Return of the Kings

Unified light-heavyweight king Artur Beterbiev in London yesterday and this weekend.
Photo C/O Queensberry Promotions

The 175lb (12st, 7lb) light-heavyweight division is back in fashion !

Just like the late 1970’s/early 1980’s the division is now arguably the hottest in boxing. In the ‘80’s we had the quartet of Matt Franklin, Dwight Braxton, Marvin Johnson and topped by the eventual coronated king Michael Spinks.

This was a period when conversion to the Muslim faith by elite boxers was commonplace. Franklin would become Matthew Saad Muhammad, Braxton become Dwight Muhammad Qawi, and the quartet were joined by Eddie Gregory who became Eddie Mustapha Muhammad. The world title holders of the day were joined by a plethora of contenders who rivaled any division in boxing. These included Alvaro ‘Yaqui’ Lopez, James Scott and future cruiserweight champion Carlos DeLeon amongst others. 

The era was complicated by the splintering of world titles by different sanctioning organisations which has continued to this day. This combined though, brought great rivalries and great fights. It was commonplace at the time for them to top The Ring magazine’s Fight of the Year.

In Britain, the division was led and represented by Liverpool’s classy John Conteh, who had won his WBC world title in 1974 beating Jorge Ahumada at Wembley, London. He was eventually succeeded by Matthew Saad Muhammad in 1979 over two high profile fights on the world stage.

Now, the renaissance of the division is represented by 2022’s The Ring Fighter of the Year Dmitry Bivol and three-belt world title holder Artur Beterbiev.  Both fighters are Russian, sensitive in the current world political climate, but more importantly in a boxing sense are undefeated, and looking almost invincible. Bivol (21-0, 11 KO’s) and Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KO’s) are regularly registering standout victories, Bivol defeating Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez last year and recently top contender Gilberto Ramirez (44-1, 30 KO’s). Beterbiev also has over 300 amateur fights to his name being an elite performer and Olympian. In his last outing in July 2022 he beat tough American, Joe Smith Jr. to gain his WBO world title to add to his WBC and IBF belts. This Saturday (28th January) Beterbiev faces London, England’s Anthony Yarde (23-2, 22 KO’s) at Wembley Arena in a mouthwatering match-up. It will be the big punching Yarde’s second attempt at a world title losing to Russian Sergey Kovalev in WBO title challenge in August 2019.

Whilst the world is waiting for the all-Russian showdown between Bivol and Beterbiev, two former elite amateurs who dominate the division and both also in the top ten of The Ring’s ‘pound for pounders’, in the UK the competition is fierce.

Joining Yarde are current British champion Dan Azeez , former super-middleweight world title holder Callum Smith, recent world challenger Craig Richards, former British champion Lyndon Arthur and hot prospect 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Joshua Buatsi. These could all fight and arguably beat each other on any given night but someone will ultimately rise from the pack. The competition makes for popular and lucrative domestic fights down the line.

For now, Saturday’s fight co-promoted by Queensberry and Top Rank will make the picture clearer on a world level and pave the way for further British challenge to world honours.  The contest is a genuine ‘pick ‘ems’ with the seven years younger Yarde (31) possessing the same concussive power that Beterbiev (38) has shown to be 100% successful in the professional ranks so far. The whole event is a must see with it being televised in the UK on BT Sport and ESPN+ in the USA.

Final weights and fight prediction to follow in tomorrow’s Friday Faceup.

The Monday LunchBox

Middleweight Liam Smith beefs it up with his team and promoter.
Photo: Lawrence Lustig/BOXXER

In arguably a career high performance Liverpool’s Liam ‘Beefy’ Smith (33-3-1, 20 KO’s) blew away Chris Eubank Jr. in the fourth round of a middleweight contest on Saturday night at the Manchester Arena.

