The Monday LunchBox

Ionut Baluta celebrates his win over Brad Foster.

There was some excellent action in British rings over the weekend.

Friday night saw a Queensberry Promotions international super-bantamweight contest between Romanian Ionut Baluta and Briton Brad Foster. The aggressive Baluta (15-3, 3 KO’s) forced the pace throughout and although Foster (14-2-2, 5 KO’s) boxed well he was unable to prevail with scores returned in favour of the Spanish based eastern European 98-94, 97-93, 97-93.

We saw the fight a lot closer with most rounds difficult to score, a question of whether you liked the calmness and ring generalship of Foster compared to Baluta’s advancing aggression, but we accepted the man who made the fight was rightly declared the victor.

On a deep card with good victories for female puncher Raven Chapman, debuting Sean Noakes, Michael Burke Jr and Andrew Cain the night showcased some of the best talent emerging from the UK.

Liverpool’s Andrew Cain (10-0, 9 KO’s) is on an upward trajectory at super-bantamweight. It only took him 2:02 of the opening round to land a double left hook right uppercut combination to halt usually tough Mexican Luis Moreno. Cain is reputedly looking at opportunities for titles at either super-bantam or the lighter bantamweight division, able to fluctuate between the two. On this form, in which he was punch perfect, the future looks bright.

Undefeated Maidstone, Kent bantamweight Dennis ‘The Menace’ McCann (10-0, 6 KO’s) was in attendance and a fight between him and Cain would be a mouthwatering prospect.

There were also good wins for Joshua and Charles Frankham in front of a passionate family following.

Saturday night at the London O2 Arena saw an excellent all British affair between world ranked light-heavyweights Joshua Buatsi and Craig Richards. The undefeated Buatsi (16-0, 13 KO’s) won a hard fought twelve round unanimous decision 116-112, 115-113, 115-113 in one of the fights of the year to date.

Richards (17-3-1, 10 KO’s), hot off a world title loss to Dmitry Bivol, put in another excellent performance but just fell short on the scorecards. The Undisputed scored it 116-112 in favour of Buatsi.

The 29 year old Buatsi now takes pole position for a world title shot at 175lbs (12st,7lbs) being highly ranked by all governing bodies. With the depth of British contenders at the weight there are also lucrative domestic contests with Anthony Yarde, Callum’s Johnson or Smith and Lyndon Arthur amongst others. His Matchroom Boxing promotional company will be looking to seal a world title fight next.

Much will depend on the route that current unified champion Dmitry Bivol takes after his recent defeat of former pound-for-pound king Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and the imminent contest between Artur Beterbiev and Joe Smith Jr. The 175lb division is one of the hottest in the world currently, bringing back memories of the glory days of the early 1980’s.

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

The Friday Faceup

Promo courtesy of Queensberry Promotions.

Some good action is expected at east London’s York Hall, Bethnal Green tonight with the return of Britain’s Brad Foster against Romanian Ionut Baluta at super-bantamweight (122lbs/8st,10lbs).

Foster (14-1-2, 5 KO’s) is the former British and Commonwealth champion and on the comeback trail after losing his titles to Jason Cunningham last October. The Midlands man is in tough with Baluta (14-3, 3 KO’s) who’s fought in good company, losing against world title challenger Michael Conlan last time out.

The 24 year old Foster is a good stylist and should have enough to come through a tough test. Most likely on points.

The Queensberry Promotions card also features Liverpool super-bantamweight Andrew Cain against Mexican Luis Moreno, female boxer Raven Chapman at featherweight and, includes the debut of welterweight Sean Noakes from Maidstone, Kent.

The event will be shown live in the UK on BT Sport 2 from 7pm.

Tomorrow (Sat) in the O2 Arena, North Greenwich is the all British light-heavyweight contest between world ranked Joshua Buatsi and Craig Richards. This is a fight with serious consequences on a world level.

Both are south Londoners with Buatsi (15-0, 13 KO’s) moving into a position for a world title shot and Richards (17-2-1, 10 KO’s) comes off a points defeat to now unified champion and current pound-for-pounder Dmitry Bivol. This is a ‘pick-ems’ fight which could go the distance but we expect Buatsi’s power to tell and him prevail around the tenth round.

The event will be shown live on the DAZN streaming platform.

The Monday LunchBox

Denzel Bentley (left) piles it on against Linus Udofia.
Photo: Leigh Dawney/Wasserman Boxing

In an action packed Wasserman Boxing promotion in Greenwich, London (Fri 13th) Denzel Bentley regained the British middleweight title with a hard fought split decision victory over Linus Udofia. Scores were 116-112, 114-115, 115-113.

