In every endeavor one labors towards, be it sports or business or just the game of life, success is the great equalizer. When the New York Yankees are winning one World Series after another, no one gets too worked up about issues behind the scenes. When a large corporation steadily increases shareholder value year after year, no one hires auditors to delve deep into the company finances. Success was in abundance for light heavyweight Tony Oakey, who challenges Peter Haymer for the English title on Friday night at Portsmouth's Mountbatten Centre, well up until the fall of 2003.
The boxer from Havant, England was a local hero as an amateur and as a professional, Oakey had built upon that support by winning first the Commonwealth and then the WBU Light Heavyweight titles, defending latter successfully three times. In seventeen contests, the Portsmouth area man had never been struck with the sharp edged whip of defeat. Oakey's title defense against Matthew Barney on October 11th, 2003 changed all that. A fellow South Coast fighter, Barney was coming up from the super middleweight division where he had won the British title. Prior to the Oakey fight, Barney tried to upgrade his trophy cabinet to include the Commonwealth belt but came up short against rugged Ghanaian prospect Charles Adamu in a drawn out struggle just two months before. Barney had the reputation of being an awkward customer.
He had been labeled a runner, a jab merchant and a man that very few wanted to share the ring with as win or lose, he was almost impossible to look good against. Barney was even a late replacement opponent, but one thing the Southampton man hadn't been labeled was underrated and that was exactly the case going into the fateful fight with Tony Oakey.
The WBU titlist was heavily favored to turn back the challenge of the much-maligned Barney, who after all was coming up from a lower weight class. When the bell rang to begin the first round, it was readily apparent that Oakey was in for a long night. The come forward slugger was proving unable to make the former super middleweight dance to his tune.
After twelve contentious rounds, ringside judges scored the fight for Barney. Some, such as Oakey's manager Frank Maloney, felt that the contest had been unfairly awarded but nonetheless the decision stood. Life has been difficult for Oakey since the South Coast battler's disappointing performance against the awkward Barney in front of a shocked hometown audience. The local hero lost his treasured WBU title belt but was also clubbed with an even greater blow after the match. Oakey failed a post-fight drugs test and was slapped hard by the British Boxing Board of Control, who meted out a year long ban from the sport plus a total fine of £3,600, the rough equivalent of $7,000 US dollars.
The hard sixteen months out of the ring were marked by an intense period of soul searching and reassessment of priorities but the former Leigh Park council estate kid returned with a renewed sense of purpose and direction. On February 12th, Oakey climbed through the ropes once again, in the same arena that saw his title taken from him almost a year and a half earlier, the Mountbatten Centre. Birmingham based opponent Varuzhan Davtyan came in hopeful of taking full advantage of his host's inactivity. Oakey was having none of it however, and while the native Armenian did have some success, the local man managed to clamp the lid shut on Davytan's aspirations in round five. Oakey did add a victory to his resume, but his performance was anything but smooth, but rather a ragged and rusty effort that spoke more of the time away from active combat than the efforts of the visitor.
The ex-WBU titlist had been scheduled to appear at the Mountbatten Centre once again last month against veteran Paul Bonson before the bout was scrapped due to injury. It was hoped by Oakey's backers, Maloney Promotions, to have served as a warm up to this English title challenge against beltholder Peter Haymer. Haymer hails from London and brings a mark of 14-2 (3) to the contest. The English titlist has won nine straight fights and will certainly have the momentum going in. The twenty six year old will also brings the motivation sparked of being let go by former manager Frank Maloney, who just so happens to guide Oakey's career. Maloney Promotions have labeled this fight card "Last Chance Saloon" and for good reason. Oakey must deliver and take the title from the willful Haymer if he is to continue on in boxing.
The loss to Barney and the subsequent ban from the sport reduced Oakey's shelf life significantly and the Havant man cannot afford another disappointment. Boxing is fraught with danger and unpredictable outcomes but in this case there is one thing can be counted on. The Portsmouth faithful are backing their much loved former champion to the hilt as he continues his climb back up the fractious divisional ladder, ensuring that the Mountbatten Centre will be stuffed to the rafters once again as Tony Oakey continues to reach out for redemption. www.frankmaloney.com