The Friday Faceup

British heavyweights ready to rumble.

It’s here !

The lineal heavyweight championship of the world tracing back to the 1880’s is finally up for grabs in London, England tomorrow (Saturday) night. Champion Tyson ‘Gypsy King’ Fury faces Dillian ‘Body Snatcher’ Whyte before 94,000 people at Wembley Stadium and tuning in will be a worldwide audience on pay-per-view in the UK, the USA and, numerous international steaming outlets.

This afternoon at a packed Boxpark on the boulevard to Wembley Stadium both fighters weighed in before the media and boisterous ticket entry crowd.

Fury will defend his The Ring magazine title along with the WBC crown (one quarter of the sanctioning belts up for grabs). But, everyone knows that the Gypsy King from Morecambe Bay, Lancashire, England is the true heavyweight champion, at least for one more night anyway.

Fury (31-0-1, 22 KO’s) took to the scales second, weighing in at 263lbs, 13oz (18st, 8lbs), approximately one stone lighter than his trilogy fight with Deontay Wilder last October. Whyte (28-2, 19 KO’s), the mandatory contender for his WBC title, weighed in a solid 253lbs, 4oz (18st), a little heavier than his last contest against Russian Alexander Povetkin. Both combatants showed respect to each other and even shared a joke and jig or two. Come tomorrow night they will dance to a different tune.

So, what can we expect ? Fury is by far the bigger man and this was evident as they faced off. In response, Whyte has put on the additional poundage that will attempt to negate that advantage when they come into the clinches. The champion is known for his excellent jab using his long arms, his ring generalship and backed up by solid power. To prevail, the challenger will have get inside early, find and work the champion’s softer torso and use his toughness to force the champion into a dog fight. The 34 year old Londoner has improved considerably in recent years and now has a sound technique to back up his undoubted streetfighting skills. He won’t be overwhelmed by his 33 year old opponent’s physical advantages or his championship experience.

Both fighters are familiar with each others strengths and weaknesses having sparred numerous rounds ten years ago and coming through the British fight scene together. Despite the record attendance expected, neither will be overawed by the magnitude of the occasion. Both are fighting men and have top level stadium experience.

Whyte, considered the B-side to this historic contest, much to his disdain and quite frankly an insult to his legitimacy, comes into the fight in shape and confident in his ability. Being interviewed by BT Sport shortly after the weigh-in he said “We(‘re) ready to go to war. I’m ready, I feel fit, let’s go !”

Fury, equally bouyant responded with “I’m back !” and re-iterated his amazement to the fans response to the event and the successful training camp that he’d had “I want to take it all in, with it being my last one” – referring to his pre-fight comments on this being his final fight. That is unlikely to be the case, but who can doubt what the ‘Gypsy King’ will do win, lose or even draw.

What we do know is if this retirement happens, then boxing will be poorer for it. The champion has lit up the sport along with other heavyweights, most notably Anthony Joshua for almost a decade and only they could fill Wembley Stadium for such an event. But, let’s savour what we have here tomorrow – a legitimate fight for the heavyweight championship of the world between two excellent boxers and a sold out arena to boot.

The Undisputed sees the fight delivering on the hype with an excellent contest, that will swing one way and another, and with knockdowns registered by both fighters. However, we expect the superior chin and ringcraft of the champion to prevail over the twelve rounds with a hard fought but unanimous points decision. When the dust finally settles the Gypsy King will hold onto his titles and move onto his next challenge. It may be some time coming though if his pre-fight retirement comments are to be believed.

The event is televised in the UK on BT Sport Box Office and ESPN+ pay-per-view in the USA. It is co-promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc. and Queensberry Promotions fronted by Frank Warren in the UK.

Ring entrances to the main event should start from 10pm (UK time) and the fight is also available live on TalkSport radio. Enjoy !

The PressBox

The world awaits the big London showdown.
Courtesy: Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images.

Only two days out now from the historic showdown between lineal and WBC heavyweight champion of the world Tyson ‘The Gypsy King’ Fury and Dillian ‘The Body Snatcher’ Whyte at a 94,000 sold out Wembley Stadium, London.

Yesterday’s final press conference was a cordial affair with both combatants finally coming face to face. Given the social media exchanges over the last few months this was a refreshing conclusion.

Both fighter’s focus was on their own journey to this juncture and their preparation.

