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Talking Boxing

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November 21, 2016

On the Road... with Andy Clarke: London and Hannover

Marco Huck successfully defended his IBO title and now has WBC champion Tony Bellew in his sights.

ANDY CLARKE

Last weekend took me to Wembley Arena and Hanover, and it was an interesting couple of days.

Friday was Wembley and the Cyclone Promotions bill headlined by George Groves vs. Eduard Gutknecht.

I was covering the undercard so headed over for about 4.30pm; London fight nights are nice because I live in Hackney so there’s no travelling involved. Mark Pougatch and Dave Farrar were already there, and Richie Woodhall arrived just after me. A few facts and pronunciations were checked, and then it was a case of killing a bit of time before the action started.

My first fight involved the English Welterweight champion Johnny Garton. 'The Pexican' had his hands full with Nicaraguan Geiboard Omier, picking up a nasty cut on his way to a win over six rounds. Interestingly his trainer Alan Smith told me the day before that the British Boxing Board had offered Garton a shot at the British title against gym mate Bradley Skeete, after Shayne Singleton pulled out of their fight in Brentwood on November 25, but that they’d turned it down. Skeete and Garton won’t fight, as in boxing terms they’re like brothers. Joe Gallagher told me the same about his two light heavyweights, Hosea Burton and Callum Johnson, a few weeks back.

Next up was Conrad Cummings vs. Germany's Ronnie Mittag for the IBF Intercontinental middleweight title. It was a good fight and a good, if at times a little cautious, performance from Cummings. It was certainly competitive, but I was shocked when a split decision went Mittag’s way as was Richie Woodhall who scored it 97-94 Cummings. It’s a blow for the Irishman as Cyclone were hoping to manoeuvre him towards a British or European title shot.

At that point I’d finished so I could sit back and watch the rest of the action from ringside alongside Steve Collins, Carl Frampton, Lee Selby and David Haye. Lee’s brother Andrew was in action, and once again was superb. He really is incredibly good and could well win a world title before the end of next year. I did a quick interview with him in the dressing room afterwards and he agreed with me that the only potential problem for him is boredom.

The main event was a good, hard fight but one that is now forever tainted. Eduard Gutknecht did not
receive the same kind of punishment from George Groves, that Nick Blackwell did from Chris Eubank eight months earlier (I was there), but it was a tough 12 rounds. Strangely, I spent most of the fight discussing stoppages by referees and corners with boxing writer Declan Warrington. We both agreed that Gutknecht deserved to hear the final bell even though by round ten we felt he could no longer win.

Just as with Blackwell v Eubank, I don’t think any blame can be attached to the referee or Gutknecht’s corner. Boxing is dangerous. It’s such an obvious statement, that it runs the risk of sounding glib but it’s not intended to. It’s just the reality and if you cover boxing you either accept that fact or you don’t, and if you don’t then you’re better off doing something else. Fighters have been badly injured on four occasions now when I’ve been ringside, and it’s the last thing I ever want to see but I will almost certainly see it happen again, there’s just no point pretending otherwise. The only way you could prevent it would be to ban boxing and that would be a disaster as it does so much more good than harm, in all sorts of ways.

From Wembley it was home for a few hours’ sleep before scooting down to Heathrow for an early flight to Hanover to cover Marco Huck vs. Dmytro Kucher. I’d been hired by RTL to provide their international commentary, and it fell perfectly for me on the only Saturday for weeks when I didn’t already have other commitments.

As it was our first time working together there was plenty to go through, after which I had time to burn but it went quickly thanks to some very entertaining ring walk rehearsals. A German crew member played the part of Dmytro Kucher, and resplendent in tartan blazer, shorts and trucker’s cap, air-guitarred his way to the ring to AC/DC’s 'Thunderstruck', in great style much to mine and Jimmy Lennon Junior’s amusement.

Marco Huck’s stand-in was a lot more restrained, but in fairness it was an impossible act to follow. After that epic performance I nipped backstage to track down Besir Ay, a fighter making his debut who I knew nothing about, and had a quick chat with him.

The undercard was forgettable (Ay won comfortably) apart from my first sighting of Georgian heavyweight David Gegeshidze. I’ve seen thousands of boxers step through the ropes but of all of them the 35-year-old looked the least like a fighter. Not because he was hideously overweight or out of shape, he wasn’t, but because he just looked like any man of his age you might see on a Sunday at Legoland with his wife and kids; sporting a respectable belly and quite a lot of grey hair, with evidence of a bit of power in the shoulders from younger days but not the look of a man who’d seen the inside of a gym recently. But when the bell went it was obvious he had indeed seen the inside of a gym because the man had some skills. Gegeshidze made his opponent and local favourite Hussein Muhamed (5-0) miss for two of the six rounds, the Georgian had optimistically signed up for before spitting out his gum shield and informing the referee that he’d done enough and would give the remaining 12 minutes a miss. He then reappeared in the corner later (there were plenty of Georgian opponents on the bill) looking thoroughly happy with life. Great stuff.

The main event, which saw Marco Huck defend his IBO cruiserweight title versus the European champion Dmytro Kucher, was an impressive spectacle right up until the first bell, after which Kucher, hard though he tried, just couldn’t get to grips with Huck, who fought in effective bursts like he always does despite breaking his right hand early in proceedings.

Sitting just in front of me was Wladimir Klitschko who was part of RTL’s domestic coverage, and he looked in great shape as always. I do think though, and this could just be my imagination, that some of the swagger he used to have has gone. The former heavyweight king’s had an incredibly frustrating year at the end of which he’s been left with absolutely nothing apart from a lot of wasted time and effort, and it looked to me like it’s taken its toll.

Klitchsko chatted to 'The Captain', as Huck is known, in the ring afterwards. Huck would love a crack at Tony Bellew, and given that he’s ranked second by the WBC, that could well happen. You’d imagine he’d have to travel though as they’d have to come up with an absolute fortune to get Bellew to even think about going to Germany.

I on the other hand will happily go there whenever I’m asked to, it’s great fun.


​​Follow Andy Clarke on Twitter @AndrewClarke19