The Friday Faceup

Scotland’s Josh Taylor stares down his masked contender Apinun Khongsong.
Photo: Top Rank

With many parts of the world in various stages of lockdown and the United Kingdom facing an extension of current restrictions some temporary respite is provided for avid followers of the ‘Noble Art’.

Despite events continuing to be behind closed doors, the weekend presents a jamboree of contests across the globe of real quality and world significance.

First up at the famous York Hall in east London on Saturday 26th and arguably ‘cream of the crop’ is the contest between Scotland’s Josh Taylor (16-0, 12 KO’s) and Thai contender Apinun Khongsong (16-0, 13 KO’s) for the IBF and WBA world super-lightweight titles. Both 140lb (10st) fighters have almost identical records with high knockout ratios, but the Scot has fought and been victorious at the higher level and starts as a strong favourite.

Taylor enjoyed a stellar 2019 winning the IBF title and then adding the WBA strap and Muhammad Ali Trophy in beating Regis Prograis in October for the World Boxing Super Series title. The contest, again between undefeated fighters, was one of the fights of the year.

The heavy handed Khongsong (number one contender for the IBF title) comes to the UK with a largely unknown reputation but any undefeated KO artist from the Thai hotbed of boxing is not to be underestimated. Taylor has spoken with caution throughout fight week of the danger and consequence of overlooking his opponent as he looks for a unification and potential megafight with WBC and WBO champion Jose Ramirez.

The Scot will be on his guard but confident all the same. Look for his amateur pedigree (2012 Olympian and 2014 Commonwealth gold medallist) and professional toughness at the highest level to be the difference. Our pick is he will carefully navigate the early rounds out of his southpaw stance to then press the fight and win by a late stoppage.

The full Top Rank/Queensberry Promotions card will be televised live in the UK on BT Sport (transmission begins 19:30 BST) and the main event promises much. It will also feature England’s former WBC flyweight champion Charlie Edwards (15-1, 6 KO’s) making a comeback in the heavier bantamweight class (118lbs/8st 6) against compatriot Kyle Williams.

Elsewhere around the world the pick of the world title action is:-

Yuniel Dorticos (24-1, 22 KO’s) against Mairis Briedis (26-1, 19 KO’s) for the Muhammad Ali Trophy and World Boxing Super Series title at cruiserweight (200lbs/14st 4). Dorticos’ IBF world title will also be up for grabs. The winner will also be recognised by Ring magazine as the undisputed champion – widely considered the highest honour in the sport.

The fight takes place in Munich, Germany and will be televised live in the UK on Sky Sports (22:00 BST). It is likely to clash with the Taylor-Khongsong ring entrances so set your recording devices or take your pick for the live action.

In Connecticut, USA the American Jermell Charlo will face Jeison Rosario for the unified (WBC/WBA and IBF) world titles at super-welterweight (154lbs/11st). All three titles are currently split between the two contestants and again the winner will also be recognised by Ring magazine as the undisputed champion. It is extremely rare for this prestigious title to be up for grabs in two divisions over the same weekend, making it even more special.

Twin brother Jermall Charlo will earlier face teak tough Sergiy Derevyanchenko for the WBC world middleweight title. The Russian narrowly failed to gain the IBF title at 160lbs (11st 6) on two occasions in wafer thin losses to elite middleweights Daniel Jacobs and Gennadiy Golovkin and this will surely be his last shot at the title.

Both these fights should be real ‘pick ems’ and could go either way. Look for the Charlo twins to prevail though as they move onto bigger challenges in their respective divisions.

The event will also feature stellar undercards involving numerous champions and world title contenders. John Riel Casimero the recent conqueror of British based South African Zolani Tete defends his WBO world bantamweight title for the first time against Ghanaian Duke Micah. Look for Casimero to emerge victorious.

All in all world boxing truly is back this weekend – with a bang !

The Monday LunchBox

Green for go, for Carl Frampton.
Photo courtesy Premier Boxing Champions

Although no significant action took place involving British world ranked contenders at the weekend there were many positive happenings that mean we’re not far away from elite British fighters eating at the top table again.

First up was the news from Kell ‘Special’ Brook that an opportunity to challenge for the WBO world welterweight title held by American pound-for-pounder Terence Crawford is almost negotiated and sealed for November 14th in Las Vegas.

