The Monday LunchBox

New world heavyweight king Oleksandr Usyk.

Hail to the King – 5 things we learned

  1. Oleksandr Usyk is a genuine heavyweight – the new champ was only two fights into the heavier division after unifying the world cruiserweight titles in 2018 and swiftly moving up. There were doubts going into Saturday’s contest whether he could carry his 6ft 3′ frame into combat with a genuine heavyweight in Joshua, conceding 19lbs. The Ukrainian proved without doubt that he could and is strong at the weight. His elevation is reminiscent of Evander Holyfield in the late 1980’s and he can now also be considered the ‘Real Deal’.
  2. Anthony Joshua’s flaws re-surface again – This defeat was different to his devastating loss to Andy Ruiz in 2019. Against the Mexican-American he simply got nailed and ran out of gas. On Saturday thoroughout much of the fight he was thoroughly outboxed. The challenger exposed the limited boxing experience the Londoner had in comparison to Usyk’s amateur grounding and a lifetime in the sport. Joshua has achieved remarkable things given he took up the sport relatively late but his inability to maximise his size and power and continually follow Usyk around the ring showed he still has a lot to learn. To his credit he is the first to admit it and has already taken up the challenge.
  3. Ukraine know how to make heavyweights – Usyk is the third champion to emerge from the former Soviet state since the fall of communism. He succeeds the Klitchko brothers (Wladimir and Vitaly) and it begs the question how many fighters have been lost from our attention as a result of the behemoth that was the Soviet Union. The United States has always been known as the home of the heavyweight but for Ukraine, a long hidden nation within a bigger superpower, this is some achievement. Add double Olympic champion and former undisputed lightweight champ Vasiliy Lomachenko into the mix and you have one of boxing’s finest nations.
  4. The fight was better than the hype – After a week long build up and saturation coverage in the UK on Sky TV we expected the second coming of the ‘Thrilla in Manila’. Rarely do fights live up to the hype, but this was a riveting contest throughout. For a fight that featured no knockdowns and was largely dominated by the excellence of one boxer, it had you tuned in until the final bell. Congrats to both combatants in their bravery and willingness to provide entertainment to the 67,000 live crowd and also the class they showed in victory and defeat.
  5. Usyk can become the lineal champion – the new champ emphatically showed he belongs in the ‘pound for pound’ rankings for the sport. Going in, he was The Ring magazine’s #4 fighter in this mythical ranking of the best in the business. He will surely move up a few slots on this performance, but more specifically he is now a genuine threat to WBC ‘world’ champion Tyson ‘Gypsy King’ Fury. The Brit has his own challenge to come through in two weeks – the trilogy fight against Deontay Wilder – no done deal. It has long been considered that Fury is the best pure boxer in the division and because of his size the man to beat, however Usyk will not be outboxed by Fury and now there is a genuine threat to the previously regarded ascendency to heavyweight coronation. It will be fascinating to see how it shakes down – enjoy the ride !
This weekly feature is to also raise awareness of the Ringside Charitable Trust.

The Weekender

Anthony Joshua shows some of the straps up for grabs.

On Saturday night (25th) the big men are back in London town.

England’s Anthony Joshua defends his WBA/IBF and WBO ‘world’ heavyweight titles against Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk. The fight takes place at a sold out Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, north London on a Matchroom Promotion. The event is being shown live in the UK on Sky Box Office and DAZN worldwide.

Both fighters are 2012 Olympic champions, in the super-heavyweight and cruiserweight divisions respectively, and both bring almost flawless professional records to the ring.

Joshua has a sole defeat to Andy Ruiz which he subsequently avenged in an immediate rematch in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in December 2019. Usyk previously unified the world cruiserweight titles before moving up to the heavier division.

The Ukrainian is ‘in deep’ having only his third fight as a heavyweight, but brings the superior amateur experience to the ring. Joshua at 31 only took up boxing a decade or so ago and his accomplishments over that time have been outstanding.

Usyk at 34 has an extensive amateur career fighting and winning around the world. Allied to his experience he brings a southpaw stance to the ring and an impressive 18-0 (13 KO’s) record. The Londoner has the higher knockout ratio in his 24-1 (22 KO’s) career and a wealth of big fight experience. This will be his eleventh ‘world’ title fight, all of them being before big indoor or stadium crowds.

