This Saturday night at the O2 Arena in London Tony Bellew (29-2-1, 19KOs) takes on David Haye (28-3, 26KOs) in a rematch that is overshadowed by a strong undercard.
When the original date for the rematch was set in September the hype from their previous encounter was active and relevant. But 14 months down the line you have to wonder what the point is?
I will openly admit that I ridiculed the first fight with no intention of watching it but in the end I gave in and was pleasantly surprised with how it unfolded. This time nothing but the undercard is of interest to me.
Butler v Rodriguez
Paul Butler (26-1, 14KOs) takes on undefeated Puerto Rican Emmanuel Rodriguez (17-0, 12KO) for the IBF Bantamweight title which was recently vacated by Ryan Burnett.
The 29-year-old from Chester, England is ranked at No.3 in Britain and No.6 in the World. Butler has 178 rounds under his belt in 27 fights with a knockout ratio of 52% and a combined opponent record of 287-282-25,
Butler has already held the IBF bantamweight title before when he outpointed Stewart Hall in a stunning fight back in 2014. After dropping back down to 115lbs he lost against Zolani Tete in his only professional loss when he was stopped in the eighth round.
Since that defeat the ‘Baby faced Assassin’ has gone on a 9-fight win streak beating decent opposition along the way. In the rematch with Hall last year Butler produced a boxing clinic to win unanimously and set-up this title fight against Rodriguez.
Unbeaten Latino champion Emmanuel Rodriguez is currently ranked as the best 118lb fighter in Puerto Rico and No.13 in the world. In 17 fights he has accumulated 77 rounds of boxing with a 71% knockout ratio and a combined opponent record of 185-92-7.
Rodriguez is somewhat still inexperienced in the pro game with his most notable victory coming against Alberto Guevara in a 10-round unanimous decision in 2016. But don’t let that deceive you as the 26-year-old is being touted as a special talent. Rodriguez was a successful amateur who picked up a gold medal in the Youth Olympics and silver in the Youth World Championships both in 2010.
This is a tough fight to call as both are orthodox and stand at 5’ 6” with similar styles. They will both look to establish their jabs and fight on the outside while throwing left hooks to the head and body. It will be a matter of who has the best timing and fastest hands.
I can see ‘Manny’ as Rodriguez likes to be known getting his distance right and making life difficult for Butler. If the Englishman can counter his opponent and upset his rhythm then he has every chance of getting the win.
My head says Rodriguez but my heart says Butler so I’m going for a split decision in favour of Butler. I believe the experience of the Tete fight will get him just over the line.
Joyce v Thomas
Joe Joyce (3-0, 3KOs) steps up his quality of opposition once again when he takes on the commonwealth heavyweight champion Lenroy Thomas (22-4-1, 10KOs).
The 32-year-old from Putney, London has his work cut out against the Jamaican-born southpaw. Joyce is being fast tracked by his promoter David Haye with the hope of following in his footsteps of becoming a heavyweight world champion one day.
The well decorated amateur is over 3-inches taller than Thomas and should have too much for the 33-year-old. Even though this is only ‘Juggernaut’ fourth professional fight I’m going for the big man to win by knockout.
Ward v Tennyson
Undefeated Martin Joseph Ward (19-0-2, 9KOs) defends his Commonwealth and European super-featherweight titles against the WBA international champion James Tennyson (21-2, 17KOs)
The man from Leeds, England ‘Wardy’ will need to keep his distance from the dangerous and heavy handed Belfast boy. ‘The Assassin’ will look to get on the inside and let his hands go. I cannot see Ward, 26, managing to stay out of range for the whole 12-rounds so I’m going for the 24-year-old Tennyson to win by stoppage in the fight of the night.
Ryder v Cox
The 29-year-old John Ryder (25-4, 13KOs) takes on Swindon’s Jamie Cox (25-1, 14KOs) in a mouth-watering last chance saloon fight in the super-middleweight division.
Cox, 31, is fresh from a second round knockout victory over Harry Matthews and hopes to get back onto the world stage after losing to World Boxing Super Series finalist George Groves.
