The Monday LunchBox

Shakur Stevenson stings Jamel Herring
Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

In a weekend with no significant UK action a shining star continued to emerge in the USA.

Newark, New Jersey junior-lightweight Shakur Stevenson dethroned compatriot Jamel Herring to gain the WBO 9st,4lb (130lbs) title by 10th round TKO. The challenger won his second ‘world’ title having gained the WBO 9st (126lbs) crown and immediately moving up to compete in the heavier division.

The manner of the 24 year old Stevenson’s victory was emphatic, dominating the fight with a stinging southpaw jab and fast hands. Herring was making his fourth defence after stopping Carl Frampton earlier in the year, but the 35 year old champion was second best throughout. Apart from coming on ironically just before the stoppage, he was picked apart at range for the duration of the fight.

Stevenson (17-0, 9 KO’s), a Rio Olympic silver medalist and elite amateur, was cautious but much more aggressive in this fight than previous contests.

Ex-US Marine Herring (23-0-3) showing his exceptional grit and heart yet again just couldn’t get in the fight. He was continually stung with southpaw jabs and heavy left hands but couldn’t get his own southpaw lead off, continually moving into Stevenson’s right hand as he tried to advance forward.

The fight was ended by referee Mark Nelson after 1:30 of the 10th when Herring sustained a perennial cut over his right eye in the previous round, and was caught on the ropes shipping unnecessary punishment. There was no protest and both fighters embraced on termination of the bout. Herring was accepting of defeat afterfight and left the ring with his head held high following an excellent series of defences of his former title.

Stevenson in the post fight interview said he “smelled blood” when Herring got cut and called out Oscar Valdez (29-0, 23 KO’s) who sensationally beat Miguel Berchelt to win the WBC title earlier in the year. This a natural fight between two undefeated champions and Stevenson will fancy his chances with his superior technical skills.

The weekend in Montreal, Canada also saw the first contesting of the new WBC world bridgerweight title – a new initiative to ‘bridge’ the gap between heavyweight and cruiserweight. With the heavy’s getting bigger the smaller contenders (16.5st/232lbs) are being left behind, too big to make cruiser and too small to compete effectively at heavy. Although boxing could least do with another weight class it does seem one borne with the safety of the fighter in mind. The inaugural champion is Colombia’s Oscar Rivas (28-1, 19 KO’s) who unanimously outpointed Ryan Rozicki (13-0, 13 KO’s) in a highly competitive slugfest. Scores were 116-111, 115-112 and 115-112.

Rivas lost a similar competitive fight to Britain’s Dillian Whyte in 2019 and will be more comfortable in the new lighter weight division. It is the first new division to be introduced for 34 years but will need elite fighters and contests to be fully accepted.

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

The Monday LunchBox

An ecstatic Savannah Marshall after stopping brave Lolita Muzeya.
Photo: BOXXER/Lawrence Lustig

Hartlepool, England’s Savannah Marshall stole the show on Saturday’s excellent BOXXER card from Newcastle’s Utilita Arena televised live on Sky Sports. The WBO world middleweight champion made an impressive second defence of her title with a second round stoppage of courageous Lolita Muzeya.

‘Silent Assassin’ Marshall (11-0, 9 KO’s) had to weather a serious early storm from Muzeya (16-1, 8 KO’s) as the challenger came out like a human threshing machine. The Zambian put everything on the line in the first three completed minutes either side of the bell.

The champion was shocked by the intensity of her challenger but boxed cautiously to avoid any early damage. After receiving a pep talk from trainer/cornerman Peter Fury she stood her ground in the second round and her superior technical skills started to take over, landing strong jabs with power punching follow ups. This forced the challenger to ‘hit the wall’ three minutes in as her early intensity began to take its toll.

Muzeya was backed onto the ropes by Marshall’s heavy shots, and under extreme pressure, the referee Michael Alexander was forced to jump in to save the African from further punishment. The official stoppage was 1:58.

A potential mouthwatering match up looms against multiple world champion Claressa Shields (watching the transmission live in the US and interviewed post-fight). BOXXER CEO Ben Shalom confirmed both would feature on their 11 December promotion in Birmingham, England on the path to a potential meeting in 2022.

Marshall is the only fighter to defeat Shields amateur or pro (the American reaffirming in the post fight interview that her defeat was as “an amateur”). The British champion responded back to Shields’ bravado with “What a load of crap !”.

Both ladies will enter the contest extremely confident in what is potentially the stand out fight in the world female ranks. Shields is ranked #2 and Marshall #10 by The Ring magazine.

Chris Eubank Jr (31-2, 23 KO’s) forced Wanik Awdigan (28-1-1, 11 KO’s) to retire at the end of round 5 in a middleweight contest. The German based Armenian looked lively for the opening rounds boxing out of a southpaw stance, catching the Brighton man by surprise with some solid shots. Eubank was always in control though, and cautiously tracking his opponent, stepped up the pace from the third landing a series of hooks, jabs and screw uppercuts. Eubank acknowledged post fight the awkwardness of his opponent, expecting an orthodox fighter, and the need to show patience over the completed rounds.

The middleweight division is stacked with exciting options and Eubank confirmed he was targeting “anyone with a world title” and “ready for the big fights and big names”. There are stellar names out there for him, most notably Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin, and if that fight can be made would sell out any indoor arena in the UK.

British heavyweight Hughie Fury (26-3, 15 KO’s) scored a stoppage win over Christian Hammer (26-8, 16 KO’s) when the German retired with a right bicep injury also at the end of the fifth round. In a candid interview post fight, Hughie’s father Peter Fury gave him a 7.5/10 acknowledging it was a good win but with some room for improvement. Similar to Eubank Jr; the key is to keep him active and move quickly onto the next step up.

Local Newcastle favorite Steve Robinson (4-0, 3 KO’s) scored an early stoppage win over outgunned Reece Barlow and looks an exciting addition to the heavyweight division.

There were also several very competitive undercard fights and BOXXER is a welcome and refreshing addition to the British fight scene. Look out for further dates live on the Sky platform in the UK.

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

The Friday Faceup

Savannah Marshall stands tall against Zambian challenger Lolita Muzeya.
Photo: BOXXER/Lawrence Lustig

After three spectacular weeks of boxing with two big heavyweight pay-per-view showdowns attracting the masses, regular domestic service is resumed this weekend. The Joshua-Usyk & Wilder-Fury Box Office events attracted a frenzy of activity and publicity combined with multiple promotions padding TV schedules around those two monster fights.

This weekend the second BOXXER promotion televised live on Sky Sports (Saturday 7:30pm BST) provides the principal attraction.

Almost by fate it happens to be taking place in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in NE England, the focus of the football world for the last week due to the multi-million pound Arab buyout of Newcastle United Football Club. The timing of BOXXER CEO Ben Shalom and Sky couldn’t have been better with a captive sporting audience focused on the city.

The card features nine bouts with the standouts being female WBO world middleweight champion Savannah Marshall (10-0, 8 KO’s) defending her title against Zambian Lolita Muzeya (16-0, 8 KO’s). London Olympian, Marshall is regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world but said “I’m expecting a tough fight from Lolita. I’d be a fool to overlook anyone and she’s unbeaten…I’m expecting her to come (forward) and I’m expecting the best version of Lolita”.

Muzeya in response said “I’m excited for Saturday…this is a big opportunity”. However, look for Marshall to win within six tough 2 minute rounds and set up a potential showdown with American female megastar Claressa Shields.

At heavyweight, The Gypsy King’s cousin Hughie Fury (25-3, 14 KO’s) makes a long awaited comeback to the ring against perennial contender Christian Hammer (26-7, 16 KO’s). The 27 year old Fury has marked time since December 2020 and now needs to make some inroads into the division’s elite.

The Romanian, Hammer has fought in good company but apart from a victory against David Price when last in England has usually come up short. He is capable though, with a good KO percentage and will provide a stern test. The contest will show us exactly where Fury is at, and we expect him to prevail over twelve rounds.

Stealing the majority of the pre-fight headlines is the return of Chris Eubank Jr (30-2-0, 22 KO’s) against German Wanik Awdigan (28-0-1, 11 KO’s) in an international middleweight contest.

The Brighton man was due to launch the return of big time boxing back on Sky in their new partnership with BOXXER three weeks ago but had to stand down after two opponents were forced to withdraw; the second Anatoli Muratov on the day of the fight ! Eubank now gets the opportunity to get a much needed win against Awdigan who’s been talking a good fight this week but not fought at the same level.

The 32 year old Eubank Jr (promoted by Wasserman Boxing) has not boxed since May but still ranked #8 by The Ring magazine in the world middleweight (11st 6lb/160lb) division. He provides the ideal personality and big fight attraction to bolster the Newcastle promotion and will be looking to win impressively towards a third ‘world’ title shot. This should be a convincing win for the Brighton man by mid-round KO.

