By: Oliver McManus
Frank Warren returns to Birmingham on Saturday night for the first time this decade. Fans at the Birmingham Arena will be treated to six high calibre title fights with a packed undercard to boot.
Zolani Tete is the honorary headliner as he defends his WBO bantamweight crown against John Riel Casemiro. The South African, in his fourth defence of the title, competes in his first fight of the year. Having had to withdraw from his WBSS semi-final against Nonito Donaire, due to injury, it is a welcome return for the Queensbury fighter.
His challenger is a former IBF light-fly and flyweight champion who has, more or less, campaigned at 118lbs since defeating Charlie Edwards in 2016. The Filipino captured the interim WBO belt in April with a hearty stoppage over, unknown, Ricardo Franco. That was followed by another solid stoppage: this time against Cesar Ramirez, stopped in the tenth. From those two we can discern that size is unlikely to be an issue – despite what logic suggests.
Tete will hope Casemiro’s hot streak can rub off onto him. The southpaw hasn’t clicked in his last two bouts (against Omar Narvaez and Mikahil Aloyan). In those contests he found himself stifled and unable to fire away shots with freedom and fluidity; against Aloyan it was a particularly ugly twelve round battle. Casemiro is a classy, proven operator and he’s not one to shirk a challenge – he should help produce a looser style of fighting.
That could play straight into the hands of the champion – he is an explosive puncher when given the chance. Or it could prove to be one almighty banana skin.
Lerrone Richards and Lennox Clarke contest the vacant British super middleweight title. Richards returned to the fold in April with a standout win against Tommy Langford whilst Clarke has been awaiting title opportunities patiently.
Sniper the Boss produced twelve rounds of highly skilled output against Langford to outwit his experienced opponent. His footwork was intelligent and caught the eye; Langford was looking to land a leaning, looping hook and Richards took a step back, out of range. As the contest progressed Richards was more comfortable and stood his ground: countering Langford with precise punches.
Clarke, based in Birmingham, has been in the championship doldrums since his mandated clash with Darryll Williams went awry on multiple occasions. Three routine wins since beating Jahmaine Smyle in a thriller (December 2017) have kept the BCB-managed fighter busy. Against Richards this is a real opportunity to put lost time to rest. The 28 year old has proven himself to be a robust boxer with a strong workrate. He’s a more archetypal “boxer” in the sense that he’ll happily stand and ‘have a go’ so the contest could spark at any time.
A very evenly matched contest which pits more silky ringcraft against a home-brewed fighter – should be a cracker.
Another British title fight sees Sam Bowen defend the super featherweight championship against Anthony Cacace . Cacace, like Lennox Clarke, has had to be patient for this contest to materialise with injuries pushing it back.
27 year old ‘Bullet’ Bowen has rifled his way up the domestic scene since turning professional; he became British champion in his 13th fight. After that he inked a contract with Queensbury Promotions and has added the WBO Inter-Continental title to his collection. Against Jordan McCorry, in March, he responded to a live opponent in good fashion. Initially McCorry was lively and fought in the pocket of Bowen but gradually the champion imposed his superior strength. Bowen beat up the body of his challenger until the referee provided the mercy call in the ninth round.
Cacace and his camp have had flowing confidence in the months since this fight was first announced. The 30 year old was mandated for European titles last year but has pursued the British with a fervent desire. Belfast’s challenger has boxed diligently in his seven years as a professional with a tenth round stoppage over Ronnie Clark a noticeable highlight. His combination of swift hand speed and a calm, measured approach to each contest hasn’t seen him with the opportunities he perhaps deserves. Saturday night will be his second crack at a British title, having lost in 2017, and he’ll be determined to make the most of it.
The third British title affair is between, welterweight champion, Chris Jenkins and his mandatory challenger Liam Taylor . 31 year old Jenkins is enjoying a flourishing ‘Indian Summer’ to his career having won the title back in March. Taylor, from Lancashire, has been mandatory since winning an eliminator contest against Tyrone Nurse in November 2018.
His fight with Nurse was an edgy affair with plenty of nip-and-tuck rounds. Nurse, a former British champion, started off the livelier competitor but Taylor did enough to win the second half of the contest. Since then he’s had a solitary fight, against Edvinas Puplauskas, to keep busy. He poses a more orthodox challenge to Jenkins than the more rough, rugged style of Johnny Garton and Paddy Gallagher.
Jenkins has become used to having a scrap with gritty contests between the aforementioned Garton and Gallagher. The champion went away on holiday following his fight with Gallagher, in August, and is “feeling fresh and rejuvenated”. Throughout his career you can’t say he’s been tepid and everything, including the kitchen sink, will be thrown on Saturday. Another evenly matched fight to get the Birmingham crowd on their feet.
Two WBO European fights also take place: Sam Maxwell (12-0) and Connor Parker (12-0) meet for the super lightweight title whilst Hamzah Sheeraz fights Ryan Kelly for the super welterweight belt.
Maxwell will be in his first televised bout since a shaky encounter with Sabri Sediri in March. A more routine win over Oscar Amador, in July, restored order for the sharp-shooting Liverpudlian.
Parker has had a steady twelve months since winning the Central Area title last September. Four fights totaling 20 rounds have followed, including a win over Des Newton, whilst the southpaw has kept busy. He poses a more upright, orthodox challenge than Maxwell is accustomed too.
20 year old Sheeraz will look to go 10-0 with a win on Saturday night. He’s been matched ambitiously and Ryan Kelly is no man to be sniffed at. Indeed the 25 year old has already impressed under the glare of TV cameras: he swept aside Kelcie Ball within two minutes last September, live on Sky. Sheeraz has impressed since turning pro in 2017 with a gangly, awkward stature. This one could steal the show.
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