• Lea Worrall

The British Super-Featherweight Title Jinx

Updated: Aug 6, 2019

Since it's re-introduction in 1986, the British super-featherweight title was a difficult championship to keep hold of. In fact it took fourteen champions and eight years for one to make a first successful defence.

Here is a list of the British super-featherweight champions:-

John Doherty - 16th January to 17th April 1986

Doherty didn't have the greatest start to his professional career, losing his debut to Taffy Mills in the first round on 26th May 1982. The Bradford born Doherty then got back on track by winning his next eight and getting back-to-back draws against Ray Plant and Steve Enwright in 1983. He then lost his next bout to Anthony Brown over a six round points decision.

After two wins he ended 1983 with a seventh round TKO defeat to Stuart Carmichael. He drew his first contest of 1984 against Les Walsh over eight rounds, then went on a winning streak of ten victories over two years, including a win over Les Walsh in a rematch.

On 16th January 1986 he fought Pat Doherty for the vacant British super-featherweight title. It was a night of firsts; it was the fist British title fight of the year, the first British title contest to be held in Preston and the winner would be the first British champion of the newly formed weight division.

John Doherty took the fight on short notice and was a good counter puncher against the aggressive come forward style of Pat Doherty of Croydon. The Bradford man took the championship over the full twelve rounds with John Coyle, the referee, scoring it 118-117 (two rounds, as under British rules rounds were scored on the half point system; e.g. the winner of a round will get 10 points, whilst the loser of the round would get 9½ points).

Pat Cowdell - 17th April to 24th May 1986

Pat Cowdell was born on 18th August 1953 in Smethwick, West Midlands and in 1973 captured the ABA bantamweight championship. He also won the ABA lightweight title in 1975, and stepped up to featherweight taking the ABA featherweight title in 1976 and 77. He also became the bronze medal winner at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, losing to eventual winner Gu Yong-Ju.

He made his professional debut at lightweight on 05th July 1977, beating Albert Coley over a six round decision. He lost his sixth bout on a cut eyebrow in the second round to Alan Robertson. In his tenth contest he took on Les Pickett, winning a twelve round points

decision in a Final Eliminator for the British featherweight championship.

He took on British champion Dave Needham at the Civic Hall, Wolverhampton on 18 September 1979. The referee scored the bout 147-146 in the champion's favour. The decision was controversial and many in the crowd angrily protested for at least fifteen minutes. Luckily for Cowdell he managed to obtain an immediate rematch two months later.

The November bout took place at London's Royal Albert Hall, where he had to go the full fifteen rounds again, this time winning 148-147. In Cowdell's second defence he faced Needham for a third time, winning by a twelfth round retirement. The victory meant that he could keep the Lonsdale belt outright, as he had won three British title fights.

Five victories later he was finally in the big time as on 12th December 1981 he travelled to Houston, USA to take on the great WBC featherweight champion Salvador Sanchez. The champion was only twenty-two years old and was making his seventh defence against Cowdell. The champion put Cowdell down in the fifteenth round and retained the title on a split decision verdict 146-140, 148-137 and 144-145.

Cowdell regrouped in March 1982 by beating the Italian Salvatore Melluzzo for the European featherweight crown by a tenth round TKO due to a badly cut eye. He defended the championship in Zurich against Sepp Iten, winning by a twelfth round technical knockout. He was out of the ring for seventeen months, but came back as a super-featherweight on 10th May 1984, stopping Kevin Pritchard in the fifth round. Two months later he defeated the Belgian Jean-Marc Renard for his European super-featherweight belt with a twelve round unanimous decision.

He defended the crown three times and on 12th October 1985 he boiled back down to featherweight to challenge Azumah Nelson for his WBC featherweight title. The bout took place at Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre. Nelson took the belt with eleventh round knockout of Wilfredo Gomez and was making his second defence against the Englishman.

Nelson, from Accra, Ghana, was all smiles during the introductions as the crowd was pro Cowdell. They traded punches from the opening bell, but it was the champion who was the more sound defensively. The challenger threw a left hook, but dropped his right hand, leaving him open to the champion's left uppercut. Cowdell was immediately unconscious, as referee Octavio Meyran counted him out. He was out for several minutes before getting to his feet. (See The Professor for more information. http://lw05boxing.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/the-professor.html)

He was back in action four months later winning against Steve Griffiths in the sixth round. He then challenged John Doherty for the British super-featherweight title, winning by a sixth round TKO.

