Archive for February, 2012

JAMIE SPEIGHT has a new opponent for his Southern Area title fight – but the super-featherweight can’t seem to forget about Mickey Coveney.

“He pulled out on me two weeks prior to the fight with diarrhoea, which I find a pitiful excuse,” says the 23-year-old (10-2) from Kingsteignton, Devon, who will now battle Norfolk’s Scott Moises (3-4) at the Guildhall, Plymouth, on Saturday.

“Mickey has won titles and when you are at that level you shouldn’t be pulling out of fights for those reasons.

“It would be a 48-hour thing, maybe three days at most. You lose a bit of fluid but you can get all of your fluids and salts back.

“And of course for the last ten weeks I have put everything into preparing for a 5ft 3ins southpaw, but now I have a 6ft tall orthodox fighter who has replaced him.

“It did put a spanner into the works but Moises is going to bleed just like everybody else.

“I don’t know if he is the tallest super-featherweight in Europe, although he is a completely different fighter than Coveney – but I am a versatile boxer.

“It’s been one of the best camps I have ever had. I believe my career is an open book and I think I can write my own story.”

Victory against Moises could herald greater things for Speight, with adviser Jonathan Hope claiming there are big things being lined up for the young charge.

Speight, a scaffolder by trade, turned fully professional at the beginning of this year which has changed his outlook on the game, although he admits it’s hard going.

“Sometimes I feel like ‘fucking hell, this is hard’,” he admits. “All these people who aren’t full time pros, who think they have it hard, until they turn pro they don’t know what it’s like.

“It was easier when I was a scaffolder who trained part-time. Now I am full-time, I have so many different things to do. The strength and conditioning is so different.

“The way I look at it, whether you are a chippie, a scaffolder or a boxer, the more you work with your tools then the more efficient you are with them.

“I am 23 and I’m not getting any younger. I feel I can win British titles and beyond.

“In my eyes I have the ability to beat people at super featherweight, I just need someone to open the door.”

Speight has not fought since October 14 last year when Grimsby’s Kevin Hooper out-pointed him over 10 rounds to claim the British Masters Lightweight title, a fight in which the Devon boxer was hampered by injuries sustained at the end of the second round.

“Kev is a neat boxer but he knows only one style. I take nothing away from him, he was the better man on the night, but in round two he didn’t know what was happening,” says Speight, who has become good friends with Hooper since the fight.

“I was catching him with shots from all angles and even his trainer, Sean Wood, looked worried.

“But my ankle went at the end of the second round and after that he could hit me with shots. I snapped all of my ligament in my right foot and tore all the tendons clean off the bones.

“I didn’t know that until I went to the hospital.

“In round three we had a clash of heads and I got a massive gash above my eye, so from then onwards  I had to protect my eye.

“The one thing I learned from that fight was how to survive. And now I’m going to go on and claim the southern area title, before stepping up. I want the Commonwealth title and the British title and I want one of them this year.”

Kev Hooper on the attack against Yordan Vasilev

KEV Hooper insists his sparkling hometown performance in claiming the International Masters lightweight title proves he is ready to challenge British boxing’s elite.

The Grimsby fighter won every round in a stylish display against Bulgarian Yordan Vasilev, moving his record to 11-0, writes Sam Parker.

Working behind a probing jab and using his height and reach to great effect against the stocky Vasilev, who now drops to 10-24-2, Hooper seldom looked in danger and came close to finishing the fight in the fourth.

Now, the 27-year-old feels he has earned the right to move into the big leagues by either claiming an English title or, should the opportunity present itself, having a crack at a future Prizefighter show.

“ I have wanted to do PrizeFighter for ages but they just haven’t done my weight class for a while,” said Hooper, whose manager Carl Greaves shares his enthusiasm for the Matchroom Sport-run event.

“I know it’s different with the shorter format but I want to be on Sky, I want to be appearing on the bigger shows.

“I think I have established myself now, I’m in the top 10 of the Boxing Monthly rankings. I want to mix it and keep climbing the ladder.