Home town favourite Lewis Ritson was due to face Hank Lundy but had to withdraw on Thursday due to illness. The remaining card should though provide sufficient entertainment for Utilita Arena, Newcastle crowd and those tuning into Sky Sports. Enjoy !

The Monday LunchBox

Tyson Fury lands the crunching blow to end Saturday’s fight.

Wow ! What a fight.

Tyson ‘Gypsy King’ Fury said post fight “It was worthy of any trilogy in the history of the sport”. He was not mistaken.

His three fight series with America’s ‘Bronze Bomber’ Deontay Wilder was punctuated and finalised Saturday night in Las Vegas T- Mobile Arena with a contest so riveting and explosive that the tombstone of Ron Lyle must have been rattling with excitement ! We witnessed a contest reminiscent of the epic up-down 1976 slugfest the late great Lyle shared with big George Foreman.

The trilogy of fights between Fury and Wilder had more controversy, concussive ebb and flow, and ‘bouncebackability’ than your average Rocky flick. The first fight in 2019 was a captivating draw, the rematch a Fury showcase and, Saturday night a barnstorming blitzkrieg. Five knockdowns were registered with both fighters floored before the WBC world heavyweight champion Fury prevailed largely by attrition, knocking out his brave challenger after 1:10 of the eleventh round.

Four trilogies stand out in heavyweight history, all listed in the Friday Faceup, with the most recent being Holyfield v Bowe in the 1990’s. But in the early hours of Sunday morning (UK time) you could add Fury v Wilder to that roll call. Their three fights over the space of just under three COVID interrupted years had all the ingredients of the four trilogies preceding it in the drama that unfolded.

Saturday’s fight before a 15,820 under capacity but captivated Las Vegas crowd was the best of the bunch. The champion Fury had reluctantly taken the third fight after Wilder’s successful legal challenge to invoke the rematch clause.

Whereas in their second fight Fury took the initiative from the opening bell, this time it was Wilder, taking the first round on all three judges cards focusing on jabs repeatedly to the Englishman’s stomach. It was clear Fury was adopting a more measured approach but after the champion narrowly took the second round all hell broke loose.

The remaining eight completed rounds became a toe-to-toe slugfest with Fury dropping the challenger in round 3 with a strong right-left combination and seemingly taking an early control of the fight. Wilder dragged himself up and it then amazingly swung 360 degrees in the next stanza with challenger dropping Fury heavily twice in the last half minute of the fourth. Seemingly on the cusp of a crushing and humiliating defeat Fury hauled himself up from the second knockdown right on the bell to dominate the remaining rounds as the American started to fade badly mid-fight.

Wilder though, like an ageing western gunslinger still had a few bullets left in his revolver, desperately trying to land booming single overhand rights on the Englishman’s cranium as Fury advanced forward. The champion continued to play Russian roulette as he forced the pace to stop his opponent. Wilder with blood pouring out his mouth was on unsteady legs seemingly ready to go at the end of each exchange. Through rounds five to ten the Gypsy King was dominating on the inside, landing hurtful shots to Wilder’s torso.

The challenger showed bravery beyond the call of duty as his corner led by ex-heavyweight Malik Scott sent him out round after round. Clearly hurt and with the tank running close to empty Wilder still looked dangerous with single shots but was dropped heavily in the tenth by a big right hand to the ear. Wilder rose and finished the round well. By now though Fury was relentless, and sniffing blood, finished his opponent in the eleventh with a booming combination punctuated by a heavy right hand.

The Gypsy King successfully defended a world title for the first time having been champion in 2015 after his spectacular victory against Wladimir Klitschko and being stripped due to inactivity as a result of his well documented mental problems. The King was already on the thrown having regained the title in February 2020 following the Wilder rematch, but this sealed the deal. As the recognised ‘lineal champion’ – the man who beat the man, who beat the man.. Fury is now accepted as the true heavyweight champion of the world.

A meeting with WBA, IBF and WBO world sanctioning champion Oleksandr Usyk is likely to be next on the agenda but make no mistake despite the threat that could pose Tyson ‘Gypsy King’ Fury sealed his legacy in the Nevada night and now jockies for position in the annals of heavyweight greatness. His record was extended to 31-0-1 (22 KO’s) whilst Wilder dropped to 42-2-1 (40 KO’s).

