Grimsby boxer Kevin Hooper eyeing English title bid following Midlands Area lightweight belt win
TRIPLE-title winner Kevin Hooper is calling for Grimsby to back him on the national stage after making history on Friday night.
Hooper is on the brink of an English title bid after clinching the Midlands Area lightweight belt from Amir Unsworth.
The 28-year-old professional, already the holder of British and International Masters titles, out-pointed former champion Unsworth, of Sleaford, 99-91 after ten three-minute rounds at the Beachcomber in Humberston.
As well as ending a seven-year wait for an Area winner from the region, Hooper is now the first Grimsby boxer to win three titles – all on home soil.
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Hooper has won all 13 of his fights and remains Grimsby's only ever unbeaten title winner.
And he has achieved all this despite fitting his boxing around full-time working hours.
His talent, and potential, is undeniable, how ever you scrutinize his record and former opponents.
Just ask Unsworth, who won the Area title by knocking out Walsall's Steve Saville in three rounds at Doncaster and went on to challenge former British champion Derry Matthews.
Just ask Devon's Jamie Speight, who Hooper beat to win the British Masters belt. He has since received full-time sponsorship and challenged for an IBO international title.
And just ask the 500-plus crowd at the Beachcomber, which witnessed another technical masterclass from the boxer trained by Grimsby's Sean Wood.
Unsworth, 31, prowled, pushed and charged in his mission to spoil the party and rough-up Hooper, who had surprisingly given away more than 3lb in weight.
But he never got close. He couldn't pin him down. Hooper's speed – both his footwork and punching – was irrepressible.
Unsworth did land, but those blows were few in number and the cuts on Hooper's face were arguably more attributable to accidental head clashes.
The judges agreed – with an emphatic eight-point winning margin.
Not bad for a security guard.
But now Hooper wants to grab the bull by the horns.
He said: "This was the biggest fight of my career, the biggest title so far.
"People should notice this. Winning the Area title puts your name out there and in line for the British title – and this fight was an English title eliminator too.
"This is the career I want and I want to keep going forwards. Next year could be massive for me and the town.
"What we want would be to have home advantage for an English title fight.
"We've got a great fan-base – it's big for the town, but we need to get the backing from companies to be able to stage such big fights here.
"And I am still looking for full-time sponsors – if anyone can help me, it would be a big boost.
"I'm giving everything I can. I work full-time, I've got three kids, a wife, a house – it's been hard fitting everything in.
"But I'm 13 unbeaten now. I'm here, I'm at the top, I've won three titles and I'm climbing that ladder.
"I'm doing it for myself, of course I am, but I'm doing it for Grimsby too and I want to keep going.
"If I can get the extra support, who knows what I can achieve?"
Hooper's next fight could be an English title showdown with Heywood's Kieran Farrell, a Central Area lightweight champion who has 14 wins from as many fights.
But after weighing in 4lb below the lightweight limit at 131lb, and then tipping the scales at even less on the morning of the fight, Hooper has an extra string to his bow: the option to drop to super-featherweight.
"I came in a bit light but it didn't show at all – I felt great," he said.
"It didn't affect me one bit. If anything, I was more relaxed. I felt fitter than ever and stronger than ever, and it showed out there – I boxed well and everything that Sean (Wood, coach) and I worked on, happened.
"I boxed to instruction, listened to Sean in the corner and it paid off – it was speed and movement. We kept the rhythm and I didn't stand and trade blows – I was too fast for him.
"Sean and I are working great together – I owe this fight to him and he's got me to where I am today. He came up with the masterplan and it worked."
On the prospect of facing 22-year-old Farrell, Hooper said: "Kieran is a good kid and undefeated in 14. He's doing really well and it would be a great match-up.
"We'll sit down and decide where we are going and what weight we will go at next – it will be big things going forward now."
Potential sponsors can contact Hooper on 075323 80456.