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2010 review and 2011 preview (Manchester based)


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Boxing special: 2010 review and 2011 preview


Amir Khan rounded off an unforgettable year for Manchester with his career-defining win against Marcos Maidana at the start of the month – and things are only set to get better in 2011.


With the city home to no fewer than nine major titles – that number is set to swell in the 12 months ahead.


From John Murray, Matthew Hatton, Steve Foster Jr and Matthew Macklin all going in search of world crowns, to Craig Watson, Tyson Fury, Anthony Crolla, Prince Arron, Scott Quigg and Denton Vassell all in the hunt for British titles.


Khan, meanwhile, hopes to unify the light-welterweight division before emulating Ricky Hatton by becoming a multi-weight champion.


Then there are a host of emerging talents like Olympian Joe Murray, Oldham brothers Ronnie and Mark Heffron and the exciting Karl Place all ready to establish themselves on the professional scene before going in search of titles of their own.


M.E.N. Sport’s boxing correspondent James Robson looks ahead to a potentially record-breaking year for boxing in the city – the biggest fights and what titles will be going where.


Amir Khan


The Year that was: The WBA light-welterweight spent 2010 trying to break America and, after stopping Paulie Malignaggi and out-pointing Marcos Maidana in the ‘Fight of the decade’ earlier this month, he has returned home a conquering hero.


The Year ahead? The Bolton star’s next fight will be back on home soil, with the M.E.N. Arena his preferred option for a clash with either Victor Ortiz or Lamont Peterson. But the main aim for Khan is a unification clash with the winner of Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander who fight next month. After that he is expected to end the year by stepping up to welterweight, which will set up a 2012 superfight with Floyd Mayweather Jr.


Fight of 2011: Timothy Bradley or Devon Alexander in a welterweight unification bout.


Prediction: Khan will end the year as the undisputed king of the light-welters before going in search of Mayweather.


John Murray


The Year that was: After the most frustrating of waits, Murray claimed the European lightweight title that was destined to be his – albeit the best part of 12 months too late. His brutal demolition of Prizefighter winner Gary Buckland in May was a statement of intent – and when he defended in similar fashion against Andriy Kudriavtsev in September it was clear that the Levenshulme man is well beyond European level.


The Year ahead: The 26-year-old is champing at the bit to take his skills onto the world stage – but his dreams of a clash with lightweight king Juan Manuel Marquez look set to remain just that with the Mexican eyeing Manny Pacquiao. WBC champion Humberto Soto is a more

realistic prospect – but even then Murray will have to wait until later in the year. Instead former interim WBO

champion Michael Katsidis is likely to be his first opponent as he attempts to make a step up in class – though a Battle of Britain with Kevin Mitchell is also on the cards.

Fight of 2011: Michael Katsidis.


Prediction: Murray-Katsidis will be an early contender for Fight of the Year in an all-out war that will prove the undefeated European champion is worth a world title shot before the year is out.


Matthew Hatton


The Year that was: At last a first major title for Ricky’s younger brother as Hatton proved he is ready to step out of the Hitman’s shadow. His European welterweight title triumph against Gianluca Branco in March – and two successful defences – have proved Matthew is a quality fighter in his own right.


The Year ahead: Hatton would love to become the second world champion in the family – and is hoping to fight the winner of WBA champion Viacheslav Senchenko and Mexican sensation Saul Alvarez. In the meantime a grudge match with Ricky’s old rival Junior Witter might not be for the world title he craves, but it would give him the chance to become a hero to British audiences.


Fight of 2011: Junior Witter.


Prediction: Hatton collected the major title he craves in 2010 – but a clash with Witter could earn him the fan following he desires as well before a world title shot later in the year.


Steve Foster Jr


The Year that was: Boxing’s forgotten man woke everyone up by putting big-hitting Levan Kirakosyan’s lights out in dramatic fashion in October. That third round knockout earned the Salford hero the European super-featherweight title and a place back in boxing’s limelight.


