The Monday LunchBox

Isaac Chamberlain (left) and Chris Billam-Smith exchange blows.
Photo: Lawrence Lustig/BOXXER

On Saturday (30th), at a rockin’ Bournemouth International Centre on the English south coast, local favourite Chris Billam-Smith successfully defended his European and Commonwealth cruiserweight (200lbs/14st, 4lbs) titles against London’s Isaac Chamberlain over twelve hard fought rounds.

The contest, a contender for British fight of the year, topped an excellent night of action on the BOXXER promotion shown live on Sky Sports in the UK, with the main event also broadcast in the USA.

Billam-Smith (16-1, 11 KO’s) won on all three cards 117-111 but this didn’t tell the full story of the competitiveness of the contest. Chamberlain (14-2, 8 KO’s) from Brixton, London, gave the thick set champion all he could handle and left the ring with his head held high. In a fight that was brutal throughout and captivated the rabid local fanbase The Undisputed scored it 116-112 in the home fighter’s favour.

Both fighters met toe to toe from the opening bell and the champion tried to bull charge his way to an early stoppage. The slick boxing Londoner withstood the early assault using a ramrod jab to set up his own attacks and shared some of the early rounds. Mid-fight it was apparent the contest was going to be a war of attrition, as it ebbed and flowed with each boxer gaining the ascendancy and then retreating into defence. With both fighters visibly tiring due to the relentless pace of the contest they supplemented sorties with periods of rest on the ropes and the exchanges of body attacks were intense. Billam-Smith just put in more work than his adversary over the full distance, seeming to get a second and third wind and covering up when needed.

Despite the fight having no knockdowns and only Chamberlain sustaining a cut late it was an all action contest that’s up there with any recent all British encounters. It certainly brought a continuing impetus and focus to the highly competitive cruiserweight division.

Billam-Smith had to dig deep to retain his titles and moves onto potential British blockbusters against WBO champion Lawrence Okolie or a revenge match against hard hitting Richard Riakporhe, the only man to defeat him.

It was also a night of prospects with Team GB Olympian and Tokyo silver medallist Ben Whittaker making his professional debut at light-heavyweight, fellow Olympian and female Londoner Caroline Dubois having her third contest and, the return of Tokyo bronze medallist Frazer Clarke at heavyweight for his second fight after a long layoff due to a hand injury.

As expected, all the Olympians came through easily with matchmaking befitting the embryo of their professional careers, however, all impressed in so doing.

Pick of the bunch was the entertaining and flashy Whittaker, who having returned from a training camp in the USA with well respected trainer SugarHill Steward, showed an array of confidence and variety that bodes well for a successful and possible box office pro career. Rare it is for a debutant to start with a six rounder and exude the self confidence shown against a solid domestic opponent in Greg O’Neill (6-7-1, 1 KO) who went hell for leather from the opening bell.

From the 25 year old Whittaker we saw multiple bolo punches, looping uppercuts, punching whilst looking the other way and ducking under big counters by the slimmest of margins as he glided around the ring. Apart from a few shots on the referee’s call of break it was as impressive a debut as you will see. He ended the contest emphatically with a jab followed up by a heavy right hand after 21 secs of the second round.

Caroline Dubois (3-0, 2 KO’s) at a mere 21 years old stopped brave but outgunned Happy Daudi on 0:46 in the third and Frazer Clarke bludgeoned 22 stone Ariel Esteban Bracamonte into submission with a brutal left hook after 2:57 of the second round. The 6 foot 6 and nineteen stone Clarke boxed well and refused to get drawn into a slugfest with the totally out of shape Argentinian and the finish was clinical efficiency.

Clarke rises to 2-0 (2 KO’s) and joins the rich talent pool of UK heavyweights backed up with elite amateur experience. At only 30 years old, time is on his side.

Promising welterweight Hassan Azim (4-0, 2 KO’s) had to work hard in an excellent learning fight to overcome tough Jacob Quinn (4-2) winning on the referee’s six round decision 59-55. On another night this would’ve been the fight of the night but such was the talent on offer and the competitiveness and significance of the main event that it featured way down on the card. However, this is well worthy of mention here.

There were also impressive stoppage wins in the last contest of a packed night for big punching Joe Pigford (20-0, 19 KO’s) halting Ghanaian Raphael King after 1:49 of round three to win an eliminator for the Commonwealth super-welterweight title, plus earlier, cruiserweight Mikael Lawal who stopped Crispulo Javier Andino after 1:25 of the second.

Elsewhere, on a Wasserman promotion up in Newcastle, north east England and shown live on Channel 5 in the UK, super-welterweight Josh Kelly (12-1-1, 7 KO’s) continued his positive comeback with an emphatic ten round unanimous decision against Lucas Bastida (18-2-1, 10 KO’s) to win the WBO international title. Returned scores were 99-92, 98-92, 96-95 in favour of the 28 year old from Sunderland. Kelly is now on the cusp of a title fight and has good amateur pedigree to draw from.

