Sport

Year in review 2012: Boxing – Amir Khan’s fall, Ricky Hatton’s comeback, and… Freddie Flintoff?

By Ed Owen

Manchester’s boxing scene saw some ups and downs in 2012, with Amir Khan’s fall from grace and early stages of redemption, Ricky Hatton’s one fight return, and the beginning of Andrew Flintoff’s career.

The last 12 months also saw the rise of a potential world champion in Scott Quigg.

January

Amir Khan was granted a rematch by the World Boxing Association after the Bolton-born boxer complained of an unsanctioned official influencing the judges during his loss against Lamont Peterson.

The December 10 fight in Washington DC saw the 25-year-old lose his WBA (Super) and IBF light-welterweight titles courtesy of a split decision.

Khan turned his wrath toward the ‘man in a hat’, later identified as IBF official Mustafa Ameen.

The rematch was pencilled in for May 19 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas.

January 28 saw Collyhurst-based Robin Reid continue his comeback with a TKO victory in the fifth round over Daniel Cadman at York Hall, Bethnal Green.

The former WBC super-middleweight champion obliterated his Essex-born opponent, sending him to the floor with an unholy right hook.

Cadman beat the count but looked unsteady on his feet, becoming the latest victim of the Reaperman’s trademark right-handers.

The win took Reid to 42-7-1 (28 KOs), giving him four wins out of five since coming out of retirement in 2011, four years after quitting on his stool against Carl Froch.

February

Manchester’s Terry Flannigan took part in the BoxNation opener at the Bowler’s Arena on February 3, claiming a one-sided decision over Prizefighter Scott Moises.

Fighting at super-featherweight, Flannigan dominated the contest – he took all six rounds before dropping his opponent with a brutal right hook before the final bell.

Norfolk-born Moises beat the count but went on to lose the contest against the highly-rated prospect, whose record increased to 12-0-0 (4 KOs). 

Bury’s Scott Quigg took on Welsh fighter Jamie Arthur at the Reebok Stadium on February 4 with his British super-bantamweight title on the line.

The 24-year-old recovered from a fourth-round knockdown to rain down a flurry of punches on the challenger –the fight was called in the sixth after a left hook to the body put Arthur in trouble.

On the undercard Stephen Foster Jr returned to the ring for the first time after losing his EBU European super-featherweight title almost a year ago.

The former WBU title holder faced Belarusian Yauheni Kreuk in a six-round contest – the 32-year-old from Salford returned to winning ways with a 60-56 unanimous decision.

March

Matthew Hatton failed in his bid to re-capture the vacant IBF International after he lost a unanimous decision on March 18 to Kell Brook at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena.

The 30-year-old younger brother of Ricky Hatton was floored by Sheffield-born fighter in the ninth round, but refused to be put away by the hometown hero.

With his WBA Inter-Continental crown also on the line for the fight, Brook controlled throughout and by the halfway point had thrown 100 more punches than the tenacious Mancunian.

In the ninth round the Yorkshireman put the former IBF champion on the canvas with a jolting left-handed counterpunch, leaving the judges no doubt as to who was in control.

March 31 saw Terry Flannigan continue his undefeated record with a convincing victory over Kristian Laight at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens.

Fighting at lightweight level, Flannigan handed Nuneaton-born Laight defeat 117 in a predictably one-sided contest. 

April

In what was ranked by Boxing News as the third best British fight of the year, Anthony Crolla lost his lightweight Lonsdale belt to Derry Matthews in a huge upset.

The clash took place at the Oldham Sport Centre on April 21 and saw the high-flying Crolla – who seemed a shoo-in for a world title fight –stopped by the referee.

The New Moston fighter had already visited the canvas in the third after receiving an electrifying uppercut from the resurgent Liverpudlian, having out-boxed him for the first two rounds.

The 25-year-old was aggressive throughout the fight and maintained an assault on his unfancied opponent’s body, but had suffered a deep gash to his left eye.

And after he received a sucker-punch of a left hook in the sixth round, the referee called time for Crolla, who was visibly angry with the decision.

The undercard featured a Stephen Foster Junior looking back to his best as he dismissed Nicaraguan Miguel Aguilar in six rounds.

Foster floored the Central American with a massive left hook inside the first before forcing him to the canvas again in the fourth round with a straight to the solar plexus.

With Aguilar docked a point in the fifth for holding, Foster romped home to an impressive 60-51 victory, taking his record to 30-3-1 (18 KOs).

May

On May 8, the Peterson-Khan rematch was called off after Peterson tested positive for a banned substance – thought to be synthetic testosterone – eleven days before the fight.

Khan – furious at the revelations – was reinstated as the WBA light-welterweight champion.

