The Monday LunchBox

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.

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

The Friday Faceup

Promo courtesy of Canelo, DAZN and Matchroom promotions.

Strap yourself in for another potential fight of the year.

This Saturday sees another standout match to end the year with Mexico’s Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez taking on England’s Callum Smith in San Antonio, Texas for the unified super-middleweight (12st/168lbs) world title. Not undisputed, as there are a couple of other ‘world’ champions out there holding the IBF and WBO versions, but in terms of prestige this is for the super-middleweight championship.

The WBC regular and WBA ‘super’ version will be up for grabs, but more significantly, The Ring magazine 168lb championship.

The Mexican Alavarez (53-1-2, 36 KO’s) is the biggest draw and name in the sport right now (heavyweights aside) and has fought at the highest level for the last decade. He’s rated by The Ring as the pound-for-pound number one in boxing regardless of any weight class.

Callum ‘Mundo’ Smith (27-0-0, 19 KO’s) brings his status as The Ring’s super-middleweight supremo to the table and will fancy his chances against the elite Mexican who will be coming down from light-heavyweight to challenge the man from Liverpool, England.

Both fighters have done all asked of them to get into this position. The 30 year old Alvarez’s record shows him undefeated since losing to Floyd Mayweather in 2013, with two draws – one very early in his career. Since that clear points defeat to Mayweather he’s won versions of the world title from light-middleweight (11st/154lbs) to light-heavy; a full twenty one pounds higher.

In September 2017 and 2018 he had a couple of very close fights at middleweight with champion Gennadiy Golovkin, who’d been divisional lead for most of the previous decade. The first fight draw was hotly disputed, many thinking Golovkin won.

Smith, by comparison won through in the World Boxing Super Series in September 2018 to capture the Muhammad Ali Trophy and the WBA title from fellow Brit George Groves in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Since then he’s made two defences, the second in November 2019 being a unanimous decision but very competitive fight against John Ryder in Liverpool. His performance was disappointing but motivation may have been a contributory factor as he seeked the bigger fights.

The COVID lockdown left Smith, and his opponent, kicking their heels waiting for the restrictions to be lifted and big fights to take place. Alvarez also had promotional issues. The Scouser (native of Liverpool) finally managed to secure the ‘golden ticket’ after Canelo was released from Golden Boy Promotions and a settlement on his DAZN contract.

The contest presents two contrasting physiques and styles. The taller Smith at 6′ 3″ with the strong European jab lead against the more aggressive and compact Alvarez. The Mexican is seven inches shorter so that could be a major factor in the outcome. Both fighters chins have been shown to be strong, Canelo’s being regularly tested at the higher level of competition.

The Brit is known to be ‘big’ at the weight and his arrival on the scales will be interesting. Canelo having moved between weights will also be challenged to come in bang on in the lighter weight category after defeating Sergey Kovalev in November 2019 at 175lbs.

For Smith, also 30, the contest presents a massive opportunity to burst through the glass ceiling and become a multi-millionaire in the process. Should he defeat Canelo it would arguably be the biggest win for a British boxer overseas against a widely accepted pound-for-pound king.

The Mexican, should he be victorious, would further add to his iconic status in the modern era. Already a ‘shoe in’ for the Boxing Hall of Fame by virtue of his ‘world’ titles in four weight categories and some of the names on his resume, Canelo has claimed to take the highest challenges to cement his legacy.

A challenge to the top super-middleweight in the world is his next step and there is a likelihood in the eyes of this publication that it might be a step too far. Smith whilst posing a big target, particularly to the body, has the youth, firepower and boxing ability to win the bout by a late round stoppage. He will also be driven by the desire to avenge the defeat of his brother Liam to Canelo back in 2016.

Should the contest go the distance it is reasonable to assume that Smith will unlikely get the decision unless convincingly dominating the fight with knockdowns. Alvarez is the ‘house fighter’ in the Alamodome and it will take some effort for Smith to convince all in attendance that the titles deserve to come to the UK. The Brit and his camp will know this, and look for them to make a big statement.

The fight will be televised live on the DAZN streaming service (from this weekend available in the UK) and also transmitted on BBC Radio 5 Live in the early hours of Sunday morning at 4:00 GMT. It is available elsewhere worldwide on DAZN.

The return of GGG

Tonight (Friday 18th) sees Alvarez’s nemesis Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin from Kazakhstan defend his IBF world middleweight title against mandatory challenger Kamil Szeremeta in Hollywood, Florida, USA.

