The Monday LunchBox

Canelo v Billy Joe aftermath

Five things we learned

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

The Friday Faceup

Can Billy Joe shock the world ?

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

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

The Englishman didn’t read the script.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can Billy Joe win ? Most definitely “Yes”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Monday LunchBox

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

Sunny shines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matchroom delivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Friday Faceup

Flyweights match up. Photo courtesy of Queensberry Promotions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Monday LunchBox

New British middleweight king Felix Cash

Britain has a new middleweight champion in Wokingham’s Felix Cash. In a superb display at the famous York Hall, Bethnal Green, east London on Saturday night (24th) the punch perfect Cash literally ripped the title from Battersea’s Denzel Bentley who was making his first defence of the 11st, 6lb (160lb) title.

Broadcast live on BT Sport the power punching Cash entered the contest with the Commonwealth title and a 13-0 (9 KO) record. Much was expected of the contest in the pre-fight build up, after Bentley had spectacularly won the title from Mark Heffron last November, and looked set for a long reign.

Cash dominated from the opening bell as Bentley struggled with his balance and was wobbled by a big left hook 30 seconds in. Cash was clearly intent on taking the fight to the slight looking Bentley and pressed to clearly win the first round. Bentley had a bit more success in the second as he regained his composure, arguably sharing the round.

Cash took control in the third and mid-round pushed Bentley to the ropes and landed a big right hand followed by four heavy consecutive blows in rapid succession to leave referee Victor Loughlin no option but to wave the fight over. The official stoppage was 1:24 of the third.

At 28 years old Cash has truly arrived on the world scene and looks set to break into the rankings. In the post fight interview he said “I stunned him in the first round and knew (it was) only a matter of time until I caught him again”. He went on “He wasn’t as awkward as I thought he was gonna be”.

Cash had brought to the ring a good amateur pedigree, being part of the Team GB setup and was making the third defence of his Commonwealth title. Asked what was next he replied “I want the third, I want to get the European”. In today’s era of splintered and fringe world titles that was music to the ears of the traditionalists. If he can keep the momentum gained from this spectacular victory then we’re in for an exciting few years of middleweight action.

Bentley’s record drops to 14-1-1 (12 KO’s) and should come again.

Chief support on the Queensberry promotion was the return of world ranked light-heavyweight Callum Johnson after two years of inactivity following his KO loss to current 12st, 7lb (175lb) king Artur Beterbiev. Johnson similarly blew away Bosnian Emil Markic inside two rounds. Official time of stoppage 2:30.

Now 35 years old Johnson (19-1, 14 KO’s) dominated the whole contest piling into his opponent from the opening bell. His cornerman Joe Gallagher emphasized the importance of Johnson pacing himself at the end of the first round but the Boston, Lincs man clearly wanted to get the job done and send out a statement to British and Commonwealth champion Lyndon Arthur (18-0, 12 KO’s) part of the BT presentation team on the night. This he did in spectacular fashion and the prospect of that and a potential domestic round-robin with come-backing Anthony Yarde is mouthwatering. Whoever emerges from that can rightly claim to have earned a shot at any of the champions in a red hot world light-heavyweight division.

WBA ‘super’ world champion Dmitry Bivol (17-0, 11 KO’s)defends his title in London this weekend on the Chisora-Parker undercard and will give observers a good view as to the depth of the division and skills of the current champions. This is a Matchroom Boxing promotion on Sky Box Office.

Other big news of the weekend was the imminent return of former undisputed world lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko (14-2, 10 KO’s) in Las Vegas on June 26 against Japanese contender Masayoshi Nakatini (19-1, 13 KO’s). Lomachenko has been out the ring since losing to Teofimo Lopez in October and his return is much welcome.

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

The Monday LunchBox

Conor Benn flexes his muscles at 147lbs.

Big Ben chimed, the music launched into The Fugees ‘Ready or Not’ and then shifted into ‘Dangerous’. You could be forgiven for thinking you were back in 1990 and the original ‘Dark Destroyer’ Nigel Benn was walking to the ring. But no, a new kid is in town, one that may even surpass the accomplishments of his famous father.

Conor Benn, rising star and now WBA continental welterweight champion has arrived. Reminiscent of his father’s destruction of Iran Barkley, the new ‘Destroyer’ completely demolished his opponent Columbia’s Samuel Vargas inside 1:20 at the Copper Box Arena in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on Saturday.

Going in; many rightly thought this was Benn’s first real test and some that he was in too deep, too early. Vargas entered the contest with a 31-6-2 (14 KO) record and having mixed in good company including Errol Spence Jnr and Amir Khan.

