By Johnston Brown – BillyCBoxing
It’s been an eventful start to the year for our British and Irish boxers but results have not been great at international level. In seven world title fights, four have come up short, two have been victorious and the other was a majority draw. Not the greatest start to the year by any means but we do still have eleven world champions across ten different weight divisions. Only the Americans and Mexicans have more world champions with the Japanese just behind the Brits.
As we head into the most eagerly anticipated heavyweight fight in years here is a look at what’s happened in the first quarter, what’s coming up and who to look out for by weight division;
The biggest and most entertaining heavyweight showdown this year was between Tony Bellew (29-2-1, 19KOs) and one legged David Haye (28-3, 26 KOs). After his unlikely victory the scouser has decided to remain in the heavy hitting division and push for a mega payday against one of the champions. The Londoner on the other hand refuses to retire and hopes to return to the ring in 2018. On the evidence of his performance before the injury, I don’t think he will be making much of an impact.
David Price (21-4, 18KOs) will be considering his future after his seventh round TKO loss to Romanian Christian Hammer (21-4, 12KOs) in February. The 33 year old has not been able to make his mark in the pro game but a bronze medal in the Beijing Olympics and Commonwealth gold is still a huge achievement.
David Allen (11-2-1, 8KOs) has made a strong start to the new year with two KO victories in February and March. The ‘White’ Rhino is no push over and should be aiming for European glory in 2017. Youngster Nathan Gorman (9-0, 7KOs) has also recorded a couple of victories this year and should be looking to pick up a British title soon.
If you didn’t already know, where have you been? As IBF champion Anthony Joshua (18-0, 18KOs) is putting his title on the line against future ‘hall of famer’ Wladimir Klitschko (64-4, 53KOs) plus the WBA Super and IBO titles will be up for grabs. 90,000 fans will be in attendance at Wembley stadium on April 29 for the biggest heavyweight match-up since Tyson/Lewis.http://Joshua/Klitschko: Mind games or Respect?
Undefeated Hughie Fury (20-0, 10KOs) had high hopes of becoming WBO world champion but a back injury has delayed his chances of taking on current holder Joseph Parker (22-0, 18KOs). Sticking with the Fury’s Tyson (25-0, 18KOs) has hinted at making a return to the ring in July.
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. I think Delboy will need a knockout if he wants to get a result here after he was clearly robbed of victory in the first fight.
Dillian Whyte (20-1, 15KOs) will headline his own night at London’s O2 Arena against Mariusz Wach (33-2, 17KOs) of Poland. This will not be easy for ‘The Body Snatcher’ from Brixton as his opponent’s only two defeats came against Klitschko & Povetkin. That being said I do think Whyte will have too much for ‘The Viking’.
My pick of the heavyweight newcomers is Daniel Dubios (2-0, 2KOs). The 19 year old nicknamed ‘Dynamite’ will be a serious contender in the future but for now he will be kept busy. The Londoner should be looking at English or British titles at the beginning of next year. Look out for the teenager on May 20 at the Copper Box Arena.
The Cruiserweight division is not as jammed packed as the heavy’s but we do still have a world champion albeit a WBC Emeritus champion in Tony Bellew.
Tony Conquest (16-2, 5KOs) announced his retirement on Twitter after injury ruled him out of a fight with Craig Kennedy (16-0, 8KOs). ‘The Kid’ as Kennedy is known, will finally take a step up in level when he takes on Matty Askin (21-3-1, 13KOs) for the British title on May 26 at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff. Askin proved he deserves this title shot after a unanimous decision win over Tommy McCarthy (9-1, 5KOs) in the final eliminator last year in Manchester.
There are two Cruiserweights that I will be keeping tabs on this year Lawrence Okolie (2-0, 2KOs) and Isaac Chamberlain (7-0, 2KOs). Both have already recorded TKO victories this year and I expect both to continue their impressive starts in the pro ranks.
