The Monday LunchBox

Dillian Whyte lands a textbook left hook on Alexander Povetkin.
Photo courtesy of Matchroom Boxing.

Back in business

It’s been a long seven months for British heavyweight Dillian Whyte to reflect on what he got wrong in the Matchroom Fight Camp last summer. He knew the only way he could silence the naysayers and regain the momentum lost was to avenge his defeat to Russia’s Alexander Povetkin. This, he emphatically did in the foothills of the Rock of Gibralta on Saturday night.

In a hastily arranged rematch it took Whyte (28-2, 19 KO’s) a mere eleven and half minutes to wipe the slate and regain his lofty position to fight for the WBC heavyweight championship. Povetkin, the 2004 Olympic champion and two time world title challenger was never really in their fight, looking shaky on his legs from the opening bell, and finally succumbing to Whyte’s pressure and heavy blows on 2:39 of the fourth round.

It wasn’t really a story of Povetkin (36-3-1, 25 KO’s), who now at 41 must contemplate retirement, but more a story of how a fighter can recover from a single punch shock defeat, regroup and basically continue where they left off before receiving that blow. Over the four completed rounds Whyte had dominated their first fight and then got nailed by arguably the best single shot of 2020, a left hook cum uppercut. Coming into Saturday’s fight there were many who picked Povetkin to do the same, as rematches historically often go that way.

Whyte however knew in that seven months between fights that he was the better man and it had merely been a lapse in concentration resulting in the defeat. He still though had to prove it and the pressure on him would have been immense on entering the ring.

Ultimately his victory was emphatic and sent a statement out to the leading heavyweights and world sanctioning bodies. In the post-fight interview he cited the sacrifices made over the Christmas period to prepare diligently for the rematch. All time well spent.

Also how close he was to victory last time out “I was so close, and then one lapse in concentration and I made a mistake”. That “mistake” resulted in him losing his mandatory challenger ranking with the WBC. This week they should though do the right thing and re-install the Londoner to a position as their number one contender for Tyson Fury’s championship.

We know the biggest fight in boxing is due to take place sometime this year between three belt champion Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury, and that it may result in an immediate rematch. We also know that former WBC champ Deontay Wilder has not fought since losing to Fury early last year and has bitched and moaned about it ever since, not ever indicating his real desire to re-enter the ring. For this he should sacrifice his ranking and Whyte be re-installed.

Boxing politics will dictate when and where the 32 year old Londoner gets his shot at the title, but provided that “mistake” is not replicated in any unnecessary intervening fight, he should challenge the winner of the Joshua-Fury argument. This will likely be early 2022.

After fighting most leading contenders in the last three years Whyte deserves the rest and to watch others battle it out before ultimately being forced to face him. A retaining of his conditioning and desire over that period will be important factors but, don’t bet against him rising from the dust when it finally settles.

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

The Friday Faceup

Photo courtesy of Matchroom Boxing

Tomorrow night (27th March) in the shadow of the Rock of Gibraltar, the British territory off southern Spain, recent mandatory contender for the WBC world heavyweight title Dillian Whyte gets the chance to avenge his shock KO defeat last summer to Russia’s Alexander Povetkin. The winner will likely go on to fight for the world title currently held by Tyson Fury, the loser is unlikely to ever challenge for it.

In essence, this is a ‘crossroads’ fight that will determine the immediate, and likely ultimate, destiny of both boxers careers. It is essentially a fight that Whyte has to win to regain momentum and remain a contender. Povetkin is closer to the end of this impressive career than beginning and will seek to replicate his victory for one last shot at the world title following losses to Wladimir Klitschko and Anthony Joshua.

Below is a re-post of an article from September 2020 following Dillian Whyte’s original defeat where we considered what was necessary for him to be successful in the rematch.

Tomorrow we will find out.

The event promoted by Matchroom Boxing will be shown live on Sky Sports Box Office in the UK.

The Road to Recovery

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts” – Winston S Churchill

The sport of boxing in many ways is a metaphor for life. A long and glittering history is resplendent with heroic moments (Joe Louis’ victory for ‘good’ in spectacularly knocking out Max Schmeling in 1938, Muhammad Ali regaining the heavyweight title at 32 in the depths of the African jungle, Diego Corrales pulling himself off the canvas to stop Jose Luis Castillo in 2005, to name but a few).

