The Monday LunchBox

Promo courtesy of the above.

It’s on !

Well, not quite. Not quite the fight we were all hoping for to unify the heavyweight championship of the world for the first time since Lennox Lewis in the early 2000’s.

What we did get though, as result of Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions record breaking purse bid in Mexico City to stage the Tyson ‘Gypsy King’ Fury mandatory WBC world title defence against London’s Dillian Whyte, is a heavyweight fight that brings interest and some jeopardy to the ultimate destination of the plethora of titles. We now know the potential route to unification.

Finally, the smoke has lifted and there is now clarity on former two-times sanctioning body champion and fellow Brit Anthony Joshua now going through with his rematch with Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk in an attempt to regain the IBF, WBA and WBO titles, and unification from there. However, recent boxing history has shown to always expect the unexpected. Shock defeats and rematch clauses aside the route to unification can be a perilous one.

The rumoured date set for the Fury-Whyte contest is April 23, likely staged at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. To attempt to recoup any of the eye-watering $41M (£30.6M) bid the co-promotion by Queensberry and US based Top Rank Inc. will need to fill the 85,000 Cardiff venue and sell bucket loads of Box Office/pay per view. The fight will be televised on BT Box Office in the UK and ESPN stateside and should safely be the most lucrative fight to be staged in the British Isles, surpassing the recent blockbuster events featuring Anthony Joshua and promoted by Matchroom Boxing.

The champion Fury will receive 80% of the purse ($32M/£24.5) and Whyte a minimum 20% ($8M/£6.1M).

It can only be hoped the whoever comes through victorious in both contests will finally meet and give us an undisputed heavyweight champion. The public have waited long enough.

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

Inside the Jab

Claressa Shields – we meet the GWOAT

Claressa Shields is a double Olympic champion (London 2012 and Rio 2016).

Claressa Shields is an undefeated professional boxer. She is The Ring magazine 160lbs middleweight champion, holds four world sanctioning belts, is an MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter and, in her opinion, is the GWOAT – the Greatest Woman Of All Time, in a fistic sense.

Claressa Shields (11-0, 2 KO’s) is undoubtedly a boxing superstar.

Next Saturday (5th Feb) she returns to the UK, her first visit since the London Olympics, to defend her professional world titles and legacy. She will meet Slovenia’s Ema Kozin (21-0-1, 11 KO’s) as chief support on the big BOXXER card from Cardiff, Wales and shown live on Sky Sports in the UK. The main event features world middleweight contenders Chris Eubank Jr versus Liam Williams.

Claressa Shields is from Flint, Michigan, USA – Floyd Mayweather country – she has a back story that includes overcoming child abuse and prejudice to achieve her goals. She has traveled the world as an elite amateur, she currently trains in ‘The Money Team’ gym in Las Vegas and is the epitome of an American sporting success story.

She is held in the highest regard among both male and female elite level boxers. She bows to no one, knows her worth and what she wants to achieve. She plans to win world titles from 10st,7/147lbs (welterweight) up to 12st,7/175lbs (light-heavyweight) and seal her claim as the GWOAT.

On Wednesday she dialled in from the US to a video press conference on the BOXXER media platform joined by her Salita Promotions team. Her opponent Ema Kozin also dialled in.

Claressa was eloquent, confident and determined. “I’m excited to come back to the UK to show my skills. You have great fans and great crowds. I’m really looking forward to experiencing that”. With regards to the fight ahead and responding to her detractors she continued “I mean business – anyone who talks trash to me, I wanna punch them in the face”.

Claressa Shields is a fighter, and a damn good one at that.

She is also a student of the game, a role model and advocate for female boxing. “All the women in boxing – Katie (Taylor), Amanda Serrano are all playing a big part (in promoting women’s boxing) by taking big fights…every boxing card needs to have women on it”.

When questioned on her opposition Saturday week she showed respect, but was circumspect with it. She recognised the good KO record Kozin brings to the ring but questioned the quality of the opposition faced, compared to her own. “She hasn’t fought those great challengers…I’ve been (in) with the top”. Expanding “She’s gonna have to deal with the new power and speed I bring”.

The quietly spoken but equally confident Slovenian responded “She doesn’t know me as she thinks she does”. Concluding, Kozin said “I wish Claressa good luck – I think the world will want to know me after this fight – I expect a brutal fight, a tough ten rounds”.

Shields in closing responded “I’m gonna destroy you on February 5th…I’m gonna make you call me the GWOAT !”

After my first 45 minutes in Claressa Shields company I was impressed. Her knowledge of the sport and her contemporaries was exemplary. She is rightly confident in her ability and the legacy she has already created, but also recognises the challenges to her throne and ambitions.