Fury was ahead on all three cards at the time of the stoppage :- 95-91, 94-92 and 95-92. The Undisputed saw it wider at 96-90.

A Usyk fight is a mouthwatering proposition should the Ukrainian overcome Anthony Joshua in a rematch of their contest two weeks ago. Britain’s Dillian Whyte also waits in the wings as the WBC mandatory contender.

Saturday though was Fury’s night and as he explained post-fight “Like the great John Wayne said – I’m made of pig iron steel baby !” Fury gave a performance to make ‘The Duke’ proud and who can argue with him after this standout and emphatic victory.

This weekly feature is to also raise awareness of the registered charity Ringside Rest and Care.

The Friday Faceup

Promo courtesy of Top Rank Inc and WBC.

Two weeks ago Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk changed the heavyweight landscape in a boxing masterclass defeating Anthony Joshua. In so doing he derailed, maybe permanently, the fight the whole world supposedly wanted to see, an all British showdown between Joshua and Tyson ‘The Gypsy King’ Fury. At the time they collectively held all the world sanctioning body belts.

A mere 14 days later in Las Vegas, Nevada in the early hours of Sunday morning (UK time) Fury will defend his WBC ‘world’ title. The third fight with USA’s Deontay Wilder will not define Fury’s legacy but will go a long way to securing it should he repeat his spectacular win of February 2020.

Through boxing history trilogy fights for a world heavyweight title are as rare as hens teeth. This will be only the fifth time – the others are almost legendary in the annals of the sport – Patterson v Johansson at the turn of the 1950/60’s, Ali v Frazier and Ali v Norton in the 70’s and, Holyfield v Bowe in the 1990’s. In all those cases the previous meetings were split 1:1 going into the third fight, and fueled by controversy or convincing victories each way, giving a thirst for a third fight. On Saturday the only controversy is how the fight has come about and what it derailed in the process.

Deontay Wilder was simply blown away by Fury in the second fight, and, arguably lost nine rounds in their first meeting. We should now know who the dominant fighter is and the matter should be dead in the water. However, by Wilder exercising his right to an immediate rematch and a US court deeming it his legal entitlement, we now have the fight that no one outside of Tuscaloosa, Alabama (Wilder’s hometown) wanted.

What we do have is a meeting on paper between an undefeated fighter in Fury (30-0-1, 21 KO’s) and a challenger with a 42-1-1 (41 KO’s) record and fueled by a sense of injustice. That can be a lethal cocktail that will intoxicate fight fans to buy the fight available in the UK on BT Box Office.

This is the archetypal boxer v puncher confrontation. Fury has shown over the 17 completed rounds between the two that he is without doubt the superior boxer. Wilder, in poleaxing Fury twice in the first fight that he is the puncher.

The American should be able to box. After all he is an Olympic bronze medalist. But, in meeting Fury he is facing a boxing master who has the 6ft 9in frame to match. Usyk aside, the Gypsy King is the standout boxer in the division, his abilities are multi-dimensional – able to box at distance and pick off his opponent with strong jabs and counters or step into the pocket and bomb away. The manner in which he immediately took the fight to Wilder in last years rematch from the opening bell shows he is willing to surprise too. His tactical nous is without peer amongst the big guys.

Wilder by contrast lacks the fundamentals that have elevated him to such a high status. The self confessed ‘Bronze Bomber’ is though a power punching freak, he possesses the single devastating punch power to render any heavyweight prostrate. His 99% KO record is phenomenal and only one man has never been KO’d by him in the professional ranks. That man is Tyson Fury.

The 35 year old American enters this contest highly competitive but as a big underdog. His excuses after the second Fury fight were almost laughable, one of which was being weighed down by his robe pre-fight ! Psychologically his mind would have been scrambled after his first and stoppage defeat. He has though had 20 months to re-group and get in the right mindset with only one man (Fury) on his mind. The opening rounds will be riveting to see how Wilder approaches the fight. He will know he can’t outbox Fury so does he risk all in trying to bomb him out from the first bell ? Will he have learnt from Joshua’s caution of two weeks prior ? The consensus is that this is Alabamian’s only route to victory.

How will Fury approach the fight ? Buoyed by his personality and supreme confidence in bombing out Wilder in fight two, will he adopt the same tactic as last time out ? Simply walking across the ring from the opening bell and dominating the fight. Or, will he exercise more caution this time knowing a firefight is Wilder’s only chance of success. We could conceivably see a boxing masterclass similar to his victory over Wladimir Klitschko what now seems all those years ago.

