ESPN+ Boxing Preview: Yarde vs. Reeves, Dubois vs. Cojanu


By: Oliver McManus

Frank Warren kick starts his promotional operations of 2019 at Royal Albert Hall with two cracking British title fights.

There’s a sensational match-up for the British Middleweight title as Liam Williams looks to defend the belt against Joe Mullender. Williams returns to the ring off the back of his peerless victory over Mark Heffron, in December, but is guaranteed to face more fire on the 8th.

In that fight it was the Welshman who dictated the pace of the fight with a lovely jab and sharp footwork to keep Heffron at bay; Mullender will be a far different challenge as he looks to get right in the face of the champion. Smokin’ Joe has made no bones as to the approach he’ll take with the fight, in simple terms, just ‘punch him more than he punches me’. A tactic that the 32 year old has taken throughout his career and one that consistently produces entertainment.

That all out aggression has produced serious results against genuine fighters with two bruising encounters against Lee Markham for the English title, as well as Lee Churcher and Ben Capps over the last two years – though the result of the Churcher bout was later overturned due to an anti-doping violation.

Not looking past Mullender, who will prove to be more than just a plucky puncher, Williams has stated his intentions to drop back down to super-welterweight and re-establish on the world scene at the lighter division. I am eager to see how far he can go at middle, though, with the Ingle Gym fighter a breath of fresh air in the division. Against Smokin’ Joe we’re guaranteed to see a fight that’ll go up in flames.

Drop down to welterweight and Johnny Garton looks to defend his belt against Chris Jenkins. Garton outclassed Gary Corcoran in a bloodied and battered war last October to claim the vacant title. Jenkins, meanwhile, has had mixed fortunes over the last 12 months with two of his three fights resulting in technical decisions.

Likewise with Williams-Mullender there is no chance of this being a quite encounter and I expect Jenkins to actually come out and try to be the more aggressive over the opening couple rounds. We saw against Corcoran the stamina and the work-rate that Garton possesses so you want to get some early rounds in the bag should the fight end up going the distance.

Jenkins, however, has a tendency to cut over the eyes and the skin around that area is getting weaker with every fight. There might be a reluctance, therefore, to fully commit and engage from inside the pocket. Garton, another one who is susceptible to cuts, has really hit his stride over the last five, six fights with the 31 year old starting to produce consistently polished performances at the right tempo.

Now with that consistency it is time to capitalise on the natural ability that Garton has to fight and maximise the rewards for when he finishes his career. Opportunities haven’t always been available for the Peckham-fighter what with, gym-mate and friend, Skeete holding the British belt. Garton now, though, is the man at the domestic scene so let’s see where he goes from here – it’ll be entertaining, that’s for sure.

Away from the Lord Lonsdale fights you have Anthony Yarde facing Travis Reeves in a contest that bears resemblance to the frustrations of last year – yet another opponent that few people will have heard of.

It’s become increasingly clear that while Yarde possesses considerable punching power, he isn’t this one-punch knock-out artist that can end a fight with the turn of a screw. At least not from what we’ve seen so far. Instead he tires out his counterparts, wearing down their bodily resistance and mental resilience throughout a number of rounds. Yes he drops opponents from well timed, accurately placed, shots but rarely do bouts come round to any thunderous conclusion.

Initially set to face Mehdi Amar on February 23rd, the Frenchman withdrew three weeks prior and then the whole show was cancelled, Reeves stepped up to the plate. Two years older than Amar and eleven more than, 27 year old, Yarde, Reeves will enter the ring with a record of 17-3-2. Nicknamed Seveer – purely for the reason it is his surname background – the American intended to turn professional in 2004 with a fight scheduled in Philadelphia. That bout fell through and Reeves’ career fell into extended disarray with the Baltimore man eventually debuting in 2013. Seven fights in a year saw Reeves sitting with a record of 3-2-2 before returning to Baltimore to string some wins together.

By no means a big puncher, Reeves boasts no wins over recognisable names. Indeed his best performance came against Aaron Quattrocchi in November 2016 when the 38 year old knocked his opponent out within two rounds to claim the USBO Light Heavyweight title. Against Karo Murat last March, Reeves struggled to find a foothold in the contest, taking place in Hamburg, before succumbing to a 12th round TKO – a mercy rule finish, if ever there was one.

A fight that could be the straw to break the camel’s back, Yarde needs a performance more than he ever has before.

The final main fight of the card will see Daniel Dubois up against Razvan Cojanu. Having been postponed from December 15th, Dubois will be looking to make up for lost time and, indeed, lost time to his closest rival Nathan Gorman.

Dynamite heads into his 10th professional contest off the back of a disappointing performance against Kevin ‘Kingpin’ Johnson. That contest, back in October, was a case of repetition throughout the 10 rounds with the American reverting to the ropes whilst Dubois fought fairly one-dimensionally. It was, arguably, the first fight where you Dubois’ youth and inexperience came to the fore – you suspect the process coming at such an early stage will stand him in good stead, though.

Cojanu, on the other hand, returns to UK shores for the second time in just under three months with the Romanian having fought Nathan Gorman on December 22nd. In that bout, 12 rounder, Gorman started off sprightly before fading in the latter half of the contest. Cojanu, to give him credit, recovered from a relatively shaky start to hold his own. Well, when I say ‘hold his own’, he didn’t look like getting knocked out but was a comprehensive second-best. Now with a record of 16 and 5, Cojanu’s most recent trio of losses have come to Razvan Cojanu, Luis Ortiz and Gorman. Only Ortiz has stopped him.

Starting off 2019 with a shared opponent, of the calibre of Cojanu, will be a great yardstick for measuring up Warren’s two heavyweight prospects.

It is March 8th that sees the start of Frank Warren’s promotional adventures – a delayed beginning but one that promises excitement. It’s a Royal Rumble but not as you know it…

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