The lows of Welsh boxing’s 2014

The lows of Welsh boxing’s 2014

While there have been memorable highs for Welsh boxing in 2014, there have also been notable lows that will leave a lasting dent. enzo1In the first big fight of 2014, Enzo Maccarinelli (38-7, 30KO) defied all odds to return to world level in April when he challenged WBA Regular world champion, Juergen Braehmer in the title holder’s native Germany. The Swansea banger, now at light-heavyweight, was bidding to become Wales’ first two weight world champion and he began brightly, hitting Braehmer on to his heels in the opening exchanges. However, the success was short lived as Maccarinelli was caught with Braehmer’s flush southpaw backhand in the final seconds of the first round. The punch caused a gruesome eye injury, one of the worst seen in recent times and for the next four rounds, Maccarinelli battled through but Gary Lockett was eventually forced to pull the plug. 2014 was, in parts, a period of turmoil for Wales’ amateur boxing authorities. In April, over 800 people voiced their concern on BoxingWales.com about how the likes of Kevin Evans and Lynsey Holdaway were snubbed and blanked without explanation of their omission from the Commonwealth Games squad. Then, leading in to the summer’s Commonwealth Games, more blunders saw two places go to total waste as politics stopped Ashley Brace and Fred Evans appearing in Glasgow. Embarrassingly, despite knowing of the issues, Welsh amateur authorities had no back up plan. In May, Coldwell Boxing hosted the first boxing show in North Wales for three years but hopes of new life for the region were dealt a blow four months later. September was supposed to see another show in Deeside but injuries and withdrawals saw the show cancelled at the last minute, leaving the likes of ‘Dazzlin’ Tom Doran (11-0, 3KO), Andy Jones (3-0) and Kerry Evans (3-0, 3KO) without a fight. If there was a competition for Wales’ unluckiest boxer then Cardiff’s Craig ‘The Kid’ Kennedy (10-0, 5KO) and Swansea’s Chris ‘Rock n Rolla’ Jenkins (16-0, 8KO) would be battling it out between them. Fortune hasn’t favoured the talented pair and it started in July when a bicep injury ruled Jenkins out of an appearance on Sanigar Events’ ‘Repeat or Revenge’ show. Then in September, Kennedy was finally rescheduled to fight for the Welsh cruiserweight title, only for opponent Wayne Brooks to withdraw at late notice again, citing an internal injury. Kennedy would then be matched with the high profile Prizefighter champion Wadi Camacho but the Welshman’s breakthrough bout was over as soon as it started with the visitor disqualified for biting. This time, Jenkins would be on the Sanigar Events show, named ‘Dragon Fire’, and scored a one round knockout, though it only happened through misfortune. The light-welterweight was supposed to be boxing Liverpool’s standout Tom Stalker in a British title eliminator but the ex-Olympic captain withdrew three weeks before the fight, leaving Jenkins high and dry. As it happened, Stalker was knocked out in his replacement fight, which he took for ‘business reasons’. It backfired. In November, Cefn Fforest’s Nathan Cleverly (28-2, 14KO) had the perfect platform on Sky Sports Box Office to put himself back on the world scene but it all went wrong in Liverpool’s Echo Arena. Now at cruiserweight, 25lbs higher than where he reigned as WBO world champion, Cleverly faced his bitter rival, arch enemy Tony Bellew in a rematch of the Welshman’s win in 2011. The build up was bad tempered with Bellew playing the villain. Their chemistry saw Cleverly become a fan favourite and victory would have projected him to one of British boxing’s poster boys but it turned out to be a badly missed opportunity. In the opening rounds, Cleverly stayed a step ahead of a slow footed Bellew with his much quicker jab. The problem, though, was that it was just the jab and it later emerged that Cleverly had damaged his right in the third round. With the bout in the balance after eight rounds, it was Bellew who stepped on the gas, while Cleverly’s tank was now empty. Fighting so much heavier, in the biggest weight difference between categories in boxing, had caught up with Cleverly. Bellew, naturally the bigger man, was able to lean on his opponent, rendering him redundant on the ropes. Cleverly ducked, swayed and made the sloppy Scouser miss with most of his work but it was more than what the Welshman offered in return. One judge generously scored Cleverly ahead but it was Bellew who took a Split Decision win, which will be milked for everything it’s worth over the coming months. 2014 wasn’t very kind to Newbridge’s Bradley ‘Sugar Sweet’ Pryce (35-19, 18KO). For the first half of the year, the ex-Commonwealth king couldn’t get a meaningful fight. Offers were aplenty in the second half, though. Despite the activity away in England and Poland, Pryce found himself losing three consecutive contests and all were just by a single solitary point on the scorecards. The Welshman has been unlucky and deserved the nod against Lee Markham and Damian Jonak. Not many other Welshman have been scorned by the judge’s scorecards in 2014 but Gary Buckland (29-6, 9KO) can lay claim to being one of them. The former British champion was coming off back-to-back losses to Gavin Rees and Richard Commey when he entered December’s lightweight Prizefighter tournament, in an attempt to be the first two-weight champion. In his first fight, Buckland beat Floyd Moore and he appeared to clearly out-point Ireland’s Jono Carroll in the semis, only to lose via Split Decision. In December, it was difficult to watch Lewis ‘The Rhondda Boy’ Rees (9-1-1, 5KO) as career journeyman William Warburton, who had only won four of his 19 outings in 2014, won their six rounder. Rees has long been recognised as one of Welsh boxing’s biggest talents but constant battles with weight making have caught up with the southpaw, even when he boxes up at 147lbs. This year has also seen regular faces on the Welsh boxing scene retire, although all have plans to remain on the scene in some shape of form. In May, Gavin ‘The Rock’ Rees (38-4-1, 18KO) called time on his unforgettable career that’s included many value-for-money fights and nights with WBA world, European and British title wins. Following a change in his brain scan, Trelewis’ Luke Osman (4-12-1, 1KO) called time on his career in November, just as he was in his best form, having won back-to-back fights for the first time. Maesteg’s Jason ‘The Power’ Cook (30-6-1, 16KO) also hung up his gloves as the year ended, leaving the sport with the European, Celtic and Welsh belts in his trophy cabinet. BoxingWales would also like to remember those in Welsh boxing who left us in 2014. Rest In Peace Danny Kitchen, Kenny Harrison, Pepe Webber, Ryan Lawrence, Gary Gething and Thomas Hoar.

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