By Ian Mathias @mathiasonboxing
It’s that merry time of year where we reflect on the year we have just witnessed and look ahead to what potential fights can happen and can fall by the wayside. Although we have seen some excellent fights on the world scene such as Fury v Wilder, Lopez v Kombosos, Chocalito v Estrada 2 to name but a few there were no real big British fights. Not since George Groves ruffled the feathers of the Matchroom establishment and Carl Froch back in 2015 we have not seen a big domestic rivalry get to the squared circle. Yes we have been teased with the prospect of Fury and Joshua and in the summer of 2021 it seemed we had ticked the box to finally get that one in the bag until a Judge in a arbitration courtroom scuppered the plans of the Saudi royalty and UK fight fans.
With the prospect of some quality domestic battles lined up for the early part of the year we reflect on some past big domestic rivalries of the last decade and look ahead at what 2022 could bring.
The biggest and most famous British rivalry of the last 10 years has to be Carl Froch and George Groves. Their rivalry made it to the back pages of all newspapers and managed to get national attention. The first of their 2 fights on the 23rd of November 2013 in Manchester was supposed to be a routine outing for the Nottingham man as he was looking to secure the bigger career defining fights against Gennady Golovkin or Julio Cesar Chavez (This was a big fight at the time!!!). With little expected of Groves pre fight, The young Londoner did his best to get under the skin of his opponent and brashly made it seem as this was his time. At the pre fight press conference Groves told Froch that he was going to hit him with 2 right hands which would transpire to be very true in the fight but at the time was scoffed at by Froch and the media alike.
On fight night all of the Cobras worst nightmares looked to become a reality when in round 1 Groves delivered on his pre fight prediction and dropped Froch with a gem of a right hand which seemed to put Froch to sleep only for the thud of the canvas to reawaken him. Groves continued to push on and out box Froch for the next few rounds and going into the second half of the fight 99% of fight fans even the most hardened of Carl Froch fans would have had him at a wide deficit But this was Carl Froch, maybe the toughest and most determined world champion we have has in the last 10 years who began to inch by inch get closer to Groves who on his end was slowly fading. Round 8 was a clear Froch round and a major shift in direction of where this fight was heading and this led into the controversial 9th. Froch gets to hurt Groves and follows up only for referee Howard Foster to jump in and save a very frustrated and angry Groves who believed that this one was stopped prematurely.
This led to a Massive rematch on the 31st of May 2014 billed as unfinished business as George Groves spent months lobbying the IBF to mandate him back into the ring with Froch and had his wish granted. The 2nd fight saw a more focused Froch in the build up and didn’t get involved with any of the mind games that Groves looked to employ and in the 2nd fight a more cagey encounter than the first saw Carl Froch deliver a shuddering right hand leaving Groves in a crumpled heap on the floor that conclusively drew down the curtain on not only of their saga but the career of the Nottingham man.
14th of July 2012 licensed to thrill a fight that was both shaken and stirred as following on from one of the most explosive post match interviews you will ever see, brought together to alpha male Londoners David ‘Hayemaker’ Haye and Derek’ Delboy’ Chisora fight it out at the Boyeln ground West Ham.
To get into this we have to go back to Vitali Klitschko and Derek Chisora fight on Febuary 18th 2012 and after Vitali successfully beat Derek Chisora a rather fresh David Haye turned up to the press conference to issue a challenge to the Ukrainian fully equipped with his bottle of Desparado (great choice!) which was to also have a active part in the following melee. Chisora being the man that he is started to chime in with a few choice words for Haye and after a few minutes of pleasantries Del boy made his way towards Haye for a few more personal words up close and was swiftly met with a right hand and as the brawl unfollowed caught a camera tripod to the head.
5 months later the fight was announced even with Chisora having his British Board of Control license revoked, the fight was sanctioned by the Luxembourg Boxing Federation. The fight itself attended by 30 000 frenetic fight fans witnessed a high pace 5 round affair that ended when Haye dropped Chisora twice in round 5 and forced the ref to jump in and wave the action off
The most recent Big British showdown we had was the 2 fight encounter between Tony Bellew and David Haye 3 and a half years after his fight with Derek Chisora where Haye announced his retirement from the ring, the Hayemaker set his sights on the Uks golden egg Anthony Joshua and was back to prepare for a last title tilt. At the start of 2016 Haye was back in the ring, coming back with 2 sub standard opponents in Mark De Mori and Arnold Gjergjaj.
Over the past 3 and a half years when Haye was away from the ring Tony Bellew had failed in his world title shot, getting battered in November 2013 in 6 rounds by Canadian Adonis Stevenson and was working his way towards his day with Destiny at Goodison Park against Ilunga Makabu where he picked up the WBC world championship at Cruiserweight.
In the mind of Tony Bellew it was time to cash out and the biggest money and most importantly winnable fight in the liverpudlians mind was Haye.
15th of October the night where Bellew bounced BJ Flores all across the ring defending his WBC title and with Haye ringside, The champ made it clear in no uncertain terms that he only wanted the Londoner next and with a few jovial insults – calling Haye Spongebob and insisting he was conning the British public with his ring return the negotiations for the fight began.
One month later the pair came face to face at the first press conference which ended with Haye landing a left hand and marking Bellew but the fight was announced and took place March 4th 2017. The bout started as a very cagey affair and was on a knife edge until round 6 where similar to the Greek god Achilies, the heel injury sustained by the main protagonist led to an almighty defeat and a brave battle to the end. Bellew who realised what has happened proceeded to bully and pummel Haye until getting his man out of there in the 11th round.
Fast forward 14 months and a much more humble build up from the usually raging aggressive Haye was looking to turn the tables but proved to be an absolute shadow of the champion he once was and was quickly taking out inside of 5 rounds by a ruthless and spiteful Bellew that closed their chapter on their feud.
Other honourable mentions have been: Haye v Harrison, Cleverley V Bellew and Quigg vs Frampton.
In the first 2 months of 2022 we are set to see a few battles of Britain in major fights covid 19 depending! Scotland will see Josh Taylor defend his 4 belts in a undispued title defence against Jack Cattrall. Loud, proud and angry welshman Liam Williams take on the enigmatic Chris Eubank jr. Last but by no means least, although this fight is years out of date Kell Brook finally gets the fight that he has spent in this authors opinion far too long chasing and which has hampered his career, Amir Khan!
But it is the potential of some monster heavyweight fights that are really whetting the appetite but what are the chances these happen? There should be a simple road to Undisputed in the heavyweight division but Boxing has a wonderful way of shooting itself in the foot. Anthony Joshua looks all set to take on Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk to attempt to become a 3 time Heavyweight champion – this is a mammoth task for the Londoner and will go into this fight as underdog and needing to revamp his style to get a much craved win.
Why Dillian Whyte and Tyson Fury isn’t as simple a case as fighting in the spring to set up a undisputed fight for later in the summer highlights Boxing politics at its finest. Team Fury insisting on a 80/20 split where team Whyte are pushing for a 55/45 split. On top of this we have an arbitrator who will make the final ruling but that isn’t until March by which time Tyson Fury plans to have fought and if Uysk/Joshua goes ahead in April then Fury may look to make Undisputed rather than give Whyte his extremely over due title shot!
So potentially we could get Fury vs Whyte then Joshua or we could see none of these! Joe Joyce as a mandatory challenger will be aiming to get his shot at the backend of the year that would be delightful news for Frank Warren especially if Tyson Fury is still reigning champ come the end of 2022!
Could this be the year of massive British showdowns or will this be another year of disappointment – strap yourself in for the ride ahead!