The Monday LunchBox

Lightweight star Ryan Garcia sinks a final left hook to Luke Campbell.

A Star is Born

Social media sensation Ryan ‘KingRy’ Garcia scored a devastating seventh round stoppage of 2012 Olympic gold medalist and double world title challenger Luke Campbell in Dallas, Texas on Saturday.

Arriving in the ring on a throne carried by his entourage with a mock crown (ala ‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed) the Golden Boy Promotions backed 22 year old entered the contest as the next ‘big thing’. He certainly needed to back up such an extravagant entrance, and that he did, with aplomb.

Garcia (21-0, 18 KO’s) showed all the class and his ‘cojones’ to rise from a second round knockdown to take the fight to his British opponent. Walking his man down he won most of the completed rounds as Campbell tried to pick his man off out of a southpaw stance. The Brit from Hull, NE England worked well off the ropes with lateral movement, scoring heavy body shots and counter overhand hooks, but apart from the knockdown never really dented the young Californian’s confidence.

Much had been questioned and expected about Garcia’s first step up to championship level with the ‘interim’ WBC lightweight belt on the line. In turning a fight around, that for moments in the second he was in serious trouble of losing, showed the young pup has substance as well as style.

After the initial shock of the knockdown he quickly rose and gathered his composure to largely dominate the fight. In the mid-seventh round he landed a beautiful left hook to Campbell’s ribcage, robbing his opponent completely of oxygen and although the Brit tried to gather himself before the ten count, was rendered unable. The stoppage was officially recorded at 1:58 seconds.

In the DAZN post-fight interview Garcia was ecstatic with his performance and to come through his first real test. “I think I showed a lot of people who I really am”. Responding to being knocked down in the second he said “It was a good shot, I was cold…I’ve never been dropped before”. And continued “I was a little dizzy, I ain’t gonna lie”.

Much of the interview focused on the stacked lightweight (135lb/9st 9lb) division and future opponents. Despite continuous prompting towards meeting WBC ‘world’ champion Devin Haney, who was ringside and jovially stood face to face with the Californian, it was clear that Garcia’s attention is on undefeated Baltimore fighter Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis. “I wanna be a man of my word, I wanna fight Tank” he declared.

That would be a massive test for Garcia after only twenty one pro fights and, as Davis is a strong polished fighter coming off a good recent KO win against Leo Santa Cruz, but on this performance is a fight the young star should go into with some confidence.

Current Ring magazine lightweight champion and recognized divisional king is Teofimo Lopez by virtue of his outstanding victory over elite ex-champ Vasiliy Lomachenko last October.

Our view is it’s about time the lightweight division started to clean up its act with interim and fringe champions. Only a four fighter box-off will truly establish who is the best of these young guns but the prospects are mouthwatering. Promotional ties and sanctioning obligations will make this difficult, but hopefully 2021 will deliver something that clears the fog.

Garcia is now well placed in the mix and due to his high social media following has the steepest trajectory to stardom. The little matter of training in the same gym and being mentored by current pound-for-pound king Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez bodes well for his elevation.

The 33 year old Campbell drops to 20-4, 16 KO’s and must now focus on domestic dominance if he wants to rebuild. He’s accomplished a lot, both amateur and pro, and now is the time to re-assess whether and how he continues in the sport.

In the co-main event Venezuela’s Roger Gutierrez gained revenge over Nicaraguan Rene Alvarado to win the WBA world super-featherweight (130lb/9st 4lb) title. This was a rematch and after dropping his opponent twice in the third and once in the final round Gutierrez won by identical scores 113-112 on a unanimous decision. It was a very competitive fight and Alvarado had good moments making it a good watch.

The victory was particularly sweet for the new champion as his mother sadly died from cancer in November 2020. A fitting tribute to her life as her son reached this pinnacle of achievement.

British boxing on hold

News yesterday from London is that due to the latest spike in COVID infections in the UK that all boxing has been suspended for the month of January. There will be no promotions held and this will deal a further, but ultimately necessary, temporary blow to the sport. We must all hope that February will see brighter times ahead.

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

The Weekender

Japanese bantamweight Daigo Higa roars in the New Year.

A Happy 2021 to all our readers.

What a brilliant fistic end in Tokyo, Thursday (31st) to a forgettable 2020 around the world.

We saw a superb contest between Japan’s four-weight ‘world’ champion Kazuto Ioka and compatriot Kosei Tanaka. The latter attempting to match the achievements of his more experienced opponent. It was billed in Japan as their 2020 ‘superfight’ and definitely didn’t disappoint.

Broadcast live in the UK on subscription channel Boxnation it was riveting and highly competitive from the opening bell. Tanaka forced the pace immediately with the older Ioka slipping and countering beautifully. Ioka, the WBO ‘world’ super-flyweight (115lb/8st,3lb) champion having felt his opponent’s power, worked out his range and gradually proceeded to push the younger Tanaka back, meeting him toe-to-toe in ring centre.

