The Friday Faceup

Scotland’s Josh Taylor stares down his masked contender Apinun Khongsong.
Photo: Top Rank

With many parts of the world in various stages of lockdown and the United Kingdom facing an extension of current restrictions some temporary respite is provided for avid followers of the ‘Noble Art’.

Despite events continuing to be behind closed doors, the weekend presents a jamboree of contests across the globe of real quality and world significance.

First up at the famous York Hall in east London on Saturday 26th and arguably ‘cream of the crop’ is the contest between Scotland’s Josh Taylor (16-0, 12 KO’s) and Thai contender Apinun Khongsong (16-0, 13 KO’s) for the IBF and WBA world super-lightweight titles. Both 140lb (10st) fighters have almost identical records with high knockout ratios, but the Scot has fought and been victorious at the higher level and starts as a strong favourite.

Taylor enjoyed a stellar 2019 winning the IBF title and then adding the WBA strap and Muhammad Ali Trophy in beating Regis Prograis in October for the World Boxing Super Series title. The contest, again between undefeated fighters, was one of the fights of the year.

The heavy handed Khongsong (number one contender for the IBF title) comes to the UK with a largely unknown reputation but any undefeated KO artist from the Thai hotbed of boxing is not to be underestimated. Taylor has spoken with caution throughout fight week of the danger and consequence of overlooking his opponent as he looks for a unification and potential megafight with WBC and WBO champion Jose Ramirez.

The Scot will be on his guard but confident all the same. Look for his amateur pedigree (2012 Olympian and 2014 Commonwealth gold medallist) and professional toughness at the highest level to be the difference. Our pick is he will carefully navigate the early rounds out of his southpaw stance to then press the fight and win by a late stoppage.

The full Top Rank/Queensberry Promotions card will be televised live in the UK on BT Sport (transmission begins 19:30 BST) and the main event promises much. It will also feature England’s former WBC flyweight champion Charlie Edwards (15-1, 6 KO’s) making a comeback in the heavier bantamweight class (118lbs/8st 6) against compatriot Kyle Williams.

Elsewhere around the world the pick of the world title action is:-

Yuniel Dorticos (24-1, 22 KO’s) against Mairis Briedis (26-1, 19 KO’s) for the Muhammad Ali Trophy and World Boxing Super Series title at cruiserweight (200lbs/14st 4). Dorticos’ IBF world title will also be up for grabs. The winner will also be recognised by Ring magazine as the undisputed champion – widely considered the highest honour in the sport.

The fight takes place in Munich, Germany and will be televised live in the UK on Sky Sports (22:00 BST). It is likely to clash with the Taylor-Khongsong ring entrances so set your recording devices or take your pick for the live action.

In Connecticut, USA the American Jermell Charlo will face Jeison Rosario for the unified (WBC/WBA and IBF) world titles at super-welterweight (154lbs/11st). All three titles are currently split between the two contestants and again the winner will also be recognised by Ring magazine as the undisputed champion. It is extremely rare for this prestigious title to be up for grabs in two divisions over the same weekend, making it even more special.

Twin brother Jermall Charlo will earlier face teak tough Sergiy Derevyanchenko for the WBC world middleweight title. The Russian narrowly failed to gain the IBF title at 160lbs (11st 6) on two occasions in wafer thin losses to elite middleweights Daniel Jacobs and Gennadiy Golovkin and this will surely be his last shot at the title.

Both these fights should be real ‘pick ems’ and could go either way. Look for the Charlo twins to prevail though as they move onto bigger challenges in their respective divisions.

The event will also feature stellar undercards involving numerous champions and world title contenders. John Riel Casimero the recent conqueror of British based South African Zolani Tete defends his WBO world bantamweight title for the first time against Ghanaian Duke Micah. Look for Casimero to emerge victorious.

All in all world boxing truly is back this weekend – with a bang !

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