British boxing’s keenest rivalry remains, for now, unrequited: Bury stylist Scott Quigg and Belfast’s Carl Frampton are yet to spin the penny on their potential junior featherweight jackpot. Rather than holding, though, hoping for the reels to get hot, the duo are bidding to acquire world title belts in order to maximise their winnings: converting cherries into bars. While Frampton and Quigg continue to eyeball one another, like roosters in a cockpit, an alternative twosome has emerged from beyond the boards in the shape of talented prospects Kid Galahad and James Dickens — self-styled challengers to the Frampton-Quigg duopoly at 122 lbs., who, at Rotheram’s Magna Centre on Saturday, intend to fire a shot across the bows of their more established contemporaries.
Abdul Barry Awad, 23, is a hard-edged rip reclaimed from a Sheffield sink estate; born in Doha, Qatar, Barry, as he is known among friends, has appropriated the arresting nom de guerre Kid Galahad and is the latest cutting from the St. Thomas’ Gym in Wincobank. Galahad has a mugger’s insouciance; cruelly, he has targeted Dickens with “smack rat” jibes in the build up (a derogatory term for a heroin addict) yet, in the ring, he is a balletic performer who flaunts a pas de bourrée akin to that of Mikhail Baryshnikov.
English champion Dickens is utterly consumed — immersed in a sport that has afforded him the attention he was denied throughout a hardscrabble upbringing, one that was blighted by parents lost to drug addiction. “Jazza,” as he is better known, was an amateur stand out — a former ABA champion who had tongues wagging on his native Merseyside since before he turned pro. Winsome and willing, the 22-year-old born-again Christian volunteers to serve food and tea to Liverpool’s less fortunates at an inner-city Catholic shelter. Come Saturday evening, live on terrestrial TV, he aims to serve Galahad his first professional defeat.
Galahad, 14-0 (7), has beaten six men with winning records: Dougie Curran, Paul Griffin, Jason Booth, Josh Wale, Ivan Ruiz Morate and Isaac Nettey — a fair-to-middling contingent save for Booth, who had, nevertheless, seen better days. Dickens, 16-0 (5), meanwhile has faced only Yuriy Voronin, Franklin Varela and Jon Fernandes. The former’s style is already established; he will only get stronger. “Jazza” is the direct opposite: a stocky southpaw, he remains rough around the edges.
The Liverpudlian — a tightly wound jumping jack who has not yet mastered defence — feints with his head before committing to swings that can, on occasion, tip him off-balance. Galahad is a burgeoning counter puncher who thrives on such targets; Saturday’s action could resemble a duel from 90’s television programme Gladiators, where contenders — heads down and arms pumping — would flail away with giant cotton buds prior to the likes of Saracen, or Shadow, experts in spandex, nudging them deftly into oblivion.
In fact, Galahad could be the Ingle family’s best pure boxer since Herol Graham. He has geometry down pat, is hyperactive, and peppers opponents into submission with quick and jarring raids. Dickens, though, brims with character; fiercely supported, he’ll be bursting with industry and zeal, yet is likely to find himself outscored at the end of 12 terse rounds.
Gone, seemingly, are the days of well-rounded boxers in their early 20s. Compatriots James DeGale and George Groves were at a slightly more developed stage ahead of their super middleweight grudge match in 2011, a contest which provided melodrama rather than heart-stopping action. A thick tension pervaded London’s O2 Arena such were the stakes that night, even if neither fighter had quite learned enough in order to capitalise on the other’s mistakes.
Saturday’s showdown is an encounter that both fighters should benefit from — one that could just uncover a future star. Yet, come the final bell, Dickens will be able to empathise with Nick Donati (played by Edward G. Robinson) who, in a trailer for the 1937 movie that spawned Awad’s ring name, lamented: “I play square with everybody — everything went along swell until I met this Kid Galahad.”