With most of the world’s population finding themselves with a lot of time on their hands due to the COVID-19 outbreak, there are plenty of classic fights from days gone by to choose from if you find yourself at a loose end. Here, I look at UK fights from down the years that may have been forgotten, but are absolute classics with background stories to match.
I begin with a domestic classic from 2003.
Alex Arthur v Michael Gomez – 25th October 2003, Meadowbank Stadium, Edinburgh – British Super Featherweight Title
In 2003, Scotland’s Alex Arthur was one of promoter Frank Warren’s star turns, and well on the road to becoming a global star.
He had already claimed the British Super-Featherweight title, as well as WBA, IBF and WBO Intercontinental belts and was being fast tracked to world title level.
A precocious amateur, as a 1998 Commonwealth Games Gold medallist, Arthur was snapped up by Warren and turned professional in 2000.
The Edinburgh man would win the British title in just his twelfth outing, knocking out Steven Conway in four rounds to win the vacant belt in October 2002.
He made two impressive defences, stopping Carl Greaves in six and Willie Limond in eight, either side of a sixth round stoppage of Patrick Malinga.
Arthur was being highly touted and promoted and his promoter believed his charge was on course to major honours sooner rather than later.
Conversely, Manchester’s Michael Gomez, was a stark example of how quickly things can go wrong. Born in the back seat of a car in Ireland, Gomez, who changed his surname from Armstrong to take the name of Puerto Rican great Wilfredo Gómez, was no stranger to controversy and lived a wild lifestyle both in and out of the ring.
After amassing a 4-3 record through his first seven professional fights, Gomez knuckled down and won 19 straight, including the Lonsdale Belt before a shock ninth round stoppage defeat to Olympian, Laszlo Bognar checked his swift progress.
Gomez would immediately avenge this defeat, stopping the Hungarian in three rounds just five months later.
The Irishman would then win the prestigious British title outright with a second round stoppage of Craig Docherty, but would be derailed again in an eighth round defeat to Kevin Lear in June 2002 in a challenge for the WBU belt.
During the period between the first Bognar fight and the loss to Lear, Gomez’s life spun out of control. He was convicted of four drink-driving offences.
During a street fight, Gomez was stabbed, badly injured, and his heart stopped beating for 48 seconds while on the operating table.
The Lear defeat left Gomez seemingly on the Frank Warren scrapheap, and his long time trainer, Brian Hughes, told him to retire, advice that was ignored.
Gomez instead switched to Billy Graham’s Phoenix Camp, alongside stablemate Ricky Hatton, claiming three stoppage wins against nondescript opposition, with Warren using him presumably as a routine defence for Alex Arthur’s British strap, as a decent name on the Scot’s record.
In the first professional boxing card in Edinburgh for almost 20 years, the stage was set for Arthur to dazzle in front of an adoring home crowd.
Prior to the fight, Arthur said: “Looking deep into Gomez’s eyes at the press conference, I’m not sure even he believes he can win.”
“He’ll be so fired up I expect it’ll take me eight or nine rounds but, if his resistance has gone as people are saying, it could be a lot sooner,” Arthur added.
“I see about 20 ways to beat him. I’m just looking forward to shutting him up.”
Arthur was a strong favourite to beat Gomez on the night, with many believing Gomez had simply abused his body to the maximum and that this represented a stepping stone on the way to an inevitable world title for Arthur.
Arthur had been working with Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach, but the American had chosen to stay in the USA for the contest to coach another one of his fighters.
Gomez was fearless and travelled to his opponent’s hostile back yard in search of breathing new life into his faltering career.
Gomez stunned Arthur with relentless combinations throughout and despite taking some powerful shots from Arthur, the Irishman stunned his foe with a dramatic onslaught in the fifth round to produce a stoppage after three knockdowns.
Find out what happened in an absolute domestic classic by watching the drama unfold here: