By Paul Mason (@KOBoxingSets)
This Saturday, Birmingham’s Frankie Gavin begins another climb back to former glories when he returns to action on the Kal Yafai v Suguru Muranaka undercard, this Saturday at the Barclaycard Arena in his hometown. He will face late replacement Renald Garrido (18-14-1) after original opponent Dave Ryan, retired from the sport. Garrido is most known for handing touted prospect Bradley Saunders his first loss in September 2015, when Saunders was disqualified for an intentional head butt, when desperation kicked in after he broke both hands during the fight. Garrido has gone 3-3 since that victory.
The frustrating thing for Gavin fans, his trainers, and most importantly himself, is Frankie’s inability to fight at his natural and strongest weight. The earliest warning signs came in 2008. As an amateur, Gavin was heavily decorated. He won Gold at the Commonwealth Games in 2006 in Melbourne, and became England’s first ever amateur World Champion in Chicago in 2007. He beat the Russian Aleksei Tishchenko in the semi-finals, who was previously unbeaten in four years, before defeating Domenico Valentino of Italy in the final. He was hot property, and going into the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he was considered Great Britain’s best hope of a boxing medal. However, tragedy struck, as Gavin was unable to make the weight and missed out on the games all together.
Gavin announced his switch to the paid ranks later that year, aligning with promoter Frank Warren, and training under Anthony Farnell in Manchester. This was a package deal. Along with Beijing Gold Medallist, James DeGale and Billy Joe Saunders, the three were dubbed and promoted as “The Olympians”. Gavin made his debut in his hometown in February 2009, stopping George Kadaria in the final round of their four rounder. After six straight wins, he picked up the Irish Light Welterweight Title, stopping Michael Kelly in the fifth round. Gavin then stepped up to Welterweight and beat Michael Lomax in seven. But just as he was about to move to the next level in 2011 he was hit with a series of personal problems.
His mother, who raised him as a single parent was diagnosed with cancer, his grandmother, who he was extremely close to, passed away.A points victory over Young Mutley followed in a tentative match, which did little to enhance Gavin’s reputation. His stamina was then scrutinised as Frankie struggled to a split decision win over former footballer turned boxer, Curtis Woodhouse.
A switch of trainers saw him move to London under the father-son training team of Jimmy and Mark Tibbs, but on the night before being due to face Frank Haroche Horta in October 2011, he withdrew stating he was not mentally right to fight, leaving promoter Warren fuming.
Leaving the Tibbs’, he teamed up with his old amateur coach at Hall Green ABC in Birmingham, Tom Chaney. He stopped former British champion Kevin McIntyre in three and retired tough Laszlo Komjathi in the fifth, then out boxed the wily former WBC Champion Junior Witter to capture the British title. Consecutive defences against Jason Welborn, Denton Vassell, adding the Commonwealth belt, and David Barnes saw him win the Lonsdale Belt outright in just nine months.
After outpointing late notice sub Bradley Pryce, Gavin had to get up off the floor for the first time to beat Sacky Shikuktu in Newcastle to retain his Commonwealth strap. Gavin challenged the then European Welterweight Champion, the awkawrd Leonard Bundu in Wolverhampton. Frankie was badly crumpled following a body shot in the sixth round, and showed tremendous heart and courage to get up and come back at Bundu, but the Belgian based man from Sierra Leone took a split decision win, handing Gavin his first pro loss. After a tune up fight, he then met another awkward rangy stylist in Bradley Skeete, in defence of his British crown and for the vacant Commonwealth strap. In a messy fight, Gavin came through unanimously. This also ended his association with Frank Warren, Gavin joined forces with Eddie Hearn to hunt for major honours.
Gavin made his Matchroom debut in a low key ten round points win over Bogdan Mitic on the Kell Brook v Jo Jo Dan IBF Welterweight Title bout card. After Brook blitzed Dan, Hearn wanted another quick defence for the Yorkshireman, and Gavin was pitched in with Brook with the World Title on the line in May 2015 at the O2 Arena in London. Brook would prove to be too big and strong for the Birmingham man, and Gavin was stopped in six.
Then came more controversy. Gavin was involved in a wild brawl, this time outside of the ring. He was involved in a bar fight while on holiday in Brean, Somerset while with friends and family just days after the Brook loss. Reports from the court hearing detailed that Gavin threw broken bottles at a man, smashed a bar stool over another’s head and punched a bar doorman, after he and his two friends were involved in an argument with bar staff. This not only cost Gavin a suspended prison sentence, but also lost him his boxing licence, after a six month ban was handed down by the Board of control.
Frankie returned in June 2016, under a new training team headed by Max McCracken, in a low key last round stoppage of Ivica Gogosevic in Leeds. This then paved the way for a second City derby with Sam Eggington in October last year in Birmingham. Gavin weighed in over the Welterweight limit, and was outmuscled on fight night as Eggington dropped Gavin in rounds three, six and eight, before being stopped by referee Victor Loughlin in the same round.
This now leaves Gavin at the cross roads in his career. In an ideal world, Frankie would be able to operate in the Super Lightweight (10 stone) division, but this is easier said than done. He has now joined up with Eggington’s training team at the EastSide Gym in Birmimgham. The plan was to get down to 10st 4lbs for his comeback fight, but this now looks like being closer to Welterweight, as two weeks ago reports stated Gavin weighed close to 11 and a half stone. Frankie has knuckled down to the strict Eastside regime by all reports, but coach John Pegg had the following to say two weeks ago via local newspaper, the Birmingham Mail:
He said: “I can’t fault Frankie’s training and commitment in the gym, but it’s not just about that. It is very easy to pick up bad habits, very hard to shake them off.
“One can of fizzy drink is no good, it sticks to you. Three cans are a disaster.”
So there in my opinion lies the problem. Gavin is used to home comforts, and being away from his partner and children for long periods of time does not appeal to the midlander. In order for Gavin to resurrect his career, he needs a clean break from the city and all its temptations, if only for training camps leading to fight night. He hasn’t had the career long nickname of “Funtime” for nothing, and this has blighted his career. It would be such a shame for Gavin, a standout amateur, to be left thinking “what if” at the end of his career, as it promised so much. I truly believe if he can get down to 10 stone, that we would see a different animal. Gavin’s defeats have all come at Welterweight and I believe he is between Super Lightweight and Welter, too big for Super Lightweight, but too small for Welter. But with hard work and graft, I think he can make Super Lightweight and really prosper. If he can come through on Saturday, and look good in doing so, big fights are out there for him. O’Hara Davies is a Matchroom fighter on the up and Josh Taylor is moving up the ranks also. I feel Gavin may need to mix in this company, before making another assault on the World scene. I for one would love to see Gavin fulfil his potential and become a World Champion, and the knuckling down for this begins this Saturday in his hometown.
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