• Steve Bunce

Home and away, it's Britain's day

Steve Bunce April 16, 2013
Nathan Cleverly tops the bill at the Rule Britannia card at Wembley Arena © Getty Images

British boxing is on a high at the moment, and anybody who tells you different is plain crazy. From Blackpool to London and on to New York, not to mention the various other cities the length and breadth of the UK, you'll find British boxers in terrific fights this weekend, and the amateur finals near Sunderland just to add to the big day!

Where do you start? Take Wembley - there are 14 fights from 4pm, all building up to the return of Dereck 'Del Boy' Chisora and Nathan Cleverly's mandatory WBO world light-heavyweight title defence against Robin Krasniqi.

With all respect to Chisora, back in the ring for the first time since being stopped by David Haye to face Hector Alfredo Avila of Argentina, the Cleverly fight is the big one this weekend - that's why Frank Warren laid down a vast purse bid of about €500,000 to land the fight. And make no mistake, Cleverly's up against it.

Barry Jones made the point during this week's podcast that when British boxers take on these eastern European fighters with odd-sounding names, people tend to switch off a bit. In short, they shouldn't. Guys like Krasniqi, from Kosovo, are really good fighters - they're hard, they're tough, and it's only because they come in from eastern Europe that we tend to overlook them.

This is the economics of the situation: the boxing business above welterweight is underpinned by the Eastern Bloc. Middleweights, super-middles, light-heavies, cruisers and heavies…most of the challengers - and a fair few champions - are Eastern Bloc fighters based in Germany. There's only so many great American boxers with heart-breaking back stories out there. Sometimes we get guys called Robin Krasniqi - we have to start getting used to that..

Tyson Fury will be a sensation in New York © PA Photos

And then, of course, you've got Tyson Fury making his US debut in a great fight with Steve Cunningham. This is a really hard fight for Fury - and at Madison Square Garden it's going to be sensational. He's been training in Canada for a variety of reasons, but as soon as he gets to New York this week and the American press start talking to him, start realising he's a good-looking, approachable guy - and then he starts singing! He's going to be a superstar over there!

This is what American boxing has been crying out for: a 6ft 7in fighting banger who, as Don King said, has got the "complexion with the connections". Fury is white, and whether you like it or not that is boxing currency inside America. Throw those Celtic roots into the mix in a city packed with expats - many more Irish than the Irish! - and you've got a promoter's dream. People can deny the idea all they like, but it's true.

Don't let anyone tell you that this is a rubbish mismatch - that's garbage. Steve Cunningham beat Tomasz Adamek just before Christmas but missed out on a horrible split decision. Now nobody is saying Adamek isn't a leading contender - some people put the Pole just below Povetkin and the two Klitschkos on the heavyweight list (and if you need further proof of Eastern Bloc dominance, there's a gimme). Yet the guy who beat him everywhere but on a couple of scorecards gets a fight with Tyson Fury and suddenly he's being called too small, shot to bits, past his best? It's a double standard. Ignore whatever agenda is behind that and watch the fight for yourself - then tell me it was a mismatch. Cunnigham is a real, live threat for Fury and the Garden will know it on the night.

Lee Selby is a hidden gem waiting for his big breakout fight © Getty Images

Back in Blackpool, British light-middleweight champion Brian Rose is in a real fight at Winter Gardens, facing Haitian-born Canadian Joachim Alcine for the WBO intercontinental title. On Rose's undercard is featherweight Lee Selby, arguably one of the best fighters in the world at the moment - Floyd Mayweather loves him, and trains with him all the time at his Las Vegas gym. The Commonwealth champion will be defending his title unbeaten Australian Corey McConnell.

Selby is one of the hidden delights of British boxing, and has to come up from under the radar soon. I've been championing him in this column for a couple of years now. I don't think Lee Selby knows how good Lee Selby is - but we'll soon find out. He'll come through this, no disrespect to Corey McConnell, and move on. When he does get matched for a world title fight it'll look like he's been overmatched, but I'd back him to come through. He's a hidden gem, not just on the British or European stage, but in world boxing. He's a superb fighter with a bad attitude - and there's nothing I like more than a bad attitude!

Great prospects, great champions and fantastic names - what a weekend we've got coming up. It's an honour, a pleasure and a privilege to be involved in it.

We spoke to Ryan Rhodes about what the future may hold on Buncey's Boxing Podcast this week (the name Canelo Alvarez popped up from time to time), and Rendall Munroe told us more about his comeback plans. Treat your ears to the greatest weekly boxing podcast, and until next week - adios.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.