The Londoner is 2-inches shorter than Cox but his southpaw stance will cause his opponent problems. That being said three of Ryder’s four defeats have come against orthodox fighters who had that extra bit of quality.
I’m expecting a good scrap where both fighters throw caution to the wind. This really is even-stevens and it will depend on who wants it more on he night. If I was splitting hairs I would have to edge towards Cox.
Rest of the undercard
Light heavyweight Joshua Buatsi (5-0, 3KOs) is back in action when he faces Frenchman Stephane Cuevas (8-1-3, 4KOs).
American super-welterweight Money Powell IV (6-0, 3KOs), light heavyweight Kody Davies (3-0, 1KO) and featherweight Jordan Gill (19-0, 4KOs) are also on the bill.
Bradley Skeete (27-2, 12KOs) was stopped in two rounds by the hard hitting Spaniard Kerman Lejarraga (25-0, 20KOs) in the Bilbao Arena on Saturday night.
The Londoner made the brave decision to take on undefeated Lejarraga in his hometown for the vacant European welterweight title.
The opening exchanges were pretty even with both fighters managing to connect with jabs but disaster struck in the second round when Skeete was caught with a right that sent him to the canvas.
It looked nothing more than a flash knockdown which the penge-fighter managed to recover from rather quickly. The Spaniard smelt blood and was back on the attack, this time it was a crunching shot to the ribs that took the wind out of Skeete.
Skeete showed a lot of guts to get back to his feet as you could clearly see the anguish written all over his face. Once again ‘Revolver’ was back on the inside throwing bombs. Although the last shot that landed was a right to the head it was actually another body shot that sent Skeete back onto his knees.
The white towel came in and the referee stopped the fight to send the Spanish crowd into bedlam.
A disappointed Bradley Skeete was gracious in defeat when he said:
“I’m absolutely gutted. Saturday night wasn’t my night. I got caught and just didn’t get going. I’ll bounce back and go again. Congratulations and well done to Kerman Lejarraga all his team MGZ Promotions.”
The 30-year-old will need to lick his wounds and re-group. This is only the second defeat of his career and a couple of victories can turn his fortunes around.
I cannot see too many welterweights in the world wanting to travel to Bilbao to take on the hard hitting Lejarraga. Skeete is no mug that has fought and beat some decent punchers before. Expect the 26-year-old to continue his rise into a world championship contender. The 147lb division has been put on high alert as not many would be able to finish off Skeete in this manner.
‘Super’ Skeete is still ranked high enough in Britain to comeback with a tasty domestic dust-up to get himself back into world contention. Fellow Londoner Gary Corcoran would be the perfect fight back in my opinion. The Wembley-based fighter lost out to Jeff Horn last year in a world title shot which in all honesty should have been against Skeete and not Corcoran.
Another possibility is Frankie Gavin who is the only other fighter to defeat Skeete and it would generate a lot of interest domestically.
One big name that jumps out at me when looking at the international stage is Devon Alexander. Ok so it might be a long shot but the former two-weight world champion has only just returned to the ring after a two-year absence. Plus he is only a few places above Skeete in the world rankings.
Maybe more realistic choices would be Miguel Vazquez who recently got stopped by Josh Kelly, Brandon Rios who has come up short against the very best or Felix Diaz from the Dominican Republic.
Bradley Skeete is still young enough to come again and he does have the pedigree to trouble some of the best welterweights in the world. The young man from Spain may well prove to be the real deal as there are not many that can boast 20 knockouts on their CV.
The best thing the Londoner can do now is get back in the ring as soon as possible and get another win under his belt. Skeete will have learned a lot about himself on Saturday night and this loss should only increase his hunger to prove the doubters wrong.
Liverpudlian Liam Smith (26-1-1, 14KOs) has had to pull out of his world title fight against current WBO super-welterweight champion Sadam Ali (26-1, 14KOs) due to illness.
Former 154lb belt holder ‘Beefy’ Smith was due to face Ali in Verona, USA on May 12. Unfortunately for the scouser he will be unable to challenge for his former title because his illness has prevented him from training. The 29-year-old is clearly gutted and hopes the fight will be re-scheduled, he said:
“I’m bitterly disappointed that I have been forced to postpone my fight with Sadam Ali to a later date.
