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Current Issue: October 2003

Who wins, Saunders or Eubank Jr?

Saunders
Eubank Jr

Current Results:

Saunders: 58%
Eubank Jr: 42%

AMAZING ALL-ROUND

British super feather champ Alex Arthur hopes to put Edinburgh, Scotland and himself, not necessarily in that order, on the boxing map. MICHAEL GILL reports on a man who may have the talent to match his ambition

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Success within the prize ring can be achieved through a variety of means. Some boxers become masters of the sportís technical elements, others are blessed with innate speed of both hand and foot, a special few enjoy the capacity to alter the course of a contest with a single clean strike, and there are those who prosper through sheer physical ruggedness, dedication and mental driv

The fighter who excels in every facet ó the all-rounder ó is a rare breed indeed, but there is increasing evidence that soaring Edinburgh super feather Alex Arthur might be one such talent.

A Commonwealth Games gold medallist at 20 and British professional champion within two years of his November 2000 pro debut, the 25-year-old starlet conducts his business with an elegance synonymous with the nicer parts of the Scottish capital and owns a left hook that has damaged more livers than neat liquor. Fourteen of his 16 paid opponents have crumbled ahead of schedule.

Beyond the ropes, Arthur possesses a rare charm and patter that could entice interest beyond boxingís inner circle. Having apprenticed in the shadow of deposed WBO feather king Scott Harrison, the 5ft 9ins father of Alex Jr recently broke from Glasgowís Phoenix camp, run by Harrisonís father Peter, to team up with revered Californian coach Freddie Roach for what promises to be a crucial new season.

On 25 October, Arthur finally emerges as a headline act in his own right when, in the first promotion in Edinburgh for 18 years, he is expected to make short shrift of fraying ex-champion Michael Gomez. With victory providing a lifelong grip on the Lonsdale Belt, expect promoters Sports Network to fast track the Scot to challenges for major international honours by the end of 2004.

In late August, Boxing Monthly gained an insight into his engaging personality and his almost obsessive drive to bring his rich potential to fruition.

BM: With the intense east coast-west coast rivalry and your former coach Peter Harrison working in the opposite corner, beating Willie Limond last time out posed more mental challenges than physical. But you actually seemed to revel in the friction.

AA: I definitely did. As an amateur I boxed Texan Rocky Juarez before about 7,000 of his fans in the 1999 World Amateur Championships, but Iíd never experienced the ďnastinessĒ that I encountered in the Limond fight. But Iím sure the experience will make me much stronger mentally. I was able to turn all the animosity and negativity to my advantage, just as Naz and Eubank used to do. It definitely made me more alert and more aggressive. I like Willie ó weíve been pals since we were about 15 ó but in the end I was really enjoying giving him a beating because of the way everybody associated with him had treated me. I was the champion yet they showed me no respect. It really peeved me off and I wanted to make them eat their words.

BM: Prior to Limond, you had been well received in your five previous Glasgow starts. Could your demolition of the home hero alienate Glaswegian support?

AA: I hope not. My cityís important to me and most of my travelling fans are from Edinburgh, but whenever Iíve boxed in Glasgow before, the Glaswegians have been very good to me. I donít want to create any rivalry.

BM: Scott Harrisonís defeat to Manuel Medina in the bill topper places a greater burden on yourself to advance the Scottish renaissance while the former WBO featherweight boss regroups. Is that a responsibility you covet?

AA: No, I really donít see that as my job. If you start thinking along those lines itíll affect you. I need to keep winning for Alex Arthur. Ultimately I intend to succeed like my hero Ken Buchanan, contesting and winning world titles on different continents. Iíve already proved, amateur and professional, that I can succeed away from home.

BM: When beating Limond you showednot just your considerable self-belief, but a desire to entertain. Have you always enjoyed being the centre of attention?

AA: As a bairn I was naturally quite quiet and shy, but if I got the right attention I was a bit of an entertainer. When I found boxing at the age of about 10, it was something I really excelled in from the start; something that impressed my dad and my family. The way the old coaches and ex-pros used to talk about me gave me enormous confidence that I was better than everybody else. My first coach, Joe Fortune, grew up around Ken Buchanan and always told me that I was better than Ken as a junior.

BM: You are known within the business for your meticulous preparation and for embracing modern training methods.

