Arthur Amazing Again
By Andrew Mullinder (April 15, 2005)
Some people could fall into a cesspit and climb out smelling of roses. Watching Alex Arthur lying in semi-consciousness after being smashed into abject submission by Michael Gomez, most observers felt that he may have been separated from more than his senses. At the least, Arthur appeared to have exposed limitations in his temperament and technique, and severely dented his credibility and marketability by losing his undefeated record to a fighter thought to be past his peak.
On that Edinburgh night, Gomez, assumed washed up and vulnerable at the age of 26, had been brought in as the name against which Arthur could cement his position as the finest prospect in British boxing. But ill prepared, over confident, and drunk on the atmosphere of his first hometown fight as a headline boxer, Arthur blundered into the sort of violent brawl in which Gomez thrives and was promptly crushed by a torrent of left hooks in five wild rounds of boxing.
But Arthur seems to have benefited from that defeat. Not only did his beating at the hands of Gomez give him the opportunity to prove to others he had the fighting heart to match his talent, but it also gave him the opportunity to prove to himself that he needed to reassess his attitude and commitment to boxing.
Last Friday, 18 months after his fight with Gomez, with renewed dedication and with Owen Smith and Jim McDonnell as his trainers, Arthur completed his rehabilitation by defeating fellow Scot Craig Docherty by virtue of a career best performance to win the British and Commonwealth Super Featherweight titles. While he had showcased a more patient, smoother style against his post-Gomez opponents, boxing Docherty, a technically sound, European-level fighter with a solid amateur background, gave Arthur his first chance to demonstrate he had made the significant improvements required for success as a top level boxer.
Where Arthur had completely lost his head against Gomez - his senses scrambled by a combination of an electric hometown atmosphere and Gomez’s first left hook - he remained cool and calculating in the early rounds against Docherty. His opponent immediately took control of the centre of the ring, methodically advancing toward Arthur before attacking with jabs and single hooks and crosses. Arthur, on the other hand, calmly circled away from Docherty, utilising his recently increased head movement and more exaggerated shoulder rolls and feints, while occasionally catching his opponent with long jabs and neat but undamaging combinations to body and head.
However, if the first three rounds were just a scouting mission for Arthur, he ruthlessly raised the pace and the stakes in round four by laying a claim to the centre of the ring, digging his feet into the canvass and putting real power into his combinations. By the end of the round, a malevolently selective combination of power punches from Arthur had badly shaken Docherty, broken his nose, and left no doubt who was in control of the fight. From that moment, the match ceased to be competitive and became a test of how long it would take Arthur to remove Docherty’s full store of mental and physical reserves.
But rather than get excited, Arthur exercised a measured dominance; not allowing Docherty the slightest hint of a return to even terms while never trying to force a knockout. He simply maintained control of the centre of the ring, picking off and wearing down Docherty with his jabs and accurate combinations, and circling away when Docherty made an occasional optimistic surge.
By the end of the seventh Docherty cut a forlorn figure. Suffering the after affects of a sustained and cruel attack from Arthur, he looked completely shot sitting in his corner, mumbling pessimistically as his seconds tried to motivate him for “one more effort”. Docherty had a brief resurgence of energy at the very beginning of the eighth, but Arthur quickly established the superiority of his own weapons, and finally finished him with a short left hook sunk into Docherty’s ribs midway through the ninth round.
It may be a bit too easy to overestimate the importance of Arthur’s win over Docherty - and it is probably a bit to early to start predicting that Arthur would be a certainty to win a rematch against Gomez. While Docherty is solid, he is one paced and has already proved fallible at the higher levels of European boxing. Furthermore, where Docherty moved methodically forward toward Arthur, his attacks, however technically correct, are completely different from Gomez’s ferocity, which has a tendency to shrink the ring and corner all but the coolest opponents.
But the manner of Arthur’s victory does show what impressive equipment he has when properly motivated. He has the style and skill to gain full advantage from his tall, lean frame. And his calmness, his precision, and the more selective application of his power showed Arthur has matured as a fighter since his crushing defeat at the hands of Gomez.
Whether that composure can hold true when under siege from a feral Michael Gomez remains to be seen, but victory against Boris Sinitsin, the current European champion, in his next fight would suggest that Arthur has it in him to exploit the same tactics used by Javier Alvarez, who recently stopped Gomez inside six rounds, to defeat his old nemesis. And if he did, Arthur really could call himself Amazing again.
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