“Carl is going to put me on his Newark show in April, just to keep me busy. It felt like I had a really long lay-off before this fight as I hadn’t boxed since October (when Hooper defeated Jamie Speight to claim the British Masters lightweight title).

“Now I want to keep busy. I’ll be back in the gym on Monday and then I’ll sit down with Carl and my trainer, Sean Wood, to see where we go from here.”

Such was Hooper’s dominance against Vasilev that the popular fighter was concerned he had not given the crowd at Grimsby Leisure Centre their full money’s worth.

But smart tactics from Wood, in which Hooper used his reach to keep the Bulgarian at bay for long stretches of the contest, helped secure a win on points, 100-90.

“Sean told me to just use my height and reach and that’s what I did – I didn’t have to force anything,” said Hooper.

“Vasilev was a bit wild, just trying to throw that left hook, he got a bit frustrated. I worked on my uppercuts on the inside and  I kept catching him.

“When the fight finished it didn’t seem like I had entertained the fans because everyone wants a knock-out but the jab was working so well.

“I felt razor-sharp, but maybe I was too comfortable. However, having seen the performance on TV, I’m happy with my night’s work.”

Equally as happy for Hooper was Speight, working as a ringside analyst for Hatton TV. The two have become friends since their title fight, with the Devon boxer back in action this Saturday against Scott Moises for the Southern Area super-featherweight belt.

“We had a laugh at the weigh-in, ahead of our fight, and from then on we became really good friends,” said Hooper.

“We are proper sportsmen which is what this sport needs. I speak on the phone a lot to him and I’d love to support him on Saturday, but we’ll have to see if I can make it because of work commitments. He’s a good boxer.”

Ringside report, by Mark Williams

Kev Hooper v Yordan Vasilev

Kevin Hooper produced a commanding performance full of craft and class to gain the vacant international masters lightweight title at Grimsby Leisure Centre.

The hometown favourite deservedly won every single round against durable Bulgarian Yordan Vasilev to secure his 11th professional victory from 11 fights.

Intelligent Hooper refused to go to war against his shorter, stockier opponent – instead opting to pump a relentless and probing jab throughout the 10 round contest.
Hooper came close to stopping his man on several occasions, most notably in the fourth when a barrage of punches had the Bulgarian dancing on unsteady legs.
To his credit, Vasilev battled on gamely after sustaining a nasty cut on his left eye.
But ultimately Hooper’s superior reach and handspeed saw him lift the belt with ease and a series of left, right combinations in the final round almost put the Bulgarian out of his misery earlier.
Gary Johnson v James Oliphant

Hard-hitting Gary Johnson somehow ploughed through the pain barrier to earn a draw against James Oliphant at Grimsby Leisure Centre.

The Lincoln-based fighter recovered admirably after damaging ligaments in his right hand midway through the fourth round.

Johnson, who was floored in the same round,  came roaring back at his opponent in the sixth and final round in what proved a sensational battle in the heavyweight division.

Johnson seemed to be cruising to victory after a dominant opening three rounds. Johnson’s remarkably neat footwork for a big man and stinging jab was always too sharp for his Wakefield-based opponent.

However, cruel luck, instead of a poor Oliphant, got the better of Johnson and he had to settle for a draw.

Elsewhere, Scunthorpe’s Jody Meikle scored a convincing 39-37 points victory over debutant Tony Shields in the light-heavyweight division.

Meikle’s superior movement and experience proved too much for the wild style of Shields – who at least made a contest of it in the dying seconds of the fourth and final round.

Barnsley’s Matthew Mallin produced one of the most convincing displays of the evening to stretch his perfect start to professional life to six fights.

Opponent Andy Hardy, from Newstead, fought hard and did well not to be stopped after being forced onto the ropes for much of the four round contest.

Hardy was left with a bloody face at the end after a particularly impressive final round from Mallin who landed a series of crunching blows to both body and temple. Mallin ran out a 40-36 victor.

Louth middleweight Sammy McSpadden had too much for experienced Lincoln fighter Rick Boulter to win 59-57 on points.

