Boxing is far too often a sport for bandwagons and main events. We virtually all tune in to see the Manny Pacquiao’s or the Floyd Mayweather’s of the world. Regardless of whether we’re really fans of the fighters involved the mere fact that their fights are large scale events draws eyeballs. We often tune in to see people with momentum on their side regardless of whether we are fans or not. Sometimes its veterans finally getting their time in the spotlight such as Sergio Martinez, sometimes its hyped prospects who we want to see develop like Kirkland. Sometimes it’s just because we want to see what the hell everyone else is finding so interest like Saul Alvarez. Sometimes we tune in because we think a fight will be great to watch, regardless of whether we like the fighters involved. I’m not a fan of Vasquez or Marquez but I watched all four of their fights because I thought they’d be classics (and 3 were). This isn’t about those fighters or those fights. This is about the boxers who are the equivalent of your favourite sports team. It doesn’t matter how badly they do, it doesn’t matter how boring their fights are, it doesn’t matter whether they’re battling it out under the shining lights or in the dimmest of bingo halls and it doesn’t matter if no-one knows who the hell they are. That doesn’t mean they can’t be champions. It doesn’t mean they can’t be scrubs. To pre-empt a name I think may well be suggested it’s about the Emmanuel Augustus’s of this world. It doesn’t mean they still have to box.
It just means you need to follow them
Record (Retired): 34(19)11(6)/0
Notable Titles: IBF Inter-Continental light welterweight title, British LW Title, European LW Title
Notable Fights: Ricky Hatton (L Pts 113-117), Emanuel Augustus (L KO7), Eamonn Magee (L TKO6), Lee Meager (W UD), Yuri Romanov (L TKO (Cuts) 6), Juan Carlos Diaz Melero (W KO3), John Murray (L TKO4)
Probably most known outside the most dedicated of British boxing fans for his chase of a bout wih Amir Khan when Khan was still working through the domestic scene and his war with Ricky Hatton in one of the Hitman’s toughest early fights, Thaxton looked to be yet another also ran British brawler for most of his career, his heart and dedication not enough to make up for a seeming lack of natural athletic talent. Perhaps the Hatton fight best examplified that; Thaxton cutting and hurting Ricky early, but then proceeding to be battered for many of the renaming rounds, eating a almost horrifying number of huge punches on the way to losing the decision. He could do well at the domestic level, but lost in virtually every key or step-up bout. A serious shoulder injury sustained in a car crash in 2002 and his “retirement” afterwards seemingly called the end to his career. The obituary was written; a decent and entertaining solid domestic fighter who never really achieved anything outside of a hugely entertaining upset win over once highly regarded Paul “Scrap Iron” Ryan.
Then, in 2004 he made a comeback. A series of wins followed and eventually Thaxton got to fight for a title he had never held: the Londsdale Belt, the most prestigious title in domestic British boxing. At the time considered a fairly hot prospect, Lee Meager was expected to struggle early with Thaxton before his stamina and skills shined through in the mid to late rounds. Another valiant effort but Thaxton was just too old, with too little skill and too far removed from his prime. Thaxton didn’t think so. Over 12 rounds, Thaxton punished the young pretender, sapping his energy while delivering crushing blows to the body and head. Over 12 rounds Thaxton fulfilled his dream and won a lopsided decision.
Over the next 2 fights he cemented his position as perhaps the top British LW. Perhaps… Because another British LW was making a lot of noise and a lot of challenges. Amir Khan, flush with his success at Athens and blessed with many of the natural abilities Thaxton could only dream of, had been calling himself the top UK based LW virtually since his debut. It was the biggest fight on Thaxton’s radar and he went all out for it. Insults and accusations flew between camps, Thaxton’s sponsors offering to foot his entire purse, Khan claiming Thaxton had turned down a bout. It seemed clear Thaxton needed to offer a bigger prize to gain Khan’s attention. The EBU title was the clear carrot, the accusations of the few (but vocal) fans declaring Khan was ducking Thaxton the stick. Didn’t quite work out how Thaxton wished however. His shot at the EBU title ended in disappointment, stopped by cuts 6 rounds in. While he said all the right things afterwards the disappointment was evident in his eyes as the title (and with it all hopes for a Khan bout) fled. Perhaps this was to be the end of “Jono”? But fortunes change. In his very next bout Thaxton once again contested the EBU title against the 36-1 Juan Carlos Diaz Melero. The bout started relatively slowly, but Thaxton’s volume of body work was beginning to tell. Then, in the 3rd, Thaxton unleashed perhaps the best punch of his career, knocking the Spaniard clean out. The world seemed to be his oyster. A great run of results, the European Title… a bout with Khan could have happened, an elimination bout… maybe, if the stars aligned even a voluntary defence by a world champion. Alas, once more it was not to be. His next bout was a European defence against Anthony Mezaache. The bout was highly entertaining, a virtual war with Thaxton dropping Mezaache early and the Frenchman having a point deducted for removing his mouth piece to gain more time to recover. The rest of the fight was back and forth, close, hard contested rounds and when it was done most people thought Thaxton had edged it. The judges disagreed, giving one of the reverse hometown decisions the UK is somewhat infamous for, with Mezaache winning a fairly wide decision. Thaxton never recovered. In his next bout he stepped up 10 pounds to face Tom Glover, a journeyman who had played spoiler in a couple of recent bouts. Glover was too big and too strong for Thaxton, who didn’t carry the weight well, a point deducted for holding causing him to lose the fight. Then he faced recent world title challenger John Murray getting blasted out of there in 4, albeit with a somewhat soft stoppage. And Thaxton was finally done. That wonderful night where he won the European Title would be the highlight of a man who gave a whole generation of European and UK boxers some of their sternest tests.
