Author: Johnston Brown - My two pennies worth

Massive boxing and English football fan from South East London, England

Topsy-Turvy Weekend for British Boxing

In the main event of the evening at Bramall Lane, Sheffield Kell Brook (36-2, 25KOs) lost his IBF world welterweight title against American Errol Spence Jr (22-0, 19KOs).

On the under-card George Groves (26-3, 19KOs) won the WBA super world super-middleweight title at the fourth attempt in a sixth round stoppage of Fedor Chudinov (14-2, 10KOs).

Before all that on Friday night at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff Andrew Selby (9-0, 5KOs) rose from the canvas to win his WBC world flyweight title eliminator against Cristofer Rosales (23-3, 15KOs).

Then on the other side of the pond super-bantamweight Michael Conlan (2-0, 2KOs) stopped Alredo Chanez (4-5, 2KOs) in Chicago, Illinois.

Sheffield

Two of America’s rising stars are now on the verge of becoming superstars after recording victories away from home. Last week Gervonta Davis (18-0, 17KOs) stopped Liam Walsh (21-1, 14KOs) in impressive fashion at the Copper Box Arena to retain his IBF world super-featherweight title

But ‘The Truth’ Errol Spence Jr topped Davis with an accomplished victory against Brook in front of his own beloved Sheffield fans. In my opinion the 27 year old from Texas is now the man to beat in the welterweight division.

The fight was even after the first three rounds with Spence Jr edging the first, Brook winning the second and I couldn’t split them in the third.

I gave the next three rounds to Brook as I felt he did the better work but from the seventh onward’s it was all about Spence Jr. You could clearly see that Brook suffered an eye injury in the seventh and was unable to prevent Spence Jr from connecting cleanly.

From that point on the Texan’s hand speed and slick skills were causing Brook all sorts of problems. After a bombardment of punches in the tenth the Englishmen took a knee. To his credit he came back with some big shots that seemed to trouble the American late in the round.

Surprisingly for me Brook emerged from his corner for the eleventh but after one minute and 46 seconds Howard Foster stopped the fight after Brook went down again holding his left eye.

What next…

Huge respect to Errol Spence Jr for taking on Brook in his hometown and coming out the victor. I believe he has the tools to go on and unify the welterweight division and maybe even become the best ‘pound for pound’ fighter in the next 12-18 months.

I don’t think this is the last we see of Kell Brook as I do believe he has a lot to offer but I do think a year away will help him heal mentally and physically.

Under-card

On a positive note for British boxing ‘The Saint’ George Groves finally won a world title at his fourth attempt when he stopped Russian Fedor Chudinov in the sixth round. Referee Steve Gray had no option but to stop the fight after Chudinov had no response to a blistering combination.

Potentially Groves will be lining up a unification match with James DeGale or maybe Chris Eubank Jr.

Lenroy James (21-4, 10KOs) won the vacant Commonwealth heavyweight title in the split decision over David Allen (11-3-1, 8KOs)

Cruiserweight prospect Lawrence Okolie (3-0, 3KOs) knocked out undefeated Czech Rudolf Helesic (2-1, 2KOs)

Jamie Cox, Kyle Yousaf, Atif Shafiq, Nadeem Siddique, Andy Townsend, Anthony Fowler and Joe Cordina all recorded victories.

Cardiff

Andrew Selby is now on course for a world title shot in only his tenth pro fight as he bids to join older brother Lee Selby as a world champion.

It was not all plain sailing for the 28 year old as he had to overcome a first round knock down to win a unanimous decision with two judges scoring it 117-110 and the other 118-109.

On the under-card  Cruiserweight Matty Askin (22-3-1, 14KOs) knocked out undefeated Craig Kennedy (16-1, 8KOs) in six rounds.

Chicago

Belfast boy Michael Conlan made light work of Alredo Chanez with a stoppage in the third round at UIC Pavillion in Chicago. The 25 year old was not happy with his performance and wanted to face an opponent who could test him.

Next up for Conlan is a trip to Brisbane, Australia to fight on the under-card of Pacquiao/ Horn.

Verdict

I can’t help but feel gutted for Brook as I have been a fan for a long time now but putting that a side I really am looking forward to watching Errol Spence Jr again in the future.

Really please for Groves after so many near misses as this really was his last chance saloon. I can not wait to see who he takes on next, although I would love to see him beat up the big headed Chris Eubank Jr.

Us Brits may have lost a world champion but we at least managed to claim another. Hopefully we can keep progressing and drawing in the big crowds so the top stars in the world will keep coming over to our little island.

What does it take to be The Greatest of all Time?

It’s a statement that is thrown around a bit too casually in my opinion. In the modern era of boxing where accomplishments are measured  alongside a fighters pay per view sales or whether he managed to retire before losing, I take a look at what really makes a boxer the Greatest of all Time.

You will not find the answer within this article as this is only my two pennies worth but I will try and break it down so you can make up your own mind. Boxing is a fascinating sport and the only sport that is judged by the fans. Do you prefer an aggressive fighter like the legendary Roberto Duran or the smooth footwork of the great Muhammed Ali? That is a question only you can answer.
Here are some of the key ingredients that make a boxer the Greatest of all Time;

Ability

First and foremost they need to have the skill or the sweet science as is often coined in the world of boxing. The “Sweet Science of Bruising” was a phase that acknowledged boxers as both artistic and tough in the early 1800s by a British sportswriter Pierce Egan when he reported on bare-knuckle boxing. The phase made a return thanks to New Yorker AJ Libeling who wrote a collection of boxing articles titled The Sweet Science in homage to Pierce Egan which he published in 1956.

In the modern era I feel some fans get confused with what defines this phrase. “Hit but don’t get hit” seems to be the often misconception, a style that Floyd Mayweather Jr is compared with. Although I do not doubt that Floyd is one of the best defensive fighters in the modern era he is more of a hit and run fighter.

