By Anthony Cocks
Junior middleweight Anthony Buttigieg says that a change of trainer is only going to make him a more dangerous proposition when he defends his Commonwealth crown against undefeated English boxer Adam Harper at the Melbourne Pavilion on 16 March.
The 29-year-old, who had previously trained under Sam De Moor in Laverton for his entire career, made the difficult decision to change stables at the start of the year. Buttigieg is now trained by former IBO super featherweight champion “Wild” Will Tomlinson at Tribute Boxing & Fitness in the Melbourne inner city suburb of the Docklands.
“I knew if I wanted to progress as a fighter I needed more than I was getting,” said Buttigieg, 13-0 (3). “The first ever boxing gym I stepped foot in was back in 2004, the Laverton boxing gym run by Sammy [De Moor] so the move was hard but I believe it’s in my best interest.
“Training with Will has been very productive. Just little things we are working on and ditching a few bad habits. I think Will is definitely going to add to my game. I’m more motivated than ever and itching to get in there March 16.”
Tomlinson is still something of a novice trainer. The 31-year-old was boxing professionally as recently as 18 months ago but Buttigieg says the age similarity isn’t an issue when it comes to taking instructions in the gym.
“Definitely not difficult taking instructions,” he said. “Throw the age factor out the window, Will’s been there, done that, so he knows what’s up. I trust Will’s judgment and I feel confident having a former world champion in my corner.”
Buttigieg says one of the key differences is the energy Tomlinson brings to the gym.
“Will’s only just recently retired from fighting, so he’s got plenty of energy to work with me and is constantly adding tools to my arsenal,” said Buttigieg.
And while there is an oft-repeated axiom in boxing that it takes a few fights to adjust under a new trainer, Buttigieg isn’t having any of it.
“I disagree,” he said. “I know what’s in front of me and so does Will. We both know what I gotta do. It’s up to me to execute it.”
Buttigieg has been putting in rounds with IBF Youth 154-pound titleholder Dwight Ritchie and 6-foot-3 amateur boxer Campbell Somerville, who will be representing Australia at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April in the 75kg middleweight division. He also has rounds booked with IBF Pan Pacific middleweight champion Michael Zerafa in the coming weeks.
Harper, a 29-year-old from Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire with an 8-0 record, is a light-punching, high-volume pressure fighter. In his last outing he took Ryan Kelly’s zero to claim the vacant BBBofC Midlands Area junior middleweight title.
“Harper is your typical come-forward pressure fighter,” said Buttigieg. “He is the taller man, likes to throw a million punches and is quite well-rounded. I’m preparing to go in there and beat him at his own game.”
With neither undefeated fighter known for their punch, it is expected that the fight will go the full 12 round distance. But Buttigieg isn’t ruling out an early night.
“As fighters we always prepare to go the distance but in this stylistic match-up, it could happen,” said Buttigieg. “Harper likes to come forward so I’m not going to have to look for him.”
The fight was originally scheduled to take place in October until a knee injury to Buttigieg forced the postponement of the bout.
“Two weeks out from the fight I tore the cartilage in my knee quite badly,” said Buttigieg. “Luckily, Melbourne’s ring doctor Peter Lewis got me in with a great surgeon straight away. It was a long recovery but I’m glad to be fighting fit again.”
Buttigieg is coming off a career-best win in March when he handed hard-hitting prospect Rocky Jerkic his first loss to claim the vacant Commonwealth crown by split decision.
“[My] toughest and best performance came in the same fight with Jerkic,” said Buttigieg. “I knew I had a mountain in front of me. Everyone wrote me off and I loved it. I trained hard that camp and I’m proud of how I performed in the fight. I weathered the storm in the early rounds and knew I had it in the end. I regret taking my foot off the gas in the later rounds, but we live and learn.”
Buttigieg is your quintessential blue-collar boxer. A grinding type of boxer who applies educated pressure from the first bell to the last, he backs himself on his fitness and workrate to see him through.
He sees big challenges as the only way to continue improving in this unforgiving sport.
“It comes with the challenge of stepping up each fight,” Buttigieg said. “You train harder because of what you can see on the horizon. As fighters we learn things along the way and gain knowledge and experience form every fight.”
If everything goes to plan, Buttigieg is plotting a move south to welterweight after he defeats Harper.
“I don’t like to look past opponents, especially undefeated ones, but you will probably see me down at 147 after this one hopefully with some big fights ahead,” said Buttigieg.
JEFF HORN FINALLY RECEIVES FIGHT CONTRACT AS BOUT IS MOVED FROM NEW YORK TO VEGAS
After much back-and-forth WBO welterweight champion Jeff Horn 18-0-1 (12) has finally received the fight contract for his 14 April bout against mandatory challenger Terrence “Bud” Crawford 32-0 (23) in what will be his second world title defence.