Careers are marked and emphasized by peaks and troughs, losses and redemption (Roberto Duran’s destruction of Davey Moore in 1983 after the ‘No Mas’ humiliation) and; inevitably losses again.  Ultimately a defining, and maybe devastating loss, provides a suffix to a career that is on full consideration, either deemed a success or a failure of some sort.

Failures or losses, as in life, are part of boxing.  The important thing that defines a fighter at the end of their career is when this loss came, the manner and circumstances under which it happened, and most importantly, if and how the said boxer recovered professionally (or maybe sadly didn’t) from the loss.

A loss in early career can cause circumspection, self-analysis and the boxer to really consider whether the sport is for them. If a fighter is to persevere and resume their career there are good precedents to observe. The sport is littered with examples of when a boxer has lost their professional debut and then gone on to have an elite career, and in some cases ultimately end up in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Consider the careers of Alexis Arguello, Bernard Hopkins to illustrate this.

Some of the most difficult losses to deal with occur in mid-career, particularly when everyone expected you to win and move onto the next level or a title shot. This is what I wish to examine here.

A little over two weeks ago we saw British contender Dillian Whyte, after spending the oft quoted 1,000 plus days in the WBC sanctioning body’s mandatory position for a world title fight, lose in devastating fashion to Russian Alexander Povetkin. This followed hot on the heels of Anthony Joshua’s loss to Andy Ruiz in 2019 when he famously lost his multiple world titles.

Dillian, in his case was clearly ahead in the fight, dropping his opponent twice in the fourth round to then proceed to get knocked out by one devastating left hook-cum-uppercut around his guard in the following round.

This marked Whyte’s second pro defeat after coming up short against Anthony Joshua in December 2015 and rebounding over the intervening years to secure his mandatory contender status. The Brixton ‘Body Snatcher’ will know the risks and fragility of the sport but also the stark nature of the Povetkin defeat will reassure him that it was a one punch knockout, that certainly in the heavyweight division, can happen to the best of them. 

He will know that he was ahead in the fight and a momentary lapse of concentration gave an elite heavyweight (certainly by virtue of Povetkin’s amateur accomplishments and company mixed with as a professional) the opportunity to land the defining blow.  

Povetkin is no mug, but Whyte will need to re-group again to prove that the defeat is a mere ‘blip’ in his developing career.  In fistic terms the Brit whilst an elite heavyweight from recent competition and by virtue of his world ranking is still a ‘work in progress’ with a 27-2-0 (18 KO’s) pro record but no amateur career of note. Most of his skills have come ‘on the job’ and honed from early life across the streets of south London.

Rather like Anthony Joshua proved in avenging the Ruiz defeat, and Lennox Lewis before him on two occasions, a loss mid-career, whilst temporarily derailing progression, in many cases is not career defining. It is most likely Dillian has the fortitude and experience to believe he can avenge that defeat, regain the mandatory contender status and still fulfil his aim of gaining the world heavyweight title.

His strength of character as a boxer has not been in question before, rebounding in spades from the Joshua defeat, showing the resilience and skills to come through difficult moments in fights since, and also deal with the UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) allegations and WBC ‘politrics’ over the last year.

The most important considerations will be; firstly to secure the rematch (apparently there was a clause in the original contract so this is a given), the date and timing of the rematch, how he will plan to rectify the shortcomings that resulted in the defeat, and finally how his opponent enters the rematch.

Whyte has gone on record saying “I think Povetkin was more surprised he stopped me than I was”.  The impact of the victory on the 41 year old Russian could go one of two ways. It could serve as motivation to repeat the feat and fight again for a version of the world title, or it could lead to a complacency in preparation and on the night that a second victory is inevitable.  Look no further than Andy Ruiz conditioning and state of mind when entering the rematch with Joshua.

One would point to Povetkin’s amateur career and the discipline required to fulfil his potential there and that fact that his conditioning is generally top level, to illustrate that a Ruiz-like repeat is unlikely.  Dillian will therefore need to be sure to enter the rematch in the right frame, both in body and mind.

