The biggest name in boxing returns this weekend when Mexico’s Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez defends his recently gained WBA and WBC world super-middleweight (12st/168lbs) straps in Florida, USA.
After being out of the ring for only two months since defeating Britain’s Callum Smith, the 30 year old Alvarez (54-1-2, 36 KO’s) will make a swift first defence of his titles against Turkey’s Avni Yildirim (21-2, 12 KO’s).
Such a rapid return to the ring is unheard of in recent times, certainly in the pandemic era, and Alvarez should be applauded for this. However, in so doing he has ‘cherry picked’ an opponent who on recent form and activity doesn’t deserve the opportunity.
Yildirim from Istanbul lost his last outing a mere two years ago to Anthony Dirrell and has not fought since. Yet, was installed and retained the WBC’s mandatory contender status due to the fight being lost on technical split decision from an accidental head clash and bad cut ending it prematurely. Yildirim now faces a champion who is at the top of his game, has won three times over that period and, is on his relentless path to greatness.
All of the signs point to a convincing Alvarez win, probably by knockout, but this is the boxing business and recent months have shown the impact of no fans and unusual conditions. The odds though are heavily stacked in the Mexican’s favour.
It would be the upset of the year, and probably millennium so far, if Yildirim were to win. This is a man who was KO’d in three rounds by Chris Eubank Jr in 2017 and four years down the line meets the best in the business. Yildirim is rugged and comes to fight and for as long as it lasts will make the fight interesting, benefiting from having sparred with the Mexican in the past, but will soon face his ‘El Dorado’. Look for a spectacular Alvarez victory within five rounds.
The event is promoted by Matchroom and main bouts will be televised on the DAZN streaming platform in the early hours of Sunday morning (UK time).
British super-featherweight title up for grabs
The British 9st 4lb (130lbs) title will be contested on Saturday in London on a Queensberry Promotions show. Northern Ireland’s Anthony Cacace will make his first defence against Leicester’s Lyon Woodstock.
Cacace with an excellent 18-1 record will meet a man five years younger who has a 12-2 record. It should be an excellent contest and in many ways is a crossroads fight. The victor will push onto European and fringe world ranking, and loser have to pick up the pieces. This will be much easier for Woodstock given his age and look for the hard punching Cacace to prevail. For the Irishman it’s now or never and that should be the difference.
The card will be televised live on BT Sport on Saturday.
New date for Herring-Frampton
The much anticipated Jamel Herring v Carl Frampton fight has been re-scheduled for April 3 in Dubai. The ex-US Marine Herring (22-2, 10 KO’s) will defend his WBO world super-featherweight title for the third time against Northern Ireland’s Frampton (28-2, 16 KO’s).
The Ulsterman will be attempting to win a ‘world’ title in a third weight class having previously held super-bantamweight and featherweight titles. If successful, this would secure his legacy as the most decorated Irish boxer in modern history, having also been The Ring magazine 2016 fighter of the year. Watch for further updates on this and have a great fight weekend.
In true ‘Mexican style’ Californian-based Oscar Valdez bombed out compatriot Miguel Berchelt to emphatically win the WBC world super-featherweight (130lb, 9st 4lb) title in the MGM Bubble, Las Vegas on Saturday night.
The nature and manner of the victory was devastating with heavy favorite Berchelt flattened face-first on the canvas after a left hook detonated on his head seconds from the end of the tenth round. Going in; a poll of twenty experts conducted by The Ring magazine had Berchelt taking eighteen of the votes. Berchelt (37-2, 33 KO’s) was making the seventh defence of his title and considered one of the more dominant champions in the sport.
The youthful, 30 year old Valdez (29-0, 23 KO’s), showed slick and effective boxing skills to take the early rounds as Berchelt seemed noticeably slower and stiff legged. About two minutes into the fourth Valdez landed a perfect left hook high on the champion that would set the scene for the fight.
Berchelt was troubled again seconds later, taking a standing count, and never fully recovered from thereon. Had it not been a world title with an elite champion in trouble and, between two Mexican warriors, the referee Russell Mora could have easily stopped the fight there and then. Berchelt barely survived the round staggering to his corner like a bar room drunk.
The ex-champion managed to just about gather himself for the fifth, but despite having some good moments, was shaken every time Valdez landed a solid blow, in particular with the left hand. The inevitable conclusion would come from this punch after 2:59 of the tenth.
On the stoppage it took some time before Berchelt had partially recovered and was taken to the safety of his corner and then further observation in hospital.
Valdez succeeded in winning his second ‘world’ title having been former WBO champ at featherweight. In the post fight interview he made reference to the doubters going in. “(There’s) nothing better in life than proving people wrong”.
This was yet another night in the current pandemic era when the bookmakers odds were turned upside down and, Valdez on this occasion, turned in an Oscar winning performance. He will now look to unification opportunities in the 130lb division.
A gamble too soon
For over two years Josh Kelly and his team had been confident of the result should he finally face David Avenesyan for the latter’s European welterweight (147lb, 10st 7lb) title. After repeated failures to hold the fight the answer was finally provided at the SSE Wembley Arena, London on Saturday.
