By: Oliver McManus
A Saturday night dedicated to the big bruising heavyweights of Frank Warren’s stable – Joe Joyce vs Bryant Jennings and Daniel Dubois vs Nathan Gorman at the top of the bill – promises to provide serious entertainment. The quality of the show, however, runs deeper than many UK fight nights of recent memory with three more title fights being televised; Liam Williams vs Karim Achour, Sunny Edwards vs Hiram Gallardo and Archie Sharp vs Jordan McCorry.
Dubois-Gorman is officially granted headliner status within the plethora of quality contests with the young dancing partners fighting for the vacant British title. Both men deserve credit, from the off, for their willingness to engage in such an evenly matched contest when, undoubtedly, easier nights would have been readily available. It is also pleasing to see them give so much credit and respect for the Lord Lonsdale belt amid a generation of fighters where the British title seems to be losing prestige and priority.
Dubois, 11-0 (10KOs), has long been the prized jewel of Warren’s growing collection of prospects and he’s been developing steadily since turning professional in April 2017. The middle ‘phase’ of his career, thus far, saw Dubois take on successive domestic names – AJ Carter, Dorian Darch, DL Jones and Tom Little – and put them away in devastating fashion. Of course the calibre of that quartet is vastly inferior but that run of fights saw Dubois collect English and Southern Area titles all before his 21st birthday.
The fight against Little saw the Peacock’s fighter piece together his shots sumptuously and, as we’ve seen on plenty of occasions, it was the body shots that did the damage; Little down in the fourth and then finished off in the fifth. Subsequently he has faced Kevin Johnson, Razvan Cojanu and Richard Lartey in a mixed bag of performances. The 10 rounder against Kevin Johnson was quite a monotonous affair with Dubois struggling to shake up any variety to his rhythm in the face of ‘Kingpin’s’ repeated dour negativity.
Cojanu and Lartey were more ‘traditional’ performances from Dubois as he lived up to his ‘Dynamite’ nickname – Cojanu was dealt with decisively inside two rounds with the most composed, well-measured performance of Dubois’ short career whilst the Lartey fight was a scrappier affair where the 21 year old ‘got involved’ but took care of business inside four rounds.
He’ll be providing the ‘fire’ to this fight, a refreshing contest, possessing the reputation for brutality and mesmerising power. His technique, equally, deserves respect with the finish against Lartey coming after three consecutive jabs prevented the Ghanaian from unfurling a shot of his own before Dubois pulled out the right hand and slamming into his opponent’s face.
Gorman, 16-0 (11KOs), shapes up as the more methodical fighter with natural athleticism and agility over brute strength and shoulders the size of fridges. The 23 year old has, however, made better use of his body since he inked a promotional contract with Warren and whilst any weight change has remained negligable he is far better proportioned than in some of his previous contests.
That strength and conditioning work is abundantly clear when you take into consideration his ability to work at a high tempo for extended periods of time. His fast hands are the obvious stand out trying to piece together a compilation of his best work but, actually, Ricky Hatton’s fighter seems a lot more naturally varied in his shot selection. An obvious comparisom to make is with his contest against Kevin Johnsom in which Gorman was able to remain on his toes and looked to try different things as the rounds went on – almost just to loosen up and see what was working.
He, too, is no stranger to fighting domestic fighters having faced Dominic Akinlade, at the time billed as big step up, in the same month that his upcoming protagonist made his debut; therein lies an obvious advantage. That extra 16 months, five figthts as it were, of professional experience means Gorman has gone through the motions that Dubois is currently – boxing puberty, if you like. The Nantwich man, let’s not forget, hasn’t always been in favour with Warren and has built himself up from the small halls of Waslall and Stoke-on-Trent in order to get here. Inherantly that instills extra grit within you.
Whilst both fighters are chomping at the bit to get the first real ‘livewire’ on their record you’d suggest Gorman is the more emotionally invested in this contest with Dubois refusing, really, to shake from being a man of few words. Gorman, meanwhile, seems agitated and eager to replace Dubois as ‘THE heavyweight prospect’.
A tale of two contrasting styles but two men that deserve respect for their willingness to get it on with little bones made about it – despite living in an era where the ‘0’ is glamourised as much as Gollum’s precious ring. As long as it doesn’t end up like Jack Catterall vs Ohara Davies, we’ll be in for a treat.
Joe Joyce (9-0) takes a significant step up in class in facing Bryant Jennings (24-3) in defence of the Juggernaut’s WBA ‘Gold’ title. In spite of the farcical title at stake this should be the sternest test of Joyce’s career – which has peaked and troughed dramatically – and the set-up an assault of the governing bodies for a world title.