The Sheffield southpaw, since coming up short to Errol Spence Jr. in May 2017 to lose his IBF welterweight crown has been jostling for position to regain a ‘world’ title, also earlier failing to capture Gennadiy Golovkin’s crown in September 2016 in the 160lb middleweight division. Now that a lucrative domestic dust up with Amir Khan is unlikely this is a major career defining fight for the elite level Yorkshireman.

Brook will have to drop back down to 147lb to challenge the classy American, no mean feat given that he has always been a ‘big’ welterweight. However an opportunity to fight, and possibly beat someone who is considered one of the best fighters across any weight class in Las Vegas is irresistible both for fighter and fans.

Also on Saturday Jamel Herring’s successful defence of his WBO super-featherweight (130lb) title, albeit on a disqualification due to an intentional headbutt by his opponent, has finally brought to fruition the likelihood of the long awaited contest against Ulsterman Carl ‘The Jackal’ Frampton. Herring has suffered considerably from the COVID-19 outbreak testing positive on two occasions and having to delay twice a defence of his title. Finally that has happened, successfully, and it’s now full steam ahead for the Frampton match.

Therefore, hopefully before Christmas we could see two British former world champions challenge for versions of the world title. If victorious, it could see both enter an argument for the greatest British fighter of all time. Brook would possibly dethrone an undefeated pound-for-pounder and Frampton win a title at third different weight.

Throw into the mix the likelihood of Anthony Joshua defending his IBF world heavyweight title against Kubrat Pulev in December and the promised Tyson Fury v Deontay Wilder trilogy fight, the back end of the year looks a busy and hopefully fruitful time for elite British fighters. It is likely all these fights will be behind closed doors due to ongoing distancing measures but at least they’re being made.

We also have the return of light-heavyweight (175lb) contender Anthony Yarde this weekend, almost a year after nearly unsurping then world champion, and future hall-of-famer Sergey Kovalev in Russia. A win will re-ignite the Hackney, London fighter’s career as he attempts to secure another world title tilt.

Finally, in three weeks (26th September) unified super-lightweight (140lbs) champion Josh Taylor from Prestonpans, Scotland will defend his IBF title against number one contender Apinun Khongsong in Stratford, London.

The coming months will finish off an understandably disappointing 2020 when many fights mooted at the start of the year have failed to take place but hopefully we will see a return to action for the elite UK based fighters and plenty of world title opportunity.

Look out for previews of the Yarde and Taylor fights over the coming weeks.

Highlight of the weekend was the European super-featherweight title fight between Frenchman Samir Ziani and Britain’s Alex Dilmaghani. Televised live on UK terrestrial network Channel 5 the contest was an absolute barnstormer. A throwback to bygone days with both fighters showing extreme courage, ruthless work rate and hurtful bodywork to secure victory. Ahead on points leading into the final round Dilmaghani succumbed to devastating body punches and pressure from the Frenchman resulting in two knockdowns before being rescued by the referee with nine seconds to go. Ziani, the victor, now looks to a crack at one of the ‘world’ titles on offer.

The card also saw classy Brixton, south London cruiserweight (200lbs) Isaac Chamberlain win his second fight on the comeback trail by registering a blowout of Matt Sen within the first minute of the opening round. The match was made at heavyweight.

Look for Chamberlain to increase his competition over the coming months and try and secure a second tilt at the British title at least.

This regular weekly feature is also to raise awareness of the registered boxing charity Ringside Rest and Care.

The Monday LunchBox

Daniel Dubois surveys the damage of his nights work on Saturday

The British and World heavyweight scene became clearer on Saturday night with the expected demolition by ‘Dynamite’ Daniel Dubois of grossly overmatched Ricardo Snijders in east London.

The young Londoner was at his calm, effective best by flooring the hapless Dutchman four times from body shots in the uncompleted four minutes of the match. In many ways it served its purpose by allowing him to get back under the lights in a ‘competitive’ contest, but also allowing him to showcase his skills, in this case straight jabs and hooks followed by crunching body shots, to a tuned in BT Sport audience.

Credit to Sneijders for taking the match at short notice but he was simply outweighed (coming in just under two stone lighter) and outgunned from the opening bell.

Of more significance was the end result; Dubois 15-0 (14 KO’s) keeping his high undefeated stoppage record and thus setting up his October 24th date with undefeated Olympian Joe Joyce 11-0 (10 KO’s) in what promises to be domestic fight of the year.

