The Monday LunchBox

Devin Haney (left) goes to war with Jorge Linares.
Photo courtesy of DAZN Boxing.

The Lightweight Kings

The lightweights are back in vogue.

Going by the self acclaimed moniker of the ‘Four Kings’, a throwback to the halycon days of messrs Hagler, Hearns, Leonard and Duran, now, the 9st 9lb (135lb) division apparently has its own modern day equivalent.

The only problems are one of the kings is yet to be crowned (Ryan Garcia), one is yet to prove his potential despite holding the WBC world title (Devin Haney) and another is significantly older and on the back nine of his career (Vasily Lomachenko). The remaining ‘king’ Teofimo Lopez is the accepted leader of the pack having unified the majority of the versions of the title by defeating Lomachenko in October 2020, but holds the spurious WBC ‘franchise’ title and, has yet to meet and defeat Haney.

On Saturday at the Mandalay Bay hotel, Las Vegas the WBC champ Devin ‘The Dream’ Haney (26-0, 15 KO’s) came through his first ‘gut check’ by defeating multi-weight world champion Jorge Linares. In an action packed fight Haney had the upper hand for the majority of the rounds working off an excellent jab with exceptional movement and follow up power shots.

He was clearly ahead in the fight and seemingly coasting to victory until being nailed by a heavy Linares right hand just before the bell and doing the first steps of the Irish jig on his way back to his corner. Linares waved his arm like a matador to show Haney to his stool on the bell and the dynamic of the fight had dramatically shifted.

It was expected that the 22 year old Haney would struggle to the see the fight out but to his credit he quickly re-grouped and shared the championship rounds, ultimately taking a 116-112, 116-112, 115-113 unanimous decision. This was without doubt Haney’s toughest contest to date and having prevailed over an excellent challenger in Linares he should now take confidence into his next fight.

Linares drops to (47-6, 29 KO’s) but at 35 will still be a test for any of the ‘Kings’. Lomachenko already holds a KO win over the Venezuelan when unifying the titles prior to a defeat to Lopez.

Talk post-fight amongst the DAZN pundits was of Haney removing the WBC created confusion by unifying their belts and meeting Teofimo Lopez as soon as possible. Lopez is due to defend his titles against Australian George Kambosos Jr in Miami on June 19. He is expected to win.

With three of the ‘Kings’ in their early twenties the future looks bright for the 135 pounders. Whether Lopez can resist the temptation to step up to 140 to challenge undisputed champion Josh Taylor will determine whether we see a lightweight shootout to crown the ultimate champion. It promises to be exciting if all remain in the division and the fights can be made.

The Filipino Flash is back

We thought Nonito Donaire had made his ‘last hurrah’ in a close defeat to Japan’s outstanding Naoya Inoue. A contest of exceptional quality that took The Ring magazine’s 2019 ‘fight of the year’ honours. We were mistaken.

On Saturday ‘The Flash’ became a world champion for a ninth time at a staggering 38 years of age by defeating Nordine Oubaali in Carson, California. He took the WBC bantamweight title by fourth round knockout after dropping Oubaali several times and finishing with a sensational left uppercut.

Donaire (41-6, 27 KO’s) raised the bar on his own record of being the oldest world bantamweight champion and showed the world he still has some gas left in the tank. Look for him to seek an immediate rematch with Inoue, which could be sensational.

Frenchman Oubaali (17-1, 12 KO’s) suffered the first defeat of his career but should bounce back.

The week ahead should feature more heavyweight shenanigans as the 10 day deadline set by the WBO for Anthony Joshua to reach agreement to meet mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk ends. If no agreement can be reached by the Matchroom promoted fighters the contest will go to purse bids immediately.

This weekly feature is to also raise awareness for the Ringside Charitable Trust.

The Monday LunchBox

Victory ! Josh Taylor becomes the world 10st king.

Scotland’s Josh Taylor became the undisputed super-lightweight champion of the world with a close fought but unanimous decision against former WBC and WBO champion Jose Carlos Ramirez in the Virgin Hotel, Las Vegas on Saturday (22nd).

Remarkably in modern times all three ringside judges scored it 114-112 in Taylor’s favour.

The difference proved to be a knockdown of the American-Mexican in each of the 6th and 7th rounds as the bout was intensely fought throughout, with an ebb and flow that all great fights possess. Much was expected pre-fight between the two undefeated champions, who at age 30 and 28 respectively are at the peak of their powers.