The best way to describe the sweet science would be a mix of Sugar Ray Leonard who was a world class outside boxer and Mike Tyson who was devastating on the inside. If you can find a fighter that can do both then you have found your man.

Bravery

To have ability is one thing but do they have the heart and desire to go to the trenches when needed. Every fighter can have a game plan but as Joe Louis once said, “Everyone has a plan until they’ve been hit”. Inevitably at some point a fighters chin will be tested, some more than others depending on their style.

When I think of bravery in the ring three fights spring to mind almost instantly and that is the Micky Ward vs Arturo Gatti trilogy. These two fighters provided a brutal but wonderful example of what can be achieved with pure grit and determination.

Another guy that showed he had a cast iron chin and unrelenting willpower was the ‘The Bronx Bull’ Jake Lamotta when he refused to go down during a viscous beating at the hands of Sugar Ray Robinson in their sixth encounter billed the ‘St Valentine Massacre’ in 1951.

Entertainment

Entertainment can be measured in a number of ways within the squared circle. A good old fashioned slugfest is always remembered by a lot of the fight fans but boxing skills tend to get neglected within these types of fights. Look no further than the epic three rounds between Hagler and Hearns.

Knockout victories are great way for a boxer to end a fight and it always gets a lot of public attention. I think the fans do get carried away with a fighter’s knockout ratio in the current climate. Just because someone is flattening his opponents does not mean they’re the best in the business. You have got to be aware that it can be deceiving, especially when promoters are matching up fighters incorrectly. Deontay Wilder’s record is a prime example.

The boxer that does not engage in a toe to toe war nor has a devastating knockout ratio will always find it difficult to maintain a worldwide following beyond the true boxing fan. Back in the sixties when social media was non-existent and television coverage was scarce there was an Argentinian that had this exact problem. His name is Nicolino ‘El Intocable’ Locche.

The recent ‘blast from the past’ on the BillyCBoxing show was adored by his nation and packed out the Luna Park, Buenos Aires every time he fought but yet never got the exposer he deserved. There are several hidden gems in the boxing world so don’t look at just their Boxrec stats.

Achievements

A boxer will always be judged at the end of their career on what they have achieved. With so many world titles today it is definitely easier to pick one up and fighters have more weight divisions to choose from. That being said the boxing IQ has improved, fighters are fitter and bigger than before and it’s a lot safer. Therefore we will never see the incredible records of years gone by like Willie Pep’s 229 wins, 65 KOs, 19 draws and 1 no contest. Instead most fighters will get to 30/40 fights in a 10/15 year career so it’s very difficult to match the old and new fighters.

One thing that really grinds me down is the no loses debate. I will not and do not accept that someone who retires undefeated is the best that ever lived and yes I am talking about that 49-0 rubbish. Willie Pep started his career with 62-0, Julio Cesar Chavez went 89-0 before he lost, although he did draw with Pernell Whitacker (A fight I think he lost) at 87-0 and Jimmy Wilde was 93-0 before he was finally beaten.

Fans need to stop believing the hype that the media feed us and start looking beyond the ‘0’. It’s the guys that are not afraid to lose and take on the best in their weight divisions that should collect all the accolades.

Traveling

Part of a fighter’s achievement should be judged by what they do away from their home comforts. It is never easy to travel thousands of miles to take on an opponent in their own backyard. No matter what the sport it can be a major influence on the final outcome.

Take Sugar Ray Robinson for example, he fought in Europe on several occasions in search of better opponents just so he could challenge himself. For such a huge star do this in the fifties and sixties was quite remarkable especially as transport was not as accessible as today.

In the modern era World lightweight champion Jorge Linares continues to thrive overseas. Maybe residing in Tokyo, Japan has helped the Venezuelan adapt better to different climates or maybe it’s because he performs better when the pressure is on the home fighter?

Another current fighter that established himself overseas was super lightweight king Terrence Crawford when he defeated Scot Ricky Burns in Glasgow. Since then the American from Nebraska has continued to cement his status as one of the best pound for pound stars in the business.

Charisma

Many sports stars can be robotic and pretty dam boring which will always impact ticket and pay per view sales so a bit of personality always helps to win over some fans. In athletics we have Bolt, in English football there was Gazza and in boxing we had Ali. There are certain athletes that have a certain charm about them that makes you want to see more. These guys set the blue print that others try to emulate but they have to remember there will never be another Bolt, Gazza or Ali.

Today we have a lot of trash talk in the build-up to fights which is completely different to when Ali mocked Sony Liston by saying, “He’s too ugly to be the world champ. The world champ should be pretty like me!” Instead we have distasteful insults or WWE like play fighting.

We need this type of character to add a bit of spice to the boxing scene but unfortunately we don’t have any at the moment.

Outside of the ring

The living legends are not always measured on what they do in their field but sometimes it’s the great stuff they do away from it. Manny Pacquiao is not only an eight-division world champion but he donates millions to charities, dedicates a lot of his time to the people of the Philippines and has recently stepped into politics. Although even he discredited himself with some silly statements.

Other fighters who have also taken the step into politics; most recently Vitali Klitschko and one of my favorite boxers of all time Alexis Arguello. The ‘El Caballero del Ring’ (The Gentleman of the Ring) faced hypocrisy and encountered power struggles outside the ring but yet still managed to keep his class and dignity. To be able to balance his tribulations away from boxing and continue to produce the goods in the ring is commendable to say the least.

There have been and still are many others that do fantastic work away from boxing. I admire the man who has never stopped using his celebrity status for the good and set an inspirational example. We need these strong characters to continue their good work so a positive light can be shed on this wonderful sport of boxing and keep the doubters at bay.

Verdict

There are a lot of contenders for the title and I have mentioned just a few. Two fighters that would be close are Henry Armstrong and Harry Greb both feature in my top 5 pound for pound (p4p) fighters of all time. But p4p is all about what a boxer has done in the ring. In fact Sugar Ray Robinson is my number 1 p4p in the history of the sport after his performances in the welterweight and middleweight divisions. It was these precise performances that prompted sportswriters to create “Pound for Pound” rankings, where they compare fighters regardless of weight.