”A recent illness has severely impacted on my training schedule, leaving me with no choice but to postpone the May 12 date.
“I’ve been out of training for eight days. We’re not sure exactly what was wrong with me but it appears to be some sort of allergic reaction. I’m not injured and I’m hoping that the fight can be rescheduled quickly.
“I’m gutted for Ali and all of the fans that were looking forward to watching the fight. I’d like to thank Golden Boy promotions and my promoter Frank Warren for working on a new date for the fight.
“Ali is a world class fighter and I need to be fully prepared for when I step in the ring with him. I want to give the fans a fight to remember.”
It does seem like Golden Boy are keeping the May 12 date open and are now seeking a replacement which is not good news for Smith. Many boxing fans are hoping that Kell Brook would take the fight at short notice but to be perfectly honest I think it’s way too short notice for that to happen.
My guess would be that Golden Boy will either select a less than stellar opponent to keep Ali busy to save the card or re-schedule the whole event altogether. The knock on effect is that the WBC super-bantamweight fight between Rey Vargas and Azat Hovhannisyan will have to be re-scheduled also or be promoted to the main event.
I wish Smith a speedy recovery and hope he can get well soon.
Scottish super-lightweight and one of Britain’s top prospects Josh Taylor (12-0, 11KOs) takes on Ukrainian veteran Viktor Postol (29-1, 12KOs) in a WBC eliminator at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow on June 23.
This is definitely the 27-year-olds toughest challenge to date against a guy that has only ever been beaten by pound for pound king Terrence Crawford.
Postol 34, has never been stopped before and has bags of experience in the 140lb division. This really is a step up for Josh but one I believe he will thrive on. The Tartan Tornado said: “I can’t wait to get back under those lights in Glasgow,”
“This is definitely my toughest opponent to date, and Viktor Postol should be the perfect test for me at this stage of my career.”
“He’s taken on and beaten some of the best fighters in the world, and I know he’ll be coming here with the hope of spoiling the party.”
The current WBC champion is José Ramírez and regular champion is Regis Prograis. If Taylor can fulfil his potential there is no reason why he cannot go on to not only win a world title but unify a few belts to. A fight with Prograis at some point down the line would be a real barnstormer and Josh can’t wait to show the world just how good he is:
“To know I’ll be in line for a world title shot if I get the win has really put the fire in my belly, and you can expect to see the best Josh Taylor to date on June 23.”
“The support in Scotland is always phenomenal, and I can’t wait to make it another night to remember for everyone involved. See you all there.”
Iceman as Postol likes to be called said:
“Taylor is a tough opponent and he had a good amateur career, he is a hard puncher as you can see from his pro record, and he changes stances throughout his fights so I will need to be sharp.”
“The win in this fight against Josh Taylor will help me to approach my goal of becoming world champion once again.”
“Taylor is a worthy opponent and I am fully focused on this fight! Let the best man win in Glasgow.”
Taylor’s promoter and manager Barry McGuigan said:
“Josh Taylor truly is the real deal, and that shows when he’s fighting someone as talented and experienced as Viktor Postol in just his 13th fight.”
“We feel that this is the perfect final test for Josh before he challenges for world honours, and Viktor Postol will certainly not being coming to Glasgow to roll over.”
“Both men are fresh, full of desire and ready to put it all on the line on June 23. This should be a cracker.”
British welterweight Bradley Skeete (27-1, 12KOs) heads to Spain to take on undefeated Kerman Lejarraga (24-0, 19KOs) at the Bilbao Arena for the vacant European title.
The 30-year-old is taking a huge gamble by traveling over to Bilbao, Spain in search of the European title. Not only because he is fighting away from home for the first time in his career against a noteable puncher but also because he will need to win almost every round convincingly if he is to stand a chance of victory.
Now I’m not suggesting for one minute that the Spanish would ever dream of cheating but results in Spain and Europe in general are always hard to come by for the English. Skeete must not take anything for granted especially when it comes to the politics of scoring boxing.
