ON his 35th birthday, and true to the words he spoke many times, former world champion Alex Arthur yesterday announced his retirement from the ring, and promptly ended a lifetime of self-denial.
• Boxer Alex Arthur announces retirement on Twitter
• Edinburgh-born fighter was former WBO world super-featherweight and Commonwealth Champion
“My wife Debbie took me out for lunch to celebrate my birthday and I have had a creamy latte and some delicious peanut brownies,” said Arthur, “but I have been back in the gym this afternoon as I had to burn it off. I’m 35 now and need to watch my weight!”
The former World Boxing Organisation (WBO) world super-featherweight champion happily confesses to weighing more than 12 stones now, having had to make a 9st 4lb weight limit at his peak – “but I still train twice a day and I’ll be keeping my six pack.”
As with so many boxers, it was the increasing weight and advancing years which ended the career of the man who was billed by his promoters as “Amazing” Alex Arthur, a piece of hype the Edinburgh man eventually came to accept.
For, as he rose through the ranks, and proved to be a born communicator – as well as a born-again Christian – Arthur really did amaze with his boxing feats and cheeky chappy chat. He became a household name, famed for his commitment to boxing and his faith, and for his irrepressible nature.
He promised his family he would retire at 35, and kept his word to Debbie and their boys Alex, Liston and Machlan: “My mum Corrine has been at me all year saying ‘you are not going to take any more fights,’ and ‘you can’t make the weight’ but right up to midnight last night, if I had received the right offer, say to fight a great former champion like Erik Morales at Edinburgh Castle, I would have taken it.
“It would have needed something of that order to motivate me as a fighter, to put me back in that horrible place that consumes your whole life, when you can’t eat, you can’t have a relationship with your wife or be with your kids. But the offers never came so I am quite happy to swan out.”
Instead, Arthur will concentrate on his punditry and perhaps promote, manage or coach the next generation of young Scottish fighters, challenging them to step up. “I love commentating on boxing,” said Arthur, “and what I would love to see is young star emerging in Edinburgh that I could help to get to championship level. I would bend over backwards to help him.”
It was 25 years ago that Arthur walked into the Leith Victoria club as a ten-year-old and quickly became hooked on the fistic arts, coming under the wise tutelage of Joe Fortune, George Borden and Terry McCormack. Arthur’s glittering amateur career peaked when he won the Commonwealth Games Lightweight gold medal in Kuala Lumpur in 1998. It was followed by the first big disappointment of his boxing life when the machinations of the then corruption-riddled amateur boxing authorities saw him kept out of the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
Arthur immediately turned professional and signed to the managerial and promotion camp of Frank Warren, the most influential man in British professional boxing. Warren presided over a glittering period in Scottish boxing as Scott Harrison acquired the world featherweight championship and Warren brought Arthur’s career along carefully. His first professional contest was against Richmond Asante in Manchester in November 2000, and Arthur was soon fighting on a regular basis as he gained a boxing education with a succession of opponents, some of whom paid a high price for their participation – Pavel Patipko went home to Belarus with broken ribs from a trademark Arthur hook to the body.
He won the British super-featherweight title against Steve Conway in Glasgow in October 2002, and defended it against fellow Scot Willie Limond before suffering his first loss in a five-round war with Manchester’s Michael Gomez at Meadowbank in October 2003, voted fight of the year and many people’s choice as the most exciting contest ever seen in Scotland. Arthur’s successful defence of his European title against current world lightweight champion Ricky Burns of Coatbridge in 2006 was another of his
On the way to amassing a career record of 34 fights, 31 wins, 21 of them by stoppage, and three losses, Arthur collected eight belts, including the British, Commonwealth and European super-featherweight titles, as well as the Inter-continental titles of the IBF, WBA and WBO sanctioning bodies. He won the Lonsdale Belt outright, and was awarded the MBE for services to boxing earlier this year.
The WBO championship came to him by default in 2008. After two superb performances against Koba Gogaladze of Georgia and England’s Stephen Foster which made Arthur interim champion, the titleholder Joan Guzman walked away to make Arthur the second man from Edinburgh, after the great Ken Buchanan, to hold a professional world title. Arthur admitted yesterday that he should never have fought Nicky Cook, the Englishman who acquired his title on a sad night in Manchester in September 2008. “I had to kill myself to make the weight,” said Arthur, “which is why it is not the biggest disappointment in my career – that was the fact that I never got to fight on a big show in Las Vegas. When the likes of Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe tell you that you should have got that big night in America, you know you deserved it.”
What turned out to be his last fight was against Michael Frontin in a show promoted by Arthur’s own AAA Promotions at Meadowbank in April last year. Last night boxing manager Tommy Gilmour paid tribute to Arthur
“Alex did everything as an amateur and professional. He is probably a bit disappointed that he did not get more world title fights, but he has a great deal to be proud of, in and out of the ring,” he said.