Johnston Brown

British Boxing Still Booming

It was another night staked with young British Boxing talent but this time across two different broadcasts by two different organisations.

Queensbury Promotions showcased an event billed ‘The Future is Now’ at the Copperbox Arena, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Hackney Wick, London on Boxnation. Their night was headlined by light heavyweight sensation Anthony ‘The Beast’ Yarde and had plenty of young British hopefuls on display.

While on terrestrial television Cyclone Promotions hosted a night billed ‘Bad Blood’ in the Braehead Arena, Glasgow, Scotland. Although their card was not as strong as the night in London, their headline act stole the show.

Glasgow’s main event

Scottish Super lightweight Josh Taylor (10-0, 9KOs) produced an excellent display against Ohara Davies (15-1, 12KOs) to capture the Commonwealth (British Empire) super lightweight and the super version of the WBC Silver lightweight titles.

The Tartan Tornado is a fighter that I tipped for a big year and he has showed why I think this kid could go all the way to the very top. Especially now after his seventh round stoppage against another good young prospect .

With the passionate Scottish faithful behind Taylor right from the start Davies may have wished he was fighting in his hometown on the other card in London as he looked a little intimated by the atmosphere. That being said the Hackney boy nicked the first round with his unorthodox style.

Taylor started to find his range in the second when he beat Davies to the punch throughout. The third round was pretty even until the Edinburgh-based fighter caught Davies with a flurry of shots that made him take a knee right on the bell.

After the knock down ‘Two Tanks’ as Davies likes to be known went after Taylor and I felt he nicked the fourth and fifth rounds to bring the scorecards even. But the 26-year-old Scotsman restored his lead in the sixth when he got the better of his opponent with the more effective inside work.

Taylor’s speed was starting to take effect and it was a vicious right hand that sent the Englishman to the canvas for the second time in the fight. Although Davies managed to get back to his feet he seemed to turn away before the Scot ran in to finish the job.

There was slight confusion on my part as for me referee Howard Foster didn’t stop the fight. He ran over to Taylor to stop him from hitting Davies but before he could make a decision the Scotsman’s corner was in the ring celebrating with the crowd going wild. Either way the right guy won and there wasn’t any complaints with the decision.

Burns v Taylor

After the fight Ricky Burns was ringside as a pundit and all the talk was about a potential all Scottish showdown. Taylor who now propels into the top 15 of the WBC rankings said: “I would want it. It would be a great fight for Scottish boxing and the Scottish fans. I think it would sell out any arena. It would be a massive fight.”

Personally I don’t think it will happen any time soon as Burns looks set to take on Anthony Crolla for his next fight. It could be a potential title eliminator next year with the winner taking on the undisputed champion after the Crawford/ Indongo fight? Although I believe the winner of that mouth-watering match-up will more than likely move up into the welterweights. Therefore this Division will be wide open after August 19 and I think Taylor could well be the next superstar.

Undercard

Jason Easton (10-0, 6KOs) managed to come through a tough match against Steve Jamoye (22-4-1, 4KOs) with a ninth round TKO to win the vacant Inter-Continental Super lightweight title.

Chantelle Cameron (2-0, 1KO) won by TKO against Bojana Libiszewska (5-23, 1KO)

There were other victories for Stephen Simmons, Gary Murray, Ashton Brown, Gary Rae & Iain Trotter.

London

Anthony Yarde (12-0, 11KOs) won the WBO European light heavyweight title after he dispatched the former champion Richard Baranyi (18-2, 12KOs) in magnificent fashion.

The 25-year-old from Hackney has been gradually improving his stock in this Division with knock out win after knock out win but this first round KO has now catapulted him into the top ten WBO rankings

The best possible route for Yarde to a world title would be a match-up with current WBA regular champion Nathan Cleverly. Firstly he will need to become number one domestically and I think a potential showdown with fellow Londoner Frank Buglioni would be a great start.

By the time Yarde is in a position to fight for a World title the likes of Andre Ward, Sergy Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson will more than likely be retired or will have no interest in fighting such a dangerous up and coming star.

Triple D

19-year-old heavyweight Daniel ‘Dynamite’ Dubois (4-0, 4KOs) won his first title with a second round knock out of Mauricio Barragan (15-2, 8KOs). The Londoner from Greenwich picked up the vacant WBC youth world heavyweight title in only his fourth fight.

It’s hard to believe that a guy of his size is still a teenager and hasn’t fully grown yet. He still needs at least another 10-15 fights before his team can even think about putting him in the ring with some of the bigger names in the division. Trouble is who on earth would want to fight him and if they can find an opponent with true credibility then the money will have to be good.

As boxing trainer Alan Smith said: “20 fights for learning, 20 fights for earning.”

Undercards

In one of the fights of the night Asinia Byfield (13-1, 5KOs) stopped Sammy McNess (7-1, 3KOs) by TKO in the fifth. Unfortunately for Byfield his impressive victory was marred by a mass brawl in the crowd. The 28-year-old from Reading is another of the fighters that I picked for a big year and if he continues to put in performances like this he will be a tough opponent for anybody.