Both boxers have fought for titles overseas and are used to the big occasion, however post-COVID lockdown the atmosphere tomorrow will be ramped up.

In Greenwich, London earlier today the champion weighed in at 240 lbs (17st, 1lb) and his WBO mandatory challenger at 221 lbs (15st, 8lb) – a career high. Both looked trim, confident and ready to do battle. The size differential was evident, but the three inches shorter Ukrainian did not look ‘too’ small or indeed blown up.

Although this is not the all-British heavyweight unification showdown everyone wanted – Joshua v Fury – it’s a match-up of the highest quality and there are many intriguing aspects pre-fight;

  1. Will Usyk be big and strong enough to compete with a fully fledged heavyweight champion ? For every Evander Holyfield, boxing history is littered with failures by lighter men moving up to the higher weight class. As the analogy goes ‘a good big un will beat a good small un’
  2. Has Joshua got the skillset to outbox a seasoned and clever southpaw ? Usyk’s style is not unique; being outstanding in one area, but he does everything good.
  3. Will Usyk freeze in a 62,000 hostile pro-Joshua environment against a hard hitting heavyweight ? Has he moved up too quickly and not fully tested the waters before taking on the hometown champion ?
  4. Has Joshua fully recovered from the 2019 knockout by Andy Ruiz in New York ? He’s regained his title and steadied the ship since that shock defeat, but Usyk has a good KO record and will certainly test the Londoner’s chin.
  5. Which of the two fighters has the better stamina ? Both have been known to ‘gas’ in fights – Joshua more alarmingly in the Ruiz KO, but more recently Usyk looked glad to hear the final bell against Dereck Chisora, one of his two heavyweight outings.

Ultimately success in boxing is about preparation, heart, guts and ring smarts. Both fighters have got to this level showing these qualities in abundance but The Undisputed believes this contest will be determined by the latter. It is conceivable that Joshua will blow the smaller man away in the early rounds winning by KO, but the quality of the Ukrainian and his knowing he can’t stand and trade with Joshua in the first 15 minutes will mean him adopting a cautious approach. The longer the fight goes on the more he will prevail and we see the title changing hands between rounds 9 and 11.

Then look for the scramble for the rematch and the domestic heavyweight fight we all want being further delayed, and possibly never happening. We would however like to be proved wrong.

The Monday LunchBox

Lauren Price celebrates Olympic gold
(Photo by LUIS ROBAYO/AFP via Getty Images)

Hail our Olympians

Over an amazing 16 days in Tokyo the medal haul of Team GB was significantly enhanced by the performance of our boxing team. The return of 6 medals (2 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze) from the 11 strong team surpassed all since the 1920 Olympics. Much of this is down to lottery funding and the now firmly established Institute of Sport in Sheffield, but more so to the dedication, resilience and individual performances of all involved.

Over the unprecedented five year cycle between Olympics and continual uncertainties caused by the coronavirus pandemic our boxers have kept their focus and delivered when it mattered. The consecutive golds won by Birmingham flyweight Galal Yafai and Welsh middleweight Lauren Price over the weekend were the icing on the cake for a spectacular team effort, ably captained by super-heavyweight bronze medalist Frazer Clarke.

The roll call of team performance reads:

Frazer Clark – super heavyweight – weight class 91+kg – bronze

Cheavon Clarke – heavyweight (91kg) – eliminated in second phase

Ben Whittaker – light-heavyweight (81kg) – silver

Lauren Price – middleweight (75kg) – gold

Pat McCormack – welterweight (69kg) – silver

Luke McCormack – lightweight (63kg) eliminated in first phase

Caroline Dubois – lightweight (60kg) – eliminated in quarter finals

Peter McGrail – featherweight (57kg) – eliminated in first phase

Karriss Artingstall – featherweight (57kg) – bronze

Galal Yafai – flyweight (52kg) – gold

Charley Davison – flyweight (51kg)- eliminated in second phase

This return was exceptional and those eliminated early ably supported their fellow team members to success.

The whole boxing tournament was a resounding highlight and success of the games. Refereeing was competent and consistent with very few controversial decisions, a rarity for Olympic competition. Only Frazer Clarke’s defeat of his French opponent in the quarter final on a disqualification and Karriss Artingstall’s loss to her Japanese challenger at the same stage had any whiff of controversy affecting British fighters. Across all weights the contests and results were highly competitive and fair.