Whyte will know this. In the unlikely event of him not, his training team and the camp they engage in will emphasize this point. Once the rematch is secured good preparation should lead to a re-focus, the aforementioned self-analysis and a strategy being developed and ultimately executed that avoids him being felled by what appeared to be an opportunist punch, although there are some who consider this a planned strategic victory for Povetkin.

Dillian needs to look no further than the earlier stated Brits but also the courage and perseverance shown by Frank Bruno in the 1980’s and 90’s in coming back from devastating defeats on numerous occasions to win the WBC heavyweight title at a fourth world attempt in 1995.  Other examples in the biggest division could be illustrated by Floyd Patterson regaining the title from Ingemar Johansson in 1960, and even the greats of Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson who came back from highly publicised defeats to regain the heavyweight title.

The important distinction in this case is that Dillian Whyte has not fought for the title yet, he remains a contender, albeit one that has recently lost his number one status.  If all is reflected on, lessons learnt and strategy executed this contender can prove once again that “failure is not fatal”.

Farewell to the King

The Undisputed sends it heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Marvelous Marvin Hagler the former undisputed middleweight champion of the world who sadly passed away in New Hampshire, USA yesterday at aged 66.

Marvin’s life and contribution to the sport of boxing will never be forgotten and will be commemorated and celebrated in due course.

Rest in peace the King of Middleweights.

The Weekender

Promo courtesy of Matchroom

The Biggest Little Men

For the casual fight fan the lens of the sport is naturally focused on the big men, generally from middleweight (11st 6lbs/160lbs) up to heavyweight (no limit). The big guys usually attract the attention, and with it, the big bucks.

However, for the aficionado the greater fighters, and frequently fights, are shared across the weight classes and invariably the most momentous battles are fought in those lighter divisions dominated by Hispanic and Far Eastern fighters.

Over recent decades legendary names in the categories from flyweight (8st/112lbs) to featherweight (9st/126lbs) pepper the sport – Sot Chitalada, Carlos Zarate, Ruben Olivares, Alexis Arguello, Azumah Nelson, Manny Pacquiao, and Marco Antonio Barrera to name but a few.

Tonight in the early hours (UK time) two ‘little’ guys will enter the ring in Dallas, Texas in a genuine ‘Superfight’. Mexico’s Juan Francisco Estrada will defend his WBC and Ring magazine super-flyweight (8st 3lbs/115lbs) title against Nicaraguan four weight and current WBA world champion Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez. It is a unification contest that promises to be an epic.

What adds intrigue and quality is it’s not the first time they’ve met. This is a rematch of their November 2012 standout junior flyweight contest which Gonzalez won by a hard fought unanimous decision. Many experts thought the contest should have been much closer than scores suggested. Estrada understandably was aggrieved in what was an all out slugfest.

Since then, a rematch has been inevitable as both fighters have moved through the divisions with outstanding success. Estrada brings a 41-3-0 (28 KO) record into the ring, Gonzalez 50-2-0 (41 KO).

‘Chocolatito’ at one point was The Ring pound for pound #1 (the recognised highest honour in the sport) having won titles in three weight divisions and only first tasting defeat in his 47th pro fight. Now 33 years old the man from Managua is entering the twilight of his career and this could be his ‘last hurrah’. However, on achievement to date he is a first ballot entrant to the International Boxing Hall of Fame and a win tonight would be the zenith of his accomplishments.

‘Gallo’ Estrada at 30 years old is a two weight world champion and has a winning record of 8-2 (5 KO’s) in world title fights. Two of his only three losses have been avenged, with the current exception of Gonzalez. His motivation for winning this fight is unquestioned and in defeating Gonzalez he would elevate himself to similar iconic status.

Billed appropriately ‘Repeat or Revenge’ by promoters Matchroom Boxing and streaming platform DAZN who will transmit the bout , it is a must-see contest and well worth setting your alarm clock for a likely 3.00 GMT start and paying the £1.99 subscription fee. The undercard is also excellent with eleven ‘world’ titles on the line during the evening, including an eagerly awaited female undisputed world welterweight rematch between USA’s Jessica McCaskill and Colombia-born Norwegian Cecilia Braekhus. This is an elite grudge match that promises much.

