‘Sugar Ray Clay Jones Jr’, AKA Anthony Small takes to the ring this Friday when he defends his British and Commonwealth light-middleweight titles against fellow Londoner Sam Webb at the Goresbrook Leisure Center in Dagenham, Essex.
The controversial Small is loved and loathed in equal measures for his cockiness and self confidence that some call arrogance. He has even described himself as being like Marmite;
”You either love me or you hate me!”
28 year old Small ( 23-1, 16 ko´s) takes his ring moniker from his boxing idols Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali and Roy Jones.
At his best, Small reminds this writer more of Wilfredo Benitez and Kirkland Laing; both supremely talented yet cocky and controversial characters. When he is on form, Small looks genuine world class, but he can get bored and look lazy in the ring, and he can also be knocked out of his rhythm, as happened when Small sustained his only pro defeat, a seventh round TKO at the hands of Bradley Pryce in July 2007.
Small entered the ring at the O2 Arena in London that night with a perfect 17-0 record. Pryce, a dangerous puncher but inconsistent performer with six defeats in thirty fights, was defending his Commonwealth title.
From the get-go, it was Pryce who took control of the fight, bossing Small with his aggressive boxing and powerful punching. Pryce looked supremely confident, and much bigger physically than Small. It took Small until the fifth round to get into the fight, and he scored with some quality combinations in the sixth that hinted that the tide might be turning.
It wasn’t to be though, and Pryce caught small with a barrage of heavy shots in the seventh, sending him retreating to the ropes, Small was clearly hurt, yet attempted to ‘play possum’; an old-school boxing technique where a fighter would pretend to be in serious trouble, lure his opponent in for what he would assume was the kill, and then unleash a furious barrage of punches to win the fight.
The most famous example of a fighter playing possum was Jake LaMotta´s 1950 world middleweight title defense against Frenchman Laurent Dauthuille. Dauthuille had beaten LaMotta the year before prior to LaMotta becoming world champion.
In the rematch, Dauthuille picked up where he had left off, handing LaMotta a boxing lesson. Deep into the 15th round and a mile behind on points on all three scorecards, LaMotta began to stagger around the ring – feigning exhaustion, giving the Frenchman the impression he was ripe for the taking. When Dauthuille duly moved in for the kill, LaMotta spun him around and cut loose with a barrage of heavy blows, knocking out Dauthuille with just three seconds left on the clock.
The bout was Ring Magazine´s 1950 Fight of the Year.
Unlike LaMotta, Small didn’t cut loose with a barrage of shots. When Pryce barged in with more punches of his own, referee Howard Foster chose to jump in and stop the fight.
To his credit, Small didn’t let the loss to Pryce dishearten him. He was back in the ring in January 2008 stopping popular Margate puncher Mehrud Takaloo in seven rounds. Three more stoppage wins led Small to what is thus far his career defining fight; his eighth round TKO over Mathew Hall for the British and Commonwealth light-middleweight titles at Manchester´s MEN Arena last July.
Mancunian Hall, nicknamed ”El Torito” (little bull) came to ring with a fearsome reputation. With a heavy-punching, bobbing an weaving style based on that of Mike Tyson, Hall had flattened ten of his last twelve opponents. In his last fight, he had blown away Small´s nemesis Bradley Pryce in just two rounds!
Small made no friends that night in Manchester mocking Hall before and during the fight. Hall won the early rounds with his aggression, yet Small always seemed to have the measure of the champion. This time it was Small who looked the bigger, stronger fighter, and when he cut loose to the head and body, his punches seemed to have more wallop than Hall´s. By the eighth round, Small was winning as he pleased and Hall was in desperate trouble. A searing volley of punches left Hall out on his feet; referee James Davies did the right thing by jumping in.
Small was much less impressive last time out, almost losing to Manchester’s Thomas McDonagh last November. Small seemed uninspired, and did just enough to retain his titles in a dour contest.
On Friday Small comes face to face with his old amateur rival Sam Webb. Webb twice defeated Small on points in the Southeast London amateur championships, turning the trick in 2003 and again in 2004, when both were welterweights. At that time Webb looked the better prospect of the two. 28 year old Webb (15-1, 4 ko´s) boxed internationally for England, including meeting Andre Dirrell in an England v U.S.A clash in November 2002. That night, the American, who also fights this weekend when he faces Arthur Abraham at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, was too good for Webb, winning on points.
Webb turned professional in October 2005, and his only setback was a 2006 cut eye defeat to Alex Stoda in his fifth bout. Webb took a huge step-up in class last May when faced the aforementioned Thomas McDonagh in a British title eliminator, prior to McDonagh´s bout against Small.
McDonagh, with just one split decision loss in 38 fights was the clear favorite, yet Webb took the fight to the the taller, rangier McDonagh, out-hustling him to win a razor thin 96-95 decision on referee Victor Loughlin´s scorecard.
With just four TKO´s on his record, Webb is clearly not a heavy hitter. His strength is his busy, high volume, pressure style. He is at his best when he is backing an opponent up with fast combinations. If he can get into his favored high tempo rhythm, he could be a nightmare for Small. At 5´9´´ tall, he is the same height as Small, though not as strong physically.
British boxing legend Ricky Hatton returns to London for the first time in over five years, although this time waring his promoters hat. The bout is Hatton Promotions first show in the capital, and Ricky had this to say about it;
”Its great to finally stage a fight in London. I received tremendous support the six times I fought in London, especially with John Thaxton for the British light-welterweight title. Hopefully, the fight between Anthony small and Sam Webb can produce as good a contest as we did that night.”
This fight should be an excellent matchup between two contrasting yet talented young British fighters. Webb wont allow Small to be complacent; he will be right in his face from the first bell, and unless Small brings his A-game with him on Friday, Webb will be in his face in the last round as well, sweeping him aside for the decision.
This is a huge test for Small; he must prove that he can focus at domestic level if he wants to realize his ambitions on the world stage.
I believe Small doubts he can win this one on points, and that´s why I think he will step up to the plate and score a TKO around the eighth round.
Big Fight Odds; Anthony Small 3/10, Sam Webb 12/5 bet365