The Cubans as usual excelled, taking 4 of the 8 medals available in the male classifications. Rio 2016 champions Arlen Lopez and Julio Cesar La Cruz stepped up in weight to gain a second Olympic gold. The US performed well with 3 silvers in Richard Lopez Jr (super heavyweight), Keyshawn Davis (lightweight) and Duke Regan (featherweight) and these will surely now turn professional with great expectation. Another highlight was Irish lightweight Kellie Anne Harrington winning gold.

Knockout of the tournament was Herbert Sousa’s come from behind left hook that floored Ukrainian middleweight Oleksandr Khyzhniak in the final minute of their gold medal contest. Seemingly destined for silver, Brazilian Sousa turned the fight around emphatically. Try to catch it on various re-runs. Spectacular it was.

Going back to Team GB, our two final losses were to exceptional Cubans Arlen Lopez and Roniel Iglesias, so no shame there. Ben Whittaker emerged as one of the characters of the games with his confidence and fan friendly persona. His desire to be Mayor of Wolverhampton drew much amusement. He will surely now turn professional and be a welcome addition.

Final word must go to our new Olympic champions – Lauren Price and Galal Yafai. They were both exceptional throughout the competition and worthy winners. Despite all the obstacles over the last 18 months they seized the moment and have firmly put British amateur boxing at the top of the tree.

Congratulations to all in Team GB Boxing.

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

The Friday Faceup

Can Lomachenko juggle his way back to a world title ?

After an exodus of eight months following his high profile loss to Teofimo Lopez, former unified lightweight champion of the world Vasiliy Lomachenko (14-2, 10 KO’s) returns this weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada.

He meets Japanese contender Masayoshi Nakatini (19-1, 13 KO’s) who extended Lopez to twelve rounds, losing convincingly in 2019.

For Lomachenko, a man who’s dedicated his life to the sport winning double Olympic gold and professional world titles in two weight classes, it was worrying to fans that we might have seen the last of this spectacular talent. Thankfully, Loma (aka The Matrix) now returns, hopefully to re-capture previous momentum and maybe a version of one of his former titles.

Lomachenko was disgusted by the unanimous points return (116-112, 117-111, 119-109) from the judges adjudicating in his October 2020 loss to Lopez and, after leaving the ring swiftly, later revealed a shoulder injury requiring immediate surgery and recuperation. His ring exit was similar to the indignation and contempt expressed by ‘Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler after his 1987 ‘defeat’ to Sugar Ray Leonard and some thought we might not see him inside the four ropes again.

Lomachenko, now 33, remains in the Ring magazine pound for pound ratings at #9 and still boasts a lightweight world ranking and 14-2-0 (10 KO’s) record. His skill set and physical toughness is beyond reproach but is now at an advanced age for the lighter divisions. Nakatini, a year younger, like all Japanese fighters will be tough and as a tall lightweight will provide Loma with plenty of problems.

In a way it’s the ideal comeback for Lomachenko; a test at just below championship level, against a boxer with a respected record who carries some kudos. If, as expected, the Ukrainian is victorious over the 12 rounds, and looks good, then he can expect a title shot next. Lopez may be looking onto bigger things after his self confessed ‘Takeover’ but there will be a clamour for a rematch.

The fight will be televised on Sky Sports in the early hours of Sunday morning (UK time) as part of their new deal with Bob Arum’s Top Rank organisation.

Also Saturday, in Atlanta, Georgia two divisional ‘world’ champion Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis (24-0, 23 KO’s) challenges Mario ‘El Azteca’ Barrios (26-0, 17 KO’s) for his WBA super-lightweight ‘regular’ title. That the undisputed champion in the 10st/140lb division is Scotland’s Josh Taylor further confuses the casual sports fan (and some boxing fans), but it is what it is.

In fact, it’s a quality match between two undefeated fighters. Both are ‘bangers’ but Davis should prevail in a tough, competitive contest. The Baltimore native registered the 2020 knockout of the year against Leo Santa Cruz and has the superior power and ring smarts to defeat Barrios. The likely outcome is a narrow points victory in a thrilling fight.

The contest will be available in the UK on the FITE streaming channel as a pay per view event.

