Editor’s Column: Hope’s tale takes another twist but is the biggest still to come?
Merthyr Tydfil’s Kerry Hope (22-7-1, 2KO) has never had a straightforward tale to tell but the middleweight’s story took yet another twist last weekend.
The gutsy 33-year-old has often provided unexpected results, in circumstances of both victory and defeat, but the recent draw against Petchsuriya Singwancha (14-10-1, 8KO) was a new experience and by far the most bemusing.
The pair met for in Hong Kong for the dubiously sanctioned WBC’s Asian regional title. Hope got the go ahead from the governing body despite his hometown sitting nearly 5,000 miles away from the continent. Singwancha qualified more legitimately but the belt wasn’t on the line for the native Thai, who weighed almost half a stone over the 160lb championship limit.
Heading into the contest, Hope had won two bouts in his new Australian adventure, scoring the second ever stoppage of his 10-year career in the paid ranks and then collecting arguably his second ever best win, a shut-out decision over Gunnar Jackson for the equally questionable WBO Oriental bauble. Meanwhile, 22-year-old Singwancha’s hand was raised in nine of his previous 11 outings, albeit at a lower level – like all of the wins in his five year journey.
After an uneventful first round, in which the referee interrupted to encourage both boxers to start throwing punches, it was a routine exercise for the Welshman. Hope rarely ventured out of second gear from the second round onwards, controlling his stockier opponent with relative ease from the southpaw stance and ending the contest with no concern that the outcome wouldn’t be in his favour.
That was until the Master of Ceremonies read out the scorecards. The Philippines’ impartial Jerrold Tomeldan favoured Hope with a fair 117-111 tally, while Singwancha’s Thai countrymen Pongpan Rattanasutorn and Visuth Yingaupagarn found a way to deny Hope with 114-114 and 113-115 scores, respectively.
It’s not the first time Hope has left the ring feeling scorned by officials but it’s likely to be the hardest to accept. In 2009, an accidental head clash saw Hope suffer an upset loss to Taz Jones thanks to the British Boxing Board of Control’s [BBBoC] archaic (and now defunct) cuts rule and last year’s points loss to then-Welsh Area champion Frankie Borg also left a bitter taste in his mouth.
Days after the Hong Kong heist, Matt Clark, who handles Hope’s interests in his new Brisbane base, filed an official complaint to the WBC just as an outside chance of the most unexpected chapter of Hope’s story looked to possibly unfold. Billy Joe Saunders was forced to postpone his challenge to WBO titlist Andy Lee due to a severely cut eyebrow, withdrawing from their anticipated all-southpaw blockbuster – a date that had already been rescheduled once.
Murmurs of an official announcement for a November or December eventual clash quickly commenced but many observers pondered the possibility of Lee appearing in a ‘keep busy’ title defence. Lee, a dangerous box-puncher who has been guided by the legendary Emmanuel Steward and now world class trainer Adam Booth, is in the form of his life and has produced several Knockout of the Year contenders.
If the Ulsterman does want to keep busy amidst the danger of seven months of inactivity, Hope may be the most recognisable name in the WBO’s admittedly uninspiring list of top 15 ranked middleweights. Hope’s always been a realist but he’s also been willing to take a chance and there’s little doubt he’d take the golden ticket from Lee without hesitation, that’s should an offer emerge.
That attitude has paid off and back fired before, most notably in his dethroning of fiercely feared Grzegorz Proksa and stoppage loss to future world champion Darren Barker. The globetrotter has become one of Welsh boxing’s most travelled operators ever, spreading his wings across both America and Australia in his time, but nothing he’s done so far would compare to a surprise shot at the ultimate achievement… which is very unlikely, but possible.