Tuesday Night Fight Talk: Skelton Needs Early KO to Prevent Farce (and Is Audley Ready for Williams?)

18.10.05 – By Barry Green: December 10th sees a British boxing bill featuring two major heavyweight fights, which may or may not tell us if any of the participants are worthy of climbing up to the next level. Matt Skelton takes on Mike Tyson conqueror Kevin McBride at London’s Excel Arena, while Danny Williams, another fighter that feasted on the faded lion that was Iron Mike, battles Olympic Gold medallist Audley Harrison in what looks an intriguing match-up.

These fights are billed as apparent “eliminators” for a crack at one of the alphabet trinkets, but could easily elimate all four fighters from the ratings if they fail to impress. The Skelton-McBride bout should provide a good few clues about how far Skelton might advance in the world championship territories. What we do know is that he is raw, powerful and only one fighter has managed to last the distance with him. On the downside, is that after six rounds, the Bedford fighter looks all of his 38 years.

If this fight goes past the halfway stage it could well be the most embarrassing fight on British soil since the Danny McAlinden-Jack Bodell comedy of errors back in 1972, which featured both fighters wrestling each other and falling onto the canvas- usually from missing with their own punches!

According to BBC Sport the winner of the bout looks set to fight for John Ruiz’s tainted WBA crown (with a shot at the ever-improving Lamon Brewster also an option that is mooted) as Frank Warren is involved in ongoing discussions with Don King about such possibilities.

Skelton can certainly bang, but plods forward with all the style and grace of an old Sherman tank. His record is an impressive 17-0 with 16 contests ending before the final bell. McBride, meanwhile, has won 33 of 38 contests, with one draw. The worry for his fans is that he has a 3rd round KO loss at the hands of Michael Murray, a journeyman better known for being
sparked in one round by both Pele Reid and Danny Williams, among others.

Both Skelton and McBride appear to run out of steam after just a few stanzas, and if a stoppage is not forthcoming early on this could descend into a farce that will not gain any new fans for either fighter. Skelton, especially, needs more exposure if he is to get a crack at an alphabet trinket in the near future. It appears McBride is passing up a shot at Ruiz to take on Skelton, probably passing up the chance of a lifetime but at least he knows he’ll get paid in this fight.

Skelton will start fast, as he usually does, winging and throwing telegraphed bombs that often arrive with a postcard attached. However, when they do land the effects are crunching. Last time out Skelton struggled with Mark Krence, who came in at short notice following Danny Williams’ admission that he was too ill to compete. Skelton laboured to a seventh round stoppage victory, hardly winning any new fans in the process, but a fighter often struggles with a late replacement (see Lewis-Klitschko) as their training camp and strategy needs a radical make-over that often doesn’t come quick enough.

I predict McBride will fade into obscurity the same way “Irish” Pat Lawlor did after his shock victory back in 1991 over some guy who claimed he was the great Roberto Duran. The big Irishman, who looks like the kind of lummox we all knew at school, announced after beating Tyson that he was now a “contender” and no longer a “pretender,” but in reality if he’d met Tyson at his peak, Mike, if in a particularly good mood, “might” have let McBride clean out the droppings from his pigeon coop.

Sorry to disappoint the Irish fans but I sincerely hope Skelton wins, and quickly, as McBride-Ruiz would have been the most quickly forgotten world heavyweight championship fight since Marvin Hart-Jack Root 100 years ago. So an early Skelton KO (or indeed one for McBride) is essential here.

I don’t want to sound like I’m demeaning McBride but a contender he is not. Indeed, the combined weight of these heavyweights is over 500 pounds, which is the approximate weight of a pygmy hippopotamus and if this fight was to go anywhere near the distance the viewers will soon turn over to watch the football highlights (being broadcast at the same time).

Time is running out for Skelton and he needs a title shot soon. This fight will bring him one step closer and who knows we could see another British fighter that manages to erase the painful memories left by the likes of Danny McAlinden and Jack Bodell. He needs a quick knockout to prevent this fight descending into something resembling an octopus tango, remember Regulation #2 in the Queensbury Rules stipulates that there should be “No wrestling or hugging allowed,” despite his lack of style, Skelton is very effective early on and should wade through McBride’s best shots, if indeed he has a “best” shot, scoring a knockout somewhere before the halfway point.

Verdict: Skelton KO 5

Also on the bill, which has been labelled the “biggest heavyweight fight in Britain since Lewis-Bruno,” Audley Harrison meets Danny Williams for a chance to stake his claim in an alphabet top 10. Many think this is too big a step for Audley who’s been busy dismantling tomato cans since he turned pro after the 2000 Olympics.

Harrison, who goes by the nickname, “The ‘A-Force,” is 19-0 in the five years since his triumph in Sydney. Now 33, a year older than Williams, he is finally stepping up his opposition in his quest to become heavyweight champion. For Williams this will likely be his last chance to remain a “contender” and a loss here will put him in the “name opponent” category.

Williams, has fought just once since the Klitschko loss and controversially withdrew 24 hours before taking on Skelton for the British and Commonwealth titles in July. At the time Frank Warren stated he would never have anything to do with the fighter again but appears to have forgiven Williams’ excuse of having flu because apparently “it’s going round.” The one attribute Williams has shown in recent fights is “heart.” He displayed that in abundance during his fights with Tyson and Klitshcko. But these fights proved that 1, Tyson was shot and 2, That Williams will always be badly outclassed at the highest level.

Will experience tell? Or will the fresher fighter succeed? I think the latter, as Harrison has the superior boxing skills. This could finally be the fight where the boxing world finally gives “Fraudley” some credit. Not that he’s earned it as yet, but a victory here will go some way to getting rid of the “F” and the “R” that prefixes his name in some of the tabloids,
and he will finally show the world that he is a force in the division (then again, who isn’t nowadays?)

The vast majority will probably pick the more-seasoned Williams to win here but I disagree. Audley, while not as advanced in his career as he should be, is the more talented fighter, and should be comfortable behind his long jab to earn a wide points decision.

Verdict: Harrison by wide points margin.

With Amir Khan fighting on the undercard (as well as another rising star in Kevin Mitchell), terrestrial TV viewers will tune in regardless, so all four heavyweight fighters needs to impress the masses if they are to gain any new fans. British fans, usually of an aesthetic eye, more often prefer middle or welterweight fights as oppose to the lumbering heavyweights we’ve seen only too often on these shores. The odds might be against it but let’s hope we’re talking about these fighters in work the following Monday morning for all the right reasons.

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Boxing News Tuesday Night Fight Talk: Skelton Needs Early KO to Prevent Farce (and Is Audley Ready for Williams?)