The weekend highlights are capped by the appearance of quality WBC flyweight champion Julio Cesar Martinez against Joel Cordova in Guadalajara, Mexico. The fight is co-promoted by hometown boy and #1 pound-for-pound king Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in his new venture, and Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom.

Martinez (17-1-0, 13 KO’s) is being tipped for big things and in Cordova meets a fellow Mexican with 12-4-2 (3 KO’s) record. Whist you never know when two ‘hombres’ meet, this would suggest that Cordova is in deep and a convincing Martinez victory is expected.

The contest will be available on the DAZN streaming platform in the UK.

Take your pick of some quality action this weekend. Enjoy !

The Monday LunchBox

Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue
Courtesy of CBSSports.com

The phenomena that is Naoya ‘Monster’ Inoue successfully defended his WBA and IBF world bantamweight titles in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday.

The Japanese champion dispatched Filipino contender Michael Dasmarinas with a succession of hurtful body shots over the completed two rounds before landing the telling blow high to his ribcage after 2:45 of the third.

The first round was very much a feeling out round for Inoue as he assessed his opponent. He began to take control in the second dropping Dasmarinas for the first time and then sealed the deal with two knockdowns in the third. The champion landed 65% of his power punches to the Filipino’s 25%.

This was Inoue’s second showing in the US on a Top Rank card and further added to his developing resume. Already a three weight world champion and Ring magazine #2 in their pound-for-pound listings the undefeated Japanese looks set for superstardom.

Inoue raised his record to 21-0 (18 KO’s) with Dasmarinas dropping to 30-3-1 (20 KO’s).

In a busy weekend of action Jarmall Charlo (32-0, 22 KO’s) successfully defended his WBC world middleweight title against Juan Macias Montiel with a unanimous 118-109, 119-109, 120-108 points decision in Houston, Texas.

Meanwhile in El Paso, Jaime Munguia (37-0, 30 KO’s) stopped Poland’s game Kamil Szeremata inside six rounds. The Pole was coming of a seventh round stoppage defeat to Gennadiy Golovkin and Munguia went one round better. With such an impressive knockout ratio the Mexican Munguia looks ripe for a title shot at one of the middleweight champions.

There was also a notable victory for WBO female super-featherweight champion Michela Mayer (15-0, 5 KO’s) over tough Argentinian Erica Farias by unanimous points decision on the Inoue show.

A spectacular one-punch knockout by Gabriel Rosado (26-13-1, 14 KO’s) over previously undefeated Bektemir Melikuziev (7-1, 6 KO’s) capped a busy weekend that signified a return to normality with attendees at all major cards in the USA.

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

Hands of Stone

Cover courtesy of The Ring

Living legend Roberto Duran celebrates his 70th birthday today.

Born in El Chorrillo, Panama on June 16, 1951 ‘Manos de Piedra’ is regarded as one of the finest fighters of all time. The Undisputed sends its very best wishes to Roberto and our blessings for many more to come.

Roberto compiled a 103-16 record with 70 knockout victories. Most of those defeats came late in his career after dominating the lightweight division in the 1970’s, then moving up to welterweight to defeat Sugar Ray Leonard in Montreal in 1980 and later capturing titles in the light-middleweight and middleweight division. His legacy in the sport of boxing is assured not only by his fistic accomplishments but the aggressive ‘take no prisoners’ manner in which he performed in the ring and the legendary stories outside. Legend has it that he once knocked out a horse !

Duran is known as one of the Four Kings – the quartet of fighters including Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas ‘Hit Man’ Hearns who dominated the sport in the 1980’s. Between them they staged some of the greatest fights of all time breaking box office records on an annual basis.

Roberto fought all three Kings, splitting a trilogy with Leonard (1-2) and losing to Hearns and Hagler. The latter was by a close albeit unanimous decision in 1983 when the ‘Marvelous One’ pulled away in the late rounds. Duran won the night though performing way beyond his natural weight class and still spitting venom at the final bell.

His zenith was in defeating a peak Sugar Ray Leonard in a 15 round superfight in the Olympic Stadium, Montreal by unanimous decision in June 1980. Leonard was the golden boy of the time emerging with his Olympic gold medal to capture the welterweight crown but Duran effectively took him to school the whole night.

