Anthony Farnell Retires: What might have been...

06.01.04 - By Steve Mckenna: THE retirement of Manchester boxer Anthony Farnell, at the age of 26, sparked only a couple of headlines in the British press. It's probably because, apart from boxing's keenest fans, few would have heard of the gutsy 'Warrior'. He was never a household name and, despite being a former WBU champion, even his biggest supporters would admit he had his limitations.. But no-one could doubt 'Arnie's' heart and determination and he was rarely in a dull fight. It was just a shame he and Britain's other leading light-middleweights never squared off in a round-robin tournament. Perhaps if they did, Farnell's decision to call it a day would have merited more than just a few paragraphs.

Between 2000-02, Britain had six rising stars in the 11st 6lb division - Farnell, Wayne Alexander, Steve Roberts, Richard Williams, Takaloo and Gary Lockett. They were all on a roll and barely a week went by without speculation in the trade papers and on Sky that they would meet. But, apart from Farnell and Takaloo, when the Margate boxer stunned his Mancunian rival in a round, they were kept apart.

Farnell flitted in between light-middleweight and middleweight and suffered various highs and lows.Roberts went on defending his WBF title against mainly foreign opposition before he was shocked by the mediocre Andrei Pestriaev. One more defeat - to fellow Brit Darren Rhodes - and West Ham man packed it in.

The fierce punching, but inactive Alexander and Takaloo both took on a handful of half-decent opponents, before trying, and failing, to claim WBO titles. With the pair's careers subsequently stalling, the duo met last year at the York Hall, Bethnal Green. Alexander won with a ferocious second-round knockout and it was good to see two of the 154-pounders in the same ring at last. But by then, both had been exposed at the highest level and the interest was not as great as it could have been. The classy Williams, arguably the most talented of the bunch, probably fought the best opposition - but he was dogged by illness and inconsistency and, at 33, is on the slide after two defeats to the excellent Sergio Martínez. Lockett looked an awesome power-puncher on the way up, before being stopped in his tracks by Yuri Tsarenko. 'The Rocket' has since moved up to middleweight where he is aiming for the British title, but his career, while still far from over, has never looked like fulfilling its potential.

Alexander v Williams, Farnell v Alexander, Roberts v Williams, Lockett v Farnell, Takaloo v Williams, Farnell v Roberts, Alexander v Lockett... The fact that none of these fights were made is a terrible shame for British boxing. We know now that the six were never world-beaters, at the very highest level anyway, but they were part of a cracking domestic scene. They could have revitalised the flagging game in this country. They could have filled the sports pages, they could have drawn the crowds - and TV audiences. But, because of the politics that dominate this game, they never happened. All we had was talk that they might - and a load of sub-standard match-ups, laughably billed as 'world title' fights, in their place. And that was an awful waste.

Article posted on 06.01.2005

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