The Londoner said: “I just want a fair crack at the whip. It’s a vacant title. I’m not the challenger; he’s not the champion. I’m going to his hometown to fight him.”
“I’m sure the judges and referee will be fair and that’s all I ask for. If I go out there, do a job and come home empty-handed because I’ve been cheated, it will be disgusting. But I believe my style will be more than enough to get the win. If I win on points, I will make it convincing. If not, I will win by stoppage.”
‘Super’ Skeete who is known for his slick boxing skills has accumulated 188 rounds in 28 bouts with a knockout ratio of 43% and a combined opponent record of 481-419-28.
Skeete won the welterweight Lonsdale belt outright when he defeated Dale Evans last year. His best performance came against Sam Eggington when he outpointed the former European champion in 2016. The only loss on Skeete’s record came against commonwealth games gold medalist Frankie Gavin back in 2014.
Skeete missed out on a WBO title fight against current champion Jeff Horn but is eager to force his way onto the world stage. He said:
“This opportunity has come up and I’ve grabbed it with both hands. I have to go away from home to fight for this title but that’s fine because it’s what I want to be doing in the future anyway. The level I’m going to be fighting at, my fights are not always going to be at home. I’m just looking at this as a stepping stone for the future.”
His opponent who is fighting in his hometown has a fought 24 times accumulating 97 rounds with a knockout percentage of 79 and a combined opponent record of 397-265-23
The 26-year-olds best performance was against 2016 commonwealth champion Denton Vassell who he stopped in the fourth round a couple of years ago.
Ranked as the No.1 welterweight in Spain Lejarraga is the type of fighter that likes to stay on the front foot and hunt his opponent down. He will look to pressurise Skeete into making a mistake and hope he can connect with a knockout punch.
Skeete has the height and reach advantage over his opponent and will try to box clever on the outside. His jab will be the key so finding his range will be paramount but he needs to throw combinations in threes and fours when on the inside before disengaging.
If Skeete can re-produce the slick boxing skills he showed against Eggington then I believe he will get the job done. Anything less then that and he may well find it difficult to get the decision in Spain. Every shot ‘Revolver’ throws will be cheered weather it connects or not so Skeete needs to be on his ‘A’ game and keep the crowd quiet.
I believe Skeete will produce the goods and outpoint Lejarraga in a clear and dominant display. He may well end up stopping the Spanish prospect in the late rounds.
Good luck Brady Skeete it’s always nice to see a guy from my neck of the woods fighting on big European nights.
British heavyweight Dillian Whyte (23-1, 17KOs) is disgusted with the WBC after they ordered him to fight Luis Ortiz (28-1, 24KOs) to decide the ‘second mandatory’ after Dominc Breazeale (19-1, 17KOs) became the preferred choice to Wilder’s strap.
The 30-year-old vented his frustrations on social media after hearing the disappointing news:
“This sums up everything that’s wrong with boxing. WBC you confirmed to me and the media that Breazeale v Molina was not a final eliminator now you’re saying it was and mandating Wilder to fight Breazeale before me.” #Bulls***
The Brixton-based fighter has every right to feel aggrieved by the decision after he flattened former WBA heavyweight champion Lucas Browne (25-1, 22KOs) with a brutal left hook in the sixth round last month.
Whyte has done everything right since his knockout defeat against Anthony Joshua back in 2015 and was promised a shot at Wilder if he defeated Browne. The WBC has now gone back on their word which raises suspicion that Breazeale will be Wilder’s next opponent and not Joshua.
Eddie Hearn promotes both Whyte and Joshua and he is due to meet with Shelly Finkle and Al Haymon on Thursday April 26 to discuss a possible undisputed heavyweight bout between AJ and Wilder. Since Matchroom’s offer to team Wilder of $12.5 million was made public knowledge there has not been much noise coming from the Wilder camp.
Suggestions have been circulating that the ‘Bronze Bomber’ has already agreed a deal with fellow American Breazeale and never had any intention of taking a fight with Joshua. Today’s news does make one wonder if this really has been the ploy all along. I suppose will we know more by the end of the week.