The Commonwealth Games continue in Birmingham, England and updates will follow as we approach the final stages.

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

The Friday Faceup

Chris Billam-Smith (left) and Isaac Chamberlain face off on Bournemouth beach before Saturday’s big cruiserweight clash.
Photo: Lawrence Lustig/BOXXER

The cruiserweight division (200lbs/14st, 4lbs) has never been glamorous. Stuck between light-heavyweight (175lbs/12st, 7lbs) and the unlimited enormity of the heavyweight division it has suffered a bit of a middle-child syndrome. Despite having some elite champions emerge from it such as Evander Holyfield and Oleksandr Usyk, it’s been difficult to love.

This indifference has been worldwide, but also in Britain, albeit a lesser degree. In recent years we’ve seen Carl Thompson, David Haye, Enzo Maccarinelli and Tony Bellew elevate themselves beyond the masses, but generally no soon has a champion gained some success and momentum than he’s talked of moving up to heavyweight, where the big bucks lie.

Now think re-set. The cruiserweight division in the UK is hot !

First, we have sanction belt ‘world’ champion Lawrence Okolie (18-0, 14 KO’s), as currently recognised by the WBO. Then there’s big hitter Richard Riakporhe (15-0, 11 KO’s) the current WBC#8 and IBF#2 ranked challenger. Closely followed on the rails by European and Commonwealth champion Chris Billam-Smith (15-1, 11 KO’s) and the man he faces tomorrow on a big show in Bournemouth, England, Isaac Chamberlain (14-1, 8 KO’s).

Taking place in the Bournemouth International Centre (BIC), the so called ‘Battle on the Beach’, is a crossroads fight between popular local man Billam-Smith against tough Londoner Chamberlain.

The latter is on the comeback trail having notched up five victories since a disappointing showing when competing at championship level against Lawrence Okolie in February 2018. The fight was a stinker and the now 28 year old has had to quietly rebuild. His last outing was in December 2021 blowing out Dilan Prasovic inside a round and looking impressive in so doing.

Billam-Smith, 31, going by the nickname of ‘The Gentlemen’, has taken the gamble to switch from the Matchroom promotional company to BOXXER to secure bigger fights and a world title shot. He’s well placed as a double-belt champion, and has just a sole defeat on his record to Richard Riakporhe on a split decision back in July 2019. That loss looks more impressive with every knockout Riakporhe has notched up since their contest.

A Riakporhe v Billam-Smith rematch is a natural if the latter comes through tomorrow and would sell out a large venue. The local man’s dream is to box at Bournemouth Football Club’s stadium in a big fight, which could feasibly be for a world title further down the line.

In tomorrow’s stacked card, promoted by BOXXER and shown live on Sky Sports from 8pm, Team GB Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Ben Whittaker will make his much anticipated professional debut. He meets capable Greg O’Neill (6-6-1, 1 KO) from County Durham in a six rounder. The slick Whittaker has been training stateside with much renowned SugarHill Steward from the Kronk Gym setup and the light-heavyweight from Wolverhampton, England is an exciting addition to the British pro ranks. Much is expected and we are confident he will gradually build and deliver. His launch tomorrow should be nothing but entertaining.

Team GB captain and fellow Tokyo medallist Frazer Clarke (1-0, 1 KO) returns to the ring for his second professional outing following his stunning first-round stoppage win on the undercard of Khan vs Brook in February. The big heavyweight has a wealth of elite amateur experience, having sparred with and competed alongside Anthony Joshua and Joe Joyce in recent years.

The third Team GB Olympian on the card is Caroline Dubois (2-0, 1 KO) who aims to impress again in a six rounder against beautifully named and experienced Tanzanian Happy Daudi.

Big hitting Joe Pigford (19-0, 18 KO’s), from Southampton just along the coast, also appears in a challenge for the vacant WBO European super-welterweight championship.  The bill is topped off with cruiserweight Mikael Lawal (15-0, 9 KOs) looking for his sixteenth career win, Hassan Azim (3-0, 2 KOs), brother of Adam, and also local boy Lee Cutler (10-1, 7 KOs).

As to the main event, we expect an excellent contest which should go into the championship rounds (10-12) and we see Billam-Smith with the more complete skillset and, buoyed by his vociferous home support, forcing the referee to intervene and stop the contest in the eleventh. It should be very competitive and the whole card an excellent watch live and on Sky Sports.

Saturday night also features the second return fight of super-welterweight Josh Kelly (11-1-1, 7 KO’s) in a ten rounder against Argentinian Lucas Bastida (18-1-1, 10 KO’s) in Newcastle, England.