The Undisputed expects the Estrada-Gonzalez main event to complement their first encounter and live up to the eager anticipation for their rematch. For a prediction, look for the younger Estrada to outwork Gonzalez and emerge victorious on the night probably by unanimous decision. Expect knockdowns and lots of drama on the way though !

‘The Fight’

Courtesy of The Ring magazine

Fight of the Century

Exactly 50 years ago tonight, roughly around 3:00 GMT, the first bell sounded for an event that’s gone down in the long annals of sporting history as one, if not the, greatest of all time. Certainly one that comfortably competes as the greatest of the twentieth century.

On Monday 8th March 1971 in Madison Square Garden, New York City for the first time in boxing history two undefeated champions contested the undisputed Heavyweight Championship of the World.

Muhammad Ali (aka Cassius Clay), the so called ‘Louisville Lip’ and soon to be a cultural icon, had only recently returned from three and half years of enforced exile due to his stance against US military involvement in Vietnam. Despite this inactivity he still held a flawless 31-0 (25 KO’s) record and to many was still regarded as the true lineal champion.

His challenge was to 1964 Olympic champion and recently Ring recognised champion Smokin’ Joe Frazier 26-0 (23 KO’s) from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The whole world was watching.

The Ring had only ten months earlier finally given up on Ali due to his inactivity and recognised Frazier as their champion by virtue of him beating Jimmy Ellis in a heavyweight elimination tournament.

Despite admittedly showing years of patience with Ali their position was concluded in their May 1970 edition by stating “Elimination of Clay will clear up a heavyweight muddle which hurt boxing throughout the world”. Looking back, how damning that was, and oh for the days of the 1970’s and only two world sanctioning bodies !

Both fighters had goaded each other in the lead up to the fight promoting a rightful claim to be called the Heavyweight Champion. Ali, more forceably and personal than his adversary, and Smokin’ Joe having secretly helped Ali financially whilst he was in exile, tranquil and serene. The history of the time is resplendent with images of Ali telephoning Joe in training camp and turning up at gym sessions to goad and disarm his opponent.

It was, the hype of all hype and grudge match of all grudge matches. Deep down Joe knew that until he beat Ali he would never be universally accepted as the champ.

What conspired was truly an event and fight for the ages.

On that famous early spring night each boxer had secured $2.5 million on entering the ring, a staggering and unheard of amount at the time for two prizefighters, and fought before a live crowd of close to 20,000 and worldwide audience on the basic technology of the time.

Anyone who was anyone was in the arena that night. Legendary tales of Frank Sinatra masquerading as a LIFE magazine photographer and Diana Ross being ejected from the press corp for not having a credential are examples of the draw of the event. To say it was the hottest ticket in town would be a gross understatement.

Around the world people tuned in however they could, from the early hour close circuit showings in cinemas in the UK, to the kinfolk huddled around flickering TV’s in townships of South Africa, and onto the Asian continent and the pampas of South America. This was the fight everyone had to see, or as a minimum, know the result of.

History would record that in a spectacular fight Smokin’ Joe would ‘smoke‘ all night, rocking Ali in the eleventh and dropping him with a devastating left hook in the 15th round to gain a unanimous 8-6-1, 9-6 and 11-4 rounds decision on the judges cards. With it, he would win the now undisputed Heavyweight Championship of the World.

Joe would go on to lose the title to George Foreman in Kingston, Jamaica by devastating second round KO in January 1973 and ultimately never regain it. He would meet Ali two more times. Once in ‘The Garden’ again in January 1974 with Ali exacting his revenge by unanimous decision, and then more famously, in the ‘Thrilla in Manila’ in September 1975, with Ali victorious again in a contest the winner would refer to as “The closest to death” he had come.

But, ‘The Fight’ witnessed in New York City in 1971 became the benchmark to which all Superfights are now judged and nothing has ever come close in terms of expectation and delivery. Tonight before your head hits the pillow spare a thought and prayer for two of the greatest fighters of all time who gave us such joy fifty years ago. God bless them both.