The main challenger in her immediate cross-hairs is former GB Olympian Savannah Marshall (10-0, 8 KO’s). That is the dream fight in the middleweight division and her showcasing in Cardiff is to build for that mega-fight. There has been much recent exchange between the two on social media, mainly derogatory, and there is unfinished business from the amateur days.

Marshall fights again shortly after to likely leave the two standing alone. Shields put on record “I win, she wins, we fight”. Provided the expected happens a week Saturday that is the one to look out for.

Ema Kozin meanwhile aims to spoil the party. On February 5th watch her try. It should be interesting.

Inside the Jab

Promo courtesy of BOXXER and Sky Sports.

Despite the enforced suspension of boxing in the UK by the British Boxing Board of Control until February to relieve the draw on COVID medical response resources, there’s been plenty of activity this week to whet the appetite for the coming months.

Top of the tree was the BOXXER promotional company media link (Weds) with Kell Brook and Amir Khan in advance of their February 19 showdown in Manchester. Both fighters are deep in camp just four weeks out from the bout in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands and Colorado Springs, USA respectively. Both were open about their mutual dislike of each other, their motivation for the fight and, supreme confidence of being victorious on the night.

Many say the contest is five years too late with both past their primes but it remains a quality match-up with some jeopardy and interest. This was reflected in it becoming the quickest fight in UK boxing history to sell out at the ticket outlets and with the hype building will lead to large numbers tuning into Sky Sports Box Office on the night.

It pits two elite British fighters of recent years and former world sanctioning body champions in a big domestic dust-up. Both have shown class in the past but also considerable vulnerabilities.

Brook (39-3,27 KO’s) dialling in from the sunshine of the Canary Islands spoke of his animosity towards the Bolton man “It’s a fight I’ve wanted for a long time – better late than never as they say”. He expressed his desire “To prove to Amir and the world that I’m the better fighter…it’s personal”. Looking relaxed and trimmed he explained that camp had gone well over Christmas and he would “Go out and deliver what I’m supposed to do”.

Asked by The Undisputed on his strategy on the night, he replied “I’m training for every different situation… he might want to prove to the fans he can come out (and meet me ring centre)… he might get on his bike”. The Sheffield southpaw summed up, “So long as I’m 100% I’ve got no problem”.

The fight is effectively a welterweight contest but has been made at the higher 149lbs, much to Khan’s disappointment but the purse negotiated was likely too hard to resist. It was also revealed that a rematch clause had been included in the contracts. This contest will dictate the likelihood of that but we may even see Khan-Brook II.

A few hours later Khan (34-5, 21 KO’s) dialled in from the US, and referring to his primary motivation said “I wanna just shut him up and put a beating on him”. He explained Brook’s perceived “bitterness and jealousy” for Amir’s stateside success and earnings, and further emphasized his disdain for him by saying “He’s always had that chip on his shoulder”.

When asked about his gameplan on the night he failed to provide a clear answer and may wisely not be willing to share it at this juncture, but agreed they have a similar style. His response was more a comparison than a clear strategy “I don’t think he has the same workrate and speed…his punch resistance is literally gone”. Summing up, he said “Kell has no chance of winning this fight, on the 19th I am going to destroy him”.

It may indeed be five years too late, but as Brook said “Better late than never” !

On the same day Matchroom Boxing held a press conference in Nottingham for the upcoming WBA world featherweight (9st/126lb) contest between hometown champion Leigh Wood (25-2, 15 KO’s) and former elite amateur Michael Conlan (16-0, 8 KO’s) of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Possibly following in the steps of Irish hero Barry McGuigan this is the challenger’s big opportunity to fulfill the promise since turning professional amid much fanfare on St.Patrick’s Day in New York in 2017. The contest will be on March 12 and shown on the DAZN streaming platform.

Preparations also continue for the oft delayed Chris Eubank Jr. v Liam Williams middleweight (11st,6lb/160lbs) contest in Cardiff on February 5, the first major event once battles recommence next month.

February also sees the Josh Taylor v Jack Catterall contest for the undisputed world junior welterweight (10st/140lb) title in Glasgow on February 26. Both events are promoted by BOXXER in association with Sky Sports, with the latter having the Top Rank brand added for stateside interest. A busy month ahead no doubt.

Top of the rumour mill in the week was WBC world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury possibly swerving his mandatory obligation with Dillian Whyte and going immediately to a unification fight with Oleksandr Usyk, the IBF, WBA and WBO champion. This would take significant negotiation and step aside money for Whyte and Anthony Joshua, but in boxing never rule anything out !