With all that being said there can really only be one man that takes the crown of the Greatest of all Time and that is Muhammed Ali. He had bags of ability, just watch the Cleveland Williams fight at the Astrodome in Houston if you doubt me. He showed an incredible amount of heart in the ‘Thriller in Manila’ and was unquestionably one of the most entertaining.

At age 18 he won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 summer Olympics in Rome. He remains the only three-time lineal heavyweight champion having won the title in 1964, 1974 & 1978 which is just one of his lists of achievements in the professional game. Considering his suspension from 1967-1970 while in the peak of his career, it’s scary to think what else he could have achieved.

He travelled to numerous countries around the world in a 21 year career, he fought in; England three times, Canada & Germany twice, Switzerland, Japan, Ireland, Indonesia, Zaire, Malaysia, Philippines, Puerto Rico & the Bahamas. Plus he fought in 12 different states.

I think he invented the word charisma and was an icon away from the ring. His refusal to be drafted into the Vietnam War resulted in his arrest for draft evasion, which was later overturned in an appeals court. He didn’t participate in a single fight for nearly four years and lost a period of peak performance. Name me one boxer that would have the balls to do that?

‘The Greatest’ is my Greatest so let me leave you with my favourite quote:

“I’ve wrestled with alligators; I’ve tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning and throw thunder in jail. You know I’m bad. Just last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, and hospitalized a brick. I’m so mean, I make medicine sick”

Warrington & Yafai remain undefeated after hard fought victories

Starting with the First Direct Arena in Leeds Josh Warrington (25-0, 5KOs) came through a gruelling points win over tough Spaniard Kiko Martinez (36-8, 26KOs). 

After a 10 month lay off the 26 year old managed to extend his unbeaten record but had to settle for a majority decision victory. Two judges had it 116-112 in Warrington’s favor while the other had it a draw 114-114.

It was a close contest that could have gone either way so I can see why one of the judges could have seen it as a draw. After watching the fight myself I think the right man won on the night albeit by a smaller margin of 116-114.

The man from Yorkshire nicked the first couple of rounds and produced the cleaner work in the middle rounds which gave him a bit of breathing space. Martinez was the aggressor for much of the fight and threw a lot of hurtful body shots that the judges may have missed.

The 31 year old was cut from what looked like a clash of heads midway through the eighth but this seemed to kick start the former champion into gear. His looping right hand was getting through more often in the later rounds which kept Warrington on the back foot right up to the last bell.

Martinez did hint before the fight that if he lost he would retire but on this performance I think he should think long and hard about his future, as he still has something to offer the featherweight division.

Josh Warrington will be happy he came through a difficult test after his long lay off but I think a fight with Lee Selby or Gary Russell Jr would be a mistake at this point. Maybe a rematch with Martinez would be better preparation but next time win more convincingly.

Other Results

Flyweight Nicola Adams (2-0, 1KO) stopped Maryan Salazar (5-2, 0KOs) in the third round in front of the Leeds faithful.

During an intriguing match-up for the British super bantamweight title Thomas Patrick Ward (21-0, 2KOs) won on points against Jazza Dickens (22-3, 7KOs) after sustaining a bad cut in the ninth which the doctor deemed too serious for him to continue.

In the lightweight division Josh Leather (12-0, 6KOs) stopped Phillip Sutcliffe Jnr (13-2, 8KOs). Referee Howard Foster once again made the dubious decision to stop the fight to early in my opinion.

19 year old Ryan Garner now (5-0, 4KOs) put on a fantastic display against journeyman Rafael Castillo (14-34-3, 6KOs). Watch out for this super featherweight as he is going to have a huge following if he continues to perform like this.

Super lightweight Tyronne Nurse (35-2-2, 7KOs) won on points against Andy Keates (12-7, 1KO)

In the light heavyweight division Bob Ajisafe (17-3, 7KOs) beat late replacement Josef Obeslo (6-36-3, 4KOs) on points.

Birmingham…

At the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham, WBA super flyweight champion Kal Yafai (22-0, 14KOs) won a unanimous decision over durable Suguru Muranaka (25-3-1, 8KOs) of Japan.

The 27 year was making his first defence of his title on a night billed ‘The Homecoming’ and he was made to work hard in a one sided victory that didn’t tell the whole story.

The Japanese challenger looked like his 10 year unbeaten streak would come to a short and abrupt end when he went down in the second round but the flash knock down only seemed to spur him on.

When the fight reached the mid way point it was obvious that Yafai was going to have to go the distance as the visitor continued to absorb heavy shots with no effect.

Yafai was deducted a point in the eighth for a low blow which stalled his flow but Mauranaka continued to show a unwavering steeliness.

The champion maintained his dominance in the final rounds and Muranaka’s resilience did lessen but the Birmingham crowd and I were glad to see him go the distance. Fight scorecards: 118-108, 119-107 & 119-107.

Unification fights will be in the horizon for Kal Yafai but potential showdowns with Roman Gonzalez (46-1, 38KOs) or Naoya Inoue (12-0, 10KOs) should be put on ice for now.

Other Results

Sam Eggington (21-3, 13KOs) produced the highlight reel knockout of the night in round 10 to win the European welterweight title against Ceferino Rodriguez (24-2, 12KOs). Promoter Barry Hearn wants Danny Garcia (33-1, 19KOs) in Vegas next but this is no more than a pipe dream, surely?

In the local battle between Gamal Yafai (12-0, 5KOs) and Sean Davis (12-1, 0KOs) the middle brother Gamal won by TKO in the seventh round after six knockdown’s to win the WBC international super bantamweight title.

Welterweight Frankie Gavin (24-3, 14KOs) struggled against Renald Garrido (18-15-1, 3KOs) but eventually came through with a points win.