The Jamaican-native is scheduled to fight at the O2 Arena on July 21 which will more than likely be an IBF eliminator for Joshua’s title against Kubrat Pulev (25-1, 13KOs).
This maybe the only way Whyte can force his hand into a title fight as I’m certain that Joshua will not turn down the chance to fight again. It’s one each after all, with Whyte winning in the amateurs and AJ winning in the pros. The trilogy looks a hell of a lot more likely than Whyte-Wilder or AJ-Wilder.
After Amir Khan (32-4, 20KOs) got rid of Phil Lo Greco (28-4, 15KOs) in just 40 seconds of Saturday night but what next for the Olympic silver medalist.
The 31-year-old managed to show he still has phenomenal hand speed and excellent accuracy within those 40 seconds on Saturday night. Both have never really been in question but his vulnerabilities when in trouble have. Due to a below average opponent he was unable to prove that he has corrected his defensive skills.
How can we gage where the Bolton-born fighter is right now? Well, he did demolish Lo Greco in record time while it took Shawn Porter 12-rounds and Errol Spence Jr 3-rounds. Trouble is the Porter fight was five years ago and Spence Jr was three.
New trainer or interim coach Joe Goosen spoke about how he worked with Khan on fighting in the pocket during their time together in camp. His analogy of being on the inside of a hurricane is safer than being on the outside made a lot of sense and I was intrigued to see their work in action. Unfortunately his opponent did not back up his words and fell apart way quicker than expected. I hope he stays with Goosen and they can continue to work on his inside vulnerabilities which would improve Khan as a fighter.
They say speed is power so in that case Khan does possess power even above his 147lb division. Weather he can extract that power against the best is another talking point. The corrective surgery to his right hand may well indicate that he has more power than he showed in previous fights but only time will tell.
Basically the quick victory has not answered any questions it’s probably generated more. What this win has done though is make Khan the boxer relevant again which is good for British boxing.
The first name that springs to mind when thinking about Khan is of course Kell Brook. If this fight was agreed 2-years ago it would have sold out Wembley Stadium on its own but since then British boxing has moved on. Even still we all want to see the fight so maybe the Macron Stadium in Bolton or Bramall Lane in Sheffield would be the perfect venue for this fight.
I don’t think Brook-Khan will happen this summer as I believe they both would like one more fight but maybe December would be a more realistic date. Both are now with Eddie Hearn so there should not be any problems getting a deal done. Neither holds a world title either so a catch-weight of 150lbs would be a fair middle ground.
That being said there could be a few scenarios that could delay a fight between the two Brits this year. For instance, if Liam Smith can capture the WBO belt at 154lbs against Sadam Ali on May 12 then Brook may decide to try and push for a title shot.
In the 147lb division injury prone Keith Thurman has relinquished his WBC title so the governing body has ordered No.2 Shawn Porter verse No.1 Danny Garcia to fight. The same may happen with Thurman’s WBA strap which would promote the fight between Lucas Matthysse who is the WBA regular champion and Manny Pacquiao to a full title fight. We all know how keen Khan is to avenge his defeat against Garcia and how badly he wants to fight Pacman so the temptation of a title fight against either maybe too hard to turn down.
Khan did express his desire to fight Adrien Broner next before news broke about ‘One Time’ vacating which would be a decent scrap. I think Khan could do a number on the outspoken American plus it would be the perfect step up before a Brook or title fight.
On Sunday morning Brook-Khan seemed conceivable but now I’m not so sure. It’s funny how quickly the landscape in boxing changes so you just can’t rule anything out. Being a boxing fan I am happy to see Amir Khan back but I still doubt we will ever see two of Britain’s best welterweights ever share a ring.
Two British Boxing prospects from the North-East of England Josh Kelly (6-0, 4KOs) and Lewis Ritson (15-0, 9KOs) headline at the Metro Arena in Newcastle on June 16.
Exciting welterweight Josh Kelly will challenge Australian Kris George (14-1, 8KOs) for the commonwealth title, while Lewis Ritson attempts to retain the Lonsdale lightweight strap outright if he defeats Belfast boy Paul Hyland Jnr (18-0, 7KOs).