So, despite little of note to preview this weekend, a lot to look forward to. Watch this space over the coming weeks.

The Greatest

May 1987

Today Muhammad Ali would have been 80 years old.

We spend a moment to reflect on his greatness; firstly as a compassionate and giving human being, secondly an unrelentingly strong advocate of civil rights, and lastly one of the finest boxers and athletes to grace this planet.

So much has been written about the self proclaimed, but generally universally accepted ‘Greatest’, that it would be foolhardy to even attempt to do his legend further justice.

We sadly lost Muhammad on 3 June 2016 and his contribution to the sport of boxing is largely the reason it still exists in the mainstream today.

A simple summary of his ring achievements start as an amateur becoming the 1960 Olympic heavyweight champion in Rome, and after entering the professional ranks winning the Heavyweight Championship of the World in February 1964 aged 22.

Then, after an enforced layoff of three and a half years for his stance opposing American military presence in Vietnam, returning to box and narrowly lose to new champion ‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier in what is regarded in sports as the fight of the twentieth century. Going on to regain his title from George Foreman in ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’ in October 1974 in Kinshasa, Zaire, one of the most iconic fights in boxing history. Then, later in a trilogy fight defeat his nemesis Frazier in the epic ‘Thrilla in Manila’ in October 1975.

Not done yet, he lost and regained his title from Leon Spinks in September 1978 to become the first three-time Heavyweight Champion of the World. His impact on boxing and sport in general was seismic. His impact on the human race during the 1960’s and 70’s was much more. He became arguably the most famous person on the planet.

Today, we remember the life and legacy he left, bourne of his humanity and compassion.

Sleep well ‘The Greatest’ our sport has been richer for your presence. Muhammad R.I.P.

The Friday Faceup

Returning Vasiliy Lomachenko (left) eyes Richard Commey.
Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images.

Saturday sees the return of ‘The Matrix’.

Ukrainian superstar Vasiliy Lomachenko, the double Olympic champion and former three-weight world champion meets Ghana’s Richard Commey in a non-title bout at lightweight (135lbs). The contest will be held in the ‘big room’ at Madison Square Garden, New York, and the fact it’s the first time in two years boxing has returned to the larger arena shows the draw of ‘Loma’.

A number of his famous victories have been held there in recent years and promoters Top Rank Inc. have returned him to his favourite venue where he’s a big draw.

In Commey (30-3, 27 KO’s), Lomachenko faces a former IBF world lightweight champion coming off a sole victory since he lost his title to Teofimo Lopez at the same venue in 2019. The Honduran New Yorker is the shared form line, with Loma losing his unified titles to Lopez in a seismic October 2020 defeat. Commey was stopped inside two rounds by Lopez prior to this.

Lomachenko (15-2, 11 KO’s), now 33 years old, is reaching the back end of his career but still has the undoubted class and motivational opportunities to progress. The unexpected victory by new undisputed lightweight champ Aussie, George Kambosos, over previously undefeated Lopez two weeks ago has given every 9st,9lb fighter a new target and king to topple.

Loma is looking ahead to this title opportunity but will have to perform well against the dangerous Commey to seal it. He remains The Ring magazine’s #8 in the pound-for-pound listings and will be looking to impress to retain that status and his marquee value.

The 34 year old Ghanaian is naturally bigger with Lomachenko moving up from featherweight over the last few years but the Ukrainian has the pedigree and class to gain a convincing points victory.

In the UK the big event of the weekend is the Matchroom promotion at the Liverpool M&S Bank Arena. Top of the bill is Conor Benn (19-0, 12 KO’s) facing former WBO super-lightweight ‘world’ champion Chris Algieri (25-3, 9 KO’s)at welterweight (147lbs). Equally sharing the billing is Ireland’s female pound-for-pound #1 Katie Taylor (19-0, 6 KO’s) who meets Kazakhstan’s Firuza Sharipova (14-8-1, 8 KO’s) at lightweight.

The 25 year old Benn is on an upward trajectory and has looked impressive in recent performances. His two outings this year resulted in a one round blow out of Samuel Vargas in April and recently outpointing world level Adrian Granados. Look for the Londoner to be extended by the 37 year old Algieri who’s fought in good class, but the busier and explosive Benn should get a late rounds stoppage.

In the female contest, any Kazakh fighter is worthy of respect but the main ace in Sharipova’s pack is her sole defeat to, and training with Taylor’s foe and Olympic nemesis Russian Sofya Ochigava, who will know the Irish lady well. All Taylor’s undisputed titles will be on the line and look for her to prevail in a tough contest over ten two minute rounds.