Kelly represented Team GB in the 2016 Rio Olympics and after an early setback in the pros, losing to quality campaigner David Avenesyan at welterweight, is now continuing his rebuild. This is a good test for the Sunderland man and will gauge where he’s at. The Wasserman Boxing promotion also features impressive Harlem Eubank (14-0, 6 KO’s) and Tokyo Olympic silver medallist Pat McCormack (1-0, 1 KO). It is available on Channel 5 in the UK, free to air.

With the start of amateur boxing at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, the weekend is loaded with excellent action. The Games are available on the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) over the next eleven days and the boxing will build towards the finals next weekend with all GB nations individually represented.

Enjoy now, what promises to be a great fight weekend.

The PressBox

Promo courtesy of Matchroom Boxing.

It takes a special match-up to draw this writer across the Atlantic.

In 1987 my first sortie was for ‘Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler v ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard, a contest between two of the modern greats. I was 22 at the time, had just graduated and was boxing mad. With a close friend I spent three months travelling coast to coast to and around the fight, also taking in a peak Mike Tyson and an emerging Evander Holyfield among others. It honed my boxing observer education at the highest level.

I returned twice in the 1990’s taking in strawweight legend Ricardo ‘Finito’ Lopez and witnessing Michael Moorer become the first southpaw to gain the lineal world heavyweight title in boxing history.

Into the new millennium, I returned in 2001 for ‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed against Marco Antonio Barrera, a big disappointment from a British perspective. Then, in 2007, I crossed the ocean again for ‘The World Awaits’ between Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. and, over the next two years, saw Joe Calzaghe boss Bernard Hopkins and a peak Manny Pacquiao destroy Ricky Hatton.

Apart from a couple of sorties to New York City to see Gennadiy Golovkin and Miguel Cotto at the Garden and visit the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota I haven’t been back to Las Vegas since 2009. COVID-19 has had something to do with it, but quite simply there hasn’t been a match-up that has whetted my appetite to compete with some of the above.

Vegas, the fastest growing city in the USA will have changed much; hotels will have been levelled and resorts come and gone, however, the big ones (Caesars Palace, MGM Grand) remain and the buzz around a big fight weekend will be electric.

On September 17 at the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas I will witness a historic match-up that meets my criteria. Whether the fight lives up to my expectations remains to be seen, but as a contest going in, the third and defining trilogy fight between Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin ticks all the boxes. Two first ballot hall-of-fame fighters, who’ve had two previous contests that were fight of the year in 2017 and 2018 respectively, have a combined win-loss record of 99-3 (76 KO’s) and, who will meet to determine the undisputed super-middleweight (12st/168lbs) championship of the world.

This contest is potentially a fight for ‘the ages’ and, that, is the one question mark over it. Can a 40 year old Golovkin compete, as before, toe to toe with his adversary, and both deliver the fight we all hope for ? Much will have to do with what GGG has left, some say he’s well past his best and predict a Pacquiao-Mayweather-like contest, when the former was five years past his prime and the latter just about at his peak. Only when that first bell rings will we know the answer.

This writer though, believes the match up is worth the trip. The Mexican world champion ‘Canelo’, is only 32 but coming off a loss against Dmitry Bivol up at light-heavyweight (12st, 7lbs/175lbs). His era of invincibility is no more, and he’s moving down a division. This makes the contest more of ‘a contest’. Golovkin has campaigned at middleweight (11st, 6lbs/160lbs) the whole of his professional career and is not renowned as a ‘big’ middleweight. The challenge for him will be to carry that extra poundage but also retain the mobility that he enjoyed at 160. However, GGG has never relied on his elusiveness. The Kazakh is an ‘in your face’ pressure fighter which is combined with the skills of an Olympic silver medallist and a lengthy elite amateur pedigree. Plus he has mind numbing power, shown by his 37 KO’s in 44 fights.

The Mexican, is similar in his aggressive approach and in the second fight with Golovkin changed tactics to take the fight to the Kazakh. This won him that second fight on a majority decision. Golovkin was adjudged to have won the first on everyone’s card, apart from the three men that mattered (at ringside) and the fight was deemed a draw. Outrage ensued among the media and fans and that second meeting came a year on.

So, in many eyes the log reads 1-1 with the third fight determining who is the true champion and the dominant boxer of the two in this era. On September 17 we will see a match up that can comfortably stand in the annals of boxing history with some of the greatest of all time. Whether we see a fight that matches up to that hyperbole remains to be seen, but this writer believes it is one worth travelling across ‘the pond’ for, and one that all casual boxing fans should tune in for. The hard core will know, and will have their doubts by virtue of the above, but I believe this is one to give the benefit of the doubt to.

Aside from a heavyweight unification and Terence Crawford v Errol Spence Jr this is the biggest fight in boxing. Let’s face it, which casual boxing fan really knows who the latter are ? Canelo and GGG they might have half a chance, but on September 18 they will know for sure.

The fight is currently scheduled to be shown on the DAZN streaming platform as a pay per view event and is well worth the investment to catch it. If you love boxing you will love this event.

