Interview by Gianluca (Rio) Di Caro
Last week I was fortunate enough to catch up with one of the UK’s most decorated Champions – former multi British, Commonwealth, European Union, European, WBF, WBU and WBC Light Welterweight Champion – Junior Witter at the Prizefighter-Welterweights II promo shoot at the Sky Television Studios in Osterley.
This Tuesday night Junior will be back in action at the aforementioned Prizefighter – Welterweights II along with former foe, European and IBO World Champion Colin Lynes, former British Champion Kevin McIntyre, current International Master Champion Yassine El Maachi, former European title challenger Peter McDonagh, former British Masters title challenger Nathan Graham and unbeaten prospects John Wayne Hibbert and Bobby Gladman.
I’m sure that Junior doesn’t need any introduction to any boxing fan anywhere in the World, as he’s fought nearly every big name out there at Light Welter, but here is his brief(ish) championship bio.
His first title came on his thirteenth professional outing, unlike most it wasn’t a domestic area title, no not Junior he went straight in for a World title, the WBF version, and won it. His victim, sorry his opponent, nah I was right the first time, was former British and Commonwealth title challenger Malcolm Melvin. The fight lasted just four minutes and thirty three seconds before Junior knocked out Melvin to claim his first pro championship title.
Just over a year later Junior stepped up to the plate and challenged Zab ‘Super’ Judah for his IBF title, on the undercard of Mike Tyson versus Lou Savarese.
Junior received the call, to face Judah, with just nine days notice but still took the fight. It was a cracking fight but Junior’s lack of time to prepare came into play and after twelve hard fought rounds all the judges cards read in favour of the Champion.
This, his first loss, caused Junior to take a long hard look at his future, in doing so Junior and his team decided to to change tack and target another World title shot, but via the more traditional route, via Domestic and European titles.
Six fights after the loss to Zab Judah see Junior make his first challenge for a domestic title, the vacant British Light Welterweight belt against Alan Bosworth. Having enough time to prepare for the fight showed as Junior cruised to an early victory, having stopped Bosworth in the forty fifth second of the third round.
Junior’s very next fight see him add the Commonwealth belt to his collection, following the second round stoppage of Ghanaian Champion Laatekwei Hammond.
Two second round stoppages followed, the first over Lucky Sambo in a non-championship bout and then over Giuseppe Lauri in a WBO title eliminator, before Junior challenged, and beat, Juergen Haeck for the European Union crown.
Another couple of non-championship fights followed, against Fred Kinuthia and Oscar Hall – both wins for Junior by stoppage finishes, before Junior challenged Salvatore Battaglia for the vacant European title. No surprise here Junior lifted the belt with a second round stoppage finish.
Yet another second round stoppage victory, over Krzysztof Bienas, followed on Junior’s first defense of the European title.
Junior’s first fight of 2005 see him not only successfully defend his Commonwealth title, against Lovemore N’dou, but in doing s also win the WBC World Light Welterweight Title eliminator.
His second fight of the year see him successfully defend his European crown against Andriy Kotelnik. Which set him up nicely for his final fight of the year against fellow Prizefighter – Welterweights II competitor Colin Lynes.
Domestically this was a massive fight with Junior’s British, Commonwealth and European titles all on the line. Junior came through in flying colours to retain the titles by unanimous points decision – 117-112, 116-112 and 115-114.
It was almost a year before Junior was back in action, and having cleaned up the domestic scene his eyes were firmly on a major World title. On the 15th September 2006 at Alexandra Palace in London Junior took on Washington DC’s former WBO Light Welterweight World Champion DeMarcus Corley for the vacant WBC World title.
Junior plain bedazzled and frustrated Corley throughout twelve tension filled rounds, after which the judges scorecards read 118-112, 117-111 and 116-114 all in favour of the British star.
2007 see Junior convincingly defend his crown twice, the first time against WBO Inter-Continental champion Arturo Morua ended with a ninth round stoppage. Hs second defense see him finish former WBA World champion Vivian Harris with a spectacular seventh round knockout.
For his third defense Junior came face to face with the formidable Timothy Bradley – the current unified WBC & WBO Champion. Junior fought with the heart of a Tiger but Bradley proved too good for him. Junior survived a scare in the sixth round, after a massive overhand right sent him to the canvas, to lose by a close 112-115, 114-113 and 115-113 split decision.
Six months later Junior was in action at York Hall, where he will be again on Tuesday night for Prizefighter – Welterweights II, for a non-championship ten rounder against former Argentinean Champion Victor Hugo Castro. Yet another early short day in the office for Junior as after just one minute and ten seconds into the third round he sent Castro to the canvas for the second and final time.
Nine months later Junior was back on the Championship trail, this time it was Saint Louis, USA’s then unbeaten star Devon Alexander in the opposing corner. It was a seriously tough test, but one Junior was more than capable of undertaking. Unfortunately the fight was cut short when Junior was forced to retire on the stall at the end of the eighth due to a serious injury to his left hand.
