The Friday Faceup

Promo courtesy of Matchroom Boxing.

Centre of attention this weekend is the big stateside clash for the world lightweight title. New Yorker Teofimo Lopez (16-0, 12 KO’s) defends his Ring magazine title along with the majority of the sanctioning belts against undefeated Australian George Kambosos Jr. (19-0, 10 KO’s) at the Theatre in the basement of Madison Square Garden.

The original purse bid to stage the fight was won nine months ago. It’s been delayed a number of times, but now, after Matchroom took up the reins the contest is finally on. Both boxers have been inactive since October 2020 – Lopez putting in a standout performance to rip the titles from then undisputed champion Vasiliy Lomachenko and, Kambosos defeating former IBF champ Lee Selby in the UK a few weeks later.

Both fighters bring undefeated records to the ring and exude self confidence. There’s also a grudge element to the contest after an altercation earlier in the year in Miami when Kambosos confronted Lopez, and in the latter’s view disrespected him. The champion claims this “is personal”.

The self confessed ‘Takeover’ Lopez has Olympic experience and fought at a much higher level. His victory over Lomachenko was arguably the performance of 2020, rewarded by splitting The Ring magazine fighter of the year with Tyson Fury. The Ukrainian entered the ring on the cusp of booking his place at the International Boxing Hall of Fame but left the ring a defeated and humbled man. Lopez’ challenge Saturday night is, to back that up.

Kambosos has had 13 months to prepare, albeit off and on with re-scheduling but, he enters the US a hungry man. He’s a come forward, busy fighter with respectable power and will be dangerous in the early rounds. The Aussie is extremely comfortable with the magnitude of the challenge “I’m enjoying the moment, I’m very relaxed”, and confident of victory, claiming that when victorious they will build a statue of him in Sydney !

However, the majority of Kambosos’ experience in elite company has been within the ropes of the Wild Card Gym, Los Angeles where he’s sparred with Manny Pacquiao amongst other leading lights. Many of his paid fights have been in Australia against domestic fighters, which as tough as any Aussie is, may be a distinct disadvantage when the New York bell rings.

Lopez, with his father in his corner, confidence is backed up by his boxing ability. He still remains someway from the finished article but is looking to be the future of the lightweight division or, 5lbs higher at junior-welterweight and, maybe beyond. With all the top lightweights avoiding each other a dream follow up fight would have been against undisputed 140 pounder Josh Taylor but who’s now rumoured to be seeking fights at 147 amongst the welterweights.

Lopez is a heavy favourite going in and big things are expected; however, this writer is old enough to remember big things were also promised from Donald Curry in the 1980’s, before he ran into Lloyd Honeyghan. The last few weeks have shown us that shocks do happen – think Usyk, Kiko Martinez, but these were experienced operators with good technical skills.

Kambosos’ ability to cause the shock will be based on confidence, hunger and bravery. Technically he will fall short, but boxing is not always about superior skillsets. If Kambosos can get inside of Lopez solid jab and, the champion has not prepared well in his prolonged absence or, underestimated the tough Aussie, then we will see a fight. However this unlikely, and the smart money is to expect the champion to retain his title somewhere around the eight stanza.

It should though be exciting whilst it lasts.

The fight is available on the DAZN streaming site in the early hours of Sunday morning (UK time). Ring walks should be around 2am.

The Monday LunchBox

Terence Crawford lands the heavy right ending Shawn Porter’s challenge.

In a rammed weekend pound-for-pounder Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford stole the show with an impressive stoppage of Shawn Porter at the Mandalay Bay Arena , Las Vegas. The southpaw stylist from Omaha, Nebraska retained his WBO ‘world’ welterweight title for the fifth time, cementing his impressive 38-0 (29 KO) record and a claim to be the finest in the sport.

Porter entered the contest full of fire and brimstone with a tribute to former legend Marvelous Marvin Hagler, but although his performance was competitive, it was not the ‘War’ as promised on his mouthpiece. As expected he took the fight to the champion, taking the first round and delivering some solid shots throughout, but in the end just couldn’t compete with Crawford’s superior boxing skills and dexterity. ‘Showtime’ Porter just couldn’t get inside the champion’s long southpaw jab to make an impact in the fight. Whilst many of the rounds were competitive with Porter taking his share, as the fight progressed the challenger ran out of gas and the result became inevitable.

The end came in the tenth when Crawford landed a spectacular left uppercut 20 seconds in, and though Porter rose to fight on, a strong combination punctuated by a devastating southpaw right dropped Porter heavily again. As he pounded the canvas in frustration, his father Kenny in his corner waved for the contest to stop and the referee obliged with the official stoppage recorded at 1:21 of the round.