Many will recall Duran’s ‘No Mas’ surrender in the return match in New Orleans but he would later gain redemption through stellar victories against Davey Moore at light-middleweight and Iran Barkley at middleweight. He took his solid 9st,9lb (135lbs) frame through the divisions to finally win a world title at 11st,6lb (160lbs) fighting and defeating some of the greatest fighters of all time.

He was forced to retire in 2001 at 50 years of age after injuries sustained in a car accident. The last 20 years have seen him feature as a familiar face at all major boxing conventions and when his career is referred to it is with the eminence befitting one of the Four Kings. Simply a living legend of boxing.

Duran continues to live a happy life in his native Panama surrounded by his family and the trophies from his hall of fame career.

Roberto – Saludos.

The Monday LunchBox

Devin Haney (left) goes to war with Jorge Linares.
Photo courtesy of DAZN Boxing.

The Lightweight Kings

The lightweights are back in vogue.

Going by the self acclaimed moniker of the ‘Four Kings’, a throwback to the halycon days of messrs Hagler, Hearns, Leonard and Duran, now, the 9st 9lb (135lb) division apparently has its own modern day equivalent.

The only problems are one of the kings is yet to be crowned (Ryan Garcia), one is yet to prove his potential despite holding the WBC world title (Devin Haney) and another is significantly older and on the back nine of his career (Vasily Lomachenko). The remaining ‘king’ Teofimo Lopez is the accepted leader of the pack having unified the majority of the versions of the title by defeating Lomachenko in October 2020, but holds the spurious WBC ‘franchise’ title and, has yet to meet and defeat Haney.

On Saturday at the Mandalay Bay hotel, Las Vegas the WBC champ Devin ‘The Dream’ Haney (26-0, 15 KO’s) came through his first ‘gut check’ by defeating multi-weight world champion Jorge Linares. In an action packed fight Haney had the upper hand for the majority of the rounds working off an excellent jab with exceptional movement and follow up power shots.

He was clearly ahead in the fight and seemingly coasting to victory until being nailed by a heavy Linares right hand just before the bell and doing the first steps of the Irish jig on his way back to his corner. Linares waved his arm like a matador to show Haney to his stool on the bell and the dynamic of the fight had dramatically shifted.

It was expected that the 22 year old Haney would struggle to the see the fight out but to his credit he quickly re-grouped and shared the championship rounds, ultimately taking a 116-112, 116-112, 115-113 unanimous decision. This was without doubt Haney’s toughest contest to date and having prevailed over an excellent challenger in Linares he should now take confidence into his next fight.

Linares drops to (47-6, 29 KO’s) but at 35 will still be a test for any of the ‘Kings’. Lomachenko already holds a KO win over the Venezuelan when unifying the titles prior to a defeat to Lopez.

Talk post-fight amongst the DAZN pundits was of Haney removing the WBC created confusion by unifying their belts and meeting Teofimo Lopez as soon as possible. Lopez is due to defend his titles against Australian George Kambosos Jr in Miami on June 19. He is expected to win.

With three of the ‘Kings’ in their early twenties the future looks bright for the 135 pounders. Whether Lopez can resist the temptation to step up to 140 to challenge undisputed champion Josh Taylor will determine whether we see a lightweight shootout to crown the ultimate champion. It promises to be exciting if all remain in the division and the fights can be made.

The Filipino Flash is back

We thought Nonito Donaire had made his ‘last hurrah’ in a close defeat to Japan’s outstanding Naoya Inoue. A contest of exceptional quality that took The Ring magazine’s 2019 ‘fight of the year’ honours. We were mistaken.

On Saturday ‘The Flash’ became a world champion for a ninth time at a staggering 38 years of age by defeating Nordine Oubaali in Carson, California. He took the WBC bantamweight title by fourth round knockout after dropping Oubaali several times and finishing with a sensational left uppercut.

Donaire (41-6, 27 KO’s) raised the bar on his own record of being the oldest world bantamweight champion and showed the world he still has some gas left in the tank. Look for him to seek an immediate rematch with Inoue, which could be sensational.

Frenchman Oubaali (17-1, 12 KO’s) suffered the first defeat of his career but should bounce back.