Jennings, from Philadelphia, arrives in London for his first contest outside of the US and the seventh bout of his ‘comeback’ that resumed in 2017 following a loss to Luis Ortiz. ‘By-By’ was last in action against Oscar Rivas in a contest that he looked to be winning quite comfortably, until a resurgent Rivas turned the scew in the final round to knock the 34 year old out.
The other two losses only other loss to blight Jennings’ record is a wide points loss to Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 and the Philadelphian was hitting a strong run of form until encountering Rivas; dealing with Alexander Dimitrenko and Joey Dawejko at a canter. This, likewise for Joyce, is a big step up in comparison to recent opponents. The American is typically composed in his approach to a fight as he looks to pick off rounds and nullify the work of his counterpart rather than any all-out aggression.
The same can be said for Joyce who on a fair few ocassions has had his opponent in trouble – most notably against Iago Kiladze – but hasn’t shown that ‘nasty’ state of mind to callously go for the kill. Obviously against opponents such as Kiladze you’ll get a second bite of the cherry but that won’t be there when it comes to facing a world champion so I’d like to see an increased urgency from Joyce, especially when his opponent is there for the taking.
If Dubois vs Gorman is going to provide the fireworks for then night then the second heavyweight clash might be more of a slow-burner, a mellowed encounter but certainly no less of an opportunity for Joyce, a heavy favourite, to put in a needded performance to get him out of the ‘who needs him’ club.
A win on Saturday night for Liam Williams (20-2-1) will put the Welshman in a strong position for a world title challenge later in the year. He faces Karim Achour (27-5-3) for the WBC ‘Silver’ title in Williams’ third consecutive title fight at middleweight. In those two previous contests, against Mark Heffron and Joe Mullender, the Clydach Vale man has looked menacingly spiteful with a calculated breakdown of Heffron to claim the British title. His first defence against, an over-matched, Mullender finished in barbaric fashion following a heavy knock-down with one punch sending Mullender face first to the canvas.
Achour will provide seasoned opposition for Williams having been a professional for 11 years but his losses will be enough provide confidence for the home fighter. The most recent of which came against David Lemieux, for two WBC trinkets, in which Achour was embarrased for the 12 rounds – rarely landing a punch and looking completely out of his depth.
Given Williams’ experience of being in big fights – two scintilatting bouts with Liam Williams – you can be sure that he’ll remain a consumate professional but there’s a clear gulf in quality between the two men and it should only be a matter of time before that’s exploited.
Sunny Edwards (11-0) fights for the IBF International title at super flyweight where a win should send him into the Top 5 with the governing body. His opponent, Hiram Gallardo (12-2-2), is an unknown quantity to British fight fans but the available footage suggests he’ll be similar to Junior Granados, Edwards’ last opponent of 2018.
Edwards has quickly risen up the rings with Frank Warren’s table to secure his place as a regular TV fighter and he always delivers on that faith. The 23 year old is always bouncing around the ring, quite literally, and it is his footwork that leaves most of his opponents unstuck; they just don’t quite know where to go and then end up being within the ‘strike zone’ for Edwards to flurry away with a series of punches. Against Matos he was particularly impressive with the way he dipped the legs and then sprung up into a real powerful left hand, bolting diagonally upwards and doing some real damage to the ear-drum of his Portuguese opponent.
The last title fight of the nght sees Archie Sharp (15-0) make the first defence of his WBO European super featherweight title against Jordan McCorry (18-5-1). Sharp was initially scheduled to face Lucas Ballingall in March before injury forced him to pull out; he returned from that injury in April with a two-round blow-out against Sergio Gonzalez. Being part of a packed super featherweight division that features Sam Bowen and Zelfa Barrett, to name just two, there are plenty of fights to pique the interest of Sharp. He’ll look to deal with McCorry in more convincing fashion than, stablemate, Bowen did in March.
McCorry lost that encounter via a ninth round TKO on a night where the Scotsman didn’t seem quite right. Warnings came thick and fast from Marcus McDonnell and it prompted McCorry to become overly cautious through fear of disqualification so it will be interesting to see if we get a more relaxed fight this time around.
It’s an action packed night of boxing from Frank Warren, who seems to have had a kick up the jacksie, where entertainment should be rife from top to bottom but it’s all about the glamour division, isn’t it? Daniel Dubois vs Nathan Gorman – two unbeaten, young, hungry prospects looking to win the British title and a spot at the centre of Warren’s plans. Let the best man win because doors will open, that’s for certain.
Tune in to the whole night of action live on BT Sport from 7pm on Saturday 13th and airing on ESPN+ across the States.