This was an excellent performance by Crawford and whets the appetite for a contest with the watching Errol Spence Jr. who on witnessing the stoppage immediately left the arena. Post-fight Crawford said “You see what I did, compared to what he (Spence) did” referring to Spence’s last defence. On being asked what next, he replied “You know who I want, I’ve been calling him out”. Whether Spence takes the challenge is the question everyone is asking. If, and when it happens it should rank with the classic 147lb showdowns of yesteryear.

Porter dropped to 31-4-1 (17 KO’s) and announced his retirement on Sunday.

The expected highlight in the UK was the excellent BOXXER card at SSE Wembley Arena featuring a plethora of emerging stars. Main event saw Britain’s world ranked cruiserweight Richard Riakphore (13-0, 9 KO’s) defeat Nigerian Olanrewaju Durodola (36-9, 33 KO’s) by technical knockout after 36 seconds of the fifth round. The strong south Londoner Riakphore dominated the fight working of a textbook right jab and almost had his opponent in trouble at the end of the first. Durodola had an impressive record coming in having fought a number of leading contenders but Riakphore ‘came of age’ in the fight, in what was his first step up to world level.

The end came when the home fighter landed a great left hook at the start of the ninth which forced Dorodola to take an eight count and on the restart Riakphore was all over his opponent landing a succession of unanswered hooks before referee Victor Loughran stepped in. Riakphore captured the WBC ‘Silver’ title and with it a high ranking with that body.

Best fight of the night was the vacant British light-heavyweight title fight between Dan Azeez and Hosea Burton. Before a watching Tyson ‘Gypsy King’ Fury, a cousin of Burton, the tall Manchester man was simply unable to keep at bay the relentless pursuit of Azeez. Stylistically, like an orthodox version of ‘Marvelous’ Marvin the Londoner Azeez leapt forward with a strong jab in Hagler’esque burgundy shorts and hooped socks, to follow up with a succession of body blows. This was the pattern of the fight as Azeez worked relentlessly to the long body of Burton, capturing him on the ropes and in the corner as much as possible. By the sixth Burton was shipping a lot of punishment and although firing back with some heavy shots, he was reeling at the end of the round after a strong body assault from Azeez.

The Londoner started the seventh quickly keeping on the pressure and landing a great left hook Burton was reeling again before the referee stepped in after 2:27. Azeez fell to his knees in ecstacy having gained the British title and with it the Lord Lonsdale belt.

He extended his record to 15-0 (10 KO’s) and joins a strong list of world ranked 175lb (12st,7lb) fighters in the UK. Future fights against either Lyndon Arthur, Anthony Yarde or Callum Johnson would be fantastic contests. The brave and talented Burton dropped to 26-3 (12 KO’s) and will come again.

In a packed card there were impressive wins for Hassan and Adam Azim (the former of the brothers making his debut), both by stoppage, Scottish heavyweight Nick Campbell and Mikael Lawal at cruiserweight. There were also notable wins by Albanian welterweight Florian Marku and female Olympian Natasha Jonas, both by clear points decisions. The BOXXER franchise goes from strength to strength in their new partnership with Sky Sports.

The weekend started with Demetrius Andrade (31-0, 19 KO’s) making a spectacular fifth defence of his WBO ‘world’ middleweight title against Jason Quigley (19-2, 14 KO’s). Irishman Quigley was outgunned from the opening bell, being dropped in the first and then floored three times in the second round before the contest was halted.

The much maligned Andrade made a statement to those who say he lacks power. When asked post-fight what this would do to his chances of securing a marquee fight with the other champions and names, he responded that it would likely cause them to ‘run’ further away now they see the power. Andrade deserves a bigger stage to showcase his skills and into his thirties needs to move fast.

If, the next few weekends can match this, then boxing is in a healthy state.

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

The Friday Faceup

Terence Crawford (left) eyes former champ Shawn Porter.
Photo courtesy of Top Rank Inc/Getty Images.

A jam packed boxing schedule is programmed both sides of the Atlantic this weekend, starting tonight (Fri 19th).

First up in New Hampshire, USA will be WBO world middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade making the fifth defence of his title against Ireland’s Jason Quigley. ‘Boo Boo’ Andrade (30-0, 18 KO’s) is striving for a superfight in the 160lb (11st,6lb) division having regularly called out superstars Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin. Despite being supremely talented and a double ‘world’ champion, having also held the WBO light-middleweight title, his style is more effective than box office.