Golovkin (40-1-1, 35 KO’s) is, now at 38, reaching the twilight of his career and having not fought for nearly fourteen months is desperate to get the big fights in to cash in and secure his legacy. Another sure fire entry to the Boxing Hall of Fame on retirement, having made nearly twenty defences of his title before meeting Canelo, his power looks to be diminishing but he’s still a class act.

They say the last thing a fighter loses is his punch and the Kazak should register a further knockout against the game but light hitting Pole.

Szeremeta (21-0, 5 KO’s) whilst having an undefeated record has not really faced Golovkin’s level of opposition and unless GGG has regressed considerably in the layoff then should make a further successful defence. If the Kazak emerges with the victory, regardless of the outcome of the Alvarez-Smith fight, there will be a renewed clamor for the trilogy defining fight between Canelo and GGG.

In the eyes of many the score sits at one apiece, and not the first contest deemed a draw and Canelo victory in the rematch. If that third fight is to be made it will have to follow the events of this weekend for sure. Whether Callum Smith can derail that is though a distinct possibility.

The Golovkin-Szeremeta bout, promoted by Matchroom, can be streamed on DAZN in the USA and UK. Transmission will be in the early hours of Saturday morning UK time.

Yesterday’s weigh-in saw Golovkin tip the scales at 159.2lbs and Szeremeta at 159lbs.

The Monday LunchBox

Champ Anthony Joshua poses with Floyd Mayweather post-fight Saturday. Photo: Matchroom Boxing

First thing this Monday morning the video lines between the leafy surrounds of Brentwood, England and the more salubrious Las Vegas strip will have been gridlocked.  Any other business in the Brentwood area will have been frustrated in any attempt to get a connection if that were their, admittedly unlikely, chosen destination.

The line will, by all accounts been taken up by urgent and suggested well developed discussions between Matchroom Boxing and Top Rank Boxing Inc. headquarter’s. 

Also throw in Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions based in the equally green confines of Hertfordshire, England and the triangle of influence will have been complete.

The spark for this tripartite re-engagement has been the explosive outcome witnessed at Wembley SSE Arena on Saturday night in which IBF, WBA and WBO world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua literally blew away his mandatory IBF challenger Kubrat Pulev

In doing so after 2:58 secs of the ninth round, inflicting four knockdowns in the process, with an almost surrender in the third round when the Bulgarian turned his back on the champion, Joshua showed that his ‘mojo’ had returned. 

His devastating finish to the contest with a triple uppercut salvo dropping Pulev and then on the challenger’s rise following up with a ballistic right hand to close the show has given Matchroom the impetus to get on that phone and in their CEO Eddie Hearn’s words deliver “the only fight to be made in boxing”. 

That is disputable, certainly from a promoter who has a number of irons in the fire, most notably Callum Smith’s challenge to reputed pound-for-pound #1 Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez this Saturday in San Antonio, Texas, but it certainly will be “the biggest fight in British boxing history”.

The numbers in purse, gate and worldwide viewers will be staggering for the most anticipated heavyweight fight in over two decades between the unified champion Joshua and his domestic and world nemesis, WBC world heavyweight champion Tyson ‘Gypsy King’ Fury

Top Rank Boxing CEO claims it will be the “biggest fight since Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier in 1971”.  Some statement and challenge that.

Yesterday Hearn suggested the fight (or fights) could take just “a couple of days” to be finalised. Prior to Saturday it was claimed that negotiations had already taken place for a two-fight deal in 2021 in which we would clearly establish who is the better fighter.

Despite this optimism, so much has to be worked through – mandatory obligations and outstanding rematch clauses, purse split (rumoured to be 50/50 and usually the biggest stumbling block), venue and site availability, fight dates and broadcasting rights.  However, most importantly, even more so than purse, is that both boxers want the fight.  Fury took to social media moments after Saturday’s exhibition to proclaim he would knock Joshua out inside three rounds.

They both recognise that this is indeed the biggest fight in boxing and a ‘must have’ contest.  To say the whole sport depends on it is hyperbole and exaggeration, but it is dam right important. And has to happen.

2021 is when the fight should happen, rumoured to be late May with a rematch later in the year – obviously dependent on the first outcome and further shenanigans. 

When the two Brits face off in the ring, wherever, whenever, we will truly know the results of those telephone conversations this morning – but critically – we will know who the Heavyweight Champion of the World is and the first undisputed champion since 2002.  What we do know is he will be British again.

