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Magee faces dane in last chance saloon

WE OFTEN hear that veterans facing a crucial fight are entering the last chance saloon. Yet, even after they are beaten, they find there's another one down the street. You write off fighters at your peril.

Still, it's hard to imagine there will be any more doors left open to the loser of tonight's clash between Brian Magee and Mads Larsen. The winner could still have a future.

Neither man has time on his side. Belfastman Magee, 35, and Dane Larsen, who will be 38 in nine days' time, contest the vacant European super-middleweight title in Aarhus, Denmark.

For Magee, a former British champion, it's the end of a frustrating spell of inactivity due to injuries and cancelled fights. Even if he loses, he'll pick up €150,000, the biggest purse of his career.

"Brian is over the moon about this. We had been working on all sorts of fronts over the past few months without being able to tie anything down," explained his manager, Pat Magee.

"He's fighting a guy he can beat. Larsen is past his sell-by date.

"I wonder what motivation he has; how much he's got left. We'll find out in the fight."

They might be unwise to dismiss the Dane's desire and ability to regain the European title he won in 2003 but never defended because of a protracted shoulder injury and promotional problems.

After being inactive for over three years, Larsen earned a crack at the WBA and IBF titles held by Germany's Sven Ottke and only lost on a majority decision.


His only other defeat in 53 fights was on cuts against Trevor Ambrose in London in 1996, and the Ottke defeat was his only setback in his last 40 bouts. So the assumption that he's over the hill could be foolish.

Magee, who has been a professional for 12 years, failed in his previous bid for the European title, losing on a controversial split decision to Vitali Tsypko in Germany in 2005.

His only other losses in 36 fights were to former world champion Robin Reid, on points, and current WBC titleholder Carl Froch, on a stoppage in 11 rounds.

Magee did hold the IBO title, which doesn't have much value, and temporarily moved up to light-heavyweight to draw with Tony Oakey for the British title in Dublin three years ago.

He has won his four fights since, including an impressive eighth round knockout of Steve McGuire to capture the British super-middleweight title in December 2008. Injury forced him to relinquish it.

Both Magee and Larsen are predicting that tonight's winner will go forward to a crack at the world title and that appetising prospect will make them pull out all the stops to try and achieve that goal.

The WBC and WBA both currently rate the Dane at No8 in the world, while Magee's only listing is at No14 by the WBC.

Larsen, with home advantage, has to be considered the favourite. Both are stylish southpaws with decent punching power, but I feel the Dane has that little bit extra to ensure victory, perhaps on a late stoppage.

p Brian Magee v Mads Larsen, live on Setanta Ireland tonight at 8.45pm