In my early days on Sky, most of our time was spent in Sheffield as Naseem Hamed, Johnny Nelson, Ryan Rhodes and the rest of Brendan Ingle's conveyor belt on Wincobank Hill lit up boxing.
Then Manchester took over as Ricky Hatton, Anthony Farnell and Michael Gomez ruled the roost. Glasgow, Belfast, Cardiff, London, Birmingham and the North East have all had their magical moments - and still do today.
Yet it is really happening in the North West of England right now. There seems to be a real re-surgence in Liverpool - one of my favourite cities due to the people, the music, and most importantly the greatest football team on earth - the mighty (well ok, currently maybe not quite as mighty as we could be) Reds!
Following in the footsteps of John Conteh, Paul Hodkinson, Andy Holligan and Shea Neary, the Smith brothers are firing up the boxing scene again on Merseyside. Charismatic Tony Bellew's desperately hoping to become a star, although as we saw on Frank Warren's successful DEBRA charity night last Friday - there is still much to learn.
The Bomber didn't really seem to have a plan B against slippery and awkward Darlington southpaw Bob Ajisafe and looked poor, by his high standards. Still all fighters have to learn, and this important lesson may just have come at exactly the right time.
Liverpool's towering heavyweight David Price is progressing well, I really like the look of classy Joe Selkirk - and I can't wait to be back in the Echo Arena soon. Liverpool's steeped in fighting history and there's a real buzz again.
Last Saturday, Wigan's Robin Park Arena was rocking. There was a cacophony of noise as we featured the Murray brothers!
Young Joe was first out - and lapped up every minute of his live television showcase! The 23-year-old former Olympian has rather been in the slipstream of hiscomrades like James DeGale, Tony Jeffries and Frankie Gavin. Murray took his chance though, cooly dispatching Hungary's Richard Szebeledi in two rounds.
As Joe took the gloves off backstage, John was having his laced up. Big bro entered the arena to a marvellous reception for the first defence of his European lightweight title. We thought Ukrainian challenger Andrei Kudriavtsev would be a tough obstacle to shift, and so it proved.
Murray engaged in an attritional battle, which, while exciting for the fans, was certainly the harder way to go about business. Cracking action was seen round after round, but it progressively became more one-sided and no-one has beaten Murray at his own game yet. John made it 30-0 - with a gritty ninth-round stoppage.
It must be time to move Murray now. Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer is offering him a crack at high class Victor Ortiz in Vegas, but I'm not sure that would be the right fight to take. It's up in weight against a hard-hitting southpaw who has much to prove.
I would be honing in on the world 9st 9lb picture, though. Mexico's WBC champion Humberto Soto maybe. I also think John Murray can build up a good following in the North West - and hopefully pack Manchester's MEN Arena soon.
A big future fight could be a local derby with Amir Khan, who was our studio guest on Saturday Fight Night. Amir jetted off to Boston on Monday for some film work; American TV giants HBO are apparently putting a multi-million dollar advertising pitch together on Khan, ready to really launch him in the States. He starts training - as always, at Freddie Roach's Wild Card Gym - this weekend for his mouth-watering December 11 clash with Argentinian banger Marcos Maidana.
The word this week has been that, with the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao clash on ice, Amir could force his way into the picture - and Golden Boy might make him a fight with Floyd! Not quite yet, I say, but in 18 months' time and if Amir keeps winning, that would be very interesting.
Bolton boy Khan is very much the star attraction on this bustling North West scene, and one of his former stablemates, Stephen Foster Jnr has his big chance this Saturday Fight Night.
The quiet, stocky aggressive 30-year-old tries to wrench the European Super-Featherweight title from heavy-hitting Armenian Leva Kirakosyan; who wiped out Carl Johanneson twice, and in February this year, was way too good for brave Scott Lawton.
The first four rounds are crucial. If Foster survives - which he might because he is solid and has a decent chin - the fight gets interesting. The son of 'The Viking' has a chance, but it is still a hard ask. Kirakosyan will probably be too strong at this level, but he is big for the weight, and can fade in fights. Kirakosyan in the middle rounds - probably. Should be an entertaining battle.
There's also an enticing clash of boxing skills, as former British champion Andy Morris meets emerging Anthony Crolla. Now that is a real pick'em.
So don't miss Saturday Fight Night - and don't miss Ringside tonight.
One of the North West's most exciting fighters of recent times, Jamie Moore, is popping down to see us, so too one of our most personable boxing characters in Spencer Oliver. Johnny Nelson and I will be talking Murray, Foster, life after boxing, and so much more with our guests.
We'll be bringing you news and action from the current and past scene; lively debate, and Ed Robinson will be letting you in all the latest gossip. It's essential viewing!
Ringside, Amir v Floyd and your favourite north-west fighter... tell Adam what you think about this week's major talking points by filling in the feedback form below...