With back-to-back wins over Anthony Fowler and Ted Cheeseman, you’ll be hard-pushed to find a fighter who has had a more successful year at British domestic level than Scott Fitzgerald.
Squeezing home on the cards with scores of 116-113, 116-113 and 115-113, “Fitzy” wrestled the British junior middleweight title away from the 24-year-old former champion, Cheeseman, in front of a raucous Newcastle crowd after rallying late in a fight which looked to be heading the way of “The Big Cheese.”
Boxing on the outside for the first half of the fight, Cheeseman opted for a more mature, disciplined approach in his third British title fight. Using good lateral movement and controlled attacks in and out of the pocket, the former champion looked to have implemented a blueprint that would trouble Fitzgerald if sustained over the championship distance. Circling the ring and jabbing to the body of the challenger, the champion found a good rhythm during the opening stanzas.
It was a tactic that impressed the Sky commentary team, as well the fighters’ mutual promoter, Eddie Hearn, who had Cheeseman up by a considerable distance going into the championship rounds.
“After seven or eight rounds I thought this fight was done,” Hearn explained to iFL TV post-fight. “Fitzy’s head had gone, he’d been outboxed. It was almost like he was gonna’ ’No Mas’ him.”
This embellished interpretation of the fight was supported by his comments inside the ring following the announcement that Fitzgerland has secured the win. “Ted put on a clinic for nine rounds,” Hearn stated, with Fitzgerald’s team looking on in disbelief as their man paraded the ring with the historic Lonsdale belt draped over his shoulder.
It was a curious position for Hearn — and Sky — to take following a dogged performance from an extremely capable Fitzgerald. My scorecards read 115-113 in favour of Fitzgerald as the final bell rang, with a lot of Cheeseman’s early work, in my opinion, being overscored, oversold and overhyped by a seemingly biased commentary team of Adam Smith and Matthew Macklin.
Sure, Cheeseman brought an unexpected backfoot style to the fight, but the patience that Fitzgerald showed early in the fight worked to his advantage in the later rounds, with Ted’s legs beginning to tire, forcing him to trade more frequently with the challenger. Fitzgerald remained calm, despite having to solve a puzzle that he didn’t expect to be confronted with.
Powerful left hooks from Fitzgerald to the body of Cheeseman went relatively unnoticed throughout the fight, with the “Mad Man” doing enough in the second half of the fight, once again, to remain unbeaten as a pro.
“I felt he was fortunate to get scorecards like that, to be honest,” Hearn emphasised after the fight.
There is a general feeling growing that Fitzgerald simply isn’t Matchroom’s or Sky’s cup of tea, with his March win over Anthony Fowler upsetting their grand plans for the Liverpudlian “Machine.”
It’s a feeling that the candid heavyweight Dave Allen was quick to shut down on Twitter. “Fitzgerald can be a superstar, handsome bastard with a personality who could sell out his local football ground, why on earth would Matchroom want him to get beat? Trust me, they don’t,” he explained.
Someone else who clearly doesn’t believe in any sort of anti-Fitzgerald rhetoric is Ted Cheeseman himself, who was quick to go on the offensive after dropping the second loss of his career.
“This is the corrupt sport we’re in,” Cheeseman shared on Twitter. “Train like a lunatic and dedicate your life, make loads of sacrifices to have politics of business take away from me what I deserve. Everyone knows who the real winner of the fight was tonight. Boxed class, everyone doubted me before, proved you all wrong and then get scammed.”
It’s a strange state of affairs when both camps leave a British title fight believing their own promotors and broadcasters didn’t want them to win the fight. With constant coverage of Anthony Fowler in the front row of the ringside seats, it’s obvious who Sky and Matchroom would prefer to have to front their British charge at 154 pounds. Perhaps their favouritism towards Cheeseman on Saturday night was to enable Cheeseman vs Fowler at the start of next year, with Fitzgerald vs Fowler II a harder sell as “Fitzy” looks to move past domestic level.
“He’s an easy first defence,” Fitzgerald told iFL TV in regards to a possible rematch with Fowler next year.
Alluding to blowing up in weight once again following the Fowler fight, Fitzgerald claimed to the Sky Sports cameras that would be the last time his dedication slips. The 27-year-old explained a concentration on weight loss sessions took away from technical work in the build-up to his win over Cheeseman. Describing his own performance as “sluggish,” Fitzgerald’s modesty bodes well for improvements as he reaches his prime as a junior middleweight.
Upsetting the applecart will always endear you to a “hardcore” section of the boxing fanbase. Fitzgerald has tapped into that market with ease over the past year, with a bright future ahead of him providing he can stay committed to the cause.