It has been a slow start for the 175 pounders with only ‘Kid Nytro’ Dec Spelman (11-0, 7KOs) winning by TKO over journeyman Nathan King at the Ice Arena in Hull. The other light heavy that has been in action this year is Hosea Burton (19-1, 9KOs) who won on points against Tamas Kozma. The Mancunian is on the comeback trail after tasting defeat for the first time against Frank Buglioni (19-2-1, 15KOs) in one of the fights of 2016. The Londoner captured the British title and will now defend it against another unbeaten fighter in Ricky Summers (13-0, 5KO’s) which will be the co-main event on the Whyte/Wach card in London.
Nathan Cleverly is the current British number one and WBA world champion after his impressive victory over German Jürgen Brähmer (48-3, 35KOs) in October 2016. I believe a rematch would be a viable option for the Welshman unless he fancies taking on the dangerous Russian and WBA interim-champ Dmitry Bivol (10-0, 8KOs).
Anthony Yarde (10-0, 9KOs) is no longer a secret within the boxing circle but I do expect big things for the 25 year old from Hackney, London. He will feature on the Walsh/Davis undercard at the Copper Box Arena against Chris Hobbs (6-1-1, 0KOs), blink and you will miss him.
James DeGale (23-1-1, 14KOs) kicked off the year with a bang on January 14 at the Barclays Center, New York when he managed to retain his IBF super middleweight title against Babou Jack (20-1-3, 12KOs). Unfortunately the majority draw was not good enough to unify the WBA and IBF straps but he did win over the British public with a spirited performance.
Chris Eubank Jr (24-1, 19KOs) did manage to win the IBO super-middleweight title when he beat Renold Quinlan (11-2, 7KOs) by TKO in February.
George Groves (25-3, 18KOs) decided not to chase a rematch with DeGale and will instead fight Fedor Chudinov (14-1, 10KOs) for the WBA strap on the Brook/Spence undercard at Bramall lane, Sheffield on May 27. I believe this to be a wise move by ‘The Saint’ as he aims to capture a world title at the fourth attempt. If he can finally make his dream a reality then a rematch with ‘Chunky’ in a unification match up could bring the fans to the Arsenal stadium at the end of the year?
Rocky Fielding (23-1, 13KOs) clinched the vacant British super middleweight title when he won a unanimous decision over John Ryder (24-3, 12KOs) at the Echo Arena on April 22.
Although he has now established himself I believe this will be a massive year for Callum Smith (22-0, 17KOs). The 26 year old is hopeful of taking on Anthony Dirrell (30-1-1, 24KOs) for the vacant WBC strap that was vacated by Babou Jack when he moved up to light heavyweight. The Americans promotional team won purse bids for the bout which dashed Eddie Hearn’s plans for the fight to take place at Anfield, Liverpool. It will be tough for the undefeated scouser to fight away for the first time in his career but this is the game and I believe he can produce the goods.
Undefeated Tommy Langford (18-1, 6KOs) ended his hopes of a title shot when he was knocked out in the fifth round. http://Mini Mike Tyson lands a title shot – while Murray keeps title hopes alive
The British number one Billy Joe Saunders (24-0, 12KOs) was hoping for a showdown with Triple G but that has failed to materialise so the WBO Champion decided to target Langford for a British showdown on July 8. That has now collapsed due to Khurtsidze’s victory so Saunders will put his WBO world middleweight title on the line against the dangerous 37 year old.
Jack Arnfield (24-2, 6KOs) has already had two fights this year when he defeated Mick Hall (13-2, 1KO) and fellow Blackpool resident Brian Rose (29-5-1, 8KOs). The 27 year old will be hoping to continue his good form in his hometown on July 7.
Criag Cunningham (18-1, 4KOs) also recorded another victory this year after his win over Team GB Bronze medalist Anthony Ogogo (11-1, 7KOs) in 2016.
22 year old Reece Cartwright (16-0, 9KOs) is in great form and looks like he could be a real star. His first victim of the year was Georgia journeymen Giorgi Kandelaki but now faces his toughest challenge yet when he takes on another undefeated fighter German, Jan Meiser (13-0-1, 7KOs) on May 5 in Leeds.