After very bruising and close early rounds, Ioka then flipped the whole dynamic of the fight by scoring brilliant knockdowns from explosive left hooks late in rounds five and six. The landed like exocets on the challenger’s chin, sending him to the canvas, but short of their incendiary content to close the show.

After rising from both, in the seventh, Tanaka clearly sensing he was way behind on points, tried to continue backing up his opponent, but this led to his inevitable and devastating downfall.

Ioka, carrying the moniker ‘One for all, All for one’ on his apparel and pressing like a ‘Far Eastern musketeer’, responded to Tanaka’s relentless pace early in the eighth, and mid-round, nailed his opponent for a final time with a textbook left hook, shaking him to his foundations. The referee stepped in as soon as the punch detonated on Tanaka’s chin and held the crumbling challenger up to halt proceedings, thus avoiding his seismic crash to the canvas.

Ioka (26-2, 15 KO’s) was sensational and can look forward to potentially lucrative paydays against other sanctioning beltholders Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada or elite contender Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. The 115lb division is red hot.

Tanaka drops to 15-1, 9 KO’s but is young and brave enough at 25 to come again.

In the chief support, former WBC flyweight champion Daigo Higa (17-1-1, 17 KO’s) dominated from the opening bell and, after 25 seconds of the fifth round poleaxed compatriot Yuki Strong Kobayashi to capture the WBO Asia Pacific bantamweight title.

This was the second ballistic finish to the night and Kobayashi finished on his knees but then lay prostrate on the canvas for some minutes after the stoppage. Attended by medics he eventually recovered and his record drops to 16-9, 9 KO’s. It’s unlikely he’ll compete at such an elite level again.

Higa, in his spectacular victory, confirmed he’s not washed up and has a bright future ahead in the highly competitive bantamweight (118lb/8st,6lb) division. A fight against compatriot and Ring magazine pound-for-pounder Naoya Inoue (20-0, 16 KO’s) would be mouthwatering and a blockbuster in the Far East.

All in all the Tokyo bill from the Ota City Central Gymnasium was a brilliant end to 2020 hostilities and a much added bonus to Christmas TV scheduling. Hopefully this year will lead to greater TV exposure of Japanese fighters on these shores.

‘Cool Hand’ Luke hits Dallas for third shot

First big fight of the New Year takes place in Dallas, Texas tonight (Saturday) with the much anticipated contest between England’s experienced Luke Campbell and Californian prospect Ryan Garcia in the lightweight (135lb/9st,9lb) division. Up for grabs is the ‘interim’ WBC ‘world’ lightweight title.

Campbell (20-3, 16 KO’s) is a 2012 Olympic gold medalist and two time world title challenger. After coming up short against future boxing hall of famer’s Jorge Linares and Vasiliy Lomachenko the 33 year old Brit will be looking to capitalize on the inexperience of the Golden Boy Promotions backed Garcia.

The 22 year old Garcia (20-0, 17 KO’s) is considered by many to be the next ‘big thing’ and with his Mexican heritage, KO percentage and style many liken him to a young Oscar De La Hoya. He’s also something of a social media darling and approaches this contest supremely confident of victory.

For Campbell this is likely to be his final opportunity to nail a ‘world’ title and although it’s widely accepted that Teofimo Lopez is the supreme 135lb champion, as recognised by The Ring, a victory would be some accomplishment for the man from Hull, NE England.

Garcia comes into the fight a 3-1 odds on favorite by virtue of his youth, explosiveness and potential. However, look for the superior boxing skills of Campbell to make this extremely competitive whilst it lasts. If, and it’s a big if, the Brit can manage to keep the fight at range and gain Garcia’s respect by landing solid shots ‘early doors’ then we could see an excellent contest. Garcia may win by stoppage early, although we think unlikely, but anything beyond eight rounds and Campbell should be crowned the new champion. He may though have to drop Garcia to seal victory.

The contest will be shown live at 23:00 GMT Saturday on streaming site DAZN.

The Best of British 2021

WBO world super-middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders

As we come to the end of this most difficult year let’s take a look at the current crop of elite British fighters. We present our Top Ten.

The British Isles boast five ‘world’ champions as recognized by the four main sanctioning bodies – WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO. Head of the pack, merely by virtue of holding three titles (excepting WBC), is London heavyweight Anthony Joshua. Making a successful defence earlier this month against his mandatory IBF contender Kubrat Pulev, the big 2012 Olympic super-heavyweight champion looks towards a massive unification fight (or fights) with fellow Brit and WBC title holder Tyson Fury. This is the biggest potential fight and event in the sport right now and has to be made in 2021.

