By: Oliver McManus
Billed as The Untouchables, Frank Warren presents his first night of boxing in 2018, coming from the iconic York Hall, Bethnal Green, and broadcast live across BT Sport and BoxNation; initially slated for a February 10th date at the Copper Box Arena, the card suffered a setback when headliner Zolani Tete had to withdraw from his WBO Bantamweight defence against Omar Narvaez following an injury to his leg and, then, Bradley Skeete’s opponent withdrew, resulting in us here on the 24th!
That’s the pre-preview complexities done with and now onto the so-called Untouchables of which Anthony Yarde, Daniel Dubois and Zelfa Barrett are touted as – realistically only Yarde and Dubois can lay some claim to such a title but, nonetheless, let’s take a look at the stacked card of action coming our way;
Anthony Yarde has the honour of headlining for the first time in his career and will be facing off against, Frenchman, Tony Averlant in a defence of his WBO European and Inter-Continental titles that he’s held since last year.
Having moved up to Number 3 in the WBO rankings and Number 7 within the IBF, Yarde has captured the attention of the world and will be looking to make a statement in his 15th professional bout, will Averlant be the 13th consecutive Yarde opponent to be stopped within the distance?
Averlant brings with him, across the Thames, a 26-9-2 record with losses scattered all the way across his record – the most recent being in September 201D6 against Dominic Boesel for the WBA Continental and WBO Inter-Continental Light Heavyweight titles, but he’s fought at full European level twice before.
Two inches taller than Yarde, Averlant undoubtedly marks a drop in quality from Nikola Sjekloca – who was Yarde’s last victim, via fourth round TKO – but the Top 75 fighter brings his own unique set of challenges to the explosive power of Frank Warren’s hot prospect;
A left hand that can best be described as enthusiastic will be his main asset, Averlant will look to keep that in Yarde’s face as often as possible in order to disrupt his game-plan, countering it with repetitive right hand jabs. Should Averlant be able to put Yarde off his rhythm then the key will be to keep popping shots into his face as that’s the only way he’ll be able to scupper the expected outcome.
As for Yarde there is no secret that he’s one of the Warren fighters hotly tipped to go all the way and capture a world title within the next 18-24 months and it’s clear to see why given the attributes he possesses;
The muscular stature of the Hackney-born fighter is imposing with the tattooed physique of Yarde looking more reminiscent to that of a cruiserweight as opposed to light-heavy and his hand powers stands further testament to that statement – power personified, Yarde became the first man to stop Sjekloca and has shown no mercy throughout his career as exemplified in his fight with, the vastly underrated, Chris Hobbs back in May last year.
Power isn’t his only asset, however, with the footwork off The Beast being arguably his best skill and one which is far more useful than one-punch knockout power – it’s one thing to knockout an opponent but it’s another to out-skill and embarrass the man.
Should The Beast come through this fight unscathed then 2018 will be set up as a big year and surely the quality of opponent will take a significant step-up after this card – Frank Buglioni for the British title and Karo Murat for the European strap, are just two of the names in the mix.
Daniel Dubois is the next of Warren’s “Untouchables” in a Southern Area heavyweight defence against DL Jones – who’s last fight was a draw against, Dubois’ previous opponent, Dorian Darch – in a contest that provides a plateaued quality of opponent ahead of a calendar year that has promised opponents of constantly-increasing calibre.
Dubois has long drawn the scorn of critics hell-bent on dismissing the 20 year old as nothing but a hype job owing to the destructive nature in which he’s dispatched the six previous men to have entered the ring with him in the paid ranks.
Scuppered twice by last-minute withdrawals – David Howe withdrew from Dubois’ debut fight and an unbeaten Mexican did the same for Triple D’s first title fight for the WBC Youth Heavyweight title – but has still shown raw power despite the opposition.
When fighting Darch, Dubois matched Anthony Joshua’s performance TO THE SECOND by dispatching the Welshman after 51 seconds of the second round against a game, front-footed fighter.
In Jones he faces an unbeaten man looking to protect that 0 – a factor which always brings out extra grit in a fight – who should have won against Darch, but for a points deduction and a flash knockdown in the 2nd;
The Kent-based boxer looks impressive with a 6’5”, 245lbs (112kg) frame but, in spite of his size, lacks any significant power to trouble, even, journeyman such as Tomas Mrazek and Jiri Svacina – Dubois’, on the other hand, already has elite-level power.