The 24 year old Benn, announced from his father’s old stomping ground of Ilford, Essex simply blew the Colombian away.

He looked a picture of pent up, twitching aggression during the ring announcements, in stark contrast to Vargas’ laid back, almost uninterested demeanour. You could’ve thought Benn’s nervousness was at the sudden realization of the challenge. Vargas had talked a good fight coming in, threatening to “break him down and take his soul”, amongst other slurs.

From the opening bell Benn took control and working off his excellent jab landed repetitive concussive blows shaking Vargas early. The jab was followed by pile driver right hands and an impressive array of hooks and uppercuts.

Benn’s shot selection and intensity was breathtaking and his 31 year old opponent never recovered from the onslaught. Referee Michael Alexander had no option but to wave the fight over as continual shots landed on Vargas with nothing coming in reply. Vargas look shocked by the stoppage and there was brief challenge but the stoppage was excellently timed and warranted.

The aggression shown in the fight by Benn continued into the post fight interview broadcast live on BT Sport in the UK. Clearly expecting a harder and longer contest he was still ‘smokin’ when being asked about the outcome. “Give me a proper test, get me Amir Khan” he belted out… “If he wants it, he can have it”.

Summing up his opponent he said “He was there to be hit…so I hit him”…”I’m just putting some respect on the name (Benn)…Give me Shawn Porter, Broner”.

On this evidence you couldn’t fail to be impressed. It was the performance that launched Benn into the mainstream and set welterweights on alert domestically and internationally. True, he only now has an 18-0 (12 KO) record but the manner of the victory will have put earlier critics on notice that this latest Benn is gonna’ ring loud over the next few years.

The difficulty now for Matchroom Boxing head Eddie Hearn is to find the matches that build on this outstanding performance and momentum. Referring to Benn in the post-fight interview he said “After a performance like that, how can you not get excited ?”.

Undoubtedly there are tougher assignments ahead but Conor Benn has arrived.

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

The Monday LunchBox

American Jamel Herring (left) retains his world junior-lightweight title.

In the end it proved to be one division too far.

Irishman Carl Frampton failed in his brave attempt to wrestle the WBO world junior-lightweight title from American Jamel Herring in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on Saturday (3rd April).

Referee Giovanni halted the contest on 1:40 of the sixth round after a devastating left uppercut had dropped Frampton. Rising on the count of nine the slick champion proceeded to pile on the pressure to cause Frampton’s corner to throw the towel in, much to the challengers contempt. Chief second Jamie Moore knew Frampton had given his all and saved him from any lasting damage. It was no less than the two divisional former world champion deserved.

The classy Herring took control of the opening rounds working off a fine southpaw jab which the Irishman was never able to get inside for any sustained period. Pre-fight there were mutterings of the champion being tight at the weight, carrying a 5ft 10in frame, but the consequences of this never came to fruition. With the exception of sustaining a cut over his right eye in the fourth round Herring was dominant throughout, also dropping his challenger with a ramrod straight left in the fifth.

Frampton’s big mistake may have been to try to box Herring from the outside early in the contest, feeling his way in and dipping under the jab looking for openings rather than immediately taking the fight to the American. He was far too tentative in the early rounds, perhaps being zapped by some of Herring’s earlier power shots, giving rise to this caution. This writer expected Carl to be the superior boxer on the night, certainly technically, but admittedly was way off the mark for as long as the fight lasted.

Both fighters were pure class throughout the pre-fight build up of this much delayed contest. This continued on its completion with the devastated Frampton immediately retiring from the sport in an emotional post-fight interview. He dedicated the fight to his recently passed first trainer Billy McKee and his future life outside of boxing to his family. Referring to Herring he said “I got beat by the better man, I really struggled to get inside him”.

Herring, understandably ecstatic responded in reference to his challenger “I’m honoured to share the ring with him”. He explained it had been an “emotional rollercoaster just to get here” after twice testing positive for COVID-19 in months leading up to the fight. The ex-US Marine went on to say he had plans to move up (to lightweight) but would remain in the 130lb (9st 4lb) division if (big) fights became available. The 35 year old’s record rises to 23-2 (13 KO’s).

On a performance level the night belonged to the American but Frampton left the sport on his shield, rising from two knockdowns (the latter at the count of nine) and always being competitive. He has completed a stellar career capturing divisional titles at super-bantamweight and featherweight and performing in the boxing meccas of Madison Square Garden, New York City and Las Vegas. Not to forget the magical nights on British shores when he took his first title from Kiko Martinez in the Titanic Quarter, Belfast in September 2014 and unified it in a hostile Manchester Arena against Scott Quigg in 2016.