Light Middleweights/ Super Welterweights
British number one and two Liam Smith (25-1-1, 14KOs) and Welshmen Liam Williams (16-1-1, 11KOs) put on an entertaining match-up at the Manchester Arena on April 8. The scouser may have come out as the victor in a close fight but did not win the vacant interim WBO world title as he came in over weight. A rematch is being negotiated with the possibility of the WBO world title being at stake due to current champ Canelo signaling his intentions to remain at middleweight.
James Metcalf (15-0, 7KOs) was also on the same card as Smith and Williams when he beat Jason Ball.
Gary Corcoran (16-1, 7KOs) from Wembley, London came back with a win over journeyman James Gorman after his loss to Liam Williams last year.
Undefeated records will be on the line at the Copper Box Arena on May 20 when Londoner Aarron Morgan (12-0, 8KOs) takes on Joe Pigford (12-0, 11KOs). This is an intriguing match-up between two heavy handed fighters so I expect this one to end early.
I like the look of two different fighters, 27 year old Asina Byfield (12-1, 4KOs) and 22 year old Ted Cheeseman (8-0, 6KOs). Both have already recorded victories this year and I expect them to be looking for domestic success soon.
On the Haye/ Bellew undercard Sam Eggington (20-3, 12KOs) produced a career best performance when he stopped Paul Malignaggi (36-8, 7KOs) with a terrific body shot. The ex-prize fighter continues to over achieve and defy the odds.
The Brummie will be fighting on home turf at the Barclaycard Arena against Spanish opponent Ceferino Rodriguez (24-1,12KOs) for the European and WBC International titles on May 13.
On the same card Frankie Gavin (23-3, 14KOs) is hoping for a winning return after his defeat to Eggington last year when he takes on Dave Ryan.
Reigning British welterweight king Bradley Skeete (25-1, 11KOs) will be back in action on June 2 against Shayne Singleton (23-1-1, 8KOs) which is taking place at the Brentwood Centre, Essex.
And of course, IBF champion Kell Brook (36-1, 25KOs) finally gets his wish to fight at his beloved Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane on May 27 against tough American Errol Spence Jr (21-0, 18KOs). This has the potential of being one of the fights of the year and I’m backing the ‘Special One’ all the way. The Southpaw from Long Island has never been in the ring with anyone as good as Brook and that is ‘The Truth’ so I’m picking experience over youth in this one, just.
My welterweight prospect is Zimbabwe born Tamuka Mucha (16-0, 4KOs) who resides in Reading, Berkshire. The 24 year old will have a domestic title at some point this year and I don’t see many fighters jumping at the chance to take on ‘The Beast’.
Light Welterweights/ Super Lightweights
Ricky Burns (41-6-1, 14KOs) has had an excellent career and is loved by his Scottish faithful, which was plain to see when he fought Julius Indongo (22-0, 11KOs) on May 15. The awkward southpaw didn’t only win the WBA super strap but he beat up the ‘Rickster’ in front of his own adoring fans.
Ohara Davies (15-0, 12KOs) continued his winning streak when he stopped, now retired Derry Matthews (38-12-2, 20KOs) at the o2 in London.
Merseysider Robbie Davies Jr (15-0, 11KOs) defeated Zoltan Szabo live on terrestrial television in January.
On April 8, rising star Jack Catterall (18-0, 10KOs) put Martin Gethin to the sword with another TKO victory.
Tyrone Nurse (34-2-12, 7KOs) was under par against Joe Hughes (15-2-1, 6KOs) but managed to scrape a split decision draw in Leicester to retain his British super lightweight title.
Scotland maybe disappointed not to have a current world champion in the division anymore but they need to look no further than 26 year old southpaw Josh Taylor (9-0, 8KOs) for optimism. The ‘Tartan Tornado’ has kick started his boxing career with eight knockouts in nine and looks the part as he approaches double figures in the pro’s.