The fight was expected to take place at New York’s famed Madison Square Garden but this changed when Horn victim Manny Pacquiao was added to the undercard by promoter Top Rank. The fight will now take place at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, where Pacquiao has fought three times previously.
Pacquiao has been matched in a ten round bout with shopworn slugger Mike Alvarado. If the Filipino senator and part-time boxer can get past the 37-year-old from Thornton, Colorado, he can expect to be matched with the winner of the Horn versus Crawford main event.
It will be Pacquiao’s first fight since being outhustled and outmuscled by the 30-year-old Fighting Schoolteacher in Brisbane last July, losing his world title by unanimous decision in the process.
“Fighting at Madison Square Garden would have been a thrill because of all the great boxing history, but I can fight there at some other time,’’ Horn told the Courier-Mail. “I’ve got a long career in front of me.
“I’m concentrating on beating Terence Crawford anywhere we fight and I’m confident I can do the job. Winning is my focus, not the venue,” he continued.
The change of venue will be a boon for all boxers on the card in one regard: unlike New York, Nevada is one of only seven US states with no income tax.
The card is expected to be broadcast on ESPN pay-per-view, a first in Top Rank’s new four-year deal with the network that was announced last August.
The 30-year-old Crawford from Omaha, Nebraska will be making his 147-pound debut after unifying all four major titles at junior welterweight and claiming the WBO title at lightweight.
Also on the card WBO super bantamweight champion and Las Vegas native Jessie Magdaleno 25-0 (18) will be battling it out with interim champion Isaac Dogboe 18-0 (12) of Accra, Ghana in what promises to be an entertaining, action-packed clash.
MOLONEY BROTHERS BACK IN ACTION AT NEW VENUE ON SATURDAY
Boxing returns to Melbourne this weekend after an 11-week hiatus when the Moloney twins Jason and Andrew continue their quest for world championship glory when they take on highly credentialed opponents at the St Kilda Town Hall this Saturday night on Hosking Promotions’ Punches at the Park 7 card.
Jason, who is ranked as high as number five in the world, will battle it out with Namibia’s Immanuel “The Prince” Naidjala 23-4-1 (13) over 10 rounds for the vacant Commonwealth bantamweight title in a fight that will double as a defence of his WBA Oceania strap. Naidjala went the championship distance with WBO bantamweight kingpin Tomoki Kameda in a losing effort in 2013.
“This is honestly the best I’ve ever felt going into a fight,” said Jason four days out from the fight. “Both physically and mentally I’m 100% ready for this and I can’t wait to get in the ring on Saturday night.”
Andrew, who is ranked as high as number six in the world, will face Filipino Rene “Commander” Dacquel, 20-6-1 (6), the IBF #5 and WBC #10 super flyweight. Andrew will be staking his WBA Oceania title against Dacquel’s OPBF strap over 12 rounds.
“This has been the best training camp of my career so far,” said Andrew. “I’m really looking forward to getting in the ring on Saturday night and making a statement in this fight against Dacquel.”
With both boxers firmly entrenched in the world rankings, it’s not lost on the twins what victory at Punches at the Park 7 will mean for their careers.
“A win over Dacquel should put me in a great position in the world rankings across all the sanctioning bodies,” said Andrew. “It’s really exciting, a win in this fight means we could get the call up to fight for the world title very soon.”
“I know an impressive victory in this fight will open the door to some massive opportunities for me, which is really exciting!” said Jason. “I feel like everything is coming together at exactly the right time and I’m only a couple of big wins away from earning my shot at a world title.”
BILAL AKKAWY PROMISES KO AGAINST GIOVANNI DE CAROLIS
This Saturday night at the aptly named Club Punchbowl in Sydney knockout specialist Bilal Akkawy will be looking to send a message to the super middleweight division when he takes on former world champion Giovanni De Carolis of Italy.
Speaking on the Fox Sports Australia television program Fight Call Out last week, the 24-year-old from the Sydney suburb of Peakhurst was confident of another victory coming via the short route.
"Even though he has been stopped twice, they were against some great champions so you can’t underestimate him, but I do believe I will put him away," said Akkawy, 16-0-1 (14), who will be defending his WBA Oceania title.
"Like with every fight I just go out there to win. I prepare to go the distance and people haven’t seen everything from me because I need an opponent to bring the best out of me.
"I do believe he will bring out a little bit more, and with every step up people will see more."
The 33-year-old challenger arrived in Australia two weeks before the fight on his own dime to acclimate to the conditions.
"My training is very hard, for strength, for resistance, for speed," said De Carolis, 25-8-1 (13), who travelled to Australia last year to help Zac Dunn prepare for his Commonwealth super middleweight title defence against Scotsman David Brophy.
"I’m training two times a day. I have many sparring with very good boxers. Orial Kolaj, Domenico Spada and Serhiy Demchenko."
