Eastman faces Spanish dangerman in fourth European title defence
By Elliot Worsell (September 22, 2004) 
Howard Eastman
Just as leading middleweights Bernard Hopkins and Oscar De La Hoya squared off at the weekend, another 160 lber at the forefront of the weight class goes about business on Friday in Nottingham, when oft avoided 33 year old Howard Eastman defends his coveted European title against the brash and heavy handed Jorge Sendra of Spain.

Eastman, 39-1, noted for going the distance and dropping former two times WBA kingpin William Joppy in his biggest fight to date, is an eccentric, cumbersome operator who packs deceivably heavy fists that have racked up 34 stoppages from 39 wins. The Guyana born champion, who also holds the commonwealth title, and who previously held the prestigious British title (newly acquired by Plymouth’s Scott Dann after Eastman relinquished), has been treading water of late, in a division that is void of any real star appeal outside of its main players. Highly ranked according to all major sanctioning bodies - it’s been a frustrating last couple of years for Eastman as he’s looked to be on the cusp of a genuine title shot - only to be just as quickly thrust back into making routine defences of his domestic titles.

This slated rumble with Sendra - though not the world title bout Eastman craves - is nonetheless an intriguing blend of styles and personalities – and if all goes according to plan, possibly the final step in the path towards some form of WBC title shot or eliminator with Arkansas born, new kid on the block Jermain Taylor. Given Howard’s long time standing as ‘numero uno’ according to the WBC, a decider with the go getting Taylor would be somewhat unjust – the ever professional Londoner however, will never gripe about his opponents.

Spanish challenger Sendra brings to the table a respectable 27-1 record, and like Eastman for his long awaited world title tilt, has paid his dues and endured some setbacks to reach this European title opportunity. Nicknamed ‘The Savage’, Sendra has been talking up his chances over the last few weeks, and if not much else, brings an engaging sense of confidence and destiny to this match-up of big hitters.

“Eastman has moved the dates so many times - at least six times - and it’s been very frustrating for me,” bemoans the fiery challenger. “There’s no fair play, and they are trying to let me down. On September 24 though, I will hand Howard Eastman the beating he deserves.”

Uncompromising words from the Barcelona based puncher that were seemingly ignited following previous cancellations of his overdue title chance. The last, when the bout was scheduled for January, saw Sendra withdraw through injury, and slippery, well-ranked Russian Sergey Tatevosyan filled the void – stretching Eastman the distance and making the methodical champion look fairly ordinary.

Sendra, who one imagines, needs no injection of confidence before a bout, nevertheless, received assurance by being ringside for Eastman’s last title defence. “I went to see Eastman’s fight against Tatevosyan and he didn’t impress me. I guess that I could knock Eastman out early, but my prediction would be a 10th round stoppage, because I want to punish him,” proclaimed the outspoken fighter looking to grasp his first recognised title strap.

Sendra’s only title triumph to date occurred in his native Spain when he captured the national title with a comprehensive eight round mauling of Xavier Moya in June 2002. Packing 21 knockouts from 27 wins, and boasting a ‘fight all comers’ attitude, it’s clear to see that if the choice is between standing toe to toe with the favoured Eastman and giving his all, or hanging on and calling for the final bell to be tolled – this proud warrior is heading out on his shield. “I’m not like many other Spanish boxers who are content to go twelve rounds when they travel abroad for a European title fight. For me it is do or die. I don’t speculate. I will either win or lose by knockout,” promises the dangerously charged Sendra.

With the high percentage knockout ratios both combatants’ posses, the contest promises to be an explosive and lively one. Given that bit of ‘bite’ all good title fights need via the spiteful tongue of Sendra, it wasn’t long before the respected and charismatic Eastman came firing back with some choice words of his own.

“I want him to back up his words,” demanded the infuriated former triple kingpin (British, commonwealth and European straps). “Then I am going to make him eat his words. This fight is not going twelve rounds; I’m going to take him out.”

A professional veteran of ten years, Eastman has mixed in a higher class than the relatively unknown Sendra, and will be assured by the fact that he has competed against and defeated superior fighters. Throughout a glory lavished career that started back in 1994 Eastman has touched gloves with noted performers such as the aforementioned Joppy, the forever-awkward Sam Soliman, textbook ex WBC title challenger Robert McCracken as well as notable wins over the likes of Hassine Cherifi and Tatevosyan at European title level. In a highly accomplished career that has seen Eastman ascend to the top of his chosen division without ever receiving the highest accolade of a world title, the ‘Battersea Bomber’ has forever been seen as a boxer who performs to the ability of his opponent. A meticulous stylist who contains many gears that are frequently left untouched due to his laissez faire, in control nature.

At a period when the main protagonists at middleweight are pairing up, and the likes of young US Olympian Jermain Taylor are marauding through the pack towards a title shot – the time is now for Eastman to careen through these often talked about ‘gears’ and produce a dazzling performance to get excited about. With the victorious Bernard Hopkins looking for money spinning avenues, Eastman has to pitch himself out there and make the best use of the WBC rating he has held for the best part of the last 12 months. At 33 years of age, the time is now for the seasoned campaigner to put his foot down and get amongst the pivotal middleweights at the table. Joppy in Vegas was no quandary for the throwback Eastman, so why not set up a similar venture for a date with The Executioner? One thing’s for sure, there’s a brawler from Spain going by the moniker of ‘The Savage’ who’ll be affording himself a wry smile upon hearing such plans.
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