‘Gypsy King’ Fury shocked the world in February by dethroning previously undefeated WBC champ Deontay Wilder. Having recently been crowned as The Ring magazine co-fighter of the year, to go with his recognition as the ‘Bible of Boxing’s‘ top heavyweight, he will enter any Joshua fight as the marginal favorite, largely on his widely considered superior boxing ability.

Britain dominates the heavyweights at the moment having the two kings of the division and with several other fighters possessing high world rankings (Dillian Whyte, Joe Joyce and more recently Daniel Dubois).

Scotland’s super-lightweight world champion Josh Taylor, the current holder of the IBF and WBA ten stone titles, is vying for top spot amongst the elite British champions. The Prestonpans southpaw is also recognised by The Ring as their champion. He made one defence of his titles in 2020 by bombing out Thailand’s Apinun Kongsong and satisfying his IBF mandatory obligations.

The ‘Tartan Tornado’ looks forward to the signing of a unification fight with WBC champion Jose Ramirez and should he be victorious will enter ‘superfight’ status with widespread options to cash in at either super-lightweight or seven pounds higher at 147 against a range of elite welterweight suitors.

Next on the log is open to debate but The Undisputed’s pick is IBF featherweight champion Josh Warrington. The Leeds man has been inactive through 2020, almost exclusively down to COVID restrictions being in place and uncertainty over longevity of the pandemic. He strives for a unification fight with Golden Boy Promotions backed Xu Can, the current WBA champion. This would be an intriguing contest with both fighters having low knockout percentages but excellent records. Warrington remains undefeated in thirty contests and the Chinese has lost two in twenty.

Close on the rails, largely by virtue of past achievements and him remaining world ranked, is Belfast junior-lightweight Carl Frampton. The Ulsterman has fought in elite company for the majority of his late career, gained world titles in two divisions (super-bantamweight and featherweight) and now seeks a third at 9st 4lbs (130lbs). If successful this would make him one of the most decorated fighters from the British Isles. Added to this is his being voted The Ring magazine fighter of the year in 2016, by popular consensus viewed as the highest honour in the sport.

Frampton faces a difficult challenge against current WBO champion Jamel Herring in early 2021 to solidify his status in the annals of boxing greats.

Next up is the enigma that is Billy Joe Saunders. Notoriously inactive, (although ironically he fought this month), incendiary social media blogger, but, with an undefeated record and the possessor of undoubted class. The Hertfordshire southpaw has beaten all-comers in a thirty fight pro career, some by total humiliation. In doing so he’s gained the WBO world middleweight title and is the current WBO champion at twelve stone (168lbs).

2021 has to be the year for Billy Joe to finally seal that big fight and fulfill the outstanding ability he possesses. Look for a fight to be announced against megastar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez or WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade in the New Year. His promoters Matchroom have a lot of wheeling and dealing to do, but one of these fights has to happen early next year whilst Saunders remains in his prime.

The four remaining fighters in our Top Ten are at various stages of their career, but although not world champions as we write, have the potential to make this possible in the foreseeable future.

One, Luke Campbell, could become WBC ‘interim’ lightweight champion this weekend when he faces Golden Boy Promotions backed Ryan Garcia in the United States. Campbell from Hull in NE England is a London 2012 Olympic champion and this will be his third, and likely final attempt at winning a ‘world’ title. He’s come up short in highly competitive fights against future hall of famer’s Jorge Linares and Vasiliy Lomachenko in recent years.

Against the 22 year old Californian with Mexican heritage, who is a noted puncher with 17/20 knockouts, the Englishman is again in deep, but his superior experience and undoubted skill set could prevail in Dallas on Saturday.

Callum Smith, the super-middleweight from Liverpool, has just come off a heavy loss (albeit a decision defeat) to ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. His accomplishments leading into that fight, gaining The Ring and WBA world 168lb championship, and the fact he lost to the widely accepted #1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world was no shame, and warrants his continued inclusion in the British Top Ten.

2021 will be a pivotal year for the Scouser (a native of Liverpool) and how he rebounds back will determine his position going forward. First, he must recover from a serious bicep injury sustained in the Canelo fight.

Other boxers filling the remaining places in the Top Ten are ‘works in progress’.

London heavyweight Joe Joyce is coming off a big stoppage victory against compatriot Daniel Dubois and now taken up a top three WBO world ranking. Should Anthony Joshua not defend against his mandatory contender in Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk (unlikely with a Fury fight pending), then Joyce is almost certain to face Usyk for the vacant title. Joyce at age 35 needs to make his moves quickly to gain world honours.

Manchester light-heavyweight Lyndon Arthur takes the number ten slot after his impressive split decision victory against WBO world title contender Anthony Yarde. The decision was highly disputed at the time by the Yarde camp but the future for Arthur looks bright.