The card also features quality prospects Joe Cordina (13-0, 8 KO’s) at super-featherweight (130lbs) and Tokyo Olympian Peter McGrail (1-0, 0 KO’s) at featherweight (126lbs). The latter fighting in his hometown.

In Dubai, UAE skillful Londoner Sunny Edwards (16-0, 4 KO’s) will be making a first defence of his IBF ‘world’ flyweight title against Filipino Jayson Mama (16-0, 9 KO’s) on Probellum promotions card. As with the Kazakh’s, any man from the Philippines deserves respect and although his previous opposition is limited, he will give the champion a tough fight. The confident and slick boxing Edwards should though win on points.

Another Brit contesting a ‘world’ title on the Dubai bill is Liverpool’s Paul Butler (33-2, 15 KO’s) who looks ‘in deep’ with elite WBO bantamweight champion John Riel Casimero (31-4, 21 KO’s). The Englishman has fought at a good level and will give the usual good account of himself but, is unlikely to take the title. It will be some achievement should he do so against a quality champion. We wish him well.

The Lomachenko v Commey fight will be shown live on Sky Sports in the early hours of Sunday morning and will be preceded by the big card from Liverpool on the DAZN streaming channel – Saturday start time 18:00.

The Probellum card will be shown on subscription channel Premier Sports2 and Boxnation available on the Sky platform. Start time Saturday 16:00. All timings GMT (UK time).

Inside the Jab

A new midweek magazine feature on The Undisputed.

Adam Smith (Sky Sports) holds court with champion (left) and challenger.

Taylor v Catterall

The Josh Taylor-Jack Catterall roadshow hit London today with a press conference to launch their 26 February 2022 showdown in Glasgow’s OVO Hydro Arena for the undisputed super-lightweight championship of the world.

The presser followed hot on the heels of yesterday’s in Edinburgh, Scotland (Taylor’s home city) although he’ll proudly say he’s a Prestonpans man ! Catterall from Chorley, Lancashire will make this a classic Scotland v England encounter, which is fuelled by centuries of history and sporting confrontation.

The champion Taylor (18-0, 13 KO’s) will be defending his newly won array of 10st (140lb) sanctioning belts and The Ring magazine title against the undefeated Catterall (26-0, 13 KO’s). The English challenger has held WBO world mandatory contender status for some time and allowed Taylor to add the WBC & WBO titles to his earlier gained IBF & WBA straps, before securing his shot. Taylor is one of only a handful of undisputed champions in world boxing.

Similar to yesterday’s conference mutual respect was shown by both competitors early on the dais, and both were confident of an outcome in their favour.

Catterall said he gives Taylor “a lot of respect, but that goes out the window in February”. He continued “I think I’ve been denied the opportunities…I now have the opportunity to catapult myself onto the world stage”.

Taylor when questioned, replied “I believe I’m one of the best fighters on the planet” – (something endorsed by being The Ring magazine’s #5 pound-for-pounder), and continued “I believe I’m coming into my prime now…I feel almost unbeatable”.

On the task ahead Taylor further explained “It’s my job and duty to make sure I do everything in my power to make sure he doesn’t get these belts…I believe on the night he’s not getting anywhere near me”.

Caterall’s respected head trainer Nigel Travis later added “Preparation is gonna be the key to all this…This is a fight that Britain deserves, England v Scotland”. In response, equally respected Ben Davison replied from the Taylor camp saying “This is a legacy defining fight for Josh…we have real motivation to make this a real showcase performance…in front of a Scottish crowd”.

The contest pits an exceptional undefeated champion against an undefeated contender. Both arguably in their prime.

Taylor is very cautious not to look ahead of this contest, and substantiated by saying “When you overlook an opponent, the worst happens”. Big things are planned and expected from the slick Scottish southpaw, but first he must take care of domestic business.

As the questions in the presser were coming to a close, things got heated when Catterall told Adam Smith (Sky Sports Head of Boxing Development), he saw “several ways” to beat Taylor. The Scot snapped back “How ? …in what way ?”. The challenger responded “By turning up and being Jack Catterall. I’ll get in there and punch (his) head in!”. The champion smirked immediately, responded in the negative, and finished by shaking his head and laughed saying “Go back to bed”.

A tense, but cordial head to head then followed with the belts.

When Taylor was later asked by The Undisputed in a one-on-one what he needs to do to become the greatest Scottish fighter of all time ? He cautiously replied “That’s a tough one” and carefully reminded me of some of the great champions from north of the border (Buchanan, Ricky Burns et al). His parting words were though, to “win titles in two divisions”.