Andrade will be fighting in his home state and enters the contest as a big favourite. Tough Quigley (19-1, 14 KO’s) has won his last three contests since a sole defeat to Tureano Johnson in July 2019 and is trained by former WBO world champion Andy Lee. He will take the fight to Andrade but probably succumb to the champion’s superior boxing skills in the late rounds. Andrade is in need of a stoppage on his resume to nail the big fights and look for him to win by this route. The contest will be shown live on the DAZN streaming site in the early hours of Saturday (UK time).

The highlight in the UK will be a further edition of the BOXXER series at the SSE Wembley Arena shown live and exclusive on SKY Sports from 8pm (UK time) Saturday. It will also be available in the USA on ESPN.

Top of the bill is Britain’s world ranked cruiserweight Richard Riakporhe (12-0, 8 KO’s) against capable Nigerian Olantrewaju Durodola (36-8, 33 KO’s). Big punching Riakporhe has suffered from inactivity over the two years, but is now back on track after a points victory last month against Krzysztof Twardowski.

The Brit has a chance this weekend to gain the WBC ‘silver’ title which provides a gateway to a higher ranking with that organisation. The cruiserweight (200lbs/14st,4lb) division has received a real boost this week with the announcement that ‘Canelo’ Alvarez will step up two divisions to challenge WBC champion Ilungu Makabu. This will add prestige to the weight class and Riakporhe could be well positioned with an impressive victory. He holds a victory over current British, European and Commonwealth champion Chris Billam-Smith and would seem better placed already.

The card is stacked with good contests including Dan Azeez (14-0, 9 KO’s) versus Hosea Burton (26-2, 12 KO’s) for the British light-heavyweight title, Mikael Lawal against Leonardo Damian Bruzzese at cruiser and, Florian Marku versus Jorick Luisetto at welterweight. There are also appearances by Hassan Azim (making his pro-debut), his brother Adam and, Olympian Natasha Jonas who’s just switched over to the BOXXER franchise.

Look for Riakporhe to win impressively, likely by mid-round stoppage and the fight of the night to be the Azeez-Burton contest.

Then, in the early hours Sunday (UK time) the focus switches to a potential humdinger from the Mandalay Bay hotel, Las Vegas, USA. Undefeated Ring magazine pound-for-pound #3 Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford (37-0, 28 KO’s) faces twice world champion ‘Showtime’ Shawn Porter (31-3-1, 17 KO’s) for the former’s WBO world welterweight title. The event is on Top Rank pay per view and ESPN in the US and available to subscribers on Sky Sports in the UK.

Crawford is a supreme southpaw stylist with a solid dig and considered one of the best across all divisions. In his last showing he bombed out former ‘world’ champion Kell Brook who holds a victory over Porter. Whilst Brook was a few years into his prime this comparison is a useful form guide.

Porter was an elite amateur who comes to fight and will make the contest exciting for as long as it lasts. Look though for Crawford’s boxing skills and eventual nastiness to stop his opponent for the first time somewhere around the ninth. If ‘Bud’ does the expected it will set up a blockbusting unification fight against WBC and IBF world champion Errol Spence Jr. which is arguably the biggest match to be made in the sport. Both are tied to different promoters and networks but the pressure of public opinion and lack of alternative options could bring this contest closer together with a Crawford victory.

Enjoy your boxing weekend.

Bad Intentions

Eubank Jr. (left) and Williams face-off.

In a well staged, but prickly press conference today near London Bridge on the banks of the River Thames, two British middleweights Chris Eubank Jr and Liam Williams exuded equal contempt for each other before their impending showdown in Cardiff Motorpoint Arena on December 11.

Next month, the BOXXER and Wasserman Promotion being shown live and exclusive on Sky Sports in the UK will pitch the 32 year old Eubank Jr (31-2, 23 KO’s) into the lion’s den of South Wales against 29 year old local hero Williams (23-3,18 KO’s). Billed as ‘Bad Intentions’ it promises to finish 2021 on a high with a meeting of two world ranked contenders (Eubank – Ring magazine #8 and Williams #9).

Both fighters will attempt to seal an impressive victory to progress to another crack at a world sanctioning body title, having lost earlier title shots. Williams, to current WBO champion Demetrius Andrade in April this year and, Eubank Jr back in February 2018 to George Groves for the WBA super-middleweight belt. Both will therefore bring ‘world’ title fight experience to the ring.

