By Frank Maloney
In England a couple of weekends ago we had two fight cards which I believe will serve to demonstrate why the sport of boxing will never go away despite any rough spots we are currently experiencing.
On that weekend in London, there were two British Southern Area title fights on separate shows. The first was televised on Sky Sports and was full of promising young fighters. There weren’t any real headliners on the show, only the son of former world middleweight champion Alan Minter. Young Ross Minter stepped up and topped a bill for his first time in his career, challenging Chas Symonds, who held the Southern Area Welterweight belt. What a fight it turned out to be with the kind of fantastic atmosphere one doesn’t find all too often these days. For me, it was a reminder of what we used to see at Shoreditch Town Hall, which is no longer standing, sadly.
Back to the fight, the venue was standing room only and the fans were on their feet from the first contest to the last, an electrifying experience. If Americans had the opportunity to have seen this fight, they would have been reminded of the legendary Blue Horizon in Philadelphia.
The fight itself was a very emotional one with Alan Minter sitting ringside to see his son contend for his first professional title and Ross didn’t disappoint, pulling off a truly mature performance.
The contest had some personal significance for me, as I’m actually the co-manager of Ross Minter and I was in his corner while my brother Eugene Maloney was in the opposite corner with his fighter Chas Symonds.
The reigning champion made a flashy showman’s entrance into the arena but Symonds looked to me to be focused more on delivering entertainment with his ring walk than he did on getting down to business of boxing. At the end of the day, we all know that both audiences in attendance and television viewers like to be entertained with such but to pull it off, you must also be able to fight.
We kept Ross cool and calm, with his back turned to the antics of Chas Symond’s ring entrance. When the bell rang, however, Minter’s class came through. Symonds made him look like Sugar Ray Leonard, as Ross could do no wrong.
I know Chas Symonds because he works out of the Maloney Fight Factory and I do believe that he’s a much better fighter than his performance showed. I think that he got caught up in his own publicity and made the mistake of believing that he only had to turn up at the venue in order to win the fight.
But, we will see what sort of fighter he is because all good fighters come back from a loss. I’m hoping that my brother and the Symonds Team can come back because boxing needs characters like Chas.
Ross Minter is still a long way off from what his father achieved but he’s certainly improved and is learning as a professional. Don’t be surprised if his promoter Sports Network announces that Ross’ night fight will be another step up and maybe even for another title.
The second good card that weekend in London took place on a Saturday night and it was another British Southern Area title fight. This time the action took place on the East Side of the city and it was between Peter McDonaugh and Rob Jefferies. Rob, who is in my brother’s stable, was the challenger and stepping up to championship level after only nine bouts.
Once again the fight was first class and fought with a great competitive spirit with both men wanting to win very badly. Thankfully, Jefferies put on a great performance and won the bout convincingly on the referee’s card. Some ringside viewers disagreed with the decision but I must go along with the referee. I had Jefferies two rounds ahead as he was the aggressor and took the fight to McDonaugh at all times. McDonaugh had tried to box off the back foot and was flicking left jabs, which missed more than they scored. Jefferies worked well to the body before switching his attack to the head.
Rob went ten rounds for the first time and proved he had what it took to take a title away from a determined foe. From here he’ll l go on to bigger things and I know that he has his eye on my English champion, Danny Hunt.
I’m still trying to work out if my brother has ever scored a win over me. Well, he did handle Matthew Barney when the Plymouth man took my fighter Tony Oakey’s WBU Light Heavyweight title away.I have to say that was one of the worst fights ever staged in a British ring and honestly, I would love to forget all about it. Incidentally, Barney isn’t with Eugene anymore because he didn’t like some of the realities of what my brother had to say to him after that fight and they parted company.
Something else the weekend in question shows is the crazy world of boxing. Early that Friday night Eugene was on a high with a champion in Chas Symonds but by midnight he was depressed as Minter took that title away. On Saturday night Eugene was back on a high because Rob Jefferies had won a Southern Area title at a different weight. This sort of up and down roller coaster can only happen in professional boxing.
For all of these reasons that I’ve outlined, the people who say that this sport is in trouble should get off of their armchairs and go see these small hall shows that often don’t make television because every fight is like an English Cup final.
This is why I believe that boxing will never die. It’s because there are young fighters who believe that they will get to the top and give their all on these types of shows.
This weekend I went across the Atlantic and America to Las Vegas to see what turned out to be perhaps one of the greatest fights ever, Diego Corrales against Jose Luis Castillo. Soon, I’ll give the view of an English fight fan in the boxing capital of the world, Las Vegas, as I went there purely as a spectator, not working as I did many times when managing Lennox Lewis.
Speaking of America, it seemed that the last big fight weekend there turned out to be disappointing, with the Toney – Ruiz fiasco in Madison Square Garden. Once again the heavyweight division is in turmoil with no one knowing just who is the real successor to Lennox Lewis. and the belts continue to be divided. This is not good for boxing, as it is always better to have a single dominant heavyweight champion.
Concerning James Toney, I remember being ringside in Rio de Janeiro one night when Montell Griffin beat him. I scratch my head now wondering how the same man can now win a heavyweight title. If Vitali Klitschko gets the chance to meet Toney in the ring, I believe he would be too big and too strong for the man who first won a world title at middleweight.