It would be eighteen long months before Junior returned to the ring, and his final title challenge to date. In February this year Junior winged his way across the Atlantic to face Canadian Champion Victor Lupo Puiu, for the WBC International Silver Welterweight Title, at the Hershey Centre in Ontario, Canada.
Witter’s Welterweight debut didn’t quite go to plan, as at the end of the ten round championship bout the judges scorecards read 95-94, 97-91 and 96-93 in favour of the Romanian born Canadian.
So there you have it, we’re bang up to date, well sort of. Junior has been drawn to face Nathan Graham in the first round of Prizefighter – Welterweights II on Tuesday night. OK so now we are up to date, so without further ado I am proud to present a Prizefighter Q&A with Junior Witter.
Rio – Thank you for talking with me today. My first question is what are your thoughts on the Prizefighter series?
Junior – It’s an interesting idea, it’s good, tests you. It’s a completely different game to a normal boxing title fight.
It brings the less talented on to a more level playing field with the talented, especially when you are talking about fighters like me who use skill, timing., accuracy, that sort of boxer, it takes it away from them and gives it to the less skillful fighters.
At the same time if you are quick, accurate, sharp and powerful you’ve got that power to make it all good.
Rio – The Prizefighter format is a maximum of three three round fights in quick succession, six of your last seven fights were twelve round World title fights and fifteen of your last seventeen fights were title fights, a mix of commonwealth, European and World titles. How do you see yourself making the transition to three rounders?
Junior – It’s not going to be a problem, because the way I’ve trained for it. With sparring the way Dom (Dominic Ingle) pushed me. Sparring I’ve had Kell Brook, Kid Gallahad, all the other names. It works, we’ve done short, sharp, fast and they’ve hammered me.
It’s just the way I train in the gym, hammer people and they hammer you. The idea is not to get beat so with that I’ll be OK, it’ll all be good.
Rio – You’re still right up there at the top and used to competing for titles. It seems that the winner Prizefighter gets a title shot shortly after, did that influence your decision to take part?
Junior – I wanted to do it anyway. I’ve always wanted to do it since I first heard about it because I like fighting, I like boxing, I like the action and it’s three fights in one night.
I can remember back in the amateurs fighting two fights in one night. Yeah it’s hard work and it’s pressure. I enjoy that and that’s what it’s going to do for me so yeah I wanted it.
I’ll get another title fight after this one, most definitely.
Rio – OK, now onto your thoughts on the other fighters in the competition, firstly an old foe Colin Lynes.
Junior – He’s done well for himself, been up, been down. He’s a good fighter, he’s a little bit awkward but on a bad night myself he couldn’t beat me in a twelve rounder but in three rounds, well.
I’ve got no worries about him myself, I’m not worried about any of the fighters because you can’t concentrate on any particular fight because you don’t know who you are going to get. Up to now all I’ve done is concentrate on myself, which is what I like doing anyway.
Rio – Another former Champion is next, Kevin McIntyre, what’s your thoughts on him?
Junior – He was British Champion, out of all them the last fighter I see was Kevin McIntyre and that was against Kell Brook and he struggled with the power and you all know how hard I can hit, I’ve got no worries.
Rio – OK, we’ll move onto Yassine El Maachi then.
Junior – What, he’s got a big mouth. He has he’s got a big mouth, he thinks he’s the bee’s knees. I mean the difference is I know what I know, I’m not thinking, I’m not saying one day I’m going to be there, I am there, been there and I’ll be back on top again so who you name out of all of them I’m not bothered, I’m not worried about any of them.
Rio – Next up is someone you know well, Nathan Graham, what’s your thoughts on him?
Junior – That’s right. He looks in good shape, he boxed one of my friends, he beat him.
He’s awkward but he’s a completely different fighter to me so him beating him didn’t mean anything. If I get him I’ll just take it as it comes.
Rio – OK, your thoughts on Peter McDonagh?
Junior – He’s been around, he’s been out speeded before. He’s a good fighter but he hasn’t boxed anyone with my speed, my size and my accuracy.
Forget the power yeah he’d been outworked before because they were to fast for him. I’m faster.
Rio – John Wayne Hibbert’s next, your thoughts on him?
Junior – Decent enough fighter but he’s never really been tested.
Rio – Last but not least your thoughts on Bobby Gladman
Junior – I don’t know much about him other than he’s unbeaten.
Rio – Thank you so much for talking to me today, is there anything else you would like to add.
Junior – I’m not disrespecting anybody in it because everyone that’s in it it is in it because they’ve done something and it’s giving them a chance.
Everybody has a chance but I know what I’ve got, the best chance and all I’m going to do is concentrate on being the best I can and win on the night.
Prizefighter – Welterweights II, featuring Junior Witter, Yassine El Maachi, Colin Lynes, Kevin McIntyre, John Wayne Hibbert, Bobby Gladman, Nathan Graham and Peter McDonagh, takes place at York Hall, Bethnal Green in London on Tuesday 7th June 2011.