The fight was riveting from the opening bell as Taylor got off to a fast start, boxing well out of his southpaw stance, but Ramirez pulled it back with aggressive advances to take the balance of the opening rounds. These rounds were very close and the difference was what you liked most; Taylor’s slick boxing or, Ramirez aggression and command of ring centre.

Taylor was cut over the left eye in the fifth losing the round again and appearing momentarily to lose momentum.

Then, fifteen seconds into the sixth Taylor stepped in and dropped his opponent with a devastating left hook. Ramirez was up very quickly, shaken but not stirred. It was early enough for Ramirez to re-gather his senses and make the round competitive. This was though scored as a 10-8 round to Taylor by all judges.

Towards the end of another intense round the knockdown in the seventh came with 30 seconds left and was the more shocking to the home fighter. In another heated exchange a left uppercut out of Taylor’s southpaw stance detonated on Ramirez chin and dropped him like a stone. The American arose late on very shaky legs and was on the verge of getting stopped but, referee Kenny Bayless inexplicably gave him more than the allotted ten seconds to recover using several delaying tactics. Had the outcome of the fight not been as such this would have been the big controversy. Clearly a 10-8 round to Taylor.

From the eighth onwards both fighters split rounds, but it appeared that Ramirez was, remarkably, finishing the stronger of the two. The Undisputed had Taylor taking the tenth but the consensus was the American took it and the ‘championship’ rounds (11-12).

Taylor already had the knockdown rounds in the bag and, although not coasting, was clearly homing in on the final bell as he looked up at the clock repeatedly with the rounds running down. This probably made the fight closer than it needed to be but Taylor was a nervy, albeit worthy winner, as the decision was announced. He burst into ecstasy on hearing the decision confirmed.

It was a fight of the highest calibre and both fighters embraced long after the final bell. Ramirez knew early that he’d been beaten and this mutual respect continued as Taylor adorned himself with the four sanctioning body belts and The Ring magazine title.

The achievements of the Prestonpans, Edinburgh boxer are to be lauded and it was a performance that ranks with some of the best of any British boxer overseas in modern times. He’s now a lock-in for the handing out of sporting baubles at the end of the year.

Taylor (18-0, 13 KO’s) has become undisputed world champion in only his eighteenth professional fight, Scotland’s first since his idol Ken Buchanan some fifty years ago. On route, he’s beaten three other previously unbeaten ‘world’ champions, and is only the fifth fighter to unify all titles in the four belt era.

The world is now his oyster and he’ll have the pick of fights ahead in either the 10st (140lb), or 10st 7lb (147lb) division should he decide to move up. Some of the current pound-for-pounders await his challenge – be that Terence Crawford, Errol Spence Jr, Manny Pacquiao, or Teofimo Lopez.

Ramirez drops to 26-1 (17 KO’s) and don’t rule out an immediate rematch, such was the quality and intensity of this contest. If that takes place it could be a massive filip for Scottish boxing in a football stadium north of the border.

Take a bow Josh Taylor – undisputed world super-lightweight champion.

Heavyweight re-boot

Other news emerging over the weekend was the announcement that Tyson Fury will defend his WBC world heavyweight title in a trilogy fight against former champ Deontay Wilder on 24 July.

Also, that Anthony Joshua has been mandated by the WBO to defend their title against number one heavyweight contender Oleksandr Usyk.

Sadly, the long awaited Joshua-Fury match that boxing needs for its credibility in the eyes of sports fans looks further away than ever. We can only hope that both come through undefeated and we eventually get the fight the world wants to see.

This weekly feature is to also raise awareness of the Ringside Charitable Trust.

It’s on !

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

In the last fifteen minutes both fighters comfortably made weight for tomorrow’s big super-lightweight (140lb/10st) unification between Jose Ramirez (WBC & WBO champion) and Josh Taylor (IBF & WBA champion). Official weights were:

Ramirez – 139.6 lbs

Taylor – 139.6 lbs.

The fight’s on ! See the last post on The Undisputed for a full fight preview.

The Friday Faceup

‘The Tartan Tornado’ Josh Taylor

Back in January The Undisputed drew up a shortlist of the fights that had to be made this year. The highest profile fight – Anthony Joshua v Tyson Fury – looks to have sadly fallen by the wayside this week, however, second in that list is happening and this is the weekend it does.

In Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday (22nd) Scotland’s Josh Taylor (IBF and WBA champion) will attempt to unify the world super-lightweight (10st/140lb) championship by gaining the WBC and WBO versions held by Mexican-American Jose Ramirez.

If doing so, Taylor would become the undisputed champion and also retain his Ring magazine championship. He would simultaneously become the most recognized Scottish champion since undisputed lightweight (9st 9lb/135lbs) and fellow Edinburgh fighter Ken Buchanan in the early 1970’s.

Buchanan transcended the sport and was big box office in the US sharing changing rooms with Muhammad Ali. He is an idol to Taylor, and Buchanan would get much satisfaction from a modern day Scotsman equaling his accomplishments. On this Bob Arum Top Rank promotion the pre-fight bagpipes and Taylor’s tartan attire will be throwbacks to those magical nights in Madison Square Garden, New York City in the 70’s.

As to the actual contest; make no bones about it, this fight has all the makings of a cracker.

‘The Tartan Tornado’ Taylor has been flawless as a pro. Since winning gold in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games he’s compiled a 17-0 (13 KO) record. He’s won the IBF title and in a stunning victory against previously undefeated Regis Prograis also captured the WBA title. On that raucous October 2019 night in London’s O2 Arena he also gained the Muhammad Ali Trophy by winning the World Boxing Super Series – an eight man tournament to determine the best light-welterweight.

Now, a big stateside appearance is a natural progression in Taylor’s attempt to unify the titles, but he remains amazed by his accomplishments and now being on the cusp of greatness.

In his way is no patsy. Jose Ramirez is similarly undefeated at 26-0 (17 KO’s), has a 65% KO ratio and supreme confidence coming into the bout. He may be fighting in the next state from his native California, but has a similar Olympic pedigree, rabid fanbase and is a hungry champion. He also has a social conscience, campaigning for migrants rights in his local community.

Both fighters are quality operators and love a tear up.

The 30 year old Scotsman is approaching his peak and his southpaw style and boxing IQ is sure to cause Ramirez early problems. In the American’s favour is him being two years younger and having fought in Vegas six times more. The Californian also has the greater activity having defeated Viktor Postol on points last August. Taylor by contrast had a pointless one round blowout victory against Thailand’s Apinun Khongsong in London in September 2020.

Taylor though has arguably fought at the higher level with standout victories back to back against Postol, Ryan Martin, Ivan Baranchyk and Regis Prograis. Ramirez in comparison, as well as sharing a win over Postol has beaten Jose Zepeda who subsequently featured in and won the 2020 fight of the year. Zepeda will be chief support against Hank Lundy on Saturday.

The main event is a wafer thin fight to predict. Both fighters are at the elite level and bring undefeated records into the ring, having an aura of invincibility and having never felt the despair of defeat as professionals. In what will initially be a tactical contest both fighters will put it on the line from rounds 8 through 12 and The Undisputed sees the superior ringcraft of the man from Prestonpans, Edinburgh prevailing.

Taylor will undoubtedly have to come through some difficult moments in the fight but we see him winning by a close but unanimous decision.

If this happens Taylor will enter the annals of British boxing history and look forward to a defence of his undisputed title before 40,000 passionate Scotsman in a soccer stadium later in the year. Saturday’s fight may be so good that a rematch is demanded. Don’t miss it.

The Taylor v Ramirez card will be available on the FITE subscription channel from 01:00 BST at £9.99 and main event broadcast on BBC Radio 5 Live around 04:00 BST.

The Monday LunchBox

Light-heavyweight Joshua Buatsi shows off his strap.

Croydon’s light-heavyweight Joshua Buatsi put in an excellent performance in brutally dispatching undefeated Daniel Blenda Dos Santos in Manchester on Saturday after 2:44 of the fourth round.

The shot that finished the contest was a powerful arching right hand straight to the Frenchman’s chin as he backed into a corner. Dos Santos was KO’d immediately from the impact of the blow and fell face first onto the canvas, lying motionless for a few worrying minutes. After receiving medical assistance and temporarily recovering Dos Santos spent his remaining ring time in a flood of tears after the enormity of the knockout and disappointment struck him. The victor showed immense compassion to his opponent throughout.

The technically gifted and heavy handed Buatsi dominated the first three completed rounds as Dos Santos appeared gun shy and continually struggled with his balance. It would’ve been easy to say that he was petrified as the scale of the task and Buatsi’s skill set became evident. However, he managed to navigate himself through the first three rounds but the eventual victor seemed inevitable. The right hand of the champion sealed the deal.