In gaining his second notch on the famous Lonsdale Belt towards winning it outright, having first won the title in 2020, the Battersea puncher emphatically returned from his shock April 2021 defeat to Felix Cash.

The contest was a barnstormer which ebbed and flowed over the twelve round distance. Bentley started slowly, pot shotting with big punches as Udofia looked the more composed and compact. The ex-champion came through difficult moments early on before landing a big right hand in the third causing Udofia to hold on mid round. Although Bentley (16-1-1, 13 KO’s) looked the more ragged, at times swinging wild looping shots, his power was the more evident whenever he landed.

Udofia (17-1, 9 KO’s), from Luton, kept the centre of the ring through much of the fight with a tighter defence and controlling it’s pace, but the strong shots from Bentley were clearly having a cumulative effect. The Londoner finished rounds seven and eight strongly and controlled the fight from therein.

It was a backwards and forwards contest with no knockdowns, but held before a boisterous crowd made excellent entertainment for those also viewing on Channel 5. The Undisputed had a final score of 115-113 in Bentley’s favour and it was a worthy victory for the local man. The exciting puncher now moves onto a third British title win and possible international recognition.

The event was the promoter’s new venture with the free to air television channel and it was ably supported by an eliminator for the same title between Ryan Kelly and Brad Pauls. This was the fight of the night as the Cornishman Pauls eeked out a decision victory to become Bentley’s mandatory contender. In his post-fight interview Pauls gave credit to his challenger “He gave me the toughest fight of my life. Hats off to Ryan Kelly”.

Pauls goes to 16-0 (9 KO’s) and Kelly drops to 16-4 (8 KO’s). The contest drew widespread applause on referee Marcus McDonnell’s prompt at the start of the final round. Well deserved.

The knockout of the night was Brighton’s junior-welterweight Harlem Eubank in poleaxing Sean ‘Masher’ Dodds with a perfectly timed left hook 2:24 into the second. The gifted Eubank (14-0, 6 KO’s) continues the family fistic heritage being the son of Chris Eubank Sr and joining brother Chris Jr high in the British rankings. On being interviewed he said “I feel like I’m driving to the top of the division”. Few would argue on this performance.

There was a minor controversy on the night with the late withdrawal of Albanian Xhuljo Vrenozi who was due to fight Sunderland’s Josh Kelly in the chief support. The comebacking Kelly apologised to his fans on stage as it was announced the Albanian had allegedly locked himself in his hotel room and refused to leave to fight. This was disappointing but didn’t detract from an excellent card.

Up in Manchester the BOXXER cruiserweight elimination series was won by Ellis Zorro (14-0, 6 KO’s) from Lewisham, London. He won the £40,000 winner take all prize with three composed and assured performances over the event. He was the calmer over the duration, refusing to be sidetracked by verbal challenge from his opponents and made the most of his solid skills to win first prize.

Zorro won all his fights on points, beating Jay Farrell and Jamie Smith and Ricky Reeves in a competitive but low key final (30-27, 29-28, 29-28). As well as the first prize he also gained a new BOXXER multi-fight contract and looks a good addition to their ranks.

On being interviewed after the final he committed most of his prize towards funding speech therapy for his young daughter who suffers from autism. Another nice touch from a class act.

The weekend also saw good action worldwide with the picks being world ranked heavyweight Martin Bakole (18-1, 13 KO’s) dominating Tony Yoka (11-1, 9 KO’s) in Paris to win a majority decision. Also, in the US, American Jermell Charlo (35-1-1, 18 KO’s) defeated Brian Castano (17-1-2, 12 KO’s) in Carson City, California. The impressive Charlo scored a tenth round TKO on 2:33 secs and becomes the first undisputed men’s 154lb champion. He dropped the tough Argentinian twice en-route in a very entertaining and competitive fight.

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

The Friday Faceup

Promo courtesy of Wasserman Boxing.

A solid weekend of action is scheduled in British rings.

Tonight at the Indigo at the O2, the smaller venue inside the big tent at Greenwich, is the vacant British middleweight title fight between Linus Udofia (17-0, 9 KO’s) and Denzel Bentley (15-1-1, 13 KO’s).

Former champion Bentley, from Battersea south London, after impressively winning the title from Mark Heffron then lost unexpectedly in his first defence to Felix Cash last year. The undefeated Udofia has only fought at domestic level so far, but has very strong fundamentals working off a solid jab. It should be an extremely competitive fight with the odds marginally favouring the bigger punching Bentley.

Chief support will see the return of Sunderland’s Olympian Josh Kelly (10-1-1, 6 KO’s) in his first contest at junior-middleweight (11st/154lbs). He faces Albanian Xhuljo Vrenozi (18-4, 3 KO’s).