Socially distanced studio interviews with Joe Joyce (via videolink) and an in attendance Tyson ‘Gypsy King’ Fury revealed the admiration of both fighters for the explosive Dubois. In doing so emphasizing the problems he will present to the division. Joyce paid particular attention to the body work and strong jab of Dubois and that he’ll have to be on his game come October. Dubois in return reiterated his confidence and anticipation of the challenge ahead.

Fury was equally complimentary, referring to an ad-hoc sparring session he had with Dubois at the start of his comeback some two years ago, but thought he would be long out of the sport by the time Dubois becomes a genuine contender.

All eyes are now set on that October date at the O2 Arena, London which should be for the British and Commonwealth titles (currently held by Dubois) and also significantly a high world ranking with the WBC and other key sanctioning bodies. Hopefully lockdown will be much eased by then for a match between two undefeated big men that deserves a full house in attendance.

In a lengthy interview with Tyson Fury either side of the main event, the Gypsy King reiterated the tremendous shape he remains in post-Wilder II, and both he and promoter Frank Warren highlighted the intended date for the Wilder trilogy fight as December 19th, with the US the likely destination.

Some fun was also had in weighing up the long term future of the division and the fight we all want to see – Fury v Joshua – potentially the biggest grossing fight in boxing history and certainly involving British boxers, both ‘world’ champions and at their peak.

They challenged the Matchroom team to “grow a pair” and come to table to negotiate the fight that “has to happen”. With the recent defeat of Dillian Whyte the Gypsy King’s mandatory obligations have now been put back and this fight seems more likely, assuming of course, he comes through the Wilder trilogy fight unscathed.

The British heavyweight scene continues to boom on a world level with some mouthwatering fights ahead. Bring on October !

Some excellent contests were held on Saturday’s card with the pick being Sam Maxwell’s unanimous decision win over former European champion Joe Hughes at super-lightweight. There were also good wins for heavyweight David Adeleye, super-flyweight Sunny Edwards in a quality match with former double Olympian Thomas Essomba and, new lightweight prospect Sam Noakes from Maidstone, Kent.

This regular weekly feature is to also raise awareness for the registered boxing charity Ringside Rest and Care.

The Friday Faceup

Daniel Dubois celebrates winning the Commonwealth heavyweight title in 2019.

Young heavyweight sensation ‘Dynamite’ Daniel Dubois 14-0 (13 KO’s) returns to the ring after an eight month sabbatical on Saturday night (29th) against Dutchman Ricardo Snijders 18-1 (8 KO’s) at the BT Sport studios in Stratford, East London.

Since his last fight and enforced COVID layoff from paid combat the Londoner has seen domestic and world ranked contemporaries Joe Joyce and Dillian Whyte have mixed fortunes in attempting to secure world title chances. Fellow undefeated ‘Juggernaut’ Joe Joyce who Dubois is slated to meet in the autumn in a much anticipated fight came through last month against Michael Wallisch and Dillian Whyte was sensationally ko’d by Alexander Povetkin last weekend.

The Dubois-Joyce fight is a potential blockbuster with both defending currently undefeated records and both with world title aspirations. Hall of Fame and Queensberry Promoter Frank Warren will be on tenterhooks that Dubois does his end of the bargain to lead into the October 24th match. A potential fight and event of the year.

But first, the young Londoner has to do the business on Saturday against a late substitute opponent after Erik Pfeifer failed to get medical clearance to fight in the UK. The 26 year old Sneijders is a step down on paper but then again Whyte was expected to come through last weekend, albeit against an opponent with a strong amateur and pro pedigree. Dubois will have to be on his guard but his superior power and sheer size and tenacity should be sufficient to see him through well inside the distance.

The Londoner should be chomping at the bit at 22 years old and with 13 KO’s out of 14 contests, the last two being devastating blowouts in winning the Commonwealth heavyweight title and, pre-Christmas devouring a Japanese big man who had a respectable record going in.

Dubois has certainly been talking a good fight this last week with considerable media coverage as the next big British heavyweight. Look for him to deliver another highlight reel KO to add to his ever expanding resume.

The fight and full card will be televised on BT Sport (start time 7pm).

