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British Scene: M.E.N. Show Preview - Vassell v Heffron plus Saunders & Flintoff

Dave Oakes previews Friday's M.E.N. show featuring the Commonwealth welterweight title clash between Denton Vassell and Ronnie Heffron.

Bradley Saunders will look to build on his unbeaten record.
Bradley Saunders will look to build on his unbeaten record.
Dean Mouhtaropoulos

The best fight of the weekend could be the Commonwealth welterweight title match-up between defending champion Denton Vassell and unbeaten prospect Ronnie Heffron. Unfortunately the fight at the M.E.N isn’t the main attraction even though it’s topping the bill, that accolade goes to Andrew Flintoff, the former cricketer who is having a bash at professional boxing.

It’s a shame not many people apart from hardcore boxing aficionados are talking about the Vassell v Heffron fight, it could be a great clash. Both are unbeaten, both like to trade punches and both have a point to prove.

Vassell hasn’t fought for a year and will be eager to remind fans of his ability. He looked great when beating Lee Purdy to win the title in 2010 and did well to comfortably beat the awkward Bethuel Ushona on points in his first defence. It’s a shame he’s been so inactive of late, his last fight was a hard fought victory over Samual Colomban in November last year. He hasn’t been seen since, with rumours of injuries, personal problems and him falling out of love with boxing being bandied around, none of which have been confirmed.

This will be a major step-up in class for Heffron, who has only fought journeymen thus far in his career. He can draw on an extensive amateur career, one which saw him claim junior and senior ABA titles as well as a host of other wins in British and European tournaments.

There was a lot of hype surrounding Heffron when he turned pro in late 2009; he was being touted as the next Ricky Hatton, with his aggressive pressurizing style and body punching drawing comparisons to the recently retired Hitman. It’s fair to say Heffron hasn’t been as impressive as most were expecting, he’s tended to rush his work in most fights and has more often than not looked untidy, although there have been odd glimpses of class shown.

The best wins on Heffron’s record came against Barrie Jones and Peter McDonagh, beating the latter twice in recent months. Whilst McDonagh isn’t a world beater, there aren’t many fighters who have an easy night with him, and the same applies to Heffron who had his hands full throughout both their meetings.

Neither man is a massive puncher but both hit hard enough for the shots to have an accumulative effect. Their styles should mesh nicely, both like to be aggressive, Heffron more so than Vassell, and both have high punch outputs. It should make for a great clash, especially late in the fight when they will have to dig deep.

Vassell’s done the twelve round distance three times before, whereas Heffron has yet to go past eight rounds. That, combined with Vassell’s experience of title fights, swings the bout in his favour, interestingly though, the bookies have got Heffron as an odds-on favourite. Ring rust may be a problem for Vassell but I feel his experience will be enough to give him the edge on the cards after a very close and hard fought fight.

The pick of the undercard sees Heffron’s old amateur rival Bradley Saunders taking on Peter McDonagh. Saunders and Heffron never fought in the amateurs but Heffron wasn’t happy about Saunders being picked for Great Britain squads ahead of him.

One senses that a bout between the two isn’t that far off and an impressive win over McDonagh this Friday will be the perfect platform for Saunders to build on. As mentioned previously, not many people have an easy night against McDonagh, Saunders is expected to win, and if he does it inside the distance it will certainly catch the eye.

The obvious headline grabber will be Andrew Flintoff’s debut against unbeaten Richard Dawson, an unknown American who has won both of his pro fights. It’s a battle between one fighter with a 2-0 (1) record and another with a record of 395 international wickets and a Test batting average of 31.77 – it’s not often that I write records like that!

It’s hard to tell whether this is a genuine attempt at boxing for Flintoff or just an excuse to make a television programme - only time will tell. There have been grumblings about Flintoff getting a licence to box. Whilst I’m not in favour of 34 year old men boxing for the first time, if he’s fit enough and shown he’s capable enough, then I don’t see why he shouldn’t be allowed to box. I just hope he doesn’t get knocked unconscious because that really won’t be good for boxing’s image.

e-mail Dave Oakes

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