The Friday Faceup

Oscar Valdez (left) and Shakur Stevenson shape up.
(Courtesy: Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images)

Two big fights feature this weekend from the USA.

In Las Vegas, Nevada is the unification fight at junior-lightweight between Mexico’s Oscar Valdez and American Shakur Stevenson. It pitches together two former Olympians and top undefeated professional operators, with Valdez holding the WBC championship and Stevenson the WBO title. The prestigious Ring magazine 130lbs (9st,4lb) championship will also be up for grabs.

A few hours earlier in New York City is a female lightweight fight between Ireland’s Katie Taylor and Puerto Rican Amanda Serrano. The contest is the biggest in the women’s code to date and takes place at Madison Square Garden, a mecca of boxing. Both ladies are in the top five pound-for-pound rankings, Taylor the unified 135lbs/9st,9lb champion and recognised by The Ring as #1, whilst Serrano is a multi-weight champion ranked #3.

The Vegas event promoted by Top Rank takes place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. It’s an intriguing contest that’s sure to draw a large crowd from the Hispanic community as Valdez is a popular come forward fighter and Mexican’s love to see one of their own beat a US fighter. It has added spice as Stevenson has recently promoted his Puerto Rican heritage, the main fistic rivals of Mexico. The fight takes place on American Football’s NFL draft weekend so Vegas will be a buzz of activity.

Valdez (30-0, 23 KO’s) at age 31 is much more experienced professionally than his opponent, but Stevenson (17-0, 9 KO’s) has crammed an elite amateur career into his 24 years. The American is a slick southpaw who possesses sublime skills backed up by respectable power. Valdez is all action but has underrated boxing skills. It promises to be an excellent contest with the Mexican forcing the pace but we expect Stevenson’s youth, reach and greater skillset to be the deciding factors. We predict him to win by late stoppage (10-12) but it will be exciting while it lasts.

The Vegas card also features hot prospects Kershawn Davis at lightweight and Nico Ali Walsh at middleweight. Davis was the Tokyo 2020 Olympics silver medallist at 135lbs, is slick, charismatic and much is promised of him. He lost to probably the best boxer in the Olympics in Cuban Andy Cruz and his professional career is now back on track after the late held Games. He faces tough Esteban Sanchez and should shine.

Walsh is most famous as being a grandson of Muhammad Ali and is slowly building a name in his own right. He faces Alejandro Ibarra. Both prospects will be worth watching in their early development on Saturday night.

The New York fight promises much. Taylor (20-0, 6 KO’s) has achieved everything both as an amateur and professional. She won gold in the London 2012 Olympics and her career in the paid ranks has set the benchmark for others to match. She is already a boxing superstar down to her ability and good promotion by Matchroom Boxing. She now regularly heads major cards, but Saturday’s contest is on another level. The Garden is sold out for the first time for a female main event, making it of historical significance.

Serrano (42-1-1, 30 KO’s) has come up the hard way, fighting regularly on undercards and in boxing backwaters. She’s compiled an impressive record in winning titles from super-flyweight (115lbs/8st,3lb) to lightweight. The Puerto Rican is the bigger puncher of the two and Taylor with her aggressive style will have to exercise caution.

Their respective strengths should provide for an exciting contest and this will be a career defining fight for both. We expect Taylor to start well and be the busier with her fast hands and fight in and out, but we think that she might come up short after suffering knockdowns and a possible stoppage. We pick Serrano’s southpaw style and superior firepower to see her home, probably on points.

The Valdez-Stevenson contest will be shown live on Sky Sports in the UK in the early hours of Sunday morning and on ESPN+ in the US. The Taylor-Serrano fight will be live on the streaming platform DAZN approximately five hours earlier (UK time) and available worldwide.

Fight weights: Valdez (129.6lbs) Stevenson (130lbs), Taylor (134.6lbs) Serrano (133.6lbs). We have two fights.

The PressBox

Promo courtesy of Top Rank Inc.

This weekend sees the big junior-lightweight unification fight between Mexican Oscar Valdez and American Shakur Stevenson in the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas. The Ring magazine 130lb (9st,4lb) title to determine the divisional king will also be on the line.