Buatsi (14-0, 12 KO’s), with new trainer Virgil Hunter in his corner, exhibited some of his new skills and ring confidence. The knockout blow followed a tap to the body of the Frenchman and the Englishman’s body work was a feature throughout, set up by powerful jabs and a strong right hand. Buatsi retained his WBA International light-heavyweight title and is now highly ranked by all four governing bodies.

Asked in the post fight interview of what he took away from his night’s work, he replied “I take away, I figured out someone on the job, I learnt on the job”. He continued “I showed I was going to the body” and explaining the stoppage, then “No body next time and went to the head” in reference to his KO shot.

Hunter was also interviewed and confirmed he was “most definitely happy” and predicted Buatsi would be a champion inside two years.

Dos Santos suffered his first defeat and drops to 15-1, 8 KO’s.

The 175lb (12st,7lb) division is one of the strongest in boxing both domestically and internationally. Buatsi is targeting Russian Artur Beterbiev as holder of two of the sanctioning belts (IBF & WBC), but fellow Russian Dmitry Bivol (WBA) and American Joe Smith Jr (WBO) would be on paper easier matches as the Englishman with Ghanaian heritage seeks to gain a world title.

On this showing Buatsi would be given a good chance against any of the champions but the key is to keep him active. Matchroom Chairman Eddie Hearn is seeking to match him again on July 17 or 24th in a stiffer test.

Other main news of the weekend was the social media appearance of Tyson Fury “officially announcing” the Anthony Joshua fight in Saudi Arabia on 14th August. The ‘Gypsy King’ has kept his powder dry over the last week whilst Eddie Hearn has been reassuring the media and fans of an agreement and fight date. Now the other side has spoken, we would appear to be inching closer to a deal.

Big fight this coming weekend is the junior-welterweight (140lbs/ 10st) world unification between Scotland’s Josh Taylor and Mexican-American Jose Ramirez in Las Vegas. Look for further updates through the week.

This weekly feature is to also raise awareness of the Ringside Charitable Trust.

The Weekender

Promo courtesy of Matchroom.

Much of the fight talk early week centred around Billy Joe Saunders corner withdrawing him against accepted pound-for-pound #1 Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in Arlington, Texas last weekend after sustaining serious cheek and eye injuries. As the week unfolded fighters and pundits have largely rallied around trainer Mark Tibbs on making the right call for his fighter and hopefully prolonging the career of the Hatfield super-middleweight.

Recently Briton’s Kell Brook and Daniel Dubois have suffered similar fractured orbital socket injuries and although sidelined for many months have returned to the gym to continue their careers. Dubois, after being out since November 2020 is set to return on Saturday June 5th with a heavyweight contest against Romanian Bogdan Dinu. Whether Billy Joe, after earning a career high purse and going to the top of the mountain can regain the motivation to come again remains to be seen but The Undisputed wishes him well.

The other big ‘story’ was the announcement by Matchroom Chairman Eddie Hearn that the Anthony Joshua-Tyson Fury fight has been agreed and set for August 14th in Saudi Arabia. This led to counter claims from the Fury side (notably Frank Warren) that there were a number of things still to iron out. The on/off saga does nothing for boxing other than prolong the casual sports fans apathy towards the sport and it’s inability to make the biggest fight out there. They’ve been drip fed information for months on end and now there’s a date out there all interested parties need to make it happen.

It’s understandable this is a massive fight in a global context and it will break all box office records, if and when it takes place, and that the ‘politrics’ of boxing can be a minefield but, hopefully we are inching closer to a resolution.

Onto this weekend, the big fight in the UK is in the light-heavyweight (175lb/12st 7lb) division. This is arguably the hottest division in British boxing at the moment.

In Manchester tonight (15th May) world ranked Joshua Buatsi takes on Frenchman Daniel Blenda Dos Santos for the WBA International light heavyweight title.

Buatsi (13-0, 11 KO’s) with Ghanaian heritage but boxing out of Croydon enters the contest with much fanfare after transferring smoothly into the pros on gaining a bronze medal in the Rio Olympics. He’s looked better with each contest compiling a perfect record but hasn’t been in a paid fight since October 2020. In that, he had to tough it out to stop Croatian Marko Calic after suffering a serious eye swelling early in the fight.

