Boxing: King Arthur's reign on line

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The Independent Online

One thing Britain's fistful of world boxing champions have in common is the gift of the gab, as well as the jab. Edinburgh's Alex Arthur holds a worthy place among that articulate band, albeit that his own World Boxing Organisation super-featherweight title is oddly prefixed with the word "interim".

This does not mean that he is simply keeping the belt warm for someone else. He holds it because the official champion, Joan Guzman, an undefeated Dominican who trades under the sobriquet "The Little Tyson", was inactive for several months and failed to meet a designated date with Arthur.

So Arthur, 29, the reigning British and European champion,was awarded the interim label after defeating Koba Gogoladze, of Georgia, this year, and though Guzman was back in business with a win last month it is widely expected that he will formally relinquish his claim to the title and upgrade to lightweight. Meanwhile, on Saturday at his hometown Meadowbank Stadium, Arthur puts his temporary title on the line in a potentially explosive domestic dust-up against Stephen Foster Jnr, a Manchester pal of Ricky Hatton. The hope is that this will lead to a meeting with Juan Marquez, the current World Boxing Council champion, before moving up to Amir Khan territory among the lightweightsand attempting to emulate fellow Edinburgh resident Ken Buchanan by becoming a world champion in that division.

"The whole scenario may sound rather complicated but it's clear in my own mind what I have to do," says Arthur. "And that's a number on Foster. Then we'll take it from there."

"Amazing" Alex Arthur is how he is labelled. "Ambitious" is equally appropriate. He says he would like to win titles at three weights and reckons he has the armoury to do so. A power puncher with a brave heart, as befits his essential Scottishness, he has talked a pretty good fight since his days as a top-notch amateur with a vested pedigree which includes a 1998 Commonwealth Games gold medal.

"Although it seems I am still one step away from an established world title, I still count myself as a champion," he says. "But I'd like to be bracketed with the top guys in the country. I've been fighting at 12-rounders since I was 23 so I deserve some recognition. I'm a young 29 and super-fresh. I'm not at my peak yet. My best days are yet to come. I've never had a job in my life. I won my first junior title at 12 and I've been doing nothing but box ever since."

On paper, he and Foster seem well-matched, although Arthur has campaigned against the better-quality opposition in his 26-fight career. Both men have been beaten once Arthur was surprisingly stopped in five rounds by another Mancunian, Michael Gomez, four years ago, while Foster, who has had 25 fights, lost his World Boxing Union featherweight title on points to Britain's current "Best Young Boxer", Derry Matthews, a year ago.

The 27-year-old son of a dec-ent ex-pro, Steve "The Viking" Foster, who held the Commonwealth middleweight title, he is not in the same extrovert mould as Arthur. He is a bit of a bird man, though; falcons, that is. He hunts rabbits with them most weekends out on the moors.

But whether Arthur, who has learned not to hang his chin out after the Gomez defeat, will prove easy prey to Foster's own attacking style is questionable. Arthur has shown he can fight with flair and is a hurtful puncher, especially to the body. After beingin a holding pattern, the high-flying world champion-in-waiting is ready to land.