While it may have been one of the year’s quietest weeks so far in terms of televised Boxing, there has been a lot going on outside the ropes over the past seven days. The UK circuit has been a buzz with new fights, news notes and show updates covering everything from super fly to heavyweight. Here’s The Mandatory Eight for March 26th.
1. Fury/Chisora 2 and the heavyweight division
The promotional push for July 26th’s heavyweight bout between Derek Chisora and Tyson Fury has kicked into full gear with the first press conference taking place this past Thursday followed by the premiere of their head to head sit-down interview series on BoxNation earlier this week. The build got off to a lively start as was to be expected, first with Fury overturning a table and storming out on the presser, and then the two trading barbs back and forth as Jim Rosenthal asked the questions. You can check out the videos here and here. Both clips contain some pretty strong wording; so don’t say you weren’t warned!
The bout will serve as a final eliminator for the WBO title held by Wladimir Klitschko, and given the current heavyweight landscape, the winner will be the most interesting fresh challenger out-there for the big man. Both these guy’s know how to sell a fight to, so whoever comes away with the W, we should be seeing a major heavyweight title tilt before the year’s out.
2. Cyclone Promotions secure two new signings
Barry McGuigan and the team behind super bantamweight ace Carl Frampton have put pen to paper on long term promotional deals for two more of Belfast boxing’s rising stars in Marco McCullough and Jamie Conlan. McCullough (8-1) was awarded best young boxer of the year by the Boxing Union of Ireland back in February, following his breakout win over former European champion Willie Casey late last year. While Conlan (10-0) has been a staple of Frampton undercards dating back to The Jackal’s first headlining bill in 2010. Jamie is a guy with real upside. He’s a good ticket seller with a very viewer friendly style of boxing. The difficulty so far has just been in matching him simply because there isn’t a whole lot out-there in Ireland, the UK or even Europe when you drop as low as super flyweight. His standout performance to date was a stoppage of the tough Mike Robinson in February of last year.
Both Mccullough and Conlan have WBO European title fight’s lined up for the ‘This Is Belfast’ bill on April 4th main evented by Carl Frampton vs Hugo Fidel Cazares. Conlan will square off with Belgium’s Benjamin Smoes (9-2) with the super flyweight belt on the line, while Mccullough will be matched with Andrei Isaeu (25-4) of Belarus at featherweight.
3. Prizefighter line up finalized for April 5th
Matchroom Sports have announced the final four names for the welterweight edition of Prizefighter set for York Hall on April 5th. Jason Cook, John Coyle, Marc Douglas and Johnny Garton add their names to the line up, joining the previously announced Erick Ochieng, Paddy Gallagher, Sam Eggington and Dean Byrne in the eight man tournament. As always, it’s tricky to make a concrete pick because the three round format has a tendency to turn conventional boxing wisdom on it’s head and it’s usually a case who can adapt best.
Ochieng, when firing on all cylinders, might be the best boxer in the group, but he’s been fighting without confidence in his last couple and he’s a slow starter anyway, so I can see the format causing him problems. My feeling is that the winner will emerge from the Irish pair of Paddy Gallagher and Dean Byrne. Gallagher is a former Commonwealth Games Gold medalist. He’s got good pedigree and he’s not too far removed from the amateurs, so he figures to acclimate well to the shorter bout duration. Byrne has only gone 2-1-3 in his last six fights, but he’s suffered some cruel matchmaking during that run. He’s a better pro than his recent form-line suggests. Over the past couple of years, he hasn’t been being treated as a prospect, but more like a guy who will step in where there is a gap to fill. It’s taken the shine off his record, but it hasn’t appeared to change his outlook on the game. He still seems to have supreme self belief, and he will look at this as his route back. I think he might just have the style and experience to cause a stir.
4. Rose confirms WBO shot
In other Matchroom news, the stable this week confirmed that popular Blackpool junior middleweight Brian Rose (25-1-1) will challenge for his first world title on June 14th when he takes on undefeated American Demetrius Andrade (20-0) for the WBO belt. The bout will take place at a yet to be confirmed American location and could potentially be packaged as a co-feature to Ruslan Provodnikov’s HBO return scheduled for the date. Andrade claimed the vacant belt back in November when he outpointed Vanes Martirosyan.
