Frankie Gavin looks to lay down a marker against Jason Welborn this Friday. Gavin, a riddle, defends his British welterweight title for the first time since acquiring it a couple months back from Bradford old hand Junior Witter. Tividale man Welborn, 11-1 (5), seems overmatched in this one (U.K. sports books have him posted as a 12-1 outsider) in a main event where a key focus falls on the manner Gavin performs.
In a 14-fight unbeaten run, Gavin has frustrated. A prodigious talent, he remains England’s only ever world amateur champion (Gavin struck gold in Detroit in 2007). In a reported 108-20 unpaid record, he topped some of the world’s very best, including the likes of Italian Domenico Valenino and Russian ace Alexei Tichtchenko. The Birmingham pickpocket, slightly introverted when among fans or in front of a camera, is customarily charged with being gifted or blessed, untouchable even. When he’s on song, that is.
Too often he’s been off-key. Personal problems, distractions and weight-making issues manifested themselves in a set of desultory showings against opposition Gavin should, with all due respect, have sauntered straight past. The worst kind of fighter at that point -- promising but apparently disinterested -- he looked like becoming Britain’s answer to Francisco Bojado or “Slick” Ricky Williams.
Frank Warren, who promotes from Walsall Town Hall in association with Errol Johnson, felt his fingertips smouldering. Ultimatums were issued. Gavin contemplated walking away from the sport altogether. It wasn’t until he shifted back to the West Midlands to reconcile with his former Hall Green amateur coach Tom Chaney, that he was able to reverse the hearse. Three wins in the bag since, including the title-winning shift against Witter, have put a fresh coat of gloss on the 27-year-old port sider’s position. And a victory on Friday, realisable inside schedule, could facilitate a crack at the unbeaten Sierra Leone-born European champion, Leonard Bundu. Big nights could still be within his grasp, but he has to turn it on Friday night.
“We’ve got to put the fear of God into our mandatory after winning this one,” Chaney told TQBR on Wednesday. “We are looking for a top class performance, not just to get through it and be comfortable. We’re really looking to do a number and look a million dollars.”
Welborn, honest and eager, should prove a far better foil than Witter in that regard. Chaney knew it would be messy last time out against the unorthodox former world title holder, and tempered Frankie’s training to suit.
“Against Junior Witter, we had to take a lot of punches out,” he revealed. “Because there are a lot of punches you just don’t get off with Witter, he’s just too crafty and cagey. He doesn’t let you work to the body, so we took that out of the last camp. We had to work on singles and doubles (last time) because he spoils everything else after that. Now, we’re putting a lot more punches together and a lot more body work.”
Chaney’s plan is to keep Gavin busy while making up for lost time. “What we’re trying to do, hopefully, with Frank Warren’s help, is to win it (the Lonsdale belt) outright in the quickest time and then move onto the European title,” he explained. “We’ve been told that if he wins on Friday, he’ll be the number one contender for the European, but we’re fully focussed on this fight.”
Smart but speedy progress is the idea. Admirably, though, Team Gavin isn’t looking for shortcuts. “If the right world title fight came along at the end of the year, then we’d seriously look at it, but we’re not gonna run ahead with ourselves,” Chaney said. “We’re going to try and clear up domestically first, and then move on.”
Clearing up and moving on. It would appear that Gavin has his house in order at last. If that proves to be the case, then Britain could yet have another player in the welterweight division.
Walsall’s Martin Gethin, 23-3-1 (10), will attempt to hold off rampaging Hove battler Ben Murphy, 9-5-1 (5), on the undercard. The pair will vie for the British lightweight title vacated by Welsh fireplug Gavin Rees. Southern Area champion Murphy is a better fighter than his record would suggest, and any effort close to the one he put in against the then junior welterweight domestic boss Ashley Theophane last year, should land him the championship.