Check this website for further updates on the fighters in training camp and on-site fight week coverage live from Las Vegas.

The Monday LunchBox

Mark Heffron the new British and Commonwealth super-middleweight champion.
Photo courtesy of Queensberry Promotions.

Oldham, England’s Mark Heffron spectacularly won the British and Commonwealth 168lbs (12st) titles on a packed Queensberry card at the Copper Box Arena, London on Saturday. Heffron (28-2-1, 22 KO’s) dethroned Birmingham’s Lennox Clarke in an action packed contest by fifth round stoppage on 2.28 secs.

The 30 year old Heffron had twice unsuccessfully contested the British middleweight (160lbs/11st,6lbs) title, but buoyed by being comfortable at the higher weight, admitting he didn’t know why he ever fought at middleweight, he went straight at Clarke from the opening bell.

Clarke was wobbled several times in the first round and returned to his corner looking dazed and confused at the round end. Both fighters then went toe to toe in the next two rounds and seemingly when Clarke appeared to get a foothold in the fight in the fourth, Heffron raised the heat early in the fifth and referee Bob Williams stepped in towards the end of the round.

The win re-ignited Heffron’s career and he can now look forward to the prospect of championship fights. There are some excellent matches that could be made in the domestic twelve stone division including the likes of Chris Eubank Jr and Zach Parker.

Clarke must regroup and dropped to 20-2-1 (8 KO’s).

Top of the bill was English middleweight Hamzah Sheeraz in an international contest against rugged Argentinian Francisco Emanuel Torres. The exceptionally tall Sheeraz had just moved up from 154lbs (super-welterweight) and his 6ft,3in frame looks suited to the higher class. Sheeraz dominated early proceedings with his solid left jab, but had a shock in a ding-dong second round when he was dropped by the Argentine between the two knockdowns he registered.

A heavy right hook ended the contest at 1.56 secs of the fifth.

Sheeraz (16-0, 12 KO’s), from Ilford, London was recently voted British Young Boxer of the Year and after extensive training in California looks set to move himself through the world rankings. With his victory he won the WBC silver title and an immediate top ten ranking with that sanctioning body.

There were also good wins for hot prospects Dennis McCann (13-0, 7 KO’s) and Nick Ball (16-0, 9 KO’s), both at featherweight. A fight between the two would be a natural or, McCann against another Liverpudlian in Andrew Cain (10-0, 9 KO’s). There was also a stoppage win for Maidstone, Kent’s Sean Noakes in his second pro outing.

Stateside in Texas, comebacking Mexican-American Ryan Garcia (23-0, 19 KO’s) stopped Javier Fortuna inside six rounds at super-lightweight (10st/140lbs) to launch himself in the new weight class. The tall and multi-talented ‘KingRy’ Garcia dropped his opponent in rounds 4 and 5 before finishing it in the 6th. Fortuna dropped to 37-4-1 (26 KO’s).

Post-fight, Garcia again called out Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis (27-0, 25 KO’s) in what could potentially be one of the best fights in the sport. Davis is currently campaigning at lightweight (135lbs/9st,9lbs) but the money to move up could prove irresistible. This would be a genuine grudge match and provided the two opposing promoters can make it happen would be mouthwatering.

Big news expected this week is a potential ‘catchweight’ contest between Chris Eubank Jr and Conor Benn. This is mooted to be close to being signed at 156lbs (11st, 2lbs) and would re-ignite the family rivalry shared by their famous fathers in the 1990’s.

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

The PressBox

Middleweight champions Claressa Shields (left) and Savannah Marshall.

Everyone likes a grudge match. This is a grudge match.

Yesterday at the Banking Hall, London two undefeated fighters faced off to promote the first female main event that’s expected to sell out the O2 Arena in Greenwich on September 10.

American, double-Olympic and multiple world champion Claressa Shields (12-0, 2 KO’s) faces England’s Savannah Marshall (12-0, 10 KO’s) in a battle for the undisputed middleweight championship of the world.

Their rivalry has festered and built for ten years since Marshall defeated her adversary en route to winning the world amateur championships in 2012 and Shields went on to win successive gold medals in the London and Rio Olympics. Marshall was eliminated early in her home games which has long been a source of ridicule by Shields.

Since turning professional, the American from Flint, Michigan has been nothing short of sensational, defeating all before her and even having a successful sortie in the MMA code. She currently holds the majority of sanctioning belts in the 160lbs (11st, 6lbs) division, plus The Ring magazine championship and, it was fitting that yesterday’s press conference was opposite the Bank of England given the bling on show. Marshall also brought her WBO title to the dais.

The contest will be a classic US v UK confrontation for all the straps and undisputed supremacy. Adam Smith, Head of Sky Sports Boxing, who will televise the bout in the UK described the contest as ending a “Deep rooted decade of rivalry” and a “landmark moment for women’s boxing and women’s sport”.