If the undefeated champion can take care of business in February, great fighters and fights await to enable him to achieve that, by moving up to join the 10st,7lbs (147lb) welterweights. That would appear his long term goal.

When we questioned Catterall on his approach to the fight and what he presented that Taylor had not seen before, he replied “Be me, he’s never boxed me and I will be a totally different threat to anything he’s ever faced”. It promises to be an excellent contrast of styles and experience, with the champion having fought at world level numerous times in recent years to the challenger’s relative inexperience, but the Lancashire man is an improving fighter and Taylor will know that and will need to prepare diligently.

The contest is being promoted by the new and excellent BOXXER franchise, in association with Top Rank Inc. and Sky Sports. The card will be broadcast on Sky Sports in the UK and ESPN+ in the USA. Both fighters now step up their training camps and will home in on the late February date. One to watch out for.

The Friday Faceup

Promo courtesy of BT Sport & Queensberry Promotions.

Top of the bill this weekend in the UK is the light-heavyweight rematch between British Commonwealth champion Lyndon Arthur and challenger Anthony Yarde.

Almost a year to the day they fought a highly competitive match which resulted in the Manchester man, Arthur winning by split decision. It took place behind closed doors in the midst of the COVID pandemic and on Saturday they’ll fight before a capacity crowd in the Copper Box Arena on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, east London.

It’s a highly anticipated contest after the quality of the first encounter and has significance at world level. The 12st,7lb (175lb) division is hot right now with quality Russian operator Artur Beterbiev the recognised champion, closely backed up by compatriot Dmitry Bivol and class operators Joe Smith Jr and Gilberto Ramirez.

Domestically, this is the deepest division. Undefeated world ranked Joshua Buatsi, former 168lb world champion Callum Smith and world contender Callum Johnson are all leading lights. The latter has just secured a second title shot against WBO champion Joe Smith Jr in New York state in January 2022.

Saturday’s contest pits the excellent skills of Arthur (19-0, 13 KO’s) against the bigger punching Yarde (21-2, 20 KO’s). The Hackney challenger was on a hot winning streak until he came up against former WBO champion Sergey Kovalev back in 2019 and despite flooring the champion was eventually stopped himself in an excellent performance. Since then he’s been beset with family traumas related to the COVID pandemic which may have affected his performance in the first Arthur contest. He points to his mind being in the right place this time round.

That simple explanation may discredit Arthur who put in an excellent performance behind an almost impenetrable left jab to just about inch the first fight. Although close, he was a worthy winner on the night.

Yarde will again be looking to make his superior power count in the early rounds and hanging a lot on an early stoppage victory. Whilst there is mutual respect shown by both fighters, both believe they are the superior technician and will prevail. It’s a real north v south clash with the boxer against the banger.

Arthur was the underdog going into the first contest and the tables are turned now. He enters as favorite, albeit a slim one, and the outcome in most rematches is a repeat of the first. However, Yarde knows his boxing future is on the line in this one and a second defeat to a domestic rival will set him back a number of years, maybe indefinitely. So, he will give it his all without doubt.

The Mancunian champion has the confidence of knowing he can beat his opponent and will be looking to higher things. This is unlikely to be a distraction and if he can keep his chin tucked in during the early rounds we expect Arthur to eek out another close, and maybe again, contentious decision.

Also on a good card are two prospects from Maidstone, Kent in SE England. Bantamweight Dennis McCann (10-0, 6 KO’s) is tipped for great things by Tyson Fury no less, and faces Juan Jose Jurado in an international contest. Lightweight Sam Noakes (7-0, 7 KO’s) faces Shaun Cooper for the WBC International ‘Silver’ title. Both are excellent fighters with a bright future and will be looking to win impressively on a high profile televised show. Both should have little trouble.

Finally, there’s a crossroads fight at super-welterweight (11st/154lbs) between Hamzah Sheerez (13-0, 9 KO’s) and former British welterweight champion Bradley Skeete (29-3, 14 KO’s). The latter is 34 years old and unlikely to upset the much younger prospect. It should though be a good educational fight for the to date impressive Sheerez, and stand him in good stead for future championship challenges.

Enjoy your fight weekend.

The card is promoted by Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions and televised live on BT Sport 1 in the UK from 19:30 GMT.

Inside the Jab

New champ George Kambosos Jr. shows off his straps.
Photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom

Well, we did say that upsets happen !

