Editor’s Column: Why Welsh boxing must support Frank Warren’s show and Liam Williams at the Ice Arena
It’s four weeks until Liam ‘The Machine’ Williams (14-0-1, 9KO) takes centre stage at the new multi-million pound Ice Arena Wales venue and attempts to become one of Welsh boxing’s main attractions.
The event, which will be broadcast on specialist boxing broadcaster BoxNation TV (Sky Ch. 437), is set to be officially announced at a press conference in Cardiff on Tuesday.
It’s the latest chapter of Frank Warren’s relationship with Welsh boxing, having previously guided five of Williams’ countrymen to world championships. It will be the first time Williams has co-headlined a big show and undoubtedly the most important installment of his five-year career.
The 24-year-old is a rising force in the super-welterweight division and has established himself as a next-level prospect with six consecutive stoppage wins. Injury and inactivity have interrupted those impressive performances but there remains a feeling amongst those who know ‘Dully’ best that he’s still to show his full inventory of skill and strength.
On 16 July, WBO Inter-Continental belt-holder Gary Corcoran will present Clydach Vale’s Williams with his most challenging obstacle yet. The visitor presents a path to a prominent position with the governing body and Williams can inherit Corcoran’s lucrative fifth placed ranking.
It will be only the fourth British title fight to take place in Wales in the last six years. This is often the type of fight and stage in a prospect’s career that Welsh boxing has had to tolerate happening far away. Now, it’s not far away – it’s on our doorstep.
Barry Town’s Lee Selby, now IBF world champion, enjoyed the most sustained run of domestic title fights a Welshman has had for some time. Out of the featherweight’s five British title fights, only the final one was in Wales.
St Joseph’s Boxing Club stablemate Gary Buckland also only had one British super-featherweight title fight in front of his home fans and so did Gavin Rees, despite having two spells as lightweight ruler.
Still, that’s one more than former world champion’s Nathan Cleverly and Enzo Maccarinelli whose British title reigns at light-heavyweight and cruiserweight took place exclusively across the border. Between the pair, the closest to home they came was in Wolverhampton, two hours away from the Severn Bridge toll.
It’s likely that none of the named boxers have any preference where they challenged for and defended the Lord Lonsdale strap but for the health of Welsh boxing, it’s better to be this side of the M4. Not only does it help the likes of Williams build a local or regional fan base, it also helps bring along their heirs for the ride.
When else would promising novice professionals like Alex Hughes or Jay Harris get to share a show with a legendary pound-for-pound great like Guillermo Rigondeaux? Never, that’s when. What it also brings for the next generation is television time, essential to impressing a wider audience and persuading a promoter to invest in further opportunities.
Speaking of the Cuban super-bantamweight maestro, Frank Warren is giving fans in Cardiff the most generous of gifts. When other world class stars like ‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed, Mikkel Kessler and Sergey Kovalev have toured in South Wales, it’s been against our own and partisan crowds have, understandably, been unable to fully enjoy their performances.
Rigondeaux’s appearance is probably the first time we have been able to enjoy a special outsider on our home soil for 23 years. The last occasion was when Lennox Lewis halted Frank Bruno at the Arms Park rugby ground in 1993. This is one tourist talent that we can neutrally enjoy.
The winner of numerous Olympic gold medals and world titles won’t come cheap, especially having enjoyed HBO pay days in the past. It would have been completely acceptable for Warren to host Rigondeaux in cities he’s used to promoting in, where they have an established market.
Instead, the International Boxing Hall of Fame entrant is showing faith in the Welsh boxing public. Warren has done big shows here before, obviously those at the Millennium Stadium but other smaller experiments have lost money. If we want to see more shows like this, then they have to be supported and this time, he undoubtedly deserves to be repaid by us.
– Dewi Powell
Editor of BoxingWales.com