Middleweight Josh Kelly (2-0, 1KO) looked strong and powerful when he knocked out Jony Vina (6-2, 1KO) in the fourth.

In another battle of the unbeaten fighters Adam Harper (8-0, 0KOs) won on points against Ryan Kelly (8-1, 3KOs) in the super welterweight division.

25 year old super middleweight Lennox Clarke (15-0-1, 6KOs) drew with light heavyweight Karel Horejsel (8-7-3, 7KOs). In a fight that I knew would be difficult for the West Midlands man.

Verdict

Both nights produced some great fights with some debatable decisions, terrific knockouts and as always superb support from the fans in attendance. Both get a 7/10

Saturday Nights Alright for Fighting

We have a busy Saturday night of boxing in England with Sky Sports broadcasting in Birmingham and BT Sport and Boxnation showing live coverage of a night in Leeds.

Starting with the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham Kal Yafai (21-0, 14KOs) headlines a bill labelled ‘The Homecoming’. The WBA world super flyweight puts his title on the line against Suguru Muranaka (25-2-1, 8KOs). The Japanese fighter is on a 10 year unbeaten streak but has never fought outside of his home county in all of his 28 bouts.

This will be Yafai’s first defence of the WBA strap since he captured the title against Luis Conception (35-5, 24KOs) in Manchester.

Bar the Conception victory Kal’s best win came against Cristofer Rosales (23-2, 15KOs) who will take on another young British rising star Andrew Selby (8-0, 5KOs) on May 26.

On the undercard Sam Eggington (20-3, 12KOs) attempts to win the EBU (European) welterweight title against current holder Ceferino Rodriguez (24-1, 12KOs). The Spaniard defeated Ahmed El Mousaoui (25-3-1, 6KOs) to win the European belt in December 2016.

It will be a very difficult night for Eggington with Rodriguez’s only defeat coming against Mohammed Mimoune (18-2, 2KOs) 2 years ago. He has fought and won in Italy, Argentina and USA so coming overseas to England won’t faze the 28 year old.

The Savage as Eggington likes to be known has been in great form of late with a KO win over now retired Paulie Malignaggi (36-8, 7KOs) in March and a TKO victory over Brummy Frankie Gavin (23-3, 14KOs) last year.

He also put in a fine performance when he stopped Shayne Singleton (23-1-1, 8KOs) who was undefeated at the time. That being said Eggington was out classed by Bradley Skeete (25-1, 11KOs) who fights Singleton next in June.

Frankie Gavin looks to put his recent defeats to Eggington and Kell Brook (36-1, 25KOs) behind him and get back to winning ways when takes on journeyman Renald Garrido (18-14-1, 3KOs). Nothing more than a victory will do for Gavin.

WBC international super bantamweight title holder Sean Davis (12-0, 0KOs) puts his belt on the line against Gamal Yafai (11-0, 4KOs).

It’s great to see two undefeated fighters step into the ring against each other on any night but with the added spice of fighting in their home towns this could be the fight of the night.

Davis won the vacant WBC international super bantamweight title against Paul Economides (20-6, 4KOs) in October last year in what was his best victory so far.

Gamal’s best performance came against Bobby Jenkinson (10-3-1, 2KOs) when he won the Commonwealth (British Empire) super bantamweight title.

In another fight which sees two undefeated fighters pitted against each other, Ryan Kelly (8-0, 3KOs) takes on Adam Harper (7-0, 0KOs) with the vacant Midlands Area super welterweight title up for grabs.

Kelly is the home fighter so this may give him a slight edge but this is a real 50/50 fight which could go either way.

Josh Kelly (1-0) will challenge himself yet again in only his second pro fight when he takes on Spaniard Jony Vina (6-1,1KO).

The 23 year old is being fast tracked in the middleweight division as he has obvious talent but his cockiness will need to be rained in by coach Adam Booth, although I’m sure he’s used to training big heads, (I mention no names)

Super middleweight Lennox Clarke (15-0,6KOs) steps in the ring against Karel Horejsek (8-7-2, 7KOs) who is a natural light heavyweight. Do not let the Czech’s record fool you as he carries power so this won’t be easy.

In the First Direct Arena in Leeds, featherweight Josh Warrington (24-0, 5KOs) finally makes his return after 10 months out against Kiko Martinez (36-7, 26KOs).

The Yorkshireman has had some impressive victories against Patrick Hyland (31-3, 15KOs), Randall Munroe (28-5-1, 11KOs) and Joel Brunker (31-2, 18KOs). This will be another tough test for Warrington as he sets his sights on the world title shot next.

The Spaniard has had more knockouts then Josh has had fights and been in the ring with the very best, Carl Frampton (23-1, 14KOs) twice, Randall Munroe twice, Scott Quigg (33-1-2, 24KOs) and current featherweight king Leo Santa Cruz (33-1-1, 18KOs).

Kiko is always the nearly man but just falls short against the elite so this will be a statement of intent if Warrington can get past him.

British super bantamweight title holder Jazza Dickens (22-2, 7KOs) takes on undefeated Thomas Patrick Ward (20-0, 2KOs).

Dickens has only lost to the number one super bantamweight Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-0, 11KOs) and rising star Kid Galahad (22-0, 13KOs) so this is a really big night for Ward in front of his home crowd.

Flyweight Nicola Adams (1-0, 0KOs) will take on 18 year old Maryan Salazar (5-1, 0KOs). ‘The Lioness’ will be desperate to put on a great performance in front of her beloved fans.

Super lightweight Josh Leather (11-0, 5KOs) puts his undefeated record on the line against Irishman Phillip Sutcliffe Jnr (13-1, 8KOs).

This could be one of the fights of the night in Leeds as there really is nothing between them but I have a sneaking feeling the man from Dublin might nick the win.

Tyronne Nurse (34-2-2, 7KOs) will be hoping for a better performance then his last outing when he was fortunate to get a draw against Joe Hughes (15-2-1, 6KOs).