Lyndon will likely be presented with a rematch against Yarde in the New Year which will show us whether the Mancunian can push on to European and world honours to support his current British and Commonwealth championship status. If not, look for Yarde to inherit this position and push towards a second world title shot.

Honourable mentions outside of our Top Ten go to cruiserweight Lawrence Okolie, light-heavyweight Joshua Buatsi, middleweight’s Liam Williams and Denzel Bentley, and welterweight Josh Kelly. Look for all to either capture a ‘world’ title or move through the rankings in the New Year. Add in come-backing heavyweights Whyte and Dubois, Yarde at 175lbs and an ever ready John Ryder.

To recap, The Undisputed’s British Top Ten are as follows:

  1. Anthony Joshua (heavyweight) 24 wins-1 loss-0 draws (22 KO’s)
  2. Tyson Fury (heavyweight) 30-0-1 (21)
  3. Josh Taylor (super-lightweight) 17-0-0 (13)
  4. Josh Warrington (featherweight) 30-0-0 (7)
  5. Carl Frampton (junior-lightweight) 28-2-0 (16)
  6. Billy Joe Saunders (super-middleweight) 30-0-0 (14)
  7. Callum Smith (super-middleweight) 27-1-0 (19)
  8. Luke Campbell (lightweight) 20-3-0 (16)
  9. Joe Joyce (heavyweight) 12-0-0 (11)
  10. Lyndon Arthur (light-heavyweight) 18-0-0 (12)

Please post any comments to my website should you wish to make a case for a different view. Have a Happy New Year all.

The Monday LunchBox

World light-welterweight champion Josh Taylor hoping to cash in on 2021.

The Undisputed offers its continued best wishes for the Christmas period, and for those of other religions and cultures, happy holidays and peace as we enter 2021.

2020 has certainly seen a challenging year for the sport of boxing following the lockdown and social distancing measures brought in worldwide as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak in the spring.

Events and fights planned were cancelled overnight, gyms closed and the regular battle rhythm of fight results and deals struck for future fights was severely affected. Promoters worldwide faced a major challenge to remain viable and satisfy the demands of their fighters and the television networks. Not to mention the insatiable appetite and demands of the fight fans.

The ingenuity of the promoters; in particular the main players of Matchroom and Queensberry in the UK, and Top Rank, Golden Boy and PBC stateside, ensured that some events were held in a variety of different and unique situations, predominantly behind closed doors. The major networks ably supported in these ventures and dates were rescheduled and fights transmitted. Other smaller promoters around the world, without the resources and network contracts, struggled to survive but managed to help keep the sport going.

The Matchroom ‘Fight Camp’, BT Sport studio and MGM ‘bubbles’ were prime examples of high profile new initiatives. This effort within the ever changing restrictions kept a small number of elite fighters in work and offered hope to contenders, prospects and journeymen who somehow managed to continue training in their own gyms or other makeshift temporary measures. Pictures of boxers training in parks and garages were a regular occurrence on social media throughout the year.

Back in January we entered the new decade with high hopes that some of the major fights we’d been thirsting for could be made. Whilst some great fights took place before lockdown and were held over the year (Wilder-Fury II, Baranchyk-Zepeda, Dubois-Joyce, Spence-Garcia, Smith-Alvarez) the COVID outbreak obliterated any prospect of the majority of the major fights happening.

The Undisputed chose five ‘dream’ fights in its LunchBox of 5th January 2020:

  1. Anthony Joshua v the winner of Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury II
  2. Errol Spence Jr v Terence Crawford
  3. Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez v Gennadiy Golovkin III
  4. Vasiliy Lomachenko v Gervonta Davis
  5. Dmitry Bivol v Artur Beterbiev

Regretfully non of these took place.

However, as we enter a New Year and with the prospect of the roll out of the vaccine to combat the scourge of the COVID pandemic we can hopefully look forward to a resumption of fistic hostilities and some of the really big fights, in some cases ‘superfights’, can be made.

Whilst all combatants are one year further into their prime, many of the above have fought once in 2020. All of those stated contests can still be made. Some will have been replaced by more attractive and lucrative contests as a result of new kids on the block, defeats or below par performances.

In the next LunchBox we will preview the Top Five fights for 2021. Some will be the blatantly obvious, but just as a taster for an optimistic year ahead they will be selected from the following:

  1. Anthony Joshua v Tyson Fury (heavyweight)
  2. Olexandr Usyk v Joe Joyce (heavyweight)
  3. Dmitry Bivol v Artur Beterbiev (light-heavyweight)
  4. ‘Canelo’ Alvarez v Gennadiy Golovkin III (super-middleweight)
  5. Errol Spence Jr v Terence Crawford (welterweight)
  6. Spence or Crawford v Manny Pacquiao (welterweight)
  7. Josh Taylor v Jose Ramirez (light-welterweight)
  8. Teofimo Lopez v Vasiliy Lomachenko II (lightweight)
  9. Naoya Inoue v Anyone (bantamweight)
  10. Roman Gonzalez v Juan Francisco Estrada II (jr-bantamweight)

2021 looks to be a great year for boxing. Over the next week we will explain why.

