By: Oliva McManus
No if’s, no but’s, this promises to be one of the most exciting nights of domestic boxing in recent memory – promoted by Frank Warren and live on BT Sport & BoxNation, the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle plays host to a night of sensational boxing on the 11th November, headlined by the rematch between Liam Smith and Liam Williams. Also on the card, and being previewed here, is Thomas Patrick Ward, Josh Leather and Nathan Gorman.
The main event has been in the works for the last 7 months following the controversial first bout between Williams and Smith – many had Williams leading on their card but with Smith coming stronger in the latter rounds. With an accidental clash of heads, that Williams maintains was intentional, and the ringside doctor considering it not serious enough for the fight to be waved off, Williams’ corner men took the decision to withdraw their fighter at the 9th round.
Since then the two fighters have been embroiled in a war of words both over social media and at press conferences to add a bitter tinge to this rivalry – which can only mean even more exciting action the second time round.
Williams (16-1-1) was born in Wales and before fighting Smith in April had an illustrious record including British, Commonwealth and WBO European Super Welterweight title’s – standing at 5”10, he has the ever so slight edge over the 5”9.5 Smith and is noticeable for keeping his head down when up-close with the opponent.
A brawler, when he lets his hands go, he has a lack of control which, in a way, is appealing. A really strong right hand hook, this was exemplified during his 11th round stoppage of Gary Corcoran – another fight of his in which there was a clash of head’s.
Don’t be mistaken though, Williams is patient in his style but when he senses a weakness, he moves quickly to exploit it. A strong left hand jab keeps the opponent at length before a useful flurry of shots softens up the opponent.
Smith (25-1-1) is undeniably the higher profile of the two fighters having held the WBO World Super Welterweight title between October 2015 and September 2016; after winning the belt against John Thompson, he made two successful defences against Jimmy Kilrain Kelly and Predrag Radosevic before travelling to America for a spirited 9th round loss against Saul Alvarez.
You can’t doubt the heart of Smith then and when he gets going, it’s hard to argue with his boxing ability either – tending to take to the centre of the ring, he is often said to “pick opponents off”, wearing them down with a constant barrage of shots before dismissing with them in the latter half of the fight.
With a tight defence, he himself is hard to breakdown but Williams exploited his lack of experience in not being the one in control but Smith will have hoped to have learned his lesson from that.
Armed with a deceptive knockout power, the Liverpudlian known as Beefy, likes to target the body of opponents with several sharp shots to the ribcage before targeting the head with repetitive jabs and then returning to the body.
The key unknown to this fight is emotion, it’s not often that you hear emotion spoke of in a boxing context but this is the first fight the two fighters have been in with a genuine dislike for the opponents so the question is, how will this change their game plan?
Next up is Thomas Patrick Ward (21-0) defending his BBBofC British Super Bantamweight title against Sean Davis (13-1) in a fight which is almost destined to go the distance – the duo’s 34 wins combined carry with them a mere two knockouts.
Ward had been a fighter that had gone very much under-the-radar on the domestic scene until May of this year – his 21st professional fight – when he fought James “Jazza” Dickens for the British title. Prior to that, his best victories were, arguably, against Robbie Turley (16-5) and Nasibu Ramadhan (17-5-1) which kind of tells you everything you need to know about the level of opponent he’d been up against.
You don’t need high class opposition to be able to show off your own high class skills, however, and Tommy Ward has impressed immensely whenever he’s been on display – easy on the eye, if you’re a boxing purist you’ll love him. Capable of withstanding attacks, his style is one where he waits for opponents to come forward before exploiting the gaps in their defence.
He’s a patient fighter – not boring though – and I think that’s highlighted by the fact that in his fight against Norbert Kalucza, last year, I counted about 20 consecutive seconds of him just standing in the middle of the ring toying with Kalucza, baiting him into an attack.
Aged just 23 years old the Birmingham-born super bantamweight finds himself already ranked 12th with the WBO and 4th with the EBU – if I were his promoter Frank Warren, I’d be targeting a scrap with European champion Abigail Medina where, were he to be successful, he would avenge his brother’s defeat earlier this year.
Davis, on the other hand, is 4 years older at 27 yet has the much shorter resume of a mere 14 fights. Despite that he comes into the bout with more prestigious victories including the likes of Jason Booth for the English title and Paul Economidies for the WBC International strap.
Showtime, as he’s known, carries the unique style of leaving his left hand hanging in front of the opposite fighter as a way of both measuring the reach but equally blind-siding the opponent before launching a hard, looping right hand – a shot that comes reigning down on the opponent from an oddly jolted knee position, allowing him to simultaneously connect and evade.