His opponent Andy Keates (12-6, 1KO) has lost four of his last five fights so it would be a massive shock if he could pull off a victory.

Light heavyweight Bob Ajisafe (16-3, 7KOs) will be looking to get back to winning ways after his defeat against dangerous Russian Umar Salamov (19-0, 14KOs) when he takes on Andrejs Pokumeiko (12-12-1, 8KOs).

The Lionheart as Ajisafe likes to be known should win comfortably but you never know in heavyweight boxing.

Hope you all enjoy!

The Avengers – France Fighting Roosters lead 3-2

The France Fighting Roosters avenged their two earlier defeats from the Group stages with a first leg 3-2 victory against the British Lionhearts in the World Series Boxing quarter-finals in Paris.

The cross-Channel rivals competed for the third time this season but it was the hosts who came out on top for the first time after five exciting bouts.

The light flyweight division got the nights action underway when Samuel Carmona outworked Galal Yafai to give the home side an early lead. These two met last year when Yafai recorded a victory against the Spaniard in the semi-final of the European Boxing Olympic Qualification Tournament which secured his place in the Summer Olympics in Rio.

The 24 year old from the West Midlands is the younger brother of WBA super-flyweight champion Khalid ‘Kal’ Yafai and super-bantamweight Gamal ‘The Beast’ Yafai who are both in action this Weekend at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham. Unfortunately the talented youngster was unable to get the win he needed not only for the Lionhearts but for a family hat-trick.

In the second bout of the evening France’s Samuel Kistohurry also avenged his loss from last month against Liverpudlian Peter McGrail in the bantamweight division. It was dead even going into the fifth with two rounds a piece but the 22 year old Frenchman was the aggressor throughout the final round, applying non stop pressure onto the tiring McGrail to nick the win and put the Roosters two up.

The Fighting Roosters were starting to gather momentum and a third victory in a row would establish a strong foothold on not only the first leg but the tie as a whole. It was down to light welterweight Conor Loftus to buck the trend and make sure Hassan Amzile didn’t avenge his defeat from last month. Thankfully for the Lionhearts it was the Brit that edged yet another close encounter for an important win for the vistors.

The middleweights were up next and draft pick Luka Plantic of Croatia was looking like he would level the scores for the Lionhearts against Rachid Achoui. The Croat marched into a three round lead but then Achoui turned the fight on its head winning the fourth and forcing the referee to stop the fight in the final round.

Once again the Lionhearts found themselves two down and in danger of gifting the Roosters an unassailable lead. The pressure was on heavyweight import David Nyika from New Zealand to produce the goods against Kevin Kuadjovi. In a determined and dominating display from Nyika his opponent was unable to cope with his speed and power. After two standing counts the French corner had seen enough and threw in the towel.

With the score now at 3-2 in favour of the French the tie is delicately poised and is all to play for going into the second leg at London’s York Hall in 20 May.

In the other quarter-final, visitors Astama Arlans Kazakhstan beat the Patriot Boxing Team 3-2 in their first leg in Kemerovo, Russia. The Kazakhstan’s will be confident of progressing into the semi-finals after this away victory.

The Heavyweights

By Johnston Brown – Billy C Boxing

It’s been a while now since Anthony Joshua (19-0, 19KO’s) and Wladimir Klitschko (64-5, 53KOs) fought in ‘The Battle in the Capital’ but I am still hyped almost a week on.

There is absolutely no doubt that the fight was one of the best heavyweight championship match-ups we have seen in a very long time. In my opinion there is also absolutely no doubt that AJ is the new number one heavyweight in the division right now.

That being said the youngster from Watford, England has still been unfairly criticised by the media even though I believe he answered more questions in this one fight then he has in his previous 18.

Yes, he definitely needs to work on his conditioning if he is to continue his rise to the top. Whether that is by losing the unnecessary extra pounds he was carrying or looking at pacing himself through the rounds, I am sure that is something his team will be looking into.

But I cannot see any of the current crop of heavyweight’s managing to recover from such a big right hand that Klitschko delivered on Saturday night. In fact it would have been lights out for a majority. Both fighters showed that they can take and deliver big punches which is something that we have not seen in the division for a while.

AJ is the number one heavyweight not Fury

I have read a lot of reports that suggest that AJ is definitely not the number one heavyweight and that Tyson Fury (25-0, 18KOs) is in fact the man to beat. They also suggested that if Fury hadn’t been away from the ring for the last 18 months then Joshua would not have been heavyweight champion. Well that is actually not true because if you remember the Gypsy King was wrongly stripped of his IBF title because he decided to commit to a Klitschko rematch. Therefore, Charles Martin (21-1, 22KOs) would have still gone onto defeat Vyacheslav Glazkov (21-1-1, 13KOs) and lose his title to the Brit in April 2016.

I have read a lot of comparisons between Fury’s victory and Joshua’s stoppage against the 41 year old which is irrelevant. Fury did a fantastic job in Dusseldorf which really put the cat amongst the pigeons in the heavyweight division for the first time in over a decade. But Klitschko was a different animal in the ring on Saturday night and he would have caused Fury a world of problems in a rematch. In fact, I felt that Dr Steelhammer would have recovered his titles and still gone on to fight Joshua in search of the IBF strap.

Passing of the torch

I mentioned in my in report that there was a passing of the torch when the 27 year old defeated the Ukrainian. I mean that not only in the boxing sense but as a personality as well. Fury may be a dangerous competitor in the ring but outside the ring he is hardly from the same mould as Klitschko. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy watching him run around in a batman suit acting like a complete wolly but I am not a fan of some of his outrageous statements.

We all know that both the Klitschko brothers are gentleman in and out of the ring and have represented boxing in a great way. They let their hands do the talking rather than their mouths. So when I say ‘The Passing of the Torch’ I mean that AJ will continue to be that gentleman outside the ring but an animal within it, unlike Tyson Fury.