The Year ahead: A first defence against Ermano Fegatilli in February will be the start of the 30-year-old’s pursuit of a world title. WBO champion Ricky Burns is his No1 target, but having parted company with Frank Warren – Burns’ promoter – earlier this year, politics could get in the way of a Battle of Britain.


Fight of 2011: Ricky Burns for the WBO crown.


Prediction: Foster already proved all his doubters wrong in 2010, so who would bet against him continuing his fairytale in the next 12 months?


Matthew Macklin


The Year that was: Starting the year as European middleweight champion and leaving Joe Gallagher’s Denton gym to train with the legendary Freddy Roach, Macklin ended 2010 back with Gallagher and back with the European title he was forced to vacate because of injury. The Birmingham fighter had hoped to land a world title shot this year, but at least ended a largely frustrating 12 months with back-to-back wins against Shalva Jomardashvili and Ruben Varon.


The Year ahead: Macklin will have to keep knocking at the door before he’s handed his world title shot – but in one of the most competitive divisions, he will have to bide his time.


Fight of 2011: Dmitry Pirog


Prediction: The Denton-based fighter should have defended his European crown only for Pirog to win the vacant WBO title. Macklin insists world-class opponents will bring the best out of him – in 2011 that could be put to the test.


Craig Watson


The Year that was: Watson, from Oldham, took the biggest gamble of his career when stepping up to light-middleweight with less than a week’s notice to fight unknown Badru Lusambya for the vacant Commonwealth light-middleweight title in April. It paid off in bucket-loads as he blew his opponent away inside two rounds and well and truly put himself back on the map.


The Year ahead: Watson faces John O’Donnell for the vacant British welterweight title in February in what is the chance to avenge his contentious Commonwealth title defeat to the same opponent in 2009. It was that defeat that sent Watson into the wilderness – but he stands on the verge of bouncing straight back into the big time now.


Fight of 2011: John O’Donnell.


Prediction: Watson was given only the slightest hint of a second chance this year and he seized it with both hands. With revenge and his very boxing life on the line against O’Donnell, it is hard to imagine him leaving the ring with anything but the British title.


Tyson Fury


The Year that was: Motor-mouthed Fury had plenty to prove when he stepped back in the ring with John McDermott for the vacant English heavyweight title in June. Having won their first bout in controversial circumstances, the Wilmslow man was out to show he was more than just talk. He did that with a ninth round knockout, but has seen his career simmer since with just two eight-rounders against Rich Power and Zack Page at a time when he wanted to build on the best win of his career.


The Year ahead: Fury has been busy building his name in North America since becoming English champion, having fought in Canada earlier this month. He has already called out WBA champion David Haye but the British title is a more realistic target for 2011 in a mouth-watering clash with Dereck Chisora.


Fight of 2011: Dereck Chisora


Prediction: Fury was almost caught out against McDermott and Chisora will be a step up again. When it comes to natural talent, there’s no contest. But Fury may need a bit more experience before stepping in the ring with the British champion.


Anthony Crolla


The Year that was: Crolla ended 2009 with a memorable third round knockout of Michael Brodie – and almost a year on he saw off another Manchester rival with the stunning seventh round stoppage of Andy Morris to win the English super-featherweight title.


The Year ahead: Crolla is desperate to take on British champion Gary Sykes but must first overcome former British champion Carl Johanneson in a final eliminator.

Fight of 2011: Gary Sykes.


Prediction: Crolla lost on points the last time they met, but he is a different fighter now, as proven by his victory against Morris. The New Moston star is on a mission to land the British title and no-one is going to stand in his way.


AND A few more to look out for:


Prince Arron: The previously unknown light-middleweight from Droylsden shocked everyone when he won Prizefighter as a rank outsider and is now set for a British title shot against Sam Webb.


Denton Vassell: Ricky Hatton calls him a mini Mike Tyson. The big-hitting Commonwealth welterweight champion from Ancoats will hope to take on Craig Watson, should his Oldham rival secure the British title in February.


Scott Quigg: Bury’s finest won the Intercontinental super-bantamweight title this year and is now on the verge of a European title shot.



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