The Battle of Britain: Danny Williams vs Matt Skelton

14.07.05 - By Neil Goodman: The UK is poised, hopefully, for an injection of interest in the sport of boxing. Firstly Amir Khan, British Olympic Silver medallist, has predictably turned pro with Frank Warren at the reins. Khan is all set to ditch the head guard and singlet, for his first professional contest on the 16th July, having beaten his amateur nemesis in his final amateur outing.

Secondly the rumblings and rumours of a switch back to terrestrial television for Sports Network had been rife for a while, have now come to fruition. It had only ever been a matter of time until strained relationship between Frank Warren and SKY broke down to the point whereby the transition took place.

Boxing seems to have taken more and more of a backseat, even the flagship Saturday Fight Night has been demoted to Fridays (obviously the programme title has been adjusted accordingly). With ITV attracting 7 million viewers to watch an amateur bout on a Saturday evening, the timing now seems right for boxing to be embraced back into the mainstream..

Whilst the above are not the only instances of the sweet sciences re-emergence from the shadows; there is also an old favourite looming large on the horizon which should capture the public imagination. Of course I am referring to a domestic heavyweight clash; an eagerly anticipated dust up between the big boys always goes down well. History has taught us that the heavies sell tickets and generate excitement a la Lewis V Bruno.

The bout I am referring to is between Danny Williams and Matt Skelton, set for the also for 16th July, at the Reebok Stadium, Bolton.

In theory this fight should be massive and should overshadow the professional debut of Amir Khan. I only wish I did not have to write the word ‘should’! As little as 12 months ago the British Heavyweight scene was starting to buzz; Williams, Hide, Skelton and Audley Harrison were all jostling for pole position or the opportunity to take on one of their respective peers.

Fast forward to the present day and the division which was starting to simmer has cooled dramatically and disappointingly. Hide has disappeared off the scene, again, after a stoppage loss; albeit on cuts. Harrison was not offered an extension to his BBC contract, after a lukewarm reception to his fights and has relocated his camp to America. Danny Williams fought the fight of his life to defeat Mike Tyson, only to then fall apart in the first round against Dr Iron Fist.

In terms of the previously hot British Heavyweight scene the only fighter who still holds a degree of promise and burning desire seems to be the Bedford Bruiser, British Heavyweight Champion Matt Skelton.

The matching of Williams versus Skelton is an interesting crossroads battle for both fighters, for the loser the avenues of opportunity will be greatly reduced. In contrast in a sparsely talented weight division, both national and internationally, with a bit of luck and fair wind the future could be very bright for the winner.

For Skelton the choice of Williams as an opponent must have been a no-brainer! In a professional career spanning a little over 3 and a half years, Skelton’s progress has been a master class in match making and steadily stepping up the pedigree of cannon fodder. That is not to say his managers and promoters have not taken risks with what is after all still a relative novice in the realms of pugilism. To call a fighter who has dealt with Sprott, Francis, Long and Fabio Moli a novice is perhaps slightly derogatory, but he has less than 70 pro rounds under his belt and additionally has only ever heard the final bell once.

Back to the fight, if he beats Williams then he will have beaten the Tyson basher and Skelton’s performance can serve as a benchmark to punishment delivered by Klitschko. If Skelton can get Williams out of there quicker than Klitschko, then Skelton’s stock will multiple in value.

Looking at the fight from Danny Williams’s perspective then it would appear he needs to be motivated and backed into a corner to draw out his potential, this is obviously aside from calamitous performance against Vitali Klitschko. Williams had a complete non-event of a warm up fight on Hatton’s undercard, but this will have done little to restore lost confidence. The real test is this Saturday night, when the temperature is going to be turned right up!

The warm up bout in principle had been a good idea, giving Williams the chance to shake off some ring rust, gauge his conditioning and also make an assessment with regards to mental state. Has the battering from Klitschko shattered the already fragile confidence? Unfortunately the opponent offered little resistance, so the jury is still out in terms of which Danny Williams will appear in Bolton.

Against Klitschko the wheels really fell off the Williams rollercoaster, big time! Whilst the reigning WBC champion was the favourite to win the bout, after clouting Tyson, Williams was tipped to at least make an impact or a stand against Vitali. Williams arguably had the more innate fighting talent, he could (and still can) punch and also had shown resilience and good conditioning.

Within the opening minutes Vitali found Williams a sitting duck, there was post fight murmurings of a shoulder injury, but in truth Danny was found wanting. So with the abortive world title challenge behind him, Danny now has the unenviable task of squaring up to the hulking, 6ft 3in, 19st Skelton.

At the time of writing Skelton is a slight favourite to win the fight, which in itself is not entirely surprising. Thus far Skelton has overcome all the obstacles put in front of him and has also a placed ticks in most of requisite boxes i.e. punch power, stamina, heart and mostly importantly punch resistance. Both fighters have very high KO ratio’, it is therefore safe to assume that the final bell will not be called into play at the end of the fight.

On fight night, when the bell for round one rings, Skelton is not going to reinvent his already very successful wheel. He will go looking for Williams right from the get-go, trying to keep the tempo high and make his power tell. Williams, the more experienced operator, will try to control the pace of the fight from the middle of ring. A tear up from round one does not suit Williams style, he will want to jab and move, looking to set up the right hand.

The big problem for Williams is, Skelton does not mind leaving the style and finesse in the locker room. Choosing instead to trade with, smoother, but eventually overwhelm his opponents. If previous fights are anything go by then Skelton carries his power into the late rounds, so unless Williams can impose himself in this fight, he can not simply hope that the Skelton storm will blow itself by the middle rounds.

To conclude I think this fight has the potentially to be a thriller, if not the most aesthetically pleasing example of ‘sweet science’. Both fighter can box, jab and also deliver power shot; physically the two fighters are also evenly matched. I envisage this fight following a similar pattern to the fight between Skelton and Sprott; Williams trying to box in the manner Sprott did, looking for opening. The difference between the two fighters is, whilst Williams looks for the openings, Skelton will be working and apply the pressure. He might not hit the target every time, but Skelton’s accumulation of pressure and punches should force a mid to late round stoppage.

Article posted on 13.07.2005

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