Current Record (Retired): 19(1)/10(2)/0
Notable Titles: British Bantamweight title, European Bantamweight Title
Notable Fights: Jason Booth (L Pts), Peter Culshaw (L Pts), Martin Power (L Spt Dec), Simone Maludrottu (L UD), Jason Booth (W UD), Lee Haskins (W Retired 6), Martin Power (W UD), Carmelo Ballone (W MD)
Let’s get one thing out the way first of all. Ian Napa would struggle to break an egg. He barely even has the power to keep people honest. His one stoppage came about when Lee Haskins injured his arm and after a couple of rounds of obviously fighting one-handed Haskin’s corner stopped it.
What Napa can do is the seemingly strange blend of being a stylish brawler. He gets inside, slips punches and begins to brawl. Not slick in the conventional sense, opponents have always found it hard to hit the Zimbabwean born Hackney resident. Much like Thaxton however, Napa seemed to never be able to win a step up bout, notably losing a series of close (and sometimes controversial) decisions, leaving his record a questionable 13-5. It was at this moment however that Napa, like Thaxton, fought back and staked his claim.
Avenging a lose to Jason Booth he picked up the British Title, gained his first stoppage win over Haskins, avenged another loss, this time to Martin Power and another win set him up as the best BW in the UK. With perhaps his one chance being here Napa set out for one of the toughest bouts of his career. Carmelo Ballone was 22-2 with 5 consecutive stoppages including some over relatively decent opposition. The Belgian stated he was going to destroy Napa and it was hard to disagree. He was too strong, too powerful and a good enough boxer that Napa would be able to out-slick him. A stoppage may be unlikely, but a decision wasn’t. Only one thing was clear… Napa wouldn’t hurt him. The fight was close and uncontroversial until a clash of heads caused a cut on Ballone in the 5th. But that wasn’t the drama in this bout. In the 8th Napa landed a perfect right to the body sucking the confidence and power out of Ballone in one sinister blow. Even more incredible, Napa repeated the punch and dropped Ballone. Read that again. Ian Napa dropped a foe. And not a 4-6 local trial-horse, a 22-2 monster who had never been stopped. Ballone made it to his feet (not every fairytale can end that perfectly) and battled back, but Napa had done enough to get the majority decision in a pretty large upset.
Much like Thaxton however that one glorious night winning the European Title looks to have been the high water mark. In his next bout he was comprehensively outclassed by current IBF superflyweight champion Malik Bouziane. He regained the British Title with a (very) close win over the hard hitting Gary Davis who was on a roll at the time before losing that belt in another incredibly close and controversial decision to current EBU bantamweight champ Jamie McDonnell in a bout that would have given him the Commonwealth Belt as well before his corner pulled him out during another British Title fight with Stuart Hall with Napa saying he couldn’t handle the heat and struggled with the cut. Finally he lost a close decision to Martin Ward and much like Thaxton, that was that, the end for one of Britain’s great boxing servants.
Current Record: 17(7)/30(8)/0
Notable Titles: None
Notable Fights: Egon Roth (L Dec 6), Joey Abell (L TKO 2), John McDermott (L Dec 6), Scott Belshaw (W Dec 6), Rene Dettweiler (L Dec 8), Dereck Chisora (L Dec 8), Tyson Fury (L Ret 2), Larry Olubamiwo (W Dec 6), Oleh Platov (L Dec 8), Tom Dallas (L Dec 6), David Price (L Dec 6),Vyacheslav Glazkow(L Ret 5)
It’s pointless to do a career report on Daniil because it all ends up being the same. Virtually from the start he has always played the same role… the tough journeymen hired to give your HW prospect rounds. He’s perfect for the role… he doesn’t hit very hard, doesn’t have a great work rate, isn’t very skilled, leaves enough openings for someone with talent to exploit but takes one hell of a punch and is very difficult to stop. There are very few European or especially UK based HW prospects who haven’t crossed paths with him at some stage. He’s faced four of the current British HW prospects/contenders (Fury, Chisora, Price, Dallas), he’s faced 7-0 super prospects, he’s faced 27-1 guys who really should be looking towards title shots and he’s exposed at least two prospects I know of (Belshaw and Olubamiwo).
Each fight essentially ends up the same. Daniil powers forward looking like a troll (just look at that picture…), his relatively short arms throwing a terrible jab and some slightly better body work. He gets punched, hugged, beaten up but keeps coming forward. Battering Daniil into submission is a sign that a HW is pretty decent all things considered.
Why do I like him?
I don’t really know. Partly it’s the image… he looks like he should be in the midst of a Viking war painting as the bearded warriors come charging at him with battle axes and he rips their heads off. Partly it’s because I like a good honest journeymen who tests a prospect, checks their heart… checks their balls. Partly it’s because any journeyman who can keep getting upset wins is something that should be celebrated. But I guess it’s mainly just instinct.
So… who do you follow?