The spectacular nature of the technical knockout, halted by referee Victor Loughlin after 1:09 of the round, showed the often underestimated power of the Scouser (native of Liverpool). It was widely thought pre-fight with Smith stepping up from 154lbs (11st) the light-middleweight division, and Eubank Jr. (32-3, 23 KO’s) coming down from 168lbs (12st) super-middle’s, that the Brighton man would have the bigger firepower and strength, but that was proved way off the mark.

The contest, before a deafening, sold out crowd, and shown live on Sky Box Office in the UK was captivating from the opening bell. After a tightly contested first round, Eubank Jr. started to take control from round two and by the third more clearly, almost to the extent that a stoppage in the fourth was looking well possible in his favour. The fight then turned on its head as Eubank Jr. in firing strong right hands and jabs to finish the contest, became sloppy, and left himself wide open to a counter. Smith duly obliged in spectacular fashion with a clubbing right, followed by a barrage of punches, and finally, an inch perfect uppercut.

Smith first dropped his opponent and Eubank Jr. being shocked and with bravado rose immediately, much too quick as it happened, to leave himself exposed, and duly got nailed again. On Eubank rising again on shaky legs Loughlin waved the contest over and bedlam resulted. This was a very popular victory with the venue full of Scousers, erupting immediately.

To his credit Eubank Jr. accepted his defeat and admitted the better man had won on the night.

The event was ably supported by world ranked cruiserweight Richard Riakporhe (16-0, 12 KO’s) moving a step closer to a world title shot by defeating former WBO champion Krzysztof Glowacki on the night. Again the contest finished in the fourth round by a strong right hand knockout on 2:44 mins. Riakporhe marches on to an inevitable world title shot. There are also lucrative domestic matches on offer.

There was a closely contested title defence by Ekow Essuman (19-0, 7 KO’s) of his British and Commonwealth welterweight titles over Chris Kongo (14-2, 7 KO’s). The champion won by majority decision 114-114, 116-113, 115-114 as a result of his greater aggression compared to Kongo’s behind the jab and move tactics. There were also good victories for heavyweights Joseph Parker and Frazer Clarke.

In an emphatic knockout showing on a high profile night in front of a captive live and television audience the stock of Liam Smith rose again considerably and he should look forward to a further possible world title shot. A potential rematch with Eubank Jr. is also a likelihood should be fail to secure that title shot, and the revenge or repeat aspect would similarly fill a British indoor venue this year.

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

The Friday Faceup

The eyes have it !

The clock’s ticking down to the big middleweight showdown in Manchester, England tomorrow night (21st) between world ranked Chris Eubank Jr and former WBO world light-middleweight champion Liam ‘Beefy’ Smith.

This domestic dust-up also has significance on the world stage and promises to be competitive for the full scheduled twelve rounds. Before a healthy lunchtime crowd in Manchester today both fighters weighed in 159lbs (11st, 5lbs), comfortably making the contracted 160lb limit.

Eubank Jr. the historically bigger of the two is expected to legally put on the extra poundage before the opening bell, which is likely to be the defining factor come fight time. Both are talented and have a lot left, but Eubank Jnr’s size and bigger one punch power is the main reason for our tip on his likely success.

The fight is promoted by BOXXER and full event available on Sky Box Office in the UK at just under £20. It also features world ranked cruiserweight Richard Riakporhe, heavyweight Joseph Parker and a quality British and Commonwealth title match-up between champion Ekow Essuman and Chris Kongo at welterweight (147lbs/10st, 7lbs).

Undefeated heavyweight prospect Frazer Clarke is also on the card. It should be a good event and worthwhile night’s investment. Enjoy !

The Monday LunchBox

Chris Eubank Jr. never failing to remind the boxing public of his relevance.

With no major fights in the UK this last weekend we look forward to the big middleweight clash between Chris Eubank Jr. and former WBO world light-middleweight champion Liam Smith. The contest is promoted by Ben Shalom’s BOXXER company and takes place at the Manchester Arena this Saturday 21 January.

It pits two fighters who are genuine world title contenders but closer towards the end of their careers than beginning. Both still though have a lot to offer. 

