Behind enemy Lynes against bucking, ducking Branco

Most writers will confess to soft spots for certain fighters. I pointed out my own affection to John Ruiz, the most unloved of heavyweights, only this week but the reasoning or events that form and fuel these affiliations are often curious and minuscule. It doesn’t stop at boxing, I always urged old Rex Williams on in the snooker championships because we share a birthday. Tenuous but a rivet-strong bond all the same. Colin Lynes is another fighter for whom I always wish good fortune.

On one of the first occasions I reported on a show from ringside Lynes was in action, deep on the under card and his classic technique was evident even over the shorter distance. I saw him in a cracking contest with always tough Kevin Bennett on the under card of Hamed v Calvo but it was a subsequent fight, a defeat interestingly enough, that bonded me with the Hornchurch fighter’s fortunes.

At the famous York Hall, despite a characteristically earnest effort of the by then, 21-0 Lynes, he was unable to quell the irrepressible, wild swinging Samuel Malinga, 12-2-1, and was stopped in the 8th. It was heartbreaking stuff. Lynes tried everything, from moving, to jabbing to trying to brawl with the African but no tactic could repel the marauding visitor and Lynes’ unbeaten record was snapped. He looked crest-fallen, cut and wounded beyond the physical damage Malinga, who would next trounce Ted Bami in three rounds, had imparted.

Somewhere in those slumped shoulders my affection for him was forged and it has remained, through the fortuitous defeat of Argentinean trickster Pablo Sarmiento, which annexed the IBO Light-Welterweight title, to his gallant attempt to unseat Junior Witter as British, Commonwealth and European champion in late 2005.

At that point, it appeared Lynes’ well schooled output had reached its natural ceiling but the past two years has proven the depth of Lynes’ perseverance and craft. Victories over Morrison, Mutley and Toppola by comprehensive margin has transformed the neat little trier into a formidable international fighter. Tonight, he will seek to demonstrate his international credentials by beating long-time contender Gianluca Branco in the Italian’s backyard.

Form points to victory, history points to defeat. Italy is a hard place to secure points victories – and though the UK is not without reputation – Lynes cannot afford to leave room for doubt. Only Miguel Cotto has ever put the veteran away comfortably and Lynes will need to employ his crisp jab and diligence to prevail clearly. Boxing in the opponent’s backyard is nothing new for Lynes but I suspect he will need a career best performance to get past Branco. Strong and tough at the weight.

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