Champion Fury said “It’s been an amazing journey. From where I started all those years ago to the ups and downs and being away from boxing and being fat as f**k, 28 stone. To coming back and being mentally out, a druggie and an alcoholic – all the rest of the stuff…Who would’ve thought it ? We’re looking forward to an awesome memorable night. This will break all records”.

He went on to compliment his adversary, “Dillian Whyte is a good fighter. He is a good, strong, solid man…He’s got a lot of experience in the fight game. He’s definitely a man that needs a lot of respect…I haven’t left any stones unturned. I’ve trained as hard for Dillian as I have for Wilder or Klitschko”.

The challenger from London via Jamaica responded “It means everything to me to be fighting in my home country, and especially because it’s for the world title at Wembley…It’s a moment I’ve been waiting for. It’s a big fight. Like Tyson said, we didn’t expect to be here. But I’m here, I’ve taken risks time and time again. I’ve had a couple of slipups along the way, but I’m here and I’m ready to go”.

Todd duBoef representing co-promoters Top Rank Inc. added “This is more than boxing. This is the world of sport…the world is all going to be watching, not only 94,000”. This is true to the extent that the fight will be broadcast live and exclusive in the UK on BT Sport Box Office, in the United States on ESPN+ pay per view and no doubt streamed worldwide.

It’s historic significance on UK shores is it will be the first time since Lennox Lewis v Frank Bruno in October 1993 that a legitimate version of the heavyweight title has been fought between two Brits in the UK and, first time the title been contested in England since Muhammad Ali v Brian London in August 1966. The former contest being held in Cardiff, Wales. In the UK this is a major event, but worldwide the significance is the lineal and Ring magazine title are up for grabs. The winner will be the man who beat the man, who beat the man – right back to John L Sullivan in the late 1800’s.

Frank Warren of Queensberry Promotions further added “You’ve got the best heavyweight of his generation, the lineal champion and WBC champion against a young man…who’s been waiting for this fight for 34 years”. Continuing “He’s told me that it’s been the best training camp that he’s ever had…So, what are you going to get on the night of the fight ? A great fight”.

The stage is set, the tickets are sold, the pay per views are shifting so now it’s down to the fighters. The official weigh-in is at 2:30pm UK time Friday, 9:30am Eastern time (US)/6:30am Pacific time.

Look out for tomorrow’s Friday Faceup on this site for our pre-fight prediction.

The Monday LunchBox

Welterweight prospect Conor Benn wins again.
Photos: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.

A couple of excellent performances over the weekend in the welterweight (10st,7lbs) division cleared the fog towards unification and continued the upward trajectory of a young prospect.

In Arlington, Texas Errol Spence Jr. turned in an impressive ten rounds in stopping Cuban Yordenis Ugas to unify four of the belts available amongst the 147 pounders. The one outlier is the WBO championship held by Omaha’s Terence Crawford. A contest between the two Americans remains the biggest fight to be made in boxing outside of the heavyweights and been three years in the waiting.

Saturday’s events moved that ‘superfight’ a step closer and although both would have been in their ultimate prime pre-COVID it’s a contest that remains mouthwatering.

Spence (28-0, 22 KO’s) at 32 is two years Crawford’s junior and although involved in a serious car accident a couple of years ago has turned in two impressive performances on the comeback trail and would likely enter as the favorite. Crawford (38-0, 29 KO’s) is a three weight ‘world’ champion and exceptional fighter ranked #3 pound-for-pound by The Ring magazine. In some fans and pundits eyes he should be the #1.

Now that previous promotional/network ties have been severed on Crawford’s side and both fighters have nowhere else to go it finally looks like green for go. Potentially, this could be the Sugar Ray Leonard v Thomas Hearns of the 2020’s.

Spence systematically bashed up the Cuban Ugas over ten hard rounds forcing the stoppage after 1:44 mins. He came through some difficult moments in the sixth when his gumshield was knocked out and was under extreme pressure before the referee controversially temporarily halted the attack, but after weathering the storm was well ahead at the time of the stoppage.

In Manchester, England Conor ‘Destroyer’ Benn further enhanced his burgeoning reputation with a second round bombing out of experienced South African Chris Van Heerden.

With every fight Benn (21-0, 14 KO’s) makes a bigger statement and name for himself in the division. The quality of his opposition is supposedly improving in each fight but he’s making a mockery of pre-fight predictions by simply blowing away his opponents. His power is reminiscent of father, Nigel (the former two weight ‘world’ champion), and he shows the same fitness and intensity. The 25 year old Londoner is now ranked #5 by most sanctioning bodies and heads the next generation of challengers to whoever prevails when Spence and Crawford finally meet.

