JUDGEMENT Day finally dawns for prodigal Birmingham Welterweight
Frankie Gavin tomorrow night when he makes his overdue challenge
for the British title by squaring up to ex WBC light-welter czar
Junior Witter at the York Hall in east London.
The 5ft 10in southpaw, who remains Britain's only ever world
amateur champion, is quite probably the most naturally blessed
prizefighter operating in Britain right now.
Gavin possesses a quite unique talent. In addition to blinding
hand speed and balletic feet, the Brummie possesses a seemingly in
built radar that enables him to place himself right in the firing
range of top grade opponents yet instinctively evade every punch.
It is an art only the very greatest - guys like Benetiz, Hamed and
Mayweather - have managed to master.
But while Gavin's ex international teammates such as James
DeGale, George Groves, Billy Joe Saunders and David Price have all
bagged decent championship hardware which has helped elevate them
up the global ratings, 'Funtime Frankie' has only the lightly
regarded Irish and WBO InterContinental baubles to garnish his
The born jester remains unbeaten in 13 pro gigs, but five long
years have now passed since he schooled half a dozen of the world's
finest lightweights within a ten day period to bag that historic
world championship gold in Chicago. And at 27, the clock is
The first indicator that Gavin's dedication might not match his
audacious talent came when he failed to strim his body beneath the
60KG needed to make weight for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Rather embarrassingly for all concerned, the gold medal favourite
was eliminated before a blow was thrown.
The fighter, then 23, simply brushed off the aberration by
claiming he'd had a growth spurt in the nine months that separated
qualification in Chicago with the start of competition in China.
However, his 'Funtime' moniker was beginning to haunt him.
Terry Edwards, then the head coach of Team GB's boxing squad
who'd previously moulded talents such as Haye, Froch, Khan and
DeGale during two decades on the international set-up, declared: '
I'd have to say Frankie's the most talented I've worked with. He's
got tremendous judgement of distance, fantastic reactions, very
quick hands and the best boxing brain I've come across. But there's
an in discipline with him, this 'Funtime' thing, which needs to be
Nevertheless promoter Frank Warren opted to take a punt on
Gavin's talent when the fighter predictably sought professional
'I thought Frankie was a really smart boxer with a great 'eye'
and great reactions,' said Warren, who'd previously steered talents
such as Bruno, Benn, Hamed, Hatton, Calzaghe and Khan to
professional wealth and glory.
'He had a very amateur style but I knew he was young enough to
adapt when converting to the pros. Given the wealth of
international amateur experience he had, I expected to move Frankie
a bit quicker than other prospects we develop.'
With the grapevine ripe that he kept some rather 'unwise'
company when in his native city, it seemed a smart move when Gavin
decided to conduct his professional affairs from a Manchester base,
where former pro Anthony 'Arnie' Farnell was commissioned to coach
Initially, Warren's heavy investment appeared vindicated as
Gavin made a seamless transition into the harsher paid code,
effortlessly adding more devil and a spiteful body attack to the
highly polished technical tools that had allowed him to conquer the
Within two years of his February 2009 debut, the Brummie starlet
had strolled to nine successive wins and only Bermondsey nugget
Peter McDonagh had survived the scheduled course. Greatness
seemingly beckoned. Operating in the light-welter division, Gavin,
quite literally, was proving untouchable.
Peter McDonagh (L) was the first man to go the distance with
But 2011 proved 'annus horribilis'. His mother was diagnosed with
cancer, his nan, to whom he was inseparable, passed away and he
discovered that the lad he'd raised for three years wasn't actually
his biological son. While amateur contemporaries like DeGale and
Groves were coining it in, in high profile title spats, political
alliances had blocked his own passage to successive British
champions Lenny Daws and Ashley Theophane.
De-motivated, and isolated in a flat up in Manchester, he lacked
the mechanisms to cope and, rumour has it, he began to live a life
far removed from the monastic ways expected of an aspiring
His body was far from 'cut' when he opted to campaign up at
147lbs and the weight rise was commonly attributed to idleness.
Though a subpar performance against reluctant former British
champion Young Mutley in May was passed off as Gavin being 'under
the weather' in the build up, alarm bells began to sound two months
later when the former world amateur champion was given 'life and
death' by Curtis Woodhouse, a novice former pro footballer!
