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Home-Grown Stars
A boom time in British boxing
No other sport can quite match boxing for its uncertainty, its drama, and ability to survive over two thousand years of man-to-man contact and still remain an attraction in a world which is forever changing its tastes.
At the start of last year, boxing appeared to be under threat from other combat sports, but that argument has practically died a death and the boxing trade continues to defy the abolitionists and the cynics who say the sport is steadily conning itself to death. The year 2007 was a fantastic one for British boxing it has been years since we packed such a punch around the world. In fact, of the seven weight divisions between light welterweight and cruiserweight we currently hold nine major world championship belts.

The year 2007 was a fantastic one for British boxing
The year 2007 was a fantastic one for British boxing

20.01.2008 - Junior Witter from Bradford holds the WBC version of the light welterweight title after his win against DeMarcus Corley, and then his stunningly convincing performance against Vivian Harris, who he knocked out in the seventh round on September 7th. Witter got his first shot at a world title in 2000 but was beaten on points by New Yorker Zab Judah. He had to wait six years before he got another title shot, and even his win against DeMarcus Corley didnt endear him to the boxing fans in general, with most characterising him as a runner and spoiler.

However, British fans warmed to him when in his first defence of his title, he combined power and authority with his elusiveness by knocking out Vivian Harris, who was ranked number two in the world ratings. Returning to the light welterweight division will be Ricky Hatton, after his brave attempt to grab the top spot in the welterweights from the brilliant Floyd Mayweather. Although Ricky still holds the number one ranking in the division and Witter would love to meet him in a defining fight, theres bad blood between the two, and Ricky also still has bigger fish to fry.

Welshman Gavin Rees joined Ricky Hatton and Junior Witter as kingpins in the ten-stone ranks, when causing a sensational upset by clearly outpointing world champion  Souleymane Mbaye last July, to capture the WBA belt.  Conceding six and a half inches in height, the little Welsh battler won the title by hammering away at the Frenchmans body throughout the fight. Another Welshman, Joe Calzaghe, finally emerged as a world boxing superstar in November by taking the WBA and WBC title belts off the tough, talented, and until then unbeaten Mikkel Kessler from Denmark to add to his WBO belt which he was defending for the twenty-first time.

Calzaghe has had a great career having been unbeaten in his 44 fights, with exactly half of his wins being in world championship contests, during which he conquered two world champions and five former world title holders.

The year ended with Joe being voted Sports Personality of the Year which was well deserved. An ideal finish to Calzaghes career would be a trip to the States and a win against world light heavy­weight champion Bernard Hopkins to make him a two-weight world champ. But whatever happens with the remainder of his career, the 36 year-old is surely a cer­tainty to be inducted into the International Hall of Fame in the future.

Britain already has one major title belt holder in the light heavyweight division in Yorkshireman Clinton Woods, who holds the IBF belt.

This is one fighter I personally underestimated years ago when he was boxing at British and European championship level. I didnt give him an earthly to ever be a world champion, but I didnt take into account his tenacity, his toughness, and his never-say-die attitude. He would make an ideal opponent for Bernard Hopkins and a win would give him the right to call himself the best light heavyweight in the world. Theres no Brit more deserving of a high profile match of real world significance than Clinton.

Londoner David Haye reigns supreme at the top of the world cruiserweight division after his incredible come-from-behind, seventh round stoppage of champion Jean-Marc Mormeck in Paris in November. What annoyed me personally about this contest was the lack of interest by the press, radio and TV, before and after the fight. We had a British fighter brave enough to venture into an undisputed world champions comfort zone of his home city to win his two major titles, and hardly got a mention. Let me put this straight, this was one of the best performances ever by a British fighter, for not only had Haye to show his mettle in front of Mormecks own fans, but had to drain off nearly two stone in weight to do it, the sort of punishment you would think he would have no desire to repeat, having not had a proper meal for seventeen weeks and training all that time just to make the weight. So I was surprised to learn that instead of Haye moving up to the heavyweight division, he has accepted the challenge of Wales Enzo Maccarinelli who holds the WBO title at cruiserweight. The showdown will take place on 8th March and there should be some leather flying about that night, for both fighters are big hitters, with Haye being rated by the American Ring magazine in their top ten of the biggest punchers in the world, which is not surprising with his record of nineteen KOs in his twenty wins. Maccarinelli can also bomb with the best of them and has stopped 21 of his 28 victims inside the distance, so get ready for the fireworks.

Apart from the above Brits who hold major world title belts, we also have Scotlands Alex Arthur in the top ten of the world super featherweight rankings and current holder of the interim WBO belt and Nottinghams Carl Froch rated seventh best in the world at super middleweight with 22 straight wins, and probably the most underrated boxer of Britains current golden crop. Im sure hell take over from Calzaghe as king of the super middleweights in the future.

Then of course we have the brilliant prospect Amir Khan whos not being rushed into fighting at too high a level just yet, but great things are expected of the Olympic silver medallist in time.

2007 was also a great year for English amateur boxing. In the world senior championships in Chicago in November, Frankie Gavin from Birmingham became Britains first ever world champion in the thirty-three year history of the championships, when he won the lightweight title after conquering Italys Domenico Valentino in the final. It was a great tournament for Gavin for he defeated three previous world medallists en route, including a victory over Russias Alexey Tischenko, winner of European, World and Olympic titles.

Britain now have more boxers qualifying for the Beijing Olympics than we had at the last three Olympics combined. Who would have believed at the beginning of last year that we would end it having so much success on boxings world stage.

Gallery: A boom time in British boxing
The year 2007 was a fantastic one for British boxing 
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