The bout marks a major coup for the new BOXXER partnership with Sky Sports, with today’s media event only 40 days on from their first televised promotion together. BOXXER founder and CEO Ben Shalom was pleased to announce his delight at the contest with “Both fighters in the prime of their career”. Handing over to his media supremo Daniel ‘Savage Dan’ Stewart, who re-iterated by saying “I’ll eat my shoe if it doesn’t deliver !”. Co-promoter Kalle Sauerland further emphasized the point by adding it was “Two guys who only have one gear – the forward gear”.

Williams took to the microphone expressing his delight at signing for the fight and confident of the outcome. “It’s an amazing thing for me to bring this fight back to Wales…I just need to deliver…It’s massive for me”. When asked by Adam Smith (Sky Sports Head of Boxing Development) about his opponent, he replied “I have a lot of respect for him as a fighter” but “Don’t have much respect for him personally…he’s not my type of guy”. He explained the challenge posed by Eubank Jr. but that he was confident of victory, being non-committal on the manner of victory “I can’t say for sure I’m gonna stop him”.

With the microphone switching to Eubank Jr. and on being asked if he respected his opponent he replied “Respect is not a word I would use for my feelings towards Liam…it doesn’t sit well with me…this is a grudge match…a genuine domestic rivalry, it’s personal…he’s gonna pay for what he said”. The response referring to the pre-fight barbs and Williams reverting to social media to stoke up his opponent.

Eubank Jr’s. response led to Williams telling him to shut his mouth saying “you’re full of s**t”. The Welshman then questioned his opponent on why the fight was in Cardiff, referring to Eubank’s poor ticket selling closer to home.

Eubank Jr continued “He doesn’t have what it takes to stop what I’m gonna do…with his style I don’t see it going 12 rounds”. Williams by now repeatedly shaking his head, again used his earlier insult, going onto say “I just think this guy’s full of s**t…He knows how to talk (referring to learning it from his father, Chris Snr) but concluded “It’s gonna be a win for Liam Williams, it’s gonna be exciting”.

That, it promises to be, in which Adam Smith concluded would be the “Domestic duel of the year”. Given we also have the Lyndon Arthur-Anthony Yarde rematch a week earlier, it promises to be a dynamite December.

To finish the media event both fighters took to the dais to do the head-to-heads and thankfully the verbal volleys didn’t escalate.

Stylistically, this has all the makings of a great contest, with both being confident come-forward fighters and, for the winner a potential world title shot against either Gennadiy Golovkin (IBF) should he come through versus Ryota Murata (WBA) in December, American Jermall Charlo (WBC), or his compatriot Demetrius Andrade (WBO) should he retain his title against Jason Quigley this weekend.

Look out for more verbal barbs and fireworks over the next few weeks as the big British middleweight showdown looms.

The Monday LunchBox

New IBF world featherweight champ Kiko Martinez.

On Saturday night I was reminded of the enduring fascination of boxing. Watching Britain’s Kid Galahad box meticulously through five completed rounds with the type of switch-hitting and accuracy that had become his forte and, seemingly coasting to a first defence of his IBF world featherweight title against an ageing challenger, I thought of the inevitability of the pending result. Then, for a split second a thought went through my mind…anything could happen THIS is boxing.

How many times had I watched a fight seemingly over in the first few rounds to then simply be turned on its head ? Is this not the fascination of boxing ? No other high profile sport can end on an instant with the seeming victor then becoming the vanquished.

In round five we at least got a clue, as the dominance of Galahad started to be slightly chipped away by Spanish challenger Kiko Martinez. All of a sudden the tempo of the fight started to change as Martinez came forward making some inroads after being totally outboxed for the four completed rounds.

Noticeably, as Galahad stepped out of exchanges he started to leave his chin exposed, but surely the sting had been taken out of Martinez ? Then, with 15 seconds left in the round…Martinez lurched forward again pressing the fight, and BOOM a ballistic long right hand landed on Galahad’s head and he hit the canvas. The shock of all at ringside, including promoter Eddie Hearn, was plain to see.

The champion managed to haul himself up to just beat the count and five seconds later the bell sounded to end the round. Galahad received a shocked but stern talking to by cornerman Dominic Ingle in between rounds, but the damage was already done.

As the sixth round started Martinez rushed across the ring to land another heavy right on the champion and Galahad hit the canvas again. The fight was waved off after 6 seconds by referee Steve Gray. The title changed hands dramatically to make the 35 year old Kiko Martinez (43-10-2, 30 KO’s) a two weight world champion. THIS is boxing.