Heerden drops to 28-3-1 (12 KO’s).

Also on the card European cruiserweight champion Chris Billam-Smith (15-1, 10 KO’s) repeated his previous career victory over Tommy McCarthy in the eighth round. Smith is ranked the #10 best cruiserweight by The Ring and his sole defeat is to domestic rival Richard Riakporhe at #8. The 200 pound division in the UK is one of the hottest around.

In Telford, England the European junior-featherweight champion Jason Cunningham stopped Frenchman Terry LeCouviour in the sixth round to successfully defend his title for a second time. At 32 years old Cunningham (31-6, 7KO’s) will have to move fast to seal a world title shot.

The weekend was topped with some excellent contests in the latest edition of the BOXXER elimination tournament from Coventry, England. This time it was held in the lightweight (9st,9lb/135lb) category and was won by local man Dylan Cheema. Despite having a very tight semi-final contest the 25 year old went home with the first prize and has an easy on the eye box-puncher style. The future looks bright for him and the continuation of this fan-friendly format.

Boxing will likely dominate the back pages for the remainder of the week as we build towards Saturday’s big WBC world heavyweight title fight between Brit’s Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte. Look for further updates here over the week.

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

The PressBox

Promo courtesy of Top Rank Inc.

Just over one week away from the big WBC heavyweight showdown between champion Tyson ‘The Gypsy King’ Fury and #1 contender Dillian ‘The Body Snatcher’ Whyte at a 94,000 sell out Wembley Stadium, the two combatants shared their thoughts with the media today via video linkup.

Both fighters were confident, relaxed and generous in their appreciation of each other, although come fight week things may get a bit more heated.

The champion was first up saying “I believe we’re going to see something epic, and a classic from Tyson Fury ! .. everyone wants to see it in the UK – the homecoming – both camps are looking forward to the night”. Noting that it would be held on St.George’s Day (the patron saint of England) he said in his usual humour “After this fight the patron saint is gonna be St.Tyson instead of St.George”.

In what will be the biggest live boxing attendance in the UK, the event’s co-promoter and international boxing hall of famer Bob Arum added it would be the biggest attendance he’d promoted since John Tate v Gerrie Coetzee in Pretoria, South Africa. A fight that took place back in October 1979 and had a live gate of 82,000. Next Saturday’s promotion will be of epic proportions.

Fury said that it was “Absolutely fantastic to be shown the love” (by the fans) and that he was “overwhelmed” and “without the fans there wouldn’t be an event”. He added a “massive thank you”.

On his opponent he said “I’m not underestimating him, I’ve given him all my time … Whyte is a top five heavyweight”. In terms of his strategy and approach on fight night he added “Whatever Dillian wants to do, we’ll accommodate him”. Finally, he promised a special ring walk entrance befitting of the occasion and venue.

Dillian Whyte dialled in separately and look relaxed and confident. Asked about his opportunity and the prospect ahead he responded “It feels great” but noted “I’m under no illusion what I’m up against”.

He made the point that it’s not just the Tyson Fury show, perhaps indirectly explaining his delay in finally accepting terms for the fight. He emphasized the fanbase that he would bring to the event.

On his physical condition the challenger explained “I’m in good shape, ready to go”. When asked for his approach and a prediction on the night, he responded “I can only control what I can control…I don’t know what’s going to happen”. He gave some background to the comparison between the two in experience, but noted “I’ve improved a lot” pointing out “I only had seven amateur fights”.

However, the challenger brings a solid 28-2 (19 KO) record to the contest, in comparison to the champion’s 31-0-1 (22 KO) log. On the line will be the WBC title and the ‘lineal’ heavyweight championship of the world. The man who beat the man, who beat the man – tracing back to John L Sullivan in the 1890’s, through to Louis, Marciano, Ali, Tyson and Lewis.

The event promises to be ‘one for the ages’ and look for the hype to build over the next nine days. It will be shown live in the UK on BT Sport Box Office and on ESPN+ pay per view in the USA.

It’s co-promoted by Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions and Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc.