The Undisputed thinks we’ll see something between the two. Despite Fury’s usual pre-fight braggadacio we expect him to meet his opponent ring centre but not in the relentless and wreckless manner shown in Fight 2. We think Wilder will storm out to temper Fury’s initial advance and force him to adopt a more cautious approach in the opening round. We expect the fight to extend to six rounds, maybe with knockdowns of both fighters, but then the taller champion to end the contest around the eighth round to repeat his emphatic victory of 2020 and end the argument for good.

Elsewhere, on the banks on the River Mersey in Liverpool, England a quality domestic dust up takes place between former WBO ‘world’ light-middleweight champion Liam Smith (29-3-1, 16 KO’s) and Olympian Anthony Fowler (15-1-0, 12 KO’s). The latter, at 30 is the younger man by three years and although not fought at this high level as a professional will look to force the pace. This is a pick-ems fight and in a rocking Echo Arena may go the distance with many ebbs and flows. Look for the younger man to just do enough to finish the contest the victor. The contest is promoted by Matchroom Boxing and available on DAZN.

Finally, on BT Sport as a precursor to the Fury-Wilder contest there’s a quality match up in Birmingham, England for the British, Commonwealth and European super-bantamweight belts. The Queensberry Promotion pits Brad Foster (14-0-2, 5 KO’s)against Jason Cunningham (29-6-0, 6 KO’s) for all the marbles. Look for the slicker Foster to add the European title to his two belts, most likely on a points decision.

Enjoy what is a loaded fight weekend.

The Friday Faceup

Chris Eubank Jr tips the scales at 163.4 lbs.

This Saturday (2nd Oct) a new era begins on Sky Sports for big time boxing. A new promotional relationship with BOXXER fronted by founder and CEO Ben Shalom replaces the longstanding contract between Sky and Matchroom. This could be good news for fight fans with regular events on the subscription channel and possibly fewer going immediately to box office.

To officially launch the new venture world rated middleweight Chris Eubank Jr (30-2-0, 22 KO’s) faces late substitute Anatoli Muratov (24-2-1, 17 KO’s) at the SSE Arena, Wembley.

Eubank Jr is the name fighter and will be a big favorite going in. His Kazak-born, but naturalized German opponent is ranked #7 by the WBA, which is flattering given his record and level of opposition but has won impressively twice in the last two months. He will enter the ring as a busy and talented foe. Muratov replaced Sweden’s Sven Elbir earlier in the week and is to be commended for saving the main event at such short notice.

In contrast, the 32 year old Eubank has not fought since May but has a much more impressive resume. He is ranked world #8 by The Ring magazine and fought regularly at world level. He provides the ideal personality and big fight experience to front the first BOXXER promotion and will be looking to win impressively. The promotion is in association with Wasserman Boxing headed up by Kalle Sauerland and features a competitive undercard.

Cruiserweight Richard Riakporhe takes on Mikael Lawal and at welterweight David Avanesyan faces Liam Taylor. These could be the pick of the contests.

The UK-based Russian, Avenesyan (27-3-1, 15 KO’s) is defending his European title after his impressive victory against undefeated Josh Kelly earlier in the year. The Lancastrian Taylor has an 23-1, 11 KO record and this will be his first dip into world level waters. It should though be highly competitive.

The night also features super-welterweight Joe Pigford and flyweight Harvey Horn. Both prospects promising big things.

Eubank Jr has lost to fellow Brits Billy Joe Saunders and George Groves on points in recent years in high profile title fights, but now rebuilds to challenge one of the other world sanctioning body champions. There are lucrative fights out there with the likes of Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin, Ryota Murata, Jermall Charlo, Demetrius Andrade, and also big domestic rematches. Muratov stands in his way Saturday night but Eubank Jr is confident of victory “I’m going in there to make a statement…I’m going for the knockout, as always” he told Sky Sports at today’s lunchtime weigh in.

Now trained by Hall of Famer Roy Jones Jr look for the Brighton fighter to make that statement with an impressive KO. Like all Kazak born fighters Muratov will be tough but the home fighter should get the job done. Enjoy your fight weekend !

The BOXXER promotion will be televised live on Sky Sports from 19:30 (UK time) and commentary on Talksport.

The Monday LunchBox

New world heavyweight king Oleksandr Usyk.