It reminded me of a couple of fights from a bygone age. Rocky Marciano’s booming hook against ‘Jersey’ Joe Walcott to wrestle the world heavyweight championship in the 1950’s and, more recently and closer to the Sheffield Wincobank Gym, the devastating finish to Herol Graham’s third and final attempt to win the middleweight championship when bombed out by Julian Jackson. Both examples of single one punch shots that ended a contest that were seemingly going the other way.

Galahad dropped to (28-2, 17 KO’s) and will come again.

And yet, the drama of the evening was not limited to this contest. In a good Matchroom Promotion at the Utilita Sheffield Arena we saw a mere 30 minutes earlier another devastating punch end the contest between female WBC world super-featherweight champion Teri Harper (11-1-1, 6 KO’s) and American Alycia Baumgarner (11-1, 7 KO’s).

After a strong start the Detroit hitter landed a big right hand that literally froze Harper on stiff, shaky legs, before the referee jumped in to save her from the full force of a follow up left hook. The contest was waved off instantly after 0:23 of the fourth.

THIS is boxing.

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

The Monday LunchBox

Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez lands the blow to unravel Caleb Plant’s challenge.

Just the second current unified world champion in men’s boxing was crowned on Saturday night in the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas. In a spectacular 11th round finish Mexican superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez knocked out American Caleb Plant to win the IBF version, thus adding to his WBC, WBA and WBO titles.

Alvarez joins a select band of six unified champions since all four sanctioning bodies came into being and sits alongside Scotland’s Josh Taylor as today’s elite, universally accepted champions.

Much was expected of a contest that pitted the previously undefeated Plant against the widely considered pound-for-pound #1. Although the Mexican entered it a big favorite, ‘Sweethands’ Plant was expected to give him trouble with his slick boxing ability. This proved to be the case and the contest was competitive throughout with Plant taking his share of the completed rounds.

The outcome was on a knife-edge right up until Plant got nailed by a big left hook high on the side of the face, followed by a devastating right uppercut 35 secs into the eleventh. Plant hit the canvas for the first time propping himself up by his gloves and after taking an eight count was allowed to continue. Alvarez, well known as a devastating finisher, then went to town and chased his opponent around the ring, ala Mike Tyson v Trevor Berbick, registering a further knockdown with sledgehammer rights before referee Russell Mora waved it off after 1:05 of the round.

‘Canelo’ although ahead on all cards was tiring a bit at the end of the eighth and after receiving a strong talking to by cornerman Eddy Reynoso managed to stamp his authority from then on in. The official cards had him ahead 97-93, 96-94, and a wide 98-92 at the time of the stoppage. The Undisputed card read 96-94, a truer reflection of the competitiveness of the bout.

It was Alvarez’ 20th world title appearance and in the end his big fight experience and brute force curtailed a brave defence of Plant’s IBF title. ‘Canelo’ improved his record to 57-1-2 (39 KO’s) and Plant dropped to 21-1 (1 KO’s).

At the stoppage, the ring was swamped with the inevitable entourages and sanctioning chiefs and in the post-fight interview Alvarez acknowledged the bravery of his opponent and his journey to unification. “It hasn’t been easy to get to this point…we did it tonight”. He explained “I respect Caleb Plant, he was very difficult, he has a lot of ability…we had a great fight today”.

On asked by Showtime’s Jim Gray what was next, in reference to a potential move back up to 175lbs (light-heavy) Alavarez responded “We don’t know, we need to rest”. The stoppage had been impressive, sealing the deal, but there had been moments in the fight where Canelo seemed to lack ideas and noticeably flat footed and tiring. The ‘elephant in the room’ remains the unfinished business with Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin, certainly in the eyes of boxing fans, and that fight needs to be made for the Alvarez legacy to be sealed.

In Liverpool, England an excellent BOXXER elimination tournament at super-lightweight (10st/140lbs) saw Cori Gibbs (16-0, 3 KO’s) from Birmingham, England win a £40,000 winner-takes-all purse by defeating three fighters including local man Tom Farrell (20-5, 5 KO’s) in the final.

The pre-competition favourite going in, Gibbs defeated Sean ‘Masher’ Dodd on a split decision and Lee Appleyard unanimously en-route with an excellent combination of switch hitting and smooth boxing skills. His final win was always competitive but scores of 29-28, 29-28 and a more accurate 30-27 sealed his dominance on the night.

Pick of the evening was probably the second quarter final between Farrell and Ben Fields. A classic boxer v brawler bout. Throughout the evening of 3×3 minute rounds the eight fighters competing provided a great night of entertainment shown live on Sky Sports in the UK. We await with interest the next weight class to be showcased in this well presented fan-friendly format.

