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World Boxing Federation Champions Of The Past: Junior Witter

Posted on October 10 2014                                              Bookmark and Share
By: Clive Baum

         


 

Since the World Boxing Federation was originally founded by American Larry Carrier in 1988, many of the sport’s biggest names have won a WBF title, and proudly defended the blue, red and gold belt all over the world.


In the previous nine segments of the series we profiled former WBF Champions Johnny Nelson, Greg Haugen, Samson Dutch Boy Gym, Angel Manfredy, Carl Daniels, Ricky Parkey, Jeff Malcolm, Juan Lazcano and Jimmy Thunder.


This time, in the tenth part of the WBF Champions of The Past series, we go through the career of former Light Welterweight World Champion Junior Witter, an under-appreciated and awkward, but very talented switch-hitter from Bradford, England.

  
  
  

Witter started boxing at age 11 when a friend encouraged him to take up the sport to fight legally instead of on the streets. By his own admission he was a rough kid, and “it was about beating people up”, but he proved to have talent and enjoyed a decent run in the amateurs, representing the Police Boys Gym in Bradford.

In the unpaid ranks he compiled a modest record of 80-39, and never really made a big breakthrough, so it was without big fanfare that he turned professional at age 22 in January 1997 at the Green Bank Leisure Centre in Swadlincote, Derbyshire.

Fighting out of the legendary Ingle Gym in Sheffield, home of great boxers such as Naseem Hamed and former WBF World Cruiserweight and Heavyweight Champion Johnny Nelson, to name a few, Witter was matched tough against reigning Midlands Area Champion Cam Raeside (8-1), and managed to get a draw after six rounds.

While drawing in your first pro fight is not what is expected of a future star, it was never the less a good result considering the circumstances. Few debutants are presented with a challenge like this, and Witter showed that there was something to build on.

Six weeks later he was back in the ring, and again Witter was put in with a tough opponent, this time in fellow prospect John Green (2-0). It was a close encounter, but Witter was awarded the victory on points by the smallest of margins, and finally got his first professional victory under his belt.

Later that month he stopped Lee Molyneux (1-1), before going on to defeat former Central Area titlist Trevor Meikle (21-36-6) on points in April of 1997. In May he stopped Cyprus-born Andreas Penayi (23-6-4) in five rounds, and by now he could genuinely be considered a bright prospect in British boxing.

Easy decisions over journeymen Brian Coleman (12-52-6) and Michael Alexander (14-23) followed, before a setback in the form of a disappointing draw against Mark Ramsey (13-16-3) in February 1998. Witter rebounded in March with another decision over Coleman, before it was time for another incredibly tough challenge a month later.

On April 18 1998, as part of the massive Chris Eubank vs. Carl Thomsen, Naseem Hamed vs. Wilfredo Vasquez extravaganza in Manchester, a 7-0-2 (2) Junior Witter was pitted against 35-1 (27) former South African and WBC International Champion Jan Piet Bergman.

Bergman´s only defeat had come in a world title-challenge against Hall-of-Famer Kostya Tszyu, and it could rightly be speculated that this was a make-or-break scenario for Witter, who´s handlers on this occasion were incredibly brave in their matchmaking.

It turned out a success, as Witter befuddled and outboxed Bergman, and deservedly won a clear unanimous decision. After only ten fights in the paid ranks, he had proved himself to be world class, and ahead of another promising UK prospect who fought on the same card, a young lad from Manchester named Ricky Hatton.

It would be five months before Witter got another fight, but when he did he cemented his new-found contender-status with a wide decision victory over Mark Winters (13-1), who had lost his British Light Welterweight title to Jason Rowland in his previous fight.

With bigger things in the pipeline for early 1999, Witter finished off 1998 with a stay-busy victory over durable and tricky journeyman Karl Taylor (14-39-3) in November in his adopted hometown of Sheffield.

Thankfully he got through the tune-up unscathed, as promoter Frank Warren had secured his young star a shot at the vacant WBF World Light Welterweight title on a massive bill in Newcastle the following February, headlining along with Joe Calzaghe vs. Robin Reid and Richie Woodhall vs. Vincenzo Nardiello.

The opponent was fellow Brit Malcom Melvin (23-8-2), a light-punching but battle-tested boxer with far more experience than Witter, having already been a part of five championship fights since turning professional fourteen years earlier.

 

But again Witter was impressive when stepping up in his level of competition, and in front of a big crowd at the Telewest Arena and Sky Sports cameras he stopped Melvin inside two rounds, and became the new WBF World Champion in only his thirteenth bout.

Unfortunately, for various reasons, Witter was never able to defend the WBF crown. He fought only twice more in 1999, scoring unspectacular decisions over Mexican Isaac Cruz (13-8) and Harry Butler (2-23), and the year 2000 didn’t begin at the highest level either, with victories over Mihai Iorgu (0-1) and Arv Mitoo (7-31-3).

In June of that year he was given an unexpected chance to win the IBF world title against reigning champion Zab Judah (22-0), on the Mike Tyson vs. Lou Savarese card in Glasgow, but with only three weeks notice it was an almost impossible task against one of the sports most talented and exiting stars.

Witter lost a unanimous decision, and his unbeaten record, to Judah and he was now basically back to square one. He had no title-belt around his waist, but he was still world class and he was determined to become world champion again.

After six straight stoppage victories, he won the British title against Alan Bosworth (15-10-2) in March of 2002. Four months later he added the Commonwealth title by blowing out Ghanaian Laatekwai Hammond (13-2), and in April 2003 he stopped Juergen Haeck (15-1) from Belgium to lift the European Union championship.

In June of 2004 he destroyed Italian Salvatore Battaglia (21-3) for the vacant European title, a belt he would successfully defend three times against very respectable foes, before he finally got a shot at another world title.

On September 15 2006, more than seven years after beating Melvin for the WBF world title, Witter was matched with American former world champion DeMarcus Corley (31-4-1) for the vacant WBC trinket in London. And “The Hitter” continued his great form, delivering in every department to win a wide unanimous decision.

Witter defended the WBC title against Arturo Morua (25-7-1) and Vivian Harris (28-2-1), before eventually losing it on a split decision to Timothy Bradley (21-0) in May 2008. He got another crack at it in August of 2009, losing to Devon Alexander (18-0) for the vacant title in California.

Since then its been up and down for Witter, who is still active and won a non-title bout as recent as this past May. In 2012 he captured the British Welterweight title by dethroning Colin Lynes (36-9), but lost it in his first defense to former world amateur champion Frankie Gavin (13-0).

After winning all sorts of titles, including British, Commonwealth, European and WBF & WBC World Championships, Junior Witter is today 40 years old and holds a 43-7-2 (23) professional record. World class for many years, he is now struggling to compete at European level, but in his prime he was hard to beat for anyone.

And who knows, with a few good victories, he may get one more chance to become world champion. Stranger things have happened...

 
 
 
 
   Archive
  Part 9: Jimmy Thunder
  Part 8: Juan Lazcano
  Part 7: Jeff Malcolm
  Part 6: Ricky Parkey
  Part 5: Carl Daniels
  Part 4: Angel Manfredy
  Part 3: Samson Dutch Boy Gym
  Part 2: Greg Haugen
  Part 1: Johnny Nelson
 
 
 
 
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