Hail to the King – 5 things we learned

  1. Oleksandr Usyk is a genuine heavyweight – the new champ was only two fights into the heavier division after unifying the world cruiserweight titles in 2018 and swiftly moving up. There were doubts going into Saturday’s contest whether he could carry his 6ft 3′ frame into combat with a genuine heavyweight in Joshua, conceding 19lbs. The Ukrainian proved without doubt that he could and is strong at the weight. His elevation is reminiscent of Evander Holyfield in the late 1980’s and he can now also be considered the ‘Real Deal’.
  2. Anthony Joshua’s flaws re-surface again – This defeat was different to his devastating loss to Andy Ruiz in 2019. Against the Mexican-American he simply got nailed and ran out of gas. On Saturday thoroughout much of the fight he was thoroughly outboxed. The challenger exposed the limited boxing experience the Londoner had in comparison to Usyk’s amateur grounding and a lifetime in the sport. Joshua has achieved remarkable things given he took up the sport relatively late but his inability to maximise his size and power and continually follow Usyk around the ring showed he still has a lot to learn. To his credit he is the first to admit it and has already taken up the challenge.
  3. Ukraine know how to make heavyweights – Usyk is the third champion to emerge from the former Soviet state since the fall of communism. He succeeds the Klitchko brothers (Wladimir and Vitaly) and it begs the question how many fighters have been lost from our attention as a result of the behemoth that was the Soviet Union. The United States has always been known as the home of the heavyweight but for Ukraine, a long hidden nation within a bigger superpower, this is some achievement. Add double Olympic champion and former undisputed lightweight champ Vasiliy Lomachenko into the mix and you have one of boxing’s finest nations.
  4. The fight was better than the hype – After a week long build up and saturation coverage in the UK on Sky TV we expected the second coming of the ‘Thrilla in Manila’. Rarely do fights live up to the hype, but this was a riveting contest throughout. For a fight that featured no knockdowns and was largely dominated by the excellence of one boxer, it had you tuned in until the final bell. Congrats to both combatants in their bravery and willingness to provide entertainment to the 67,000 live crowd and also the class they showed in victory and defeat.
  5. Usyk can become the lineal champion – the new champ emphatically showed he belongs in the ‘pound for pound’ rankings for the sport. Going in, he was The Ring magazine’s #4 fighter in this mythical ranking of the best in the business. He will surely move up a few slots on this performance, but more specifically he is now a genuine threat to WBC ‘world’ champion Tyson ‘Gypsy King’ Fury. The Brit has his own challenge to come through in two weeks – the trilogy fight against Deontay Wilder – no done deal. It has long been considered that Fury is the best pure boxer in the division and because of his size the man to beat, however Usyk will not be outboxed by Fury and now there is a genuine threat to the previously regarded ascendency to heavyweight coronation. It will be fascinating to see how it shakes down – enjoy the ride !
This weekly feature is to also raise awareness of the Ringside Charitable Trust.

The Weekender

Anthony Joshua shows some of the straps up for grabs.

On Saturday night (25th) the big men are back in London town.

England’s Anthony Joshua defends his WBA/IBF and WBO ‘world’ heavyweight titles against Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk. The fight takes place at a sold out Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, north London on a Matchroom Promotion. The event is being shown live in the UK on Sky Box Office and DAZN worldwide.

Both fighters are 2012 Olympic champions, in the super-heavyweight and cruiserweight divisions respectively, and both bring almost flawless professional records to the ring.

Joshua has a sole defeat to Andy Ruiz which he subsequently avenged in an immediate rematch in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in December 2019. Usyk previously unified the world cruiserweight titles before moving up to the heavier division.

The Ukrainian is ‘in deep’ having only his third fight as a heavyweight, but brings the superior amateur experience to the ring. Joshua at 31 only took up boxing a decade or so ago and his accomplishments over that time have been outstanding.

Usyk at 34 has an extensive amateur career fighting and winning around the world. Allied to his experience he brings a southpaw stance to the ring and an impressive 18-0 (13 KO’s) record. The Londoner has the higher knockout ratio in his 24-1 (22 KO’s) career and a wealth of big fight experience. This will be his eleventh ‘world’ title fight, all of them being before big indoor or stadium crowds.

Both boxers have fought for titles overseas and are used to the big occasion, however post-COVID lockdown the atmosphere tomorrow will be ramped up.

In Greenwich, London earlier today the champion weighed in at 240 lbs (17st, 1lb) and his WBO mandatory challenger at 221 lbs (15st, 8lb) – a career high. Both looked trim, confident and ready to do battle. The size differential was evident, but the three inches shorter Ukrainian did not look ‘too’ small or indeed blown up.

