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.

The Friday Faceup

Terence Crawford (left) eyes former champ Shawn Porter.
Photo courtesy of Top Rank Inc/Getty Images.

A jam packed boxing schedule is programmed both sides of the Atlantic this weekend, starting tonight (Fri 19th).

First up in New Hampshire, USA will be WBO world middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade making the fifth defence of his title against Ireland’s Jason Quigley. ‘Boo Boo’ Andrade (30-0, 18 KO’s) is striving for a superfight in the 160lb (11st,6lb) division having regularly called out superstars Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin. Despite being supremely talented and a double ‘world’ champion, having also held the WBO light-middleweight title, his style is more effective than box office.

Andrade will be fighting in his home state and enters the contest as a big favourite. Tough Quigley (19-1, 14 KO’s) has won his last three contests since a sole defeat to Tureano Johnson in July 2019 and is trained by former WBO world champion Andy Lee. He will take the fight to Andrade but probably succumb to the champion’s superior boxing skills in the late rounds. Andrade is in need of a stoppage on his resume to nail the big fights and look for him to win by this route. The contest will be shown live on the DAZN streaming site in the early hours of Saturday (UK time).

The highlight in the UK will be a further edition of the BOXXER series at the SSE Wembley Arena shown live and exclusive on SKY Sports from 8pm (UK time) Saturday. It will also be available in the USA on ESPN.

Top of the bill is Britain’s world ranked cruiserweight Richard Riakporhe (12-0, 8 KO’s) against capable Nigerian Olantrewaju Durodola (36-8, 33 KO’s). Big punching Riakporhe has suffered from inactivity over the two years, but is now back on track after a points victory last month against Krzysztof Twardowski.

The Brit has a chance this weekend to gain the WBC ‘silver’ title which provides a gateway to a higher ranking with that organisation. The cruiserweight (200lbs/14st,4lb) division has received a real boost this week with the announcement that ‘Canelo’ Alvarez will step up two divisions to challenge WBC champion Ilungu Makabu. This will add prestige to the weight class and Riakporhe could be well positioned with an impressive victory. He holds a victory over current British, European and Commonwealth champion Chris Billam-Smith and would seem better placed already.

The card is stacked with good contests including Dan Azeez (14-0, 9 KO’s) versus Hosea Burton (26-2, 12 KO’s) for the British light-heavyweight title, Mikael Lawal against Leonardo Damian Bruzzese at cruiser and, Florian Marku versus Jorick Luisetto at welterweight. There are also appearances by Hassan Azim (making his pro-debut), his brother Adam and, Olympian Natasha Jonas who’s just switched over to the BOXXER franchise.

Look for Riakporhe to win impressively, likely by mid-round stoppage and the fight of the night to be the Azeez-Burton contest.

Then, in the early hours Sunday (UK time) the focus switches to a potential humdinger from the Mandalay Bay hotel, Las Vegas, USA. Undefeated Ring magazine pound-for-pound #3 Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford (37-0, 28 KO’s) faces twice world champion ‘Showtime’ Shawn Porter (31-3-1, 17 KO’s) for the former’s WBO world welterweight title. The event is on Top Rank pay per view and ESPN in the US and available to subscribers on Sky Sports in the UK.

Crawford is a supreme southpaw stylist with a solid dig and considered one of the best across all divisions. In his last showing he bombed out former ‘world’ champion Kell Brook who holds a victory over Porter. Whilst Brook was a few years into his prime this comparison is a useful form guide.

Porter was an elite amateur who comes to fight and will make the contest exciting for as long as it lasts. Look though for Crawford’s boxing skills and eventual nastiness to stop his opponent for the first time somewhere around the ninth. If ‘Bud’ does the expected it will set up a blockbusting unification fight against WBC and IBF world champion Errol Spence Jr. which is arguably the biggest match to be made in the sport. Both are tied to different promoters and networks but the pressure of public opinion and lack of alternative options could bring this contest closer together with a Crawford victory.

Enjoy your boxing weekend.

Bad Intentions

Eubank Jr. (left) and Williams face-off.

In a well staged, but prickly press conference today near London Bridge on the banks of the River Thames, two British middleweights Chris Eubank Jr and Liam Williams exuded equal contempt for each other before their impending showdown in Cardiff Motorpoint Arena on December 11.

Next month, the BOXXER and Wasserman Promotion being shown live and exclusive on Sky Sports in the UK will pitch the 32 year old Eubank Jr (31-2, 23 KO’s) into the lion’s den of South Wales against 29 year old local hero Williams (23-3,18 KO’s). Billed as ‘Bad Intentions’ it promises to finish 2021 on a high with a meeting of two world ranked contenders (Eubank – Ring magazine #8 and Williams #9).

Both fighters will attempt to seal an impressive victory to progress to another crack at a world sanctioning body title, having lost earlier title shots. Williams, to current WBO champion Demetrius Andrade in April this year and, Eubank Jr back in February 2018 to George Groves for the WBA super-middleweight belt. Both will therefore bring ‘world’ title fight experience to the ring.

The bout marks a major coup for the new BOXXER partnership with Sky Sports, with today’s media event only 40 days on from their first televised promotion together. BOXXER founder and CEO Ben Shalom was pleased to announce his delight at the contest with “Both fighters in the prime of their career”. Handing over to his media supremo Daniel ‘Savage Dan’ Stewart, who re-iterated by saying “I’ll eat my shoe if it doesn’t deliver !”. Co-promoter Kalle Sauerland further emphasized the point by adding it was “Two guys who only have one gear – the forward gear”.