Najib Daho - 24th May 1986 to 26th October 1987

Najib Daho was born in Morocco on 13th January 1959, but fought his entire professional career in England and Europe, residing in Manchester. He turned professional on 17th May 1977, defeating Kevin Sheehan in the second round. He then lost his next three, winning two and drawing one, then losing one, bringing his career to 4-3-1 at the end of his first year as a professional.

This is how is career would pan out, winning as many as he lost. His best win to date came against Chris Sanigar in December 1979, stopping his man in the first round with a cut left eyebrow. Four fights later he faced former WBA lightweight champion Ken Buchanan on 15th May 1980, losing by a seventh round knockout to the Scot.

He continued with his winning and losing ways, but in 1985 he picked up his first title by outpointing Kevin Pritchard for the vacant British Central Area super-featherweight title. Another two victories set him up with British super-featherweight champion Pat Cowdell. Daho was 29-18-1 going into the bout with only seven knockouts.

Though his record suggested he was a light puncher, he managed to put Cowdell down with the first left hook he threw. Cowdell got up on shaky legs and found himself on the canvas again seconds later. The champion was in sorts of trouble as he touched down again. He fought on and tried to grab and use his experience to get through the opening round. Cowdell started to box and mid away through the round it looked like he had weathered the onslaught, but at the end of the round Daho detonated another left hook that put the champion down for the count. The upset win set him up for a contest against IBF super-featherweight title holder Barry Michael.

The British born Australian won the IBF championship with a fifteen round unanimous decision over Lester Ellis on 12th July 1985. Against Daho he was making his third defence and had to go the full twelve round distance to win by scores 116-112 (twice) and 118-110 to retain his crown.

In his next fight Daho was in with the European super-featherweight champion Jean-Marc Renard. The bout took place in the champion's home country of Belgium on 31st October 1986. Going into the fifth the challenger was ahead on points. But after a close quarters exchange Daho was in obvious discomfort as a tooth dislodged into his lower gum, forcing him to retire.

Daho then had two non title fights, winning both by stoppage, before he faced Pat Cowdell again for the British crown.

Pat Cowdell - 26th October 1987 to 18th May 1988

After his first round destruction at the hands of Najib Daho, Pat Cowdell returned to action as a lightweight on 21st January 1987, beating Mike Durvan over the ten round distance. He won his next bout three months later with a fifth round retirement over Michael Marsden.

His rematch with Daho took place at the Aston Villa Leisure Centre in Birmingham. The atmosphere in the crowd was electric and after an untidy first round, it was Daho who wobbled the thirty-four year old Cowdell with a left hook and then again with a right. Cowdell boxed behind his jab in the second round and easily stayed away from the huge swings of the champion.

Daho was told to throw uppercuts in the third, which he did but the challenger never got caught as he continued to box nicely. Cowdell's jab was beginning to dominate in the fourth and fifth rounds, bloodying the champion's mouth along the way. Cowdell's work rate meant that Daho was only able to potshot, but he did manage to cut the challenger over the right eyebrow in the sixth.

The cut didn't phase Cowdell, who just got on with the job in hand and continued to box accurately, as Daho looked like he was running out of gas. Cowdell took the eighth round and was beginning to rock the tired champion's head back with the jab in the ninth. Daho had little left, he was on unsteady legs and he wasn't throwing anything back. A left hook landed from Cowdell and the referee had seen enough and stopped the contest at the two-minutes 35 seconds mark of the round.

Six months later Pat Cowdell beat Dave Savage in the fifth round at lightweight before he took on Floyd Havard for the British super-featherweight title.

Daho carried on boxing, winning and losing the Commonwealth lightweight title in 1989. He retired after losing to Carl Crook in an attempt to regain the Commonwealth lightweight crown on 24th April 1991, with a record of 34-25-1 (11 KO's). He died in a traffic collision whilst visiting his home country of Morocco on 29th August 1993, aged just thirty-four years old.

