Boxing coach talks of divided loyalties

Rose and Arnfield - big clash in March
Rose and Arnfield - big clash in March
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It’s the bout that has got everyone on the Fylde fight scene talking - Brian Rose versus Jack Arnfield at the Manchester Arena on March 25.

It is a tough fight to call, hardest of all for trainer Andy Sumner, who coached, nurtured and guided them both during their amateur careers.

Here Sumner gives his thoughts on a bout that has put him in such a quandary and with his loyalties entirely split down the middle.

So it’s on then!

A few weeks after Brian Rose put the question, ‘You’ll never guess who I’m likely to be boxing next’, I supplied the correct answer, namely Jack Arnfield, his former amateur clubmate, professional stablemate and, on numerous occasions, his sparring partner.

That was some weeks ago - since which time Brian had been anticipating a match with Martin Murray, who is planning a return to middleweight after a move up to the super-middleweight division proved unsuccessful.

Murray holds a narrow decision win over the youthful Rose in the regional final of the ABA Championship and Brian was looking forward to a chance to reverse the loss.

With Jack coming through his defence of the WBA international strap against Preston’s Mick Hall and a British title eliminator at the advanced planning stages with Elliott Matthews in the opposite corner, the Rose-Arnfield match-up seemed unlikely, at least in the near future.

However, money talks and both could find ways of using the proceeds of a good pay-day with Sky Sports exposure.

How do I feel about the prospect of two lads meeting in the ring as coach of both for the duration of their amateur careers? Well, not exactly ecstatic!

Both were brought along to the gym by their fathers Eddie (Rose) and Cyril (Arnfield).

They remained loyal to me and dedicated to their chosen sport.

Between them they built a combined record of over 140 bouts, some requiring lengthy journeys to London, South Wales, West Midlands, Scotland and the north east coast.

Brian boxed abroad on a few occasions and I was with him for a youth international in Rochefort on the French west coast.

I travelled to Cardiff to watch Jack take on old rival Scott Cardle in a UK youth final, the third meeting of a series won 2-1 by Jack.

I recall one long car ride to Essex, where Jack produced one of his best displays to dump Thomas Humphreys, an England youth international, on the floor and run out an impressive winner to progress to a final.

I had a pressing engagement that evening, and Jack’s dad produced some Ayrton Senna-like driving to have me back in time to shower, eat and set off for Bolton’s Reebok Stadium. Rose was chief support to Amir Khan versus Mario Kindelan that night - Khan won, as did Brian.

The successes (and some disappointments), the long road journeys and the hours spent in the gym with both lads meant I forged a special bond with them.

Both visited my home, met my wife and left her impressed by their good manners and basic decency.

I have followed their professional careers with interest from the outset.

In the period when gambling had affected boxing in America by calling into question the fairness of decisions rendered, the authorities came up with the ‘no decision’ contest as a solution in certain cases.

Newspapers invited their boxing hacks to offer their judgement, but of course it was unofficial.

How nice it would be if Brian and Jack could go into the ring knowing that if the bout ran its course neither of them would be a loser! It would be nice for me too!

A drawn bout would also be welcome, but would not only be unlikely it would inevitably lead to a second helping!

I would like to think that both men won’t be persuaded to indulge in the ticket-selling charade of confected hatred a la Bellew-Haye.

I detest the pre-fight dark threats and torrents of verbiage. The face-off at the formal weigh-in turns my stomach.

These two men have more dignity in their make-up than the whole band of loud-mouths who feed on publicity, whether it be positive or negative.

Who will prevail at the Manchester Arena (I do wish the bout were held at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens)? The answer is I can’t find a winner!

Jack has fought three scheduled 12-round bouts, while Brian has been limited to just one eight-round stroll after his narrow loss to Matthew Macklin over the championship distance.

Both are similar in their technical approach, with excellent jabs, right-crosses and upper-cuts their speciality.

I can’t pick a winner, Jack’s recent effective activity cancelling out Brian’s overall edge in experience.

A technically classic bout seems to be on the cards.

It could be a fascinating match and I hope that the lads both do justice to themselves.

One thing is certain - both winner and loser will remain my very close friends.