Hadfield joins list of ‘punching Poolies’

Mick Hadfield (left) and  Michael Hunter
Mick Hadfield (left) and Michael Hunter

MICK Hadfield has joined an illustrious list of ‘punching Poolies’ as the town looks for a new wave of success in the pro game.

The 24-year-old makes his professional debut this Sunday when he boxes Jonathan Fry at the Summer Rumble in Sunderland.

Hadfield, on paper at least, has the ability and pedigree to go a long, long way as the town gears up for, potentially, some exciting times.

Hartlepool enjoyed championship success in the 1980s thanks to the Feeneys, brothers John and George collecting British titles, while Stewart Lithgo became Commonwealth champion.

The proud fighting town then had a long wait before one of their own came through to stardom.

Top amateurs Kevin Bennett, Ian Cooper and Michael Hunter all turned pro with Dave Garside and Neil Fannan at the start of the noughties, while James Rooney allied himself with Michael Marsden, from Leeds.

Hunter, a two-time ABA champion, brought glory back to Hartlepool, winning the British, Commonwealth and European titles in a breathtaking period.

The lad from the council house in Easington Road also won a minor version of a world belt, the WBF, but, more significantly, fought and lost for one of boxing’s big prizes, the IBF super-bantamweight championship.

Bennett too struck gold. From Oldbury in the West Midlands, “the Bulldog” became a Poolie in 1998 and lifted the Commonwealth lightweight title as well as challenging for the IBO world crown.

Steve Conway, a born and bred Poolie whose family moved to Yorkshire, did clinch the IBO belt, and he did it in his home town, beating Hungary’s Mihali Kotai at the Borough Hall in 2006.

Other Poolies briefly treaded the professional boards though Andrew Close, Craig and Mark Denton mustered only 12 appearances between them though Craig had the distinction of stepping down undefeated after eight wins.

Hartlepool is theatening to come again as a professional force.

Peter Cope, backed by the large and loud “Barmy Army”, has reeled off seven straight victories, including a minor honour, the International Masters super-bantamweight belt at the Stadium of LIght last year.

The Gus Robinson Developments star will be looking for win number eight at SundaY’s Summer Rumble as a possible prelude for a crack at the Northern Area belt in September.

Callum Winton joined his friend in the pro ranks though he has left the Gus gym after three unbeaten appearances to try his hand at the Bob Shannon gym in Manchester.

And, now, it’s the turn of Hadfield.

One of the best to emerge from the town’s production line of young talent, the Headland ABC ace won three national junior titles ands came close to becoming a world champion.

Hadfield had to be content with a silver medal - and a glowing endorsement from Amir Khan - at the 2005 World Cadet event in Liverpool, where many observers felt he got the rough end of the stick against Kazakhstan’s Sattibayev Olzhas.

He, like Cope and Winton, will have to do it the hard way.

Like his contemporaries, while a winner at junior level, he did not emulate the likes of Cooper, Hunter and Alan Temple in becoming an ABA champion.

There is no easy path as Hunter explained.

“Boxing’s a hard game,” said the 35-year-old who won 30 of his 33 fights, including 14 inside the distance, before retiring last year.

“But if you are good enough, you’ll win.

“And when you win you start going places.

“Mick is a good prospect, there’s no doubt about that.

“I watched him years ago but have not seen him since he made his comeback but I’ve heard good things about him from different people.

“Young Peter Cope and Martin Ward have sparred with him and Neil Fannan and old Peter Cope have watched him and they’ve all spoken highly of him.

“Yiu can’t argue with them. He can certainly go a long way.

“I think Mick and young Copey are fantastic prospects.

“I hope one, or hopefully both, can carry on from where I left off and get the big fights back in Hartlepool.

“Those were great nights at the Borough Hall and these lads have the ability to broing them back.”