Floyd Havard - 18th May to 06th September 1989

Welshman Floyd Havard was born in Swansea on 16th October 1965. As a successful amateur he missed out on a place to represent Great Britain at the 1984 Olympic Games, but got over that disappointment when he won the ABA featherweight title in 1985, making his professional debut against Dean Bramhald at the end of November that year, winning in the third round.

The Welshman went 18-0 stopping twelve when he challenged for Pat Cowdell's British championship. It was a night of firsts for Havard; it was his first professional title fight and the first time he was scheduled in a twelve rounder.

The contest took place at the Afan Lido, Port Talbot, with the southpaw challenger taking the opening round in front of his home fans. The champion started to warm to the task in the third round as he started to pressure Havard, who was forced to box on the back-foot.

Cowdell's hard work appeared to be catching up with him as at the end of the seventh; where both men traded in mid ring exchanges; Cowdell looked the more weary. Early in the eighth round a straight left from Havard had Cowdell on unsteady legs. A barrage of punches put the champion on the ropes, where a three punch combination put him down. Cowdell managed to get up, but referee Larry O'Connell waved the finish. Shortly afterwards Pat Cowdell announced his retirement and left boxing with a record of 36-6 with 19 KO's.

After lifting the Lonsdale belt Havard outpointed the Canadian John Kalbhenn and Colombia's Idabeth Rojas over the ten round distance, before putting his domestic crown on the line to John Doherty.

John Doherty - 06th September 1989 to 06th February 1990

After losing his British title to Pat Cowdell, John Doherty got back to winning ways against Stuart Carmichael on 20th October 1986. He won his next three bouts, all on points to Dave Savage, Kevin Pritchard and Les Walsh before facing Racheed Lawal for the European super-featherweight crown.

Racheed Lawal was born in Sierra Leone, but lived in Aarhus, Denmark and beat fellow Dane Lars Lund Jensen for the European super-featherweight title. John Doherty was his first challenger and was knocked out in the fourth round, bringing the champion's unbeaten resume to twelve wins from as many contests.

Doherty's next contest was for Floyd Havard's British title, which took place again at the Afan Lido, Port Talbot. Havard started off well, using his southpaw jab to good effect in building up a points lead. The durable Doherty took it all and kept pressurising the champion. His tactics began to pay dividends in round five. Havard could no longer keep Doherty at bay and was forced to trade, coming off second best against the Bradford man.

Havard's lead eroded as he neglected his jab and got involved in some stamina sapping mauling. After an unsightly melee in the penultimate round, the champion emerged from a clinch shaking his right hand. He informed John Coyle, the third man in the ring that he could no longer continue at the 50 second mark.

"I want to be gracious in defeat, but I am bitterly disappointed," Havard said afterwards. "My right hand went again, and I am no longer sure if I have a future in boxing."

Joey Jacobs - 06th February to 18th September 1990

Joey Jacobs was born in Manchester on 01st October 1960. He won the ABA lightweight championship in 1986 and made his professional debut in October that year against Tony Richards, taking a six round points decision. He won five in a row, before suffering a first round defeat at the hands of Edinburgh's George Baigrie in his next bout.

He suffered an eighth and final round knockdown against Neil Haddock in his next bout, but managed to win on points. He then beat Carl Crook for the British Central Area lightweight title, beat Ian McLeod, but lost to Steve Boyle for the British lightweight championship, losing in the eighth round. He picked up another win, but suffered a six rounds points defeat to Harry Escott, but managed to obtain a British super-featherweight title shot at John Doherty in his next contest.

The fight took place at Oldham's Sports Centre and the defending champion got off to a brisk start as he opened up an early points lead. Doherty used his heavy right handers to penetrate Jacobs' defences. He also switched the attack to the challenger's body with the same success.

Jacobs' supporters had something to cheer about in the third, but in round four he managed to get his left hand going and bloodied the champion's nose. Both men went toe-to-toe for long periods, with Jacobs picking up points with his jab.

Doherty landed a right hand early on in the eighth round, opening up a bad cut over the challenger's left eye. He backed off, piling up points with the left, as Doherty drove in for the finish. Rounds nine and ten went to Jacobs as he caught his man with some eye catching hooks which drew blood from the champion's nose and mouth.

Doherty came back in the final two rounds and there were some thrilling exchanges as the advantage swayed from one fighter to the other. The final bell rang and Billy Rafferty, the referee and sole judge scored it 118-117 in favour of Joey Jacobs.

