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Talking Boxing

Interviews, opinions, features and news from the greatest sport in the world!

January 23, 2017

The Monday after: Don't Hatton-Witter it

Tyrone Nurse
Robbie Davies Jnr
Josh Taylor
Ohara Davies
Jack Catterall

by Shaun Brown

Robbie Davies Jnr got me thinking.

When we interviewed the Liverpudlian super lightweight 10 days ago in the lead-up to his debut on free-to-air TV, against Zoltan Szabo, he was asked about his thoughts on a140lbs weight division in Britain that is full of talent and promise.

“It’s becoming one of them weights where no-one wants to fight each other,” he answered in part. He alluded to two mandatories for the British title, held by Tyrone Nurse, being passed over by Jack Catterall and Ohara Davies respectively.

After Davies Jnr’s stoppage victory over late replacement Szabo [RDJ had initially been due to fight Willie Limond before the Scot withdrew due to illness], he spoke to ITV's Mark Pougatch of his desire to prove he is the best in Britain at his weight class.

“I’m not like other people in this division where everyone’s going their own way, everyone’s trying to make a quick buck the easiest route they can. I want to prove to everyone that I’m the real champion and I’m willing to take these fights now.”

‘These fights’ involve an opponent that the viewing public knows of and thus a fight preparation that Davies Jnr can get his teeth into. There’s a desire to face Catterall, Ohara Davies, Josh Taylor, Tommy Coyle or even British champion Tyrone Nurse who may move up to welterweight.

In the heat of battle it’s easy to admit your desire to face the biggest tests out there. The adrenaline is flowing, the camera is on you and you want to give the viewers/fans something to remember that wasn’t just a fabulous body shot to make Zoltan Szabo crumple to the ground, and onlookers to wince in sympathy.

But it’s hard not to believe Davies Jnr. His manager Neil Marsh got him great exposure on ITV4, and now they want to continue with the momentum by facing a foe that will get the pulses racing of not only the fighters, but the fans. And that’s all we want, the best facing the best which produces an anticipation amongst us all that we find hard to replicate during a countdown to other sporting events. The big fights; there’s nothing like it.

The likelihood is, however, doused with a dose of reality that would extinguish any hopes of Davies Jnr vs Catterall, Taylor v Ohara Davies and so on.

Catterall (the WBO Inter-Continental champion), now trained by Haroon Headley, will be looking to have a meaningful fight under promoter Frank Warren’s new promotional deal with BT Sport. Josh Taylor, the 140lbs Commonwealth champion, is in America right now with trainer Shane McGuigan as he prepares for his third fight in America (after just eight pro starts) on the Carl Frampton-Leo Santa Cruz 2 undercard in Las Vegas. And Ohara Davies (WBC Silver champion) is in camp for a domestic tussle of his own against Derry Mathews on March 4 in Liverpool.

Three fighters backed by three big-time promoters (Warren, Cyclone and Eddie Hearn respectively) who as Davies Jnr mentioned are on their own path. And with each victory, whether it be on BT Sport, in Las Vegas or on a Sky pay-per-view, the flame flickers and looks set to go out on showdowns involving a quartet of fighters who could all go on to become world champions.

And Davies Jnr himself, should he not seal a fight with any of the afore mentioned, has the safety net of a number six ranking with the WBA and the possession of the governing body’s Continental Super Lightweight title. Not that we should be thinking that the Scouser is ready to take on the #7 ranked Darleys Perez or the #2 ranked Rances Barthelemy right away. But it’s a belt and a ranking to defend in any case.

In the early noughties there was a clamour for Britain’s two best 140 pounders – Ricky Hatton and Junior Witter – to face each other. Verbals went back and forth, opportunities were missed and the fight was eventually placed under ‘The One That Got Away’ column.

“I found myself in the top five in the world. With Junior slagging me off as well, which was starting to get on my nerves, I was of the opinion that I was in the top five so why would I fight Junior Witter when I could fight Sharmba Mitchell, Kostya Tszyu and all these people for big money?” Hatton told Boxing News last year when discussing why the fight didn’t get made.

“At the end of the day, I did want to fight him and I did want to beat him but why would I give him the opportunity and payday when he’s being so disrespectful and I was highly ranked anyway? It just lost its way, it’s one of those fights that got away and it would have been a good one. It made sense what Frank said and when he built me up, I moved on and Junior didn’t. We just lost the opportunity,” he added. 

Would you really bet against similar words being uttered in 10-15 years’ time by any of the UK’s leading 10 stone fighters’? This is boxing after all. A land where hopes are built up to Christmas Eve excitement levels only for Santa to laugh manically, as he flies over your house. “You didn’t really think you were going to get what you wanted, did you?”

There’s a long way to go. Slip-ups will happen, defeats inevitable, and while this is a familiar plea... please don’t let the fights in Britain’s super lightweight division in 2017 and beyond be the ones that got away.