Although having never secured a knockout victory, I’d actually argue that Davis is the more powerful of the two fighters – neither laying claim to “power puncher” status, however – with a repetitive, concussive style of punches.
Against Gamal Yafai (at the time 11-0) in May, his defences were exploited as The Beast dropped the Hockley-resident on 6 separate occasions before dispatching with him convincingly in the 7th. Davis showed heart, that can’t be argued, but he was guilty of standing too square in front of Yafai and failed to maintain a sharp, astute defence with the body being a particular area of weakness.
In a real cross-roads fight, Davis will be hoping to restate his stature in the super bantamweight division – at least domestically, anyway – with the winner of this fight looking to push on for a shot at, at least, a European title. Who wins it? Tommy Ward for me but it’s a pick ‘em!
Josh Leather also features as he and Glenn Foot go to war for the IBF East/West Europe Super Lightweight Title – a belt that makes no logistical titular sense – the winner of which should receive an enhanced prestigious Top 15 Ranking with the organization.
At 12-0 Leather is already regarded as one of the hottest prospects in the super lightweight division, not just in Britain but globally – already ranked 14th with the IBF, he’ll be looking to stake his claim for a shot at the recently-crowned champion Sergei Lipinets by emphatically beating Glenn Foot on Saturday night.
From Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, the 25 year-old stands 5”10 and came into the pro ranks with a distinguished amateur record – the 2012 Lightweight ABA Champion – and whilst he hasn’t been particularly active since (averaging a mere 3 fights a year), his career has been going distinctly upwards in the last 18 months.
Armed with sudden explosivity, if he lands a right hand hook and feels it wobbled you then bam, before you know it, one, two, three, four, sharp, jading combination shots come in to both head and body.
Fighting with passion, Leather isn’t reckless, the young man is never afraid to bite down on the gum-shield and let sparks fly but he’ll do so with a degree of precision and aggressive that makes him a dangerous fighter to enrage.
Foot, from Sunderland, is an experienced domestic-level fighter having fought anywhere from the 140lb lightweight division all the way up to 161lbs (admittedly for only one fight), with most of his time spent around the 148lbs region.
Don’t let that be conflated with a lack of quality – let me stamp that out from the start – the 30 year-old has been in with some notable names such as Sam Eggington, Akeem Ennis Brown, Kirk Goodings, Adam Little, Philip Bowes and Jason Cook.
At 21-2 his losses have come against Eggington and Ennis Brown, but nonetheless Foot possess an array of impressive attributes – the most important of all being sheer grit and durability, a man that is hard to break down is always going to be a half-decent boxer and this particular man has proven to be rather more than half-decent.
A high guard compliments his ramrod territorial jabs that keep foes at bay before the Black Cats fan exploits their fatigue during the latter rounds of a fight. Slower on his feet than Leather with less firepower in his armoury, it could be a tough fight if Glenn doesn’t take control right from the early stages.
The final major fight is Nathan Gorman against Mohamed Soltby for the WBC International Silver Heavyweight Title; Gorman (10-0) was originally slated to face Nick Webb for the BBBofC English Heavyweight title and despite rumours that Webb withdrew from the fight, it has emerged that Gorman was actually the one to pull out, reasoning that they “wanted to go a different route”.
Both promoted by, hall of fame promoter, Frank Warren, the likely outcome of this fight is leaving fight fans in the lurk with British boxing diehards labelling Nathan Gorman as one of the bright hopes for heavyweight boxing and German followers backing Soltby as their man to cause an upset on foreign soil.
Neither come with particularly strong names on their resume; Dominic Akinlade and Kamil Sokolowski being the most forthcoming for Gorman – a former Central Area champion – and Laszlo Hubert and Zoltan Csala the two main names for Solbty.
Soltby, 13-0, and Gorman both come to the ring with 8 knockouts apiece and come to the ring with very similar fighting styles – both determined to go after the opposition from the first whistle in order to force the stoppage as opposed to waiting for a more natural opportunity. Gorman has faster footwork but Soltby carries a 1.5inch height advantage and often swings his head back in to keep the other fighter always thinking.
Being friends with Soltby on Snapchat (shameless plug, there), he’s literally not been out of the gym for the past few months so conditioning isn’t going to be an issue and Gorman certainly looks like he could be the real so I, for one, am absolutely ecstatic for this fight which is going to be one of two things – fireworks or bust.
In a night of packed action, the rematch between Liam Smith and Liam Williams is undeniably the one that draws the eye – with the winner looking for an immediate return to the world scene – but a complimentary undercard from top to bottoms looks set to keep the Newcastle crows, as well as viewers at home, on the edge of their seat. No if’s, no but’s.