The Monday LunchBox

Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez confirms his number one status on Saturday in Miami.

Reflections on another Canelo victory

  1. The WBC mandatory challenger was grossly inadequate Despite two months of preparation the ‘Turkish Wolf’ turned out to be more a ‘lamb in wolf’s clothing’. No one should doubt the bravery of a fighter stepping into the ring but Avni Yildirim’s challenge was sub-standard. It was not that he came to survive but offered nothing more than an advancing human punch bag to the Mexican champion. It was effectively a glorified sparring session for the three completed rounds. With the exception of one strong right hand landing, the Turk’s performance was woeful. Also, how a fighter with two years of inactivity coming off a loss can maintain a number one ranking with a world sanctioning body is beyond reason. It further sums up the current state of boxing with the proliferation of titles and multiple sanctioning bodies. However, this was not Canelo Alvarez’ fault, he was essentially satisfying a mandatory obligation to defend and keep his title.
  2. One more step to greatness – The debate (particularly on DAZN) whether Canelo is now the greatest Mexican fighter of all time is still open to conjecture. What is indisputable is that he’s on the right path. The DAZN anchor team are largely convinced that Canelo has a resume that now surpasses other Mexican legends but, as Sergio Mora insists, ‘El Gran Campion’ Julio Cesar Chavez will never be replaced in the “hearts and minds of the Mexican people”. Canelo’s accomplishments take in ‘world’ titles from 11st (154lbs) up to 12st 7lbs (175lbs) and at only 30 he still potentially has more to achieve, but Chavez “used to stop a nation” every time he fought and his first setback came in his 88th fight in a draw with Pernell Whitaker. Canelo has a loss and two draws in a 58 fight career and his loss to Floyd Mayweather will always be a wrap against him in the pantheons of the sport. He is very unlikely now to get the opportunity to avenge it.
  3. Billy Joe Saunders ‘may’ be a test – Canelo’s next fight has been confirmed for Cinco de Mayo weekend in Las Vegas on 8th May. Current WBO ‘world’ super-middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders will be the opponent. The Englishman is an Olympian, two weight ‘world’ champion and remains undefeated. For that he demands respect. Added, he’s a southpaw, has a high skill-set and exudes self confidence. Finally, throw in his traveller heritage and you get a legitimate challenge to Canelo’s kingdom. We add the word ‘may’ be a test. With Saunders there is the ‘x’ factor, can he put in the fight camp and maintain the motivation and focus, and execute the plan to pose a real threat to Canelo further unifying the titles at 168lbs ? Watch this space.
  4. Canelo should be lorded for his activity – In these COVID times and, you would expect money not being the primary motivating factor, the Mexican could be forgiven for resting on his laurels. However, on the contrary, Canelo has mapped out a year in which he hopes to fight four times. Great for the business and the fight fan – one down, three to go. You may question the quality of the opposition but a busy fighter is always going to get the benefit of the doubt in the eyes of the fans.
  5. The trilogy fight looms in the background – Despite the Mexican’s relentless pursuit of unifying the 168lb division, whatever he achieves will not be appreciated unless and until he settles the score with Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin. In the eyes of many fight fans and media the score is 1-1, some even go as far to say the Kazakh is one up. Canelo despite believing he convincingly beat GGG in the September 2018 rematch, and having no desire to go there again, knows that his legacy will not be complete unless he answers the question for good. This is the fight in the mid-divisions that all of boxing wants and eventually this year (given Golovkin’s advancing years) Canelo will have to accept it. This will be where he will be judged ultimately in the eyes of boxing fans and his domestic comparison to ‘El Gran Campeon’ Chavez. For now he’s doing well but Canelo has more work to do.
This weekly feature is to also raise awareness of the the Ringside Charitable Trust.

The Friday Faceup

Super-middleweight king ‘Canelo’ Alvarez

Canelo returns

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.

The Monday LunchBox

Miguel Berchelt flattened by Oscar Valdez

Oscar’s Night

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.

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

The Monday LunchBox

Josh Warrington’s undefeated record ends emphatically.

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.

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