Terry Flannigan took the English super-featherweight title at the Bowlers Exhibition Centre on May 18, beating opponent Dougie Curran resoundingly with a 91-99 unanimous decision.

Dropping over 9 pounds from his previous fight just under two months ago, Flannigan put on a boxing clinic to condemn Curran to his seventh straight loss.

The 22-year-old sent a number of hooks crashing onto the Geordie’s face all evening before rocking him in the 10th round with a series of impressive jabs.

The win took Flannigan’s record to 14-0-0, as well as giving him his first professional title.

June

Mancunian boxing stars Terry Flannigan and Anthony Crolla took part in the lightweight Prizefighter tournament – promoted by Matchroom – at Liverpool’s Olympia on June 6.

Flannigan walked away with the trophy – the 22-year-old southpaw beat former British champion Gary Sykes 29-28 utilising his straight left.

The Mancunian had earlier beat Halifax-born fighter Liam Patrick Walsh in the quarter final with a fine display of counter-punching, before meeting Derry Matthews in the semis.

Turbo turned the veteran’s face into a mask of crimson, eventually forcing a count from the referee in the second before he took the fight 29-27.

 The Prizefighter victory took the highly-rated southpaw to 18-0-0 (4KOs), reconfirming his status as one of Manchester’s best prospects.

Anthony Crolla was edged out by the tough-punching Sykes in the previous round after the Yorkshireman took advantage of a bad cut to win a 29-28 split decision.

 Crolla earlier beat hometown hero Stephen Jennings – a fast left caused blood to pour from the Liverpudlian’s nose in the final round on his way to a 30-27 unanimous decision.

Amir Khan announced he was to fight unbeaten Puerto Rican-American Danny Garcia for his next WBA title defence on July 14.

Also on the line for the match – which takes place at the Mandalay Bay Hotel, Las Vegas – was Garcia’s WBC belt and the vacant The Ring light-welterweight title.

The former Olympic silver-medallist got into a heated argument with Garcia’s father in the June 4 pre-fight press conference, promising to knock out his unbeaten son.

Scott Quigg faced Rendall Munroe at Manchester Velodrome on June 16 in a clash between the two top British super-bantamweights.

Quigg comes in as the underdog and was being worn down by the Leicester-born boxer before a clash of heads in the third round opened up a vicious cut over Munroe’s eye.

With the gash pouring blood, the referee called the fight as a technical draw with 43 seconds remaining in the third, much to the disappointment of the crowd.

July

Despite going into his July 14 Vegas fight 1-7 favourite, Amir Khan suffered an upset – he was knocked out by Danny Garcia in the fourth round, his record lowered to 26-3 (18 KOs).

The result was even more shocking considering the Englishman dominated the opening two stanzas, but is dropped by a counter left-hook in the third.

After suffering two more knockdowns in round four, referee Kenny Bayless waived the fight off – a distraught Khan lost all his titles and parted with trainer Freddie Roach soon after.

September

Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff announced his decision to become a professional boxer on September 6, dividing opinions in the boxing world.

The former Lancashire cricketer announced he would fight at the Manchester Arena on November 30 against an as-yet unnamed opponent, later revealed to be Oklahoma heavyweight Richard Dawson.

 Flintoff went on to announce he would be trained by Shane McGuigan – son of former featherweight king Barry.

The 34-year-old allowed Sky TV to film the transformation for a documentary, leading to accusations he was taking part in a reality TV stunt.

On September 14, former WBA (Super), IBF, IBO and The Ring light-welterweight champion and former WBA Welterweight champion Ricky Hatton also declared he would be making a comeback.

Hyde-born Hatton, who retired after a traumatic second-round knockout to Manny Pacquiao in May 2009, confirmed he would fight at welterweight against an unnamed opponent – later revealed to be Vyacheslav Senchenko.

With the fight announced as November 14 at the Manchester Arena, tickets to watch the Mancunian legend face the Ukrainian former WBA title-holder sell out within two days.

September 6 saw Terry Flannigan’s first defence of his English super-featherweight title against hardman Troy James, with the Mancunian once again scoring a unanimous decision.

Turbo had to withstand a ferocious assault from James in the latter half of the contest after he earlier made the challenger buckle with a fierce counterpunch in the third.

Flannigan could have ended it there but James fought back to take the fight back to Flannigan, who once again counterpunched his way ahead on the judge’s scorecards.

The final rounds saw the momentum shift between both fighters, before James finally managed to punch himself out, allowing the champion to clean up in the final stanzas.

October

Ricky’s brother Matthew Hatton bounced back from his defeat against Kell Brook by knocking out Londoner Michael Lomax in 90 seconds.

The former European welterweight champion was headlining the October 12 ’Made in Manchester’ show – promoted by Coldwell Boxing – at the Bowlers Exhibition Centre in Trafford Park.