The Monday LunchBox

The calm before the storm. Photo courtesy of Skysports.com

Dillian Whyte v Alexander Povetkin Five things we learned:

  1. Why we love the Heavyweights – single punch knockouts have littered the history of the heavyweight division. Think, Rocky Marciano v Jersey Joe Walcott, Ali v Liston II, Weaver v Tate, Tyson v Spinks, Lewis v McCall and Rahman. All highlight reels of the division and in effect the history of boxing. In many cases a fighter has been way ahead and ‘BOOM’ a devastating one punch has detonated on the frontrunners chin and lights out. Saturday was one of those moments, albeit the main title didn’t change hands, but the suddenness and finality of that one left uppercut rendered the fight over for Dillian Whyte.
  2. The waiting game can be painful – Over 1000 days the Brit was waiting for his world title shot. Some of it through no fault of his own, but the procrastination of the UKAD and delaying tactics of the WBC, the latter being in essence the ‘politrics’ of boxing. Over that time he’d faced some hardened contenders and many dark hours of self analysis. Then, one step from a world title fight (the WBC having guaranteed he would be next), Alexander Povetkin rips the script up. In boxing, waiting is a dangerous thing. A fighter’s peak has to be maximised when the time is right.
  3. Povetkin is back in the fold – they say form is temporary and class permanent. The Russian looked damaged goods in Saudi Arabia last December, narrowly obtaining a draw against Michael Hunter on the Joshua-Ruiz II undercard. For four rounds on Saturday, though game, he’d been dropped twice and looked like there for the taking. Yet, even under severe pressure the former World and Olympic amateur champion found the opportunity to detonate a left uppercut whilst under fire and seal the deal. Alexander Povetkin is back in the heavyweight picture. He may be rapidly approaching 41 years old, but now back in the top ten and, Whyte knows he has to secure and win a rematch to move forward.
  4. Matchroom Fight Camp was a success – COVID-19 and lockdown has presented many challenges in the last 5 months. The very existence of boxing as we know it has been threatened. But what originally was considered ‘pie in the sky’ thinking and a folly became a success with the Fight Camp. Good matches (Eggington v Cheeseman being the pick), good coverage by Sky, no contraventions of the hygiene restrictions and to cap it off a heavyweight title fight and result of world significance. Hats off to Matchroom Boxing.
  5. Fury – Joshua is a step closer – with the Dillian Whyte WBC mandatory issue now put on the backburner for 2021 at least, there remains only two of three mandatory obligations to be met by the main protagonists. Joshua still has to meet his IBF mandatory contender Kubrat Pulev (new date pending) and possibly Olexandr Usyk for the WBO strap, although the latter is made easier by being allied to the Matchroom camp and the lesser of the four sanctioning titles, so a relinquishing is likely. Fury meanwhile has to successfully come through Deontay Wilder for a third third, contractually self-inflicted. So amidst the dust and bullets the two elite heavyweights are starting to emerge and the Brit-blockbuster looks a little closer. However, that is assuming the ‘BOOM’ is not heard over the next six months and we’re back to square one. In heavyweight boxing that’s a distinct possibility.
This regular weekly feature is also to raise awareness of the registered boxing charity Ringside Rest and Care.

The Friday Faceup

Photo courtesy of Matchroom Boxing

On Saturday night (22nd) big time boxing returns at the Matchroom ‘Square Garden’ in Brentwood, Essex.

The last few weeks of ‘Fight Camp’ events have seen the post-COVID return behind closed doors at the venue, with some cracking contests between male and female domestic fighters. However, Saturday sees the first recognised men’s event of world significance. All the better, in the heavyweight division.

Mandatory WBC world heavyweight contender Dillian Whyte from Brixton, south London faces former 2004 Olympic gold medallist Alexander Povetkin in a ‘must win’ fight for both.

The 32 year old Whyte 27-1 (18 KO’s) continues to wait for a title shot after being in the mandatory position for over 1,000 days. Not unique in boxing history, but certainly long overdue. The situation exacerbated by a UK Anti-Doping charge (subsequently dropped) and the trilogy of fights signed by Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder. In the lead up to fight night Whyte has been promised by the WBC a crack at the winner of the third fight. Something Whyte has put to the back of his mind.

The near 41 year old Povetkin 35-2-1 (24 KO’s) has seen it all. Representing Russia with distinction in winning multiple amateur European and World championships and finally Olympic gold in Athens. He’s twice failed in world title challenges; to Wladimir Klitschko and more recently Anthony Joshua. In the latter he was well in the fight before succumbing to the Brit’s power in the middle rounds.

