ANYONE who ever wondered why Brian Rose is known as The Lion will now fully understand the reason.
The Blackpool light-middleweight showed the heart of a lion to quell a fiercely determined Max Maxwell and hang on to his British title at a packed Winter Gardens in Rose’s home town, in what was the ultimate crowd-pleasing contest.
Rose never had a moment’s rest as Maxwell poured forward constantly, making life as difficult as possible.
He has never had to dig into his reserves so deeply to win a fight – and may never do so again.
That is what made this 12-rounder such a riveting contest and such a compelling spectacle.
Indeed, Rose had to push it to the ‘max’ – and then some – to ensure that he kept possession of the Lonsdale Belt. The three judges – Howard Foster, Steve Gray and Terry 0’Connor – gave it respectively 119-110, 119-111 and 119-110, but this observer saw it closer than that.
To these eyes, Rose was the winner, but maybe by a margin of three or four rounds.
In any event, the official scorecards did not tell the full story, no matter how the contest was interpreted.
Rose had to call on his boxing skills and reserves of bravery to stave off Maxwell, whose determination was apparent from the outset.
The Blackpool fighter took the first two rounds, but Maxwell always fired back and on occasions gave as good as he got, seldom taking a backward step.
Rose caught the judges’ eyes with a fearsome flurry at the end of the third, but by the middle of the contest he knew that he could never afford to be off guard for a moment.
The seventh was too close to call, while the next session was Rose’s best of the fight to date.
He was putting good punches together and using his footwork to telling effect, unfazed by a disturbance in the crowd that needed intervention by security men.
In the ninth, he unleashed some impressive, relentless combinations.
The next two were tight, Maxwell possibly shading the 11th, much to the delight of the small knot of his fans, heavily out-numbered and out-shouted by the Rose supporters.
Rose was the dominant figure in the 12th as he finished with a flourish.
By the end the exuberant, excitable crowd were hailing Rose, who rushed over to embrace Blackpool manager Ian Holloway, watching at ringside.
All those in the arena had seen British boxing at its best and a clear candidate for domestic fight of the year, even though 2012 is only three months old.
And Rose’s stature in the fight game is growing all the time, not just by his skill and courage but by his public acknowledgement to Maxwell at the end of the bout, which showed his sportsmanship and class.