Introducing the sixth instalment of the popular weekly column provided by unbeaten middleweight boxer from Nottingham, Dean Gillen.
The firefighter-come-boxer discusses this week’s hot topic in the sport of boxing:
Carl 'the Cobra' Froch has recently announced his retirement from the professional prize fighting arena. His amazing career entertained boxing fans around the world, thrilling us all with a gladiatorial style that was a force to be reckoned with.
His departure from the sport has left a massive void in boxing, especially within his beloved home city of Nottingham!
In 2014, 'The Cobra' was made honorary freeman of the city of Nottingham, which is the highest honour a City can bestow on an individual. The city situated 30 miles south of Sheffield is known as 'The Queen of the Midlands' and Froch was certainly the 'King' during his reign.
Nottingham has had it's fair share of success from various walks of life from legendary football manager, Brian Clough, ice-skating Olypic gold medallists, Torvill and Dean to the fashion designer, Paul Smith.
The land of Robin Hood is a truly great place and has produced some legendary boxing talent over the years. This weeks column is attributed to some of Nottinghamshire's finest boxers, past and present.
Herol Graham (48-6) Middleweight
Quite simply, the best British boxer of the post-war era never to have won a world title. The truth is that some of the very best boxers from the last 25 years refused to fight Herol "Bomber" Graham and he failed to win a world title during a remarkable boxing career.
He became well known for his appearances in pubs and clubs in Sheffield where he would invite people to try to hit him while having his hands behind his back. He was so quick no one could ever lay a glove on him.
William 'Bendigo' Thompson
Born in Sneinton in 1811, William 'Bendigo' Thompson was the youngest of 21 children! In 1835 he was the bare-knuckle boxing champion of England and in 1955 he entered into the Boxing Hall of Fame. He was extremely popular with spectators as he would taunt his opponents through reciting rhymes and pulling distracting faces - one of the fist trash-talkers ever!
Today Bendigo is remembered through 'The Bendigo' pub in Sneinton, a tram named after him, a display in Forest Tavern where he supposedly fought, and a plaque in Beeston where he died, aged 60. It's fair to say that he has left his legacy on the city.
Steve Williams (13-2-1) Bantamweight
The first, just happens to be a friend of mine, Steve Williams. He was known as 'The Boxing Jockey', as he was also a Professional Jockey during his boxing career. Nowadays, I work alongside Steve as a professional Firefighter.
Steve is a remarkable and talented man! However, he hasn't been mentioned for being a friend, he was after all a great domestic level boxer. His career spanned from 1995 to 2002, where he won the Midlands Area bantamweight title and contested for the British title in the same division.
They say boxing is in the blood and this is true of the Williams family. Steve's son, Jamie Williams, is the current flyweight International Bronze Masters champion and steadily climbing his way up the rankings after beating the YouTube sensation, Usman Ahmed! Usman had previously challenged for the British and commonwealth titles prior to being schooled by Jamie, thus showing the level Jamie is destined for! Diddsy as Jamie is known, has all the attributes and skills required to help him succeed above and beyond what his dad managed.
Fidel Castro Smith (22-8) Super-middleweight
With a cool name like Fidel Castro Smith and boxing talent to match, he's obviously one of Nottingham's finest!
Fidel's career lasted seven years from 1987 onwards, where he won the Midlands Area and British super-middleweight titles. He also contended for the Commonwealth and British title a further two times. He was never stopped throughout his career and only ever lost on points!
'The Slugger', as he was known, is a quiet and unassuming man, but he doesn't pull his punches inside or outside the ring. He isn't concerned with hurting young pretenders fragile feelings, he's a real man's man and when he speaks, you listen!
Carl Greaves (32-7) Super-featherweight
The next cool character that ensures Nottingham continues to have top talent, is the multi-talented boxer-turned-promoter, Carl Greaves!
Not only was Carl a quality boxer, winning the WBF World super-featherweight title, but he is now also a top UK boxing promoter. He always puts on a good show, as he did in the professional boxing arena himself! When I wanted to turn pro, Carl Greaves Promotions was my first point of call!
Carl was the manager of the infamous Shane McPhilbin from Bulwell, Nottingham, when he managed to win the British title in the cruiserweight division. Shane openly admits that this success exceeded his own expectations, even so, he was still quite unfortunate during his boxing career. The fight against Enzo Maccarinelli highlights this, as it was one of the most controversial fights that I have seen! He had the British, European and Commonwealth champion down in the first round and in sorts of trouble when the bell was rung 47 seconds early! It was completely bizarre and incredibly suspicious. Check it out on YouTube for yourself.
Jawaid Khaliq (23-1-1) Welterweight
When you think of British Asian world champions, the one that springs to most people's minds is Amir Kahn. However, Nottingham is proud to have it's own dual heritage world champion, in Jav Khaliq.
He was actually the first British Asian World champion and paved the way for the likes of Amir. 'Too Sleek' Khaliq defended his IBO world title seven times before retiring in 2004. The IBO recognised this achievement by presenting Jav with a diamond encrusted ring, the only other boxer to receive such recognition by the IBO, was the main man, Lennox Lewis!
Jav now runs a local gym called Jawaid Khaliq's Boxing Academy. When I decided to commit to boxing in the hope of making it as a professional, this was where I headed!
Dave Needham (30-8-1) Featherweight
Dave Needham was born in Nottingham, 1951, and he trained at the Nottingham Boxing School in Radford. Needham won two ABA flyweight titles in 1969 and 1970, and he went on to win a gold medal in 1970 Commonwealth Games. His first title fight took place on 10th December 1974 at the former Nottingham ice rink, where he became the British bantamweight champion.
Leigh Wood (14-1) Super-bantamweight
Nottingham has another British title contender in Leigh Wood. Leigh-thal is a class operator and was unlucky during his first British title challenge against Gavin McDonnell. He is a Leigh-thal technician and totally out boxed his opponent, unfortunately he came up against a strong and durable warrior in McDonnell who came on strong to stop Wood. This won't deter the Nottingham man, and he will bounce back to succeed I'm sure!
It wouldn't be right not to mention the likes of Jason Booth, Andrew Lowe, Adam Kettleborough, Terry Maughan and Fonz Alexander, all of which have had, or continue to have, their own success!
Boxing is about levels, we have to accept that not all boxers will achieve success in the form of titles, but all boxers succeed in getting into the ring, and this bravery should be recognised. Win, lose or draw, boxing is the toughest sport in the world and all those who partake in the art of pugilism deserve respect.
But lets not forget, it was 'The Cobra' Carl Froch that firmly placed Nottingham on the map. Following his retirement, there is an expectation and anticipation for someone to step up and fly the flag for the East Midlands county, as Froch did so well. The 'Queen of the Midlands' now needs a new 'King of Boxing'.