46 rounds across his eight fights – all going the distance – has been evidence of Jones’ high work-rate which should be the key test for Dubois in attempting to break-down someone who’s gone eight rounds before and has strong stamina.
Frank Warren has already gone on record as being keen to get his protégé out again as soon as possible with an eye to getting him either on the 14th April World Title double-header at the O2 or the Selby-Warrington undercard on the 19th May.
For Dubois to attempt, at least, to silence his critics he will need to show more of his impeccable dynamism (he’s not called Dynamite for nothing) but, more specifically, his footwork that has impressed the likes of, former World Champion and GB Amateur coach, Richie Woodhall.
Having already imposed his right-hand jab to perfection and drawing comparisons with Lennox Lewis as a direct result, he’ll be looking to pop out the left-hook to effect more frequently at York Hall after punishing Darch with it last time out – all eyes are on Dubois with no-one really expecting Jones to cause an upset so the question is, just how good will Daniel look?
Our final in-depth preview takes a look at the third and final title fight on the bill as Zelfa Barrett battles it out with Ronnie Clarke for the IBF European Super Featherweight title with the winner of this 50-50 domestic dust-up securing a Top 15 world ranking as well as eeking their way closer to a challenge of Kenichi Ogawa’s short tenure as World Champion (unlikely but, hey, stranger things have happened).
Initially slated to face Ivan Ruiz Morote from Spain who is ranked around 350th in the world by BoxRec, the change in opponent means Zelfa Barrett now faces the most credible opponent of his 19 fight professional career.
Clarke, a former British title challenger, represents a whole new array of problems for Barrett who’s yet to be fully pushed to the limit and The Shark has already thought this year – making an outing against Dean Evans on the 3rd February – so is fully fight-fit and ready to launch an assault against Brown Flash’s perfect record.
Despite being 33 the best of Clarke is far from on the other side of the hill with, arguably, his best career performances coming in 2016 when he successfully beat Jordan McCorry for the Scottish Area super-featherweight title and narrowly lost to Martin Joseph Ward for the British version. Two years on and this is his first return to title level but his performances have been convincingly consistent to warrant such a match-up.
Typically a defensive fighter, the Scotsman is a rugged boxer who’s hard to break down so could test Barrett by taking him into the championship rounds – let’s not forget that Barrett has only gone 10 rounds once so is still a relative novice over that distance.
Having said that, Clarke is the first and, so far, only opponent to have dropped Ward in thanks to a scintillating over-head left-hand which goes to prove he’s by no means a one trick pony and if Zelfa decides to take his foot of the gas then, boy, he could be in for 10 rounds of hell.
For Barrett, then, the key is to stick to his basics – work the jab and not let his opposite man settle into any sort of rhythm. Against Chris Conwell last year, for the English title, Barrett was at his most impressive when he was oozing with confidence and able to be light on his feet, working that ramrod left hand into the body and head of the 31 year old whilst remaining fluid enough with his movement to avoid getting tagged.
Boxing at range is what he’s best at so it would be dangerous to get involved into a phone-box fight where he could, unnecessarily, be dragged into danger. Range can often be mistaken for a sign of timidity but for Barrett it allows him to dictate the pace of the fight whilst unloading his stinging left hand hook into the ribcage of his opponent.
Although initially I said this was a 50-50 fight, if you’re going to lean towards someone then it should be Barrett because, on his day, he is easily the best super-featherweight in Britain and to have such a unique combination of lucidity, defensive awareness yet powerful precision and explosive movement ensures a very successful career for the young man – on the proviso, of course, that he comes through this testing bout.
Also on the card; heavyweight Nathan Gorman looks to move to 12-0 following his win over Mo Soltby for the WBC International Silver title back in November whilst Boy Jones Jr (14-1-1) looks to make it four wins on the trot following his loss to Craig Poxton for the Southern Area Super Featherweight title back in February; Archie Sharp continues his ascent of the same weight division by attempting to move 12 and 0 with Ryan “The Piranha” Garner looking to go 7 without defeat in the paid ranks, also in the Super-Featherweight catergory. Umar Sadiq, Harvey Horn and Hamzah Sheeraz are all taking part in their second professional fights at York Hall and will seek to round of a successful night for Frank Warren’s brightest stars.