The contrast between the two undefeated fighters in professional championship experience is striking. Stevenson (17-0, 9 KO’s), the current WBO champion was a standout amateur, gaining silver in the Rio Games but is only making his first defence of the WBO title. Valdez (30-0, 23 KO’s) is a two-weight world champion and current WBC title holder, having fought at the elite pro level for a number of years. Stevenson comes in off an impressive victory against Jamel Herring to win the title and Valdez beat Miguel Berchelt in one of the standout performances of 2021. The Mexican’s momentum was dented in a poor but victorious fight against Robson Conceicao last September, but he’ll be looking to put things right this time.

Both fighters were available in a Top Rank chaired Zoom call on Monday and spoke candidly about the task ahead.

The 24 year old Stevenson opened by saying “I’m ready to fight” and the match had finally come about because “They probably forced him into fighting me”. He explained “This fight is three years in the making. Everyone knows that I’ve wanted to fight Oscar Valdez since 2019 when he vacated the belt at 126 instead of fighting me. He avoided me for as long as he could, but now is the perfect time for this fight and the fans are in for a show when we finally step into the ring”.

He continued “I am the best 130-pound fighter in the world, and I will prove it when I beat Oscar Valdez and become unified champion”.

The 31 year old Valdez spoke to the media last up and explained, “I know I’m up against a very good fighter. I expect the best Shakur. I’ve trained very well and am expecting a good fight”. He admitted he was not at his best in the Conceicao fight and said in relation to the challenge ahead “We’ve prepared for whatever he brings” continuing “We’ve prepared physically and mentally”. On his future should he come through successfully, he stated “I wanna be in the top ten pound-for-pound and one of the best in Mexican history”. He closed by giving a message to his Mexican fans “I will never promise you a knockout or fight of the year, but I promise you I will give my best”.

Also joining the Zoom call between the main eventers were bright faced US Olympic silver medallist Keyshawn Davis (4-0, 3 KO’s) who fights Esteban Sanchez at lightweight and, Nico Ali Walsh (4-0, 3 KO’s) who faces Alejandro Ibarra at middleweight on Saturday. Both are bright and charismatic prospects with promising careers ahead.

The extremely talented Davis, whom Top Rank’s Bob Arum said he aimed to make “One of the top faces in the sport” dialed in from Terence Crawford’s house and responded smiling to questions on the challenge ahead and his strategy moving forwards. “I don’t really want to move too fast. I want to build myself first as a fighter, so when I do get to a world title fight, I’m already a star, or close to it”. He continued “I wanna keep developing my skills and keep learning the skill of boxing”. His presence was almost Sugar Ray ‘Leonard’esqe’ in its levelheaded confidence and hope. We look forward to seeing him develop and Saturday will give a flavour of the future and show us what he’s all about.

Nico Ali Walsh, who was equally impressive, was asked numerous questions on his link to his famous grandfather Muhammad and his boxing journey so far. Asked of the pressure associated with him entering the same sport as ‘The Greatest’, he responded in regards to his pro-debut. “The pressure of him being my grandfather I never felt, but (I felt) the pressure of my debut”. Whilst in total admiration of his illustrious genes he continued ” It’s very important for me to separate myself (from my grandfather)” as he continues to move forwards.

Walsh was pleased to be fighting in his hometown Saturday by stating “Vegas is the biggest venue in my heart”. Numerous UK journalists were on the call and asked him of any ambition to fight in Britain given his grandfather’s special relationship with the country. Bob Arum waxing lyrical, responded “Ali (the name) means so much to boxing in the UK. I can’t wait to bring him over to fight before the greatest fans in the UK”.

The Valdez-Stevenson fight will be shown live in the UK on Sky Sports in the early hours of Sunday morning and on ESPN+ in the US. Look out for a further news and weights in our Friday Faceup.

The Monday LunchBox

Tyson Fury stands over outgunned challenger Dillian Whyte.
Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images.

