The Midlands Report - July
James Harte rounds-up the news and action from the Midlands boxing scene in July as Craig Cunningham wins a fight of the year contender, Galal Yafai gets ready for Rio, and Frankie Gavin and Sam Eggington look to stay on course for their October derby, plus much more.
9 July was a busy night of action in the Midlands as two promoters staged shows in the area.
In Birmingham, former three-time world title challenger Matthew Macklin and his project, MGM Promotions staged a five-fight card at Tudor Grange Leisure Centre in Solihull. Topping the bill was Michael Rooney who overcame “Dirty” Dan Carr over six rounds. Rooney was bouncing back from defeat in March when he came up against Marcus Ffrench for the vacant Midlands Area lightweight title. Ffrench won in impressive and rapid fashion that night and was back in action here in a four-rounder against Ali Wyatt while he awaits a bigger opportunity and is hopeful of a title fight.
Over at the Town Hall in Walsall, Lennox Clarke topped Errol Johnson’s show and the super-middleweight once again showed why he is being tipped as such an exciting prospect in the game as he needed little over two minutes to overwhelm Nottinghamshire’s Dean Gillen.
Clarke was due to meet southpaw Craig Cunningham last year in what would have proved a gem of a fight between prospects on the rise before Clarke pulled out injured. A disgruntled Cunningham still fought on the bill but had to make do with a stand in opponent and looked flat as he overcame the tough Adam Jones over six-rounds. If he felt disheartened at not getting a challenge – the Oldbury southpaw has filled his boots since, defending his Midlands middleweight title in an absolute scorcher against Ryan Aston in May before moving down in weight and winning the vacant Midland belt at super-welterweight against Rowley Regis’ Jason Welborn. Cunningham and Welborn clashed on 16 July in Birmingham and after 10 pulsating rounds, referee and judge Shaun Messer scored the bout in favour of Cunningham 97-94. The verdict had split the opinion of on-lookers who were there ringside that night, and many felt Welborn was extremely unlucky to not have his hand raised.
Yafai is a well know name in Birmingham boxing circles and the latest one has secured Olympic berth at light-flyweight and is now in Rio limbering up for the games. Older brothers Khalid and Gamal were both star amateurs (Kal a 2008 Olympian) and have made impressive progress in the professional ranks and Galal is likely to follow in their footsteps. Despite having talents such as Ireland’s Paddy Barnes and Cuba’s current reigning world champion Joahnys Argilagos, the Birmingham City ABC fighter is not mindful of anyone in his weight though and is brimming with confidence in the hope of returning with a medal.
Older brother Gamal fights tomorrow night in the first defence of his Commonwealth super-bantamweight title that he won back in March with an exciting display against Lincolnshire’s Bobby Jenkinson. Yafai takes on Yorkshireman Josh Wale at the First Direct Arena in Leeds where the local man is sure to have plenty of vocal support. There is an arrogance to Gamal’s style that so far has been fully justified and their styles are likely to produce a pleasing contest.
Also on the bill are Brummie welterweights Frankie Gavin and Sam Eggington. Both are in non-title fights down the bill as a big local derby looms in October – the pair were due to meet last October before an injury ruled Gavin out. Always respectful of each other, there definitely seems to be needle creeping in as the bout simmers, and fight fans will have their fingers crossed both come through tomorrow night before October comes.
Outside of the ring Gavin is giving back to boxing – the southpaw is opening a gym in Acocks Green. Frankie Gavin’s Ringside Gym will be based on Sherbourne Road and there will be both ladies and children’s classes as well a normal boxing slot. The outright holder of the Lonsdale belt will also be holding 1-2-1 personal training sessions.