It’s been a busy year so far for the British lightweights with Anthony Crolla (31-6-3, 13KOs) losing to Colombian Jorge Linares (42-3, 27KOs) for the second time and WBO champion Terry Flanagan (33-0, 13KOs) retaining his title against Russian Petr Petrov (38-5-2, 19KOs). It does not look like ‘Turbo’ Terry is not interested in giving ‘Million Dollar’ another world title shot and hinted at fighting only the very best in the division. In my opinion they need to fight each other.
Robbie Barrett (15-2-1, 1KO) put in a fine performance against Scott Cardle (21-1-1, 7KOs) in the SSE Hydro in Glasgow to win the British lightweight title.
Luke Campbell (16-1, 13KOs) beat Jairo Lopez (21-7, 14KOs) by TKO in February and has been added to the Wembley undercard on April 29 against solid Colombian Darleys Perez (33-2-2, 21KOs).
Look out for Belfast boy Paul Hyland Jnr (15-0, 5KOs) who has already recorded two victories this year. Impressively he stopped undefeated Hungarian Karoly Gallovich (8-1, 0KOs) in February before a points win over Peter Cope in March. He will be back in July with an opponent TBA.
Northern Ireland’s James Tennyson (18-2, 14KOs) kicked off his year with a good win over tricky Declan Geraghty (14-2, 4KOs) from Dublin at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast.
In another interesting match-up Essex boy Martin Joseph Ward (17-0-2, 8KOs) pinched a win against awkward southpaw Maxi Hughes (16-3-2, 2KOs) by UD to win the British and WBC international title.
23 year old rising star Leon Woodstock produced a vintage display of grit and skill when he stopped Paul Holt (6-4, 2KOs) in Leicester.
Liam Walsh (21-0, 14KOs) finally gets a shot at the IBF world title at the Copper Box Arena on May 20 against the highly rated champion Gervonta Davis (17-0, 16KOs). The 22 year old American has only ever been the distance once and that was a six rounder back in 2014. The ‘Tank’ is a dangerous opponent for Englishmen but being eight years older and on home soil Walsh has a chance.
The ‘Brown Flash’ Zelfa Barrett (16-0, 10KOs) is a classy super feather. He has won his first two fights by KO this year and will be at the Bolton Whites Hotel on May 19 for his third bout.
This division is littered with some of the best British and Irish talent, either at the top of their game or making their way to the top.
In January, Carl Frampton (23-1, 14KOs) lost for the first time in his career against Mexican Leo Santa Cruz (33-1-1, 18KOs). There will be a third encounter between these two at some point but for now an all British tear up could be on the cards against Lee Selby (24-1, 9KOs), who recorded a non-title fight victory against Andoni Gago last month.
But the Welshman may be forced to fight a mandatory challenger instead. Which puts Scott Quigg (32-1-2, 24KOs) in line for a title shot if he can get past Viorel Simion (21-1, 9KOs) on the undercard of Joshua/ Klitschko.
Kid Galahad (22-0, 13KOs) did notch a win over Leonel Hernandez in February who was a late replacement for Joseph Agbeko (31-5, 23KOs) due to being taken ill on the morning of the fight.
Yorkshires Josh Warrington (24-0, 5KOs) will have been inactive for almost 9 months before he takes on Spanish Kiko Martinez (36-7-1, 26KOs) in his hometown Leeds on May 13. The 26 year old will be hoping he can get the victory he needs to push on towards world honours.
Commonwealth champion Isaac Lowe (13-0-2, 5KOs) will be on the Bolton Whites Hotel card on May 19, while British featherweight champion Ryan Walsh (21-2-1, 10KOs) defends his title against Marco McCullough at the Copper Box Arena the day after.
Look out for Watford lad Reece Bellotti (9-0, 8KOs) who will be on the Whyte/Wach undercard as he continues to sweep aside his opponents from one knockout to the next. The British title is on the radar but I can see the European strap around his waist by the end of the year.