Frampton is a fighter who never failed to enter the lion’s den to challenge for championships. Further witnessed by his epic two fight series with Mexican-American Leo Santa Cruz in the United States and unsuccessfully tacking Josh Warrington for the IBF world featherweight title in his hometown of Leeds.

He finishes with a record of 28-3 (16 KO’s), two divisional world titles and Ring magazine fighter of the year for 2016. Carl’s legacy is secured in British and Irish boxing and will remain an inspiration to aspiring fighters who emerge from the tough streets of Belfast and the island of Ireland.

Enjoy your well earned retirement and thanks for the memories.

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

The Friday Faceup

Cover courtesy of The Ring magazine.

Can ‘The Jackal’ make one last bite ?

Saturday night (3rd April) in the grand setting of Caesars Palace Bluewaters in Dubai, UAE and screened live in the UK on Channel 5 Carl ‘The Jackal’ Frampton attempts to make boxing history. He will meet ex-US Marine Jamel Herring for the American’s WBO world super-featherweight (130lb/9st 4lbs) crown.

So what, you might say. Well, this is it.. Frampton will aim to win a world title in a third weight class having won titles in the 122lb (8st 10lbs) and 126lb (9st) divisions. No fighter from the island of Ireland has done this in boxing history and very few from the British Isles – Croydon’s Duke McKenzie, Scotland’s Ricky Burns and Cornishman Bob Fitzsimmons over 100 years ago being the exceptions. This would be an outstanding achievement for the 34 year old Frampton and bookend a magnificent career.

The Belfastman boasts a 28-2 (16 KO’s) record which has seen him scale the heights of the sport. After a stellar 2016 in which he unified world titles at super-bantamweight and won the featherweight title in a New York dust up with Leo Santa-Cruz he was awarded The Ring magazine fighter of the year – the recognised highest accolade in the sport.

He was later to narrowly lose his title in a rematch with Santa Cruz and lose a domestic clash with former IBF world champion Josh Warrington. These are the sole defeats on his record having fought at the top table for close to a decade. A win tomorrow for Frampton would be exceptional but well within his capabilities.

Herring brings a 22-2 (10 KO’s) record into the fight having made two successful defences of a title won in May 2019. He also brings the experience of combat in several real warzones around the world having served as a US Marine.

The fight will pitch the right hand leading southpaw Herring with the orthodox Frampton, so; when fighting in close they will be mirror images in stance. However, most evident will be the height differential, the American at 5ft 10in is a good 5 inches taller than the Ulsterman. How Herring makes 130lbs is a mystery and his lankyness will immediately be apparent.

Frampton, as explained has moved through the divisions and this will be his first real test in the higher weight class. That may be telling but Carl has the elite experience that Herring lacks. True, he was the USA boxing team captain in the London 2012 Olympics but Frampton has fought in better company as a pro.

Both fighters have been inevitably delayed by COVID-19 with Herring in particular testing positive on two occasions but now fully recovered. Frampton has not been so unlucky but ring rust may be a factor for both. The champion last fought in September 2020 and the challenger in August. The period since has been marking time for both after a number of cancellations and venue changes.

Stylistically, Herring is known to work off his jab with lateral movement so will look to win the fight on the outside making rare sorties to engage when the opportunities arise. Frampton has trained as diligently as ever and will look to force the pace and bang away at the long torso of the champion. Carl, for all his aggressiveness is an excellent technical fighter and is unlikely to be outboxed by the American, so if he can get in close repetitively can get success on the inside.

With the champion at 35 years of age the challenger is 16 months younger but Frampton has been in more career ageing fights, the two wars with Santa-Cruz being good examples. Both went the distance with a lot of damage received on both sides. That should be the leveller in terms of comparative ring age and ability to cope in the championship rounds (11 & 12) should the fight go the distance.

In what promises to be an excellent contest between two elite operators, if forced to pick a winner The Undisputed considers the superior ring craft, experience and sheer desire of Frampton to prevail on a split points decision. Should Carl be successful he will join the pantheons of great Irish boxers and may even be considered the greatest. History beckons for The Jackal.

Stop press: Both fighters tipped the scales within the limit earlier today – Herring 129.4 lbs and Frampton 129.9 lbs. We have a fight.

Transmission on Channel 5 tomorrow starts at 22:00 BST. It is also on ESPN+ in the US.

The Monday LunchBox

Dillian Whyte lands a textbook left hook on Alexander Povetkin.
Photo courtesy of Matchroom Boxing.