Boulter, with a considerably greater reach, gained much success with short, sharp uppercuts but ultimately McSpadden’s aggressive approach was enough to secure a deserved win.

Undefeated Joel Haigh won every round against Nuneaton veteran Kristian Laight to continue his dazzling start to the professional ranks.

The Hull-based boxer, backed by an army of supporters, was steady rather than explosive and eased past a slippery opponent.

Laight, a former two-time British Masters challenger was almost stopped in the fifth after suffering a series of heavy blows to the body but used all his experience of more than 100 fights to take it the distance.

UP-AND-COMING welterweight Bradley Skeete has tipped Kell Brook to finish the “War Of The Roses” clash against Matthew Hatton inside the distance.

Skeete (7-0) is forging his young, promising career and is slated to fight on the Wembley Arena undercard of the George Groves-Kenny Anderson super-middleweight tussle on March 16.

But just a day after Skeete hopes to tick another mark in the ‘W’ column, Brook and Hatton will meet at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena, for a clash in which victory could propel Brook to a world title challenge.

Skeete, who has already demonstrated his punching power by knocking down his last two opponents en route to eight-round points decisions, believes hometown fighter Brook will have enough power to render the judges’ scorecards irrelevant.

“Kell Brook is number one in the welterweights. I really look up to him for everything he has done,” said Skeete, 24.

“I don’t think the Hatton fight will be easy but Kell is world class and he’ll win through. I know how much he wants to win the world title, and I reckon he’ll finish Hatton inside the distance.

“He has achieved so much and I believe he will win the world title.”

The busy Skeete will complete a fifth bout in just six months when competing at Wembley, but the Frank Warren-promoted fighter, managed by Dean Powell, insists it’s all part of the learning experience.

“My first year as a pro went pretty slowly, although I did well, but being on BoxNation allows me to get regular fights,” he said.

“I’m just learning to throw the right punch and get the rounds under my belt – I didn’t want to be just blasting people out.

“In my last two fights I’ve gone eight rounds, but not going for knockouts all the time has allowed me to put rounds in the bank.

“Against Laszlo Komati (Skeete’s most recent fight) I won every round. In my eyes, the stoppages will come. I just don’t feel at this time that I need to be blasting people away in one or two rounds.

“In my next couple of fights I could be challenging for the southern area title, as I believe I’m at that level now. Again, it’s all experience, getting my first title. I wouldn’t want to rush anything, and if this isn’t for the southern area title, I will be ready for it in my next fight.”

Skeete is undoubtedly keeping busier than friend James DeGale, currently inactive after claiming to have split with Warren – something the promoter denies, stressing the Olympian remains under contract.

“We were really close, we were like brothers,” said Skeete of the pair’s friendship.

“After turning pro we don’t speak as much as we used to, but we still speak on the phone from time to time. We still keep in contact, but not as much.

“I spoke to him on his birthday earlier this month (February 3) . We didn’t speak too much about what’s going on, but to be honest I didn’t even ask.

“You know what James is like, he was upbeat as ever. I am sure he will be fine.”

Pat McAleese

Popular fighter Pat McAleese has revealed he is considering retirement from boxing.

The 25-year-old light-middleweight is always a sell-out attraction in his hometown of Newmarket – but McAleese insists it may be time to bring the curtain down on an entertaining professional career.

McAleese hasn’t fought since July of last year when he was dismantled by Ryan Toms in four painful rounds at Wembley Arena.

Seven months into a year out from the sport, the orthodox boxer admits he is struggling to regain that ‘fire in his belly’ and has already pulled out of a potential fight in Peterborough next month.

“I’ve got to be honest with myself and I’m just loving life for what it is at the moment,” said McAleese, who has won 12 and drawn one of 15 fights in the pro ranks. “I’m working nearly every minute of the day after setting up a personal training business. I have 45 clients most weeks and it’s paying well.

“It was getting to the stage where I was losing money to box. Do I miss boxing? A little I suppose. But I just can’t dedicate myself 100 per cent to the training.

“In boxing and especially the level I have got to, you need to have that fire in your belly otherwise you’re going to get hurt.”