The week ahead should feature more heavyweight shenanigans as the 10 day deadline set by the WBO for Anthony Joshua to reach agreement to meet mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk ends. If no agreement can be reached by the Matchroom promoted fighters the contest will go to purse bids immediately.

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

The Monday LunchBox

Victory ! Josh Taylor becomes the world 10st king.

Scotland’s Josh Taylor became the undisputed super-lightweight champion of the world with a close fought but unanimous decision against former WBC and WBO champion Jose Carlos Ramirez in the Virgin Hotel, Las Vegas on Saturday (22nd).

Remarkably in modern times all three ringside judges scored it 114-112 in Taylor’s favour.

The difference proved to be a knockdown of the American-Mexican in each of the 6th and 7th rounds as the bout was intensely fought throughout, with an ebb and flow that all great fights possess. Much was expected pre-fight between the two undefeated champions, who at age 30 and 28 respectively are at the peak of their powers.

The fight was riveting from the opening bell as Taylor got off to a fast start, boxing well out of his southpaw stance, but Ramirez pulled it back with aggressive advances to take the balance of the opening rounds. These rounds were very close and the difference was what you liked most; Taylor’s slick boxing or, Ramirez aggression and command of ring centre.

Taylor was cut over the left eye in the fifth losing the round again and appearing momentarily to lose momentum.

Then, fifteen seconds into the sixth Taylor stepped in and dropped his opponent with a devastating left hook. Ramirez was up very quickly, shaken but not stirred. It was early enough for Ramirez to re-gather his senses and make the round competitive. This was though scored as a 10-8 round to Taylor by all judges.

Towards the end of another intense round the knockdown in the seventh came with 30 seconds left and was the more shocking to the home fighter. In another heated exchange a left uppercut out of Taylor’s southpaw stance detonated on Ramirez chin and dropped him like a stone. The American arose late on very shaky legs and was on the verge of getting stopped but, referee Kenny Bayless inexplicably gave him more than the allotted ten seconds to recover using several delaying tactics. Had the outcome of the fight not been as such this would have been the big controversy. Clearly a 10-8 round to Taylor.

From the eighth onwards both fighters split rounds, but it appeared that Ramirez was, remarkably, finishing the stronger of the two. The Undisputed had Taylor taking the tenth but the consensus was the American took it and the ‘championship’ rounds (11-12).

Taylor already had the knockdown rounds in the bag and, although not coasting, was clearly homing in on the final bell as he looked up at the clock repeatedly with the rounds running down. This probably made the fight closer than it needed to be but Taylor was a nervy, albeit worthy winner, as the decision was announced. He burst into ecstasy on hearing the decision confirmed.

It was a fight of the highest calibre and both fighters embraced long after the final bell. Ramirez knew early that he’d been beaten and this mutual respect continued as Taylor adorned himself with the four sanctioning body belts and The Ring magazine title.

The achievements of the Prestonpans, Edinburgh boxer are to be lauded and it was a performance that ranks with some of the best of any British boxer overseas in modern times. He’s now a lock-in for the handing out of sporting baubles at the end of the year.

Taylor (18-0, 13 KO’s) has become undisputed world champion in only his eighteenth professional fight, Scotland’s first since his idol Ken Buchanan some fifty years ago. On route, he’s beaten three other previously unbeaten ‘world’ champions, and is only the fifth fighter to unify all titles in the four belt era.

The world is now his oyster and he’ll have the pick of fights ahead in either the 10st (140lb), or 10st 7lb (147lb) division should he decide to move up. Some of the current pound-for-pounders await his challenge – be that Terence Crawford, Errol Spence Jr, Manny Pacquiao, or Teofimo Lopez.

Ramirez drops to 26-1 (17 KO’s) and don’t rule out an immediate rematch, such was the quality and intensity of this contest. If that takes place it could be a massive filip for Scottish boxing in a football stadium north of the border.

Take a bow Josh Taylor – undisputed world super-lightweight champion.

Heavyweight re-boot

Other news emerging over the weekend was the announcement that Tyson Fury will defend his WBC world heavyweight title in a trilogy fight against former champ Deontay Wilder on 24 July.

Also, that Anthony Joshua has been mandated by the WBO to defend their title against number one heavyweight contender Oleksandr Usyk.

Sadly, the long awaited Joshua-Fury match that boxing needs for its credibility in the eyes of sports fans looks further away than ever. We can only hope that both come through undefeated and we eventually get the fight the world wants to see.