De Carolis isn’t taking the fight lightly and believes that his big fight experience will be the difference on Saturday night.
"In my career I fight four times for the WBA title," said De Carolis. "Two times against Vincent Feigenbutz and two times against Tyron Zeuge. I fight against Arthur Abraham, great boxer, big puncher.
"This is the time for me to return the world champion.
"Bilal is a great puncher. He has good combinations, good speed, but I have more experience than him and I’m ready for the hard fight in any distance.
"I’m ready for everything. I want to win this fight."
GEORGE KAMBOSOS JR TO FACE TONY LUIS IN WORLD TITLE ELIMINATOR ON 11 APRIL
WBA #6 lightweight George “Ferocious” Kambosos Jr 13-0 (7) will face WBA #11 Tony “Lightning” Luis 25-3 (8) of Canada at the Olympic Park Quaycentre in Homebush, Sydney on 11 April on a card promoted by Whack Promotions.
Kambosos Jr will be putting his WBA Oceania lightweight title up against Luis’s NABA championship. The winner will be looking to position themselves for a world title shot against Venezuelan veteran Jorge Linares, the current WBA lightweight champion.
“It will be a great fight, but I’m going to give this boy a boxing lesson,” said Kambosos Jr. “He’s just another guy in the way of my world title shot.”
The 24-year-old Sydneysider was last in action in Melbourne four months ago when he sent Thailand’s Krai Setthaphon 25-3 (16) to the canvas four times en route to a ninth round stoppage in defence of his WBA Oceania crown. He also picked up the vacant IBF Pan Pacific strap with the victory.
Luis successfully defended his NABA title last October in his hometown of Cornwall, Ontario against Mexican southpaw Giovanni Straffon 14-3-1 (9) winning on points over 10 rounds.
“I am not coming to Australia to make friends, I’m coming to make fans,” said Luis, 30. “He’ll teach me how to box? Cool. I’ll teach him how to fight. I’m not concerned with winning or losing. I’m coming to break something. He’s going to remember me for the rest of his life.”
PAUL “SHOWTIME” FLEMING INKS DEAL WITH MTK GLOBAL
Undefeated super featherweight contender Paul “Showtime” Fleming 25-0 (17) has inked a deal with MTK Global that will see the burgeoning international firm co-manage the 29-year-old Australian alongside his current manager Mike Altamura.
The Queensland southpaw had an impressive amateur career that included a bronze medal at the 2006 World Junior Championships and culminated in representing his country at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“I couldn’t be happier to sign a co-management deal with MTK Global,” said Fleming. “I have been watching them from afar as they have been expanding and signing up all these huge names so it is an honour for me to be involved.”
Altamura himself recently signed on with MTK Global as an international consultant tasked with scouting and matchmaking international talent.
“Mike [Altamura] has been brilliant with me from day one so it is absolutely perfect that he became involved with MTK and will continue guiding me towards the world title shot I have always dreamt of,” said Fleming.
Altamura echoes those sentiments.
“I signed Paul at the Olympic Games in China in 2008 and have been with him for every step of the way since. We have a bond and I have only ever wanted the best for his career. That is why I am so happy that MTK Global are now involved,” said Altamura.
“Paul’s talent and desire and MTK’s experience and influence are a potent combination. I expect 2018 to be a massive year for Paul as he kicks on towards big fights on the world stage.”
JIMMY MONTOYA LURED OUT OF RETIREMENT TO TRAIN “NEXT HECTOR CAMACHO”
Veteran boxing coach Jimmy Montoya has come out of retirement at the age of 81 to train a boxer he sees as the second coming of Puerto Rican ring legend Hector “Macho” Camacho.
According to a story published at Fightnews last week, Montoya – who has trained 19 world champs by his own estimation – only needed to watch 5-foot tall Australian Louisa “Bang Bang Lulu” Hawton train once to know he was onto a winner.
“We got ourselves another young, prime Hector “Macho” Camacho, what a talent!” said Montoya.
The undefeated 32-year-old is a former WBO junior flyweight champion. In just her seventh pro bout she travelled to Hyogo, Japan to annex the vacant world title from previously unbeaten Kei Takenaka 11-1 (3) on points in August 2016.
Hawton has signed a promotional contract with 360 Promotions and will be co-trained by Elvis Grant Phillips. Her first assignment will be against Mexican veteran Anahi Torres 16-17-1 (2) for the WBC International 108-pound title over eight rounds on the undercard of the big “Super Fly II” show headlined by Srisaket Sor Rungvisai defending his WBC super flyweight championship against Francisco Estrada at the Forum in Inglewood, California on 24 February.
“I knew the first time I worked with Lulu in the gym,” said Phillips, the owner of boxing glove manufacturer Grant Worldwide and the former manager of eight world champions. “I called “Pops” Montoya and told him she’s a natural, another Camacho, born to be a champion… Wow.”