McAleese, who will marry his long term girlfriend Rebecca Avis in May, also revealed how his career has been curtailed by a troublesome eye injury.

It is believed the problem was sustained during his southern area title fight with Toms.

“It’s my left eye and things go blurry,” continued McAleese. “I get double vision when I lie down. Obviously because of that I have had to seriously consider retiring.”

McAleese is a firm favourite among boxing fans across the country. His aggressive, attacking style impresses most crowds.

On his hometown debut at Tattersalls in 2009 “Macca” sold out all 900 tickets in under four days ahead of his fight with Darren Gethin.

“It will be hard for me to officially retire because the fans keep asking me when I’m going to get back in the ring. They have been brilliant to me throughout my career.

“But my health has to come first and I’m quite happy with my life at the moment.

“I knew I was going to lose my last fight. I just had that feeling. I felt I could beat that opponent but things weren’t right in my private life and you can’t afford those distractions in boxing.”

THERE can be few boxers less fazed by the whirlwind of hype generated by Chris Eubank Junior, than Armthorpe’s Jason Ball.

The two meet at Rotherham’s Magna Centre tomorrow, on a card headlined by the emerging super bantamweight Kid Galahad and veteran Jason Booth.

The show is being broadcast on Channel Five where a national television audience are likely to recognise one name – Eubank – above all others, despite the Brighton middleweight’s career of just a solitary fight.

But while Eubank Junior has bagged a television spot based largely on the legacy of his father – his sole  bout is flimsy evidence on which to make a prediction for his prospects in the ring – Ball is not letting the occasion affect his preparations.

There’s a reason the former mixed martial arts fighter’s moniker is “Daddy Cool” – almost nothing seems to throw him off course.

“ Let’s face it, Eubank is not his dad, is he?” said Ball (5-5).

“And I’m fighting him, not the crowd. I have had high-profile fights before in MMA, I fought Andre  Berto’s brother (James Edson Berto, Ball defeated him twice).

“I’m not going to worry myself with how he boxes. I’m feeling good, I’m confident and I’ve been training hard.

“There is no expectation on me and Eubank is going to need to perform. He’s the one bringing all the hype.

“I’m not intimidated when I am in a boxing ring because I remember back to my MMA days.  I was in with some guys who were a lot bigger then me, and who bashed me up in a bad way.

“I go in with the mindset now that someone isn’t going to throw me around.”

Ball says he’s made great strides training at Stefy Bull’s Mexborough gym, while also maintaining his MMA training at the Matrix gym in Doncaster.

But the 28-year-old would make the full-time switch to boxing should he topple Eubank Jr.

“ I’m keeping my options open at the moment, but if I win this one I will really concentrate on the boxing,” said Ball, who in his last outing claimed the vacant central area light middleweight title by defeating Liverpool’s Steve Harkin

“My first goal is to win a British title, then moving on and going up through the ranks, hopefully winning. Carl has helped, he’s got me fights when I needed them.

“But I’m really ignorant to what’s happening in the boxing world. I don’t even keep up with what’s happening in MMA, to be honest with you.

“I just train and fight – that’s me.”

THE name fits the face, but it doesn’t describe the fighter. Billy Morgan may have tempted some writers to dub him “Billy The Kid” but a maturity far belies his 21 years.

Morgan, a lightweight, has six straight victories since turning professional, is a gym mate of Kevin Mitchell and counts the legendary Jimmy Tibbs as his coach. He could get carried away, develop an inflated ego and push to rise too far, too soon.

But he is doing none of these things. “In 12 to 18 months’ time I might be ready for a small title fight,” says Morgan, who dispatched Dan Naylor most recently, in a comfortable six-round points win at York Hall on Friday. “It depends not just on my boxing but also my maturity. I’m still very young and I’m not there yet with my physical maturity.

“If I am in a 12-round fight against an older opponent, for instance, then the last few rounds are going to be very hard for me. “I am in no rush, I am only 21. Against Naylor, I learnt about myself. In the first round I caught him with a right hook and I thought I had knocked him out. He stayed in the fight but I learnt a lot about my punching power.”