Fury v Whyte washup – Five things we learned

  1. Size and skills pay the bills – Tyson ‘Gypsy King’ Fury in successfully defending his lineal world heavyweight championship on Saturday emphasized the importance of having strong boxing fundamentals, and without doubt, the importance of size. His challenger Dillian Whyte came in a stone heavier than his previous contest in an attempt to not get bullied, and somehow negate the champion’s 6’9″ frame and 7″ reach advantage. This proved futile. When the champion’s size is combined with an exquisite skillset and he fights to a gameplan it’s almost impregnable. Fury dominated the fight from start to finish, one judge and The Undisputed having him five rounds up by the time of the 2:59 stoppage in the sixth. Whyte was disappointing given the time he waited for the title shot and after failing to befuddle the champion in the opening round by fighting out of a southpaw stance, then reverted to orthodox for the remainder and although having some minor success simply plodded towards Fury without any real penetration or clue how to get inside. The champion using his sublime jab and ring savvy was able to absorb what the challenger had to offer and maintain an element of control throughout. Bar the dirty infighting and rabbit punches in the fourth, which both fighters received a warning for, this was a routine defence for Fury. It was capped with a devastating left jab, right uppercut combination that was reminiscent of a young Mike Tyson or latter day Rocky Marciano.
  2. Box Office/Pay-per-view is getting worse – Having again failed to secure press accreditation to cover the fight, I like many others, shelled out the £24.95 for the BT Sport Box Office transmission. True, most tune in for the main event only and although not very competitive it did not disappoint as a spectacle of Tyson Fury’s skills and the atmosphere in the 94,000 Wembley Stadium sell out was terrific. But, oh that undercard ! With the exception of the excellent featherweight contest between Isaac Lowe and Nick Ball the full night’s card was extremely disappointing. The chief support between British welterweight champion Ekow Essuman and Darren Tetley was competitive, but an absolute snore, and not befitting of the occasion. This has become a regular occurrence with events we’re stumping up additional funds for, on top of our monthly subscriptions. Those in attendance admittedly had a great time with the sound system and in the bars, but hardcore boxing fans would’ve felt somewhat cheated. Long gone are the days of Don King promotions where world title fights were backed and stacked with other world title fights on the undercard. Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc. also have a long history of providing similar VFM, but on Saturday this was poor. Surely the co-promoters had fighters in their stable that could’ve added to the occasion in competitive and more marquee fights. PPV’s seem to now hang on one main event and the rest of the cards need to improve to keep boxing relevant.
  3. The ‘R’ word comes up again – Boxer’s career “retirements” have always been an element leading into fights, or in the immediate aftermath, but in a week when Ricky Hatton states his intention to comeback, albeit in an exhibition, aged 43 having not boxed for ten years, the announcement by Fury that this was his last fight has to be taken with a pinch of salt. The Gypsy King has improved his log to 32-0-1 (23 KO’s) and is widely regarded as heavyweight king and a contender for top ten of all time, but does anyone think he won’t continue ? At only 33 it’s extremely unlikely he will call it a day.
  4. Nobody does it better – All box office records were reputedly broken on Saturday for a heavyweight championship fight. The British boxing public once again showed out in their masses and images of the Wembley Arch were magnificent with the atmosphere generated in the stadium appearing on TV as incredible. When British fighters are successful (and charismatic, as no doubt Tyson Fury is) they will follow their man. Las Vegas resorts/casinos and ‘The Garden’ in New York City are magnificent in their own way as respective homes of the sport and with their illustrious history of memorable contests, but no one does mass boxing turnout like the Brits. On the back of the stadium sell outs for Anthony Joshua and numerous British fighters in recent years, if you want an atmosphere and event come to the UK.
  5. Legacy – If Tyson Fury is to back up his claim to be the ‘Greatest of All Time’ he has to continue fighting. Financially he doesn’t need to, health wise – particularly mentally – he may now be closer to that safe place where he can continue to enjoy his life and live it to the full with his loving family. However, to back up his claim he will have to continue his boxing career. What that means on the immediate horizon is to fight and defeat the winner of Oleksandr Usyk-Anthony Joshua II. The Ukrainian, Usyk, holds three of the world sanctioning body belts and can make a legitimate claim to be the #1 heavyweight in the world. The Gypsy King will have to meet and beat him to continue his path to greatness and universal acceptance. True, as Fury says there will always be someone out there to beat, but his career will be unfinished without those further marquee victories on his record.
This weekly feature is to also raise awareness of the Ringside Charitable Trust.

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.