The remarkable Jason “2 Smooth” Booth defends his British super-bantamweight title against West Ham´s Mathew Marsh this Friday night on Frank Maloney´s bill at the Harvey Hadden Leisure Center in Booth´s hometown of Nottingham.
At 32 years old, Booth (34-5, 14 ko´s) is enjoying something of an Indian summer in his ring career. He will claim a Lonsdale belt outright if he makes a third successful defense of the title he won in April of last year. The EBU have taken note of Booth´s recent success, and he is ranked as the official challenger for his good friend and sparring partner Rendall Munroe´s European super-bantamweight title. Frank Maloney has promised Booth a world title shot if he keeps on winning. But on Friday night he risks everything against former British super-bantamweight champion Marsh. The West Ham fighter is five years Booth´s junior and enters the ring with a record of just one defeat in seventeen fights.
Booth, a professional since 1996, has boxed in four weight divisions and spent the first first six years of his pro career at flyweight. During that time he won the British flyweight title with a 10th round knockout of Scotland´s Keith Knox in 1999, and the following year claimed the Commonwealth flyweight title with a decision over South Africa´s Abbey Mnisi.
In the first defense of his Commonwealth crown, Booth ended the unbeaten run of future British and European bantamweight champion and domestic stalwart Ian Napa.
Booth was less successful when he tried to add the European flyweight crown to his collection, and was turned back three times in European title challenges.
Stepping up to super-flyweight, Booth claimed a lesser version of the world title in just his third bout at the new weight with a decision win over South African Lunga Ntontela for the IBO super-flyweight title in 2003.
After a successful defense against Huddersfield´s previously undefeated Dale Robinson he lost his IBO title to Belfast´s Damaen Kelly in December 2004.
Following the disappointment of the Kelly loss, Booth chose to move up to bantamweight and after two wins he challenged old foe Ian Napa for the British bantamweight crown. This time however, Napa was just too good for Booth and the Hackney based Zimbabwean retained his title with a unanimous decision.
Booth consoled himself five months later by winning the Commonwealth title with a ninth round stoppage of Welsh novice Mathew Edmonds. It was the start of a seven fight winning streak that saw Booth defend his Commonwealth title twice more before moving up yet again, this time to super-bantamweight where in April 2009 he stopped Liverpool´s previously undefeated Mark Moran in six rounds for the vacant British title.
Just two months later he was back in the ring, outpointing tough Rocky Dean in the first defense of his new title, and in October last year Booth faced one of the biggest tests of his professional career when he put his title on the line against the man who had dominated the super-bantamweight division at domestic level for years; Hartlepool hard man Michael Hunter.
The two had split a pair of decisions as amateurs, and there was no love lost between them when they clashed at Sunderland´s Seaburn Centre in front of Hunter´s fanatical North-East supporters. Those fans had been with Hunter as he stormed to British, Commonwealth and European success at super-bantamweight, they had supported him through numerous successful defenses of his titles, and had they had been there the only time he had come up short, when he was outclassed in five rounds by Canadian Steve Molitor for the vacant IBF super-bantamweight title in 2006.
Hunter, the 1999 ABA bantamweight champion, entered the ring in his customary camouflage shorts, ready to go to war. At almost 5´8´´ Hunter towered over the 5´4´´ Booth. An intimidating figure, Hunter had promised his fans he would knock out Booth and reclaim the crown he had never lost in the ring.
But from the opening bell the gulf in class was obvious as Booth put on a masterful display of boxing. Time and again he left Hunter swinging at thin air as he nipped in and out, landing sharp counters almost at will. By the fourth Booth was beginning to hurt Hunter, and a scything body shot in the fifth effectively ended the bout. Hunter survived the round, but his corner pulled him out of the contest when they discovered Booth´s hook had broken one of Hunters ribs. It was arguably the most impressive performance of Booth´s career.
Booth now finds himself the mandatory challenger for the European title. Holder Rendall Munroe is the WBC´s no.1 contender, and is likely to vacate the crown in preparation for his shot at the WBC champion Toshiaki Nishioka of Japan. Booth will likely fight either Italian veteran Simone Maludrottu, Ireland´s former WBA super-bantamweight champion Bernard Dunne, or Spanish slugger Kiko Martinez for the vacant title. A win would lead to a world ranking. But first he has to get past Mathew Marsh.
Former British super-bantamweight champion Marsh has lost just once in his seven year career, when he was stopped in eleven rounds by Liverpool prospect Derry Mathews back in 2007. Ironically, while Marsh has gone on a five fight winning streak since that night, Mathews has been stopped four times in his last six fights.
Marsh won the British title in 2008 with a decision over Esham Pickering, and defended it against Rocky Dean, posting the third points victory over Dean of his career. Marsh vacated his title due to weight making difficulties, so it was a surprise when he signed to fight Josh Whale for the vacant title last September. Marsh failed to make the super-bantamweight limit, so the fight went ahead as a non-title fight, with Marsh winning on points.
The worrying thing for Marsh is that he clearly has struggled for the last two years to boil his 5´6´´ frame down to super-bantam. If he makes the weight on Friday, how much strength will he carry into the ring with him?
Booth in comparison seems to have found his ideal weight, and is enjoying the best form of his career. He looks ten years younger than his 32 years, testament to never having been stopped nor sustained a bad beating. He is one of British boxers genuine entertainers, and Booth v Marsh will justifiably be the featured fight this Friday on Sky TV´s Friday Fight Night.
Look for a supremely confident Booth to pick up where he left off against Michael Hunter. Marsh, with just one stoppage win to his credit, has nowhere near the fire power to keep Booth at bay, so I am looking for the Nottingham fighter to thrill his home fans with a stoppage win inside five rounds.
Big Fight Odds; Booth 1/8, Marsh 9/2 bet365