The Monday LunchBox

Gennadiy G Golovkin – Five things we learned:

  1. GGG is back – and it sure was great to have him. The threshing machine of the last ten years may have his tools blunted by the sands of time, but the chopping shots that exploded on Ryota Murata’s head on Saturday reminded us how good GGG still is. True, he was slow and it took him a few rounds to get going, after having one fight in almost three years, but once he checked in he forced the pace and started landing those powerful jabs followed by clubbing head and body shots and his brave Japanese opponent gradually unravelled. The stoppage came at 2:11 of the ninth. Murata entered the contest with a 16-2 (13 KO) record and an Olympic gold medal to his log. Golovkin, four years his senior, systematically took him apart and to this writer remains the most entertaining fighter in boxing. A man who’s never in a bad fight and always brings his ‘Big Drama show’ and undoubted class to the party.
  2. He ain’t what he was, but it doesn’t matter – Golovkin looked vulnerable to pace and body shots on Saturday. He’s never been dropped or stopped as a professional, but is starting to show a fallibility to body shots. A man of forty years of age should do ! Whilst the strength of his chin is unquestionable, it’s the softer parts of his finely chiselled body that may be his downfall. However, to get to it you’ve got to penetrate that jab and work inside his class and relentless attack. YOU will have to be able to take a shot to do that, and not many fighters are able to tough it out.
  3. The Canelo trilogy fight has to happen – One all in most ring observers books and you’d have to be GGG’s worst critic not to give him the right to challenge the #1 pound-for-pounder Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (57-1-2, 39 KO’s) in a third defining fight. First the Mexican must come through a tough assignment at light-heavyweight against Russian Dmitry Bivol (19-0, 11 KO’s) on May 7 in Las Vegas. But, if and when that happens, September 17 is pencilled in for the Canelo-GGG trilogy fight. Despite it’s late coming it will likely be the biggest grossing fight in boxing history. Mexico City is the front runner for its staging, but the Vegas casinos will be pushing hard for that one.
  4. The Hall awaits – In the modern era it’s commonplace to give current fighters a lack of respect compared to those of yesteryear. True, life was tougher in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. There was more hardship and more fighters operating of high quality. Even, into the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s there were great fighters and great divisions, non more so than the 160lb (11st, 6lb) category. Some of the greatest fighters of all time have operated in this weight class. Think – Robinson, Monzon and Hagler. But, Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin can rightly sit among them, making a record number of defences (albeit of a splintered title) but taking part in two ‘fights of the ages’ with Canelo and compiling a 42-1-1 (37 KO) record.
  5. The end is nigh – Enjoy Golovkin while you can. Realistically he has one more fight left. Win, lose or draw against Canelo that will be it. Even in the modern era no fighter can compete at the elite level well into their early forties, unless they don’t have to make weight. It’s likely the Canelo fight, should it ultimately happen, will take place at a catchweight 168lbs (12st) or at light-heavy. The nine years younger Mexican will be an undoubted favorite going in. However, most great fighters have one great night left. Don’t count the Kazakh out.

Other main news over the weekend was the successful return of Ryan Garcia (22-0, 18 KO’s) against Emmanuel Tagoe with a hard fought unanimous twelve round decision. The 23 year old Mexican is one of the brightest stars in boxing and will look to work his way through the stacked lightweight (135lb/9st,9lb) division.

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

The Friday Faceup

Gennadiy Golovkin (left) and Ryoto Murata shape up in Japan.
Photo: Naoki Fukuda

Boxing life continues at 40 for elite middleweight Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin when he faces Japan’s Olympic and former WBA world champion Ryoto Murata in Saitama tomorrow lunchtime (UK time).

GGG turns forty today and whilst his boxing career has very much entered its final chapter he’ll attempt to show there’s still life in those old fists yet. Victory would almost certainly secure him that elusive trilogy fight with recognised world pound-for-pound #1 Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. The pair having last met four years ago in an epic.

But first, the Kazakh must come through tomorrow, which is not a gimmee. Golovkin (41-1-1, 36 KO’s) faces a challenger in Murata (16-2-0, 13 KO’s) who hasn’t fought at the same level with any regularity but has the quality of an Olympic champion and sufficient toughness to cause him problems. Murata was impressive when taking gold at London 2012 in the middleweight category and although his career hasn’t really taken off due to inactivity he is to be respected.

Golovkin in his heyday was a murderous puncher, with a heavy handedness that resulted in him being much avoided, and registering a high KO ratio in his victories. Time and a number of recent wars have eroded that aura of invincibility, but they say the last thing a puncher loses is that very thing.

