SOME sad, tragic news to report. Two of British boxing’s most inspirational figures today passed away.

Former British and European super-middleweight champion Dean Francis finally succumbed to a long-running battle with cancer, at the terribly young age of 44, while Brendan Ingle, the legendary Dubliner who changed the lives of Sheffield children, died at the age of 77.

Admittedly, there have been many great coaches from Britain and Ireland, but Brendan Ingle might have been the best. More than just a pad man or a conditioner or a motivator or someone adept at giving the right advice between rounds, Ingle was a saviour and life guru to so many Sheffield kids, and adults alike, and is set apart because he created a style all of his own, one as successful as it was unorthodox.

Great coaches get great results and guide and enhance the careers of great champions. But Brendan Ingle did that and so much more. He left an impression on every one of the boxers who entered his gym and, greater still, managed to leave an impression on the sport itself.

Whenever a boxer utilises footwork and a bit of showmanship, for instance, and teases an opponent with hands down by their sides, it will forever be referred to as The Ingle Style.

How’s that for a legacy?

The gifted Dean Francis, meanwhile, fought as a super-middleweight, light-heavyweight and cruiserweight during the course of his 20-year professional boxing career. He won titles in each of these divisions but is perhaps best-remembered for the astonishing bravery he showed following a shoulder dislocation in 1998 that effectively ruined his chances of winning a world title many believed was well within his grasp.

From that point on, from the moment he first dislocated it in a fight with Undra White at the Basingstoke Arena, Francis was an incapacitated fighter, essentially one-armed, and such was the severity of the injury didn’t box for some four years afterwards. But it was never likely to stop him returning, nor stop his pursuit of titles, and in 2008 Francis confounded the critics with a ninth-round stoppage of Tony Oakey to win British and Commonwealth light-heavyweight titles.

Given all he’d been through, it was an incredible, almost miraculous achievement, yet was tinged all the same by a poignant sense of what-might-have-been.

Dean Francis

A week ago, it seemed the heavyweight super-fight between Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder, for all the world heavyweight titles, was destined to go down in America. Now, however, it would seem momentum has swung back in favour of the UK, as Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, says his man has “earned the right for that fight over here”.

This line of thinking probably won’t fly with Wilder and his backers – those who have put up a $50 million offer for Joshua to fight stateside – but it marks an interesting turn of events nonetheless.

“It’s the general opinion of myself, AJ and Rob McCracken (Joshua’s trainer) that because of the status of AJ in the fight and what we’ve built over here in the UK we should try and get it over here because he has earned the right for that fight over here,” Hearn told ESPN.

“If Wilder wins, the rematch can be over there in America. We are going back and forth with talks at the moment and I’m confident we can make that fight.

“AJ appreciates he might not make as much money by fighting in the U.K. but realises that Wilder should be coming to the UK to fight first.

“AJ asked me how many British fans could get tickets if the fight was in America and I said about 6,000. That’s after we have done 250,000 in three (UK stadium) fights and it doesn’t seem right.

“He’s keen to do the fight in the UK and from Rob’s point of view it’s an advantage.

“If it’s in September it gives us the ability to go outside and we would have to consider Cardiff (the Principality Stadium), Wembley, the Olympic Stadium, Twickenham and Old Trafford. AJ wants it in London preferably.”

Yesterday, Frank Warren, Hearn’s rival UK promoter, explained to Boxing News why he believes Joshua should be encouraged to accept the guaranteed $50 million and give his fans a Ricky Hatton-esque stateside adventure.

“First of all, there was a genuine offer made of a guarantee of 50 million dollars,” Warren said. “Whatever happens, he’s going to get 50 million.

“Then, in accordance to the rematch clause, he’d get 30 million. So, over the course of six months he could stand to make 80 million dollars, minimum. That was the deal.

“They’re saying they don’t want to go to the States and Anthony is saying he owes a UK fight to his fans. I’ll tell you what, Ricky Hatton’s fans had the best days out in Vegas. They loved it. Do they really want to do it? You can only assume the reason it’s not happening is because they’re paying him 80 million dollars for his next two fights in the UK.

“I’d take it,” he continued. “Where’s he going to get a guaranteed 80 million dollars in the next six months? But they must be guaranteeing him that, otherwise why would they turn it down? They must have guaranteed Joshua 80 million out of that billion they’ve got.”

Anthony Joshua

Earlier today in Tokyo, Japanese superstar Naoya Inoue needed just one minute and fifty-two seconds to stop Britain’s Jamie McDonnell, win his third world title – albeit of the WBA Regular variety – in a third weight class, and perhaps emerge as the new favourite to win the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) bantamweight tournament when it gets underway later this year.

Poor McDonnell, a seasoned fighter with stamina for days and a reputation for durability, was caught by a left hook in an exchange and failed to recover. Hurt, wobbled, and in the firing line of a noted puncher, the aptly-named ‘Monster’, McDonnell tried riding out the storm, but was dropped by a hook to the body and then, moments later, finished against the ropes as both men traded shots.

Long considered a potential pound-for-pound number one, Inoue this afternoon confirmed his status as one of the scariest punchers on the planet and will now, we’re told, look forward to a place in the WBSS bantamweight tournament, where he’ll be joined by the likes of Ryan Burnett, the WBA Super champion, WBO ruler Zolani Tete, and new IBF king Emmanuel Rodriguez.

Naoya Inoue