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

The Benefit of Distance

Champion Anthony Joshua makes his point by slipping his mask.

Yesterday’s heated weigh-in for the WBA/IBF and WBO world heavyweight titles to be contested at the SSE Wembley Arena between champion Anthony Joshua and challenger Kubrat Pulev in London, England tonight is nothing new in boxing. The recent history of paid fistic combat is littered with confrontational situations around the scales to either stoke the fires of an event to draw in the paying public, unsettle an opponent’s equilibrium or merely to exude a fighter’s own self confidence and strength. In some cases it’s all three.

It’s always difficult to read into such a confrontation and get a true perspective on the primary motivation and most importantly what effect this will have on the outcome of the fight. What we know is the hometown champion Anthony Joshua (23-1, 21 KO’s) and his Bulgarian challenger (28-1, 14 KO’s) are primed and ready to fight. We also know that despite the current social distancing restrictions in place that Joshua felt necessary to remove his mask and respond to Pulev’s goading. This escalated, and verbal exchanges continued for some minutes.

What we don’t know is whether come 22:00 hours GMT we’re going to see a fight from the opening bell or something resembling a stand-off for the early rounds, which ignites, or not, further down the stretch.

One very close former professional boxing friend of mine always resisted the temptation to bad mouth an opponent or engage in pre-fight verbal bravado. He explained “Why do you need to do any of that…you have twelve three minute rounds to truly show how you feel about them”. That in essence is why it’s usually a complete waste of time.

Look at any of the vintage weigh-in photos from the pre-heavyweight fights of the 1940’s and 1950’s – Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano et al – the total respect shown between the two fighters pre-fight. Those contests ultimately resulted in some of the greatest fights of all time.

We can guess and read various interpretations on what was said at Wembley yesterday. But, as the Americans fondly say “It’s all gravy”. Tonight both fighters will either put up, or shut up. The weights in a heavyweight contest are usually irrelevant, unless there is a significant differential, which in this case there is not. Both fighters looked trimmed; Joshua (240.8lbs) only four pounds over his last contest in December 2019 and Pulev looking a lean 239.7lbs, his lowest since 2009.

The champion has talked all week about adopting an “uncivilized” boxing mindset tonight. That, in itself is dangerous. Uncivilized and boxing success rarely go hand in hand. The essence of success in this sport is to ‘hit and not get hit’ through a controlled and well executed game plan.

However, that ‘uncivilized’ approach is where AJ’s core strengths lie. True, he was an elite amateur reaching the peak of the sport in the London 2012 Olympics, but Joshua is at his best when he goes at an opponent.

There is a view that the ‘street’ mentality of Joshua has been coached out of him. His early amateur career was typified by his explosiveness, albeit more controlled aggression as he moved up the levels. The Wladimir Klitchko fight in April 2017, the nadir of his professional accomplishment, and one of the greatest heavyweight fights of this century, was a case in point that when he forces the pace his raw strength, power and athleticism will prevail.

It is necessary to be cautious, to a degree, but viewers on the Sky Box Office platform and thousand or so lucky enough to be in the arena will be disappointed if we see another performance of patience and circumspect as witnessed in Saudi Arabia last December.

True; the important thing for the end game (a megafight with Tyson Fury) is getting the ‘W’ – but whatever his stock in the UK, and that is galactic, he now needs to show the world he is the ‘real deal’. A 39 year old Bulgarian top ten opponent, who admittedly is elite and waited three years for the opportunity, is dangerous, but is there to be beaten – convincingly.

Provided the champion combines his aforementioned mindset with some control The Undisputed sees Joshua stopping his brave challenger around the eighth stanza. It will though be interesting for as long as it lasts.

The Return of the King ?

Multi-titled heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua

Anthony Joshua is back ! The ‘AJ’ pre-June 1st 2019 in Madison Square Garden is back. The devastating defeat to Mexican-American monolith Andy Ruiz is now an aberration consigned to history and wiped from the collective memory.

The emphatic points decision in Saudi Arabia almost a year to the day that returned the WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight title belts to the amiable Londoner, has, by all accounts, returned us to the pre-New York AJ. Or has it ?

The evidence from the ‘AJ Channel’ on Sky television in the UK broadcast all week and, the advertising for pay per view, news updates, soundbites, social media blogs and reams written, all confirm to us that the AJ ‘roadshow’ is back.

What we saw in New York could also be a mirage or bad dream we are led to believe. Fact is, we don’t really know.