Both are comfortable at middleweight with Golovkin campaigning for his whole career in the 160lb (11st, 6lb) division. Yesterday’s weigh-in saw both men scale 159.5lbs. The Japanese is four years younger at 36 and although significantly short in professional experience will be on his home patch and confident going in.

The title on the line is the spurious WBA middleweight ‘super’ championship but the stakes are high for both, particularly GGG. If he comes through spectacularly with a stoppage victory it’s full steam ahead to the Canelo fight, which is currently pencilled in for September. Although expect numerous shenanigans before it becomes reality.

In many eyes Golovkin will be a heavy underdog in that endeavour, but the Kazakh has given Canelo all he can handle in two fights and the opinion of some, The Undisputed included, is he’s 1-0 up.

Regarding tomorrow’s contest, the Japanese has nothing to lose and it wouldn’t be a big upset if he unsurped the IBF world middleweight champion. His 12cm reach advantage will pose the Kazakh early problems. But, our view is that he’s in too deep and Golovkin will come through around the ninth round when his heavier punching causes the Japanese corner to ultimately pull out their man.

The fight will be live on the DAZN streaming site and ring entrances are expected around 12:30 British Summer Time (BST).

In the USA we see the return of much hyped lightweight champion Ryan Garcia (21-0, 18 KO’s) against Emmanuel Tagoe (32-1, 15 KO’s) on a Golden Boy Promotions show from San Antonio, Texas. The 23 year old Mexican’s had an extended sabbatical due to mental related issues, but his return is welcome and he should come through this test with a late round stoppage.

The bout will again be available on DAZN in the early hours of Sunday morning (BST).

Enjoy your fight weekend.

The Monday LunchBox

World ranked cruiserweight Richard Riakporhe.
Photo: Lawrence Lustig/BOXXER

Some excellent contests and performances over the weekend continued the positive return of boxing to British rings.

Honourable mention goes to Josh Warrington who successfully regained his IBF world featherweight (9st/126lbs) title defeating Spain’s Kiko Martinez in the First Direct Arena, Leeds. It was an action packed bout in front of a capacity and deafening crowd in attendance to cheer on their hero ‘Leeds Warrior’ Warrington. The bout was promoted by Matchroom Boxing and shown live on the DAZN streaming channel.

The challenger met Martinez head on from the opening bell, fighting with wreckless abandon and the intensity of his attack almost overwhelmed the Spaniard in the first round. After an early clash of heads the Leeds man clipped the champion dropping him in the first and the pattern of the bout was set – Warrington surging forward with dynamic sorties and Martinez fighting out of a low crouch, attempting to catch his opponent with overhand counters.

Despite a brave first defence from Martinez the end came at 2:12 of the seventh with a big overhand right and relentless follow up blows forcing referee Marcus McDonnell to step in and halt the fight.

This capped one of the finest performances from Warrington (31-1-1, 8 KO’s) repeating his earlier victory against the Spaniard by the shorter route. At 31 years old he looks to move onto marquee unification fights or a possible domestic showdown with fellow franchise world champion Leigh Wood. Martinez dropped to 43-11-2 (30 KO’s) and at aged 36 is likely be finished at this level.

In London, on an excellent BOXXER promotion there were good victories for world ranked cruiserweight Richard Riakporhe who stopped Deion Juma, and new British light-heavyweight champion Dan Azeez who continued his upward trend by halting Reece Cartwright, thereby avenging a defeat to the same opponent in the amateur code.

Riakporhe (14-0, 10 KO’s) had early trouble with Juma’s southpaw stance and movement but detonated a counter right at the end of the fourth round that momentarily poleaxed his opponent. Juma rose quickly taking the count and after surviving the round was always wary of the bigger punching Riakporhe. The fight was nip and tuck for the remaining rounds until the tall Riakporhe landed a wicked body shot to the solar plexus leaving Jumah in agony on all fours and crawling around the ring. The referee had seen enough by then and called the fight off. Jumah drops to 14-1 (7 KO’s).

Riakporhe is ranked #7 by the World Boxing Council and although can be one paced and sometimes over cautious is an undoubted heavy hitter. The ‘Midnight Train’ is a big man with bad intentions. Competition amongst British cruiserweights (14st,4lbs/200lbs) is looking good and big fights await with current WBO world champion Lawrence Okolie or a number of others at world level. The south Londoner is well placed to cash in when the opportunity arises.