The much hyped Kelly came up short last year against world ranked David Avanesyan in a first attempt at the elite level and now begins a rebuilding job. His skills are unquestionable, and under the guidance of respected trainer Adam Booth, he will be carefully prepared for this step back into the paid ring and look to relaunch his career.

Kelly on the night should be far too good for his opponent and, provided he can put the demons to one side, should win impressively and move on.

The evening’s Wasserman Boxing promotion marks their first UK televised show in a new deal with Channel 5 and is available across the terrestrial network.

Tomorrow sees the attention shift up to north to Manchester with the next event of the popular BOXXER Series. This time it’s the turn of the cruiserweights (200lbs/14st,4lb) at the Victoria Warehouse, with eight fighters competing for the £40,000 purse in a winner-take-all elimination contest. The random draw made yesterday is:

Ellis Zorro (11-0, 6 KO’s) v Jay Farrell (9-2, 5 KO’s)

Jamie Smith (3-0, 2 KO’s) v Jack Fay (1-0-1)

Ricky Reeves (2-0, 1 KO) v Anees Taj (5-1, 4 KO’s)

Sheldon McDonald (3-0, 1 KO) v Ryan Cotterell (1-0)

Four fighters will advance to the semi-finals and then onto the final. The respective records show Zorro to be favourite, but on the night expect fireworks either way.

The event will be on Sky Sports Action from 19:00 UK time.

Enjoy your fight weekend.

The PressBox

Tokyo Olympic silver medallist Ben Whittaker.

Yesterday (Weds) in east London the final GB Tokyo 2020 medallist Ben Whittaker turned professional with the BOXXER promotional company in association with Sky Sports.

During last year’s delayed Games he captured the hearts of British supporters with his charisma and humour on his march to the final. Despite gaining a well earned silver medal he never became the Mayor of Wolverhampton (his hometown) which he pitched for, but optimism is high as he finally enters the professional ranks.

In a well attended press conference the 24 year old entered the stage after an intro and promotional video and then summed up his pleasure in finally signing professional terms “Well, they always say save the best ’til last and here I am !”.

BOXXER founder and CEO Ben Shalom went onto explain how sought after Whittaker’s signature was and his delight at him fighting under his promotional banner. “He was the one every promoter was circling around…He’s a generational talent, but also a personality…the perfect signing”.

He will be managed by Anthony Joshua’s 258 Management company.

Joined by internationally respected trainer SugarHill Steward who represents Detroit’s Kronk Gym and will be Whittaker’s trainer on him turning pro, the fighter went onto add “I know I wanna be a world champion. I want people to say remember Ben Whittaker, he was the best we had”.

His head trainer added he “is an extremely talented boxer, like a Roy Jones…an electrifying personality and talent…I believe Ben Whittaker has that whole package, to be a superstar”. When asked by The Undisputed to expand on what he saw and how he’d develop him, Sugar Hill added “Speed and skill and he can create things in the ring…we will be getting him to sit down on his punches and develop that knockout power”.

Ben Shalom explained how he would be matching Whittaker’s desire with his company “He wants to be moved properly, promoted properly” and he clearly saw BOXXER and Sky Sports as the vehicle to achieve that. It’s known that his signature has had many suitors and not come cheap, but having done the necessary groundwork and looked both stateside and across the UK, the Whittaker/Steward combination looks set for a good and exciting start. They completed the media event with a workout in the ring before all in attendance.

No date for Whittaker’s debut has been announced, but he explained his flexibility and intentions regarding weight categories, “I would love to hold 168 and 175lb (titles) together…I can jump in either/or”. Given his six foot frame it’s likely 175 (light-heavyweight) will be the weight finally settled on. This is arguably the most stacked division in British boxing, but one of ageing champions. In three years time the Wolverhampton man should be well set to compete for a championship and ultimately move on to achieve his ambitions. He has all the skills and charisma to be the standout from the Tokyo Games.

In our conversation with a BOXXER representative mid-event their intentions were clearly evident to develop a standout athlete and personality, not simply a talented boxer. Caution was explained on the potential pitfalls ahead, but the platform had now been provided for the fighter to excel.

Watch this space.

The Monday LunchBox

Dmitry Bivol jabs his way to light-heavyweight success.
Photo: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The King is dead, long live the King.

Dmitry Bivol’s sensational victory over Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in Las Vegas at the weekend brought an end to the Mexican’s domination of the pound-for-pound rankings, certainly in the eyes of The Ring magazine and most observers. The tall Russian successfully defended his WBA light-heavyweight title for a ninth time and in so doing staked his own claim for the unified world title and his own position in the mythical P4P rankings.