Although this is not the all-British heavyweight unification showdown everyone wanted – Joshua v Fury – it’s a match-up of the highest quality and there are many intriguing aspects pre-fight;

  1. Will Usyk be big and strong enough to compete with a fully fledged heavyweight champion ? For every Evander Holyfield, boxing history is littered with failures by lighter men moving up to the higher weight class. As the analogy goes ‘a good big un will beat a good small un’
  2. Has Joshua got the skillset to outbox a seasoned and clever southpaw ? Usyk’s style is not unique; being outstanding in one area, but he does everything good.
  3. Will Usyk freeze in a 62,000 hostile pro-Joshua environment against a hard hitting heavyweight ? Has he moved up too quickly and not fully tested the waters before taking on the hometown champion ?
  4. Has Joshua fully recovered from the 2019 knockout by Andy Ruiz in New York ? He’s regained his title and steadied the ship since that shock defeat, but Usyk has a good KO record and will certainly test the Londoner’s chin.
  5. Which of the two fighters has the better stamina ? Both have been known to ‘gas’ in fights – Joshua more alarmingly in the Ruiz KO, but more recently Usyk looked glad to hear the final bell against Dereck Chisora, one of his two heavyweight outings.

Ultimately success in boxing is about preparation, heart, guts and ring smarts. Both fighters have got to this level showing these qualities in abundance but The Undisputed believes this contest will be determined by the latter. It is conceivable that Joshua will blow the smaller man away in the early rounds winning by KO, but the quality of the Ukrainian and his knowing he can’t stand and trade with Joshua in the first 15 minutes will mean him adopting a cautious approach. The longer the fight goes on the more he will prevail and we see the title changing hands between rounds 9 and 11.

Then look for the scramble for the rematch and the domestic heavyweight fight we all want being further delayed, and possibly never happening. We would however like to be proved wrong.

The Monday LunchBox

Lauren Price celebrates Olympic gold
(Photo by LUIS ROBAYO/AFP via Getty Images)

Hail our Olympians

Over an amazing 16 days in Tokyo the medal haul of Team GB was significantly enhanced by the performance of our boxing team. The return of 6 medals (2 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze) from the 11 strong team surpassed all since the 1920 Olympics. Much of this is down to lottery funding and the now firmly established Institute of Sport in Sheffield, but more so to the dedication, resilience and individual performances of all involved.

Over the unprecedented five year cycle between Olympics and continual uncertainties caused by the coronavirus pandemic our boxers have kept their focus and delivered when it mattered. The consecutive golds won by Birmingham flyweight Galal Yafai and Welsh middleweight Lauren Price over the weekend were the icing on the cake for a spectacular team effort, ably captained by super-heavyweight bronze medalist Frazer Clarke.

The roll call of team performance reads:

Frazer Clark – super heavyweight – weight class 91+kg – bronze

Cheavon Clarke – heavyweight (91kg) – eliminated in second phase

Ben Whittaker – light-heavyweight (81kg) – silver

Lauren Price – middleweight (75kg) – gold

Pat McCormack – welterweight (69kg) – silver

Luke McCormack – lightweight (63kg) eliminated in first phase

Caroline Dubois – lightweight (60kg) – eliminated in quarter finals

Peter McGrail – featherweight (57kg) – eliminated in first phase

Karriss Artingstall – featherweight (57kg) – bronze

Galal Yafai – flyweight (52kg) – gold

Charley Davison – flyweight (51kg)- eliminated in second phase

This return was exceptional and those eliminated early ably supported their fellow team members to success.

The whole boxing tournament was a resounding highlight and success of the games. Refereeing was competent and consistent with very few controversial decisions, a rarity for Olympic competition. Only Frazer Clarke’s defeat of his French opponent in the quarter final on a disqualification and Karriss Artingstall’s loss to her Japanese challenger at the same stage had any whiff of controversy affecting British fighters. Across all weights the contests and results were highly competitive and fair.

The Cubans as usual excelled, taking 4 of the 8 medals available in the male classifications. Rio 2016 champions Arlen Lopez and Julio Cesar La Cruz stepped up in weight to gain a second Olympic gold. The US performed well with 3 silvers in Richard Lopez Jr (super heavyweight), Keyshawn Davis (lightweight) and Duke Regan (featherweight) and these will surely now turn professional with great expectation. Another highlight was Irish lightweight Kellie Anne Harrington winning gold.