Although they’re of similar ages at 33 (Eubank) and 34 (Smith), both are from boxing families and have accomplished to date. Smith has over-performed on the world stage winning a world title version and losing to elite fighters, most notably Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez who he lost his WBO title to in a big event in Texas, USA in September 2016. Eubank Jr. by contrast has fought and lost on points to fellow countrymen and former world title holders Billy Joe Saunders (November 2014) and George Groves (February 2018). Some argue that whenever he’s stepped up to the elite level he’s been found wanting, which is a reality but could be deemed harsh. He holds standout wins against Arthur Abraham, James DeGale and Avni Yildirim.

The contest should be competitive throughout as Smith (32-3-1, 19 KO’s) will not be intimidated by his flashy foe and the abilities of each will lead to some classy action, with inside work being a feature and likely the reason for the emergence of the victorious fighter. Both know how to maximise work to their opponents midriff and can also work well on the outside from distance. Eubank Jr. (32-2, 23 KO’s) is probably superior in this area, having better combinations and variation, and being the historically heavier man should have the greater power. Eubank will try to boss his foe using his greater size and mobility, whilst Smith has made no secret of his desire and tactic to work to Eubank’s body.

Smith will bring a strong fanbase across the EastLancs Road from nearby Liverpool to the Manchester Arena. Eubank will travel from his Brighton home on the English southcoast up to the northwest.

Much has been made in the build-up to the presence of hall of fame boxer Roy Jones Jr. inside Eubank’s training camp and his corner on fight night. Eubank, whilst being appreciative of Jones’ presence and input, has claimed that he doesn’t need Roy Jones on his side to win this fight. He considers it a done deal, whilst contradicting himself in his respect for Smith’s achievements and quality.  Smith just considers it Eubank’s arrogance and is not fazed at all by it.

It should be an entertaining, but intriguing contest, particularly with the jeopardy that it presents. For the loser there is no obvious point of return whilst the victor will move onto world title contention at 160lbs (11st, 6lbs).

The Manchester Arena is sure to be an atmospheric venue come Saturday with a classic English north-south confrontation. The card is impressive with the appearance of undefeated world ranked cruiserweight Richard Riakporhe against Krzysztof Glowacki, and top heavyweights Joseph Parker and Frazer Clarke fighting other competitive heavyweights.

The clock is also ticking down on the big unified world light-heavyweight title fight between Artur Beterbiev and Anthony Yarde at London’s Wembley Arena on Saturday 28 January. More on this to follow which promises to be an excellent match-up.

Last Thursday (12th) sadly saw the passing of former World Boxing Association heavyweight champion Gerrie Coetzee at age 67. He remains a legend in South African boxing history winning a version of the world title in the midst of the apartheid years. It was a time when worldwide boycotts were in place against their sports people and other performers, with civil unrest and political protest also being rife. The humble and affable Coetzee was a beacon of hope for South African sport and brought attention on the country at that difficult time in the late  1970’s and early ‘80’s. Much has been written by respected South African boxing correspondents such as Ron Jackson about his immense contribution to their boxing history and his winning the WBA title by knocking out Mike Dokes in Cleveland, Ohio USA in September 1983.

My most vivid memory of Coetzee was on his attempt to regain his old title and bringing his obvious punching pedigree and ‘bionic’ hand to London in March 1986 to fight Frank Bruno in a WBA world title eliminator. Bruno would brutally KO Coetzee early and then go on to lose in his first world title shot to American Tim Witherspoon.

Coetzee’s life and boxing achievements will be celebrated in a film currently in production called ‘Against All Odds’, sadly posthumously now. His life is worthy of recognition and a reflection of his success in difficult times.

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

The Monday LunchBox

New explosive boxing prospect Adam Azim.
Photo: Lawrence Lustig/BOXXER.

About every decade a young boxer emerges in the UK who brings so much electricity to the ring that he recharges British boxing by captivating crowds and raising it to new rarefied world heights.

