Every one of us lives by certain unfathomable rules; idiosyncratic lines we never venture across. Superstitions or clichés collected from life experience or bestowed from those who formed us. “Never drink in pubs near the market in a strange town” my Dad always implored, a directive I wish I’d adhered to when I was in Stoke-On-Trent in the early nineties but that’s another story.
An IT support engineer I once relied upon, who coincidentally knew his Funso Banjo from his George Formby, introduced me to just such an eccentric observation that had served him well. “Never trust a bloke with two first names”. Now I knew the said engineer for four years but an explanation or origin for this innate distrust was never forthcoming, he would offer countless tongue in cheek examples to prove the point; Michael Jackson, George Michael or Jason Lee (the footballer with the comedic haircut) to name just a few.
When Californian Timothy Bradley was plucked from relative obscurity to face arguably the most overlooked champion the WBC has ever had for their Light-Welterweight world title, I couldn’t help but recall the advice of my one time colleague. Although an advocate of Junior Witter’s ability and despite the challenger’s sparse credentials, I have a sinking feeling about the forthcoming contest – but I’m struggling to legitimise this foreboding beyond Bradley’s phenomenal physical condition and the illogical words of an IT support engineer I once knew.
Junior Witter remains, despite his achievements, either an undiscovered gem or unpalatable viewing depending on your preferences. Certainly, the repetitive claim of his arch rival Ricky Hatton, that Witter has based his entire career and public profile on Ricky’s popularity, is not without foundation. In short Witter is an acquired taste – his performances varying from the disorganised and disjointed (Kotelnik and Lynes) to the exciting and powerful (N’Dou and Harris) – and he’s failed, despite 36 victories and one defeat in 39 fights, to ignite or mobilise any of the Yorkshire fight fans he should be a hero to.
This lack of box office, a weakness he has ample opportunity to rectify this weekend as the bout appears on ITV1, threatens to define his career more than his activity and success within the ring. Like so many products of the Ingle gym, Witter is cut from a very distinct cloth, a cloth that creates fighters hard to hit and harder to predict but often stylistically impossible to fathom for the less trained observer.
It is within his fighting style that the enigmatic state of Witter’s career is forged. More informed observers and those with whom Witter has shared a ring will point to the many small nuances unnoticed by the casual fan. Alan Bosworth, a game circuit pro who tackled Junior for the British title in 2002 appreciates those little things and said he was close to impossible to fight.
“I was in tip-top shape that night, my head movement was good, I felt strong but Junior…the thing with Junior is, he’s switching [stances] on you and by the time you’ve adjusted to throw he’s hit you three times. And he hits fucking hard, well not so much hard, you just don’t see them coming and then its like, BANG! He’s hit you three times. He’d stand Ricky on his head.”
Bill Clinton, another with two first names. Phil Neville.
Bradley, for his part appears to be one of the few Americans to have taken notice of Junior’s career beyond his short-notice defeat to Zab Judah in 2000. Obviously, his current vested interest will have encouraged him to order a few Witter DVD’s but it seems ‘Desert Storm’ Bradley was interested long before this his shot was secured.
“I have a good game plan, I know what to expect, I know his antics, and that he switches from right to left. He tries to play mind games with his opponent. I know if you rush in at him what he will do, I know what he is going to do when he gets in a certain angle.”
A well prepared, fit, ambitious, aggressive American with his eyes on the prize not the payday? Junior Witter could find Timothy Bradley the perfect opponent to nurture more fans and respect on his ITV1 debut, or conceivably be caught getting older by a faster, fitter, stronger and fresher opponent.
As Jim the IT engineer would say, “be careful with him Junior, two first names. Just look at that John Leslie bloke”.
You’ve been warned Junior.