Tony Dixon feels hard done by after Maxim Prodan defeat

Tony Dixon feels hard done by after Maxim Prodan defeat

This article first appeared in the Welsh Boxing Annual 2019-2020. Click here to buy on Amazon.

By Dewi Powell: A career best performance usually sparks a celebration but there were conflicting feelings for Mountain Ash’s Tony Dixon (12-3, 3KO) after an eventful away day battle.

The welterweight challenged the hard-hitting Maxim Prodan (18-0-1, 13KO) and found himself on the wrong end of a debated split decision in Milan. 98-92, 97-93 and 94-96 scorecards favoured Prodan and the defeat meant Dixon was denied the IBF Inter-Continental title, as well as a top 15 rating with the organisation. Home advantage swung it in the favour of Prodan – a Romanian national, born in Ukraine and now based in Italy. It could’ve been different on neutral ground and whilst it wasn’t wise to label the decision a robbery, Dixon’s team had a fair case for disagreeing with two of the judges.

“Proud of Tony Dixon tonight,” was the message from manager Jamie Sanigar. “Tony was on the wrong end of a split decision that I thought he won here in Milan. Tony proved he can mix it in this class and will come back stronger.”

Dixon has always entertained since turning professional in 2012, usually as a relentless aggressor. The sight of the ‘Welsh Terrier’ on the back foot, popping out a series of accurate jabs wasn’t a familiar sight but that’s what he did to frustrate Prodan from the opening bell – and he did it well. What made the performance even more surprising was its complete contrast to Dixon’s style six weeks earlier against Faheem Khan. That rust-shedding rumble was very physical and saw Dixon leave damage around his eyes.

“I’ve just taken every fight that’s come to me,” he said of the quick turnaround, before elaborating on the change of tactics. “I’ve always been able to do it. We used to say, I can box and I can fight but 98% of the time… I fight. I’d rather fight, that’s me, but when you’ve got a good fighter and another good fighter, there’s only one place one of you is going and that’s down or badly hurt.

“To be honest, I’d rather fight people like that. People said he had all these knockouts but to me, I can handle myself. I’m not bigging myself up but I’d rather those types of fights.”

Under instruction from trainer Paul Paveltish, Dixon was ordered to jab, jab and jab again against Prodan. It saw the two-weight Welsh champion race to an early lead and he rarely missed with it in the early exchanges. 11 of Prodan’s wins had come inside three rounds and he looked bewildered at Dixon’s unwillingness to stand still. Prodan slowly followed Dixon around the borders of the ring and it was easy pickings.

“I think he was shocked, I do,” said Dixon. “He was walking to me, shaking his head all night. I could see he was getting frustrated and more frustrated. I kept whacking him and after the fight, we had to pee in a cup for a drug test and he was peeing blood. I was [peeing] clear.”

In the fourth round, Prodan’s feet finally caught up with Dixon, who briefly leaned on the ropes. The adopted Italian was prepared to take more risks but his work was inconsistent, evident when he became sloppy again in the fifth round. There was a case that Prodan clawed back the deficit in the sixth and seven rounds, courtesy of counters sent over the top by the shorter man. Prodan was also effective in timing his better work at the end of rounds, ensuring it was the final thing in the minds of the officials.

“He had a burst once or twice but a burst doesn’t win you a fight. I could throw 10 punches at somebody in one round and think I’ve won but it doesn’t work like that,” said an unconvinced Dixon.

“After the sixth round when I was fighting in Italy, I thought I’d got him but I listened to my trainer and he said, ‘keep doing what you’re doing.’

“I was hitting him three times, straight in the face and he was just shaking his head at me. He walked me down and I kept doing the same thing.”

Dixon looked to be feeling the pace at the end of the seventh round. However, he enjoyed a second wind in the eighth, moving behind his rejuvenated jab and both boxers recognised the need for a big finish. Prodan often fell short with his punches and Dixon took the opportunity to rally whenever his target was off balance, sure he’d done enough to secure the upset.

“I honestly thought they were gonna lift my hand. I genuinely did,” said Dixon about the decision. “He didn’t even put his hands up after the fight. He knew straight away [that] he’d lost. Pebbles [Paveltish] said to me, ‘this ain’t good, I think we’re gonna get robbed now, boy.’ I had my hands up and they said split decision.

“I boxed out of my skin. I could’ve done a bit more, I could’ve done some different stuff than jab and move, jab and move but he was a dangerous opponent. I thought to myself, ‘I can hit him without getting hit, so I don’t need to be getting into a fight.’ I could’ve put a few more combos together and worked him that way but I think unless I knocked him out, I don’t think I’d have ever got the win over there, anyway.

“In general, I would’ve given him three rounds and that’s me being fair. I wouldn’t give him any more, seriously. Honestly, if I thought I’d lost the fight, I’d hold my hands up and shake his hand and say, ‘well done.’ I lost to Ted Cheeseman and took it on the chin.”

The contest wasn’t televised for Welsh fans. It was instead broadcast to audiences in Europe and America on DAZN, a new online streaming platform. Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom have expanded into Italy and other new territories with funding from DAZN, a record-breaking relationship thought to be worth a billion dollars over eight years.

Dixon, a plasterer by trade, earned plenty of plaudits from onlookers, including commentators Nick Hailing and Alex Arthur. For that reason, matchmakers aren’t likely to invite him back because of the danger he demonstrated, such is the cynical structure of the sport. Whatever is next, Dixon wants to stay at a competitive level, and he doesn’t think that includes defending his Welsh titles at welterweight or super-welterweight.

“Time is ticking, I’m getting older,” said Dixon, highlighting the reality of his situation. “This sport is hard and it’s hard to keep yourself in the gym all the time. With kids, family and everything else going on with work, you can’t afford to keep going on. Some people do it, but I couldn’t afford to do boxing alone. I’ve got to work as well.

“I see it [the Welsh title] in the past. I was supposed to give one back in and I just don’t see the point of fighting for them no more because there’s no money in the Welsh [title], I’ll be honest. It’s absolutely rubbish.

“For a 10 round fight, it’s absolutely poor. People would not believe what it’s worth.”

This article first appeared in the Welsh Boxing Annual 2019-2020. Click here to buy on Amazon.

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