Back in business

It’s been a long seven months for British heavyweight Dillian Whyte to reflect on what he got wrong in the Matchroom Fight Camp last summer. He knew the only way he could silence the naysayers and regain the momentum lost was to avenge his defeat to Russia’s Alexander Povetkin. This, he emphatically did in the foothills of the Rock of Gibralta on Saturday night.

In a hastily arranged rematch it took Whyte (28-2, 19 KO’s) a mere eleven and half minutes to wipe the slate and regain his lofty position to fight for the WBC heavyweight championship. Povetkin, the 2004 Olympic champion and two time world title challenger was never really in their fight, looking shaky on his legs from the opening bell, and finally succumbing to Whyte’s pressure and heavy blows on 2:39 of the fourth round.

It wasn’t really a story of Povetkin (36-3-1, 25 KO’s), who now at 41 must contemplate retirement, but more a story of how a fighter can recover from a single punch shock defeat, regroup and basically continue where they left off before receiving that blow. Over the four completed rounds Whyte had dominated their first fight and then got nailed by arguably the best single shot of 2020, a left hook cum uppercut. Coming into Saturday’s fight there were many who picked Povetkin to do the same, as rematches historically often go that way.

Whyte however knew in that seven months between fights that he was the better man and it had merely been a lapse in concentration resulting in the defeat. He still though had to prove it and the pressure on him would have been immense on entering the ring.

Ultimately his victory was emphatic and sent a statement out to the leading heavyweights and world sanctioning bodies. In the post-fight interview he cited the sacrifices made over the Christmas period to prepare diligently for the rematch. All time well spent.

Also how close he was to victory last time out “I was so close, and then one lapse in concentration and I made a mistake”. That “mistake” resulted in him losing his mandatory challenger ranking with the WBC. This week they should though do the right thing and re-install the Londoner to a position as their number one contender for Tyson Fury’s championship.

We know the biggest fight in boxing is due to take place sometime this year between three belt champion Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury, and that it may result in an immediate rematch. We also know that former WBC champ Deontay Wilder has not fought since losing to Fury early last year and has bitched and moaned about it ever since, not ever indicating his real desire to re-enter the ring. For this he should sacrifice his ranking and Whyte be re-installed.

Boxing politics will dictate when and where the 32 year old Londoner gets his shot at the title, but provided that “mistake” is not replicated in any unnecessary intervening fight, he should challenge the winner of the Joshua-Fury argument. This will likely be early 2022.

After fighting most leading contenders in the last three years Whyte deserves the rest and to watch others battle it out before ultimately being forced to face him. A retaining of his conditioning and desire over that period will be important factors but, don’t bet against him rising from the dust when it finally settles.

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

The Friday Faceup

Photo courtesy of Matchroom Boxing

Tomorrow night (27th March) in the shadow of the Rock of Gibraltar, the British territory off southern Spain, recent mandatory contender for the WBC world heavyweight title Dillian Whyte gets the chance to avenge his shock KO defeat last summer to Russia’s Alexander Povetkin. The winner will likely go on to fight for the world title currently held by Tyson Fury, the loser is unlikely to ever challenge for it.

In essence, this is a ‘crossroads’ fight that will determine the immediate, and likely ultimate, destiny of both boxers careers. It is essentially a fight that Whyte has to win to regain momentum and remain a contender. Povetkin is closer to the end of this impressive career than beginning and will seek to replicate his victory for one last shot at the world title following losses to Wladimir Klitschko and Anthony Joshua.

Below is a re-post of an article from September 2020 following Dillian Whyte’s original defeat where we considered what was necessary for him to be successful in the rematch.

Tomorrow we will find out.

The event promoted by Matchroom Boxing will be shown live on Sky Sports Box Office in the UK.

The Road to Recovery

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts” – Winston S Churchill

The sport of boxing in many ways is a metaphor for life. A long and glittering history is resplendent with heroic moments (Joe Louis’ victory for ‘good’ in spectacularly knocking out Max Schmeling in 1938, Muhammad Ali regaining the heavyweight title at 32 in the depths of the African jungle, Diego Corrales pulling himself off the canvas to stop Jose Luis Castillo in 2005, to name but a few).

Careers are marked and emphasized by peaks and troughs, losses and redemption (Roberto Duran’s destruction of Davey Moore in 1983 after the ‘No Mas’ humiliation) and; inevitably losses again.  Ultimately a defining, and maybe devastating loss, provides a suffix to a career that is on full consideration, either deemed a success or a failure of some sort.