British champion Dan Azeez (16-0, 11 KO’s) struggled early doors to build on the momentum of his title winning effort against Hosea Burton, with Reece Cartwright (23-3, 14 KO’s) giving him all manner of problems. Mid-fight after getting his second wind the champion started to up the pace and Cartwright took a lot of punishment with his face getting more marked up as the rounds progressed. The fight was eventually stopped by the referee in the eighth after Cartwright’s corner threw the towel in saving their fighter further punishment. Despite defeat, it was a good performance by Cartwright who’d taken the fight at less than a week’s notice.

Azeez was not at his best but now looks to build on his recent momentum with a potential sequence of fights in a domestically stacked 12st,7lbs/175lbs division.

Some young prospects also registered impressive stoppage victories with the most spectacular being Adam Azim (4-0, 3 KO’s) destructing Conor Marsden (6-2, 5 KO’s) within 30 seconds. Twenty one year old female GB Olympian Caroline Dubois (2-0, 1 KO) halted Hungary’s Martina Horgasz (5-19, 4 KO’s) with a textbook body attack.

The atmosphere inside the OVO Wembley Arena was rowdy all night with a large number of soccer fans in the house supporting Riakporhe, a passionate Crystal Palace FC fan. There was also a south coast soccer contingent with Southampton born Joe Pigford extending his record to 19-0 (18 KO’s) over tough Argentinian David Romero. Another impressive night of boxing live on Sky Sports continued the upward trajectory of the BOXXER franchise.

In the US, the main card was a Top Rank show from Resorts World, Las Vegas. Comebacking Mexican Miguel Berchelt was a shadow of his former-self being stopped by Namibian Jeremiah Nakathila after six one sided rounds. The bout at lightweight was between two fringe contenders who’ve moved into the 9st,9lbs/135lbs division after recent defeats in a lower weight class. Much was expected of Belchelt being a former WBC world champion.

Nakathila (23-2, 19 KO’s) was dominant throughout the bout and goes onto stiffer challenges. Berchelt (38-3, 34 KO’s) will have to regroup to get anywhere near a world title again.

An interesting week awaits with the hype building towards the Tyson Fury-Dillian Whyte heavyweight showdown on April 23 and further news on the returning Anthony Joshua and unified champion Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk.

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

The Weekender

London cruiserweights promise fireworks Saturday.
Photo: Lawrence Lustig/BOXXER

There’s some interesting match ups in British rings this weekend.

On the BOXXER promotion (Sat 26 March) shown live on Sky Sports from the OVO Wembley Arena is a cruiserweight contest between undefeated Brits Richard Riakporhe and Deion Jumah. Both men have reason to be confident having answered most questions on their way up to this point.

Riakporhe (13-0, 9 KO’s) is world ranked and impressed last time out against Olanrejawu Durodola at the same venue. Jumah (14-0, 7 KO’s) has turned a good amateur record (former ABA champion and English international) into the pro’s and, although the older of the two, offers an excellent challenge.

Both boxers talked a good contest at Thursday’s spicy final press conference and it promises much. Riakporhe looks to have the better power and upward trajectory but the southpaw stance of Jumah will cause him early problems. After a competitive first eight rounds we predict a late stoppage by the younger and fresher Riakporhe.

Chief support will be new British light-heavyweight champion Dan Azeez against former amateur nemesis Matthew Tinker. The latter holds a victory against the champion and Azeez has revenge on his mind. Londoner Azeez looks to have all the tools to compete in a stacked British 12st 7lb (175lb) division and is improving with each fight. His title victory over Hosea Burton by seventh round stoppage last November at Wembley was an excellent contest and performance. We expect him to win Saturday’s fight again by mid-round stoppage.

The BOXXER event is further enhanced with the return of promising brothers Adam Aziz, in a lightweight contest, and Hassan Aziz at welterweight. Tokyo 2020 Olympian Caroline Dubois also features in her second professional contest. Bright futures are expected for all three and they should come through their contests comfortably.

Up in Leeds, north England, is an intriguing contest between Spain’s returning ‘world’ featherweight champion Kiko Martinez (43-10-2, 30 KO’s) against hometown favourite Josh Warrington (30-1-1, 7 KO’s). This is promoted by Matchroom Boxing and available on the DAZN streaming channel.

Martinez, now 36, came from nowhere to regain a version of the world title when ‘sparking’ Kid Galahad late last year in what many regard as the upset of the year and The Ring magazine voted their comeback of 2021. The Spaniard had fought consistently at world level for over a decade but was thought a spent force going into the Galahad fight. However, the one punch knockout was nothing short of sensational.