In our Friday Faceup we suggested George Kambosos Jr. stood a chance against Teofimo Lopez but, it was slim. Whilst we were wide of the mark with our prediction, a first for a long time I must add, we did mention a few underdogs upsetting the ‘applecart’ in the past. The tough and talented Aussie sure did show up, ripping the lightweight crown from the Honduran New Yorker by a split, but convincing decision on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

We pointed lightly to Kambosos’ self-proclamation of a statue being erected in Sydney, Australia to honour his pending accomplishment. Well, he’s the one laughing now. The new champ was brilliant and, despite Lopez’ claim, was the boss on the night.

Kambosos (20-0, 10 KO’s) dealt with Lopez (16-1, 12 KO’s) intensity and wreckless abandonment in the opening minute to set his stall out for the fight, landing a booming overhand right flush on Lopez and registering the first knockdown. Lopez was caught cold and visibly shocked, but rose before the bell.

What then followed was a regaining of composure by the champion in the second round but the die had been cast. The heavily tattooed Aussie with ‘Never retreat, never surrender’ on his back, a mantra for his performance on the night, exuded supreme confidence boxing on the back foot but in the exchanges pot-shotting with his right hand over Lopez’ jab.

Lopez won some early rounds but the challenger took control mid fight and other than getting clipped with a big right in the ninth and subsequently dropped by a chopping right hand in the tenth, the Aussie stood his ground and dominated.

Both fighters were cut from the eighth in what was a bruising encounter, but two strong rounds by Kambosos in the eleventh convincingly, and twelfth sealed the deal. American TV punchstats showed Kambosos had landed 155 powerpunches to Lopez’ 115.

On the final bell the contrasting body language of both fighters showed Lopez title reign looked to have ended. Kambosos’ confidence was rewarded with a split decision victory by scores of 115-111, 113-114 and 115-112. It was highly debatable whether the second card told the story of the fight and a worthy new champ had been crowned.

Kambosos captured The Ring magazine lightweight championship and the multiple baubles of the sanctioning bodies. Devin Haney is the WBC ‘world’ champion, but the Aussie beat the man (Lopez) who beat the man (Vasiliy Lomachenko) and can rightly claim to be the lineal champion. As the fight went to purse bids there is no rematch clause so Lopez will have to wait in line, whilst the other 9st 9lb (135lb) contenders queue up to challenge the new champ.

An ecstatic Kambosos proclaimed post-fight ” You got the Four Kings, (but) I’m the Emperor !”. The result was one that sent shock waves through the sport. Lopez entered the contest 13-1 on to gain the victory, but boxing again showed us never underestimate an underdog. In many ways it has rejuvenated confidence in the sport.

Kambosos accepted he is now “the hunted” but big fights await him back in Australia, whoever he chooses to take on next. ‘The Emperor’ has deserved his place in the sun and we look forward to the next chapter.

Battle of Britain

Amir Khan (left) and Kell Brook get up close and personal.

Finally, two former ‘world’ welterweight champs and bitter domestic rivals Kell Brook and Amir Khan will settle their score in the ring. In London yesterday at a tense press conference it was announced they would meet on Saturday 19 February 2020 at the Manchester AO Arena.

The event will be promoted by BOXXER in association with Sky Sports who will televise the contest on their Box Office (pay per view) channel.

This is a genuine grudge match and although maybe coming a few years too late to have significance at world level, is an intriguing match up. Outside of Anthony Joshua v Tyson Fury this is the biggest ‘name’ fight in the UK to be made. Both have operated for the last decade at the elite level and, although come up short in recent years, have bags of experience and pedigree. What makes the contest most intriguing is who has the most left ? They’ve both suffered KO defeats and bounced back to then be defeated again. They’re of a similar age (Brook 35 to Khan’s 34) and likely to put it all on line on the night.

Over the next few months there will be some cynicism towards the contest but it’s a fight that has a lot to offer. In a feisty press conference Brook (39-3, 27 KO’s) pointed to Khan (34-5, 21 KO’s) avoiding him for years. Khan responded with an explanation of being “on different paths” in the past but claimed he always wanted the fight. It will pit a man from Bolton NW England against one from over the Pennines (a local mountain range) in Sheffield. Therefore northern England bragging rights will also be at stake.

Both have been inactive – Khan last fighting in July 2019 and Brook in November 2020. Both have lost to elite fighters – sharing defeats to Terence Crawford in 2019 (Khan) and 2020 (Brook) respectively. Both have a back story to schoolboy level where their paths have crossed but never met in the ring. The animosity has been bubbling for many years and marinaded to this point.

It will pit a talented and historically quick orthodox fighter (Khan) against a slick southpaw (Brook). Over the next few months look for the hype to build towards their overdue, but still interesting showdown.