On an excellent Matchroom promotion televised live on Sky Sports, the experienced Avenesyan took the fight to the younger challenger and effectively showed him what championship level in the pros was all about. The champion, a former WBA world ‘interim’ title holder, showed at 32 years old, the value of experience in the paid ranks. The Russian, of Armenian descent, and currently based in Newark, Nottinghamshire, England stopped Kelly after 2:15 of the sixth round.
The 26 year old Kelly (10-1-1, 6 KO’s), a 2016 Olympian and considered one of the brightest talents in British boxing, looked the part for the opening rounds showing slick boxing ability and buzzing his opponent in the second round from a big left hook. However, Avenesyan’s pressure was almost suffocating as he kept forcing the pace and landing vicious hooks high on Kelly’s head and continually roughing him up.
Kelly from Sunderland, NE England was troubled by a cut on the back of his head from the second round and blood oozed out for the duration of the fight. An unintentional clash of heads in the fourth resulted in further damage with a cut opening over his right eye.
As the fight progressed the Russian was gaining more success applying relentless pressure. After catching Kelly high on the head in the sixth the challenger was forced to touch down and, never fully recovering, the towel was thrown in by his corner. Referee Victor Loughran accepted the retirement instantly.
Kelly is now left to re-assess his career moving forwards. This will be a valuable lesson, and his corner led by Adam Booth, did him excellent service pulling him out when they did. His talent is unmistakable and he just needs to add that professional experience and grit to come again.
The likeable Avenesyan (27-3-1, 15 KO’s) was ecstatic post-fight. In heavily accented English coupled with Russian/Armenian he said “I wait(ed) a long time for this fight…I’m very happy”, continuing “Today (was) a good day, today (was) my night”. He went on to dedicate his win to the struggle for independence in Armenia and now goes for potentially bigger fights in this stacked weight division.
Finally, Matchroom released news that the eagerly anticipated rematch between world ranked heavyweights Alexander Povekin and Dillian Whyte will now take place on Saturday 27th March in Gibraltar, a UK territory off southern Spain. This will be televised live on Sky Sports Box Office in the UK. Further updates and previews to follow.
After a further COVID enforced sabbatical big-time boxing returned to the UK on Saturday (13th) with a televised Matchroom promotion.
Headlining at the SSE Wembley Arena in London former IBF world featherweight champion Josh Warrington, recently having relinquished his title to avoid a repeat routine mandatory obligation, faced unknown Mexican Mauricio Lara. Leading into the fight it was considered a marking-time contest for the ex-champion from Leeds as he looked towards marquee fights. Little did we realize what was about to unfold.
Over the eight completed rounds Warrington was bludgeoned by the less experienced but heavy handed Mexican. Josh was dropped heavily in the fourth and despite rising at nine looked very unsteady on his feet. Referee Howard Foster almost reluctantly allowed the home fighter to continue. More punishment was to come over the following five rounds until the inevitable stoppage at 0:54 of round nine.
The end came after a heavy body shot was followed by an explosive left hook which forced the referee to stop the contest immediately as Warrington lay prostrate on the canvas. It took some minutes for Josh to gather his senses resulting in collective relief from the few officials, support teams and television crew in attendance.
Warrington (30-1, 7 KO’s) had been out of the ring for sixteen months during which time the Mexican had won five fights. The enforced layoff and lack of fanatical support from his usual home town fans were likely major contributing factors to such a hard and potentially career damaging defeat. The morning after the fight reports of him suffering from a fractured jaw and perforated eardrum started to emerge.
Lara’s performance on the night was exceptional and his victory transformational for his family. Facing his first world ranked fighter, an undefeated ex-champion in that, he can now look forward to more lucrative contests. His record now stands at 22-2 (15 KO’s) and at twenty two years old, with a heavy handed combative style looks set for an exciting career. The thirty year old Warrington must now re-group after what looks like a further extended layoff to allow his wounds to heal and confidence return.
Post-fight the Head of Matchroom Boxing Eddie Hearn summed it up; “He (Warrington) got beat by a hungry, hungry Mexican fighter who changed his life tonight”. Referring to Warrington he said “He will come again”. We hope his words come true as the Leeds man deserves his opportunity to rest and then continue what up to this point has been an excellent career.
Chief support on the Sky Sports televised card was a highly controversial twelve round IBF intercontinental super-featherweight fight between Manchester’s Zelfa Barrett and Spanish road warrior Kiko Martinez. The man from Alicante forced the pace from the onset and appeared to dominate the first two thirds of the fight. Barrett finally set himself to withstand the relentless pressure from Martinez in the last four rounds, but the thirty four year old Spaniard looked to clearly win the fight.
When scores of 118-111, 118-111 and 116-113 were announced in favor of Barrett, the majority of pundits and ‘experts’ were staggered. There was a very slim argument for a draw but that would’ve been very harsh on the Spaniard. The scores returned were quite simply an outrage.