Curtis Woodhouse (L) lost a split decision to Gavin in July
Not for the first time in ring history, it was his trainer,
Farnell, who was to serve as the scapegoat. Gavin re-located to the
TKO gym in East London in the hope that notorious disciplinarian
Jimmy Tibbs might straighten him out. However, the demons continued
to torment Gavin and matters hit rock bottom last October when,
poised to top the bill on a live BoxNation televised show at the
York Hall, Gavin cried off the night before, claiming his mind was
in no frame to fight.
Understandably the decision placed a massive strain on his
relationship with his promoter.
'Initially, I had a lot of sympathy but he also started 'sodding
around' a little bit, living up to this 'Funtime' thing,' said
'He kept moving up and down in weight and the only reason I
could put it down to is he wasn't training properly. Whenever he
boxed up at welterweight, he didn't look like a welterweight should
Having already slipped behind his leading Beijing squadmates,
Gavin hibernated for a further seven months. However, it was not
time squandered. He ditched the 'Funtime' anchor, returned
permanently to his home city to reside with his fast recovering
mother, and re-aligned with Tom Chaney, the coach who'd
orchestrated the domestic successes in his stellar amateur
Quietly, beneath the radar, Chaney and his ward re-embraced the
old habits - that snappy southpaw lead and twinkling footsteps -
which made him so dominant whilst fighting for free.
When Gavin finally re-surfaced in February it was with a calmer,
wiser, stronger head. Though he opted to remain up at welter, he
was now firm where once he'd been flabby, thanks largely to the
counsel of feted conditioner/nutrition guru Kerry Kayes.
'Frankie's weight problems were very, very simple,' assessed
Kayes, - formerly an 'ace face' behind Ricky Hatton's rise.
'Like so many fighters who live alone, away from home in flats
and bedsits, he'd 'over diet' during the day, causing his blood
sugar levels to go low during the evening. He'd then get these
irresistible urges - no different to a heroin addict - to hit the
Now he has home based discipline again and is knuckling under.
In my opinion, he could still drop down a weight but small steps
Despite their separation, which could ultimately cost Farnell a
small fortune in commissions should Gavin realise his world
championship potential, the former trainer bears no grudges.
'Frankie's talent is unreal,' recalls the one time WBU
'The only thing that let him down was the dieting part. He
trained fantastically hard but that's all for nothing if you then
go and eat shit. For me, Frankie's miles, miles better at
light-welter. At 10 stone he'll be a world beater. Of course, it's
hard work and takes discipline but you just have to put it in. At
welter, he'll probably be British champion but not much more.
Still, he's back home now and up at welter where he says he's
comfortable so there's nothing else he can blame. I really hope he
settles and it all works out for him. He's a really nice lad.'
Gavin has always maintained that his star will shine brightest
when he is pitched against the highest level of competition. We
finally get a chance to measure the veracity of that next Thursday
when he confronts Bradford's Witter, a sometimes dull but always
dangerous 38 year old, with just five losses on his 48 fight, 15
year career. Formerly a world champion at light-welter, 'The
Hitter' represents the stiffest test of Gavin's pro career by some
Junior Witter defends his British title against Gavin live on
BoxNation Thursday 1st November
Having maintained the faith and delivered this opportunity,
promoter Warren is expecting to be rewarded with a stand out
performance that will launch Gavin into fights for the major titles
against the major names.
'Money isn't in abundance at the moment. We made a big
investment in Frankie and eventually you expect to see some sort of
return. Now he has to deliver,' he says.
'Witter's never been my cup of tea. I don't think he's the
bravest but he's always been able to bang and he has this capacity
to make opponent's look horrible.
Frankie needs to jump on him, be 'The Boss' from the off. If he
sustains a good workrate, Witter will revert to his old (negative)
ways. Witter should just be a stepping stone. It's a great
opportunity for Frankie to make a huge statement.
Provided Frankie comes through, I'll not be looking to mess
about. I'll look to put him straight into the European, then get
him fighting for a world title next year.
Right now, you've got Kell Brook, Amir Khan and Ricky Hatton
fighting at welterweight in Britain and, shortly, Gavin should have
the beating of all of them. If he gets his act together, he could
earn himself an awful lot of money. The kids got everything and
there's no reason he can't dominate the world scene as a pro, just
as emphatically as he did in the amateurs.'