‘Magic’ proved to be a class apart from the former Prizefighter winner, dismantling him with a right to the body which left Lomax in pain on the canvas.

The comprehensive nature of the victory puts the 30-year-old Hatton back on track for his world title showdown against South Africa IBO holder Chris van Heerden in Cape Town in February 2013.

Robin Reid lost against Kenny Anderson in his bid for the British super-middleweight title on October 20 at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena.

The 41-year-old looked a shadow of his former self as he suffered a TKO in the fifth round after an unanswered barrage of blows from the Scotsman forced the referee’s hand.

After four uneventful rounds the fifth saw Reid deducted a point for low blows and then forced to take a knee following a sharp right uppercut from Anderson.

 Despite rising after eight the Merseyside-born boxer had no answer for Anderson’s later flurries, dropping his record to 42-8-1 (29 KOs).

November

Ricky Hatton’s November 14 comeback against Vyachelslav Senchenko at the Manchester Arena ended in tears after he was knocked out in the eighth round.

The 34-year-old started the brighter of the two fighters but failed to land critical shots, allowing Senchenko to control the later rounds with his superior reach and jab.

Hatton was knocked down in the eighth by his own signature punch – a crushing left hook to the body – before he was counted out by the referee.

A tearful Hatton thanked his fans after the fight and soon after announced his final retirement, leaving his record at 45-3 (32 KOs).

The undercard of Hatton’s failed comeback featured the super-bantamweight rematch between Scott Quigg and Rendall Munroe.

Quigg demolished the former WBC world title challenger, knocking him out in the sixth round.

Despite starting on the back foot, the Bury-born boxer seized control from the second round onward before vicious body shots forced his opponent to twice take a knee twice in the sixth.

The win handed Quigg the interim WBA world super-bantamweight title, taking his record to 24-0-1 (17 KOs) – a possible match-up with Northern Ireland’s Carl Frampton, the Commonwealth champion, could happen in 2013.

Also on the undercard was a clash between Stephen Foster Jr and Gary Buckland for the British super-featherweight title.

Foster was stopped by the Welshman in the eighth round – a barrage of punches which forcing the Salford boxer’s corner to throw in the towel.

The fight was fairly even up until the sixth round when a clash of heads opened up a cut on Foster’s forehead and allowed Buckland to control the contest.

The loss leaves the 32-year-old former WBU champion at 30-4-1 (18 KOs).

Andrew Flintoff’s boxing debut took place on November 30, with the former Lancashire all-rounder notching up a first professional victory.

In a match widely derided by the boxing fraternity, Flintoff was able to win on points in his four-round clash against American Richard Dawson.

The cricketing legend – who shed over three stone before the fight – beat his 23-year-old opponent on points despite being knocked down by a sweet left hook in the second round.

The victory was a triumph for Northern Irish former featherweight champion Barry McGuigan, who along with his trainer son Shane masterminded the 34-year-old’s transition to the ring.

Though the McGuigans have now encouraged him to step down, it remains to be seen whether Flintoff will fight again in 2013.

December

The ‘Battle of Manchester’ show from Coldwell Boxing on December 7 was overshadowed by a life-threatening injury to Lancashire fighter Kieran Farrell.

The 22-year-old collapsed after losing a brutal 10-round bout against Anthony Crolla with a bleed on the brain forcing ringside paramedics to give him oxygen.

Carried from the ring on a stretcher, he later regained consciousness before fitting in the ambulance on the way to Salford Royal Hospital.

 The two men were fighting for the vacant English Lightweight title, with the title going to Crolla by unanimous decision.

Crolla now has a record of 25-4 (KOs 9) while Farrell falls to 14-1 (KOs 3) – however, it mattered little in the wake of the latter’s injury.

Farrell is now said to be at home recovering with the British Boxing Board of Control taking every possible step to make sure he is fit for 2013 fights.

On the undercard of a December 14 fight at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, Terry Flannigan rounded out his perfect year by making Mickey Coveney quit on his stool in the fourth round.

Making his first step up to welterweight, the Prizefighter winner dominated the contest taking his record to 19-0-0 (5 KOs) and cementing his place as one of the sport’s brightest prospects.

 Amir Khan, now trained by Virgil Hunter – long-time trainer of super-middleweight king Andre Ward – fought unbeaten Mexican-American Carlos Molina on December 15.

Molina came into the fight at the LA Sports Arena, California with 17 straight wins, but was made to look ordinary by a rapid-punching Khan, who forced him to quit on his stool after the tenth round.

Khan had declared the matchup a make-or-break proposition and used his post-fight interview to call out Danny Garcia – who was ringside – for a potential fight in 2013.

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