Paul Stewart column: Blackpool has always boxed cleverly

Brian Rose and Jack Arnfield speak in the ring after their fight in 2017
Brian Rose and Jack Arnfield speak in the ring after their fight in 2017

I’d like to change sport for this week’s column and take a look at Blackpool boxing, with a new generation immersing themselves in the sport in the wake of Anthony Joshua and the return of “The Gypsy King” Tyson Fury.

Blackpool has a rich tapestry of boxers fighting at the top level, from former British heavyweight champion ‘The Blackpool Rock’ Brian London, who lives a few doors up from myself and fought greats such as Muhammad Ali and Floyd Patterson, to Barnsley-born Matty Askin, who fights out of Blackpool and meets current rising star of the cruiserweight division, Lawrence Okolie, at the end of the month.

Askin has amassed a record of 23-3-1 and has been in some great fights over the years.

He will be looking to upset the apple cart and retain the British title he won via brutal KO last year on the Joshua vs Povetkin undercard at Wembley Stadium.

Blackpool has always had a crop of fighters who have gone on to challenge for major titles.

Who could forget former WBO Intercontinental and British middleweight champion Brian ‘The Lion’ Rose winning the British title outright at the Winter Gardens before climbing the mountain to challenge Demtrius Andrade for the WBO middleweight championship at the Barclays Centre, Brooklyn, New York?

Brian has enjoyed a glittering career in the sport after having his first amateur fight aged 11.

He went on to have 90 amateur fights winning 78.

His professional record currently stands at 29-5-1, with a return to the ring likely later this year.

Having met Brian recently, one would never think he was the Lion that fights and puts everything he has into every fight, leaving nothing in the ring, an absolute gentleman outside of the ring.

We simply cannot mention Blackpool boxers without ‘Magic’ Matty Ellis who everybody, myself included, thought would go on to be heavyweight champion of the world.

Matty had an exemplary record at amateur level in which he won the ABA title and many tipped him to become Britain’s first billion-pound boxer.

Matty put together a resume of 17-1-1 and challenged Denis Bakhtov for the WBC international heavyweight title at York 

He was unlucky that night and suffered a knockout loss and never fully recovered, although he went on to fight future rising stars in Tyson Fury, Tony Bellew, Enzo Maccaranelli and Audley Harrison.

Another fighter who put together an impressive record and fights out of Blackpool is Derby-born Jack Arnfield, former WBA international middleweight champion.

Jack came to prominence in ‘Prizefighter’ at the Winter Gardens in 2015 in which he reached the semi-final, losing a marginal split decision to Cello Renda.

All was not lost for the two-time British middleweight challenger as he went on to fight John Ryder for the WBA title, with Ryder a heavy betting favourite.

Arnfield went on to score a decisive unanimous decision and brought the title home to Blackpool.

This culminated in a bout between Arnfield and Rose.

Both boxers shared the same trainer in Bobby Rimmer for a time and lived together and trained together before Arnfield chose to go in a new direction and ultimately a new trainer.

The bout ended in a unanimous decision and another win for Arnfield.

Arnfield was last seen losing a unanimous decision to Tommy Langford on the undercard of Groves-Eubank in the World Boxing Super Series in 2018.

Then there’s the Matty Ellis-trained lightweight Scotty Cardle, fighting out of Lytham-St-Annes.

Cardle is another highly decorated amateur boxer with highlights which included winning a bronze medal at the European Amateur Boxing Championship and representing Great Britain at the AIBA World Boxing Championships.

Cardle won the lightweight British title outright before a loss via KO to Lewis Ritson in an explosive six minutes of boxing earlier in the year.

Scotty recently bounced back with a win over Michael Mooney at the Ice Arena, Cardiff to put himself back in the mix.

Cardle’s record stands at an impressive 23-2-1 and, at 28, I highly expect more wins to be added to that resume in the future.

The good news for the new crop of aspiring Blackpool-based boxers is there are plenty of boxing gyms with a wealth of knowledge and experience that have appeared over the past few years in the local area.

Leading the charge are Davies Boxing Gym recently relocated to Mitcham Road in Blackpool, led by RP Davies and his father and former trainer, Mark Davies.

RP Davies’ professional career at middleweight was unfortunately cut short due to irregularities in a brain scan shortly after securing an area title and looking to kick on and challenge at middleweight for the British title.

Rose has his own gym in BR Boxing and Fitness in the heart of Blackpool town centre above Ma Kellys North.

Ricky ‘the Hitman’ Hatton opened the gym in 2016 and the gym has been going from strength to strength ever since.

Rose himself teaches box fit and has a team of coaches with a wealth of experience for any level.

Like myself, I’m sure the people of Blackpool are looking forward to his much anticipated proposed return to the ring later this year.