Hugh Forde - 18th September to 24th October1990

Birmingham's Hugh Forde started out on 13th May 1986 outpointing Little Currie over six rounds. He went 12-0 (3 KO's) and in June 1988 he picked up the vacant British Midlands Area super-featherweight title by stopping Gary Maxwell in the second round.

He remained unbeaten for the next two years and amassed a record of 19-0 (9 KO's) when he challenged Joey Jacobs for the British title. The contest started slowly as both men looked for openings and tested each other's strength. Southpaw challenger Forde took the initiative by using his reach advantage effectively to nullify Jacobs' left jabs.

The long right hand leads brought swellings around the champions left eyes. By the fifth round he was firing right hooks to the head, clearly hurting the champion. A left hook shook Jacobs in the eighth which had him grimly holding on.

Jacobs' right eye was cut in the ninth. With his crown slipping away the champion fired back with right hands. He took a beating in the next round as referee Dave Parris ready to intervene. Jacobs survived the round, but Forde came out in the eleventh looking for the finish. A combination of shots relieved the champion of the title one minute and 35 seconds of the round.

Joey Jacobs didn't box again until 01st June 1991 where he lost by a third round TKO for the WBO super-featherweight title against Kamel Bou-Ali. He retired with a record of 10-5 with two knockouts.

Kevin Pritchard - 24th October 1990 to 05th March 1991

Liverpool's Kevin Pritchard made his pro debut against fellow debutant J J Barrett on 21st December 1981, winning a six round decision. He kept busy winning a month later and in February 1982 he fought three times, losing his first contest on 22nd Feb on points. He then won six more contests drawing one on the way to challenging for the vacant British Central Area lightweight title. He was unsuccessful, losing by a fifth round knockout to Glyn Rhodes.

He became a journeyman, winning as many as he lost. On 10th May 1984 he lost in the fifth round to Pat Cowdell, dropping to 17-9-1. He finished 1984 and started 1985 with wins that put him in line for a shot at the vacant British Central Area title against fellow journeyman Najib Daho, dropping a ten round decision.

Over the next five years he lost more than he won, but his fortunes changed in 1990 when he drew with Nigel Haddock and outpointed Harry Escott, which earned him a shot at Hugh Forde for the British championship.

Pritchard, whose record stood at 22-19-3 (10 KO's) started aggressively against the champion, backing Forde to the ropes in the first and third rounds, but the southpaw's flashy two-fisted combinations kept the points total in his favour. The end came un-expectantly in the fourth round. Forde was caught with a well time right, with the champion 'out' before he hit the canvas. Referee Larry O'Connell continued with the count even though Forde's cornermen jumped through the ropes.

Forde suffered his first professional defeat, whilst Pritchard became a champion after ten years in the paid ranks.

Hugh Forde's career took a downward spiral after the defeat. He lost his next contest to Canada's Tony Pep by a ninth round TKO. After beating Richard Joyce, he challenged George Ayeh for the Commonwealth super-featherweight title, winning on points. He lost the belt in his first defence to Paul Harvey via a third round KO.

He then skipped the lightweight division and campaigned as a light-welterweight, outpointing Karl Taylor in 1992. He lost to Andreas Panayi on points in 1993, then beat Carlos Chase in 1994, before challenging Ross Hale for the Commonwealth light-welterweight tile on 03rd August 1994. Forde was stopped in the seventh round.

He lost his next bout by a six round decision to Carl Wright. His final contest took place on 16th June 1995 against future WBU light-welterweight king Shea Neary, which he lost on a sixth round retirement. Forde left the fight game with a 24-7 (11 KO's) resume.

Robert Dickie - 05th March to 30th April 1991

Born in Carmarthen, Wales on 23rd June 1964, Robert Dickie started his professional career against Billy Hough, winning a six round decision in March 1983. His first blemish came three months later drawing fight number five. He lost his next contest to Danny Flyn in the fifth round for the vacant British Scottish Area title.

He finally won the British Scottish Area title, knocking out John Sharkey in the second round for the vacant belt. He carried on winning until he drew with South Africa's Frank Khonkhobe in October 1985. His next contest brought him the vacant British featherweight title with a points win over John Feeney on 09th April 1986.

