Talking Boxing

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January 24, 2017

On the road... with Andy Clarke: Struer

Nordic Fight Night

by Andy Clarke

My first outing of 2017 saw me head to Struer in Denmark for a Sauerland Nordic Fight Night. They often take you to places you wouldn’t, in all likelihood, otherwise visit and this one was no different.
Top of the bill saw the return of Patrick Nielsen at Super Middleweight whilst Dina Thorslund was looking to land a WBC title at Super Bantamweight.

I got a lift to the venue with Joey Gamache, the former two weight world champion, turned trainer who had Mikkel Neilsen on the bill, a decorated Danish amateur who’s just turned pro. Joey thinks I look like Nisse Sauerland; I don’t see it myself but it entertains him and certainly doesn’t offend me so I never protest. I took the opportunity to pick his brains about a few things, mostly how easy or difficult it is to teach fighters new things. It’s a subject that interests me because it’s easy to assume, and plenty of people do, that professional athletes should be capable of exponential improvement when exposed to the right training, but it’s not that simple.

It depends, he said, on the fighter. Some, you know are listening and trying to embrace what they’re being told but it doesn’t penetrate, whereas others quite simply just get it. Like so many things in sport, there’s a natural talent involved, even in listening. One such natural he told me is his Swedish heavyweight Otto Wallin. Wallin has that knack of being able to pick things up very quickly which could help him go far.

Having got on to the subject of heavyweights Joshua v Klitschko came up, a subject he is well qualified to speak on given that he learnt his trade as a trainer under Emmanuel Steward and was present at numerous Klitschko training camps earlier in Wladimir’s career. Joey feels that it’s Joshua’s time and that whilst the former undisputed champ is still dangerous the long lay-off he has had allied with the horrific experience he endured at the fists of Tyson Fury and also, interestingly, the fact that he’s now a family man will all have combined to blunt his tools.

Gamache also gives Tony Bellew a shot against David Haye, an opinion that’s not shared by many in the UK, calling the WBC Cruiser champion a “live underdog” and questioning what David Haye has left. It’s always very useful to speak to people outside the British boxing bubble and get their take on what’s going on in our world, particularly when it comes from such a knowledgeable source.

At ringside, sitting next to me and working for Danish TV, was European Featherweight champion Dennis Ceylan. I was there when he won the title against Ryan Walsh in October and he faces another Englishman on March 18 when he defends for the first time against Isaac Lowe in his home town of Aarhus.

Ceylan was keen to find out what I knew about the Westgate Warrior. One thing that was clear is that Dennis The Menace, as he’s known, is expecting Lowe to do a lot of talking, a prospect he’s relishing. The Danish people, he said, don’t want their boxers to be boastful or loud, they prefer them to be polite and quiet and any deviation from that prescribed code of conduct doesn’t go down well at all. It can, he admitted, make things pretty dull so having an opponent who will create some friction is good for Ceylan and for the fight because he can’t do it himself.

It’s a different kind of crowd in Denmark and in Scandinavia generally, he’s right about that, and they were treated to some good boxing.

Leon Bunn and the aforementioned Mikkel Neilsen, both novice pros put on good displays before we witnessed Super Middleweight Stefan Haertel score his first stoppage win in his 13th professional fight. His opponent Tomasz Gargula didn’t like referee Freddy Rafn’s decision to intervene in the 8th round but it was the right call as the fight had gone past the point beyond which he could no longer win and all that awaited him was further, unnecessary punishment.

Haertel, who wants to fight for his first title in the next six months, is a good boxer and whilst his lack of early finishes suggests a problem with power he’s not been handed any easy nights having faced just one fighter with a losing record.

The fight on the card that stood out was Abdul Khattab vs Arman Torosyan and it delivered. Khattab, a protégé of Mikkel Kessler, had improved following a damaging stoppage defeat to Howard Cospolite whilst Toroyan was rebuilding after defeats to Nuhu Lawal and Eduard Gutknecht. There was a lot on the line for both as a defeat for Khattab would leave his career as a prospect in total disarray whereas a reverse for Torosyan would force him to continue as an away corner fighter. And it was the Armenian born Torosyan who triumphed courtesy of a clubbing left hand which he landed twice; the first time breaking his opponent’s nose in the 4th round and the second time finishing the fight in the 6th. Khattab was distraught, he knew what the defeat meant and he would have been up on the cards at the time of the stoppage, I’m confident of that, which will make it even harder to take.

There was no such heartbreak for Dina Thorslund as she claimed the vacant WBC Youth Super Bantam title over 10 rounds against Xenia Jomeac. Promoter Nisse Sauerland’s very enthusiastic about Thorslund and it’s easy to see why: She’s got personality, looks, a fan base and she can fight. He expects her to win a world title this year and that’s very possible but the 23 year old is not without flaws. She isn’t difficult to hit, Jomeac caught her with a right hand on a number of occasions, but it does make her good to watch and her technique has improved a lot over the two years I’ve been watching her.

Patrick Nielsen’s return wasn’t quite so entertaining. Surgery on a hand injury had kept him out since his win against Rudy Markussen in Copenhagen in December 2015, a fight that completely failed to live up to the hype due to the fact that Markussen basically surrendered from the first bell. Nielsen wasn’t in great condition and laboured to a 10 round win against Beibi Berrocal, a Colombian fighter with 16 KOs in his 17 career wins.

In Nielsen’s defence though, it was more about getting back in the ring than producing fireworks. The WBA International champion’s at number four in their rankings and needs a meaningful fight soon. An easy one to make would be to pit him against Sauerland’s WBA regular champ Tyron Zeuge but the German still looks set to defend against Paul Smith on March 18 or 25.

Another Sauerland fighter at 168 is of course George Groves and the Saint will be meeting Fedor Chudinov for the WBA Super title, it’s just a question of when and where. London on February 25 was mentioned not that long ago but it now seems that Russia could be a possibility. Wherever it is it will be a terrific contest.