The 1980’s brought the diminutive Charlie Magri plus Frank Bruno’s popular enormity, in the early ’90’s we rose to the chimes of Big Ben to announce the arrival of Nigel to the ring, then in the 2,000’s we rose again to the floating of the magic carpet with the ‘Prince’, Naseem Hamed atop. All of these fighters became household names and elevated themselves to become part of the British national psyche and most became national heroes.

This year the UK has a plethora of domestic prospects who are already on the launch pad waiting to ignite the British and world scene.

Top of the list and recently voted British Prospect of the Year by renowed boxing publication Boxing News is Adam Azim (7-0, 6 KO’s). A Muslim from a Slough, Berkshire boxing family, promoted by Ben Shalom’s BOXXER company and regularly featuring on Sky Sports the charge that he brings to the ring is felt on his imminent arrival. ‘The Assassin’ title is apt with power so concussive that the 20 year olds performances since debuting just over a year ago are reminiscent of the ‘Prince’. Weighing in at 140lbs and campaigning at super-lightweight his future looks extremely bright.

Close on the heels of Azim but yet to fully ignite is 2020 Olympic silver medallist Ben Whittaker. With only two fights to his name much is expected of the unbeaten man from the Midlands. The guidance of world renowned trainer SugarHill Steward is sure to help the light-heavyweight’s development over the next few years. Watch that space !

Frank Warren’s camp can boast two excellent prospects from the neighbouring London county of Kent. Dennis ‘The Menace’ McCann (14-0, 8 KO’s) a 22 year old super-bantamweight and two-time Amateur Boxing Association champion Sam Noakes (10-0, 10 KO’s). Noakes at age 25 and campaigning at lightweight is moving up the WBC rankings quickly.

2020 Team GB Olympians Frazer Clarke (4-0, 3 KO’s) and Caroline Dubois (5-0, 4 KO’s) are making inroads into the professional code. The impressive Dubois is at lightweight and ‘Big Fraze’ at heavyweight.

With the healthy competition amongst British promotional outfits Matchroom, BOXXER and Queensberry, amongst others, there is the desire to build camps with an eye on the immediate and forseeable future. Look for many more prospects waiting in the wings to emerge, but the above are the pick to date.

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

The Monday LunchBox

Happy New Year to most of our readers.

Only two days into 2023 and we can look forward to some exciting match ups in world rings over the year. The festive period has come and gone and it’s now full steam ahead for the ‘noble art’, both internationally and domestically.

Our appetite was tempered last January by the enforced suspension by the British Boxing Board of Control to relieve the draw on COVID medical response resources. This year, all being well, we’re straight in.

Here are our top five contests with implications and gains for British fighters. A number being of world significance.

  1. Artur Beterbiev v Anthony Yarde – Scheduled for January 28 for the undefeated Russian, Beterbiev’s light-heavyweight world titles. Both are renowned big punchers and Londoner Yarde is making his second attempt at winning a world title. Fireworks are expected either way.
  2. Josh Taylor v Jack Catterall – A long awaited Scotland-England rematch for the IBF world super-lightweight title. Taylor (19-0, 13 KO’s) controversially retained his titles against the Englishman, Catterall (26-1, 13 KO’s) last February by split decision and the rematch has been eagerly awaited.
  3. Tyson Fury v Oleksandr Usyk – The fight the world wants to see. This would mark the unification of the World Heavyweight Championship and crown the first undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis in 2002. The waiting may soon be over after both sanctioning body champions have removed their immediate obligations and look to have agreed to meet. The most likely date is in March with the Middle East being the frontrunner to host it. London also remains in the equation but looks unlikely.
  4. Richard Riakporhe v Chris Billam-Smith – another all-British rematch with world consequences. The original fight was won by Riakporhe by split decision in July 2019 and both have looked impressive ever since, racking up undefeated records. Despite both being high in the world rankings and having title aspirations, , the rematch is a natural as both are promoted by BOXXER and need to eliminate each other to secure a world title fight. Waiting in the wings is WBO world champion Lawrence Okolie (18-0, 14 KO’s) who is slightly more advanced with his Olympic pedigree and title defences. 2023 is promising to be a standout year for British cruiserweights on the world stage.
  5. Joshua Buatsi v Anthony Yarde – at light-heavyweight, this contest is stalled by Yarde’s challenge to Artur Beterbiev, but should he be victorious and enter it with world titles it has the potential to be British fight of the year, and won’t be far off the world’s best. Both Londoners are ‘box office’ and it is again a natural rivalry and match up.