He successfully defended the championship twice and on 29th March 1988 stopped Indonesia's Hengky Gun in the fifth round for the WBC International super-featherweight title. At the end of August that year he lost that belt to Kamel Bou-Ali by a sixth round TKO.

After three more wins, Dickie got his shot against Kevin Pritchard for the British title at the National Sports Centre in his native Wales. Dickie took the title by stopping his man in the eighth round.

Kevin Pritchard lost his next bout to future WBO super-featherweight title holder Jimmi Bredahl. The great Dane stopped him in the third round. He then boiled down to featherweight, challenging Colin McMillan for the British title on 04th September 1991. The seventh round stoppage defeat proved to be his last as he retired with a record of 23-22-3 with twelve opponents stopped.

Dramani Gibiliru - 30th April to 19th September 1991

Dramani 'Sugar' Gibiliru was born in Liverpool on 13th July 1966. He dropped a four round decision to fellow Merseysider Steve Benny on his debut in November 1984. He finished the first twelve months as a professional with a record of 5-4 with three knockouts. From December 1985 to January 1987 Gibiliru never won a contest. He broke that duck in April 1987 knocking out Dean Binch in the third.

He didn't win another fight until he beat Tony Banks in the fifth round on 31st May 1989. Previously he managed to extend unbeaten prospect Andy Holligan the full eight rounds and was stopped for the first time in his career by hard hitting Pat Barratt for the British Central Area light-welterweight title in April 89.

1990 was a good year for him as he won the vacant British Central Area lightweight title against Tony Foster and then the vacant BBBofC Central Area super-featherweight championship against Peter Gabbitus. He lost a Commonwealth super-featherweight title challenge in the fifth round against Mark Reefer. He then went on a four fight unbeaten run, before challenging Robert Dickie for the Lonsdale belt.

Gibiliru proved an undoubted amount of dogged determination to stop Dickie in the ninth round. Whatever the champion threw it was more than matched by the challenger. Dickie finally wilted and with the champion bleeding and helpless referee John Coyle stepped in and waved the end. Gibiliru's manager Jack Trickett summed it up. "He just broke the guy's heart. He was a revelation," he said. "Some people were talking about how Dickie looked weary and saying he wasn't right for the fight. But it was Sugar who made him that way. He just didn't want to give up and like I said, he broke Dickie's heart."

Robert Dickie came back on 10th November 1993, losing on a second round retirement to unheralded Phil Found. He never boxed again and left with a record of 22-4-2 (4 KO's). He died of a heart attack on 28th October 2010 aged forty-six.

John Doherty - 19th September 1991 to 25th April 1992

After losing his title to Joey Jacobs, John Doherty boiled down to the featherweight division and took on St Albans Sean Murphy for the vacant British title. Doherty was stopped in the third round on 22nd May 1990. He was out of the ring for eleven months before returning to the super-featherweight division and outpointed Frankie Foster.

The victory put him in line to face Sugar Gibiliru for his old British crown. Doherty became a three time British super-featherweight champion winning a twelve round decision over the journeyman 118-117 on referee Roy Francis' card.

Gibiliru boxed on, winning and losing as he would put the unbeaten prospects Michael Ayers and Ross Hale through their paces. He last fought on 25th March 1995, losing a six round decision to Peter Judson. He retired with a resume of 16-32-7 (8 KO's) and was only stopped four times in his thirty-two losses.

Michael Armstrong - 25th April to 13th October 1992

Michael Armstrong was born as Michael Morris in 1968. He turned pro against John Hales, winning by a first round knockout on 27th January 1988. He won seven in a row before drawing with Gary King, then lost his next contest to Birmingham's Mark Holt. He got back to winning ways, but picked up a second defeat on points to Russell Davison at the end of 1989. He began 1990 with a revenge match against Davison, winning on points over ten rounds.

The victory put him in line for a shot at Commonwealth featherweight champion Modest Napunyi. Armstrong showed his inexperience as he rushed into an early lead, but neglected to pace himself. By the time he was stopped in the ninth round he was a spent force. As he got up, he didn't know where he was, or what he was doing and began to throw punches at the referee as he was counted out.

