Nigel Benn, Naseem Hamed, Chris Eubank?, hell you might even get a Lennox Lewis in there, all the above are plausible answers when asking who was the most exciting British fighter of the last decade? A name that wouldn’t get too many mentions (at least not amongst Joe public) would be Carl Adrian Thompson, also known as “The Cat’, but the fact is pound for pound Thompson delivered more ups and downs and frills and spills than a weekend in Vegas.
Thompson’s debut came in 1988 and he quickly went through eight opponents before squaring off against Crawford Ashley for the vacant Central Area light heavyweight title. Thompson was beaten in six rounds, no shame in that, Ashley was good. Two fights later (one win one loss) and Thompson travelled to Monte Carlo to fight Yawe Davis, Thompson was done in two and it seemed that his transition from Muay Thai wouldn’t get off the ground, he was labelled tough but not dangerous.
Five months later Thompson was booked for an eight rounder at Bethnal Green against a Frank Warren prospect named Nicky Piper, Piper had won ten with nine not having the pleasure of seeing the end of the third round. It was all over in three, with Johnny Nelson on a boxing world tour carrying the WBF cruiserweight title with him, Thompson was suddenly the best cruiserweight in the country, Piper was a mess and suddenly a light heavyweight, Thompson had ruined him.
Thompson had to wait nearly a year before a British title fight was sanctioned, he took on Steve Lewsam of Grimsby at a caravan site in Cleethorpes, Thompson took care of business in the eighth.
Thompson went on a run of seven wins from February 93 to October 94 winning and defending the European cruiserweight title against good opposition, but what with Benn, Eubank, Bruno and the imminent arrival of Hamed Thompson’s achievements were going unnoticed. In 1995 Thompson had home advantage for a WBO cruiserweight title fight against German Ralf Rocchigiani. Leading on all cards at the end of the tenth Thompson injured his shoulder and that was that, Rocchigiani was the champion. Two years later with three fights in between Thompson got a chance to set the record straight when he challenged for the WBO title once again against Rocchigiani, but this time on German soil, Thompson won easily but one judge managed to go against him.
Thompson returned to England to have a pair of fights with former World super middleweight champion Chris Eubank, you know the saying “sometimes when you win you actually lose”? Well this applies here, Thompson was the victor on both occasions but in handing Eubank beatings and in fight two his first stoppage loss Thompson gave Eubank humility and the once hated figure of British boxing was given all the sympathy all the attention and all the coverage, Thompson never complained though, he never did.
Having just beaten Chris Eubank for the second time, Thompson was in the middle of a post fight interview when he was interrupted by Johnny Nelson and trainer Brendan Ingle, initially just a bit of banter which Thompson made light of “you’re too good for me Johnny” turned into a bit of a jostling match which Thompson wasn’t pleased about “hey this is my night Johnny”.
Eight months and plenty of name calling later Thompson and Nelson met with the WBO title on the line, Nelson was the winner in five rounds although Thompson complained that the stoppage was too early, and just like that he was out of the frame with the WBO.
Nine months later Thompson returned to the ring against Terry Dunstan for the vacant British cruiserweight title, with eleven tough rounds behind them and one minute left in the last, Thompson and Dunstan in true Rocky fashion scored simultaneous knockdowns, Thompson got up, Dunstan didn’t and Thompson was champ. Thompson followed this up by winning and defending the European title against good men and then went in against Jamaican Uriah Grant for the IBO’s version of the world title, Thompson smashed him to bits and won in five rounds. For his first defence Thompson took on American Ezra Sellers and what followed can only be described as a knockdown fest, four rounds six knockdowns and four of them chalked against Thompson, the IBO title was gone and so it appeared was Thompson, he was 36 and no one saw a way back for the Cat.
Two years later and three warm up fights under his belt Thompson challenged once again for the IBO strap, this time against hard as nails Israeli-born South African Sebastian Rothmann. On this very site I wrote that I couldn’t see anything other than a Rothmann victory and it looked like that would be the case as he dominated for four rounds slamming punches into Thompson’s face with monotonous regularity, but in the fifth things went a little haywire, a pair of right hands at the end of the round had Rothmann down for the first time in his career but he was saved by the bell. Thompson had a decent sixth, but the seventh and eighth belonged to Rothmann and when a series of shots had Thompson slumped against the ropes members of the crowd called for it to be waved off, and then BOOM! Thompson uncorked the right hander of his life and it obliterated Rothmann, he got up at eight but it was over, Thompson had won, but he barely had the energy to celebrate.
Thompson on victory
“I had to suffer to win, it didn’t matter that he was ahead and catching me, I knew. I knew”
A ringside observer for the Rothmann fight was British cruiserweight starlet David Haye and it didn’t take long for the two to be linked, it didn’t take much longer for the fight to be made either. So once again on the 10th September Thompson steps in the line of fire and once again I’m backing the other bloke, there’s no doubt that Thompson is still dangerous and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him deposit Haye on the canvass for the second time in his short career, but in all honesty Haye should prove too much, and I expect the referee to be intervening around the half way mark to save Thompson from further punishment, he landed the punch of his life last time out and he couldnt possibly do it again, could he?.
Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank, Naseem Hamed, maybe Lennox Lewis? Don’t make me laugh.