Since then the 28 year old has been US-based and linked up with top trainer Virgil Hunter who guided former elite super-middleweight champion Andre Ward and briefly trained Amir Khan. It will be interesting to see what Buatsi has added to his bow during the evening after quality sparring in California.

Dos Santos (15-0, 8 KO’s) has a good record but no one of note on his resume. The 30 year old has served in the French Army and also ‘time’ in prison so is expected to be teak tough.

Interested onlookers will be British Commonwealth champion Lyndon Arthur (18-0, 12 KO’s) and fellow Brit Anthony Yarde (10-2, 19 KO’s) who could face big domestic showdowns in a three fighter series in the next few years. Yarde has already challenged for a ‘world’ title unsuccessfully against Russian Sergey Kovalev back in 2019 and Arthur is looking to secure one after narrowly defeating Yarde last December. With all three fighters around the 30 year mark, and close to their peak, this could be the new Benn-Eubank-Watson of the 175lb division.

Buatsi comes into tonight’s bout a heavy favourite and after feeling his way into the fight look for a mid-rounds stoppage of the Frenchman.

The fight card will be televised in the UK live on Sky Sports from 20:00 BST and worldwide on streaming platform DAZN. It will also be broadcast on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra.

The Monday LunchBox

Canelo v Billy Joe aftermath

Five things we learned

  1. Alvarez remains the king at 168 – Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s eighth round stoppage victory over WBO world super-middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders on Saturday proved he has now settled in the 168lb (12st) division and is beyond peer. True, he still has to capture the IBF title held by American Caleb Plant, with it expected to happen in September, but it would appear a formality on Saturday’s showing. Having moved through the divisions in recent years Alvarez is a legitimate super-middle and any potential challengers will have to dance and move to his tune.
  2. Big time boxing is back – Having almost come through the nightmare of the Coronavirus pandemic and worldwide lockdowns that have obliterated the sport, the events in Arlington, Texas were a much welcome boost to a future for boxing. All financial avenues have been paralysed for close to 18 months and to see a normal fight week with mass participation and a record 73,000 in attendance in the AT&T Stadium was a massive antidote for the sport. With another major fight in two weeks with the Taylor v Ramirez unification at 140lbs (10st) boxing is back !
  3. Be careful with pre-fight promises – Billy Joe Saunders spoke all week about coming to fight, and if needs be, leaving it all in the ring. He mentioned the D word a number of times. Although an undoubted occupational hazard, fighters should never mention the ultimate sacrifice when hyping or building themselves up for a fight. One, it’s unsavoury, and two, if you speak in such terms you have to back it up with your performance. Saunders may have fought a great fight up to the eighth round stoppage, but the word ‘surrender’ has been used by many ex-fighters, fans and pundits over the last 48 hours. True, the extent of BJ’s injury was serious (multiple fracture of the orbital eye socket) but if you say you’re going to leave the ring on your shield, you’d better back it up. On Saturday, this in the eyes of many wasn’t the case. Just compare the performance with that of the 37 year old Japanese light-flyweight Takayama in the co-main event and you will see what I mean.
  4. Mexican hall of fame awaits – Canelo is now in any argument on the greatest Mexican fighter of all time. ‘El Gran Campeon’ Julio Cesar Chavez Sr is in the hearts and minds of most Mexicans as the most revered boxer of their lives. Chavez went to levels of accomplishment in the 1980’s that few Mexicans before had achieved. In a country obsessed with boxing and fighters emerging from every barrio across the nation, Canelo is the modern day equivalent. He remains the current pound-for-pound king in most peoples eyes and has won world titles from 154lbs/11st up to 175lbs/12st 7lbs, compiling a 55-1-2 (37 KO) record. No Mexican (and very few boxers) have come close to matching that. Alvarez was on record this weekend as saying Chavez is his hero, but now he may one day stand alone.
  5. The Golovkin trilogy fight has to happen in 2021 – Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin has recently turned 39 years of age. ‘Boxing old’ but he remains the only fighter to have extended (and in our view beaten) Alvarez in recent years. They are ‘decision-wise’ 1 draw and 1 victory (to Alvarez) in a two fight series. Canelo is a mere 30 years old and holds all the aces in terms of negotiating and earning power between the two. He owes himself, GGG and boxing a third defining fight. If Golovkin is beaten or retires before that happens then a question mark will always remain on Alvarez resume. His loss to Mayweather is never going to be avenged but he has an opportunity to settle his score with Golovkin. This fight has to happen in 2021 or at the latest in the next 12 months. No one is interested in a Caleb Plant fight other than Caleb Plant. Do the right thing Canelo and take the Golovkin fight in September. At 168 if you prefer, but only you can make it happen.
This regular feature is to also raise awareness of the Ringside Charitable Trust.