What we know is that Joshua had the fortitude and skills to comeback from a devastating defeat within six months, by executing a game plan against the same opponent who, literally ate himself out of the title.

The performance on that unseasonably rainy night in the Saudi desert last December was excellent, let’s not dispute that. But; we don’t really know if AJ is back until he defeats again a seasoned, skilled heavyweight with a genuine hunger for the title, rather than the contents of his refrigerator. Kubrat Pulev is that man.

The Bulgarian, at 39 is an ageing heavyweight. He is a slow heavyweight, but, one with an elite amateur record and the fundamental technical skills and battle hardness that comes with it. We saw a big man with a similar pedigree enter the Matchroom Fight Camp a few months ago and ‘ice’ mandatory WBC contender Dillian Whyte.

Kubrat Pulev is no Alexander Povektin, being significantly bigger and more ponderous but don’t say we haven’t been warned.

The Bulgar is a heavyweight with a solitary defeat on his 28-1 (14 KO) record, and that being six years ago to the last universally recognised heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko. A fighter admittedly Joshua spectacularly defeated in the twilight of the Ukranian’s career. That is the main comparison guide to this fight.

Anthony Joshua (23-1, 21 KO’s), at a younger 31 years, thankfully knows his boxing and the pedigree Pulev has. He knows he’s about to enter the ring with a big, slow heavyweight, but one that has waited three long years to feel the impact of his fist on AJ’s chops.

He knows that Pulev will only get this one last chance to be world champion and, whilst he doesn’t have a record of concussive power, after that night he endured in Madison Square Garden, Joshua knows that any heavyweight can flatten another.

If, Joshua can come through this first defence of his newly regained titles on Saturday night in the SSE Wembley Arena, London (which this correspondent thinks he will do) – then, we will really know that AJ is back.

We can then prepare for the year of hyperbole and public shenanigans to lead us to the ultimate ‘undisputed’ fight between AJ and Tyson ‘Gypsy King’ Fury. Hold your breath !

The Monday LunchBox

A satisfied man – Lyndon Arthur reflects on his Commonwealth title victory against Anthony Yarde.

Five things we learned

Reflections on an interesting weekend of championship boxing:-

  1. Lyndon Arthur is the ‘real deal’ – The Manchester light-heavyweight came in as a big underdog to retain his Commonwealth title in Westminster, Saturday against Londoner Anthony Yarde. The ‘smart money’ was on Yarde’s power to see him through after an excellent showing last year in losing to the then WBO world champion Sergey Kovalev. Working off an excellent left jab and largely unused right hand Arthur controlled the pace of the fight, keeping the advancing Yarde at bay to eek out a split decision against his more hyped foe. Scores were 117-111 (Yarde) with two judges returning 115-114 to the champion. In the post-fight interview Yarde felt aggrieved believing he’d pressed the fight throughout, but the Mancunian was the better man on the night. This was Arthur’s ‘come out’ victory and despite calls for a rematch this launches him into contention for the WBO world title.
  2. Errol Spence Jr is back – ‘The Truth’ from Texas showed no ill effects from his horrific car accident last October when retaining his WBC and IBF world welterweight titles in Arlington, Texas Saturday. From the opening bell the Texan took the fight to Philadelphia’s former double-weight world champion Danny Garcia, controlling an always competitive fight. Never in trouble, but always pressured by his opponent, Spence showed flashes of his undoubted class in winning a unanimous decision 116-112, 117-111, 116-112. Garcia acknowledged post fight he’d lost to the better man on the night. WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford was in attendance at the AT&T Arena and social media soundings for a unification fight between the two undefeated champions will now amplify significantly.
  3. Billy Joe Saunders needs a big fight – The British southpaw successfully defended his WBO super-middleweight title against fellow Briton Martin Murray in London, Friday. The undefeated champion (30-0, 14 KO’s) dominated the fight out of his southpaw stance with the final scorecards confirming it – 120-109, 120-109, 118-110. Saunders has been a WBO ‘world’ champion since 2015 at middle and now super-middleweight and having failed to secure a summer fight against Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and known for succumbing to distraction between fights desperately needs to secure a marquee fight. Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn acknowledged this post-fight and will look to secure a challenge against the winner of the upcoming Alvarez v Callum Smith unification fight.
  4. Anthony Yarde is technically limited – the London puncher stalked Lyndon Arthur for the majority of the twelve rounds, but was devoid of the ability to navigate the Manchester man’s left jab. His only real success came in the last round when a big right shook the champion, but it was too little too late. Yarde’s record now drops to 20-2, 19 KO’s and he’s come up short in his two major tests. Against Kovalev he emptied the tank too early when having the Russian in trouble, and on Saturday he paced himself more but this only resulted in him surrendering the decision on a lack of sustained action and success. The Londoner’s power is unquestionable but his strategy and ring smarts will need to improve to achieve his full potential.
  5. Martin Murray can retire a contented man – The 38 year old super-middleweight from St Helens, NW England can reflect on an excellent career having fought at the elite level for over a decade and challenging for a version of the world title on five different occasions. In all attempts at winning a world strap he’s given an excellent account of himself, arguably losing to Sergio Martinez in his Buenos Aires backyard and controversially drawing against Felix Sturm, again in the German’s home country. His title challenges have mainly come on the road and when finally securing domestic chances it’s been late in his career. His record of 39-6-1 (17 KO’s) also contains the stellar name of Gennadiy Golovkin and former ‘world’ champions Arthur Abraham and George Groves. Add to this the adversity he faced earlier in life after being incarcerated on a couple of occasions and what he’s achieved since has been exemplary. Following his defeat to Billy Joe Saunders he refused to be drawn on announcing his retirement, but when he does, can reflect on being a credit to himself, his family and the sport of boxing.
This regular weekly feature is to also raise awareness of the Ringside Charitable Trust.

