Graham Earl, the former British Lightweight champion and present custodian of the WBU Lightweight belt, a strap that enables non-elite fighters like Earl to masquerade as World Champions – Something the Luton fighter is clearly not – will contest the WBO version this week. Of course, Earl will tell you he understands the charade and that he doesn’t truly regard himself as a world champion because of his success in WBU title fights, a perspective that only beggars the question – why bother?
The answer is money, and the strategic course the belt enables his promoter, Frank Warren to plot for the 28 year old. Earl earns against spurious low risk opponents and Warren is able to pacify those who only want world-title fights, whether they’re ticket buying fans or the executives of ITV. Boxing fans aren’t that easily fooled and hopefully neither are ITV.
However, Graham Earl will this week try and secure something approaching a meaningful fraction of the Lightweight title when he faces unbeaten Aussie Michael Katsidas for the vacant WBO title. I’ve not seen enough of Earl’s opponent to pass judgement on the match-up or the style of Katsidas but one thing is for sure, Earl could earn himself some hefty pay-days as the WBO champion. Castillo and Corrales’ departure to weight classes that don’t involve starvation and the adoption of a pallor only prisoners of war can mimic, leaves some vacancies at the higher echelon of all things 135.
The shadows of Pacman, Barrera, Morales and Casamayor all still fall over the class but it is probably Acelino Freitas most in the consciousness of fight fans given he vacated the belt the fighters will contest. And he remains a constant presence.
I wish Earl well in the fight, as I would any British fighter facing foreign opposition in a title fight, and with controversial victories over Bobby Vanzie, a friend of mine, the lack lustre defeat to novice Ricky Burns still scaring my objectivity I certainly like to see a compelling performance from him. He’s had some fortune to get to where he is with so few defeats on his record, but nobody could question his commitment to the cause.
Good luck Graham.