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

The Friday Faceup

The ‘unusual’ suspects line up for a 10st elimination tournament in Liverpool.
Photo: Lawrence Lustig/BOXXER

Great action is scheduled both sides of the Atlantic this weekend with the world super-middleweight unification fight between Mexican superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and American Caleb Plant in Las Vegas, preceded earlier Saturday night with the next and new edition of the BOXXER series in the UK.

The Canelo v Plant contest will take most of the headlines but first up is a new elimination format live on Sky Sports from Space M&S Bank Arena on the historic Liverpool waterfront, NW England.

Similar to the successful ‘Prizefighter’ series eight super-lightweights (10st/140lbs) have been convened to box for a massive £100,000 on the night – winner takes all purse. The contestants and quarter final draw is:

Sean Dodd (17-5-1, 3 KO’s) vs. Cori Gibbs (13-0, 3 KO’s)

Kane Gardner (11-1, 6 KO’s) vs. Nathan Bennett (9-2, 2 KO’s)

Tom Farrell (18-4, 5 KO’s) vs. Ben Fields (10-10, 2 KO’s)

Lee Appleyard (17-6-1, 5 KO’s) vs. Levi Kisiona (8-1, 1 KO).

All are UK fighters and with a number of local rivalries it promises to be a ‘bombs away’ evening, one to interest the fan who likes a good ‘tear up’ with a bit of healthy competition. The prize money is incentive enough and with several having fought each other already it will be spiced up by revenge and putting the record straight.

Sean ‘Masher’ Dodd from nearby Birkenhead goes into the tournament as the favourite. Although age 36 and having not fought for two years he has a 2-0 record against fellow competitors. Dodd faces undefeated 28 year old Cori Gibbs in his first contest. Masher stated “He’s young, he’s up and coming, but this is going to be a toe-to-toe straightener out there under the lights”. Gibbs responded “I respect Masher a lot, he’s a very good boxer…I’ve watched him plenty of times and I believe I beat him in every department”. Tough talk indeed that will make for an exciting evening for those in attendance and watching at home on Sky Sports (8pm UK time).

The BOXXER series to date has been a very welcome addition to Saturday night televised boxing and CEO Ben Shalom will look to make this a regular must-see event with other weights to feature over the winter. The plan is to mix these elimination tournaments with one-off events featuring some of the biggest stars in the sport.

Early Sunday morning (UK time) we switch to the Las Vegas strip and the MGM Grand Garden Arena with an elite super-middleweight world title unification. Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KO’s) will defend his WBA, WBC and WBO titles against American Caleb Plant (21-0, 12 KO’s), the current IBF title holder. The contest is televised on BT Box Office in the UK and Showtime PPV stateside.

The victor in this contest at 12st/168lbs will unify a male division for only the sixth time since the four now accepted sanctioning bodies have existed. Other luminaries include Bernard Hopkins, Terence Crawford and Oleksandr Usyk.

Putting the belts aside this is a really mouth watering contest which has been elevated by the fracas at an early press conference when both fighters came to blows. Plant comes into the contest an undefeated champion but not having fought at the same level of competition as his opponent.

Future hall-of-famer ‘Canelo’ has won versions of ‘world’ titles in four weight divisions from 11st (154lbs) to 12st,7lbs (175lbs) and in three of those won The Ring magazine belt, usually awarded to the universally accepted champion. His sole defeat was to Floyd Mayweather Jr in Sept 2013 with only his first encounter with Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin four years later being controversial in his favour. Many feeling Golvokin won the drawn contest.

Since then, the 31 year old Canelo has been almost flawless and will come into Saturday’s fight as a big favourite. He is further fueled by the press conference dust up and says this is “personal” and is promising to be better than ever.

Plant on the other hand, at 29 is in his boxing prime. He’s a slickster and although not explosive, has respectable power. Out of his orthodox stance he has excellent boxing ability but will need to concentrate and fight smart throughout the 36 minutes to win. Canelo is the bigger puncher of the two with a 68% KO record and is as strong and brave as an Ox. He can though be outboxed for long periods of a fight as Mayweather and Golovkin, and to a certain degree Erislandy Lara and Sergey Kovalev showed.

There is a strong case for Plant outboxing Canelo and holding on to hear the final bell, this pattern being what makes the fight intriguing. However, Alvarez though closer to the end than beginning of his career, will land the heavier, more eye catching shots and although it might be controversial again The Undisputed expects him to win a close but unanimous decision.

Enjoy your fight weekend.

The Monday LunchBox

Shakur Stevenson stings Jamel Herring
Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

In a weekend with no significant UK action a shining star continued to emerge in the USA.

