Classic Irish Boxing: Magee Froch fight report
May 29th, 2006 – by Aodhan ringside at the York Hall, London
The York Hall in Bethnal Green, East London is an unassuming but atmospheric small arena that has become associated with the term ‘ the home of British boxing’. With the fall away of interest in boxing in the city over the last 30 years this small hall, just one tube stop from the gleaming glass towers of the financial district at Liverpool Street is all that remains of the spirit of former hotbeds of the sport such as the Old Kent Road and the East End. The meeting on Friday night of Carl Froch and Brian Magee for the British and Commonwealth Super-middleweight titles demonstrated much of the good and bad of the boxing game that continues to hold an irrational interest for so many fans.
Under the hot lights of the Sky Sports cameras, Froch and Magee made their ring walks for what was expected to be a make or break fight for both men. A sizeable Magee support helped add to the temperature at ringside as chants of Nottingham, Nottingham welcomed the champion to the ring. Froch prowled in the ring before the bell posturing and flexing his admittedly impressive physique whilst the Belfast man carried a calm and focused look in the other corner.
The first round began with Magee pressing the fight as Froch circled the ring with his customary hands down, show boating style. Magee had made a bright, confident start but gave indications of his intentions by throwing two or three punches before coming in to hold his opponent. This approach in my mind stems from a lack of confidence in taking a counter punch at the end of a flurry. It is effective in protecting a questionable chin but proves somewhat frustrating to the viewer, especially when one hopes Magee would press an advantage. Concerns many had regarding the challengers’ punch resistance were confirmed when towards the end of the round Froch found a nice uppercut, dropping Magee as he came in to hold. The knockdown was not heavy but certainly raised the fear that an early blowout was on the cards.
Magee had come to fight, and win, and by the end of the round he had cleared his head and began to come forward again. The second round was a microcosm of the styles both men would utilise during the following rounds. Froch circling with hands low whilst Magee would follow, shooting a southpaw jab to be followed by a straight right and then holding on the inside. Froch adopted a gun slinging style which seems heavily influenced by the incarcerated Naseem Hamed. Unfortunately for the ‘Cobra’ he is neither as elusive nor as heavy handed as the Yorkshire Prince.
From round three on Magee began to have increasing success and on this writer’s card swept the following six rounds with his unadventurous but affective approach. Froch, on the other hand was nothing short of appalling; hands remained at waste level, even though Magee was enjoying the best of most exchanges. On many occasions the Belfast man was able to land the jab and follow it up with the straight left or occasionally connect with the right hook over Froch’s low left hand.
It was amazing to watch a fighter, seemingly lack any of the defensive common sense that brought his coach Robert McCracken to a world title challenge against Keith Holmes. The Birmingham middleweight was famed for the quality of his straight shots and fine defence but he seems to have passed none of this on to his latest charge. Froch continued to frustrate by turning away from punches and seemingly being more interested in flexing his muscles than actually doing any fighting. During the middle rounds Froch even motioned to ringside reporters in a gesture he intended to look charismatic a la a certain Muhammed Ali. In this case it merely looked silly as he had a fight to win. The fight also appeared to be slipping away from him as he failed to land a single jab in many rounds.
The middle rounds brought to mind the Naseem Hamed- Marco Antonio Barrera fight a few years ago. Froch imitated all that was wrong with the Price that night, by seemingly forgetting the skills that had brought him to the medal rounds of the Amateur World Championships. As the bell for the end of the eighth session sounded, it appeared that Magee would merely need to continue what he had been doing to expose the champion. The momentum Magee had built up was all but lost when the referee Richie
Davis ruled a clear slip as a knockdown. Davis had a terrible performance in general. He demonstrated a bad habit of slapping the fighters hands when they are in clinch and almost took a glove to the chin as he crowded the fighters at one point. He also appeared partial to Froch by continually warning Magee for minor or non existing infringements as the Irish man brought the fight to a negative and spoiling Froch.
The tenth round was quite even but the tide of the fight had turned as a tired looking Magee came out for the start of the eleventh round. Magee seemed to be falling into punches more as his energy seeped away. Froch did not have to be given an invitation as he began to connect with more shots. The end came when Froch landed a big uppercut to destroy Magee. It was worrying to see the challenger crumple forward in a way that indicated he was cold before he hit the floor. Magee has looked fragile on occasion, but this was the first time he had been down in a fight ending fashion. The referee sensibly did not continue his count and immediate medical assistance was called.
Magee recovered enough to congratulate the victor but must surely feel crest fallen after seeing a memorable win slip from his fingers. The fight ended the way many people expected. However, Magee was ahead on my card at the end and seemed to have bested Froch on skills and fighting heart if not on punching power. The champion can enjoy his greatest win but must surely learn from what was terrible performance. Magee brought everything he had but there are fighters who could bring more in the natural areas of chins and fists. If Magee had more confidence in his chin and a stronger dig he could have raised the pace and probably stopped Froch in the middle rounds. Froch is far to hittable and seemingly so lacking in understanding of his defensive flaws that he seems certain to be exposed when he steps up to world level.
In conclusion, it was a cruel night in east London as Magee saw his great effort and fine performance rewarded by a confirmation that boxing is not fair. On this occasion the better puncher beat the better boxer.