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

The Monday LunchBox

The fight that really matters anywhere between 160 and 168 lbs now stands alone.

Excellent legacy victories by Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez on successive nights over the weekend have reinforced that they remain realistically the only fighters who can beat each other in this current era.

Fans and experts may argue that other sanctioning belt holders have the style and youth to provide an effective challenge but these two have shown they will ultimately find a way to emerge victorious.

Both future Hall of Famer’s are tied by their class and experience, equally combative styles and, punches and chins to die for.

Boxing history will forever draw the Kazak and Mexican together by virtue of their dominance, but more importantly, the drama of their two contests to date. The first in September 2017 deemed a draw, despite Golovkin appearing to many a clear winner, and the rematch 364 days later that saw Canelo win a wafer thin majority decision 115-113, 115-113, 114-114. Both these contests were millennial classics, on par with Zale-Graziano in the 1940’s, or Morales-Barrera in the modern era, and a third meeting has to happen.

Given their COVID enforced layoffs for over a year both were quite frankly brilliant over the weekend. ‘GGG’ (41-1-1, 35 KO’s) scoring a seventh round stoppage of his mandatory IBF world middleweight title challenger Kamil Szeremeta, dropping him four times in the process, and looking as menacing as ever. ‘Canelo’ (54-1-2, 36 KO’s) ripping the WBA world super-middleweight title from Callum Smith by a unanimous 119-109, 119-109, 117-111 decision, and in doing so capturing the vacant WBC title and Ring magazine 168lb/12st championship.

Golovkin, the man from Karaganda, Kazakhstan, made boxing history by completing twenty one successful defences of a version of the world middleweight title, a record eclipsing Bernard ‘The Executioner’ Hopkins.

Canelo, the pride of Guadalajara, won The Ring world title in a third weight class becoming only the fifth man to achieve that feat. He joins the illustrious company of Henry Armstrong, Sugar Ray Leonard, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. He also became only the fourth Mexican to win titles in four weight divisions and only Julio Cesar Chavez stands alongside him in national admiration in the modern era.

Both fighters are surefire first time inductees into the International Boxing Hall of Fame on their retirement. But, what is more important to boxing fans is a settlement of the ongoing argument as to who is the greatest fighter.

There are many intangibles to factor in :- dominance in one weight class, ability to move through divisions and win multiple weight classes, quality of opposition, stoppage percentage. Add to that entertainment value and marketability.

In the latter case Canelo is the king and as a consequence is the man calling the shots, much to the frustration of Golovkin. The Kazak is 38 years old and reaching the twilight of his career, but all greats have one great fight left in them. The eponymous ‘Last Hurrah’. Evidence from Friday night in Florida shows GGG has a lot left in the tank still, but fighting Canelo is a different matter.

The Mexican post-fight on Saturday, following a performance in which he walked down a man for 36 minutes who was seven inches taller than him with a greater reach, undefeated record and respectable power, talked of fighting anyone, but the name of the Kazak never left his lips. He was prompted by his interviewer but it would appear GGG is not in his crosshairs. He believes he convincingly beat him in the second contest and has no desire for a third fight.

Boxing fans and media, whether they are Canelo or GGG converts, will demand that fight happens. The weekend’s happenings only showed that both fighters are dominant in their respective weight classes and the third defining fight must happen.

Whether the 30 year old Mexican holds out for another twelve months, collecting other sanctioning body belts and waiting for Golovkin to ‘get old’ remains to be seen, but for the sake of the sport and their ultimate legacies this fight needs to be made. And now.

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

The Friday Faceup

Promo courtesy of Canelo, DAZN and Matchroom promotions.

Strap yourself in for another potential fight of the year.

This Saturday sees another standout match to end the year with Mexico’s Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez taking on England’s Callum Smith in San Antonio, Texas for the unified super-middleweight (12st/168lbs) world title. Not undisputed, as there are a couple of other ‘world’ champions out there holding the IBF and WBO versions, but in terms of prestige this is for the super-middleweight championship.

The WBC regular and WBA ‘super’ version will be up for grabs, but more significantly, The Ring magazine 168lb championship.

The Mexican Alavarez (53-1-2, 36 KO’s) is the biggest draw and name in the sport right now (heavyweights aside) and has fought at the highest level for the last decade. He’s rated by The Ring as the pound-for-pound number one in boxing regardless of any weight class.