AA: While most boxers are very fit, their fitness isnít always specific to the demands of a hard 12-round fight.  Though the need for an aerobic capacity increases in the sport, I see boxing as anaerobic in nature. The real elite operators like Roy Jones and Shane Mosley are those with really developed fast-twitch muscle fibres.  Not only is there little point to constant long distance running, but it actually decreases your strength and puts unneeded strain on the tendons and muscles. My strength and conditioning coach Mike Heathie, a fully qualified sports scientist, sets me a 12-week plan. The first stage is devoted to core strength work for three or four weeks. Iíll work with a heavy weight ratio, lots of squats and power work, no boxing technique.

About a fortnight in, Iíll introduce a core endurance programme, six-mile hill runs. Eight weeks before the fight, Iíll finally begin my boxing cycle with everything geared to the three-minute duration of a boxing round. Mornings Iíll do six to eight rounds of interval running. Afternoons Iíll do my technical boxing work with Terry McCormack, who has been with me since the amateurs.  Then in the evenings Iíll do my specific conditioning work. I have Saturdays off and go for a six-mile hill run on Sundays. I donít start sparring until about five weeks before the fight. From the start, Mikeís given his time and input for free. Heís just a brilliant friend.

BM: When you captured the British title with a one-shot blow out of Dewsburyís Steve Conway last October, youíd only served 23 months as a pro. Did your amateur career help negate your professional inexperience?

AA: It played a major part and Iíd definitely advise other talented amateurs to prolong their amateur careers because journeymen pros canít teach you that much.

The top amateurs from Cuba, America and Eastern Europe train just as intensely as the pros and technically theyíre very good. By attending the top international tournaments you can learn so much in such a short time because youíre constantly switching from fighting southpaws to orthodox, tall guys to short ones, boxers to brawlers, at a dayís notice.

Perhaps even more beneficial is the emotional consistency that intensive international competition breeds. By necessity it builds a steel inside you. Today, as a professional, I hardly suffer from nerves at all.

BM: Citing the adverse effects that the daily 110-mile round-trip from Edinburgh to Glasgow was placing on your back, you broke away from trainer Peter Harrison last spring.  How did you link up with Freddie Roach and what alterations do you envisage?

AA: When it comes to boxing that guy is just so smart. Iíve been in awe of him from the expert manner in which he first wrapped my hands. Shortly after the specialists advised me that Iíd have to leave Peter, I decided Iíd comb the States for a new trainer and Barry McGuigan put us together.

Freddie had been made aware of me through Bernard Dunne [Irelandís 2000Olympian now groomed by Roach in L.A.] whom I knew from the amateurs.On fight night I like to be surrounded by quiet guts rather than cheerleaders and Freddie fits the bill perfectly.

Ideally Iíd rather bring the mountain to Muhammad and have a couple of weeks working on the pads with Freddie in Edinburgh. Iíd certainly benefit from sparring the likes of Juan Lazcano, Johnny Tapia and Yoni Vargas at the Wild Card gym because, as a pro, the only world class spars Iíve had were with Scott and we had to stop them because weíd got to know each others styles so well, they became tediously boring.

BM: Away from the ring youíre remarkably relaxed and amiable yet, on fight night you metamorphose into a cold blooded assassin. Ever suffered from schizophrenia?

AA: Funnily enough in the very first write up I received the reporter referred to me as a Jekyll and Hyde character. I spoke to him very calmly and politely five minutes before my bout, fought like a crazy wee animal, then charmed him again immediately afterwards!

The malice comes very naturally and sometimes though Iím ashamed to admit it, in the heat of battle I get urges to really hurt the opponent. I only come out of that state when the fightís over.Perhaps itís something to do with my upbringing. Itís pretty well documented that my dad did a lot of time in prison including a stretch for attempted murder. He was a violent criminal.

Mum tried to ensure that me and my younger brother never went without but we didnít have it easy and, at times, things had to be put on hold.That said, dadís totally knocked his wayward ways on the head since he was last released. Heís been an absolute diamond because, he says, he doesnít want to give me a bad name.

BM: I know you have great confidence in your chin. However, when you perceive the opposition to be less than threatening, you seem prone to getting tagged by silly shots in pursuit of a spectacular stoppage victory.  Something you need to address?