The Friday Faceup

WBO world champ Billy Joe Saunders

Some quality action is in store this weekend in both the UK and USA.

First up, is the Matchroom promotion behind closed doors at the SSE Wembley Arena tonight (Friday) featuring Britain’s WBO world super-middleweight (12 stone/168lbs) champion Billy Joe Saunders against domestic rival Martin Murray from St Helens, NW England.

The 31 year old Saunders (29-0, 14 KO’s) has been inactive since last November and been marking time during the COVID pandemic trying to secure a marquee bout with Mexican sensation Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.

That chance ultimately went to the more widely recognised divisional lead Callum Smith and Saunders will have to defend successfully to keep on track for the massive fights. The Hatfield, Hertfordshire man’s record is excellent and his stock still high but inactivity has been the Achilles heel of his pro career so far.

Murray (39-5-1, 17 KO’s) gets his fifth ‘world’ title opportunity which is something of a modern record. The 38 year old has fallen short against top fighters in Felix Sturm, Sergio Martinez, Gennadiy Golovkin  and Arthur Abraham. This will surely be his last chance but he will give it his all, as he always comes to fight. Murray narrowly lost some of those title shots and will feel rightly aggrieved if he fails to secure a world strap from an excellent career.

The smart money though is on Saunders to score a clear points victory out of his very effective southpaw stance.

The card will be televised in the UK live on Sky Sports Main Event & Arena from 19:00 GMT and on DAZN in the US.

Saturday (5th) sees Queensberry Promotions’ turn at the historic Church House, London (again behind closed doors) with the eagerly anticipated contest between Anthony Yarde and Lyndon Arthur for the Commonwealth light-heavyweight (12st 7lb/175lbs) title.

The full boxing card will mark Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren’s 40th anniversary as a professional promoter and is headlined by a quality match between two fighters who both at aged twenty nine have major title aspirations.

Londoner Yarde (20-1-0, 19 KO’s) narrowly lost to Sergey Kovalev in August of last year in the Russian’s backyard in a WBO world title challenge. A significant step up in level at the time. Despite a horrific personal year as a result of the pandemic ‘The Beast’ Yarde has managed to rack up a couple of KO victories either side of the lockdown.

‘King’ Arthur (17-0, 12 KO’s) from Manchester is entering his peak and an extremely confident and ‘live’ challenger. At 6′ 2″ he will pose a big target for the slightly shorter but more powerful looking Yarde. Their recent common opponent is Dec Spelman whom Arthur decisioned and Yarde managed to stop. This may provide a form guide but it promises to be an excellent ‘pick-ems’ fight.

The card will also feature two up and coming prospects from Maidstone, Kent, SE England. Sam Noakes at lightweight and Dennis ‘The Menace’ McCann at bantamweight. Both are early in their stage of development but remain undefeated and look to have promising futures ahead.

All fights will be televised in the UK on BT Sport 1 from 19:30 GMT with the estimated ring walk for the main event at 22:00.

