Talking Boxing

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December 5, 2016

On the Road... with Andy Clarke: Geneva, Mill Hill & Karlsruhe

Vincent Feigenbutz

by Andy Clarke

It was an interesting week, taking in the sights and sounds of Geneva, Mill Hill and Karlsruhe.

I set off for Geneva on Tuesday; AIBA had asked me to go over and host the draw for season seven of World Series Boxing which starts in February.

I’ve done a lot of work for them over the last two years, taking me to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, China, and Venezuela and I really enjoy it. Thanks to the judging in the Olympics AIBA have been under heavy fire and the criticism has hurt, but they’re not hiding. Changes are being made and their intentions are good.

In Geneva with me to assist with the draw was British Lionheart Pat McCormack who plucked balls from bowl two like he’d been born for the task, although I did have to lend him a tie. As jobs go it was actually pretty difficult as there was no autoscript or voice in my ear so I had to remember everything I needed to say, and what order it all came in which was a bit tricky as it lasted nearly half an hour.

At the end of it all the match schedules were in place, which will see the Lionhearts up against France, Italy and Morocco in the group stage. GB did superbly last season, making it all the way to the final in Tashkent where they ran into a brilliant Cuban team who had too much for them and everyone else in the competition.

When we were all done Ken Crease, the head of WSB, took me and Pat into town for lunch. It’s easy to forget Pat’s only 21, he seems older, which I find is often the case with fighters; their comfort zone just seems to be bigger than other people’s, maybe because the serious nature of what they have to handle inside the ring means that it’s easy to take life in their stride outside it. He did though seem a bit perturbed by my choosing wild boar for my main course, so maybe he’s not quite as unflappable as he seems.

Mill Hill isn’t Geneva but it does have the advantage of being a lot closer to home. I headed over there on Friday, the reason being that that’s where Frank Buglioni trains, and his British light heavyweight title fight against Hosea Burton is one I’m covering for Sky this weekend. Visiting gyms is important for me; press conferences are useful but the gym’s a fighter’s place of work and where he’s most comfortable. Spencer Oliver was there (he trains clients at the gym) and told me to get on a Buglioni and Dereck Chisora win double (Chisora is also trained by Don Charles). I also had a long chat with Frank’s Dad, and there was a real air of confidence about the whole camp. I say “real” because there was nothing gung ho about it; they accept that champion Burton’s a very good fighter and that losing is a possibility, but they expect to win.

Buglioni himself shares that expectation of course. He was keen to talk when he’d finished what was a pretty light session, explaining that he and Hosea have history from the amateurs when they met in a box-off at Team GB, a bout Frank won. That encounter happened a while ago but the 'Wise Guy' feels it told him things about his opponent that won’t have changed in the meantime. Burton’s view will be different of course and I look forward to getting it when I go and see him this week. It’s very important I do that because having met with Buglioni I need to even the score. My theory is that if I spend more time with one fighter than the other then an unconscious bias towards that fighter might develop, which could then emerge during commentary. It’s not always possible to balance the scales completely, particularly when an overseas fighter’s involved, but that’s the aim.

The next day, Saturday, I was off to Karlsruhe for a Sauerland bill headlined by Vincent Feigenbutz. It was the second time I’d been there, and like last time we were staying in a pretty extraordinary brewery/inn which in design looks like something from the Shire in Lord of the Rings.

But it’s a fun place and the boxing was good too. One fight of particular interest was between Kallia Kourouni and Irma Balijagic for the vacant WIBF super featherweight title. Super feather is one of the weights Katie Taylor could campaign at and Kourouni, who won on points by split decision, has suffered one defeat so far in her career; to Viviane Obenauf, who Taylor fights on Saturday. It could be a good early indicator of where the Irish woman is in the pecking order but to be honest I don’t think I need one; having seen them both perform just a week apart I have no doubt that Taylor would beat Kourouni.

There was also a professional debut for Dennis Radovan. The former amateur star looked very polished but what was most interesting was that he had Jurgen Braehmer in his corner. Braehmer already trains Tyrone Zeuge and the fact that he’s taken on another fighter suggests to me that we may not see the former WBA light heavyweight champion in the ring again, not with gloves on anyway.

Chief support saw 18-year-old Leon Bauer pick up the IBF Youth super middleweight title with a second round stoppage of Gheorghe Sabau. It was entertaining whilst it lasted as Sabau had a real go, but Bauer can certainly punch and the first time he caught his opponent clean he hurt and finished him. Bauer has flaws but if they can be ironed out he could go far. He certainly doesn’t lack confidence, giving a post-fight speech that lasted a lot longer than the fight itself.

The main event was Vincent Feigenbutz’s first meaningful outing since he lost to Giovanni De Carolis in January for the WBA regular super middleweight title. His opponent Mike Keta was in very good shape and did have some success in the first round before Feigenbutz, much like Bauer, caught his man in the second and stopped him to pick up the vacant IBF Intercontinental title. That belt will get him a ranking but in truth Feigenbutz is some distance away from world level. De Carolis, who recently lost his WBA regular title to the aforementioned Tyrone Zeuge, was ringside though and was introduced to the crowd after the fight, so maybe Vincent’s thinking about a third bout with the Italian.

When it was all over I got a lift back to the hotel with Nisse Sauerland who was very much looking forward to Christmas. A promoter’s life is a busy one, his brother Kalle was in Sofia for Kubrat Pulev’s raucous Bulgarian homecoming on the same night, and they have Dereck Chisora in action in Manchester at the weekend vs Dillian Whyte, and then Anthony Yigit up against Lenny Daws for the European super lightweight title in Carshalton on December 17 before any festivities can be enjoyed.

Next for me is Manchester and the undercard of Joshua v Molina. I can’t wait.