Finally, we build up this week towards Saturday’s (4th December) mouthwatering rematch between world ranked light-heavyweights Lyndon Arthur and Anthony Yarde. Manchester’s Arthur (19-0, 13 KO’s) will attempt to repeat his defeating of Hackney’s Yarde (21-2, 20 KO’s) on split decision almost a year to the day. The big punching Yarde now has two recent defeats on his record and will attempt to get back on track. Arthur will be protecting his WBO world #1 ranking.

The fight is promoted by Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions and will take place at the Copper Box Arena on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London. It will be televised live on BT Sport.

Look out for a full preview in the Friday Faceup.

The Friday Faceup

Promo courtesy of Matchroom Boxing.

Centre of attention this weekend is the big stateside clash for the world lightweight title. New Yorker Teofimo Lopez (16-0, 12 KO’s) defends his Ring magazine title along with the majority of the sanctioning belts against undefeated Australian George Kambosos Jr. (19-0, 10 KO’s) at the Theatre in the basement of Madison Square Garden.

The original purse bid to stage the fight was won nine months ago. It’s been delayed a number of times, but now, after Matchroom took up the reins the contest is finally on. Both boxers have been inactive since October 2020 – Lopez putting in a standout performance to rip the titles from then undisputed champion Vasiliy Lomachenko and, Kambosos defeating former IBF champ Lee Selby in the UK a few weeks later.

Both fighters bring undefeated records to the ring and exude self confidence. There’s also a grudge element to the contest after an altercation earlier in the year in Miami when Kambosos confronted Lopez, and in the latter’s view disrespected him. The champion claims this “is personal”.

The self confessed ‘Takeover’ Lopez has Olympic experience and fought at a much higher level. His victory over Lomachenko was arguably the performance of 2020, rewarded by splitting The Ring magazine fighter of the year with Tyson Fury. The Ukrainian entered the ring on the cusp of booking his place at the International Boxing Hall of Fame but left the ring a defeated and humbled man. Lopez’ challenge Saturday night is, to back that up.

Kambosos has had 13 months to prepare, albeit off and on with re-scheduling but, he enters the US a hungry man. He’s a come forward, busy fighter with respectable power and will be dangerous in the early rounds. The Aussie is extremely comfortable with the magnitude of the challenge “I’m enjoying the moment, I’m very relaxed”, and confident of victory, claiming that when victorious they will build a statue of him in Sydney !

However, the majority of Kambosos’ experience in elite company has been within the ropes of the Wild Card Gym, Los Angeles where he’s sparred with Manny Pacquiao amongst other leading lights. Many of his paid fights have been in Australia against domestic fighters, which as tough as any Aussie is, may be a distinct disadvantage when the New York bell rings.

Lopez, with his father in his corner, confidence is backed up by his boxing ability. He still remains someway from the finished article but is looking to be the future of the lightweight division or, 5lbs higher at junior-welterweight and, maybe beyond. With all the top lightweights avoiding each other a dream follow up fight would have been against undisputed 140 pounder Josh Taylor but who’s now rumoured to be seeking fights at 147 amongst the welterweights.

Lopez is a heavy favourite going in and big things are expected; however, this writer is old enough to remember big things were also promised from Donald Curry in the 1980’s, before he ran into Lloyd Honeyghan. The last few weeks have shown us that shocks do happen – think Usyk, Kiko Martinez, but these were experienced operators with good technical skills.

Kambosos’ ability to cause the shock will be based on confidence, hunger and bravery. Technically he will fall short, but boxing is not always about superior skillsets. If Kambosos can get inside of Lopez solid jab and, the champion has not prepared well in his prolonged absence or, underestimated the tough Aussie, then we will see a fight. However this is unlikely, and the smart money is to expect the champion to retain his title somewhere around the eight stanza.

It should though be exciting whilst it lasts.

The fight is available on the DAZN streaming site in the early hours of Sunday morning (UK time). Ring walks should be around 2am.

The Monday LunchBox

Terence Crawford lands the heavy right ending Shawn Porter’s challenge.

In a rammed weekend pound-for-pounder Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford stole the show with an impressive stoppage of Shawn Porter at the Mandalay Bay Arena , Las Vegas. The southpaw stylist from Omaha, Nebraska retained his WBO ‘world’ welterweight title for the fifth time, cementing his impressive 38-0 (29 KO) record and a claim to be the finest in the sport.

