By Ben Carey
I read with interest Alex Arthur’s recent comments in The Sunday Mail that he is planning imminent talks with promoter Frank Warren concerning his future career direction.
Arthur, surprisingly outpointed by Nigel Wright on the undercard of Amir Khan’s one-round demolition of Dimitriy Salita last month, is frustrated over his perceived lack of opportunities and may consider leaving long-time promoter Warren.
“Being on the bill at six o’clock in the evening, as happened on the Khan show at Newcastle this month when I fought Nigel Wright, is not going to happen again. I’m a former world champion who has had more title bouts than most and think I deserve some respect,” Arthur told The Sunday Mail’s reporter Jim Black.
“Ideally I would like to return to the ring at the end of February or the beginning of March. But if Frank says it will be hard for him to work me back into the title mix and is unable to get me meaningful fights I would like to think he will be good enough to release me and let me find another promoter,” Arthur continued.
Arthur’s career has stalled since he lost his WBO super-featherweight title against Nicky Cook on points in September 2008 (on the same evening Amir Khan was wiped out by Breidis Prescott). The Scot blamed his lacklustre display on weight making difficulties, which were evident during his struggle to overcome Stephen Foster Junior nine months earlier.
After conceding that he could no longer drag his 5’9 frame down to the 9st 4lbs super-featherweight limit, Arthur returned to action eight pounds heavier (9st 12lbs, 3lbs above the 9st 9 lightweight championship limit) and looked sharp when blowing out Mohamed Benbiou inside a round. Instead of keeping busy and staying sharp, Arthur remained out of the ring for six months prompting him to make the ill-conceived decision to step up to light-welterweight and box the useful (but beatable) Nigel Wright to get some much needed rounds under his belt.
Arthur’s gamble to tip the scales at a career heaviest 10st 1 ½ lbs badly backfired and the sluggish Scot dropped a 78-76 points decision in front of a sparse Newcastle crowd.
“I’m not going to start blaming other people for what happened because no one forced me to take the fight,” conceded Arthur
“But being on at 6pm in a half empty arena fighting an eight round contest is no use to me. When you’ve been a world champion used to topping the bill or at least featuring as the main support it is impossible to become motivated in these circumstances.”
“My performance definitely suffered because of the timing of the bout but that wasn’t the only reason I lost. I also went into the ring far too heavy and looked quite fleshy, something I have never been in the past. That night I felt as if I was wearing one of the weighted vests we use at training and don’t want to experience that again,” Arthur insisted.
The reality is that irrespective of the time he was boxing, Arthur SHOULD have been sufficiently motivated and with the right attitude SHOULD have been good enough beat Wright. Had he done so, Arthur could have placed himself on the shortlist to challenge Amir Khan in an all-British clash for Khan’s WBA light-welterweight crown.
Clearly, Arthur’s inactivity has been more of a hindrance than a help – the Edinburgh man has boxed only four times in two years. With this in mind, I am astonished that Arthur has turned down Warren’s offer to fight Dagenham’s Kevin Mitchell for Mitchell’s WBO inter-continental lightweight title at Wembley Arena on February 13. Arthur’s justification is that he hasn’t been given enough notice to prepare but by the same token how can he openly criticise Warren for not providing him with the ‘meaningful fights’ he craves?
The fight would be in the lightweight division which is surely where Arthur’s future lies given he is unable to make super-feather and too heavy at light-welter. Victory over Mitchell would also see Arthur take the Dagenham man’s no.1 ranking with the WBO and put him in touching distance of another world title crack.
Mitchell may be unbeaten and coming off an impressive career best victory when taming Breidis Prescott on points last month but an in-form and focused Arthur would stand an excellent chance of beating the Dagenham man. For my money, Mitchell’s victory over Prescott didn’t establish the Mitchell as a world class fighter, it exposed Prescott for the raw, one-dimensional puncher that many knew he really was until Amir Khan foolishly allowed the Colombian to detonate bombs on his unprotected and vulnerable jaw.
Mitchell still has some convincing to do and, remember, badly struggled to overcome Carl Johanneson when capturing the British super-featherweight title, a fighter Arthur would have beaten with something to spare. I can’t help but think that Arthur’s decision will come back to haunt him. Given his loss to Wright, what has he got to lose by taking on Mitchell and what alternative route could Arthur take that is likely to catapult him back into world contention as quickly?
The reality is that Arthur is no longer the big draw he thinks he is or indeed ever was – the Scottish fans never turned out in droves to support Arthur or his countryman Scott Harrison at the peak of their careers. He is coming off a points loss to a fighter who barely scrapes into the top ten British light-welterweight rankings yet, despite this, has been offered a glorious opportunity to box on a major show against a fighter he is capable of beating in arguably his strongest division.
Fighters often blame promoters or their trainers (and Arthur’s had more than his fair share throughout his career) for their lack of progress. Fellow Scot Willie Limond has also been moaning about his stagnating career but has similarly passed on the opportunity to fight Mitchell. Sometimes however, the buck lies with the boxer and if Arthur needs further clarification as to why his career has hit the skids he need look no further than himself.