With the Tibbs combination of Jimmy – whose roll call of boxers includes Nigel Benn and Michael Watson – and his son Mark, Morgan can call upon decades of experience, invaluable for a rising fighter. “No-one questions anything Jimmy says,” adds Morgan.

“But when I first joined he said to me if there was something I didn’t like or there was something that wasn’t working, to let him know. Everything he says makes sense. “He could say to you ‘I remember when Michael Watson was in this situation, he did this and it worked.’ You’re always learning.

“There is probably no situation in boxing that they haven’t been in themselves. Going from a really experienced amateur coach (Mickey May, at the West Ham gym) to a really experienced professional coach has helped me.

“They have slowed me down and made me a lot more relaxed in the ring. They have tried to get me to turn into my punches. And when I first came to them I was slipping shots and I’d end up half-a-foot out! That doesn’t happen now.”

He may one day emulate Mitchell, set perhaps for a career-defining meeting with WBO lightweight champion Ricky Burns in the summer. The two have been close, particularly of late, and Mitchell’s resurrection following his depressing night against Michael Katsidis in 2010 is a cautionary but inspirational tale of which Morgan happily takes heed.

“His mind is right and he is training hard,” says Morgan. “He knows that if he loses, there is nowhere else to go. We discussed this in the changing rooms on Friday night at York Hall, that Katsidis bursting his bubble was the best thing to happen to him.

“He knew afterwards that he had to put the hard work in at the gym. When you are 30-0 or 40-0 then you think you can have a few days off and still win, you won’t lose. “It’s been great talking to him. He’s spoken to the other lads in the gym about the defensive side of the game, as he says he’s been getting more defensive himself.

“He’s talked to me about taking good care of my hands, because that’s how injuries come. He’s talked to me about fighting journeymen, if you want to call them that, and what to do. It’s a great help.”

Morgan, who claimed two junior ABAs, the National Boys Clubs, plus a junior Four Nations gold in the amateur ranks, only reinforces his thoughtful, considered image when outlining his plans outside the boxing.

“I want to focus more on my boxing – I only have one shot at it, you have plenty of time to work,” he says, with full conviction. “I’m training to become a gas engineer. If I ever lose my job (as a plumber) then I want to be able to something on my own. It’s hard to work then train, so I want to set up on my own.

“If I could pay for my own house and not worry about the mortgage, I would be happy. I’d like to get into property like Carl Froch, buy some houses and then rent them out. I want to look after my family.”

And his heroes? “At first it was Ricky Hatton, then Miguel Cotto. Now it’s Floyd Mayweather, who would beat Manny Pacquiao. He’d counter-punch him all day long. “I don’t think that fight will be made though, because of the money. I’ll fight Floyd for free though!”

Marco Antonio Barrera is coming to Newark on March 9.

Three-time world champion Marco Antonio Barrera will make an eagerly-anticipated return to the United Kingdom next month.

Boxing promoter and former world champion Carl Greaves is putting together an evening with the legendary Mexican star at the Newark Showground, Newark, Nottinghamshire, on Friday, March 9.

Barrera, a former two-time WBO super bantamweight, WBC, Lineal, The Ring & IBO Featherweight and WBC & IBF super featherweight champion, earned his legendary status following a trilogy of battles with fellow Mexican legend Erik Morales – as well as being the first to defeat Sheffield’s Prince Naseem Hamed.

In his last bout, on February 12 last year, Barrera beat Jose Arias, of the Dominican Republic by a second round TKO. Barrera was ranked 43rd greatest boxer of all time by ESPN.

Those attending will get to sit down at the dinner table with the man himself, and other star guests, for a two-course meal as well as further evening entertainment. Tickets, priced at £75, can be purchased at http://www.tkoboxoffice.com

BRITAIN’S lightweight division is brimming with talent, from Ricky Burns and Kevin Mitchell to Gavin Rees and Anthony Crolla.

But Grimsby’s Kev Hooper is hardly the type of man to stand by idly and watch others attempt to reach the pinnacle of a division in which he has, already, made an impressive mark.