Despite the identical scores of 115-113 returned by the three judges on the night, this was as dominant a performance in an elite championship fight seen this year. Bivol controlled the tempo of the contest from the opening bell with an aggressive approach, commanding the centre of the ring and repeatedly peppering Alvarez with his solid jab. At times the Mexican’s head resembled the puppet Punch, as Judy hammered him with a fairground stick. The constant rat-a-tat-tat led to a reddening of Alvarez’ face very early in the contest and this became the theme for the remaining eleven rounds.

The difference in size and strength was evident as Canelo tried desperately to make an impact in the fight. He had rounds of success hammering the Russian to the ribs and arms and trying to get on the inside for a sustained period, the ninth being his best. But, bar a few solid hooks to the chin that Bivol absorbed, the winner was clear. The Undisputed gave Canelo a maximum of four rounds with a score of 116-112 in favour of the Russian.

Bivol (20-0, 11 KO’s) was brilliant and now sits on the cusp of either a direct rematch with Alvarez or, an opportunity to unify the 175lb world titles by meeting American Joe Smith Jr or his Russian compatriot Artur Beterbiev. The latter holds the WBC and IBF titles and was considered the best in the division. Smith Jr is the WBO title holder and will meet Beterbiev on June 18.

Bivol already holds a win over Smith who is considered a big underdog going into the Beterbiev contest. However, Saturday showed – always expect the unexpected.

The loss was the second registered on Canelo’s record (57-2-2, 39 KO’s) with the first being way back in 2013 to Floyd Mayweather Jr. Still, as the biggest name in the sport the options remain endless for him. The smart money, given Bivol’s dominance on Saturday, would be for the Mexican to step back down to 168lbs and have the long awaited career defining trilogy fight with Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin. All of a sudden that seems more competitive than many were saying before the weekend’s events. Golovkin will surrender nine years in age but Canelo’s time at the top now seems on the decline.

Dmitry Bivol is now firmly on the elite world scene and big fights await.

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

The Weekender

‘Canelo’ returns to face tall Russian champ Bivol.
Photo courtesy: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom

After the brilliant weekend of action in the USA seven days ago with standout victories for Katie Taylor and Shakur Stevenson it’s the turn of widely accepted pound-for-pound king Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. He faces Russian Dmitry Bivol in Las Vegas on Mexican ‘Cinco de Mayo’ weekend for the WBA light-heavyweight title.

Alvarez (57-1-2, 37 KO’s) is a money making machine and top of everyone’s hit list. To face him means instant millionaire status, but his standing in the sport is such that he calls the shots, in the view of some ‘cherry picking’ his way to the boxing hall of fame. That would be unfair, as the 31 year old is an exceptional fighter with a record that would stand with any of his legendary Mexican predecessors.

The man from Guadalajara has won versions of world titles from light-middleweight (154lbs/11st) up to light-heavy (175lbs/12st,7lbs) – four divisions in total. This has seen him involved in some of the greatest events in the modern era, including two standout fights with Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin and a defeat to Floyd Mayweather early in his career.

In Bivol (19-0, 11 KO’s), he faces a well schooled fighter coming out of the Russian system with a significantly bigger frame having campaigned at 175lbs for the whole of his professional career. Quite why the 31 year old Russian (albeit born in Kyrgystan with Moldovan and Korean parentage) is allowed to fight for millions of dollars in the current world political climate is dumbfounding, but through his fistic endeavours he’s earned the right. Bivol stands 6 foot 1 with a strong jab and power, and will pose significant early problems to the much shorter Canelo.

The Russian has few significant victories under his belt despite boasting a good knockout record. At championship level he’s tended to dominate but outpoint his opposition. His finest victory coming against current WBO champion Joe Smith Jr. This is though a big chance for him to make a statement and set up a unification fight against fellow Russian Artur Beterbiev, considered the divisional king.

For Alvarez, this is a further opportunity to cement his legacy and settle the arguments about his legitimacy as the greatest Mexican fighter of all time. This is a generational debate and to really put his ‘flag in the sand’ he needs to win impressively here and then step back down to 160-168lbs to settle the score with his old adversary Golovkin. Look for the teak tough Canelo to navigate his way through the early rounds and win the fight with a unanimous points victory. Then, we can hopefully look forward to a GGG trilogy fight in September.

Both fighters made the specified weight last night – Alvarez 174.4lbs and Bivol 174.6lbs.

The fight is promoted by Matchroom Boxing and will be televised on the DAZN streaming site with UK coverage around 05:00 BST.

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.
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