Ricky Hatton praises boxer Jon Thaxton's 17-year career
By Richard Hancock
Jon Thaxton gave Hatton a tough time back in 2000 for the British title
The professional boxing career of Jon Thaxton has been celebrated at a special dinner in Norwich.
Thaxton's former opponent Ricky Hatton was the guest speaker for a 300-strong guest list that included local boxing and football stars.
The former world-champion, who beat Thaxton on points in 2000, said he was happy to mark Jono's retirement.
"When he finally got that European title I was proud as punch, he's one of boxing's nice-guys," he said.
"In fighting Jon I feel that I've had a bit to do with his career. Through the years he's had a bit of bad luck, against Jason Rowlands and myself, with the cuts.
"He's had a great career - the people of Norwich, his fans, supporters and friends should be very proud of him," he added.
He's someone that many youngsters should look up to - if at first you don't succeed, keep trying, good things happen
Thaxton's greatest successes came towards the end of his career, winning three British lightweight title fights in 2006 and 2007.
He then secured the European crown with a spectacular third-round knockout of Juan Melero in October 2008.
He called time on his career a year later after losing to John Murray, failing in his attempt to secure a Lonsdale belt outright by making a third successful defence.
Norwich's Commonwealth heavyweight champion Sam Sexton, currently training to face Derek Chisora for the British title, says Thaxton's always been an inspiration.
"I remember growing up watching Jon in the gym - he was a 'trainaholic', a maniac. I'd watch his training routines and go off and do them myself," he said.
Thaxton still confesses to keeping a close eye on his weight, nearly a year after retiring, and Hatton says that's a mark of the man.
"I wish I could say the same, but he's always in trim, you can see he's a fitness fanatic.
"He's someone that many youngsters should look up to - if at first you don't succeed, keep trying, good things happen," he said.
"That's what happened with Jon, and when he got that European title I was delighted for him," he added.
After a promising time as a young kick-boxer, Thaxton was encouraged to try out boxing at the Norwich Lads Club, training alongside a young Herbie Hide.
Thaxton finally claimed the British title after beating Lee Meager on points
He turned professional at the age of 18 in 1992, and over the next few years he earned a reputation as a hard worker and an even harder puncher, lifting Southern Area and Intercontinental light-welterweight titles.
Bob Lonkhurst, Southern Area inspector for the British Boxing Board of Control, says he was impressed by Thaxton from the very early days.
"I've known Jon since his fifth professional fight - a barrel-chested 19-year-old who'd just come out of kick-boxing. I saw him and just thought, 'this guy's special'.
"Jon's a world champion by his dedication, his professionalism, his power of punch, his aggressiveness," he said.
"And he never, ever bad-mouthed anybody, the guy's special and Norwich should be proud of him," he added.
Thaxton raised a few eyebrows in 1996 when, as a late stand-in, he knocked out unbeaten world-title prospect Paul "Scrap Iron" Ryan in the first round at the York Hall.
His first shot at the British title came in 1999 when he lost to Jason Rowland in the fifth round, but his big moment was to come a year later.
Thaxton and a young Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton went toe-to-toe for 12 gruelling rounds for the British title at Wembley Arena.
Lonkurst is one of many who claim the fight should have been stopped after Thaxton cut the Manchester fighter in the opening round.
"I don't mind going on record to say that if it had been anyone other than Ricky it would have been stopped in Jon's favour, he was cut badly.
"I'd say this to Ricky, it generated his career. Jon was unlucky, he could have won by a stoppage, they'd have had a return and both earned a lot of money," he said.
There has been plenty of drama out of the ring too. Thaxton received a nine-month ban after he tested positive for the banned substance nandralone, but the ban was successfully challenged.
In 2002 his career looked over when he severely injured his shoulder in a car collision.
Two years later he returned to the ring after receiving funding for painkillers from Norwich businessman Carl Moore, allowing him to fight for the WBF lightweight title before chasing more prestigious belts.
Thaxton now works as a fitness coach and motivational speaker. He also visits schools across Norfolk giving anti-bullying talks.
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