Callum ‘Mundo’ Smith (27-0-0, 19 KO’s) brings his status as The Ring’s super-middleweight supremo to the table and will fancy his chances against the elite Mexican who will be coming down from light-heavyweight to challenge the man from Liverpool, England.

Both fighters have done all asked of them to get into this position. The 30 year old Alvarez’s record shows him undefeated since losing to Floyd Mayweather in 2013, with two draws – one very early in his career. Since that clear points defeat to Mayweather he’s won versions of the world title from light-middleweight (11st/154lbs) to light-heavy; a full twenty one pounds higher.

In September 2017 and 2018 he had a couple of very close fights at middleweight with champion Gennadiy Golovkin, who’d been divisional lead for most of the previous decade. The first fight draw was hotly disputed, many thinking Golovkin won.

Smith, by comparison won through in the World Boxing Super Series in September 2018 to capture the Muhammad Ali Trophy and the WBA title from fellow Brit George Groves in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Since then he’s made two defences, the second in November 2019 being a unanimous decision but very competitive fight against John Ryder in Liverpool. His performance was disappointing but motivation may have been a contributory factor as he seeked the bigger fights.

The COVID lockdown left Smith, and his opponent, kicking their heels waiting for the restrictions to be lifted and big fights to take place. Alvarez also had promotional issues. The Scouser (native of Liverpool) finally managed to secure the ‘golden ticket’ after Canelo was released from Golden Boy Promotions and a settlement on his DAZN contract.

The contest presents two contrasting physiques and styles. The taller Smith at 6′ 3″ with the strong European jab lead against the more aggressive and compact Alvarez. The Mexican is seven inches shorter so that could be a major factor in the outcome. Both fighters chins have been shown to be strong, Canelo’s being regularly tested at the higher level of competition.

The Brit is known to be ‘big’ at the weight and his arrival on the scales will be interesting. Canelo having moved between weights will also be challenged to come in bang on in the lighter weight category after defeating Sergey Kovalev in November 2019 at 175lbs.

For Smith, also 30, the contest presents a massive opportunity to burst through the glass ceiling and become a multi-millionaire in the process. Should he defeat Canelo it would arguably be the biggest win for a British boxer overseas against a widely accepted pound-for-pound king.

The Mexican, should he be victorious, would further add to his iconic status in the modern era. Already a ‘shoe in’ for the Boxing Hall of Fame by virtue of his ‘world’ titles in four weight categories and some of the names on his resume, Canelo has claimed to take the highest challenges to cement his legacy.

A challenge to the top super-middleweight in the world is his next step and there is a likelihood in the eyes of this publication that it might be a step too far. Smith whilst posing a big target, particularly to the body, has the youth, firepower and boxing ability to win the bout by a late round stoppage. He will also be driven by the desire to avenge the defeat of his brother Liam to Canelo back in 2016.

Should the contest go the distance it is reasonable to assume that Smith will unlikely get the decision unless convincingly dominating the fight with knockdowns. Alvarez is the ‘house fighter’ in the Alamodome and it will take some effort for Smith to convince all in attendance that the titles deserve to come to the UK. The Brit and his camp will know this, and look for them to make a big statement.

The fight will be televised live on the DAZN streaming service (from this weekend available in the UK) and also transmitted on BBC Radio 5 Live in the early hours of Sunday morning at 4:00 GMT. It is available elsewhere worldwide on DAZN.

The return of GGG

Tonight (Friday 18th) sees Alvarez’s nemesis Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin from Kazakhstan defend his IBF world middleweight title against mandatory challenger Kamil Szeremeta in Hollywood, Florida, USA.

Golovkin (40-1-1, 35 KO’s) is, now at 38, reaching the twilight of his career and having not fought for nearly fourteen months is desperate to get the big fights in to cash in and secure his legacy. Another sure fire entry to the Boxing Hall of Fame on retirement, having made nearly twenty defences of his title before meeting Canelo, his power looks to be diminishing but he’s still a class act.

They say the last thing a fighter loses is his punch and the Kazak should register a further knockout against the game but light hitting Pole.

Szeremeta (21-0, 5 KO’s) whilst having an undefeated record has not really faced Golovkin’s level of opposition and unless GGG has regressed considerably in the layoff then should make a further successful defence. If the Kazak emerges with the victory, regardless of the outcome of the Alvarez-Smith fight, there will be a renewed clamor for the trilogy defining fight between Canelo and GGG.

In the eyes of many the score sits at one apiece, and not the first contest deemed a draw and Canelo victory in the rematch. If that third fight is to be made it will have to follow the events of this weekend for sure. Whether Callum Smith can derail that is though a distinct possibility.

The Golovkin-Szeremeta bout, promoted by Matchroom, can be streamed on DAZN in the USA and UK. Transmission will be in the early hours of Saturday morning UK time.

Yesterday’s weigh-in saw Golovkin tip the scales at 159.2lbs and Szeremeta at 159lbs.