Darryll Williams (16-0, 6KOs) retained his English super middleweight title with a majority decision over Jahmaine Smyle (14-6-2, 6KOs). It wasn’t as tasty as their last fight which will be a nomination for British Fight of the Year but it was still a good solid British dust-up.

British welterweight champion Bradley Skeete (27-1, 12KOs) won a unanimous decision against Dale Evans (13-4-2, 4KOs). Skeete from Penge has now been awarded the Lonsdale belt for keeps after defending it three times without defeat.

There were also victories for Gary Corcoran, Ryan Garner, Archie Sharpe, Sanjeev Sahota, Jordan Thompson & JD Smith.

Verdict

Glasgow may have had the smaller card but their main and co-main events were both excellent fights and well worth the money to those that paid for tickets, even more so for us watching for free on television. 8/10

The night in London once again showcased our up and coming prospects and had some good solid competitive match-up’s. By no fault of his own Yarde’s first headline appearance was too short and a complete miss-match which was a little disappointing. 7/10

London Lads Deliver

Matchroom Boxing showcased their London stable at the O2 Arena in Greenwich, London on Saturday night. On a card staked with prospects from the Capital, Enfield based Frank Buglioni (20-2-1, 15KOs) retained the British light heavyweight title with a unanimous decision over undefeated Ricky Summers (13-1, 5KOs) in the main event.

‘Wise Guy’ as Buglioni likes to be called showed why he was the headline act of the evening as he produced another entertaining performance against the durable Summers. All three judges scored in favour of the north Londoner 116-113, 115-114 & 118-111.

The British Champion now wants to win the Lord Lonsdale belt outright and then move onto European and World honours. The 28-year-old is also willing to fight current WBA champion Nathan Cleverly.

“There’s no light heavyweight in Britain that can beat me, including Nathan Cleverly, so line them up,” said Buglioni.

Buatsi Debut

Bronze medalist at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio Joshua Buatsi recorded a second round TKO win over Carlos Mena (4-7, 1KO). Matchroom’s new light heavyweight signing looked composed and demonstrated excellent technique and power.

The 24-year-old from Croydon looked the real deal when I witnessed his performances in Rio last year but he looked even more impressive in his full professional debut. I expect this kid to be a superstar in and out of the ring.

“I was expected to win so no need to get carried away”, said Buatsi. “Back in the gym, lots to work on.”

Benn returns

Conor Benn (7-0, 5KOs) made a return to the ring after a seven month lay off and recorded a third round TKO victory over unbeaten Mike Cole (4-1-1, 1KO). It was good to see the Greenwich born youngster back in the ring after a long lay-off.

Although his opponent was also undefeated and on paper it looks like a good victory but Cole did only take the fight 24 hours prior to the event. Even still Benn looked a lot more patient and picked his shots well.

After the fight Benn said: “It was a killer being away from the ring for so long, so I enjoyed returning. I boxed the best I’ve ever boxed tonight.”

London Cruiserweight bout heats up…

Brixton-based Isaac Chamberlain (8-0, 3KOs) knocked out Ryan Crawford (2-3-1, 1KO) in the second round before London rival from Hackney, Lawrence Okolie (4-0, 4KOs) knocked out Russ Henshaw (7-6, 2KOs) in the first round.

The pair clashed at Wednesday’s public workout with some heated verbals being exchanged. There is clearly no love lost between these two and I for one would love to see this fight.

The Billy C Boxing show hate the word marinate but for me this one will have to marinate for at least a year. Eddie Hearn promotes both fighters so it will happen and this is what he had to say:”I definitely wouldn’t want to see that fight happen this year. Maybe next spring, next summer.”

The Big Cheese

Heavy hitting Bermondsey boy Ted Cheeseman (9-0,7KOs) continued his rise up the super welterweight division at domestic level with another outstanding performance. The 21-year-old demolished Matthew Ryan (14-2, 2KOs) to win the English super-welterweight title after a third-round stoppage.

“It’s great to become English champ at 21 in just nine fights, my last fight gave me the experience and I knew I could get him out quickly if I took my time,” said ‘The Big Cheese’

Cheeseman was an excellent amateur and continues to look an outstanding prospect in the pros, definitely one to keep a close eye on.

Bomber

Reece Bellotti (10-0, 9KOs) won the vacant WBC international silver featherweight title with an eighth-round TKO over Jamie Speight (15-12, 2KOs).

The Bomber from Watford said: “I’m always learning, doing different things in the gym and I’ve won another title so it’s good. I know Speight was experienced but I used foot pressure, movement and jab to get the win.”

Rest of the Undercards…

Super-middleweight Craig ‘Spider’ Richards (9-0, 3KOs) from Crystal Palace, South London won a points decision over Rui Manuel Pavanito (5-8-1, 4KOs)

Super-middleweight Jamie Cox (22-0, 12KOs) battered Ivan Jukic (24-11, 16KOs) in one round as he prepares to hear his fate in the World Boxing Super Series draw on July 8.

In the same division, Morgan Jones (12-0, 5KOs) made light work of Jade Karam (9-4-2, 4KOs) scoring an early stoppage and Danny Dignum (3-0, 2KOs) recorded a four round points victory over Yailton Neves (1-9, 1KO)

Light heavyweight Jake Ball (9-1, 8KOs) beat Pablo Sosa (8-8-3, 3KOs) by TKO.

