EAST Lancashire trainer Kevin Maree once worked alongside Robin Reid, but he will be plotting to defeat the former world champion tonight as Stirk House boxer Kenny Anderson finally gets his chance to fight for the British title.
Reid is among the names to have starred at one of Maree’s many successful sportsman’s dinners, appearing alongside Frank Bruno and the late Sir Henry Cooper in 2007.
But the 43-year-old will be in the opposite corner at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena tonight when Maree bids to help Anderson to claim the British super middleweight belt after months of waiting.
Anderson, who was due to fight George Groves for the title in March before the Londoner pulled out citing a back injury, will be backed by around 100 travelling fans from East Lancashire and will be favourite to secure victory in an intriguing match-up against Reid.
The ‘Reaperman’, from Runcorn, made his name by winning the WBC world super middleweight title as long ago as 1996 before being beaten by Joe Calzaghe three years later.
Reid’s career appeared to be over when he lost to Carl Froch in 2007 but he made his comeback last year and has now earned a shot at the vacant British title, for which Anderson was the number one contender.
A week ago Audley Harrison, another famous but ageing name on the British boxing scene, saw his hopes of one last hurrah brutally dashed when he was knocked out in his British heavyweight title fight with David Price.
But Maree has warned that Reid will be an altogether more difficult proposition for Anderson than Harrison was for Price.
“I don’t think there are parallels,” said Maree, who has trained Anderson in Gisburn for the past few years, when asked to compare Reid and Harrison.
“Audley Harrison had defeats before that. Robin Reid has won his last two fights and he is hungry.
“In his last fight he knocked out Daniel Cadman, who is ranked in the top 10 in Britain.
“I do after dinner shows and Robin Reid has been a guest speaker on one of those shows, so that shows the esteem I hold him in. I’ve certainly got nothing bad to say about him.
“But it won’t be strange to be in the opposite corner to him now. That’s sport and it’s no different to playing squash or snooker against someone, it’s just a bit more brutal!
“We’ve waited so long for this fight that it doesn’t really matter who’s in the opposite corner.
“If you want to win the British belt you know it’s not going to be an easy fight and we’re prepared for that. Robin looks in great shape.”
So too, however, does Anderson. The Edinburgh-born fighter has been sparring with his Stirk House stablemate, Accrington’s Luke Blackledge, and is certain that he is ready to win the British title at last.
The 29-year-old almost pulled off a huge upset against Groves for the Commonwealth title in 2010, eventually being stopped after taking the fight at short notice.
But he has since taken his professional record to 17 victories and one defeat to move himself into position as the mandatory challenger for the British title.
After many months of waiting Groves, then the British champion, was eventually ordered to hand him a rematch.
But that fell through in March and Groves has since vacated, leaving the way clear for Anderson to fight for the belt – although even that has taken until now to come to fruition.
“It’s been a long road but it’s going to make it all the better when it does come,” said the former Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
“It’s stuff that’s strengthened my resolve.
“Robin’s achieved the things I’d like to achieve but this is my time, I know it’s my time.
“It’s been a perfect training camp. I’ve been right mentally, right in the gym, right in sparring, the lot. This is my time.”
Tonight’s bout is due to be shown live on Sky Sports just after 8pm, on the undercard to Kell Brook’s world title eliminator with Hector Saldivia.
Victory for Anderson would cap a fine start to the new boxing season for Maree’s gym.
The highly-rated Blackledge, starting to be ranked among the top 10 super middleweights in the country, defeated Carl Wild to win the British Masters title two weeks ago.
“The gym is buzzing, we’ve not had a loss since the start of the season, we’ve had five victories,” Maree said.
“I think we’ve got the best super middleweight in the country in Kenny Anderson, and the best super middleweight prospect in Luke Blackledge.
“Hopefully in a couple of years Kenny will move from British to European level, and Luke can then step in and get that British title.
“There are 100 from the gym travelling to Sheffield to support Kenny, and 250 more coming from Scotland. I’m sure Robin Reid will have fans there too.
“Once George Groves vacated, Kenny was always going to be fighting one of two in the rankings, Robin Reid or Paul Smith.
“But Paul Smith lost his last fight whereas Robin Reid has won his last two.
“Both Kenny and Robin are big hitters so something has got to give.
“One’s a former world champion and won an Olympic bronze medal, and one wants to win the British title for the first time – although funnily enough Robin Reid has never actually won the British title either, he was fast-tracked to the world title.
“Kenny has sparred with people like Carl Froch and Tony Bellew and has the ability to be world class.
“But Kenny has trained like a demon for this.
“Once he’s got the belt it will put him in control of his own destiny.
“Preparations have gone really well. We’ve left no stone unturned.”