The boxing fraternity in the UK has had its fair share of trauma and tragedy over the last few months so this past weekend was an opportunity to relax and get behind yet another massive Matchroom and Eddie Hearn bill in Birmingham, England. We had the popcorn on order as the announcer gave us the news of the boxers who would fill our living rooms and entertain our Saturday night.
After all we expected that the Yafai brother who was boxing would get through OK, that guy who was on the Dancing with Stars thing and won an Olympic Bronze Medal would be fine and then there was a genuine 50/50 fight between the most decorated amateur boxer the UK has ever produced and some local guy that people were giving warnings about – what could possibly go wrong…?
Well, like all good dramas this started with the first act going the way it ought to. We started with Khalid Yafai, 20-0, 14 KO’s, going in against a journeyman and felling him. It took patience and until the 5th round but this other guy was out of his league. Cue Eddie Hearn bouncing up at ringside to tell us that Yafai had risked a massive amount as he would now, on the 10th of December, on the Anthony Joshua, 17-0, 17 KO’s IBF defense undercard be fighting Luis Concepcion, 35-4, 24 KO’s for the WBA super flyweight title in London.
It was Act One done and all we needed was a villain to complicate matters…
Craig Cunningham 17-1, 4 KO’s, demonstrated that he is nobody’s fool but it was he that became that villain. He went in against that Olympic Bronze Medal winner, Anthony Ogogo, 11-1, 7 KO’s, for the WBC international middleweight strap. Ogogo was heavily fancied but there was something not right. This was the Act where things should get complicated and here was the Olympic fighter swinging and hitting thin air. This was not in the script – but was it in the stars? It certainly was not in his twinkle toes as Ogogo could not hit a barn door with a stick. The more he threw, the more he missed. The more he missed the more Cunningham grew in confidence. Then a strange thing happened. Ogogo went to his corner during round 5 and it looked like he was getting some stray wrapping on his glove attended to. Then the fight was being waved off – the fight was all over! How? Why?
Well, at the time nobody knew and Ogogo got out the ring, into his dressing room and off into the night without enlightening us. It later transpired that Ogogo had a fractured eye socket and was suffering balance and vision problems. Cunningham got the belt, Ogogo the 3rd serious injury of his professional career.
But with one going the way it ought and the other providing an upset we settled down for the main event of a roller coaster evening. It had nearly all been called off…
Former World Amateur Champion and World title Challenger Frankie Gavin, 23-3, 14 KO’s, was up against Sam Eggington, 19-3, 11 KO’s. Gavin had turned up at the weigh in over the limit. He had been warned by the British Boxing Board of Control not to lose the weight over a short timescale so he didn’t. The belt was withdrawn – the WBC international title that was on the line. Gavin looked a tad heavy – nay even un ripped. Cunningham looked serious and was serious from the first bell.
The talk before hand was whether or not Gavin was serious about the sport. This was meant to be the conclusion, the equilibrium restored and the guy we all thought could be a world champion becoming the man who was on the pathway to becoming one. It ended up being a tale of someone having to lick his wounds and go off and think again. He was out boxed and out foxed as well as pummelled into submission by Eggington in the 8th round. The referee stopped it and we all got to go home or pack away the popcorn.
With the failure of our elite fighters up against the very best in “GGG” and Canelo we have to start wondering if the current crop of world title holders that we have in the UK have the staying power at this level. When you see the soft underbelly of someone like Gavin being exposed by the unilateral style and stand up tall fighting craft of the likes of Sam Eggington it can be confusing – not a little worrying too. I think all fighters have heart that walk into a ring, the final question at the end of an enthralling night was – how much heart does Frankie Gavin have?
It was certainly a dramatic night and gives us hope that the sport is as competitive as it suggests, there is no pretence and the fact that the money men gave fans a great night but, for them, ended with the wrong results in 2 out of the 3 fights is a strange comfort. We can now look forward to more popcorn nights.Contact the Feature Writers