He bounced back and three stoppage wins later got him a chance to become a domestic champion against John Doherty. Michael Armstrong never allowed Doherty to get into any sort of rhythm as he steadied the champion constantly with crosses and hooks. The fifth round looked like Doherty was about to douse the challenger's fire, but with Armstrong looking disoriented he just upped he high work rate.

Armstrong's punch accuracy finally caught up with Doherty in round seven, touching down early in the round from a clubbing right hand. The referee didn't have time to give a count as the champion bounced up to his feet straight away.

A right hand followed by a left hook put Doherty down face first at the end of the round. Rafferty reached ten as the bell sounded, causing confusion whether the champion was being led back to his corner for the minute's respite or the end of the contest. Many experts believed that Armstrong was the man to break the jinx of the British super-featherweight title and make it thirteenth time lucky to hold on to his crown.

Not only did it mean the end of the bout for the three time British super-featherweight champion, the defeat brought the curtain down on his career as he dropped to 28-8-3 (4 KO's).

Neil Haddock - 13th October 1992 to 23rd March 1994

Born in Newport, Neil Haddock had a bad start to his professional career, losing his first two contests on points in 1987. After twelve months in the paid ranks his record stood at 4-4 with only one stoppage win.

His winning and losing streak continued and on 19th November 1990 got stopped with a cut right eye in the ninth round to future WBO featherweight champion Steve Robinson. Two wins later he faced Steve Robinson again for the vacant BBBofC Welsh Area title, winning a ten round points decision in May 1992. The victory got him a shot at Michael Armstrong's British crown.

The twenty-seven year old challenger was a replacement for Floyd Havard, who damaged his hand. Haddock looked the bigger man and dropped Armstrong in the second round, almost ending the fight there and then. The Mancunian rallied in rounds three and four, but the challenger withstood the onslaught. Armstrong was dropped twice in round six and referee Larry O'Connell stepped in relieving the twenty-three year old champion of his title.

Armstrong, who was touted as a possible world title challenger lost his next bout to Doncaster's Jon Jo Irwin for the vacant WBO Penta-Continental title by a twelve round unanimous decision. He also lost again to Bamana Dibateza in the third round. He entered the ring with a stitched arm suffered from a previous injury. The stitches burst in the third round, forcing hm to be stopped by a TKO.

Haddock on the other hand won a non-title fight against Harry Escott, before taking on Steve Walker in the first defence of his British title. With a stoppage victory in round seven, Neil Haddock broke the hoodoo of the thirteen champions before him and successfully defended his belt.

He ended 1993 with a points win over John T Williams. He then put his belt on the line against former British champion Floyd Havard. After he first lost his title to John Doherty, Floyd Havard didn't box for eighteen months. After suffering a first round knockdown, Havard managed to win against Hull's Tony Foster on points over eight rounds in March 1991.

He stayed unbeaten in five contests before he challenged Puerto Rico's IBF super-featherweight champion John John Molina. He won the vacant belt in February 1992 against Jackie Gunguluza with a fourth round TKO. Against Havard he was making his fifth defence. Havard's challenge took place in Cardiff but he was floored in rounds three and six, having to retire at the end of the sixth round with a broken nose.

Haddock vs Havard took place at Cardiff's Star Leisure Centre. Haddock lost his title with a cut right eye in round seven. On 14th May Neil Haddock travelled to France and challenged Jacobin Yoma for his EBU super-featherweight title. The Frenchman kept his title with a sixth round retirement victory. It proved to be Haddock's last performance as he left the game with a 14-11-1 resume knocking out five opponents.

Floyd Havard beat Eddie Lloyd in the fourth round in a non title contest. In December 1994 he successfully defended the British championship, stopping unbeaten Dave McHale with a tenth round TKO victory.

With another non title victory under his belt he made a second successful defence against former champ Michael Armstrong. The bout took place in Swansea on 05th May 1995 with Armstrong getting knocked out in the ninth round. He retired with a record of 18-7-1 with nine knockouts.

Havard never defended the British super-featherweight title again, but continued to win his next three contests. His last fight took place on 30th November 1996 where he stopped Carl Allen in the third round. Havard retired with only two defeats in thirty six contests and twenty one knockouts.

All the best fight fans

Lea https://twitter.com/LeaWorrall

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