Boxing Sanctions

We all want to see the best fight the best but once again the powers that be have thrown another spanner in the works and disrupted a potential mega fight this year. As Billy C and Sal mentioned earlier on the show, the IBF have told AJ under no uncertain terms that he has to fight his mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev (25-1, 13KOs) or be stripped of his title.

If you wasn’t aware the Bulgarian defeated Kevin Johnson (30-8-1, 14KOs) by unanimous decision on Saturday night to become the number one contender. And yes, this was the same Kevin ‘Kingpin’ Johnson that AJ destroyed in two rounds back in 2015. I find this as frustrating as the guys do on the show because this stalls the mega fights and gives some fighters an excuse to not take on best in their division.

Coming up

WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker (22-0, 18KOs) will make his first defense against late replacement Razcan Coganu (16-2, 9KOs) in Manukau City, New Zealand this Weekend. I expect a comfortable victory for the young Kiwi but he will need to make the step up in level very soon.

On May 27, Dereck Chisora (26-7, 18KOs) heads to Helsinki, Finland for a rematch with Robert Helenius (24-1, 14KOs) with a potential showdown with WBC champion Deontay Wilder (38-0, 37KOs) for the winner.

On June 3rd, 45 year old Shannon Briggs (60-6-1, 53KOs) will challenge Fres Oquendo (37-8, 24KOs) for the vacant WBA ‘regular’ title in Hollywood, Florida. This highlights our frustrations as neither of these guys deserve a title shot and nor will they make any significant impact in the division. In my opinion there should not even be a ‘super’ and ‘regular’ version within the same organisation but I’ll leave that rant for another day.

On the same night Dillian Whyte (20-1, 15KOs) will top the bill in London, England against ‘The Viking’ Mariusz Wach (33-2, 17KOs). The ‘Body Snatcher’ from Brixton, London is a tough competitor that is starting to get more accolades with every fight.

My final thoughts

The new unified champion Anthony Joshua will more than likely decide to take on his mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev unless Wladimir Klitschko activates his rematch clause. If the latter happens then I see Joshua given the same punishment as Fury had in 2015 and be stripped of his IBF title.

I hope Klitschko decides against this and opts to push for a rematch with Tyson Fury instead. This fight could happen by the end of the year but Fury will need to get himself back into the sort of shape that made him the unified heavyweight champion in 2015 to stand a chance.

WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder has expressed his interest in a possible showdown with Anthony Joshua, although his team seem more interested in David Haye’s conqueror Tony Bellew (29-2-1, 19KOs). To be honest I can actually see this fight happening but in the process ‘The Brown Bomber’ will lose a whole lot of credibility. Saying that, the fight would fill the gap between now and the end of the year for when both Wilder and AJ could be ready for a unification match. It’s a long shot but you never know.

One guy that should not be overlooked is 38 year old Luis Ortiz (27-0, 23KOs) who for me is one of the top heavyweights around at the moment, although he did look pretty ordinary in his last two fights. I would like to see WBO champion Joseph Parker give the Cuban a shot at his title but that will depend on the entourage that surrounds these fighters and of course those annoying sanctioning bodies.

The Passing of the Torch after a ‘Battle in the Capital’

By Johnston Brown – BillyCBoxing

The Heavyweight division was back in the spot light on Saturday night with more than 140 countries tuning-in and 90,000 spectators in attendance. The stage was set for a massive heavyweight showdown.

Both fighters had been respectful throughout the build up, there was no trash talking or punches thrown before the fight unlike other heavyweight match-ups before. This fight sold because the world wanted to see if the young guy from Watford could not only beat the older and wiser fighter but knock him out to.

Wladimir Klitschko (64-5, 53KOs) made his way to the ring first and was greeted with the predicted jeers from the mostly British faithful. He looked focused and ready to silence the home crowd.

Anthony Joshua (19-0, 19KOs) looked completely unfazed as he casually made the long walk to the ring with his initial’s in flames.

Once the national anthems were played, Michael Buffer announced the fighters it was ‘Lets get ready to rumble!’

The first round was tentative as to be expected but not much from either fighter although Joshua just edged it. The second was pretty much the same, there was a good straight hand from the Ukrainian but the young champion fired back to nick another round.

Into the third and both fighters started to let their shots go but once again Joshua was more busy. The 41 year old was bouncing around but not doing enough to score in my opinion.

Finally Dr Steelhammer scored early and unleashed a big right hand which sends a reminder to the Londoner that he still has power at his ripe age. The old master issues a warning and nicks another close round.

The fifth round was one for the memory bank as Joshua shook his opponent with a left hook but it was an accumulation of quick punches that finally put Klitschko down. After beating the count Joshua went for the kill but ended up gassing himself out and on the back foot due to a massive left hand from Klitschko. It was an absorbing round of heavyweight boxing that really set this fight alight and my wife almost into early labour.

With a cut over his left eye and somehow in the ascendancy after being knocked down Wladimir sensed blood. Joshua was blowing hard and looked tiered which could have been due to the extra weight he was carrying.

Klitschko eventually found the target in the sixth with a huge right hand that connected high on the head and floored the Brit for the first time in his career. Joshua with a massive smile on his face was in serious trouble but managed to get back to his feet and get through the round.

The young champion used every second of the break and did seem to have recovered slightly but the 41 year old was rolling back the years, he looked the fresher of the two and took the seventh easily.

In round eight Joshua was looking steady on his feet again but Klitschko won another round with the jab to make it even on my scorecard. Joshua had never been beyond the eighth and was stepping into uncharted territory.

AJ found a second wind in the ninth and attacked the body which got Klitschko’s attention. Nothing much was coming back from the former champion, maybe the fight was starting to take it’s toll on his older body.

The tenth was busy with jabs by both fighters but Joshua put together a couple of nice combinations and was the more aggressive fighter, although Klitschko did land a big right hand on the bell.