The Friday Faceup

Can Billy Joe shock the world ?

Back in September 1986 undisputed world welterweight champion and pound-for-pound elect Donald ‘Cobra’ Curry entered an Atlantic City casino ballroom ring for a ‘routine’ title defence against unbeaten Englishman Lloyd Honeyghan. It was known Curry was tight at the weight and if successful his next fight would be in a higher weight class against Mike McCallum, before ultimately facing Sugar Ray Leonard or Marvelous Marvin Hagler at middleweight in a ‘superfight’.

The Ring magazine wrote at the time “Honeyghan was considered just another British stiff who would fall apart”.

The Englishman didn’t read the script.

For the six completed rounds Honeyghan battered Curry from pillar to post. He ripped all the straps from the previously undefeated Texan who was never the same again. The winner would go on to have a number of championship fights and enter British boxing’s hall of fame.

In the early hours of Sunday morning (UK time) British super-middleweight Billy Joe Saunders will enter a Texas ring to take on a similar challenge. He will face Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, a Mexican fighting phenomenon who has won world titles from 11st (154lbs) up to 12st,7lbs (175lbs). Canelo is ranked by The Ring and most in boxing as the pound-for-pound supremo. The numero uno in the sport regardless of weight class.

Alvarez, at 30, will be defending his WBA and WBC world titles, but also seek to capture the WBO title held by Saunders. On the face of it this is a monumental challenge for the Englishman on the scale of Curry-Honeyghan, however, the similarity ends there.

The 31 year old Saunders, billed from Hatfield, Hertfordshire but part of a travelling community is a former Olympian (representing Team GB in 2008 as the youngest on the team), has won the WBO world middleweight title, and subsequently gained a second divisional title at 168lbs. He brings into the ring a high boxing IQ, awkward southpaw style and undefeated record (30-0, 14 KO’s). This is supplemented with a supreme confidence bordering on disinterest, ably backed up by close friend Tyson ‘Gypsy King’ Fury. Many experts rightly give Saunders an excellent chance to cause Canelo massive problems, but, few pick the Englishman to win.

The fight in the AT&T Stadium, Arlington, the indoor home of the Dallas Cowboys and before an expected record breaking 70,000 crowd has been on and off over recent months. Much of the pre-fight build up this week has been dominated by the actual ring size on fight night. Canelo wanting it as small as possible to maximise his ‘seek and destroy’ style and Saunders the converse to suit his technical boxing ability – to dominate on the back foot with movement. They have finally agreed on 22 foot square and the fight is on.

Saunders is known for his unpredictability both inside and outside the ring. Like Fury he trades in the currency of mind games. One of the big questions is – Has he got into Canelo’s head in a negative way, or, just made him madder ?

Alvarez will enter the contest a big favourite. His record of 54-1-2 (36 KO’s) deserves and commands the utmost respect. Beaten only by Floyd Mayweather Jr in 2013 and with an early career draw and more recent hotly disputed one against Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin he is undoubtedly an elite fighter and a lock for the Hall of Fame.

Can Billy Joe win ? Most definitely “Yes”.

To be successful though he will have to box his way to victory and use every inch of that 22ft ring for the whole 36 minutes. He will need box, box, box – try and force the Mexican into relentlessly pursuing him around the ring and, working off his excellent southpaw jab, show the Mexican angles he’s never seen before.

Saunders doesn’t have the power to take Canelo out, so this is his only route to victory. Many have tried but if GGG couldn’t do it then it’s very hard to see Billy Joe succeeding on that score. Saunders is one of the purest practitioners of the noble art in the sport today and to implement and execute a game plan around this skill set is his only route to victory.

The Mexican will take his usual first two to three rounds to size up his opposition but from round four will turn up the heat on Saunders. He has been outboxed before by a supreme Floyd Mayweather but it is hard to see Billy Joe repeating the act tomorrow against a now seasoned champion.

