2013- The Brits are coming…
By Paul Walsh: 2013 is set to be a huge year for British boxing. For some it is about redemption, for others it is about new beginnings and the rest it is about stepping up to the world stage.
The road to redemption is a path which Carl Froch will follow this year in what is set to be the year of the rematch for the “Cobra”, he will start with the defence of his IBF crown against the Great Dane Mikkel Kessler. If it is half as good as the first fight we are in for another special night for British boxing.
No venue has been set as of yet but Kessler has agreed to take the fight in England and I think that will be the deciding factor. Carl Froch is in the form of his life and I think he will have too much for Kessler with the backing of the raucous home crowd especially if he can get the fight in Nottingham.
Not too far behind Froch on that path will be Amir Khan. The last few years have been very testing for the Bolton boy. Back to back defeats and the loss of both of his titles have taken its toll. Amir has obviously been advised well because he took some time out to assess the situation and made changes where necessary to develop his career. I think the move from Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach to Virgil Hunter was a master class.
The timing of this move was perfect and just what he needs to restart his career. Khan last outing showed that he is maturing as a fighter and beginning to understand boxing more and more. There is no doubt that he has the talent and tools to succeed as a world class fighter, the problem for him was applying it and under the guidance of Virgil Hunter I believe he will go from strength to strength and once again reach the top of the summit.
During the Carlos Molina fight Khan still showed a weakness to get involved in a war but the longer he is with Hunter this will begin to disappear. Khan is aching for a rematch with Light welterweight King Danny Garcia after he was brutally stopped inside 4 rounds last year by the unbeaten American. I expect this rematch to happen, maybe at the end of the year but Khan will have to fight a top ten opponent beforehand to make this happen. The likes of Victor Ortiz, Josesito Lopez and Senchenko have been rumoured as a next potential opponents. I think Khan has the beating of all three if he sticks to the game plan and plays to his strengths and that would set him up nicely for a shot at redemption against Garcia.
2013 could finally be the year for David Haye to silence all the critics and set the record straight on that infamous night in Germany and the “Toe incident”. Haye is very much your marmite fighter, you ever love him or you hate him. He has made his living off being controversial and making the most outrageous statements to sell a fight and to get a fight which does not always go down well with the public. His “Toe” excuse certainly did not and unfortunately for him, if his career was to end today he would always be remembered for that.
I know that is certainly not how he would like to be remembered and the only way to erase that memory is to recapture the heavyweight crown by beating Vitali Klitschko. I do believe David has the beating of Vitali and I think Vitali is all too aware of that which is why there have been so many stumbling blocks in agreeing to this fight. This is the year for the two long-time rivals to settle their differences, if it does not happen this year it will not happen at all. Like it or not David Haye is still one of the biggest names in boxing and a fight with Vitali Klitschko is still the premier fight of the division, I just hope it can be agreed and Haye can get the send-off his glittering career deserves.
So that is what’s to come for the old guard in 2013 but what about the new up and coming stars? There is no better place to start than Kell Brook. Yes some of you may not consider him as “new or up and coming” as he has been around for some time but on the world stage he most certainly is. I am pretty sure the majority of American boxing fans have never heard of Special K but on 23rd February they certainly will do. Kell steps up to challenge for his first world title against newly crowned IBF king Devon Alexander. This will no doubt be the fight of his life but I expect Brook to step up a level quite comfortably and I think he will beat Alexander.
Technically, physically and ability wise Kell is better and I think he will adapt easily to the pressure and expectation to deal with Devon. This is just the fight he needs to elevate him to the next stage. It will go some way to help him crack the US and also set up so potential blockbuster fights in an ultra-competitive division. 2013 will be the year Kell Brook becomes a household name.
You cannot talk about the “new guard” without mentioning Ricky Burns. Burns is currently one of the few reigning world champions and he has matured so much in such a short period of time. The fight against Kevin Mitchell was proof of how much he has developed. I don’t think even the biggest Burns fan expected that result. Burns will once again step up another level when he takes on current IBF Lightweight champion Miguel Vazquez at Wembley stadium in March. This is a huge unification fight for both men with the winner likely to get a shot at WBA champion Adrien Broner.
I think Burns will get past Vazquez (just) and he will finally get the chance to silence everyone who said he has been ducking Broner. A potential Lightweight super fight with all the titles at stake could take place in the summer. If Burns does get past Vazquez and faces Broner I do not expect him to win but I do not expect him to get disgraced either. He is a very proud man and most of all a tough skilful fighter. I do believe Broner is an elite fighter and there are very few people who would be able to live with him right now and there is no shame in that because as well all know boxing is about two things; timing and levels. Right now, Broner is a class above but if Burns gets the chance to share the ring with him that experience will be invaluable and he will give him the biggest test of this career thus far.
Finally, I want to mention a big talent who I expect to make huge strides this year; Kal Yafai. Unfortunately for Kal, his biggest problem will be finding suitable opposition. He is maturing and developing at a rapid rate even for promoter Eddie Hearn who is struggling to match him up adequately. Yafai could probably win a British title now if you put him in there tomorrow he is that good. I genuinely believe he could fight for a world title at the end of this year if not the beginning of next. The talent pool for the Bantamweight division is shallow and I think he could rise quickly through the ranks. He has got the lot, he is hungry to win and learn and fight. At his current rate of fighting once a month, expect to see and hear a lot more about this young man in 2013. If he continues to mature and develop at the rate his is now, with the right people around him, he could go onto be an elite level fighter.
In closing, I think 2013 will be another huge year for British boxing but this time in the form of the professional game and one which will make our neighbors from across the pond stand up and take notice!!