The Monday LunchBox

Champ Anthony Joshua poses with Floyd Mayweather post-fight Saturday. Photo: Matchroom Boxing

First thing this Monday morning the video lines between the leafy surrounds of Brentwood, England and the more salubrious Las Vegas strip will have been gridlocked.  Any other business in the Brentwood area will have been frustrated in any attempt to get a connection if that were their, admittedly unlikely, chosen destination.

The line will, by all accounts been taken up by urgent and suggested well developed discussions between Matchroom Boxing and Top Rank Boxing Inc. headquarter’s. 

Also throw in Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions based in the equally green confines of Hertfordshire, England and the triangle of influence will have been complete.

The spark for this tripartite re-engagement has been the explosive outcome witnessed at Wembley SSE Arena on Saturday night in which IBF, WBA and WBO world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua literally blew away his mandatory IBF challenger Kubrat Pulev

In doing so after 2:58 secs of the ninth round, inflicting four knockdowns in the process, with an almost surrender in the third round when the Bulgarian turned his back on the champion, Joshua showed that his ‘mojo’ had returned. 

His devastating finish to the contest with a triple uppercut salvo dropping Pulev and then on the challenger’s rise following up with a ballistic right hand to close the show has given Matchroom the impetus to get on that phone and in their CEO Eddie Hearn’s words deliver “the only fight to be made in boxing”. 

That is disputable, certainly from a promoter who has a number of irons in the fire, most notably Callum Smith’s challenge to reputed pound-for-pound #1 Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez this Saturday in San Antonio, Texas, but it certainly will be “the biggest fight in British boxing history”.

The numbers in purse, gate and worldwide viewers will be staggering for the most anticipated heavyweight fight in over two decades between the unified champion Joshua and his domestic and world nemesis, WBC world heavyweight champion Tyson ‘Gypsy King’ Fury

Top Rank Boxing CEO claims it will be the “biggest fight since Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier in 1971”.  Some statement and challenge that.

Yesterday Hearn suggested the fight (or fights) could take just “a couple of days” to be finalised. Prior to Saturday it was claimed that negotiations had already taken place for a two-fight deal in 2021 in which we would clearly establish who is the better fighter.

Despite this optimism, so much has to be worked through – mandatory obligations and outstanding rematch clauses, purse split (rumoured to be 50/50 and usually the biggest stumbling block), venue and site availability, fight dates and broadcasting rights.  However, most importantly, even more so than purse, is that both boxers want the fight.  Fury took to social media moments after Saturday’s exhibition to proclaim he would knock Joshua out inside three rounds.

They both recognise that this is indeed the biggest fight in boxing and a ‘must have’ contest.  To say the whole sport depends on it is hyperbole and exaggeration, but it is dam right important. And has to happen.

2021 is when the fight should happen, rumoured to be late May with a rematch later in the year – obviously dependent on the first outcome and further shenanigans. 

When the two Brits face off in the ring, wherever, whenever, we will truly know the results of those telephone conversations this morning – but critically – we will know who the Heavyweight Champion of the World is and the first undisputed champion since 2002.  What we do know is he will be British again.

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

The Benefit of Distance

Champion Anthony Joshua makes his point by slipping his mask.

Yesterday’s heated weigh-in for the WBA/IBF and WBO world heavyweight titles to be contested at the SSE Wembley Arena between champion Anthony Joshua and challenger Kubrat Pulev in London, England tonight is nothing new in boxing. The recent history of paid fistic combat is littered with confrontational situations around the scales to either stoke the fires of an event to draw in the paying public, unsettle an opponent’s equilibrium or merely to exude a fighter’s own self confidence and strength. In some cases it’s all three.

It’s always difficult to read into such a confrontation and get a true perspective on the primary motivation and most importantly what effect this will have on the outcome of the fight. What we know is the hometown champion Anthony Joshua (23-1, 21 KO’s) and his Bulgarian challenger (28-1, 14 KO’s) are primed and ready to fight. We also know that despite the current social distancing restrictions in place that Joshua felt necessary to remove his mask and respond to Pulev’s goading. This escalated, and verbal exchanges continued for some minutes.

What we don’t know is whether come 22:00 hours GMT we’re going to see a fight from the opening bell or something resembling a stand-off for the early rounds, which ignites, or not, further down the stretch.

One very close former professional boxing friend of mine always resisted the temptation to bad mouth an opponent or engage in pre-fight verbal bravado. He explained “Why do you need to do any of that…you have twelve three minute rounds to truly show how you feel about them”. That in essence is why it’s usually a complete waste of time.

Look at any of the vintage weigh-in photos from the pre-heavyweight fights of the 1940’s and 1950’s – Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano et al – the total respect shown between the two fighters pre-fight. Those contests ultimately resulted in some of the greatest fights of all time.