Last but not least, is the long awaited return of Errol Spence Jr against Danny Garcia for ‘The Truth’ Spence’s IBF and WBC world welterweight (10st 7lbs/147lbs) titles. Aside from the obvious quality of the protagonists the intrigue in this match is a first sign of Spence’s ability (or not) to recover professionally from his horrendous car accident last year.

Spence (26-0, 21 KO’s) is the more quality operator of the two being ranked in The Ring magazine’s pound-for-pound listings and holding two versions of the world title. Garcia (36-2, 21 KO’s) is a former double-weight world champion and at 32 years old known in the UK for his victory over Amir Khan.

This again should be an excellent contest and a real ‘gut check’ for the 30 year old Spence to see how much the layoff has affected him and whether he can fulfill the outstanding potential he’s shown to date. He holds excellent victories over Kell Brook, Mikey Garcia and Shawn Porter and remains on the verge of superstardom. Much as to whether he is ready for the ultimate test against Terence Crawford at welterweight will come from a victory and the manner of it in this fight. It promises to be a quality contest either way.

The card will be shown live in the UK on the subscription channel Premier Sports 1 from 02:00 GMT Sunday morning and on Fox PPV in the US.

Enjoy your fight weekend.

The Monday LunchBox

A strong left jab detonates on Daniel Dubois to give Joe Joyce three titles.

Londoner Joe ‘Juggernaut’ Joyce came in as the underdog but left the Church House, Westminster ring with the British, Commonwealth and European heavyweight titles on Saturday night (28th).

The 2016 Rio Olympic super-heavyweight silver medalist’s performance in defeating fellow Londoner ‘Dynamite’ Daniel Dubois by tenth round knockout was exceptional. Working behind a strong and repetitive left jab he came through difficult moments to bludgeon his way to the titles.

In what was a very even fight going into the tenth, with the 35 year old man from Putney marginally ahead, he capitalised on the closed and badly swollen left eye of Dubois within the opening 30 seconds, dropping and stopping his opponent.

In the early rounds the contest was ‘nip and tuck’ with the heavier handed Dubois landing solid right hands on Joyce, but as he’s done throughout his long amateur and short professional career the new champion simply walked through them.

From the fourth round Dubois’ left eye had marked up and was starting to close. He was returning to his corner round after round looking the more despondent of the two but was still having successful rounds. Martin Bowers his chief cornerman was trying desperately to pump his man up but as the rounds progressed Dubois’ body language was becoming more resigned. Conversely, the Joyce corner despite the absence of his COVID positive main trainer, was a picture of composure.

Dubois was bombed early in the tenth on his closed left eye, taking a knee and although looking as though he would rise before the count whilst he propped himself off the canvas, eventually chose to rise a split second after the count of ten. Star referee Ian John-Lewis had no option but to wave the contest over.

The victory was Joyce’s come out performance as he announced his intention to win the WBO world heavyweight title currently held by Anthony Joshua.

In the BT Sport post-fight interview the new multiple champion acknowledged the effort his game opponent had put in and having to come through some big bombs “I was just glad it was over…I’ve felt power like that before (pointing to his elite amateur career)…I’m blessed with a good chin”. Explaining his game plan he said “I tried not to set too close…because he lets them go”.

The 23 year old Dubois, questioned on the stoppage explained “He caught me with a good jab…I couldn’t see out the eye…it just happens”. He continued “I’ve been hit harder…it was the positioning on the eye”. On his failed strategy he said “I was trigger happy, I need to be smarter”.

The nature of Dubois’ ‘surrender’ received some criticism from the BT Sport pundits, in particular former double world champion Carl Frampton. Whilst his and fellow pundit David Haye’s comments are to be respected, the following day it was revealed the Greenwich man had received a fractured orbital socket. This should give some context to his apparent unwillingness to continue after appearing to recover from the count and given his relatively young age and inexperience. The ‘hardest game’ can sometimes be the ‘harshest’ game when a fighter’s courage is brought into question.

Dubois (15-1-0, 14 KO’s) will now have to re-group and has plenty of time to build from this setback. Success in his first comeback fight though will be critical to his future progression at elite level.

Meanwhile the victor Joyce (12-0, 11 KO’s) called out mandatory WBO world title contender Oleksandr Usyk. It’s likely Joyce will get an opportunity to fight for a vacant title if Anthony Joshua fails to accept his Usyk mandatory commitment. This will give the Putney man an opportunity to avenge a unanimous points defeat to Usyk in the amateur World Boxing Series back in 2013. This time it should be more competitive and by then hopefully better attended.

