- 7 Aug 08, 04:05 PM
Ricky Hatton has carved out a nice sideline for himself as an after-dinner speaker and the butt of many of his jokes is his alter ego "Ricky Fatton".
This pie-munching, stout-quaffing man of the people is the stuff of Manchester folklore and gags about him having a lot on his plate never fail to bring the house down.
It is not, however, a line anybody should try around Frankie Gavin, who has been working with Hatton's slimming guru Kerry Kayes, for a while.
In fact, people would be well advised to give Gavin a wide berth for some time - the 22-year-old has just lost his shot at Olympic glory and he didn't even get to throw a punch.
Having not lost a bout for over two years, Gavin was undone by that most implacable of opponents, the scales. Nearly all fighters admit to "struggling with their weight" but not in the same way your Auntie Beryl struggles with hers.
For them, the struggle is to fight at the lowest weight they can reach and still perform: for Gavin, that was the 57-60kg lightweight class - "was" being the operative word. Always a "big" lightweight, Gavin has found it harder and harder to remain under the 60kg mark as his body has matured.
These growing pains have resulted in him fighting at the next band up, light-welterweight, for much of this year. He fought at 64kg at the EU Boxing Championships in June, won the belt and was named boxer of the tournament.
Fighting at that weight in Beijing, however, was never an option, as Bradley Saunders is Britain's light-welterweight entry. And Saunders is a medal prospect in his own right.
Gavin's EU campaign should have been a clue to us all just how touch-and-go his prospects of ever fighting at lightweight again really were, but it was a clue few can honestly say they picked up on.
The word from a bullish British camp was that their best medal prospect was on track to pull off his usual slimmer-of-the-year trick and duck in under 60kg at Friday's weigh-in.
He has been a few kilos above his fighting weight many times before and always shed them when it mattered, we were told. This is part and parcel of a sport based on weight handicaps, we were assured. Nothing will keep "Fabulous" Frankie from his gold medal moment, we swallowed completely.
Most of us didn't even think twice when Gavin failed to arrive in Beijing with his seven team-mates. He was just completing his preparations at Team GB's holding camp in Macau - there's nothing unusual about that, is there?
So when rumours of a still-too-heavy Gavin boarding a flight back to Blighty emerged they came like a blow to the kidneys.
What has been happening these last few days in Macau is still a little unclear but, as you can probably imagine, there has been no shortage of speculation - the press release confirming the news from the British Olympic Association left plenty of room for that. Details were conspicuous by their absence, a bit like Gavin.
The only bone we were initially thrown came in this quote from GB's head boxing coach Terry Edwards: "Whilst the support staff down and I have done everything we could, regrettably, it is clear Frankie will not make his weight before tomorrow morning's weigh-in."
This immediately prompted some to ask if Gavin, whose interest in a professional boxing career is well known, did everything he could to make the weight. Could he be staying out of harm's way (and boxing dehydrated would constitute harm's way) to safeguard future earnings?
Edwards later said that Gavin had given "110%" to make the weight. He added: "If you understand the weight-making process it is the last bit, where you have to shed the water, that is crucial. "
Some wondered how the "support staff" and Edwards could have failed in such a fundamental task of ensuring their best fighter makes the weight for a tournament he has spent, in Edwards' words, his "entire boxing career" working towards.
Former Olympic boxing medallist Richie Woodhall went even further and described the situation as a complete howler.
"There's that many people - nutritionists, physiotherapists - involved these days that are paid good money," said Woodhall.
"It's just a total let-down by everyone. Making the weight is just not an issue - you make the weight."
He has a point. This is the greatest show on earth we're talking about.
But nobody knows the value of an Olympic medal better than Gavin himself.
When he left the ring victorious at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, the southpaw spelled it out: pro terms are dictated to a Commonwealth champ, an Olympic champ dictates his own.
He will also have seen exactly what Olympic success did for his old sparring partner Amir Khan. And every boxing fan knows how far Audley Harrison's Sydney gold carried his career.
Gavin is a far better fighter than A-Force and very possibly a superior prospect to Khan. He is our first world amateur boxing champion and there is every likelihood that whoever wins the lightweight gold in Beijing will have lost to Gavin at some point in the last two years. He has beaten them all.
So I don't buy the conspiracy theory and I don't think we can make a judgement yet on the cock-up option either.
My guess is that Gavin, who has a pregnant girlfriend at home and suitors from the pro game at his gate, was caught between conflicting counsel.
He could stay and take the risk of putting his body through the pain and perspiration of getting his 60kg-plus frame under the limit for five fights in 14 days, or he could go home, turn pro and fight at a more suitable weight in the future.
On top of this would have been Edwards' dilemma: dare he risk one of his young charges' careers (and the reputation of his burgeoning programme) by asking him to fight when at a disadvantage?
But again, this is speculation.
All that is certain is that a young man will be flying home now with a bag full of regrets rather than the gold medal many thought was his for the taking.
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