Van-Leyden on former British Middleweight, Tony Sibson
By: Peter Van-Leyden
Leicester’s former British Commonwealth and European Middleweight champion Tony Sibson became acknowledged as a British boxing favourite with the fight fans who were always entertained with Tony’s hard working style. This style was complimented by quick combinations and power whilst been accompanied by a good boxing ability. It could be suggested by many that Tony’s style grew into the mould of a very good fighter with a powerful left hook.
Tony didn’t shy away from a slugfest when required and he was involved in some highly publicised fights as he climbed up the rankings, punching his way to domestic championship level. Tony had an impressive start to his professional career by winning 24 of his first 25 fights (1 draw ) before suffering his first loss to African boxer Lottie Mwale who himself became the Commonwealth and World Boxing Council International Light Heavyweight champion later in his career .
Tony didn’t waste time and was back into winning ways in his next fight whilst reeling off a hat trick of wins before been on the wrong end of a points loss to Manchester’s Jamaican born boxer Eddie Smith. In a rematch the following year Tony earned a ten round decision to gain revenge.
Sibson was knocking on the door for the British middleweight championship and challenged Frankie Lucas for the belt that was vacated by Alan Minter. Although the 21 year old Tony was tagged the underdog in this fight he came through a brutal contest to win by TKO in the fifth round and the young Sibson had the Lonsdale belt wrapped around his waist as the proud champion. After winning the domestic middleweight championship Sibson added 3 more wins to his career before he defended his title against the popular and much loved British boxer Kevin Finnegan, Tony was on the wrong end of a 15 rounds decision.
Sibson then hit exceptional form and was a consistent winner, stringing together an impressive 14 wins on the bounce. Along the way Tony won the Commonwealth and European middleweight championships and displayed the best form of his career catapulting himself into world title contention.
Sibson got the fight he wanted when placed up against Alan Minter. Before Sibson’s win against Minter the fight had grown into a highly anticipated dual and too many a mouth watering prospect that included a clash of rivalry between two exceptional fighters. Minter was considered to be in the twilight of his career, meanwhile a hungry Sibson was the young up and coming contender. In a highly charged atmosphere created by a packed auditorium in London the fight took place with Sibson winning in the third round by TKO.
Before Sibson’s press for a world title he defended his European belt and was challenged by Italian Nicola Cirelli in London, “Sibbo” knocked out the contender in the tenth round. This win along with outstanding form earned Sibbo a potential shot at the World middleweight title held by the formidable American ”Marvellous” Marvin Hagler. However before this fight could take place Sibson had unfinished business against the American contender Dwight Davison who was from the fighting city of Detroit. Dwight also wanted a shot at Hagler so an official eliminator took place between both boxers in Birmingham, England. Tony won the contest by points verdict over 12 rounds to become Hagler’s next challenger. The British fighter had finally punched his way to world championship level.
Sibbo flew over the pond to America and spent a short time in the build up to his challenge doing some training. Unfortunately Tony could not do any roadwork because of severe snow so he used a large basketball styled hall to run around to keep himself ticking over.
The fight with Hagler took place at Massachusetts where Hagler was based. During the challenge Sibson gave a solid account of himself gaining respect from many in the crowd but Tony’s brave and game performance was not enough to trouble a composed confident champion. By the sixth round Marvin had worn Sibbo down by landing solid shots forcing Sibbo to touch down for the first time in the fight, after a standing eight count was received by referee Carlo Padilla the fight continued before Tony hit the canvas a second time. After rising, the Brit momentarily appeared out on his feet whilst wobbling around drunkenly with each step. He turned his back on the fight influencing the referee to stop the contest and put an end to Sibson’s brave but outgunned challenge. Tony had also suffered a cut to the left eye in the fight. Later a battered and bruised Tony was drinking bottled water in the changing rooms and the defeated fighter said he “trained like an animal, lived like a animal” but accepted it was not enough. This reflected how good a champion Hagler actually was.
After a rest from boxing and taking a few months out Tony’s next opponent was to be the young, up and coming boxer, Irish John Collins of Chicago who had a solid record with 29 wins to his credit. Many of Collins’ opponents were knocked out so he could bang a bit, it was anticipated there would be a win for the younger Collins after Tony’s brutal loss against Hagler. It was thought that Tony’s hunger could possibly have been reduced as a result of the battle. However, we also had to consider the quality of opponents Collins had faced. Sibbo on paper had mixed in better company and of the two fighters Sibson was the more experienced boxer.
The 6 ft, 1″ Collins towered over the much shorter and stocky Sibson who looked in good shape. Sibbo managed to force Collins back in the first round and near the end of the round unleashed powerful looking combinations that had John in trouble and on the ropes. Eventually he fell to the canvas and while the referee was counting the bell rang to end the round saving Collins from a possible first round defeat. In the second round Sibson displayed a sharp jab and once again hurt Collins who fell to the canvas for the second time. He managed to beat the count and Sibson instinctively sensed the finish and like a lion pouncing on its prey he caught Collins forcing him onto the canvas for the third time. Referee Rudi Battle had seen enough and saved Collins from further punishment as he tried to stay on his feet before falling into the corner after his legs disobeyed him, Sibson stunning the Atlantic City crowd with this impressive victory.
Another win followed for Sibson before travelling stateside to fight Dangerous Don Lee. Once again the fight was in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The venue was Sands Casino, this was a slugfest of a fight as Lee was known as a hard hitter and a good switch hitter and was much taller than Sibson at 6ft 2″. The first round saw Lee take a left hook that invited him to the canvas, Lee took his time to rise and waited patiently on his knees as the referee counted. As soon as Lee rose to beat the count the bell ended the first round. Lee switched to southpaw and this seemed to settle him into the fight a bit more and in the third round Lee dropped Sibbo for a count, he rose only for Lee to smother Sibson with leather and once again forced Tony to the canvas. As the fight continued Lee stalked his foe unleashing punches towards a flat footed Sibson who seemed to be still recovering from the second knockdown. Tony stumbled into the ropes and almost onto the ring apron, the referee giving a standing eight count as Tony was hurt. There was no three knockdown rule in this fight otherwise it would have ended. Sibson suffered a cut to the eye that was reminiscent of the fight with Hagler, in the eighth round Lee was hurt and had to take a standing count by the referee. After a heavy shot wobbled Lee, Sibson moved forward looking for the finish and walked onto a punch that suddenly dropped him to the canvas. After beating the count the referee waved the fight off with Sibbo in no condition to defend himself. This concluded a really tough encounter, Sibson commented after the fight he believed the fight was stopped prematurely.
Sibbo went on to fight in Paris and was victorious against French boxer Louis Acaries, fighting for the European middleweight championship and lining up another domestic affair between himself and the highly rated Mark Kaylor of West Ham. Tony won the fight on a unanimous verdict.
More wins followed for Sibbo before he stepped out of his weight category to challenge Dennis Andrias for the WBC light heavyweight title and the British light heavy title, Sibson was down three times in the ninth round losing the contest by TKO.
Almost a year without a fight Tony stepped back down to his natural fighting weight and challenged defending champion Brian Anderson for the British middleweight championship, Tony dethroned Anderson to win the fight by TKO in the seventh round.
Tony took a third shot at world title level by fighting for the IBF middleweight belt and in the opposing corner was talented American Frank Tate who was coming into the fight with a 21-0 (12 by knockout) record. Tony was at the wrong end of a TKO loss that was his last fight before deciding to hang the gloves up. After the fight Tony said he won everything but not quite the world title, but Tony’s record was riddled with high quality opponents throughout his career and he can be very proud of his achievements in a fine and successful career.
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