Esham Pickering: Next stop the World?

11.05.04 - By Ben Carey: Esham Pickeringís quest to be taken seriously as a credible future world title challenger takes him to the Rivermead Leisure Centre in Reading tomorrow night in the first defence of his European super-bantamweight title against Spainís unbeaten but lightly regarded Juan Garcia Martin. The Spaniard may be bringing to England an unbeaten record, but after 11 wins over obscure opposition few are expecting the 31-year-old mystery challenger to upset the form book. Pickering was unable to put any meat on the bones concerning Martin when British Eastside spoke to him over the weekend.

ďI donít really know much. I know that not many people are giving him credit because his opponents havenít been up to much,Ē acknowledged the champion. ďBut thereís a lot of fighters who have been like that and Iím not going to underestimate him. Heís knocked 6 or 7 people out so Iím going to go in there and do my best and do my job again. Iíve spoken actually to a promoter in Spain whoís had some dealings with him and he told me he (Martin) will definitely be there to win. Heís very determined. Heís 31 and heís going to give it his best shot.Ē

It will have to be some effort to derail the classy Pickering whose meteoric rise during the last 15 months has seen him romp to triple title success without barely breaking sweat. A fifth round stoppage over Duncan Karanja to lift the Commonwealth crown last February initially set the wheels in motion on Pickeringís previously stalled career. The Newark stylist added the British title 5 months later with a 4th round wipeout of Scotlandís battle hardened Brian Carr. Last October Pickering negotiated a problematic opening round to flatten Ghanaís game Alfred Tetteh in the seventh which booked him a European title appointment with useful Italian Vincenzo Gigliotti at the turn of the year.

With some wondering whether Pickeringís purple patch was about to be substituted by Gigliotti for bruises on his body, the 27-year-old Wincobank gym rat duly rose to the occasion to stop the Italian in the tenth after largely controlling the action. One fight earlier Gigliotti had extended then WBA champion and twice Michael Brodie victim Salim Medjkoune the full 12 rounds. The new European champion, one of only 3 current in Britain (Howard Eastman and Nicky Cook make up the trio) reflected on a career best win:

ďI thought it was a better start. I started off a little more positive but then I went to sleep a little bit and got complacent. It wasnít the fact of him (Gigliotti) coming into it. I thought it was the fact of me losing my focus but thereís loads more to come,Ē Pickering assured me. ď I donít know if youíve noticed that in my last 4 fights Iíve stopped them all but Iíve just cruised. Iíve not got out of first gear. Theyíve all been reaction punches when Iíve knocked them out Ė thatís all. Iíve not put the pressure on in abundance. Now if Gigliotti would have carried on after the knockdown then I would of really stepped in and let some shots fly but I havenít done that yet and I know thereís a couple of extra gears that will be there for the bigger fights hopefully.Ē

Few would have predicted Pickeringís rapid career turn around following his 72- second smoking at the hands Mauricio Martinez in an audacious WBO title challenge down at bantamweight in the summer of 2000. Though acknowledged as possessing talent, critics had consigned the Newark manís career to the trash bin despite the glaring evidence that a severely weight weakened Pickeringís punch resistance had been removed at the scales beforehand. How he proved them wrong.

ďIíve been boxing 13 years and I think you need a little bit of something when you start. You canít just be nothing Ė you have got to have some natural ability, I believe anyway. I had that but thereís a lot more to it. Itís not just about been able to fight. Iíve learnt about the game a little bit and Iíve just become more hungry,Ē said Pickering reflecting on his new-found success. ďI want it a lot more. Iíve always been dedicated training wise but in the ring Iíve really got something to fight for. Iím a bit older now, a bit more mature and Iím really focussed on what Iím doing. Iíve got a lot of goals in my life. Obviously to get as much money as I can but Iím really confident and if I keep winning it will give me more confidence. I just want to keep excelling like that.Ē

Though Pickering now has the satisfaction of wearing the belts around his waist (heís since vacated the British title recently claimed by Hartepoolís Michael Hunter), the current Commonwealth and European champion is still striving for the respect of the people as the British boxing grapevine continues to largely concern itself with the unproven rather than the achievers.

ďIíve said to you Ben that nobody has given me much credit yet but I understand that and they probably never will do,Ē the champ acknowledged. ďThey never did to Johnny Nelson but Johnnyís not that exciting to watch. But I believe Iím not bad to watch, Iím quite marketable and Iím a nice boxer. I donít go in there like Mike Tyson and go in there all angry and uptight, Iím very relaxed and I go out there and box. I know Iíve got the punching power and the speed. Iíve got a lot of attributes. I wouldnít say any of my attributes are fantastic but I think Iím good at most things. Probably my best asset is my movement. In my last 4 fights I havenít had any marks on my face so I must be doing something right.Ē

Indeed. Providing Pickering can emerge unscathed from his Euro defence against Martin on Wednesday the bigger fights and the recognition that comes with them could be just around the corner. This may include a sizzling end-of-year showdown with none other than former WBC bantamweight champion Wayne McCullough. Preliminary talks would appear to have gone quiet between the camps but Pickering remains optimistic that chatter can be revived if he is victorious tomorrow night.

ďJess (Harding) says he has spoken to McCulloughís people a little bit but Iíd rather McCullough have a fight first because I donít think heís wise to go straight in with me. Iím not going to get the credit anyway,Ē stressed Pickering re-emphasizing that he isnít just concerned with boosting his bank balance.

ďI want to be successful and I want to earn money. But I also want people to give me credit and get behind me and believe in me. Thatís going to be hard to do because I was knocked out in a round against Martinez and beat by John Jo Irwin (in a British featherweight title bid on points) after 15 months as a pro and then I was robbed against (Alejandro) Monzon (Pickering lost on a split decision in Spain in what was regarded as an abysmal decision). Every defeat that Iíve had has been totally different. Iíve learnt so much from them and I think itís going to take a long time for people to believe in me. But Iím only going to get better. Iím looking to hit my peak when Iím 30/31 and Iím going to be around for the next 10 years, I know I am. I do everything right. I train right, I eat properly and Iím relaxed,Ē he added.

If a fight with ďThe Pocket RocketĒ fails to come to fruition Pickeringís guiders may still be able to fashion him a world title shot - an opportunity that he would dearly relish. Could he surprise everyone still further?

ďI donít think the super-bantamweight division is in the limelight at the moment but Iíve seen Joan Guzman. Oscar Larios is a good fighter, Medkkouneís very strong but Iíve been told heís quite limited but heís strong, tough and durable. So I think at the top level thereís some good fighters. Domestically Michael Hunterís a good fighter and Iím hoping to get a fight with him as well. I want it to be a bigger fight though so it would hopefully build both our profiles up. Michael Hunter is one of the best in Europe.Ē

Article posted on 11.05.2004

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