Knockout of the tournament was Herbert Sousa’s come from behind left hook that floored Ukrainian middleweight Oleksandr Khyzhniak in the final minute of their gold medal contest. Seemingly destined for silver, Brazilian Sousa turned the fight around emphatically. Try to catch it on various re-runs. Spectacular it was.

Going back to Team GB, our two final losses were to exceptional Cubans Arlen Lopez and Roniel Iglesias, so no shame there. Ben Whittaker emerged as one of the characters of the games with his confidence and fan friendly persona. His desire to be Mayor of Wolverhampton drew much amusement. He will surely now turn professional and be a welcome addition.

Final word must go to our new Olympic champions – Lauren Price and Galal Yafai. They were both exceptional throughout the competition and worthy winners. Despite all the obstacles over the last 18 months they seized the moment and have firmly put British amateur boxing at the top of the tree.

Congratulations to all in Team GB Boxing.

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

The Friday Faceup

Can Lomachenko juggle his way back to a world title ?

After an exodus of eight months following his high profile loss to Teofimo Lopez, former unified lightweight champion of the world Vasiliy Lomachenko (14-2, 10 KO’s) returns this weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada.

He meets Japanese contender Masayoshi Nakatini (19-1, 13 KO’s) who extended Lopez to twelve rounds, losing convincingly in 2019.

For Lomachenko, a man who’s dedicated his life to the sport winning double Olympic gold and professional world titles in two weight classes, it was worrying to fans that we might have seen the last of this spectacular talent. Thankfully, Loma (aka The Matrix) now returns, hopefully to re-capture previous momentum and maybe a version of one of his former titles.

Lomachenko was disgusted by the unanimous points return (116-112, 117-111, 119-109) from the judges adjudicating in his October 2020 loss to Lopez and, after leaving the ring swiftly, later revealed a shoulder injury requiring immediate surgery and recuperation. His ring exit was similar to the indignation and contempt expressed by ‘Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler after his 1987 ‘defeat’ to Sugar Ray Leonard and some thought we might not see him inside the four ropes again.

Lomachenko, now 33, remains in the Ring magazine pound for pound ratings at #9 and still boasts a lightweight world ranking and 14-2-0 (10 KO’s) record. His skill set and physical toughness is beyond reproach but is now at an advanced age for the lighter divisions. Nakatini, a year younger, like all Japanese fighters will be tough and as a tall lightweight will provide Loma with plenty of problems.

In a way it’s the ideal comeback for Lomachenko; a test at just below championship level, against a boxer with a respected record who carries some kudos. If, as expected, the Ukrainian is victorious over the 12 rounds, and looks good, then he can expect a title shot next. Lopez may be looking onto bigger things after his self confessed ‘Takeover’ but there will be a clamour for a rematch.

The fight will be televised on Sky Sports in the early hours of Sunday morning (UK time) as part of their new deal with Bob Arum’s Top Rank organisation.

Also Saturday, in Atlanta, Georgia two divisional ‘world’ champion Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis (24-0, 23 KO’s) challenges Mario ‘El Azteca’ Barrios (26-0, 17 KO’s) for his WBA super-lightweight ‘regular’ title. That the undisputed champion in the 10st/140lb division is Scotland’s Josh Taylor further confuses the casual sports fan (and some boxing fans), but it is what it is.

In fact, it’s a quality match between two undefeated fighters. Both are ‘bangers’ but Davis should prevail in a tough, competitive contest. The Baltimore native registered the 2020 knockout of the year against Leo Santa Cruz and has the superior power and ring smarts to defeat Barrios. The likely outcome is a narrow points victory in a thrilling fight.

The contest will be available in the UK on the FITE streaming channel as a pay per view event.

The weekend highlights are capped by the appearance of quality WBC flyweight champion Julio Cesar Martinez against Joel Cordova in Guadalajara, Mexico. The fight is co-promoted by hometown boy and #1 pound-for-pound king Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in his new venture, and Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom.

Martinez (17-1-0, 13 KO’s) is being tipped for big things and in Cordova meets a fellow Mexican with 12-4-2 (3 KO’s) record. Whist you never know when two ‘hombres’ meet, this would suggest that Cordova is in deep and a convincing Martinez victory is expected.

The contest will be available on the DAZN streaming platform in the UK.

Take your pick of some quality action this weekend. Enjoy !