Earlier in the year Gavin McDonnell (16-1-2, 4KOs) was outclassed by Mexican Rey Vargas (29-0, 22KOs) for the vacant WBC title in the Ice Arena, Hull.
The ‘Baby faced Assassin’ Paul Butler (24-1, 13KOs) continued his winning streak with the fourth round stoppage of Carlos Ruben Dario Ruiz on April 8 in Manchester.
Commonwealth champion Gamal Yafai (11-0, 4KOs) will face fellow Brummie Sean Davis (12-0, 0KOs) for the WBC international title on May 13 in Birmingham. It’s great to see both fighters put their undefeated records on the line in front of their home fans.
James ‘Jazza’ Dickens has not been in action since his defeat to super bantamweight king Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-0, 11KOs) last year. The Merseysider will face another undefeated fighter for the third time in his career when he takes on Thomas Patrick Ward (20-0, 2KOs) in the First Direct Arena, Leeds.
Michael Conlan (1-0, 1KO) made his American debut at Madison Square Garden, New York on St Patrick’s Day and he will be making a quick return to the ring on May 26 in Chicago. I think the Belfast boy will rise up the division very quickly so expect him to be busy this calendar year with at least another three fights.
Current British champion Ryan Burnett (16-0, 9KOs) won on points in February and Marc Leach (8-1, 2KOs) also recorded a victory this year.
Lee Haskins (34-3, 14KOs) has not fought since September 2016, when he beat Stuart Hall (20-5-2, 7KOs) to retain the IBF world title. The Bristol-based boxer had to withdraw from a scheduled fight with Shohei Omori (18-2, 13KOs) in December due to a leg injury. With WBA champion Jamie McDonnell (29-2-1, 13KOs) also without a dance partner, I think it’s time for both camps to agree a unification fight. Nine years ago Haskins got the better of the Yorkshireman but with 39 more fights between them since then and two world titles on the line, the previous encounter is nothing more than a distant memory.
30 year old Paddy Barnes (2-0, 0KOs) will attempt to win a world title in his first 10 fights. Anything is possible for the Irishmen whose outstanding amateur pedigree will put him in good stead in the pro game but he will need to improve on his last performance. He will be back at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast on June 17.
‘The Mexican’ Jamie Conlan (19-0, 11KOs) recovered from a knock down in round eight against Yader Cardoza (22-11-1, 6KOs) to win a split decision and claim the vacant WBC international silver title. http://Belfast Boys – Conlan, Barnes & Tennyson Record Victories
Charlie Edwards (10-1, 4KOs) has put his defeat last year behind him to win a unanimous decision against Iain Butler (16-3, 5KOs) and pick up the vacant British title.
WBA world champion Khalid Yafai (21-0, 14KOs) tops the bill in the Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham when he defends his title against Japanese challenger Suguru Muranaka (25-2-1, 8KOs). The 27 year old will need to be at his best on May 13 if he is to win his first title defence. With the crowd behind ‘Kal’ and his two brothers in attendance I think he will have too much for the Tokyo-based fighter who is on a run of 19 fights without defeat.
Brad ‘The Blade’ Foster (6-0, 1KO) has made light work of his six opponents so far I expect big things in the future for the red-hot Lichfield prospect. The 19 year old is a former kick boxer that held a record of 57-2 and won nine world titles at four different weights.
Andrew Selby (8-0, 5KOs) produced his best performance when he won a unanimous decision over Ardin Diale (32-11-4, 15KOs) in London. The Welshmen and brother of Lee now has his hardest fight to date when he takes on Nicaraguan Cristofer Rosales (23-2, 15KOs) at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff on May 26.
Check out another Welshmen, Jay Harris (10-0, 6KOs) who produced an excellent display to win the Commonwealth (British Empire) title against Thomas Essomba (7-3, 2KOs). The 26 year from Swansea should be pushing for a world title shot come next year if he can keep on improving like he has been.