Williams took to the microphone expressing his delight at signing for the fight and confident of the outcome. “It’s an amazing thing for me to bring this fight back to Wales…I just need to deliver…It’s massive for me”. When asked by Adam Smith (Sky Sports Head of Boxing Development) about his opponent, he replied “I have a lot of respect for him as a fighter” but “Don’t have much respect for him personally…he’s not my type of guy”. He explained the challenge posed by Eubank Jr. but that he was confident of victory, being non-committal on the manner of victory “I can’t say for sure I’m gonna stop him”.

With the microphone switching to Eubank Jr. and on being asked if he respected his opponent he replied “Respect is not a word I would use for my feelings towards Liam…it doesn’t sit well with me…this is a grudge match…a genuine domestic rivalry, it’s personal…he’s gonna pay for what he said”. The response referring to the pre-fight barbs and Williams reverting to social media to stoke up his opponent.

Eubank Jr’s. response led to Williams telling him to shut his mouth saying “you’re full of s**t”. The Welshman then questioned his opponent on why the fight was in Cardiff, referring to Eubank’s poor ticket selling closer to home.

Eubank Jr continued “He doesn’t have what it takes to stop what I’m gonna do…with his style I don’t see it going 12 rounds”. Williams by now repeatedly shaking his head, again used his earlier insult, going onto say “I just think this guy’s full of s**t…He knows how to talk (referring to learning it from his father, Chris Snr) but concluded “It’s gonna be a win for Liam Williams, it’s gonna be exciting”.

That, it promises to be, in which Adam Smith concluded would be the “Domestic duel of the year”. Given we also have the Lyndon Arthur-Anthony Yarde rematch a week earlier, it promises to be a dynamite December.

To finish the media event both fighters took to the dais to do the head-to-heads and thankfully the verbal volleys didn’t escalate.

Stylistically, this has all the makings of a great contest, with both being confident come-forward fighters and, for the winner a potential world title shot against either Gennadiy Golovkin (IBF) should he come through versus Ryota Murata (WBA) in December, American Jermall Charlo (WBC), or his compatriot Demetrius Andrade (WBO) should he retain his title against Jason Quigley this weekend.

Look out for more verbal barbs and fireworks over the next few weeks as the big British middleweight showdown looms.

The Monday LunchBox

New IBF world featherweight champ Kiko Martinez.

On Saturday night I was reminded of the enduring fascination of boxing. Watching Britain’s Kid Galahad box meticulously through five completed rounds with the type of switch-hitting and accuracy that had become his forte and, seemingly coasting to a first defence of his IBF world featherweight title against an ageing challenger, I thought of the inevitability of the pending result. Then, for a split second a thought went through my mind…anything could happen THIS is boxing.

How many times had I watched a fight seemingly over in the first few rounds to then simply be turned on its head ? Is this not the fascination of boxing ? No other high profile sport can end on an instant with the seeming victor then becoming the vanquished.

In round five we at least got a clue, as the dominance of Galahad started to be slightly chipped away by Spanish challenger Kiko Martinez. All of a sudden the tempo of the fight started to change as Martinez came forward making some inroads after being totally outboxed for the four completed rounds.

Noticeably, as Galahad stepped out of exchanges he started to leave his chin exposed, but surely the sting had been taken out of Martinez ? Then, with 15 seconds left in the round…Martinez lurched forward again pressing the fight, and BOOM a ballistic long right hand landed on Galahad’s head and he hit the canvas. The shock of all at ringside, including promoter Eddie Hearn, was plain to see.

The champion managed to haul himself up to just beat the count and five seconds later the bell sounded to end the round. Galahad received a shocked but stern talking to by cornerman Dominic Ingle in between rounds, but the damage was already done.

As the sixth round started Martinez rushed across the ring to land another heavy right on the champion and Galahad hit the canvas again. The fight was waved off after 6 seconds by referee Steve Gray. The title changed hands dramatically to make the 35 year old Kiko Martinez (43-10-2, 30 KO’s) a two weight world champion. THIS is boxing.

It reminded me of a couple of fights from a bygone age. Rocky Marciano’s booming hook against ‘Jersey’ Joe Walcott to wrestle the world heavyweight championship in the 1950’s and, more recently and closer to the Sheffield Wincobank Gym, the devastating finish to Herol Graham’s third and final attempt to win the middleweight championship when bombed out by Julian Jackson. Both examples of single one punch shots that ended a contest that were seemingly going the other way.

Galahad dropped to (28-2, 17 KO’s) and will come again.

And yet, the drama of the evening was not limited to this contest. In a good Matchroom Promotion at the Utilita Sheffield Arena we saw a mere 30 minutes earlier another devastating punch end the contest between female WBC world super-featherweight champion Teri Harper (11-1-1, 6 KO’s) and American Alycia Baumgarner (11-1, 7 KO’s).

After a strong start the Detroit hitter landed a big right hand that literally froze Harper on stiff, shaky legs, before the referee jumped in to save her from the full force of a follow up left hook. The contest was waved off instantly after 0:23 of the fourth.

THIS is boxing.

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