Bringing on back the boxing good times - Simpson’s Soapbox

Brian Rose celebrates after winning on points during the BBBofC British Light Middleweight Title fight at Robin Park Centre, Wigan. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday December 3, 2011. Photo credit should read: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
Brian Rose celebrates after winning on points during the BBBofC British Light Middleweight Title fight at Robin Park Centre, Wigan. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday December 3, 2011. Photo credit should read: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
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THOSE with a long memory – a very long memory – may well recall the song by Love Affair Bringing On Back The Good Times.

And it’s a refrain that strikes a chord when it comes to the resurgence of boxing in Blackpool and its environs.

The town used to be at the heart of the fight game in the North West, venues such as the Tower Circus sharing the spotlight on a regular basis with the likes of the Free Trade Hall in Manchester and the now defunct Liverpool Stadium.

They were a regular feature on the Blackpool sporting scene, and, of course, the town produced British champions of the calibre of Brian London and Ronnie Clayton.

London fought most of the best heavyweights around – both domestically and at international level – and when he boxed Floyd Patterson and Muhammad Ali, it was for the undisputed world heavyweight title.

Clayton, a European title holder, was of such a standard that he would quite easily have laid claimed to a version of the world featherweight crown had he been boxing nowadays.

The town also staged classic contests such Howard Winstone versus Jose Legra.

Now, after a lengthy lull in which the Blackpool boxing scene marked time at best, it is suddenly alive and thriving, even though there have been more than a few whispers that some of the town’s venues have been pricing themselves out of the market when it comes to staging licensed boxing promotions.

The really big one comes up on March 31 at the Winter Gardens, a promotion that comes into the must-see category.

If fight-fans don’t come out to see that bill, then they never will.

Top of the bill sees Blackpool’s own Brian Rose in the first defence of his British light-middleweight title against Max Maxwell.

There is added spice to the fight due to the fact that Maxwell is the only man to have beaten Rose as a professional.

It speaks volumes for Rose that he has chosen to make his first voluntary defence against his ‘nemesis’.

It is often said that it is harder to keep a title than it is to win it in the first place.

Whether that is true or not is open to debate, but Rose’s own personal confidence will have grown after becoming a champion, though he is such a grounded individual that his hat size has stayed the same.

There will also be two notable comebacks on the Blackpool bill.

The much more high-profile return is that Scott Harrison has had all types of personal demons to defeat in his personal life, as well a period of incarceration – the Scot, a former WBO world featherweight champion, will have his first bout for over six years when he climbs into the ring on March 31.

Preesall’s Jack Arnfield has not been away from the arena for that long – he has been in jail for a drug-related offence – but he resumes his career with his first fight since October, 2009.

Arnfield has genuine talent and major advantages, and there are not many light-middlweights around, who stand 6ft 2in, so it is hard to stay out of range of his jab.

He remains one of the best prospects on the North West scene, that’s if he shows that he can shake off the ring-rust and resume a career cut short by a regrettable criminal conviction, which he vows to have put behind him.

Kirkham’s Adam Little is another boxer who remains unbeaten, and he has linked up with the Ricky Hatton organisation, who seems to be on a mission to sign up some of the best talent around in the region.

Little is Hatton’s first ‘project’ as a fight trainer – the pair have gelled perfectly thus far and though the true measure of Little’s ability will not be known until he steps up in class, there is no end of potential.

At cruiserweight, it would seem that the British title is there for the taking for another Blackpool fighter, Matty Askin.

It looked as though that would happen sooner rather than later, until Enzo Maccarinelli came back on to the scene, but that in a way is a good thing.

A fight between an up-and-comer like Askin, who is improving all the time and has shown himself to be a lethal finisher, and a former world champion in Maccarinelli has the makings of a classic, one that probably not last too long with a couple of heavy-hitters sharing the same ring.

Another Blackpool boxer Jeff Thomas is busy again, while in Sheffield on Saturday, Scott Cardle, of Lytham, makes his initial venture into the pro ranks after abandoning the amateur game when he takes on serial loser Johnny Greaves in Sheffield.

Blackpool Kingscote Amateur Boxing Club has proved a mecca for youngsters and does a commendable job, while the same is true of Kirkham ABC, who continue to produce some notable prospects.

The bottom-line is that boxing has not been in such a healthy state in Blackpool and beyond for 30 years or more – and the re-kindled love affair with boxing will bloom and flourish for years to come.