This was followed by BOXXER Founder and CEO Ben Shalom, co-promoter of the event, grandly proclaiming it as “the biggest story in women’s sport”. This is undoubted in British women’s boxing as will be the first ever all-female UK boxing card and first to headline at the O2 Arena. The significance of this breakthrough bout for the female code on British shores should not be underestimated.

The war of words between the two boxers which has been largely played out on social media over the last ten years and more recently after their latest victories in the UK reached a hiatus yesterday.

It started fairly civil with Shields saying “It means a lot to be here (in London) and that she felt “lucky” in terms of the opportunity and magnitude of the event. On being asked about her adversary she replied “I don’t hate nobody, but have a huge dislike for her”. In explaining she did admit “She has the recipe to beat me”.

Marshall was up next and responded ” September 10th, I will be the new undisputed middleweight champion of the world”. On her opponent she said “I’m a fan of Claressa Shields, she’s a pioneer for the sport (but) the reality is she won’t beat me”.

The volume and barbs then started ratcheting up as Shield’s threw comments on her substantial accomplishments across the dais “I’ve got five belts over here, you(ve) got one”. She continued “Speed is power, she’s slow as hell….you can’t do nothing that I do”. Marshall responded “I’m gonna hurt you, I’m gonna outbox you”.

Those in attendance were subject to an increasing high pitched, almost ‘catfighting’ across the table as both slung insults about comparative performances. This led to comment on the fight taking place in the UK, as opposed to the US, with Marshall poking fun that Shields couldn’t sell tickets in the US, the American then sarcastically responded “If it was up to her she’d be fighting in her hometown, Newcastle” and added “I’m the GWOAT (Greatest Women of All Time), nobody knows you”.

After a glowing commentary of his fighter by Dmitriy Salita (Shields manager) it was left to Marshall’s trainer Peter Fury to bring some semblance of tranquility and rationale to the proceedings. “Clarissa is a top fighter….this fight is the best women’s fight of all time….the only two in this division on a collision course….it’s gonna be a hell of a fight – it’s a 50/50 fight”. Ben Shalom added, September 10 would be “A historic night for the whole sport”.

It was finally left to both fighters to give their predictions;

Shields “On September 10 you’re gonna see a very exciting fight, I see myself coming out on top (by) knockout in 8,9 or 10”.

Marshall “I win this fight from heart and my boxing brain” and added “See you on September 10 babe !”.

Chief support to this event will be another female grudge match between American’s Mikaela Mayer and Alycia Baumgardner who face off in a world unification fight in the 130lb division.

The fights will also be shown in the US on ESPN+ and promoted in association with Top Rank Inc. Ones to watch out for no doubt.

The Monday LunchBox

Heavyweight contender Joe Joyce racks up another victory.
Photo courtesy: Queensberry Promotions

British heavyweight Joe ‘Juggernaut’ Joyce cemented his place high in the world rankings with an emphatic fourth round stoppage of Christian Hammer at the Wembley Arena, London on Saturday.

Joyce (14-0, 13 KO’s) bludgeoned his way to victory despite leaving himself exposed to heavy overhand rights from the German-based Romanian, and sometimes looking devoid of any defensive skills or self preservation. The Londoner has never been the most elusive of fighters and this is compounded by his sometimes robotic style. However, give credit where it’s due, he got his man out of there and emphatically at that.

The Rio Olympic silver medallist dropped Hammer four times en route to victory with sickening body shots before referee Victor Loughlin called a halt to proceedings after 1:20 of the fourth stanza.

Whilst it lasted, Hammer (27-10, 17 KO’s) was game and after gaining early success from heavy overhand rights detonating high on Joyce’s head he took the fight to the Londoner. There were moments in the opening eight minutes where sitting ringside you thought there might be a tremendous upset here, but Joyce dropped Hammer with a left hook to the body before the bell in the third and the Romanian began to unravel. He was up on the count of eight and saved from further punishment by the bell. Whilst Hammer re-grouped between rounds Joyce came out with almost a look of relish to finish the contest scoring further knockdowns.

The 36 year old Londoner remains in pole position for a crack at the fighter who emerges from the Usyk/Joshua/Fury triumvirate. Currently ranked #1 by the WBO he is the mandatory challenger for the winner of the Usyk/Joshua rematch being held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on August 20. The boxing future of Tyson Fury remains uncertain but a return is expected and Joyce is well ranked with the WBC to face him.

Joyce on this showing has the power to win any contest against any of the above should he land his bombs first, but to be victorious the next six months will undoubtedly need to be focused on his defence. His standing is improving with every contest and the key will be to keep him active. Despite his limitations he’s a good watch and the next few years are sure to be entertaining.

Performance of the night was delivered by South African super-bantamweight Zolani Tete who stunningly knocked out Britain’s Jason Cunningham 0:34 secs into the fourth round.