‘Pretty Boy’ Kelly has been moved at a ridiculously fast rate and is on the back of an impressive win against Carlos Molina only last month. The 24-year-old from Sunderland will be determined to put on a show in front of his home crowd.
Newcastle-born Ritson 24, has continued to impress since turning pro in 2015 will face another tough challenge against undefeated Hyland. The ‘Sandman’ will look to keep his knockout streak going and will relish the chance to fight in front of his beloved fans.
Both young stars are being guided by Eddie Hearn who was very excited about his prospects and a night in Newcastle:
“June 16 we’re going to Newcastle and we’re going to have a party! That arena is going to be bouncing. What a time for North East boxing.”
“For Josh Kelly to do that to Carlos Molina after just six fights is tremendous. This boy has huge talent and huge potential. He is going all the way.
“Lewis Ritson is absolutely flying too, so June 16 these boys are coming home.”
Also on the card we have Gavin McDonnell (19-1-2, 5KOs) fresh from his excellent victory against Gamal Yafai defending his WBC international super-bantamweight title against veteran Stuart Hall (21-6-2, 7KOs).
Super-flyweight Charlie Edwards (12-1, 5KOs) takes on home fighter Anthony Nelson (11-1, 2KOs) and cruiserweight Afran Iqbal (12-0, 5KOs) defends his English title against Simon Vallily (13-1, 4KOs).
Carl Frampton (25-1, 14KOs) picked up the WBO interim featherweight title after a dominant display against Philippine veteran Nonito Donaire (38-5, 24KOs).
All three judges scored the fight exactly the same 117-111 all in favour of the hometown fighter.
The 31-year-old produced a performance that was somewhere near his old best. Frampton showed off his excellent boxing brain and outstanding footwork that left Donaire missing his target by wide margins at times. In particular the first five rounds were very impressive and made the rest of the featherweight division stand up and take notice.
I’m not normally one for the interim titles but if used in the correct manor then I’m all for them. The WBO title that Frampton picked up last night was created because their current champion Óscar Valdez is out with a broken jaw.
The plan is for the Irishman to now fight Valdez for the full title although rumour has it that the Mexican will move up to the 130lb division. If the rumours are true then Frampton will be upgraded to WBO champion without having to throw a punch.
If this does happen then a unification fight against the winner of Selby-Warrington at Windsor Park looks the most likely option.
Frampton does not care who he fights next just as long as he gets another world title shot.
“I’d love a Valdez fight but I don’t want to be picky,” said Frampton.
“I just want a world title fight and I want a big fight at Windsor Park. Valdez would be good, Santa Cruz, Selby would be good but whoever it is, I don’t care.”
After the fight a very happy Frank Warren said, “That was class tonight.”
“I will get him a world title fight – there are options, I will deliver. Carl and the city deserve it.”
This is exciting times for the 126lb division with so many top fighters jostling away to become the undisputed king.
World No.1 Leo Santa Cruz defends his WBA title against fellow Mexican compatriot Abner Mares in June 9. The WBC champion Gary Russell Jr puts his strap on the line against the featherweights rising star Joseph Diaz to decide who’s the best in the US on May 19. On the same night Welshman Lee Selby puts up his IBF title against Josh Warrington at Elland Road, Leeds.
Once again there are a lot of possibilities and we know that Frampton is not bothered who he fights just as long as it’s at Windsor Park. This narrows the pot down to Valdez, Selby or Warrington for me. Santa Cruz will not travel across the pond for a trilogy with Frampton if he wins and if Mares is victorious there will be a rematch. Chances would be slim for Russell Jr or Diaz to make the trip but not completely off the table.
A lot will depend on what Valdez decides to do once he is back but it will cost Warren a substantial fee to get the Mexican over to Belfast. The most likely option will be Selby or Warrington as long as the winner comes through unscathed.
Whoever Frampton fights next I expect an incredible atmosphere inside Windsor Park with the Conlan brothers and Paddy Barnes also on a staked Irish card.