Eddie Hearn to his credit was similarly shocked and disappointed. “118-111 doesn’t do anyone any favours…it wasn’t even worth him (Martinez) bothering”. Cut short by the Sky Sports interviewer despite having more to add, they switched to Martinez who was asked to comment. Speaking through an interpreter he added “I don’t think the judges have been fair to me”. That was the understatement of the night.
Martinez record now reads 41-10-2 (29 KO’s) and the twenty seven year old Barrett rises to 25-1 (15 KO’s).
The stacked card also featured Nottingham’s Leigh Wood (24-2, 14 KO’s) winning the vacant British featherweight title with a stoppage of Doncaster’s Reece Mould (13-1, 6 KO’s) in the ninth round. The official time at 1:03 and by technical knockout. The thirty two year old Wood said it had “Been a long time coming” and now looks to a rematch with old foe Jazza Dickens.
The evening was an excellent restart to a series of Matchroom promotions over the coming month. This will be augmented by a number of interesting Queensberry Promotions as boxing attempts to recover from the enforced suspension of combat.
It is with great sadness that we report and join the heartfelt condolences for the passing of former lineal Heavyweight Champion of the World Leon Spinks at age 67.
The St. Louis, Missouri man famously outpointed legendary Muhammad Ali in Las Vegas in February 1978, stunning the world at the time, only to subsequently lose his title seven months later in the New Orleans Superdome in a multi-million dollar rematch.
That he was able to defeat the iconic two time world champion in only his eighth paid fight, having also captured Olympic gold in Montreal in 1976, was testament to his fighting ability and bravery.
As a teenager I vividly recall the shock of the victory at the time and the emotional manner in which it was achieved, by split decision. The photograph above (courtesy of Getty Images) is one of the most iconic of its time, and indeed in heavyweight history. I recall Ali being interviewed post-fight, emphasizing those famous words “I shall return !” and biting into his bottom lip with clenched fist. Ali’s victory in the rematch should never take away the achievement of Leon on that famous February night.
‘Neon’ Leon as he was widely known, for his colourful lifestyle and magnetic gap toothed smile, was a box office heavyweight of the late seventies/early eighties.
He would later try to regain his world title in a failed attempt in 1981 against future legend Larry Holmes, and then drop down to cruiserweight where he was unsuccessful in wresting the WBA world title from Dwight Muhammad Qawi in 1986.
Leon was at his best campaigning as a heavyweight and had stellar wins against Alfredo Evangalista and big punching Bernado Mercado in 1980. His final record reads 26-17-3 (14 KO’s). Many of his losses would come late in his career as his skills and mobility reduced.
Leon was the type of guy who brought that neon light to everyone he met, even in the most difficult of circumstances of his post boxing life – suffering financial hardship and lengthy ill health. He would always light up a room or dais with that famous smile.
With his younger brother Michael, former undisputed world light-heavyweight champion and lineal heavyweight champion, the Spinks Brothers would be major players in boxing through much of the eighties, always at each others side in press conferences and ring corners. They came together as package.
I had the pleasure of meeting both inthe International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota in 2014, and they were in fine form. They were regular attendees to the annual induction weekend and Leon will be sadly missed when normal service is resumed.
Leon finally succumbed to prostate cancer and associated complications. His boxing legacy will remain through former world champion and son Cory Spinks, and most notably by his own fistic accomplishments.
The Undisputed’s thoughts and best wishes go out the Spinks family at this sad time. Leon’s contribution to heavyweight history and for brightening our lives with his presence will never be forgotten.
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.
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.
Newsflash: Live on BoxNation today from 09:00 GMT the Japanese ‘superfight’ for the WBO world super-flyweight title. Kosei Tanaka attempts to win a world title in a fourth weight class against current WBO champion and multi-weight champion Kazuto Ioka. The biggest and last fight in Japan of 2020.
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:
Anthony Joshua (heavyweight) 24 wins-1 loss-0 draws (22 KO’s)
Tyson Fury (heavyweight) 30-0-1 (21)
Josh Taylor (super-lightweight) 17-0-0 (13)
Josh Warrington (featherweight) 30-0-0 (7)
Carl Frampton (junior-lightweight) 28-2-0 (16)
Billy Joe Saunders (super-middleweight) 30-0-0 (14)
Callum Smith (super-middleweight) 27-1-0 (19)
Luke Campbell (lightweight) 20-3-0 (16)
Joe Joyce (heavyweight) 12-0-0 (11)
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 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:
Anthony Joshua v the winner of Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury II
Errol Spence Jr v Terence Crawford
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez v Gennadiy Golovkin III
Vasiliy Lomachenko v Gervonta Davis
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:
Anthony Joshua v Tyson Fury (heavyweight)
Olexandr Usyk v Joe Joyce (heavyweight)
Dmitry Bivol v Artur Beterbiev (light-heavyweight)
‘Canelo’ Alvarez v Gennadiy Golovkin III (super-middleweight)
Errol Spence Jr v Terence Crawford (welterweight)
Spence or Crawford v Manny Pacquiao (welterweight)
Josh Taylor v Jose Ramirez (light-welterweight)
Teofimo Lopez v Vasiliy Lomachenko II (lightweight)
Naoya Inoue v Anyone (bantamweight)
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.
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.