Going in, there were doubts whether Tete, a former double-weight ‘world’ champion, had at 34 seen his best days and after having a lengthy period of activity. However, from the opening bell he was on point, flashing out his quicksilver jab from a southpaw stance and dominating the early exchanges. Cunningham struggled to get any success in the first nine minutes and looked tentative throughout.

The stoppage early in the fourth was sensational with a straight left dropping Cunningham shortly after the opening bell, and although the Englishman was up on the eight count, Tete jumped on him and after a dozen unanswered punches poleaxed him. Cunningham fell heavily to the canvas and referee Howard Foster waved it off immediately. There were a few moments of concern as the loser received extended medical attention and Tete to his credit delayed his celebrations. Cunningham recovered some minutes after and the South African team eventually joined in an emotional victory hug.

The win brings the classy Tete (30-4, 23 KO’s) right back into world title contention. Cunningham drops to 31-7 (7 KO’s).

There were also impressive wins for Portsmouth’s Mark Chamberlain (11-0, 7 KO’s) defeating tough Spaniard Marc Vidal unanimously on points to gain the IBF European lightweight title, plus welterweight Micky Burke Jr, super-lightweight Henry Turner and promising cruiserweight Tommy Fletcher on debut. The Queensberry promoted card was an excellent watch with a number of competitive fights.

Performance of the weekend on the world stage was Australian southpaw Jai Opetaia (22-0, 17 KO’s) winning a unanimous decision against Latvian Mairis Briedis (28-2, 20 KO’s) to gain The Ring magazine and IBF world cruiserweight championship. The Aussie came through a broken jaw in the fight and is now the man to beat at 200lbs.

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

The Weekender

Heavyweight contender Joe Joyce towers over Christian Hammer.

Top of the bill tonight is the international heavyweight clash between Britain’s Joe ‘Juggernaut’ Joyce and German-based Romanian Christian Hammer.

The Queensberry card at Wembley Arena, London will pit the world ranked and Rio Olympics silver medallist Joyce (13-0, 12 KO’s) against heavyweight gatekeeper Hammer (27-9, 17 KO’s). Londoner, Joyce, is highly ranked by all world sanctioning bodies but not fought since July 2021 in winning against Carlos Takam by sixth round stoppage. However, he’s ideally placed once the shakeout of the Oleksandr Usyk, Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury triangle reaches conclusion, being in pole position to face the winner. Now 36 years old, Joyce doesn’t have much time to cash in but a win tonight is essential to maintain momentum and that championship aspiration.

Hammer, 34, has fought in good company, going eight rounds with Tyson Fury in 2015 and facing Cuban heavyweight challenger Luis Ortiz and Rio Olympic gold medallist Tony Yoka in recent years. In all these contests he’s come up short, but the fact the matches have been made shows his level. He’s normally durable but limited.

The heavy hitting Joyce, at 6’6″ and having a solid jab, should make good use of these advantages and make easy work of Hammer. We expect a stoppage around the fourth.

The card also features an interesting super-bantamweight contest between Britain’s Jason Cunningham (31-6, 7 KO’s) and South Africa’s former two-weight world champion Zolani Tete (29-4, 22 KO’s). Cunningham is the current European champion at 122lbs (8st, 10lbs) and Tete trying to rebuild after being stopped early by John Riel Casimero in 2019. We see this going the full distance and Cunningham likely eeking out a close decision victory.

The card will be shown live in the UK on BT Sport from 19:00 BST and main event on ESPN in the US.

Enjoy your fight night.

The Monday LunchBox

‘Canelo’ Alvarez (left) and ‘GGG’ Golovkin (right) renew hostilities.

An intense Los Angeles staredown signified the official renewing of hostilities between Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin in lead up to their third and much anticipated ‘superfight’.

The contest, to be staged at the 20,000 seater T Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 17, will pit the undisputed super-middleweight (12st/168lbs) champion in Alvarez, against Golovkin the unified middleweight (11st,6lb/160lbs) champion. The bout will be held in the higher weight class.

This match should favour the 31 year old Mexican, Alvarez (57-2-2, 39 KO’s) having recently fought at 12st, 7lb (175lbs) in a losing effort to Russian Dmitry Bivol and campaigning regularly at super-middle. Kazakhstan’s, Golovkin (42-1-1, 37 KO’s) has never fought outside the middleweight division but, having just turned 40 years, the time looks right to put on the additional poundage and step up.

The trilogy contest is in the top three most anticipated contests in world boxing, and for a long time looked liked it wasn’t going to happen as Canelo sought out other options to cement his legacy. GGG was left to mop up the middleweights which he’s done successfully coming off a recent unification victory against Ryota Murata in Tokyo.