AA: As a young kid, I always had a brilliant defence. I had this slippery American style, moving from the waist and slipping shots completely, which tires the opposition. No one could lay a glove on me. Without being critical of Peter Harrison, my style changed with him. I felt I was too upright, methodical, just walking in with high hands. Scott was brought up to do that from the beginning. Heís a brilliant parrier and heís mastered the style, but it didnít suit me as much.

BM: Youíve only travelled more than six rounds twice and are still to go beyond 10. Is that a worry?

AA: Not at all. I felt brilliant doing 10 with Snarski and, though the Limond fight was conducted at a fast pace, at the end I felt Iíd just done a couple of rounds. In the gym, Iíve done 12 many times in 90 degrees heat, with a headguard, T-shirt and 16 oz gloves. And itís a breeze!

BM: Next up you finally fulfil your dream of topping the bill in your home city when you host Michael Gomez at the Meadowbank Arena on 25 October. Do you envisage the experience bringing added pressure or providing something extra to feed off?

AA: Probably the latter because performing to an audience comes naturally to me. Even Kenny Buchanan, the greatest sporting person this cityís ever produced, couldnít get promoted here because the Ice Rink wouldnít cancel a curling fixture. As a result, the people of Edinburgh missed out and it still upsets me.

Iíd really pushed Frank Warren to come to Edinburgh earlier in my career, but there was a lot of nastiness being spouted over on the west coast that a fight here wouldnít sell. Listen, the arena was completely sold out by last week [we spoke on 30 August]. My father individually sold 1200 tickets in two days, and the phoneís still ringing.

BM: In contrast to your laid back persona, Gomez is notoriously in your face and confrontational. Do you expect heíll try to intimidate you?

AA: Oh, heís already started! He tried to put the head on me at the press conference to announce the fight but thatís just the way he goes about his business. This fightís a bit like De La Hoya-Vargas. Youíve got the good looking guy [laughs] who gets on well with the press and is nice to his public, against the big mouth ďhard manĒ who harps on about his tough upbringing and pretends to be a gangster.

BM: Stylewise, the aggressive Gomez will pose contrasting problems to the counterpunching Limond. An opportunity to demonstrate your versatility?

AA: Aye, I always had greater difficulty with guys who tried to outbox, outrun, out-think me. Against Limond, I had to use my brain as much as my fists and I donít like to think. I prefer to let the ďitĒ take over! I have field days against guys who charge at me, and Gomez even gets involved in wars with journeymen. Did you no see him against Jimmy Beech?!

Looking deep into Gomezís eyes at the press conference, Iím not sure even he believes he can win. Heíll be so fired up I expect itíll take me eight or nine rounds but, if his resistance has gone as people are saying, it could be a lot sooner. Either way there can only be one winner!

Once Gomez is done and dusted, Iíll sit down with Frank Warren and consider our options. I think Iím No. 1 for the European and, while [44-year-old champion] Affif Djelti is a remarkable guy, I think heís finally coming to the end of his tether. He was getting licked handily last time before he found the big punch.

While I think Jesus Chavez and Carlos Hernandez [the WBC and WBA champions respectively] are well beatable now, ideally, over the next 8-10 months Iíd like to move in the direction of fighting a couple of world ranked guys before challenging for the world title.

BM: Finally, when you reflect back over your career, when youíve retired, what do you hope youíll have accomplished?

AA: Well, I certainly donít want to ever have to go to work! Iíd like to be remembered as a dedicated individual. I know everyoneís beatable but Iíd love to go through my career undefeated, win genuine world titles from super feather up to light-welter and establish myself as Scotlandís best ever fighter.

 

Articles in this issue

BIG DADDY BUNCE


The lighter side of Big Daddy
The introduction of Johnny Shake Hands to the Dunne dealer.

 



AMAZING ALL-ROUND


British super feather champ Alex Arthur hopes to put Edinburgh, Scotland and himself, not necessarily in that order, on the boxing map. MICHAEL GILL reports on a man who may have the talent to match his ambition

INTRIGUE


Who can say for sure whether Evander Holyfield or James Toney will come out on top? GRAHAM HOUSTON on a truly compelling match

 

World Rankings:  
See where the top fighters were rated when the October 2003 issue went to press..



 

 

 

 
Geezers Boxing 
KAOS 
Kronk 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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23 October 2003

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