Boxing: Pickering poised for European title

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The Independent Online

It has taken Esham Pickering more than seven years and 27 fights to be taken seriously but tonight he meets the Italian Vincenzo Gigliotti for the vacant European super-bantamweight title in one final test.

Pickering turned professional with Brendan Ingle in Sheffield at a time when the trainer was devoted to Naseem Hamed. Unfortunately, Pickering was just another fighter in a gym ruled by the explosive fists and eccentric antics of the brilliant young featherweight.

Since then the Newark-based fighter has been slowly developing during a series of low-key contests. After two defeats in fights for the British title and a world title, he has finally started to show the ability that Ingle predicted so long ago.

Last year, the 27-year-old won the Commonwealth title and then added the British title to set up this evening's bout at Pennington's nightclub in Bradford. It will be an extremely serious fight - only one British boxer, Howard Eastman, holds a European belt - and it is a genuine measure of Pickering's improvement during the last two years that he has a decent chance of winning one this evening.

Gigliotti's most recent fight was for the World Boxing Association title last April when he travelled to France and lost on points to Salim Medjkoune. The Italian is arguably the best fighter Pickering has faced since he lost to the world champion, Mauricio Martinez, for the World Boxing Organisation title four years ago.

* The WBO featherweight champion, Scott Harrison, will face the American-based Armenian William Abelyan in a mandatory defence of his title at Glasgow's Braehead Arena on 6 March.