Both fighters are coming off nine months of enforced inactivity since unimpressive outings in Saudi Arabia last December. Whyte ‘The Body Snatcher’ came into the ring on the Joshua-Ruiz rematch card after a difficult 2019 and in excess of 20 stone. He struggled but eventually prevailed against teak tough Mariusz Wach. For Saturday’s event he’s shed in excess of 1.5 stone coming in a trim 18st 6lbs (252lbs). Povekin, small by modern heavyweight standards, weighed in at 16 stone (224lbs). This differential and the lower mileage on the clock is likely to benefit the Brit considerably.

Look for Povekin to cause Whyte problems with his movement and superior technique early in the fight but when the ‘Body Snatcher’ plants his feet and the mobility of Povetkin slows down Whyte should register a stoppage between rounds 8 and 12.

The contest is for Whyte’s WBC Interim Heavyweight title and the even lighter regarded WBC Diamond belt. Most importantly; it is for the ‘right to fight’ for the main title currently held by Tyson Fury early next year.

Also on the card is a much awaited female rematch between Ireland’s Olympic hero and multiple ‘world’ champion Katie Taylor 15-0 (6 KO’s) and Delfine Persoon 44-2 (18 KO’s). The first fight in June 2019 in Madison Square Garden was a hotly disputed humdinger of a fight with Taylor winning on the right side of a majority decision. Saturday promises to be equally riveting, with the Irish heroine expected to win another close decision.

The fight is for Taylor’s undisputed status at lightweight (9st 9lbs) with all the available sanctioning belts being held by her.

Both fights and a full supporting undercard are promoted by Matchroom Boxing and are available only on Sky Sports Box Office in the UK or by worldwide stream on DAZN.

The Monday LunchBox

Brad Foster tops first post-lockdown show. Photo courtesy of Queensberry Promotions.

Boxing is back ! Friday night’s Queensberry Promotions show broadcast live on BT Sport was a resounding success. The strictest hygiene measures, social distancing and, to cap it all off some great performances and fights.

Top of the bill saw Brad Foster 13-0-2 (5 KO’s) gain a Lonsdale belt outright in defence of his British and Commonwealth super-bantamweight titles. In a highly competitive fight he defeated fellow-Midlander James Beech Jnr 12-1 (2 KO’s) by unanimous decision.

The cards of 116-113, 117-111 and 117-111 only told half the story as Foster had to come through some difficult moments, rallying late in the fight to eventually secure victory. Foster admitted in the post fight interview that he’d been below par and only really got started from the 7th round onwards but his class eventually prevailed as Beech troubled by an early cut over his left eye and receiving some sickening body shots faded in the championship rounds (10 through 12).

The card also saw good performances from rising super-welterweight Hamzah Sheeraz 11-0 (7KO’s) who outgunned Scottish southpaw Paul Kean 12-2 (1 KO) over six rounds and promising heavyweight David Adeleye 2-0 (2 KO’s) who bombed out Matt Gordon 2-3-1 (0) inside two rounds.

The evening started anti-climatically with Portsmouth’s Mark Chamberlain 6-0 (4 KO’s) registering a first round stoppage of Stu Greener. Whilst a resounding victory for Chamberlain it primarily served the purpose of welcoming British boxing back since the enforced lockdown on 17th March. It introduced a new world of referees with face masks, chief seconds being heard yelling at their charges with no crowd in attendance and perspex screens separating British Boxing Board of Control officials from the usual ringside huddle and festivities. But, as a starter for the many live shows planned over the next two months it was the perfect re-introduction.

Congratulations go to the efforts of Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions team, the Board of Control officials, medics and BT Sport for making this happen. Not forgetting the fortitude and dedication of the boxers involved who served up the perfect re-entry of our sport to something like a ‘new normal’.

This regular weekly feature is to also raise awareness for the registered boxing charity Ringside Rest and Care.

The Recovery Begins

Graphic compliments of Queensberry Promotions & BT Sport

And so, after 100 plus days of lockdown and no domestic shows since mid-March the boxing business hits the road again on Friday (10th) at the BT Sport studios in Stratford, east London.

Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren through his Queensberry Promotions is the first to get back in the saddle and kick start the recovery of the domestic boxing business. This will be followed hot on its heels with a series of Matchroom Boxing shows from their HQ in the gardens of the Hearn residence in Essex.