Later we will preview the British prospects for the year and boxing’s biggest potential matches on the world stage for 2023.

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

The Monday LunchBox

In an excellent weekend of world championship action pick of the achievements was Juan Francisco Estrada (above) in winning his trilogy fight against Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez in Glendale, Arizona, USA to gain The Ring magazine and WBC super-flyweight world championships.

It completed the Mexican ‘El Gallo’ Estrada’s recent winning streak against the Nicaraguan ‘Chocolatito’ with the trilogy victories now being 2-1 in his favour. Gonzalez has won titles in four different weight classes compared to Estrada’s three.

In a highly competitive fight, with Estrada wining the first half, the Nicaraguan legend won the second half and finished the stronger despite his 35 years old age. The first card was drawn at 114 each but the Mexican won on the other two cards to record a majority decision in his favour. A fourth fight now beckons.

The weekend also saw in London, England two big fights at heavyweight. Tyson ‘Gypsy King’ Fury won his third straight victory against perennial domestic rival Dereck Chisora by tenth round knockout to defend his WBC world title and fellow Britain Daniel ‘Dynamite’ Dubois stopped South African Kevin Lerena to successfully defend his WBA title for the first time. This despite the young Londoner suffering multiple knockdowns in the opening round.

A showdown between the two victors may be on the cards and would fill out any British venue and many worldwide.

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

Trilogy done

Well, we admit we got it wrong.

Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez lived up to most pre-fight predictions by winning a unanimous twelve round decision over Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin in their third defining fight in the T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas tonight. Scores returned were 116-112, 115-113, 115-113 in favour of the Mexican.

For most observers Golovkin failed to make a dent in his eight years younger foe throughout the contest. The Undisputed lent towards the closer scores making an argument for the Kazakh, but accept the Mexican was the rightful winner. Most pundits aligned to the wide scorecards so we were not in agreement with the general consensus.

The 40 year old was competitive throughout but gave away most of the early rounds and had to play catchup down the stretch. The ninth was clearly his best as he tried to make an impression, however he never really looked like stopping his teak tough opponent.

There were no knockdowns and neither man was in trouble. Canelo landed most of the spectacular blows, each one being magnified by the roar from the fiercely patriotic crowd.

Despite an electric atmosphere the fight failed to reach the standard of their contests in 2017 and 2018, but was captivating, if not dramatic. The quality on show at times was riveting. Golovkin post-fight likened it to a game of chess.

Both fighters embraced at the final bell and in post-fight interviews praised each other. They admitted the bad blood exchanged over five years of combat was now consigned to history. Thirty six rounds have now been contested with no knockdowns but always box office action. This is a testament to the quality of both fighters which was again on show tonight.

On the night Golovkin was noticeably slower than the first two fights and the extra poundage appeared to hinder him. He struggled to get going in the first six rounds, taking a number of heavy blows. Post fight conclusions will be about his advanced age being the cause, which now has to be taken as a fact. However, to compete how he did tonight was impressive.

Canelo now takes the bragging rights into history and stands alone as the dominant super-middleweight and middleweight of his era. That was the main outcome tonight, but the trilogy between the two will be remembered for its quality and each boxer bringing out the best in one another.