Rose has a good team behind him lead by trainer Bobby Rimmer, he is experienced over the 12 round distance, and you can be certain his preparation and strategy will be spot on for June 14th. This looks a really tough ask of him stylistically though. Andrade’s a very accomplished technician. He’s elusive, he can be difficult to pin down, and I think to knock him out of that rhythm, it requires someone with the power to bother him. And power isn’t something Rose has a lot of. Andrade does remain at least a little unproven however. The Matirosyan fight was his first real live test and he didn’t come through it without problems along the way. This fight should tell us a lot about the level of both guys moving forward.
5. Manchester Arena show starting to take shape
The undercard for the Scott Quigg vs Nehomar Cermeno WBA title fight on April 19th is beginning to come together. Chief support on the night will see exciting British lightweight pair Anthony Crolla and John Murray do battle with the winner potentially going on to face either Kevin Mitchell or Ricky Burns at a future date. The latest addition to the card pits former European champion Grzegorz Proksa against former Commonwealth title holder Matthew Hall, with both men badly needing a win to stay in the running for major fights. Olympic Gold medalists Anthony Joshua and Luke Campbell will also both have their sixth pro fights on the bill with no opponents announced as of yet.
6. Galahad takes European honours
On a slow week for TV fights, the only real live action of note came from the Hennessy Sports bill in Sheffield where Kid Galahad (16-0)captured the vacant European Super Bantamweight title with a lopsided points victory over the outmatched Sergio Prado (9-4-1) of Spain.
Galahad has sort of found himself left as the odd man out in a very strong 122 pound British division, where the focus has been firmly on the rivalry between Scott Quigg and Carl Frampton. With those two lined up on opposite sides of a promotional and TV divide, perhaps if there is to be a big domestic showdown, it will be one or the other instead taking on Galahad. I still feel Kid is a big win away from being able to ask for those type of fights at this stage, but he’s still only 24. He’s now at a place in his career where he’s ready to make the jump to the next level and there’s plenty of time for him to close down that gap between he and the two front-runners.
7. MaxiNutrition Knockout Light Heavyweight Tournament semi-finals set
Also on the Galahad card, the last two quarter finals match ups in the MaxiNutrition Knockout Light Heavyweight Tournament took place as Travis Dickinson and Matty Clarkson joined Bob Ajisafe and Leon Senior in the final four. Clarkson survived a late onslaught from Lee Duncan to shade a decision, while Dickinson impressively dispatched of former European titlist Danny McIntosh in 3.
Tournament boxing tends to be a divisive subject among boxing fans, but this one is producing some good action fights already, and it should provide a platform for the winner to push on and at least try their hand at the next level. For me, Ajisafe and Dickinson were two guys to beat from the beginning and nothing that’s gone down so far has changed my opinion on that. I think those are the two we will likely see in the final when this all plays out and it makes for a good British title fight on paper. It would be a rematch of a 2012 bout Ajisafe won convincingly, but I have a sense Dickinson will be more ready for the opportunity this time around and I can see him reversing the decision and taking the tournament. Before any of that though, we still have the Ajisafe/Senior and Dickinson/Clarkson semi-final to get through with both bouts penciled in tentatively for May.
8. Degale zeros in on Froch/Groves winner
James Degale (18-1) has confirmed that his next fight is to be an IBF super middleweight title eliminator against Brandon Gonzales (18-0-1), a bout likely to take place in the UK later this year, with a win entering Degale in the sweepstakes for another big all-England showdown with the victor of the Carl Froch vs George Groves bout on May 31st.
Degale, a gold medalist from the Beijing games, of course was pipped on a majority decision by Groves when the two met back in 2011. He’s rebounded with eight straight wins since his only defeat, but he’s a boxer in desperate need of big fights. His progression has seemed to plateau over the past 12 months. He’s kept busy – fighting four times over that period – but he’s still showing a lot of the same intermittent glimpses of brilliance and vulnerability we’ve seen from him since he first turned pro. Now 28, and with 19 fights on the record, if he’s going to fulfill his amateur promise, it has to be soon and he needs the big fights to do it.
He and Gonzales are essentially in the same position career-wise. They’re both a big win away from serious contention. They’re of similar age, they have similar experience and they’ve faced a similar level of opposition. It’s a match up that makes sense for both guys and whoever comes through it will definitely belong in the picture at 168.