Lloyd Honeyghan reputedly used the radioactive fall out of the Chernobyl disaster to fuel his training and create an atomic blast in the sport in the 80’s. If the Hatfield man can prevail in Texas on Sunday it will be as big as anything witnessed in the last 40 years.

He will be ‘the man’ at 168 and immediately enter the annals of British boxing. History beckons.

The fight will be available in the UK on streaming platform DAZN with ring entrances expected around 04:00 BST.

The Monday LunchBox

New IBF flyweight champ Sunny Edwards.
Photo courtesy of Queensberry Promotions.

Sunny shines

In a busy boxing weekend Britain’s Sunny Edwards topped the bill with a fantastic shutout victory over South African IBF world flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane in Bethnal Green, London.

It was widely considered going in that ‘Showtime’ Sunny was in deep against a champion who’d been undefeated in 12 years and possessed the concussive power to take the Croydon slickster out. Edwards was expected to box the night entirely on the backfoot to gain any semblance of success. This he did, but also showed respectable power when holding his ground and exchanging shots.

The first eight rounds were almost a complete shutout as Edwards literally boxed the South African’s head off. Mthalane gained a little success in the later rounds as Edwards clearly tired, but the ex-champion also appeared to feel all of his 38 years and was unable to sustain any pressure with a noticeable lessening of his punch power as the rounds progressed.

In a what promoter Frank Warren later described as a “masterclass” and “one of the best performances by a British boxer for years” Edwards gained a 118-111, 120-108, 115-113 unanimous points decision. Although maybe a tad generous, there was little argument with the middle card. It was a performance reminiscent of Joe Calzaghe’s famous victory in March 2006 against Jeff Lacy, flawless.

Edwards (16-0, 4 KO’s) had defeated an elite champion who The Ring magazine had elevated to #1 status prior to the bout. The new champion explained “I knew it would be hard. I thought I deserved to win. I hit him hard enough to keep him off me, but my God he made me work hard”. The Englishman can now look forward to lucrative defences and possible unification fights in the 8st/112lb division. Mthalane drops to 39-3 (26 KO’s) and we’ve now seen the best of him.

The Edwards-Mthalane bout was excellently supported on the Queensberry Promotion by a highly competitive international super-bantamweight contest between Irish star Michael Conlan and Spanish based Romanian Ionut Baluta.

In what was expected to be a fight to showcase Conlan’s skills the Belfastman had difficult moments throughout from the highly competitive Baluta and eeked out a majority decision 114-114, 115-114, 117-112. The latter card was far too generous, but in many ways it was an perfect workout as Conlan now seeks a championship shot. Conlan now has 15-0 (8 KO’s) as he looks to cash in on his undoubted box office quality.

Matchroom delivers

On Saturday in Manchester a card that received some criticism as being on pay per view served up a women’s contest for the ages and several highly competitive fights of world significance. Top of the log was the Katie Taylor – Samantha Jonas war for the undisputed lightweight crown. Jonas the Liverpudlian southpaw and former 2012 Olympian gave The Ring magazine pound-for-pound champion all the trouble she could get.

Taylor had eliminated Jonas from the London Games prior to capturing gold and Jonas tried her heart out to level the score. In a toe to toe contest where both fighters were shaken at times it was a humdinger of a bout. All rounds were close and the Irish legend Taylor just about edged it by securing a 96-94, 96-95, 96-95 close but unanimous decision. Taylor remains undefeated after 18 bouts with 6 knockouts and Jonas drops to 9-2-1 (7 KO’s). A rematch would be a big draw and seems inevitable.

In a stacked card, top of the bill was Londoner Dereck Chisora against Irish-based New Zealander Joseph Parker. Both fighters are now perennial contenders in the heavyweight division, Parker having briefly held the WBO world title, but now just below the elite level. This was a must win fight for both going in.

In another highly competitive bout the younger Parker was dropped in first round after being caught by a big overhand right behind the ear. Quickly recovering from this, and coming through some difficult moments, he steadily boxed his way to victory over the duration of the fight. His victory was though ultimately a hotly disputed split decision, with cards returned 115-113 for Chisora and 116-111, 115-113 in favour of the 29 year old Kiwi.

Parker rises to 29-2 (21 KO’s) and will look to secure another world title shot, whilst Chisora (32-10, 23 KO’s) must gain a victory soon to remain at the top table. Never in a bad fight and a box office staple the Zimbabwe born Chisora will always be competitive until he calls it a day.