Verdict

Decent night of boxing and it was great to watch the prospects coming through. The main event was a good old-fashioned British tear up which is always very entertaining. Really looking forward to following Buatsi and Cheeseman’s careers especially. I also hope that Okolie and Chamberlain can continue their rise up the ranks so they can get it on in the ring next year. 7/10

 

 

Belfast Boy Burnett wins IBF Bantamweight title

Ryan Burnett (17-0, 9KOs) produced a dominant performance against Lee Haskins (34-4, 14KOs) to win the IBF World bantamweight title at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast.

The Belfast boy dropped Haskins in the sixth and eleventh rounds to record an impressive split decision victory in front of his home crowd.

Ridiculously one of the judges scored the fight 118-108 in favour of Haskins but thankfully the other two officials both handed Burnett the fight with totals of 119-107.

Speed kills

Burnett’s speed was causing the Bristol fighter all sorts of problems from the outset. He was quicker and sharper from the first bell, throwing his jab from the hip and landing cleanly with his right.

The 25 year showed great maturity in the second round when he was cut more severely after a clash of heads. Kudos to the cutman for his excellent work.

The former champion was struggling to keep up with the youngsters fast hands and slick footwork but did manage to connect with a few body shots.

Down twice

With the fight approaching the middle rounds the 33 year old would have been hoping that Burnett would start to slow down. Unfortunately for Haskins a right hook sent him to the canvas in the sixth.

Burnett was starting to enjoy himself in the championship rounds with clever feints and movement that left Haskins missing wildly at times.

With the home crowd singing Burnetts name he wobbled Haskins in the tenth and put him down with a flurry of punches in the eleventh.

To his credit Haskins managed to finish the fight on his feet but he knew the kid from Belfast had just snatched his title away from him.

Final thoughts

After some questionable judging the right man won on the night but the IBF will have to look at the official who gave Haskins the fight. Whether he filled in the wrong box or not that is a shocking decision that needs to be addressed.

Huge credit to the Ryan Burnett for an excellent performance. I believe a unification fight with Jamie McDonnell has to be next which should be pretty straight forward to agree considering that they are both under Eddie Hearn.

Lee Haskins will need to lick his wounds and re-group but it is difficult to see where he goes from here.

Under-card

Paul Hyland Jnr (16-0, 6KOs) put in an impressive display against Adam Dingsdale (16-4-1, 4KOs) with a first round TKO to win the vacant IBF East/West Europe lightweight title.

Belfast’s James Tennyson (29-2, 15KOs) won the vacant WBA International super featherweight title against Ryan Doyle (14-2-1, 8KOs) with a sixth round stoppage.

Cuban Mike Perez (22-2-1, 14KOs) moved down to the cruiserweight division against undefeated Viktor Biscak (10-1, 7KOs) and made short work of the Slovakian, knocking him out in only 29 seconds.

Verdict

A good night of boxing in Belfast with all their home fighters coming out on top. Ryan Burnett looks classy and could potentially be the best of all the current crop of Irish fighters.

Considering they have Jamie and Michael Conlan, Paddy Barnes and Carl Frampton that would be a massive achievement but one that won’t faze the new young champion.

Would like to have seen more of Mike Perez, the Cuban residing in Cork with one hell of a fascinating story. 7/10

Klitschko: I left the ring a hero

Wladimir Klitschko reveals his thoughts on defeat to Anthony Joshua.

“At the end of April I competed against Anthony Joshua, and thereby took on the greatest of all challenges: In front of 90,000 spectators in a sold-out Wembley Stadium in London – as well as a TV audience of millions in more than 150 countries – I fought the fight of my life against the 28-year-old Englishman,”

“I competed to conquer the best of the best. Sadly, I failed to achieve my goal. The outcome was that my opponent won the fight. But despite this, and however absurd it may sound, I also left the ring victorious.

“In the run-up, I was 100 percent certain that I would win the duel. I had prepared as well as I could and felt I was in the best form of my life; winning back the title of World Champion was my obsession. I gave it everything during the fight. I managed to get up several times after being knocked down. I was even able to send my opponent to the canvas. But, in the end, it was Anthony Joshua who struck the decisive blow and left the ring victorious. I failed to achieve my goal of winning, but I did in fact gain much more than this. I never thought I would say such a thing, but: in defeat, I achieved much greater success than I would have had I won. Fans and sports enthusiasts worldwide are celebrating my performance and showing me their appreciation. Even my opponent expressed his respect for me.”

“The responses that I received and continue to receive after this night of boxing are overwhelming,” he continued.

“Commentators reported that I showed greatness even in defeat. Journalists wrote repeatedly that I left the ring a hero, despite my loss: “Klitschko appeared greater in defeat than he has ever managed in victory.”

“After years of constantly preparing myself up for victory, this is a completely new experience. I now understand that success does not necessarily mean achieving a set goal. Instead, success means achieving the best possible result. Sometimes we cannot see beforehand what the best possible result might be.”

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.

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