Thursday, 22 March 2012

David Williams's Welsh Boxing Blog - No. 8

After the tumultuous events of last weekend I felt I’d better take a few days to gather my thoughts before posting this seventh edition of the blog.

In a way, it was unfortunate that Kerry Hope’s against-all-odds victory over previously unbeaten Grzegorz Proksa fell on the same day that Wales sealed a third Grand Slam in seven years.

I’m guessing that if you asked 100 people on the street, 99 of them, or possibly all of them, wouldn’t know that Wales had a new European champion crowned on Saturday night.

And the thing was that Hope, who going into the fight in Sheffield was at risk of being stuck with the tag of ‘journeyman’, thoroughly deserved his points win.

Even having a point deducted shouldn’t have, and didn’t, affect the final outcome as the Merthyr middleweight seized his chance to go from rank outsider to European number one.

Three years ago, I remember being with Hope in his changing room after he had lost the Welsh title in his hometown. A nasty cut above his eye, which prompted the referee to stop the fight early, and his obvious dejection at the defeat saw him cut a forlorn figure.

But that was just the start of a run of bad luck that was only really put behind him when he was announced the winner in the Steel City just a few hours after another great Welsh success in Cardiff.

Cancelled shows, cancelled fights – including one at Madison Square Gardens – a split with former trainer Enzo Calzaghe and a failed stint in the States with John Tandy prompted the 30-year-old to consider his future in the sport.

It’s a good job he decided to carry on, and with Karl Ince in Bolton as his new coach, no matter what he does or doesn’t achieve in the rest of his career, Hope knows that he will never go down as a journeyman.

As far as the fight on Saturday goes, Proksa came off worst following a second-round clash of heads but that doesn’t give him any excuses for what was a sloppy and at times cocky performance in front of the Sky cameras.

Hope wasn’t going to stop his opponent but he took advantage of Proksa’s lackadaisical defence as he constantly dropped his guard and seemed to think he could end the contest with his previously heralded punching power.

Okay, Proksa probably had an off day, though it looked like he clearly under-estimated his rival and that was his undoing.

For Hope, it was reward for all the toil, struggle and turmoil he has had to deal with and after becoming a dad for a second time the week before, it was the perfect start to the next chapter in his life.

Speaking of chapters, the two of us have always joked about writing his boxing story, so what better way to end the past few years than with the European middleweight belt sitting on his mantelpiece.

*Let’s hope Gavin Rees, Enzo Maccarinelli and Gary Buckland can all take inspiration from Kerry Hope and win their respective European and British title bouts this weekend.

Rees defends his European lightweight crown in France on Friday, Maccarinelli goes for the British cruiserweight strap in Wolverhampton on the same night and Buckland bids to hold onto his British super-featherweight title in Sheffield on Saturday.

Also, hopefully Nathan Cleverly’s fight at the Albert Hall next month gets sorted after the WBO said it wouldn’t sanction his fourth world title defence against Robin Krasniqi.

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