Chief support on Saturday was a very impressive performance from British super-welterweight Hamzah Sheeraz (12-0, 8 KO’s) against tough Argentinian Guido Nicolas Pitto (26-8-2, 8 KO’s). Sheeraz boxed beautifully throughout showing good patience as he drew the sting out of the game but limited Pitto. He calmly stopped his man in the tenth when the referee stepped in to save Pitto from receiving further punishment after Sheeraz moved through the gears.

BT Sport pundits waxed lyrical on Sheeraz post-fight with Carl Frampton referring to him as the best prospect in British boxing. It was easy to see why on this performance as Sheeraz successfully defended his WBO European belt.

The highlight of the weekend stateside was the much hyped ten round exhibition between Hall of Famer’s ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jnr. To the surprise of many, in particular this publication, the heavyweight contest proved to be very entertaining and competitive. There were no knockdowns and some of the old fire and skills came out over the two minute rounds.

Popular consensus was that Tyson had won the contest but it was scored a draw by a trio of ex-fighters judging the bout. Both legends finished the contest with great credit and spoke of future exhibitions. Hopefully we can take this event for what it was, good entertainment, and cherish it as their ‘final harrah’. We fear this may not though be the case.

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

The Friday Faceup

British heavyweights Dubois (left) and Joyce showdown Saturday.

Another great weekend of boxing is in store with action around the world to satisfy the fistic fan.

Undoubtedly the highlight in terms of current world significance is the big heavyweight showdown in London between undefeated contenders ‘Dynamite’ Daniel Dubois and Joe ‘Juggernaut’ Joyce for the vacant European title.

Both enter the fray intent on making the next step to world level and challenging for the titles held by fellow Brits Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua. The British heavyweight scene is electric at the moment with Dillian Whyte also waiting in the wings.

The Dubois-Joyce fight is eagerly anticipated and sees a 23 year old Dubois with limited amateur experience but explosive power against a 35 year old Olympic silver medalist with the considerable elite amateur experience that comes with it. However, both are relative novices as professionals with only 26 fights combined.

The Queensberry promoted Dubois (15-0, 14 KO’s) enters as the favorite, albeit marginally, on the basis of his youth and power. He’s simply been sensational since turning pro a little over three years ago. With each progressive step he’s seized the opportunity and secured the British and Commonwealth titles en route.

Joyce’s (11-0, 10 KO’s) progress has been somewhat slower but his resume has more experienced names in Bermane Stiverne and Bryant Jennings on it. He’s similarly impressed to this stage but more by results than in a spectacular nature. His methodical way of walking forward taking shots to land one is a reason the experts and odds makers are favouring Dubois.

The Putney based Joyce will know to be successful he has to have an alternative plan and show more lateral movement and guile as a minimum. He is thought the superior boxer but has to avoid the early power of Dubois to get the victory.

It’s expected Dubois will take the fight to Joyce from the opening bell, looking to explode his big bombs on his opponent. If the younger man can do this we could be in for a short night.

However, The Undisputed’s take on this is for Dubois to set the early pace but Joyce to come through the early exchanges, maybe visiting the canvas, and then take the fight into the middle rounds, possibly shaking his opponent in the process. In the second half of the fight though we expect the younger man to take charge again and eventually lead to a stoppage around the ninth.

The whole Queensberry Promotion will be televised live in the UK on BT Sport 1 from 19:30 GMT. It is also available on ESPN+ in the US.

Current stateside interest will be on the Daniel Jacobs versus Gabe Rosado contest at super-middleweight being held in Hollywood, Florida. This is intriguing because it pits a former middleweight ‘world’ champion in Jacobs in his second fight at the higher weight class against a competent and confident Rosado. Both are elite fighters who are seeking further world title opportunity. The event is promoted by Matchroom and available on the DAZN streaming platform. It also features a competitive undercard with Daniyar Yeleusinov, Julius Indongo and emerging heavyweight Mahammadrasul Majidov.

No preview of the weekend would be complete without mention of the exhibition ‘fight’ between nineties icons ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jnr from the Staples Centre, Los Angeles. The hype has been building since the event was announced.

It has fascination value due to the resumes of the two fighters involved. Tyson being one of the most explosive and ferocious heavyweights of the twentieth century and former undisputed champion and Jones widely accepted as the best fighter of the 1990’s from middleweight up to heavy.

The match is made at heavyweight over eight two minute rounds. The combined age of both fighters is a staggering 105 years with Tyson at 54 and Jones 51 so any combat should be put into context.