The champion decided to go for broke in the eleventh and came out firing. As Klitschko went to engage he was caught with a devastating uppercut that sent him down to the canvas. With AJ looking to finish the job he sent his opponent down for the second time in the round. Once again Kllitschko showed terrific character to beat the count but Joshua connected with more savage combinations which prompted the referee to intervene and stop the fight.

After the fight Joshua said, “As boxing states, you leave your ego at the door and respect your opponent, so a massive shout-out to Wladimir Klitschko for taking part.”

“I’m not going to say too much in case he wants to come back and fight me again, but in terms of the boxing Hall of Fame and the boxing arena, he’s a role model in and out of the ring.” Said the new unified IBF, Super WBA & IBO heavyweight champion.

What a fight for the new era of heavyweight boxing! If this is the last time we are to see the former heavyweight king of the last decade, then he can leave with his head held high. He can leave knowing that the heavyweight division is in good hands with Anthony Joshua.

He has passed the torch onto a guy that is as respectful as him and will be a role model to the next generation.

Joshua vs Klitschko – Predictions

By Johnston Brown – BillyCBoxing

Betting odds

Joshua is the betting favourite with most bookies, with 2/5 being the most common bet. Klitschko is listed at 15/8 with most oddsmakers.

You’re likely to get 4/6 on a Joshua KO, 7/2 on a Klitschko KO and similar odds on either to win on points, around 6 or 7/1. A draw is anything from 28-1 to 40-1.

What the rivals say…

Luis Ortiz: He says he’s going to watch the fight “calmly,” and he favours Klitschko. “The experience is on Klitschko’s side and the area of youth favours Joshua. I think the Ukrainian will be the winner. He’s going to use the powerful jab to keep Joshua at bay.”

Deontay Wilder:  “My heart is for Joshua, but my mind goes to Klitschko,” Wilder said on a teleconference this week. “I’d love to fight Joshua. That would be a mega-fight. If this kid beats Klitschko, the only fight he can take is with me.”

Tyson Fury: “Klitschko to KO Joshua.”

Tony Bellew: “If it’s not over in the first four rounds, I’m extremely worried.”

“Only purely because [Joshua] is very inexperienced for a fight that goes past four rounds. Let me tell you it’s very different when you’re in with a seasoned vet who can bang.”

“I speak with experience going in with top level guys. Experience is gained not earned. The only way you can get it is time. Unfortunately for Anthony, he hasn’t been able to get it, through no fault of his own, because he’s so bleeding good.”

“We’re going to find out on Saturday night how good he really is. I think he’s the real deal. I think he’s the real dominant fighter of our era. Hopefully, it goes within four. I don’t like this fight to go past four rounds. … I just feel [Anthony] will get rid of him in the first four rounds.”

Hughie Fury:  “I do think it’s a tiny bit soon for Joshua …” Fury said. “I would go with Klitschko with the experience. I just think it’s a tiny bit too soon for Joshua. Definitely a knockout.”

“He wasn’t an 11-year champion for nothing. Like I say, you cannot rush into big fights like him, thinking ‘Yeah, I’m just going to knock him over like every other man.’ He’s not going to stand there to be hit. [Joshua] has not had the experience to go with someone like him.”

David Haye: “You’re only as good as your last fight, Anthony is on the ascendancy and is improving fight by fight. Wlad’s last performance (Tyson Fury) was not good. Based on that you have to go with Anthony.”

“Wlad will have been out of the ring for 18 months.”

“It’s terrible preparation to fight someone so young and someone who has been fighting so regularly.

“You can only go by current form and in the last fight he had against Tyson Fury, he refused to let his hands go. He couldn’t pull the trigger.”

What the trainers say…

Peter Fury – Tyson Fury’s uncle and trainer

“He’s [Joshua] got to come up with his own one [game plan]. They are all different styles aren’t they? Nobody has got Tyson Fury’s style.

“I don’t see how Joshua is going to implement that. If he tries to implement that type of boxing, there is only one winner. I think Wladimir will walk away with it.

“He’s got to come for that knockout and he’s got to bring it early. He’s got to put Klitschko in shock, take him out of his stride, and rough him up properly. That is the only way he is going to handle Klitschko in my opinion.”

Freddie Roach – Former Klitschko trainer

“It’s the age (that makes me think Joshua will win): he’s 41-years-old now, he’s been around for a long time,” said Roach. “When I was training him he was a great puncher, and he either won by knockout or lost by knockout. But then Emanuel changed him into a good boxer.

“Youth is a great thing to have. But it’s not enough alone. Joshua’s got to be careful in exchanges, because if he gets caught up in exchanges, and they’re both swinging, Klitschko does have knockout power. The left hook’s always been his punch: he has a great left hook.

“He can’t get caught swinging with this guy. If he trades punch for punch, Klitschko is the better puncher.

“Him and his brother (Vitali) are the hardest workers out there (in the heavyweight division). This was one of their workouts: running 12 x 800m sprints, under three minutes, with a minute’s rest in between.

“That’s an unbelievable workout for a flyweight, let alone a heavyweight, but he could do it. That’s why they’re so good, because they work their a**** off.

“Klitschko (can win by) taking him into the late rounds, get him to start exchanging late.”

Adam Booth – Former heavyweight trainer

“I’m going to go with youth and energy, and pick Anthony Joshua. But I’m only going by that by the slightest of margins because if Wlad did nullify Anthony’s attributes and actually can get control and win the fight I wouldn’t be surprised.

Jonathon Banks – In Klitschko’s corner

“He [Joshua] just knows with two power punchers, it’s not going the distance,”

“He knows eventually, they both are going to start hitting on each other.

“Everybody that AJ’s started to hit on, they’ve fell. Everybody Wladimir has started to hit on, they’ve fell, so no, it won’t go the distance. This fight has knockout written all over it.”

“Don’t get me wrong, he don’t look at his opponents like he looks at Wladimir,” said Banks.

“He looks at Wladimir on a higher level, but he destroyed them all and he is looking to do the same to Wladimir.

“It’s going to be completely different to any other opponent he ever faced. He is the best opponent that Joshua has ever faced.