Newark, New Jersey junior-lightweight Shakur Stevenson dethroned compatriot Jamel Herring to gain the WBO 9st,4lb (130lbs) title by 10th round TKO. The challenger won his second ‘world’ title having gained the WBO 9st (126lbs) crown and immediately moving up to compete in the heavier division.

The manner of the 24 year old Stevenson’s victory was emphatic, dominating the fight with a stinging southpaw jab and fast hands. Herring was making his fourth defence after stopping Carl Frampton earlier in the year, but the 35 year old champion was second best throughout. Apart from coming on ironically just before the stoppage, he was picked apart at range for the duration of the fight.

Stevenson (17-0, 9 KO’s), a Rio Olympic silver medalist and elite amateur, was cautious but much more aggressive in this fight than previous contests.

Ex-US Marine Herring (23-0-3) showing his exceptional grit and heart yet again just couldn’t get in the fight. He was continually stung with southpaw jabs and heavy left hands but couldn’t get his own southpaw lead off, continually moving into Stevenson’s right hand as he tried to advance forward.

The fight was ended by referee Mark Nelson after 1:30 of the 10th when Herring sustained a perennial cut over his right eye in the previous round, and was caught on the ropes shipping unnecessary punishment. There was no protest and both fighters embraced on termination of the bout. Herring was accepting of defeat afterfight and left the ring with his head held high following an excellent series of defences of his former title.

Stevenson in the post fight interview said he “smelled blood” when Herring got cut and called out Oscar Valdez (29-0, 23 KO’s) who sensationally beat Miguel Berchelt to win the WBC title earlier in the year. This a natural fight between two undefeated champions and Stevenson will fancy his chances with his superior technical skills.

The weekend in Montreal, Canada also saw the first contesting of the new WBC world bridgerweight title – a new initiative to ‘bridge’ the gap between heavyweight and cruiserweight. With the heavy’s getting bigger the smaller contenders (16.5st/232lbs) are being left behind, too big to make cruiser and too small to compete effectively at heavy. Although boxing could least do with another weight class it does seem one borne with the safety of the fighter in mind. The inaugural champion is Colombia’s Oscar Rivas (28-1, 19 KO’s) who unanimously outpointed Ryan Rozicki (13-0, 13 KO’s) in a highly competitive slugfest. Scores were 116-111, 115-112 and 115-112.

Rivas lost a similar competitive fight to Britain’s Dillian Whyte in 2019 and will be more comfortable in the new lighter weight division. It is the first new division to be introduced for 34 years but will need elite fighters and contests to be fully accepted.

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

The Monday LunchBox

An ecstatic Savannah Marshall after stopping brave Lolita Muzeya.
Photo: BOXXER/Lawrence Lustig

Hartlepool, England’s Savannah Marshall stole the show on Saturday’s excellent BOXXER card from Newcastle’s Utilita Arena televised live on Sky Sports. The WBO world middleweight champion made an impressive second defence of her title with a second round stoppage of courageous Lolita Muzeya.

‘Silent Assassin’ Marshall (11-0, 9 KO’s) had to weather a serious early storm from Muzeya (16-1, 8 KO’s) as the challenger came out like a human threshing machine. The Zambian put everything on the line in the first three completed minutes either side of the bell.

The champion was shocked by the intensity of her challenger but boxed cautiously to avoid any early damage. After receiving a pep talk from trainer/cornerman Peter Fury she stood her ground in the second round and her superior technical skills started to take over, landing strong jabs with power punching follow ups. This forced the challenger to ‘hit the wall’ three minutes in as her early intensity began to take its toll.

Muzeya was backed onto the ropes by Marshall’s heavy shots, and under extreme pressure, the referee Michael Alexander was forced to jump in to save the African from further punishment. The official stoppage was 1:58.

A potential mouthwatering match up looms against multiple world champion Claressa Shields (watching the transmission live in the US and interviewed post-fight). BOXXER CEO Ben Shalom confirmed both would feature on their 11 December promotion in Birmingham, England on the path to a potential meeting in 2022.

Marshall is the only fighter to defeat Shields amateur or pro (the American reaffirming in the post fight interview that her defeat was as “an amateur”). The British champion responded back to Shields’ bravado with “What a load of crap !”.

Both ladies will enter the contest extremely confident in what is potentially the stand out fight in the world female ranks. Shields is ranked #2 and Marshall #10 by The Ring magazine.