Porter entered the contest full of fire and brimstone with a tribute to former legend Marvelous Marvin Hagler, but although his performance was competitive, it was not the ‘War’ as promised on his mouthpiece. As expected he took the fight to the champion, taking the first round and delivering some solid shots throughout, but in the end just couldn’t compete with Crawford’s superior boxing skills and dexterity. ‘Showtime’ Porter just couldn’t get inside the champion’s long southpaw jab to make an impact in the fight. Whilst many of the rounds were competitive with Porter taking his share, as the fight progressed the challenger ran out of gas and the result became inevitable.

The end came in the tenth when Crawford landed a spectacular left uppercut 20 seconds in, and though Porter rose to fight on, a strong combination punctuated by a devastating southpaw right dropped Porter heavily again. As he pounded the canvas in frustration, his father Kenny in his corner waved for the contest to stop and the referee obliged with the official stoppage recorded at 1:21 of the round.

This was an excellent performance by Crawford and whets the appetite for a contest with the watching Errol Spence Jr. who on witnessing the stoppage immediately left the arena. Post-fight Crawford said “You see what I did, compared to what he (Spence) did” referring to Spence’s last defence. On being asked what next, he replied “You know who I want, I’ve been calling him out”. Whether Spence takes the challenge is the question everyone is asking. If, and when it happens it should rank with the classic 147lb showdowns of yesteryear.

Porter dropped to 31-4-1 (17 KO’s) and announced his retirement on Sunday.

The expected highlight in the UK was the excellent BOXXER card at SSE Wembley Arena featuring a plethora of emerging stars. Main event saw Britain’s world ranked cruiserweight Richard Riakphore (13-0, 9 KO’s) defeat Nigerian Olanrewaju Durodola (36-9, 33 KO’s) by technical knockout after 36 seconds of the fifth round. The strong south Londoner Riakphore dominated the fight working of a textbook right jab and almost had his opponent in trouble at the end of the first. Durodola had an impressive record coming in having fought a number of leading contenders but Riakphore ‘came of age’ in the fight, in what was his first step up to world level.

The end came when the home fighter landed a great left hook at the start of the ninth which forced Dorodola to take an eight count and on the restart Riakphore was all over his opponent landing a succession of unanswered hooks before referee Victor Loughran stepped in. Riakphore captured the WBC ‘Silver’ title and with it a high ranking with that body.

Best fight of the night was the vacant British light-heavyweight title fight between Dan Azeez and Hosea Burton. Before a watching Tyson ‘Gypsy King’ Fury, a cousin of Burton, the tall Manchester man was simply unable to keep at bay the relentless pursuit of Azeez. Stylistically, like an orthodox version of ‘Marvelous’ Marvin the Londoner Azeez leapt forward with a strong jab in Hagler’esque burgundy shorts and hooped socks, to follow up with a succession of body blows. This was the pattern of the fight as Azeez worked relentlessly to the long body of Burton, capturing him on the ropes and in the corner as much as possible. By the sixth Burton was shipping a lot of punishment and although firing back with some heavy shots, he was reeling at the end of the round after a strong body assault from Azeez.

The Londoner started the seventh quickly keeping on the pressure and landing a great left hook Burton was reeling again before the referee stepped in after 2:27. Azeez fell to his knees in ecstacy having gained the British title and with it the Lord Lonsdale belt.

He extended his record to 15-0 (10 KO’s) and joins a strong list of world ranked 175lb (12st,7lb) fighters in the UK. Future fights against either Lyndon Arthur, Anthony Yarde or Callum Johnson would be fantastic contests. The brave and talented Burton dropped to 26-3 (12 KO’s) and will come again.

In a packed card there were impressive wins for Hassan and Adam Azim (the former of the brothers making his debut), both by stoppage, Scottish heavyweight Nick Campbell and Mikael Lawal at cruiserweight. There were also notable wins by Albanian welterweight Florian Marku and female Olympian Natasha Jonas, both by clear points decisions. The BOXXER franchise goes from strength to strength in their new partnership with Sky Sports.

The weekend started with Demetrius Andrade (31-0, 19 KO’s) making a spectacular fifth defence of his WBO ‘world’ middleweight title against Jason Quigley (19-2, 14 KO’s). Irishman Quigley was outgunned from the opening bell, being dropped in the first and then floored three times in the second round before the contest was halted.

The much maligned Andrade made a statement to those who say he lacks power. When asked post-fight what this would do to his chances of securing a marquee fight with the other champions and names, he responded that it would likely cause them to ‘run’ further away now they see the power. Andrade deserves a bigger stage to showcase his skills and into his thirties needs to move fast.

If, the next few weekends can match this, then boxing is in a healthy state.

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