On 11th July, Terry Flanagan will box for the WBO lightweight title a short walk from his home in Manchester. A week later, just across the famous fighting city, Anthony Crolla takes on Darleys Perez for the WBA's title in the same 9st 9lbs division. Meanwhile, around nine miles further north in the small town of Heywood, a 24-year-old intrinsically linked to both men continues his boxing career in a very different fashion.
“You see Terry,” says Kieran Farrell, leaning back on a chair in the reception of his community gym. “He's the same kid as me. And Crolla? Well, we all know what happened there.”
As a small child in Managua, Roman Gonzalez used to throw a makeshift punch bag over a branch of a guayaba tree to hone his natural, god-given talents under the unforgiving gaze of the Nicaraguan sun. That unassuming young boy would grow from modest beginnings into one of the outstanding fighters in world boxing with a list of achievements that make staggering reading.
Boxing Monthly’s team reflects on the repercussions and key moments at Eddie Hearn’s ‘Rule Britannia’ promotion at the O2 Arena where Lee Selby, Kell Brook, Kevin Mitchell and Anthony Joshua sparked a number of talking points. Is Mitchell still a player at world level? What does the future hold for Brook? Is heavyweight hope Joshua being moved fast enough? And what is the true potential of Welsh wizard Selby?
Promoter and trainer Sam Kynoch boxed then became a corporate lawyer, but left that behind to focus 100% on boxing. He now heads up MGM Scotland and joins TKO Radio to discuss the partnership with Matt Macklin's Marbella gym. Boxing writer Shaun Brown takes us through a busy weekend with Eddie Hearn's 'Rule Britannia' show in London, Amir Khan-Chris Algieri in Brooklyn and a few thoughts on Carl Frampton's surprise new alliance with Al Haymon.
On a night of thrills and heartbreak at the O2 Arena, world title dreams were realized (Lee Selby) and dashed (Kevin Mitchell and Frankie Gavin) while the Anthony Joshua juggernaut rolled on impressively with a two-round blowout of Kevin Johnson. Kell Brook also cemented his claim as one of the best welterweights in the world with a composed and controlled performance. Boxing Monthly and the media talked to some of the protagonists after the dust had settled.
The stage was set for Amir Khan. New York City in a big arena on a Friday night, a cable TV network [Spike] that reaches millions of U.S. viewers and an opponent who was there to make him look good in Chris Algieri but, even though Khan was celebrating at the end of the night, the feeling was that the party was missing something.
Ross 'The Boss' Burkinshaw struggled badly between 2010 and 2013, a run of three consecutive defeats (Craig Lyon RTD 5 in 2010, Michael Ramabeletsa by fifth-round TKO in 2012 and a second round defeat to Gavin McDonnell in 2013) coupled with debilitating injury problems to his knees and shoulder in 2011 meant that he was in and out of hospital more often than he was in and out the ring. The 28-year-old has since won the Commonwealth (now relinquished) and WBO European bantamweight titles thanks to wins over Jason Cunningham (W SD 12 in September and Benjamin Smoes TKO 1 in February). He is unbeaten in his last five. Dennis Hobson, his promoter, is working on a world title eliminator - things couldn’t be better for the 14-5-2 (8) contender. A huge turnaround from those dark days.
“It’s been a long time coming for me, I’ve been going about my business quietly, but I am happy it’s happened and am excited about it all,” stated 'John' Wayne Hibbert, 15-2 (9 KOs), when speaking to Boxing Monthly about a recent ring revival that has seen him go from small hall slots to three successive undercard assignments at London's O2 Arena (W TKO 8 and W KO 5 over Tyler Goodjohn and Leonardo Esteban Gonzalez respectively with a bout against Dave Ryan for the light-welterweight Commonwealth belt at the same venue on Saturday night). “There’s a lot more to come, I can get involved in even bigger fights.”
Each year, a handful of fighters enter the professional ranks amidst much fanfare as each punch is televised live and greeted with a cacophony of hyperbole. This extravagance is reserved for two kinds of prospects; amateur standouts and those who can single-handedly sell hundreds of tickets to their army of supporters. Liam Williams was not one of the chosen few. Instead, he quietly learnt his craft on the small hall circuit in his native Wales and on the non-televised portions of the undercards of his more illustrious stable-mates within Queensberry Promotions. “I’ve always had the potential but I didn’t get a lot of TV coverage and that’s why casual boxing fans didn’t know who I was,” Williams, 12-0 (7 KOs), told Boxing Monthly very matter-of-factly over the phone from his Clydach Vale home. “Now that I’m being given the opportunity I’m grabbing it with both hands and making people realise that I’m a really good prospect.”
Jamie Cox was describing the impact his low profile but highly respected manager Lee Beard was having on his career when he said: “The quietest man in the room is actually the loudest man in the room.” The phrase could easily end up applying perfectly to the undefeated 28-year-old himself. Since emerging from a controversial fight with Ghana’s Obodai Sai with two bad cuts, two broken hands and the Commonwealth light-middleweight belt, Cox has fought just twice in almost four years but has rebuilt his career away from prying eyes and sparred impressively with Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez. “He's not only the best person I sparred in America, he's the best person I’ve ever sparred,” said Cox, 18-0 (10 KOs).