Dave Oakes previews Friday night's British cruiserweight title clash between Rob Norton v Leon Williams.
Rob Norton, 32-4-2 (19), will be making the third defence of the British cruiserweight title he won back in 2008 when he takes on Leon Williams tonight at the York Hall. The Stourbridge southpaw has only had three fights in the intervening period, the most recent of which was in January last year – a contentious draw against David Dolan.
Age and inactivity could prove to be Norton’s downfall, he’s gone through numerous periods of inactivity in his career, this time he must overcome a 21 month absence. He turns 40 at the start of next year and having to grind an old body into fighting shape after so long out can’t be easy for him, although he seems the type who keeps himself in reasonable shape.
In Williams, 8-3 (4), Norton faces a fighter whose title shot hasn’t exactly been earned the hard way. Two decent knockout victories over Danny Couzens and Nick Okoth paved the way for this chance but it mustn’t be forgotten that Williams was knocked out against Richard Turba previous to those two wins – a big right hand finishing Williams in the second round. The fact Williams has got a title shot off the back of those fights is a damning statement on the standard of the cruiserweight division in Britain.
In fairness to the challenger, he’s better than his record suggests and is usually involved in crowd-pleasing fights. He’s also shown considerable improvement since teaming up with Johnny Eames earlier this year. He’s still fighting with an aggressive style but Eames seems to have installed a bit more control in him.
Norton’s long reach and southpaw craftiness mixed with Williams’ squat come forward style could make for an untidy fight at times. Norton likes fighters to come to him but can grab and hold too much when under pressure; Williams must make sure he makes the older man work hard and avoid walking onto a similar shot to the one Turba unleashed.
Both fighters made the weight comfortably at yesterday’s weigh-in. Williams looked calm and ready for battle after the weigh-in, saying "It’s a big opportunity, I’m excited. Preparations have been perfect, I’m just gonna go out there and do the business, crush him and bring the belt back."
Norton was his usual respectful and ambiguous self, saying "I don’t disrespect any opponent. All I’ve done is got myself in good condition, no doubt he has, and I’m going to play my game and he’ll play his, and whoever wins, wins, and I’ll shake his hand either way."
Norton should win, his age and inactivity is a worry though. I’m going for Norton on points but Williams could be a live underdog here if Norton has slipped since his last bout.