Both boxers emerged tonight with credit and it remains to be seen what their next moves will be. A Dmitry Bivol rematch at light heavyweight is most likely for Canelo to avenge only his second loss. GGG could comfortably retire and wait for his induction into the hall-of-fame, but no announcements were made post fight. If he does continue there will be lots of takers to face him and entertainment to boot.

In the co-main event San Antonio’s Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez successfully defended his WBC world super-flyweight title for a second time with a hard earned twelve round decision against Mexico’s Israel Gonzales.

Fight Night

Trilogy ready.

Well here we are, fight night. The Trilogy – Canelo v GGG 3.

Four years in the making. Tonight for all the straps in the super-middleweight division and history for both fighters involved, Saul ‘Canelo Alvarez and Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin. In a fight for undisputed status The Undisputed is on site.

Your editor has just crossed the walk and plaza leading up to the 20,000 capacity venue, packed with Mexican’s topping up their hangovers from last night’s Independence Day celebrations. They’re really here for one thing to see their hero Canelo finish off the Kazakh for good. Two fights between the two done and doubt remains over who’s the best. Tonight we should find out.

GGG is a 4-1 underdog coming in, and the odds and experts say we’ll see the end of this exceptional fighter in his 40th year. Canelo, at 32, only has to turn up to win they say. The fighter though knows it will be harder than that.

We anticipate another toe-to-toe contest, and after hearing all that’s been said and reported on over the last three months, we now have to nail our flag to the mast.

Totally against the grain, after a week of deliberation and restless turning in bed, we finally predict that power will prevail and a Golovkin victory by 5th round KO.

The undropped and unstopped will finally crumble and GGG will secure his legacy as the greatest of his era at 40.

The Friday Faceup

Canelo & GGG make weight.

The formalities are complete. After months of hype and preparation the fight is on !

Kazakhstan’s GennadiyGGGGolovkin scaled 167.8lbs and Mexican Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez 167.4lbs in the blistering heat before a boisterous Mexican Independence Day crowd lunchtime today, just outside the Las Vegas venue for tomorrow’s big unification fight.

Both fighters comfortably made the 168lbs (12st) limit for the right to be the super-middleweight champion of the world. The Ring magazine, WBC, IBF, WBO & WBA titles will be on the line. But, more importantly, the right to be called the best of their era amongst the mid-weights.

The most telling soundbites from the post weigh-in interviews were from Golovkin. Suitably pissed by Canelo continuing to play mind games and leaving him shirtless for five minutes before arriving to weigh-in, the Kazakh initially offered “No comment” but after wishing the Mexican fans a happy independence week said “Everyone who loves boxing knows who the real champion is”. This points to a disgust at the previous decisions he’s had against the same foe and more likely Canelo’s Clenbuturol incident between their two previous meetings, having tested positive and receiving a six month ban. Golovkin comes into this fight a bitter, but supremely motivated man. For anyone that’s a dangerous cocktail.

After the final intense face-off before hostilities recommence in 36 hours time Canelo continued his line on preparing to win by stoppage. He acknowledged the phenomenal support from his Mexican fans, which numbered close to 2,000 and stayed for some time on the dais posing with his belts. Golovkin left immediately.

The key now will be on rehydration and who will benefit most over the next 24 hours. The man going up in weight (GGG) or the one dropping down (Canelo).

The trilogy fight between the two is the hottest ticket in town and streaming site DAZN are expected to cash in with a late big buy up for their pay-per-view showing. Promoters Matchroom believed this fight ‘had legs’ even though most boxing experts have continually written off the 40 year old Kazakh. They’ve thrown all their resources over a number of months to make this an event to remember and early indications promise it to be the case.

There are eight fights on the card with the pick being a second title defence by Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez (16-0, 11 KO’s) of his WBC world super-flyweight (115lbs) belt. The improving, undefeated champion from San Antonio, Texas meets Israel Gonzalez (28-4-1, 11 KO’s) who’s attempting to win a version of the title at his fourth attempt.

More news and our fight predictions to follow tomorrow.