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

It’s on !

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

In the last fifteen minutes both fighters comfortably made weight for tomorrow’s big super-lightweight (140lb/10st) unification between Jose Ramirez (WBC & WBO champion) and Josh Taylor (IBF & WBA champion). Official weights were:

Ramirez – 139.6 lbs

Taylor – 139.6 lbs.

The fight’s on ! See the last post on The Undisputed for a full fight preview.

The Friday Faceup

‘The Tartan Tornado’ Josh Taylor

Back in January The Undisputed drew up a shortlist of the fights that had to be made this year. The highest profile fight – Anthony Joshua v Tyson Fury – looks to have sadly fallen by the wayside this week, however, second in that list is happening and this is the weekend it does.

In Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday (22nd) Scotland’s Josh Taylor (IBF and WBA champion) will attempt to unify the world super-lightweight (10st/140lb) championship by gaining the WBC and WBO versions held by Mexican-American Jose Ramirez.

If doing so, Taylor would become the undisputed champion and also retain his Ring magazine championship. He would simultaneously become the most recognized Scottish champion since undisputed lightweight (9st 9lb/135lbs) and fellow Edinburgh fighter Ken Buchanan in the early 1970’s.

Buchanan transcended the sport and was big box office in the US sharing changing rooms with Muhammad Ali. He is an idol to Taylor, and Buchanan would get much satisfaction from a modern day Scotsman equaling his accomplishments. On this Bob Arum Top Rank promotion the pre-fight bagpipes and Taylor’s tartan attire will be throwbacks to those magical nights in Madison Square Garden, New York City in the 70’s.

As to the actual contest; make no bones about it, this fight has all the makings of a cracker.

‘The Tartan Tornado’ Taylor has been flawless as a pro. Since winning gold in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games he’s compiled a 17-0 (13 KO) record. He’s won the IBF title and in a stunning victory against previously undefeated Regis Prograis also captured the WBA title. On that raucous October 2019 night in London’s O2 Arena he also gained the Muhammad Ali Trophy by winning the World Boxing Super Series – an eight man tournament to determine the best light-welterweight.

Now, a big stateside appearance is a natural progression in Taylor’s attempt to unify the titles, but he remains amazed by his accomplishments and now being on the cusp of greatness.

In his way is no patsy. Jose Ramirez is similarly undefeated at 26-0 (17 KO’s), has a 65% KO ratio and supreme confidence coming into the bout. He may be fighting in the next state from his native California, but has a similar Olympic pedigree, rabid fanbase and is a hungry champion. He also has a social conscience, campaigning for migrants rights in his local community.

Both fighters are quality operators and love a tear up.

The 30 year old Scotsman is approaching his peak and his southpaw style and boxing IQ is sure to cause Ramirez early problems. In the American’s favour is him being two years younger and having fought in Vegas six times more. The Californian also has the greater activity having defeated Viktor Postol on points last August. Taylor by contrast had a pointless one round blowout victory against Thailand’s Apinun Khongsong in London in September 2020.

Taylor though has arguably fought at the higher level with standout victories back to back against Postol, Ryan Martin, Ivan Baranchyk and Regis Prograis. Ramirez in comparison, as well as sharing a win over Postol has beaten Jose Zepeda who subsequently featured in and won the 2020 fight of the year. Zepeda will be chief support against Hank Lundy on Saturday.

The main event is a wafer thin fight to predict. Both fighters are at the elite level and bring undefeated records into the ring, having an aura of invincibility and having never felt the despair of defeat as professionals. In what will initially be a tactical contest both fighters will put it on the line from rounds 8 through 12 and The Undisputed sees the superior ringcraft of the man from Prestonpans, Edinburgh prevailing.

Taylor will undoubtedly have to come through some difficult moments in the fight but we see him winning by a close but unanimous decision.

If this happens Taylor will enter the annals of British boxing history and look forward to a defence of his undisputed title before 40,000 passionate Scotsman in a soccer stadium later in the year. Saturday’s fight may be so good that a rematch is demanded. Don’t miss it.

The Taylor v Ramirez card will be available on the FITE subscription channel from 01:00 BST at £9.99 and main event broadcast on BBC Radio 5 Live around 04:00 BST.