We can guess and read various interpretations on what was said at Wembley yesterday. But, as the Americans fondly say “It’s all gravy”. Tonight both fighters will either put up, or shut up. The weights in a heavyweight contest are usually irrelevant, unless there is a significant differential, which in this case there is not. Both fighters looked trimmed; Joshua (240.8lbs) only four pounds over his last contest in December 2019 and Pulev looking a lean 239.7lbs, his lowest since 2009.

The champion has talked all week about adopting an “uncivilized” boxing mindset tonight. That, in itself is dangerous. Uncivilized and boxing success rarely go hand in hand. The essence of success in this sport is to ‘hit and not get hit’ through a controlled and well executed game plan.

However, that ‘uncivilized’ approach is where AJ’s core strengths lie. True, he was an elite amateur reaching the peak of the sport in the London 2012 Olympics, but Joshua is at his best when he goes at an opponent.

There is a view that the ‘street’ mentality of Joshua has been coached out of him. His early amateur career was typified by his explosiveness, albeit more controlled aggression as he moved up the levels. The Wladimir Klitchko fight in April 2017, the nadir of his professional accomplishment, and one of the greatest heavyweight fights of this century, was a case in point that when he forces the pace his raw strength, power and athleticism will prevail.

It is necessary to be cautious, to a degree, but viewers on the Sky Box Office platform and thousand or so lucky enough to be in the arena will be disappointed if we see another performance of patience and circumspect as witnessed in Saudi Arabia last December.

True; the important thing for the end game (a megafight with Tyson Fury) is getting the ‘W’ – but whatever his stock in the UK, and that is galactic, he now needs to show the world he is the ‘real deal’. A 39 year old Bulgarian top ten opponent, who admittedly is elite and waited three years for the opportunity, is dangerous, but is there to be beaten – convincingly.

Provided the champion combines his aforementioned mindset with some control The Undisputed sees Joshua stopping his brave challenger around the eighth stanza. It will though be interesting for as long as it lasts.

The Return of the King ?

Multi-titled heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua

Anthony Joshua is back ! The ‘AJ’ pre-June 1st 2019 in Madison Square Garden is back. The devastating defeat to Mexican-American monolith Andy Ruiz is now an aberration consigned to history and wiped from the collective memory.

The emphatic points decision in Saudi Arabia almost a year to the day that returned the WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight title belts to the amiable Londoner, has, by all accounts, returned us to the pre-New York AJ. Or has it ?

The evidence from the ‘AJ Channel’ on Sky television in the UK broadcast all week and, the advertising for pay per view, news updates, soundbites, social media blogs and reams written, all confirm to us that the AJ ‘roadshow’ is back.

What we saw in New York could also be a mirage or bad dream we are led to believe. Fact is, we don’t really know.

What we know is that Joshua had the fortitude and skills to comeback from a devastating defeat within six months, by executing a game plan against the same opponent who, literally ate himself out of the title.

The performance on that unseasonably rainy night in the Saudi desert last December was excellent, let’s not dispute that. But; we don’t really know if AJ is back until he defeats again a seasoned, skilled heavyweight with a genuine hunger for the title, rather than the contents of his refrigerator. Kubrat Pulev is that man.

The Bulgarian, at 39 is an ageing heavyweight. He is a slow heavyweight, but, one with an elite amateur record and the fundamental technical skills and battle hardness that comes with it. We saw a big man with a similar pedigree enter the Matchroom Fight Camp a few months ago and ‘ice’ mandatory WBC contender Dillian Whyte.

Kubrat Pulev is no Alexander Povektin, being significantly bigger and more ponderous but don’t say we haven’t been warned.

The Bulgar is a heavyweight with a solitary defeat on his 28-1 (14 KO) record, and that being six years ago to the last universally recognised heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko. A fighter admittedly Joshua spectacularly defeated in the twilight of the Ukranian’s career. That is the main comparison guide to this fight.

Anthony Joshua (23-1, 21 KO’s), at a younger 31 years, thankfully knows his boxing and the pedigree Pulev has. He knows he’s about to enter the ring with a big, slow heavyweight, but one that has waited three long years to feel the impact of his fist on AJ’s chops.

He knows that Pulev will only get this one last chance to be world champion and, whilst he doesn’t have a record of concussive power, after that night he endured in Madison Square Garden, Joshua knows that any heavyweight can flatten another.

If, Joshua can come through this first defence of his newly regained titles on Saturday night in the SSE Wembley Arena, London (which this correspondent thinks he will do) – then, we will really know that AJ is back.

We can then prepare for the year of hyperbole and public shenanigans to lead us to the ultimate ‘undisputed’ fight between AJ and Tyson ‘Gypsy King’ Fury. Hold your breath !