Over the last quarter gyms have closed, save supporting their local communities by setting up food banks, delivering medical supplies and offering temporary accommodation for the needy. Fighters have retired due to the impact on their earning capacity and ability to support their families, and those still active, have taken to training in parks or at home. For the boxing business it really has been a time of famine, reflection and worry about the times ahead.

Inevitably the show on Friday will be behind closed doors. However it will be ably covered by BT Sport and will perform CPR on the heart of the boxing business – live shows.

So what can we expect ?

Brad Foster 12-0-2 (5KO’s) will be main event as he defends the British and Commonwealth super-bantamweight (8st 10lb) titles against James Beech Jr. 12-0 (2KO’s). In this time of recovery and rekindling interest in the sport this is as competitive a match than can be hoped for. In the short term fans will expect any return of the sport to result in competitive contests, at the very least. This match fits the bill.

The support card is also interesting featuring Hamzah Sheeraz 10-0 (6KO’s) defending his WBO European super-welterweight (11st) crown against Scotland’s Paul Kean 12-1 (1KO), plus prospects Mark Chamberlain and David Adeleye featuring.

Daniel Dubois’ Ukrainian sparring partner Dorin Krasmaru will also make his BT Sport debut in a heavyweight contest. There should be some fireworks on the night to re-ignite the sport from it’s prolonged slumber. All eyes within the various promotional companies will be watching intently on the methods used and success of the evening.

Sit back and enjoy on BT Sport 1 from 7pm Friday.

This article also serves to raise awareness of the registered boxing charity Ringside Rest and Care.

The Monday LockDown

Is unification a mirage ?

Will we ever see an undisputed world heavyweight champion ? Does it really matter ?

Last week WBC world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury took to social media to announce a deal had been reached for a two fight series with WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua. Should it happen it will likely break all box office records in the sport to date. A unification of the heavyweight championship, certainly in the eyes of the paying public would result. It would be the first time since Lennox Lewis reign in the early millennium that the heavyweight champion was universally accepted. But, despite hyperbole and best intentions, is it really going to happen ?

First, there is the current COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty surrounding a resumption of the sport. Time and the diminishing sands are crucial to a fighter’s wellbeing and legacy. It is hoped and claimed that this could happen in 2021, but do we really know if any degree of normality will be back and hold through until then ? Hopefully ‘Yes’ and both combatants are the right end of their 30’s and relatively young for heavyweights. So, tick the timing off as a positive.

Next, do the sanctioning bodies really want to see it ? History and logic would say ‘No’. The ‘alphabet boys’ WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO all exist through the sanctioning fees that fighters and promoters pay for the ‘prestige’ of challenging for one of their titles. Why would they really want one champion, when at best they would fight twice a year and only get sanctioning fees for two bouts, albeit then split between four different organisations. Surely it makes more business sense just to have their own ‘champion’ and market them as the legitimate title holder. Boxing history has compounded fighters to make mandatory defences against their number one contender, regardless of skills, credibility and logic.

Only last week the WBO President Paco Valcarcel on hearing news of the deal being struck said but first Joshua would have to make his mandatory defence against their #1 contender Oleksandr Usyk. The sanctioning bodies might outwardly convey a desire for a unified champion but in reality this is lip service. It’s basically not in their interest. Consider this a cross against unification happening.

Then, linked to the above there is the minefield that awaits both Fury and Joshua before they are in a position to eyeball each other across the ring. Again the alphabet boys drive this but these are the facts; unless the combatants camps can get their respective contractural obligations to take ‘step aside’ money, which collectively could exceed £50M, then Fury has to navigate a third Deontay Wilder fight and Joshua has to defeat IBF #1 contender Kubrat Pulev, and according to the WBO President then beat Usyk. And what of Dillian Whyte’s long awaited WBC mandatory rights to fight for the title ? He too has a legitimate and overdue right to fight Fury or Wilder. This in itself extends any eventual unification to the second half of 2021 (minimum).

This on face value is a cross against any unification fight happening, certainly if you look over boxing history. Heavyweights are an unpredictable breed. One punch from the best laid plans disappearing into the ether – ask Lennox Lewis for one.

Then we have the logistics involved in putting on two fights of this magnitude. Credit to messrs Hearn, Arum and Warren for promoting the desire and dream to have an undisputed heavyweight champion and them being the only ones with the wherewithal and experience to make it happen, but in the current climate where is it going to be, when and for how much ? All unknown entities at press time and the social and morale implications of finding a host will be heavily scrutinised before the deal is done.