An unbeaten 10-0 record will be put up to the test when Hooper, 27, heads the bill against Bulgaria’s Yordan Vasilev for the vacant International Masters belt at Grimsby Leisure Centre on February 24.

But while the security guard and doorman is refusing to treat the threat of Vasilev (10-23-2) lightly, he admits to a hunger and desire for more high-profile contests.

“This is a big year for me, so hopefully I can get this title out of the way and move on to even bigger things,” said Hooper, who is trained by Sean Wood in his home town.

“I definitely want to be fighting for the English championship by the end of the year. I don’t care who it is, I will fight whoever is put in front of me. I’ll go for it, although there are a lot of good lads out there.

“I don’t have a particular opponent in mind – I’m ranked number ten in the country by Boxing Monthly and it would be good to mix it with any of the guys ahead of me in that list. It’s likely I will be fighting away from home after this.

“But everything is going well at the moment, the people in Grimsby are looking at my progress now. And Sean is such a great trainer, he is always there for me and shown me so many skills.

“Against Vasilev, I know I’ll be up against an opponent who is game, strong and enjoys a good tear-up. If I need to, I can fight on the inside but I would rather use my advantages – I have a bigger reach and I need to box on the end of my jab, keeping the fight at arm’s length.

“Vasilev is going to pressure me, something I haven’t been involved in yet, as he’s going to want to make it toe to toe. He’s going to come at me.

“But I enjoy the pressure. In my last fight against Jamie Speight I was matched against the right sort of opponent, who was 10-1. I stepped up and it was a cracking win (Hooper won on points over ten rounds).”

But while the illustrious names sitting atop the lightweight division hold  the key to bigger riches and   herald larger crowds, Hooper is still being plagued by a fighter from just over the other side of the Humber.

Hull’s Tommy Coyle claimed the vacant International Masters welterweight  title by out pointing Arek Malek in October but is returning to the lightweight division against Graeme Higginson next month. He has been on Hooper’s radar for a while – especially when Coyle’s trainer, Stevie Smith, said the Grimsby man was “running scared” of his charge.

But a defiant Hooper insisted Coyle does not filter onto his list of current targets.

“He needs me – I don’t need him at the moment,” said Hooper.

“If there is a big title available then I’ll be going for a fight against him. If it’s for the English title, then I would jump at it. But I don’t see him as a threat.

“I see that he has been calling out Curtis Woodhouse, too. I’m good friends with Curtis and I notice that he’ll call him out – but then nothing will happen.”

Bell time at Grimsby Leisure Centre is 7.30pm. Tickets are £40 ringside, £30 general admission.

Card:

Kev Hooper vs Yordan Vasilev
Sammy McSpadden vs Rick Boulter
Joel Haigh vs Kristian Laight
Gary Johnson vs James Oliphant
Matthew Mallin vs Matthew Hardy
Jody Meikle vs Tony Shields

Carl Greaves believes his latest show will help several “up-and-coming” boxers add to their growing reputations later this month.

Lightweight Kev Hooper, 27, competes for the International Masters title against Bulgarian Yordan Vasilev on February 24, on his hometown show at Grimsby Leisure Centre which also features Lincoln heavyweight Gaz Johnson, and Hull’s light-welterweight Joel Haigh.

Greaves, who recently tasted success when Shane McPhilbin completed a stunning TKO win to capture the British cruiserweight championship from Leon Williams, said: “The programme has a lot of up-and-coming boxers looking to make their name in the sport.

“There are also a few experienced lads who have been about a bit and who can fight, so we’re hoping for a decent crowd of around 600.

“It will be really entertaining and I’m sure it will be a great show for fight fans.”

Bell time at the leisure centre is 7.30pm. Tickets are £40 ringside, £30 general admission.

Card: Kev Hooper vs Yordan Vasilev
Sammy McSpadden vs Rick Boulter
Joel Haigh vs Kristian Laight
Gary Johnson vs James Oliphant
Matthew Mallin vs Matthew Hardy
Jody Meikle vs Tony Shields