The contest with Warrington is his first defence of his IBF title and a rematch. The Leeds challenger holds a victory over Martinez just under five years ago.

The key to this contest will be who has the most left as both in different ways are still on the comeback trail. Warrington, a former IBF champion himself, after losing his title to Mauricio Lara, has failed to restart his career to date, some of which has been due to enforced absence over successive COVID lockdowns. Martinez more recently has a win some-lose some record, but is always in splendid condition and comes to fight. It’s likely though the younger Leeds man will prevail in a tough contest to regain his title.

The title fight is also well supported with an excellent domestic match between Maxi Hughes (24-5-2, 5 KO’s) and Ryan Walsh (27-3-2, 12 KO’s) at lightweight. This could be a pick-ems with either fighter likely to emerge victorious. The card also features a potentially good female contest between Maria Cecilia Roman and Ebanie Bridges for the IBF ‘world’ bantamweight title.

Enjoy your fight weekend.

The Monday LunchBox

An ecstatic Leigh Wood after punching Michael Conlan out the ring.
Photo: Matchroom

Wow, what a fight !

How did Leigh Wood come back from that devastating first round knockdown to defeat Michael Conlan by stunning knockout in the final round of their WBA world featherweight title fight Saturday ? Through sheer guts and determination, that is the answer.

Wood, the champion from Nottingham, England was making the first defence of his title ripped from China’s Can Xu last year. Fighting in his hometown before a rabid local crowd, buoyed by a big Irish attendance backing the challenger, the fight and Wood’s victory was nothing short of sensational.

Irishman, Conlan, a double Olympian and undefeated, was the favourite going in. Compiling an undefeated 16-0 record. It was expected this would be his coming out fight to finally capture his first ‘world’ title, since turning pro amidst much fanfare in Madison Square Garden back in 2017. Wood had other ideas.

For much of Saturday’s contest Conlan dominated with his superior boxing skills; switch hitting and ending exchanges with a long looping left that kept detonating on the champion’s head. Wood simply couldn’t avoid it.

Right on the bell to end the first round a massive left dropped Wood and his legs stiffened. Fight over ? Not on your nelly. The champion somehow dragged himself up, and on shaky legs taking the nine count, was allowed to return to his corner. If the fight had been stopped there and then, disappointment would’ve followed but few argued.

For much of the opening rounds Wood just couldn’t get in the fight. Conlan showing a wonderful array of his superior skills gained from his highly successful amateur career. Then as the rounds clicked over the champion got more into the contest with his mental toughness and higher workrate, but not really making a dent in the Ulsterman.

The eleventh round swung the fight when Wood landed a short left hook to end an exchange towards the round’s end and a combination of the impact and slip saw Conlan hit the canvas. All of sudden we had a question mark over the challenger. Conlan, protesting to the referee that it was indeed a slip, the count was however administered, and he was not so far ahead now. The points were getting closer with each man scoring a knockdown.

The twelfth was a slugfest which you could’ve given to either fighter by mid round, then, with Conlan seemingly going to victory BOOM ! The champion landed and the Irishman disappeared out the ring between the second and third rope. By now the crowd noise was deafening and amidst the panic all ringside concern was for the welfare of the challenger.

Medical supervision was immediate and after a tense and worrying fifteen minutes the challenger was taken safely from ringside. Michael Conlan was safe, had played his part in an epic fight and literally left the ring ‘on his shield’.

Leigh Wood was denied his opportunity to truly celebrate due to concern over his opponent but paid the Irishman ultimate respect in the post fight interview on DAZN. He described his toughness saying he’d hit him with everything. In the early hours Conlan tweeted his improving condition, much to the relief of all who witnessed this amazing contest.

It truly was one for the ages and will be a strong contender for 2022 fight of the year.

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

The Monday LunchBox

Legend Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez.

The small Central American country of Nicaragua sits in the neck of the Americas between the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. It has a population of roughly 6.5 million and for much of the 1970’s and 80’s had world notoriety for revolution, being ravaged by a civil war and, the resultant US intervention.

From amidst the chaos of the country at the time emerged one of the greatest fighters in boxing history Alexis Arguello. ‘El Flaco Explosivo’ (the Explosive Thin Man) is the benchmark against which all Nicaraguan fighters are measured, and to a degree all Hispanic fighters. He was that good and a gentleman to boot.