So, to my final question … does it really matter ? Yes it does, to the casual sports fan, the average punter in the street and for the continued integrity of the sport. They should know when asked “who is the heavyweight champion of the world ?”. In an ideal world the response would be emphatic, not, “well actually there are two, (or even three)”. It does the sport a continued disservice to not have a universally recognised champion for the last twenty odd years.

But in reality all sports are confusing to a degree. In tennis you have a Wimbledon champion, a French Open champion etc. True you have a world #1 but each Slam has its respective champions. In lesser ‘sports’ like darts confusion reigns. What is important is that Fury and Joshua do meet, as soon as possible and ideally with no further losses on their records (noted that Fury is undefeated). If all the straps are up for grabs all the better, but don’t let that get in the way of these two guys meeting. The public will ultimately decide who the best man is based on results. If a title or two has to be given up on the journey so be it. Make the fight happen when the world returns to a sense of normality. Over to you messrs Warren, Arum and Hearn.

The Monday LockDown

Mental Health Awareness

Hello readers, you will note that the regular Monday LunchBox has been temporarily retitled the ‘LockDown’ given the unfamiliar and difficult times we continue to find ourselves in.

We are all largely aware of the impact of COVID-19 on our daily lives, those sadly affected directly by losses in their families, and of far lesser importance the impact on the sporting calendar. The current situation can have a major impact and in extreme cases devastating effect on the mental health and wellbeing across all sectors of society. Boxers and the boxing fraternity are not spared in this regard.

Today is the start of Mental Health Awareness week in the UK and it is with some irony that the Mental Health minute shared with the country this morning at 11am over television, radio and other media outlets was opened by IBF, WBA and WBO world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. He was later followed by Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge and other notable spokespeople.

The irony is that in a sport for which one of the objectives is to seperate ones senses from the ability to continue to compete, either by physical contact or mental degradation, that it should be a boxer who opened this minute of consideration. This shows the power of boxing to capture the hearts and minds of the general public, and in doing so, develop individuals who represent all that is good in sport. For the want of re-stating a much overused cliché – the ability to create ‘role models’. Anthony Joshua is considered this by a lot of the sporting population, who across the gyms and training centres of the country they look to follow, support and maybe one day emulate.

Mental health, for obvious reasons has always been an issue in boxing. WBC world heavyweight champion’s Frank Bruno and Tyson Fury have literally ‘moved mountains’ in recent years in raising awareness and public consciousness on the issue via the platform of being elite professional boxers and from their own painful experiences. Check out any of their autobiographies which focus considerably on their personal challenges outside the ring.

In boxing, setting aside the clear challenge and results of physical combat, both at a repetitive and prolonged level, there are the well documented cases and impacts of the highs and lows of the sport. Boxing can take a fighter from poverty and relative obscurity to the highest of highs in any sport. A highly successful boxer can earn millions, meet kings, queens and presidents and receive the adulation of nations. However, the higher the rise, inevitably the bigger the potential to fall. Boxing is littered with elite fighters who subsequently fell on hard times. Californian Bobby Chacon, three weight world champion Wilfredo Gomez to name but two.

But; for every Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran and Lennox Lewis there are thousands who forever ply their trade earning small purses in small halls and never attain the heights. It is highly likely that these are the ones who are suffering most in the current pandemic. The journeyman fighter who’s sole earning potential is a fight a month in a small hall, the kid who’s just come off the streets and in an attempt to find life focus has found the refuge of the local gym, the ex-boxer who’s now struggling to make ends meet. These are the people in our sport who we should be thinking about. Registered charities such as Ringside Rest and Care exist not just by choice, but by necessity. And, in these difficult times need our support.

Then, there are those on the periphery of the sport – in the so called service industry – the promotional teams, those that go up and down the country setting up rings, supporting press conferences and media events , selling tickets. The impact on the sport is considerable and in these difficult times are suffering. The open ended termination of social distancing and lack of a definite timetable could be potentially irreversible for many in the business.

So; in this time of uncertainty just look around you and support those who may be in need; maybe just a call or text or a bit of face time. Mental health is now a recognised modern disease challenging all in society, and potentially increased by the temporary loss of a high profile sport to all those participants and observers. Let us consider that early this week as a starter.

Keep healthy all and keep punching.