BLACKPOOL cruiserweight Matty Askin has had every reason to start the year with a spring in his step.
Not only does he boast a 100 per cent record as a professional, but he is gaining wider recognition far beyond boxing’s Central Area, where he generally plies his trade.
He is currently topping a poll being conducted by Sky Sports, which is asking fight fans to nominate their top prospect for 2011.
Askin is currently at the forefront of the standings with around a third share of the vote, which is open to viewers of the long-established Ringside magazine programme, screened by the satellite broadcaster.
The fact Askin is in the lead is all the more meritworthy when you consider the calibre of the 11 fighters nominated.
The elite, talent-packed list includes former Olympian Billy Joe Saunders, Frankie Gavin, Carl Frampton, Scott Quigg, and former Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Tony Jeffries.
Askin won the ABA cruiserweight title, immediately afterwards joining the professional ranks.
The Ringside blurb says of Askin: “This year we should find out what his discipline and stamina are like and whether he can hold a shot, but trainer Brian Hughes is doing a good job with him.”
They might also have said that Hughes is the right man to ensure that Askin keeps his feet on the ground, and listens to the same sage advice that led Robin Reid to a world super-middleweight title.
There are rumblings in Blackpool boxing circles that Richard Turba, another cruiserweight, might fancy a crack at Askin.
The two have sparred together and get on well, and in the unlikely event of such a match coming off, it would have the makings of a good ‘derby’.
However, it seems Turba is not in Askin’s sight-lines at present – or in the future for that matter – as the camp insists that it could be a backwards step in his current rate of progression and that he has more ambitious targets on the horizon.
While Askin is a relatively new kid on the block, it’s also a case of a new beginning for St Annes fighter Jeff Thomas.
He is planning to return to the ring after five years out of the fight game.
Thomas, who last fought in 2006, has applied for his licence again at the age of 29.
His last fistic foray was a seven-round technical knockout at the hands of Oisin Fagan, in a vain attempt to win the vacant Irish light-welterweight title in Dublin.
That was the sixth loss of his career, though he won nine and drew the other.
Thomas, who qualified as a fitness instructor in the interim, plans to fight on a bill in Colne in March, providing all the formalities go through with his licence application to the British Boxing Board Of Control, though he doesn’t think there will be any kind of hitch.
Thomas said: “I have been in training since October – I had thought about coming back a few times before, but now I have decided to give it a go again.
“I was heartbroken to lose in my last fight, and I didn’t want to go out in that way before giving it another shot.
“I have been training really well and I want to challenge for a title again, and get rid of that awful feeling when you miss out.
“I have put on more bulk, so I will probably box at welterweight.
“I have been training with Kevin Maree, who used to look after Michael Gomez.
“And I have also trained at the Blackpool Kingscote gym, so if all goes as I like, I want to try and get into the welterweight Prizefighter if I can.”
Thomas is now looking for sponsors to help him on the comeback.
He said: “I am willing to have a firm’s name on my shorts and there could be a chance for the sponsor to get exposure if I appear on television.”
Thomas added the outlook for boxing in the Blackpool area was very encouraging – and he is keen to be a part of it.
He said: “There is Brian Rose and Matty Askin, while Adam Little is turning professional and he is going to exciting to watch.
“There are also some very good youngsters coming through at the Blackpool Kingscote gym, and it’s all looking good.
“I feel I still have things to prove in boxing, and I couldn’t let the chance to prove it pass me by, otherwise it would be something that I would always come to regret.”
Anyone interested in sponsoring Thomas can contact him on 07904 324880.