Alexis narrowly failed in his attempt to become a four-weight world champion in 1982 in his epic loss to Aaron Pryor. Their first fight in the Orange Bowl, Miami being voted the fight of the 1980’s. Some achievement given this was the era of the Four Kings – Hagler, Leonard, Duran and Hearns.

On Saturday night in San Diego we witnessed the heir apparent and someone who can rightly claim to be in the hearts and minds of all Nicaraguans of this generation. Though much smaller in physical stature Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez (51-3-0, 41 KO’s) is an exceptional fighter. Where Arguello fell short, albeit in a stacked era, ‘Chocolatito’ has eclipsed the great man’s achievement.

Gonzalez is the first, and only fighter, to gain versions of the world title in the four lightest weight classes – strawweight, light-flyweight, flyweight and junior-bantamweight. This reads from 105lbs – 115lbs (7st,7lbs to 8st,3lbs). He stands a mere 5ft,3in (1.60m) and is now 34 years old. Following his unanimous points victory over Julio Cesar Martinez on Saturday he spoke of possibly moving up to 118lbs (bantamweight) and having another 3-4 fights before retiring.

He is quite simply a living boxing legend already and will be a first ballot hall-of-famer when he does finally hang up his gloves. He’s been The Ring magazine #1 pound-for-pounder (recognised as the best in boxing) and although no longer holds that title, will likely re-enter the top ten again after Saturday’s victory.

Gonzalez’ performance on the Matchroom show was a boxing masterclass against a 27 year old who currently holds the WBC world flyweight title. He systematically schooled his younger foe, breaking him down from the opening bell with balance, precision and the superior punch output.

Martinez tried to pressure Gonzalez and stand toe to toe winging wide right hands and left hooks, but the Nicaraguan legend simply stood in the pocket firing in straight right hands that repeatedly exploded on the Mexican’s chin and landed murderous left hooks to his body.

The fight should arguably have been stopped in the ninth, tenth, eleventh or twelfth but Martinez somehow managed to see the final bell. The Mexican’s corner were massaging his legs inbetween rounds and attempted to galvanise him as he somehow summoned the energy to last the championship rounds.

‘Chocolatito’ by contrast was a picture of composure and control as the final bell approached. The returned scores of 118-110 and 117-111 were a true reflection of his dominance, 116-112 being generous to Martinez. Comparisons were made by the DAZN network commentary team to the third and fourth coming of Roberto Duran when he defeated Davey Moore and Iran Barkley after repeatedly being written off in the 1980’s.

Gonzalez continues to silence those who wrote him off in 2017 after losing twice to Thai Sor Rungvisai (the second a shocking KO loss) and last year narrowly to Ring magazine junior-bantamweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada. A third fight with the excellent ‘Gallo’ Estrada beckons with the scores currently 1-1.

Try to catch ‘Chocolatito’ while you can, this is a special fighter who despite what he says may not reach his four fights before retirement. The Estrada trilogy fight will be one for the ages.

In a London luncheon yesterday (Sunday) organised by the British Boxing Board of Control the current unified world junior-welterweight champion Josh Taylor was awarded the 2021 British boxer of the year for the second time. This followed his standout year capped by defeating Jose Ramirez in Las Vegas to become the undisputed champion. Taylor’s trainer Ben Davison was voted British trainer of the year.

Jose Ramirez (27-1, 17 KO’s) returned Saturday night in California with a unanimous points victory against Jose Pedraza and all post-fight talk was of him regaining his titles. Ramirez won 116-112 on all cards but laboured to victory against the slick Pedraza, a former two-times world champion. A Josh Taylor rematch at 140lbs (10st) would be another potential fight of the year should that be mandated by the WBC. This is assuming that England’s Jack Catterall does not receive an immediate rematch after his standout performance against Taylor last weekend. There’s plenty to ponder in the ten stone division in the coming weeks.

Tokyo Olympic super-heavyweight silver medallist Richard Torres Jr. had a successful professional debut at heavyweight stopping Allen Melson in the second round on the Top Rank show from California.

Finally, tickets for the WBC world heavyweight title fight between Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte went on sale last week selling out within hours. A extension to raise the gate from 90,000 to 100,000 at Wembley Stadium, London has been applied for by co-promoters Queensberry and Top Rank. The bout is due to take place on April 23, St. George’s Day in England.

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