Canelo, until the Bivol defeat, was largely accepted as the pound-for-pound #1 in the sport. The pack has been re-shuffled and he must stake a claim again. GGG will aim to set the record straight after not having officially beaten the Mexican in their two earlier contests. He was widely viewed as the victor in their 2017 meeting but had to accept the judges calling the contest a draw and then lost a wafer thin majority decision to Canelo a year later.

Friday’s press conference picked up where the hostilities had ended. It was their first face-to-face meeting since their last fight in 2018 after barbs had been exchanged on social media in the intervening years.

The initial face off was something to behold. Lasting close to three minutes with neither fighter breaking their stare, before they responded to media questions. Canelo, first up, said “It’s personal for me, because he talk(ed) a lot of things, I just can’t wait to be in the ring”. Continuing “He’s two different people…he’s an asshole…he talks a lot of s**t”…KO is the only way I want to finish this fight”.

GGG in response, was more circumspect “I don’t think it’s personal, I think it’s a sport”. Continuing “If he has something against me that’s fine…I’m confident in order to have your hand raised you have to do a lot”.

The fight is a matter of months away but will bring an end to a magnificent collection of fights at the same venue, with the true 160-168lb champion of this generation being crowned.

Highlight of the weekend in the UK was seen in Coventry, England on an excellent night of boxing shown on Sky Sports. The BOXXER promoted event packed in solid back to back contests but the star of the show was junior-welterweight (10st/140lbs) prospect Adam ‘Assassin’ Azim (5-0, 4 KO’s) as he stopped Belgian Anthony Loffet inside 35 seconds by TKO.

There were also big wins for Sam Eggington decisioning previously undefeated Pole, Przemyslaw Zysk at super-welterweight, for Dylan Cheema at lightweight in outpointing tough Stu Greener and, female Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist Kariss Artingstall impressively winning on her professional debut.

Meanwhile over in the US, Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez stopped former champion, Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, to defend his WBC junior-bantamweight (115lb/8st,3lbs) title in a stunning eighth round TKO victory. He certainly looks one for the future in this stacked division and likely beyond.

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

The Monday LunchBox

Artur Beterbiev celebrates after defeating Joe Smith Jr. in New York City.
(Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Beterbiev v Smith Jr. – Five things we learned:

  1. The Russian is the complete package – We knew going into Saturday’s contest that Artur Beterbiev was an elite fighter with frightening knockout power and a mystic demeanour that caused his competitors to seek alternative routes to titles. Even the former #1 pound-for-pound king Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez chose to fight what he considered the lesser 175lb champion in Dmitry Bivol. This may not be the case, but a sign of the intimidation Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KO’s) exudes. The way he took the first few minutes to cautiously see what Smith Jr. had to offer, and having done that, just before the bell unleashed a devastating right high on the American’s head to drop him for the first time was scintillating. His follow up in the next round to systematically take apart Smith Jr. with two quick knockdowns, including a big right uppercut to end the fight on 2:22 was spectacular. This was all from a suggested slow starter. We’ve seen Beterbiev struggle early in fights, seen him dropped by fringe contenders, seen him with horrific cuts, but we’ve seen him knock out everyone who’s has been in a professional ring with him. The Russian showed on Saturday that he’s a force to be reckoned with and it will take an excellent fighter to beat him.
  2. Smith Jr. chose the wrong game plan – ‘The Common Man’ was just too brave and confident for his own good. The decision to meet Beterbiev head on from the opening bell proved to be a suicidal one. Why would you do that ? Confidence, arrogance or maybe sheer nerves. Beterbiev seemed to have intimated Smith to such a degree that he lost all sense of a strategy that allowed him to work his way into the fight – almost a kill or be killed. True, it allowed Smith to navigate nearly three minutes of the contest but this tactic was doomed to failure. The Russian’s punches from very early in the contest seem to shake Smith to his boots, as soon as the first big one detonated the strategy should have changed.
  3. The 175lb division is hot – Six weeks ago we saw Dimtry Bivol put in a career best performance in beating Canelo. Although we knew how good Beterbiev was, the Bivol win somehow placed doubts on the former’s credibilility as the light-heavyweight heir to the throne. What Saturday confirmed is that this is one hell of a weight division. All of sudden there is not just a fight for undisputed status, but a potential ‘superfight’. This is backed up by a list of excellent contenders – Yarde, Callum Smith, Buatsi, Gilberto Ramirez to name a few. We could be seeing a return to the historical battles of the 1980’s featuring Spinks, Saad Muhammad and Braxton/Qawi. That would be mouthwatering.
  4. Beterbiev v Bivol is a fight for Russian supremacy and a pick ’ems – A combined record of 38-0 (29 KO’s), Bivol at age 31 and Beterbiev at 37, both elite amateurs, both coming off the back of their best ever victories and both looking indestructable. What more could you want ? Given what’s happening on the world political scene at the moment it is questionable whether a professional prizefight between two Russian’s should be taking place at all, but it is an intriguing matchup. This is going to a massive one to call if it’s up next. Do you go for Beterbiev’s, what looks on record to be superior power, or do you go for Bivol’s destructive jab and sublime boxing skills. Plus the fact that Bivol is coming off the back of a stand out win against a future hall of famer. This could be one for the ages which will certainly determine Russian fistic supremacy.
  5. Mandatory obligations continue to suck – No soon had Beterbiev gathered the WBO strap that there was talk of fulfilling his mandatory obligation to meet Anthony Yarde. As worthy as the Brit’s challenge is, having just come up short against Sergey Kovalev in an earlier WBO challenge, the fight we now all want to see is against Bivol. In victory Beterbiev summed it up in his post fight interview “Unification fights is more intensity, is more motivation. I prefer unification”. We don’t want unification, per se, as that legitimizes the sanctioning straps. We want to see the best fight the best, and, as early as possible in their prime. The path is set for Beterbiev-Bivol to fulfil this, and Yarde should take the winner further down the line.