Add into the mix that Tyson has been retired for fifteen years and Jones for nearly three and you can draw your own conclusion.

In a week where we’ve seen the sad passing of football legend Diego Armando Maradona your editor recalls being present at a live performance of Maradona’s show La Noche Del 10 (The Night of Ten) in November 2005 in Buenos Aires. This was recorded five months after ‘Iron’ Mike’s loss to fringe heavyweight Kevin McBride. Footage of this fascinating meeting is available on Youtube at Maradona entrevista a Tyson (La Noche del 10) – YouTube. Mike, as you would expect, has been one of the first to pay tribute to his friend.

Regarding the forthcoming contest the names of Tyson and Jones Jnr still resonate in the minds of boxing and casual sports fans and it should be a curious watch. But please don’t expect too much, just enjoy the moment. The event is available in the UK on BT Sport Box Office at £19.95 from 01:00 GMT and FITE.tv pay per view in the US.

Have a great fight weekend.

The Monday LunchBox

Church House, Westminster – scene of a potential British fight of the year.

Welcome to fight week !

This Saturday (28th) sees the big British heavyweight showdown between ‘Dynamite’ Daniel Dubois (15-0, 14 KO’s) and Joe ‘Juggernaut’ Joyce (11-0, 10 KO’s). The contest is surprisingly to be held in the historical Church House, Westminster, a stones throw from the Abbey and nearby Palace of Westminster.

The ‘House’ is also known as the place where Winston Churchill announced the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck in May 1941 in the early years of the Second World War.

So; fittingly an iconic venue set for a boxing match of national (and international) significance. Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions have excelled in securing this venue and holding the contest in these continuing difficult times.

It’s a fight that is eagerly anticipated and really whets the appetite between two undefeated boxers who must make this first step to settle a domestic squabble before hopefully ascending to world title contention. The loser can come again but it will be real setback at this stage of their careers.

In terms of the relative experience of both protagonists and significance it has shades of Gary Mason versus Lennox Lewis in March 1991 for the British and European titles. On that occasion Mason was the older established champion and Lewis the new ‘kid on the block’ with world title aspirations. Going in, supplement Joyce (35) for Mason, and the younger Dubois (23) for Lewis.

Enough of that for now though as the hype will inevitably build over the coming week. Watch this space for the Friday Faceup which will further preview the fight that will be UK televised on the BT Sport subscription channel, but importantly, non-Box Office.

Other key news over the last week was the announcement that The Ring magazine recognised pound-for-pound #1 fighter in the world Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez will meet The Ring super-middleweight (12 stone, 168lbs) champion Callum ‘Mundo’ Smith on 19 December in the San Antonio Alamodome, Texas, USA.

The Mexican, Alavarez has just reached a settlement with former promoter Golden Boy and streaming service DAZN which has released him from contractural obligations making him a free agent. This has helped make the fight possible and Alvarez being #1 and the biggest draw in boxing has effectively ‘cherry picked’ the man from Liverpool, England.

Smith (27-0, 19 KO’s) is no ‘patsie’ though with an undefeated record and being a genuine super-middleweight who won the World Boxing Super Series title by stopping former WBA world champion George Groves in September 2018. He’s made two successful defences of his world title, the last being exactly a year ago against fellow Brit John Ryder.

Credit Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KO’s) for taking the fight, as a man who claims to seek the toughest challenges, but this could be an absolute barnstormer. Both come to fight and Smith although vastly inferior in terms of big fight experience will come in super confident as the larger man.

Saturday (21st) saw an excellent outing and victory for British welterweight Conor ‘Destroyer’ Benn against German Sebastian Formella over ten rounds. Benn dominated the fight throughout against his teak tough more experienced foe. In a fight televised live in the UK on Sky Sports he topped the bill for the first time after the postponement of the Alexander Povetkin-Dillian Whyte rematch. Conor came through with flying colours and the son of former world champion Nigel Benn is steadily making a name in his own right.

Benn’s record rises to 17-0, 11 KO’s and he is strongly pushing for a big domestic showdown with Josh Kelly (10-0-1, 6 KO’s). In the post-fight interview he was very animated on this challenge and his urgency in securing it.

Self-confidence is definitely something in the Benn genes and Conor is sure to entertain on his potentially explosive journey to title contention. Look for his stock to rise over the coming months as he seeks that domestic challenge.

More to follow on the big Dubois-Joyce showdown later in the week.

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