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British Beat: Ricky Hatton Returns; George Groves Stripped On His Stag Do; Eubank Jr. Custard Pies James DeGale; Frank Warren; More

No sooner had Ricky Hatton officially announced the worst kept secret in British boxing on Friday (he’s baaaaaacckkk), punters (who had obviously left cookies in the Manchester MEN Arena ticketing system) began receiving e-mails inviting them to be there for the reboot on Nov. 24 (never mind the fact that Hatton hasn’t as yet sourced an opponent). For all fans know, “The Hitman” could be flinging pigskin with cricketer Freddie Flintoff, his own father (in a rematch) or a guy dressed in a cocaine suit (a sort of bug-eyed version of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man) as part of a drug awareness campaign. Nevertheless, “The Hitman” has managed to shift around 10, 000 tickets in the time it takes to quaff a Guiness. There are some promoters who couldn’t give that many away as quick (despite having no trouble blocking unruly Twitter followers with the quick-fire dexterity of Wyatt Earp).

(Ricky Hatton “schools” a trash can)

Despite his enduring commercial boffo, the doom-mongers (including, predictably, Ricky’s scorned former promoter Frank Warren) have made a point of putting their oar in before a punch has been thrown (there’s nothing quite like having an article in the bank that allows a columnist to crow subsequently, “I told you so,” once everything turns diahorrea coloured). If Hatton’s true motivation is redemption (as he suggested at Friday’s presser) then yes, he probably is set-up to fail, as logic dictates he’d need to topple one of the men who previously put him sideways. If, however, he’s matched shrewdly, in far less health-threatening outings against the likes of Lovemore N’ou (yuk), Michael Katsidis (ooooh) or former foe Paulie Malignaggi (yeah, go on then) then he can boost his coffers relatively safely, earn some self-respect and maybe even walk away a winner.

Hatton’s real aim, in all likelihood, is to secure the TV deal so vital to his promotional firm. After Sky Sports severed ties with Hatton Promotions earlier in the year, the Manchester slugger has been left high and dry and up that creek you’d rather not drift down without a paddle. Without a big enough “face” on his books to secure a new home, he’s had little choice but to dust off his own older, thinner version. It will be interesting to see which platform it winds up landing him on.

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Hammersmith’s George Groves has been stripped of his British super middleweight title after multiple sick notes (on Groves’ part) ultimately scuppered his on-off rematch with the gruff Edinburgh hard man Kenny Anderson. Groves, reportedly on his stag do in Latvia, will have awoken Friday morning feeling not only as though his head had been turned inside out, but that he now doesn’t have anything to hold up his trousers. “The Saint” probably half-expected to be stripped on his bachelor party but not at the hands of the party poopers at the British Boxing Board of Control. Sheesh… Anderson will contest the vacant title against mahogany-skinned relic Robin Reid on Oct. 20.

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Meanwhile, Groves’ great rival, James DeGale, has been rapping with middleweight hot stuff Chris Eubank, Jr. Eubank, who is beginning to make old Pops Eubank resemble Chuck Feeney, tweeted to his Twitter followers a couple weeks back: “Today in sparring I schooled European Champ James DeGale. It was the first time I’ve seen a fighter trash talk while getting hit in the face.”

DeGale fired back (allegedly, as it came via his Facebook fan page): “First Cleverly, then Groves and now me…. to put the record straight I did spar with Chris Eubank Jnr today, I played with the kid. I was shocked how rude and disrespectful he was and I can only say he has A LOT to learn both inside and outside the ring. I’m actually embarrassed for him…… He is more than welcome to come back to my gym for another spar session, but I very much doubt he will!!!” 

Eubank, who is racking up street cred as a bit of a gym terror, retorted thus: “People are asking me if I’ll spar DeGale again. If he wants to be taught some more lessons, he can come to my gym in Brighton.” All this talk about schooling, disrespect, lessons and trash talk is making me nostalgic for Grange Hill. Seems like there’s a new feather ruffler in class, sitting at the back, flicking chewing gum about with his ruler.

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St. Helens middleweight Martin Murray is reportedly chasing a match with Australian Daniel Geale, while Ryan Rhodes has announced his retirement. Sheffield’s former British and European junior middleweight champion never did win a coveted world title, yet he walks away in good health and will pursue a secondary career training other fighters. Good on him. Those present for his small hall thriller against Jamie Moore will wave Rhodes the fighter goodbye with fond memories.

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Speaking of retired fighters, super middleweight Andre Ward called out Welsh whirlwind Joe Calzaghe after his signature victory over Chad Dawson last weekend which seemed a bit odd and suggests future challenges could be a bit thin on the ground right now for the Oakland tactician. Predictably, Calzaghe opined earlier this year that he’d have scalped Ward in his prime but that it’d have been a tough fight all the same.

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Frank Warren has been in the wars (again). Warren (who uses his tabloid boxing column to basically snipe at rival business factions) accused Liverpool light heavyweight Tony Bellew of being an “ingrate” for defecting over to Matchroom Sports. Bellew retorted that Warren was “obnoxious.” Warren then offered Carl Froch a bout with his Welsh light heavyweight Nathan Cleverly, which was swiftly rebuffed by Froch’s promoter Eddie Hearn. “My advice to Cleverly would be forget about Froch, he’s a legend. You’re not even at the races with him. Focus on Tony Bellew,” offered Fast Eddie. A presumably dizzy Warren then retaliated by telling Hearn to “get real.” 

“Trust me,” said Warren (there’s a scary offer), “’The Cobra’ wanted no part of a prime Calzaghe – now there’s a legend – and I offered him top dollar to challenge the Welshman several times. Froch got beaten by Denmark’s Mikkel Kessler, who Calzaghe ruined, and was comprehensively schooled by Californian Andre Ward last December. Hardly the form of a legend.” There’s that term “schooled” again. Children, children.

Bernard Hopkins also had a pop at Warren, ordering him to: “Stop using my name to promote your bum titleholder.” Right that’s it! Detention, the lot of you.

(Sources: Boxing Scene, ESPN, Daily Mail, Guardian, BBC Sport, Box-Rec, Daily Telegraph, Twitter, Facebook, various other boxing news outlets)

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C., where he is a staff writer for CQ Roll Call.

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