Elsewhere on the card were victories for Chris Eubank Jr against Marcus Morrison and WBA world light-heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol retaining his title by unanimous decision against Britain’s Craig Richards.

The Russian Bivol is 18-0 (11 KO’s) and thirsts for a marquee unification fight at 12st 7lbs (175lbs) with compatriot Artur Beterbiev or is prepared to drop down to 12st (168lbs) to fight the winner of Alvarez v Saunders happening this weekend in Texas. At 29, Bivol needs to move fast to cash in on his title and undoubted quality.

Other news outside of the UK was the successful comeback in California of former unified world heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz defeating respectable heavyweight contender Chris Arreola by unanimous decision. It was his first bout since losing to Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia in December 2019 and he came in over 40 pounds lighter so may now mean business.

Elsewhere in the heavyweight division is the ongoing tennis match between promoters of Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury over the much anticipated unification fight. Last week saw claims and counterclaims by promoters Bob Arum and Eddie Hearn over whether a deal had, or was near being struck. The latter being more optimistic and hinting an announcement of date and venue might be forthcoming this week. The boxing and world sporting public will hold their breath for yet another week.

One message from The Undisputed … stop p***ing about guys and get it done.

Catch up later in the week for the big Alvarez-Saunders showdown.

This weekly feature is to also raise awareness of Ringside Rest and Care.

The Friday Faceup

Flyweights match up. Photo courtesy of Queensberry Promotions.

Tonight in the famous York Hall, Bethnal Green in London’s east end another British flyweight champion bids to win the IBF version of the world 8st/112lbs title.

Back in 1983 ‘Champagne’ Charlie Magri from nearby Stepney wrestled the WBC title from Eleoncio Mercedes to become a household name, appearing on the popular ‘This is Your Life’ programme at the time. More recently another Charlie (Edwards), won the same WBC title against Christofer Rosales without so much fanfare. In between we’ve had three-weight world champion Duke McKenzie and several other holders of splintered titles. The flyweight division is one of the original eight classifications and over the years has been good to UK fighters.

Sunny Edwards, brother of Charlie, will tonight live on BT Sport attempt to win the title off South Africa’s Moruti Mthalane, a champion of such experience and quality that many believe he should be in the pound-for-pound listings. A ranking regardless of weight class that illustrates the best in the business.

Mthalane is an exceptional champion who brings a 39-2 (26 KO) record to the ring, hasn’t lost since 2008 and been the IBF world champion since 2018. Over his career he’s defeated some recognised names around his weight class who still or recently held versions of the title. A product of South Africa’s former apartheid system, Moruti has come from a tough environment, been in tough fights and, by now experienced almost every obstacle life can throw at someone.

This though leads to the one slight against him in a fistic sense, that of his advancing years. At 38, Mthalane ‘may’ be ripe for the picking.

Frank Warren, who’s Queensberry Promotions present the event, is known for taking a gamble and especially in these difficult COVID times has had to take more than a fair few recently. He’s seen several of his charges lose in big fights (Dubois, Yarde, Bentley) and is due a win.

Sunny Edwards (15-0, 4 KO’s) in comparison to Mthalane is a raw novice, but has the youth, style and confidence to dethrone the champion. He will have the confidence of being British champion and also have the support and experience of his brother to draw from.

‘Showtime’ Sunny is a slickster who despite being short on power has excellent boxing ability. He rarely gets in close contact with his opponents and is difficult to pin down. The South African by comparison is the antithesis of the Brit. He fights out of a good, tight guard but is more willing to engage behind the confidence of his exceptional power. This promises to be a classic ‘cat and mouse’ contest with the 24 year old Edwards attempting to frustrate the champion and draw him late into the fight.

Esteemed South African boxing writer and historian Ron Jackson is an admirer of Mthalane’s class but fearful that the timing might be right for Edwards.

Whether the Brit can prevail is going to be determined by his ability to avoid Mthalane’s advances and him detonating the big bombs. If he can do that then Edwards will have won a legitimate version of the title against an elite champion. The smart money though is on the South African to retain his title inside the twelve round distance.

The event will also feature double Olympian and rising star Michael Conlan. The Belfast man at 14-0 (8 KO’s) is still predicted to win big prizes as a pro and after an extended layoff will face Ionut Baluta before hopefully challenging for world honours as a super-bantam or featherweight in 2021.

The whole card will be shown live in the UK on BT Sport from 19:00 BST.