MAL Gates just can’t stop winning.
The South Shields coach clinched title glory last year through the two main stars at his Harton & Westoe Miners Welfare gym, Lee Mould and Anthony Nelson.
But yesterday, Gates extended his unbeaten run to 20 contests thanks to the boxer he refers to as “the quiet man”.
Tom Whitfield made plenty of noise in the ring when he clinched the big North-East derby against Hartlepool’s Daniel Cope in the battle of the unbeaten welterweights at Houghton.
The boxers, friends as well as rivals slugged it out in the fight of the night, referee Steve Hawkins awarding it to Whitfield 58-57.
“I think the difference between the two was that Tom was a little bit more polished in his performance,” said Gates.
“Without being disrespectful to the other lads on the show, I thought it was the fight of the day.
“But that’s the sort of fight you get when have two good local boys going at it in a derby.
“Credit to the Copes who were very gracious in defeat, but I just think Tom had more polish.
“I think too his experience came to the fore - he had 85 fights as an amateur and I think that helped him.”
Whitfield did have that extra know-how and he also possessed the greater reach which proved crucial at Rainton Meadows Arena.
The 28-year-old, who stands 6ft 1in, used his long arms to great effect in the opening two rounds.
Cope may have been the more aggressive fighter but Whitfield produced the cleaner shots, using his jab effectively, while connecting with his right as well.
There had been much verbal sparring in the first two rounds with both corners arguing with the British Boxing Board of Control officials over the length of the fight.
Finally confirmation came that the bout was six rounds instead of the four announced by MC Brian Houshby.
That seemed to bring the best out of Cope who began the third with greater purpose.
After walking onto a number of shots in the first six minutes of action, Cope began to force Whitfield back and get through with a good volume of shots with his right.
Whitfield landed two good rights in round four, but it was his defence which was key in the fourth as the 24-year-old Poolie upped the pressure.
After four rounds, it read all square on this reporter’s very unofficial scorecard.
The penultimate session was an absolute belter with the three minutes of action proving pretty impossible to pick a winner.
Cope again did the pressing with a powerful assault and while Whitfield could not match his rival’s quantity there was certainly quality from his gloves.
I had the scores dead level at 57-57 going into the last and it was Whitfield who took the round with some sharp shots to the head of his rival.
Both boxers deserve massive praise, firstly for taking such a contest so early in their pro careers and then for following that up with a confrontation which was worth the admission money on its own.
“I knew Dan would rush me and he came on strong in the fourth,” Whitfield told the Gazette.
“But I thought I landed the cleaner and crisper shots and I think I won most of the rounds.
“Dan’s by far the best I’ve fought and I was really pleased with my performance.”