Failures or losses, as in life, are part of boxing.  The important thing that defines a fighter at the end of their career is when this loss came, the manner and circumstances under which it happened, and most importantly, if and how the said boxer recovered professionally (or maybe sadly didn’t) from the loss.

A loss in early career can cause circumspection, self-analysis and the boxer to really consider whether the sport is for them. If a fighter is to persevere and resume their career there are good precedents to observe. The sport is littered with examples of when a boxer has lost their professional debut and then gone on to have an elite career, and in some cases ultimately end up in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Consider the careers of Alexis Arguello, Bernard Hopkins to illustrate this.

Some of the most difficult losses to deal with occur in mid-career, particularly when everyone expected you to win and move onto the next level or a title shot. This is what I wish to examine here.

A little over two weeks ago we saw British contender Dillian Whyte, after spending the oft quoted 1,000 plus days in the WBC sanctioning body’s mandatory position for a world title fight, lose in devastating fashion to Russian Alexander Povetkin. This followed hot on the heels of Anthony Joshua’s loss to Andy Ruiz in 2019 when he famously lost his multiple world titles.

Dillian, in his case was clearly ahead in the fight, dropping his opponent twice in the fourth round to then proceed to get knocked out by one devastating left hook-cum-uppercut around his guard in the following round.

This marked Whyte’s second pro defeat after coming up short against Anthony Joshua in December 2015 and rebounding over the intervening years to secure his mandatory contender status. The Brixton ‘Body Snatcher’ will know the risks and fragility of the sport but also the stark nature of the Povetkin defeat will reassure him that it was a one punch knockout, that certainly in the heavyweight division, can happen to the best of them. 

He will know that he was ahead in the fight and a momentary lapse of concentration gave an elite heavyweight (certainly by virtue of Povetkin’s amateur accomplishments and company mixed with as a professional) the opportunity to land the defining blow.  

Povetkin is no mug, but Whyte will need to re-group again to prove that the defeat is a mere ‘blip’ in his developing career.  In fistic terms the Brit whilst an elite heavyweight from recent competition and by virtue of his world ranking is still a ‘work in progress’ with a 27-2-0 (18 KO’s) pro record but no amateur career of note. Most of his skills have come ‘on the job’ and honed from early life across the streets of south London.

Rather like Anthony Joshua proved in avenging the Ruiz defeat, and Lennox Lewis before him on two occasions, a loss mid-career, whilst temporarily derailing progression, in many cases is not career defining. It is most likely Dillian has the fortitude and experience to believe he can avenge that defeat, regain the mandatory contender status and still fulfil his aim of gaining the world heavyweight title.

His strength of character as a boxer has not been in question before, rebounding in spades from the Joshua defeat, showing the resilience and skills to come through difficult moments in fights since, and also deal with the UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) allegations and WBC ‘politrics’ over the last year.

The most important considerations will be; firstly to secure the rematch (apparently there was a clause in the original contract so this is a given), the date and timing of the rematch, how he will plan to rectify the shortcomings that resulted in the defeat, and finally how his opponent enters the rematch.

Whyte has gone on record saying “I think Povetkin was more surprised he stopped me than I was”.  The impact of the victory on the 41 year old Russian could go one of two ways. It could serve as motivation to repeat the feat and fight again for a version of the world title, or it could lead to a complacency in preparation and on the night that a second victory is inevitable.  Look no further than Andy Ruiz conditioning and state of mind when entering the rematch with Joshua.

One would point to Povetkin’s amateur career and the discipline required to fulfil his potential there and that fact that his conditioning is generally top level, to illustrate that a Ruiz-like repeat is unlikely.  Dillian will therefore need to be sure to enter the rematch in the right frame, both in body and mind.

Whyte will know this. In the unlikely event of him not, his training team and the camp they engage in will emphasize this point. Once the rematch is secured good preparation should lead to a re-focus, the aforementioned self-analysis and a strategy being developed and ultimately executed that avoids him being felled by what appeared to be an opportunist punch, although there are some who consider this a planned strategic victory for Povetkin.

Dillian needs to look no further than the earlier stated Brits but also the courage and perseverance shown by Frank Bruno in the 1980’s and 90’s in coming back from devastating defeats on numerous occasions to win the WBC heavyweight title at a fourth world attempt in 1995.  Other examples in the biggest division could be illustrated by Floyd Patterson regaining the title from Ingemar Johansson in 1960, and even the greats of Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson who came back from highly publicised defeats to regain the heavyweight title.

The important distinction in this case is that Dillian Whyte has not fought for the title yet, he remains a contender, albeit one that has recently lost his number one status.  If all is reflected on, lessons learnt and strategy executed this contender can prove once again that “failure is not fatal”.