Also on the Top Rank card there was also an excellent win for double Olympic champion Robeisy Ramirez (10-1, 6 KO’s) in knocking out previously undefeated Abraham Nova (21-1, 15 KO’s) in the fifth at featherweight. The left hook that settled the contest was spectacularly delivered out of Ramirez’ southpaw stance and after an earlier career setback the Cuban is back on track for world honours.

In the UK, there were good victories for heavyweight Nathan Gorman (19-1, 13 KO’s) and welterweight Josh Kelly (11-1, 7 KO’s) on the Wasserman Promotions card in Liverpool. Both look to move onto title contention. Gorman’s only loss is to fellow Brit Daniel Dubois who gained a WBA title in the USA last weekend and a rematch there may be in his future.

The weekend also confirmed the rematch date for Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua set for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia as 20 August. This will be for the Ukrainian Usyk’s world heavyweight titles. Tyson Fury remains The Ring magazine champion.

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

The Weekender

Artur Beterbiev (left) eyes Joe Smith Jr.
Photo courtesy: Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images

Fight of the weekend is the big light-heavyweight (12st 7lb, 175lbs) unification contest between Russia’s Artur Beterbiev and American Joe Smith Jr at Madison Square Garden, New York.

The contest will be held in the smaller Hulu Theatre of the ‘big house’, but that doesn’t detract from the quality of this match up.

Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KO’s), brings in a formidable record which has seen him win the WBC and IBF titles in an almost imperious rise to the higher eschelons of the division. He is a methodical, break you down fighter, with devastating finishing power in either hand. However, with a lengthy and elite amateur career and, at 37, time is running out for him to cash in on his undoubted quality and a potential ‘superfight’ with undefeated fellow Russian Dmitry Bivol, the current WBA champion.

Bivol’s standout victory against Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez earlier this year has set him atop of the division in most fans and observers eyes, and all of a sudden Beterbiev is now playing catch-up. The imposing Beterbiev was considered the best of the bunch until Bivol’s shock victory.

A fight between the two Russian’s is much anticipated to finally establish the divisional king, and potentially one of the best match ups in boxing. But, first Beterbiev must come through Smith.

Smith Jr (28-3, 22 KO’s), holds the WBO title and impressive victories against hall-of-famer Bernard Hopkins, and contenders Eleider Alvarez and Maxim Vlasov, the latter against whom he won the belt.

At age 32, Smith’s been in big fights on big cards and this is his real opportunity to shake up the division and pave his own way to Bivol. Going by the nickname of ‘The Common Man’, which he inherited from a pre-fight slur by Bernard Hopkins, the affable American is the epitome of a blue collar fighter; from a working class community with a passionate local fanbase. This will be a local fight for him coming from Long Island, New York.

Smith’s style is one of immense bravery with a strong work ethic, backed by good skills. He’s so far got the maximum out of his strengths and will not be found wanting when the fight gets in the trenches. His record, heart and credible skills are to be respected.

Beterbiev, a family man, originally from Chechnya, is the one with elite pedigree having won amateur world titles and fought in Olympic Games. So far, he’s taken on and broken down all challengers and is nicknamed ‘The Beast’ due to his ruthlessness and imposing demeanour. He does though have a tendency to start slowly and has suffered from cuts in recent fights, but always found a way to win. His 100% knockout record is the finest in the sport.

It’s quite possible that a major upset could happen if Beterbiev is looking too far ahead and his miles on the clock all of a sudden start to show. However, there’s no evidence of this yet and it’s difficult to see anything beyond a victory for the Montreal-based Russian.

We expect a win for Beterbiev by stoppage in an attritional fight by the eleventh round. Then it’s onto Bivol and that contest for all the baubles.

The fight and card is promoted by Top Rank and will be shown on Sky Sports in the UK (2am Sunday) and in the US on ESPN.

It will also feature Olympic champion Robeisy Ramirez against Abraham Nova at featherweight .

Enjoy your fight weekend.