Chris Eubank Jr (31-2, 23 KO’s) forced Wanik Awdigan (28-1-1, 11 KO’s) to retire at the end of round 5 in a middleweight contest. The German based Armenian looked lively for the opening rounds boxing out of a southpaw stance, catching the Brighton man by surprise with some solid shots. Eubank was always in control though, and cautiously tracking his opponent, stepped up the pace from the third landing a series of hooks, jabs and screw uppercuts. Eubank acknowledged post fight the awkwardness of his opponent, expecting an orthodox fighter, and the need to show patience over the completed rounds.

The middleweight division is stacked with exciting options and Eubank confirmed he was targeting “anyone with a world title” and “ready for the big fights and big names”. There are stellar names out there for him, most notably Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin, and if that fight can be made would sell out any indoor arena in the UK.

British heavyweight Hughie Fury (26-3, 15 KO’s) scored a stoppage win over Christian Hammer (26-8, 16 KO’s) when the German retired with a right bicep injury also at the end of the fifth round. In a candid interview post fight, Hughie’s father Peter Fury gave him a 7.5/10 acknowledging it was a good win but with some room for improvement. Similar to Eubank Jr; the key is to keep him active and move quickly onto the next step up.

Local Newcastle favorite Steve Robinson (4-0, 3 KO’s) scored an early stoppage win over outgunned Reece Barlow and looks an exciting addition to the heavyweight division.

There were also several very competitive undercard fights and BOXXER is a welcome and refreshing addition to the British fight scene. Look out for further dates live on the Sky platform in the UK.

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

The Friday Faceup

Savannah Marshall stands tall against Zambian challenger Lolita Muzeya.
Photo: BOXXER/Lawrence Lustig

After three spectacular weeks of boxing with two big heavyweight pay-per-view showdowns attracting the masses, regular domestic service is resumed this weekend. The Joshua-Usyk & Wilder-Fury Box Office events attracted a frenzy of activity and publicity combined with multiple promotions padding TV schedules around those two monster fights.

This weekend the second BOXXER promotion televised live on Sky Sports (Saturday 7:30pm BST) provides the principal attraction.

Almost by fate it happens to be taking place in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in NE England, the focus of the football world for the last week due to the multi-million pound Arab buyout of Newcastle United Football Club. The timing of BOXXER CEO Ben Shalom and Sky couldn’t have been better with a captive sporting audience focused on the city.

The card features nine bouts with the standouts being female WBO world middleweight champion Savannah Marshall (10-0, 8 KO’s) defending her title against Zambian Lolita Muzeya (16-0, 8 KO’s). London Olympian, Marshall is regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world but said “I’m expecting a tough fight from Lolita. I’d be a fool to overlook anyone and she’s unbeaten…I’m expecting her to come (forward) and I’m expecting the best version of Lolita”.

Muzeya in response said “I’m excited for Saturday…this is a big opportunity”. However, look for Marshall to win within six tough 2 minute rounds and set up a potential showdown with American female megastar Claressa Shields.

At heavyweight, The Gypsy King’s cousin Hughie Fury (25-3, 14 KO’s) makes a long awaited comeback to the ring against perennial contender Christian Hammer (26-7, 16 KO’s). The 27 year old Fury has marked time since December 2020 and now needs to make some inroads into the division’s elite.

The Romanian, Hammer has fought in good company but apart from a victory against David Price when last in England has usually come up short. He is capable though, with a good KO percentage and will provide a stern test. The contest will show us exactly where Fury is at, and we expect him to prevail over twelve rounds.

Stealing the majority of the pre-fight headlines is the return of Chris Eubank Jr (30-2-0, 22 KO’s) against German Wanik Awdigan (28-0-1, 11 KO’s) in an international middleweight contest.

The Brighton man was due to launch the return of big time boxing back on Sky in their new partnership with BOXXER three weeks ago but had to stand down after two opponents were forced to withdraw; the second Anatoli Muratov on the day of the fight ! Eubank now gets the opportunity to get a much needed win against Awdigan who’s been talking a good fight this week but not fought at the same level.

The 32 year old Eubank Jr (promoted by Wasserman Boxing) has not boxed since May but still ranked #8 by The Ring magazine in the world middleweight (11st 6lb/160lb) division. He provides the ideal personality and big fight attraction to bolster the Newcastle promotion and will be looking to win impressively towards a third ‘world’ title shot. This should be a convincing win for the Brighton man by mid-round KO.

Home town favourite Lewis Ritson was due to face Hank Lundy but had to withdraw on Thursday due to illness. The remaining card should though provide sufficient entertainment for Utilita Arena, Newcastle crowd and those tuning into Sky Sports. Enjoy !