Norwich ready to become a fine city of champions

EDP 24 Chris Lakey21st May, 2009

Norwich could boast an unprecedented three British champions by the end of the year.

The city's favourite son, Jon Thaxton, looks set to revive his career with a lightweight title challenge in September while light-heavyweight Danny McIntosh is pencilled in for a return to the Norwich ring in July when he faces Nathan Cleverly for the vacant British crown.

And Sam Sexton's Commonwealth heavyweight success in Belfast last Friday has paved the way for a shot at champion Danny Williams.

It could be a stunning hat-trick for Norfolk - and there could be more to come, with the impressive Walsh brothers from Cromer in action at York Hall, Bethnal Green tomorrow when they will be looking to stake their own claims for title fights.

"It just shows that although Danny doesn't train in Norwich it's a great boost for the city as far as boxing's concerned," said Graham Everett, who trains Sexton, Thaxton and the Walshes.

"It's a fantastic boost. This is now a boxing city, we have some good fighters around.

"Years ago we used to have good shows in Norwich with Herbie Hide and people like that, great events, but we had a bit of a lull.

"Now hopefully we can rekindle those great days again. We certainly seem to be doing - and it would be nice to keep it going."

The Walsh brothers have come up through the local amateur ranks, and Everett says there are more to come.

"I have got some good young lads coming up to the gym now, they're good boys," he said. "A lot of the top amateurs do come to the gym with their trainers for sparring now, which is the way it should be."

Local promoter Neil Featherby believes the city is now seeing the rewards of local shows he promoted in recent years, which gave Norfolk boxers a launch pad.

"With these boys plus the Walshes and Herbie Hide, this is probably the healthiest and best it has ever been in terms of boxers performing in the Premier League, because that's where they are," he said.

"I still think a lot of this goes back to the hard work we did a few years ago when we were promoting in Norwich because if we hadn't been in the position to promote those shows those boys wouldn't have come through - Sam and Danny came through on our promotions and they have definitely brought a lot of talent through because success breeds success.

"Having three British champions is a big, big possibility, a probability would be better. I think we've only had Thaxton and Hide as British champions - it's incredible to think you could surpass that in one year.

"Danny McIntosh is still a young fighter even at 29, in terms of miles on the clock. It will be a tough fight but he has got the equipment to win it and everyone knows what Jon can offer, he's never say die."

Thaxton will be on the same bill as McIntosh, who will also have the Commonwealth title to aim for against Cleverly on either July 11 or July 18, at either the Norfolk Showground or Esporta, where Hide beat Tony Tucker to win the WBO world heavyweight title in June, 1997.

Thaxton hasn't been in the ring since losing his European lightweight crown to Anthony Mezaache at the Norfolk Showground in February, but gets the chance to regain the British belt he relinquished after two defences. He will meet the winner of next monthmatch-up between holder John Murray and Scott Lawton on September 5, possibly in Norwich.

Everett says Thaxton is ready to achieve his ambition of winning the belt outright.

"He's refocused, got himself back together - that's what he does," Everett said. "He's a boxer. He has taken knocks in his career before and come back strong. That's what he will be looking to do this time.

"He has always wanted to win that Lonsdale Belt outright. He got the opportunity to fight for the European so he had to bypass it, and move on - but he won the European, then lost it, so now he's back for the British."

Sexton is weighing up his options after his stunning Commonwealth win over Martin Rogan on Friday.

"You just have to let the dust settle, but the thing is we are in a good position now," said Everett. "We said beforehand that any talking is no good without winning the title. He has won the title and it puts himself in a good position. He is a young heavyweight with a good future."

The Walsh brothers are in action in east London tomorrow: Michael fights Issac Quaye, Liam takes on Baz Carey and Ryan faces Marc Callaghan.

"These are good learning fights that give you the substance for later days," said Everett. "They will provide entertainment as always - each one brings a little bit of something different to the table but in what order we're not sure.

"I genuinely believe they have title fights in them - definitely Areas, possibly English, Commonwealth, British, who knows?

"With Michael being the smallest if he gets a couple of wins under his belt he is certainly knocking on the doors with his KO record."