One slip of the tongue from a promoter was all it needed to add extra spice to an already tasty North East boxing derby.
Sunderland’s Kirk Goodings defends his English lightweight title against Fishburn’s Gary Fox at Rainton Meadows Arena a week today.
The pair have plenty of respect for one another, but with just the right level of needle too.
That came when Dennis Hobson announced recently Goodings would be fighting Jamie Sampson at Newcastle Arena on March 29.
What he meant to say was that next week’s winner would defend their title.
“He’s obviously looking past me,” said Fox. “I took that to heart a bit.”
Not true, insists his opponent.
“I’m not even thinking about the second fight,” Goodings says. “That’s just something that’s been put out there and misinterpreted. My job is to concentrate on Gary Fox and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
“After that I’ll look at other fights. Until then it’s Gary Fox all the way.
“It’s not going to be easy. It’s his chance, like it was mine against Paul Truscott. He’s got to try and take that chance.”
Despite that diplomacy, the 24-year-old cannot resist lobbing in a little hand grenade of his own.
“Everybody’s talking about Foxy being a puncher but he’s only knocked two opponents out, the same as me,” he pointed out. “I’ve had less fights (11 to 13), so it gives me a better ratio.”
The 28-year-old, though, is gearing up to go the distance.
“I’ve sparred Kirk before and I know he’s a mover,” said Fox. “He’s not the strongest but he’s fit and he can last then ten rounds.
“I’m not looking for a knockout. The way I’m training I’ll be really strong for ten rounds.
“But if I catch him flush, he’s getting knocked out!
“I’ve only boxed at lightweight once, I’ve boxed at light-middleweight and welterweight most of my fights. All the lightweights I’ve sparred with, the likes of John Murray, I’ve been stronger. I feel as if I’d be one of the strongest in the division.
“I stopped a couple in a row – Neil Hepper and Mark McKray, who had knocked a few out as well – but it’s hard to knock out journeymen.
“Fighting at light-middleweight and welterweight against guys who’ve had 100-odd fights, they’re hard to stop. But if someone comes to have a go at that weight and I catch them right, they’re definitely going out.”
Fox is desperate to erase memories of his defeat to Scott Cardle, only the second of his career (to Goodings’ one). Rather than ease back into the saddle he was desperate to fight Goodings. Just as well.
“The safe thing to do coming off the back of a loss would be to fight another journeyman but when Kirk won his title (by beating Truscott in October) I said to Neil (Fannon, his trainer and manager) straight away, ‘Just get me that fight’. He’d already made the fight, I didn’t know!
“He said, ‘To be honest with you, I’ve already taken it’. It’s funny the way things work out, really.
“It’s brilliant there’s an English title but it’s an all-North East fight and there’s a lot of pride on the line, so that’s more important to me. I’d have fought Kirk even if it was just that we were fighting for.
“But it’s brilliant to have that extra spice.”
Goodings had the support of a celebrity fan at yesterday’s Press conference in Craig Gardner.
The Sunderland midfielder (pictured left) is a huge supporter of North East boxing, often appearing at sparring and training sessions featuring local boxers of all ages.
Although he sees the pair as evenly matched, he is tipping Goodings to come out on top.
“I’m a good friend of Kirk’s so I know how hard he works in the gym and when he’s training,” said Gardner. “I know what his attitude’s like. He’s a top-class person with a top-class coach (Sean Casey) and a top-class manager (Phil Jeffries).
“I’ll be supporting him on the 7th and hopefully he wins the belt.
“It’s a 50-50 fight but I think Goodings has got the heart and the desire to get over the line. I expect it to be a great fight.”