“He’s never faced a gold medallist before. Wladimir has. He’s never faced a dominant figure in the sport before, or someone they considered to be a force to be reckoned with. Wladimir has. That’s the difference.”

What the former champions say…

George Foreman – Former heavyweight king

“[This fight] matches the old and the new, the aggressive and the smart.

“If I were a gambler, I’d see Joshua as a 6-5 favourite. So I’d put him just in front.

“Klitschko knows how to win and how to use his body size. It will be a difficult fight. Klitschko’s a good fighter. He has a good left jab and once you develop a good left jab, there’s no such thing as your best days before or behind you, you are a fighter that can last forever.

“If he wins the world title again – on my God, imagine that! If Klitschko wins, the boxing world will flip out.”

Frank Bruno – Former Heavyweight champion

“I think Anthony Joshua has got a good chance. He’s got youth on his side, he’s a very powerful puncher and could potentially knock Klitschko out very early.

“Klitschko is a great fighter though, with a lot more rounds under his belt, so you never know.”

Carl Froch – Former super middleweight champion

“This could go one of many ways, but if I had to guess right I would say Joshua’s going to bang him out, he’ll just have too much for him.

“He’s big and strong, and has the youth and ambition at 27 years old, which could prove decisive.

Lennox Lewis – Former unified heavyweight champion

“Klitschko doesn’t have the legs, the power that he used to,”

“He has a chink in his armour after getting beat by Tyson Fury. Anthony Joshua is now taking that challenge, going after the man.”

“Now is the perfect time for him,” the 51-year-old told BBC Radio 5 live.

“I believe Joshua is more focused, more aimed. Does he want to be undisputed champion? Absolutely.”

Vitali Klitschko

“Nobody is perfect. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses,” ‘Dr Ironfist’ said.

“The weakness of my brother is concentration. Wladimir was not 100 per cent focused for the Fury fight. That is why he lost it.

“He knows that. Right now, he has prepared for this fight so well. I’ve never seen my brother so focused during preparations.”

Lamon Brewster – Former heavyweight champion

“Yes, I do believe that Joshua is going to stop Wladimir Klitschko. He is young, skilled, hungry, but at the same time, humble. To be honest, I really don’t see anyone beating Anthony Joshua, except, maybe, Deontay Wilder down the road.

“I don’t know if Joshua can [stop Klitschko early], but at the same time, I think he will. He has really impressed me with his skill and accuracy. Of course Wladimir has a lot of great experience, which could turn out to be a determining factor, but I must say, I see Joshua winning no matter what.”

What the fighters say…

Wladimir Klitschko

“I am obsessed with my goal to become a three-time world champion in the biggest arena I have ever fought,”

“There are a lot of questions that need to be answered, not with words but with the fists. As a fan, I am looking forward to this fight as well.

“As a fighter, I am going to stand in the ring because I have I have got the best place by the way, so right in the middle.

“To see two Olympic champions fight each other, the former champion and the current champion, it is something that people are looking forward to and I believe the outcome of the fight will be amazing.

“I will rely on my experience and will train accordingly. I will do everything that is needed to get healthy and ready for April 29. I wish Joshua the same thing. Soon we’re going to get to the camp and get ready.”

“On this stick, I recorded a video last week I gave my prediction,” Klitschko revealed, holding up the memory stick. “This stick is going to be integrated into my robe.

“Do not ask me, after that fight, what is on the stick. The only person who is going to be able to open it up and watch it is the person who buys this robe, with all the money going to the Klitschko Foundation.”

Anthony Joshua

“I always try to strip things right back to basics,” he said. “It is just me and a man trading blows and the best man will win.

“I am preparing myself not only for a physical battle but a mental battle with anyone. April 29 is another stepping stone towards greatness.”

“This is a defining fight for Klitschko, not for me, because it’s at the end of his career,”

“When he gets beat, that could be the end of him. This is just a part of my journey. I may not be the best but what I do, I do brilliant. That’s what’s got me here. The little things I do, work for me. If he says he’s the better boxer, so be it. So, when I start punching you in your jaw, you better stand up to my power.”

World Series of Boxing – Quarter-Final Line-up Confirmed

By Johnston Brown – BillyCBoxing

After 12 enthralling weeks of World Series Boxing action the quarter-finals of season VII have now been confirmed and will take place across home and away legs on 12-13 May and 19-20 May.

Last year’s champions Cuba Domadores finished top of their group after losing only once and dropping only six bouts to end with the best record across all three groups. They will take on last year’s semi-finalists the Uzbek Tigers, who qualified as one of the best-third-place teams. The Tigers will be looking to go one better and reach the final this season but the Cubans are strong favourites and should march on through to the last four.

Last year’s beaten finalists the British Lionhearts also finished top of their group with only one defeat and losing eight bouts in their six matches. They will take on the France Fighting Roosters for the third time this season after beating them twice already. The Lionhearts will hope they can repeat the same 3-2 score line’s and progress to the semi-finals.

Newcomers Colombia Heroicos finished one point behind the Cubans in second place but were the only team to record a victory against them. Their opponents Italia Thunder managed to squeeze out the French to second spot after a 4-1 win against them in their final group match. The Thunder were also the only team to beat the Lionhearts this season so results on home soil will be key in this match-up.

Completing the quarter-final line-up will be Group C winners Astana Arlans Kazakhstan, who like the Cubans and Lionhearts only lost once this season. They will face Russia’s Patriot Boxing Team who finished second in the same group. Kazakhstan defeated the Russians twice this season, 3-2 away and 4-1 at home so they will be the favourites for a semi-final spot.

I’m really looking forward to watching the best eight teams in WSB this season and I’m going to pick Colombia Heroicos vs Italia Thunder as the tie of the quarters. I think the Colombians will just edge it with a comprehensive victory at home. My gut instinct says the Cubans, Lionshearts and Kazakhstan will join them in the last four.

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