Former champ Wilders back on world title trail

Yorkshire favourite ready for ring return by Nigel McDermid YORKSHIRE hero Noel Wilders returns to the ring early next month – and that in itself is a battle won.

The 29-year-old Castleford southpaw lost his European bantamweight title to Frenchman David Guerault last June and he now admits: "I was ready to pack it all in. I felt I'd thrown it all away. And I knew I'd only myself to blame."

Coach Michael Marsden and manager Trevor Callighan both sympathised with Wilders' dejection but persuaded him

to take a long break before making a decision. And once Wilders had decided he wanted to remain in the fight trade they ensured his return to the ring was not premature.

Wilders says: "After losing the title I didn't want to talk to anyone. But then I did a lot of thinking and sorted myself out. Now I've got my head right and I can't wait to fight again."

Wilders had taken a hammering in front of the TV cameras when world class challenger Guerault stopped him in round seven of their showdown in Sheffield on June 10.

It was a ruthless display by the Frenchman. Wilders had impressed in the opening minutes but was then caught by a punch on the break which the ref let go.

The Yorkshireman never properly recovered and Guerault proceeded to cut up Wilders' face badly – not just with fast hands, there was plenty of elbow use too.

"Aye, but I've no complaints about that," says Wilders. "He'd come over here to do what he had to do and did it best way he could. Fair dos to him.

"What bothered me was myself. I'd gone into the fight complacent. I'd got so used to winning I thought I could never lose. When you're winning it's easy to take things for granted. But you can't get away with that fighting top level.

"Weight was my problem. I was eating rubbish. I've been a bantam since I was 15 but with Guerault I left it too late to get the pounds off properly. Of course, I made the weigh in but I were drained of strength.

"That's why I couldn't recover properly after he caught me. I'd nowt left and that hadn't happened to me before."

The physical wounds mended

quickly enough but the psychological scars took longer to heal.

"I felt very negative after Guerault," he said. "Now I see it as a positive

experience. It's something I've learnt from. Now I'm within easy reach of my fighting weight. I'm eating properly and I feel good in training.

"I can't wait to fight again and I'd jump at the chance to fight Guerault again. I know I'd beat him. People only remember your last fight so I want to get back and show what I can do."One of the best boxers to come out

of Yorkshire, Wilders has built his success on foundations of stamina, an elusive style and an ability to read a fight well.As an amateur, Wilders won the ABA bantamweight title in 1995 before joining the paid ranks. His first belt as a pro came in 1998 when he won the area title, stopping Marcus Duncan in the sixth round for the area belt.

He stopped Ady Lewis in an eliminator for the British crown in 1999 before clinching the

title later in the year, beating Francis Ampofo.

There was one defence before he overcame Frenchman Kamel Guerfi, nearly four years ago, to take the then vacant IBO world bantamweight belt.

Last March Wilders travelled to Nice and grabbed the European title in Fabien Guillerme's own backyard. He defended the title once before his June defeat.

The task Wilders now faces is rebuilding his dreams of a major world title.

His opponent for the February 6 bout has yet to be named.

Trainer Marsden said: "After the fight in February we're in the market and when a good opportunity comes along we'll be taking it.

"Noel's skills have not diminished – in fact I'd say he's better than he was. He's learnt from that last fight.

"I still don't think we've seen the best of Noel Wilders. There's plenty more to look

forward to."

Tickets – ring 01977 733013 or 07739 583315.

l Yorkshire-trained Esham Pickering took the European super-batam title at Pennington's, Bradford, last night stopping Italian Vincenzo Gigliotti with a short right in round eight. There were victories too for local heroes Nadeem Siddiique and Donovan Smillie.