British Boxing is at a Crossroads
By: Shane Willoughby
British boxing by many was seen as the home of Boxing for the last few years. The large Pay-per-view numbers, the huge crowds attending the fights, and the atmosphere is what separates British boxing from anywhere else.
However since the start of 2019, Boxing in the UK has been on the rocks as most British fighters have decided to venture in the American market. Fighters like Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury have both decided to jump ship and fight in the states.
This has lead to abysmal fight cards in England. Their has only been one Pay-per-view fight in the UK this year. Whilst AJ vs Ruiz was PPV, the fight was in the states which meant the British public had to stay awake until the early hours.
The only PPV fight in the UK this year was Chris Eubank JR vs James Degale and it wasn’t even on Sky or BT sports. Oh Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn you should be ashamed of yourselves.
Whilst many fans will argue, at least we get free boxing. It also means you get fight cards which aren’t very good; fights that are extremely one sided. So the 90,000 fans that Anthony Joshua abandoned to fight in the states have been left to watch undercard fighters try and headline.
It was only a year ago the British fans were seeing Bellew vs Haye 2, Joshua vs Parker, Whyte vs Parker and Groves vs Eubank Jr. Now they get the privilege to watch Ted Cheeseman vs Sergio Garcia and Anthony Yards vs Travis Reeves, how fantastic!
It is extremely clear to see that Eddie Hearn is much more concerned about his billion dollar deal with DAZN than Sky Sports, which to be fair is a great amount of money. So to the thousands of fans that helped Matchroom reach the pinacle of british boxing; Mr Hearn has bigger fish to fry.
British boxing has definitely reached a cross roads; either one of these young and upcoming prospects have to fill the void that the big names have left or British boxing will be heading back to the days of Cleverly vs Bellew 2 and Haye vs Audrey Harrison.
In actual fact, it can be argued that boxing in the UK has already fallen to that level already, because Tyson Fury vs Tom Schwarz is by far the worst PPV in British boxing history.
Well at least there is a semi decent fight card on the 20th July when Dillian Whyte takes on the unbeaten Oscar Rivas and Dave Allen fights David Price. But no offence to Price and Allen but for them to be a co-main event on a PPV is an indicator of how far boxing in England has fallen.
British Warriors Review at York Hall
By: Oliver McManus
British Warriors were at the iconic York Hall last night as they continued their impressive 2018 with a thirteen fight card – originally slated for Elliot Matthews vacant Commonwealth title challenge, alongside Chris Kongo fighting for the Southern Area belt, injury forced those two bouts off but Chris continued as the headliner.
Against Adam Grabiec, 2Slick was looking to move to a perfect 10 and 0 and sought to channel his frustration with his opening flurry of punches – a strong left sent his opponent to the ropes before unleashing a wincing combination to the body of his man.
Any hope that Kongo would replicate his blistering performance last time out – dispatching his man within two minutes – were soon put to bed as the welterweight, looking in supreme shape, opted for a more patient game plan in order to ease his way around the ring.
The combinations kept coming and there was a particularly pleasing right uppercut in the centre of the ring. When opportunities arose he stamped his authority all over the contest, not just through shot selection, but with superior footwork, too.
Controlled aggression was the name of the game from Kongo who looked more impressive with each passing round; picking shots with ease, he looked relaxed in the shoulders and unfurled frighteningly accurate left jabs, enabling him to slam shots into the body before popping up to crack a couple at the head of Grabiec.
Seeking to exploit his uppercut, as the fight progressed, Kongo landed four in a row without reply and it really was proving to be a fine display of everything in his arsenal – the young man already ticking the “yup, he’s got it” box.
A classy outing from Kongo, Grabiec took to the floor in the 6th, writhing with pain, from an apparent knee problem but he arose to finish the fight – frequently kicking out his leg in gestation. It made little impact to Chris who looked in a serene state of mind, a very accomplished performance to claim every round on the card – 60-54.
Denzel Bentley, 5 and 0 in the middleweight division, was up against Daniel Urbanski, 21-24-3, a former Gennady Golovkin opponent of all people. With a monstrous crowd behind him, Bentley wasted no time in getting straight down to business as he exploded into the centre of the ring with a searching right hand dropping Urbanski almost immediately. Urbanski climbed up off the canvas but almost as quickly as he was up, BAM, he was down again as Bentley sent another combination of shots his way… a third time in the space of sixty one seconds would prove to enough with Urbanski being counted out of the contest in what was a brutal demonstration of power from “2Sharp”.
Speaking to me after the fight, Bentley said “I hit him with a right hand and he went down, at that moment I could tell it wouldn’t last long, and to be honest I thought “ah no, not another one” because I’ve got four knockouts, the last fight I had was the first that went the distance and I learnt so much from that so I was hoping for some more rounds”
“The thing is, it’s hard to take anything from those sixty seconds because it is what it is, I enjoyed my last fight (against Christian Hoskin Gomez) more than any of the knockouts because it let me do my thing and get the rounds. It’s nice to put on a lengthy show”.
“There’s something in these hands, Urbanski is older now, 12 years older than when he fought Golovkin, but I’m just saying, took him out quicker than GGG!”.
“I’m looking at the Southern Area, Linus Udofia vs Tey Lynn Jones, I don’t care who wins because I just want the belt. I’ve got no desire to fight them if they don’t have a belt because that’s all I want. So hopefully I’ll get rounds in when I’m next out, in December, and then build to bigger things”.
The penultimate bout of the evening saw a terrific contest between, two debutants, Mac Pemhiwa and Conor Hinds as both come out swinging with bad intentions. Hinds appeared to be more wild and violent with his shots whilst Pemhiwa made good use of the uppercut as his opponent looked to work the body.
The support was loud for both but it was the away fighter, Pemhiwa, who appeared to be more composed over the first couple rounds and with them both going on the attack, Hinds left his hands down low which enabled Pemhiwa to rally to claim a strong second round.
Into the third we went and more drama unfolded as Hinds, who appeared to be fatigued, made the most of his moment when Pemhiwa punched himself out. 1, 2, 3 unanswered shots pushed Mac back to the ropes before repeated, alternating shots to either side of the head saw his neck snap violently back and the referee stepped in to wave the contest off. Conor Hinds with a third round TKO.
Alfie Price bounced straight into his third professional contest, against Innocent Anywanu, in the same fashion in which he finished his last – throwing shots to the body and openly looking for the stoppage. Anyanwu looked rocked early on, surprised by the fast start of Price, and the young 140lb-er led with a ramrod right jab, frequenting that with a snapping left to break the guard of his experienced opponent.
Settling into a rhythm relatively soon, Price worked the angles for the remaining rounds and worked some nice combinations, launching several salvos of hooks from a slightly crouched position and looking comfortable throughout. 60-54 for Price as he moved to 3 and 0.
Price told me afterwards, “I think I boxed really nice, I was composed and I sat on my shots. To be honest with you Ollie, we speak about knockouts a lot me and you, I thought that I was patient in that fight. After the first couple minutes, I settled down and boxed for the points win. I did it in good fashion, I want a knockout victory but I’ve learnt that you make mistakes from that and I’ll take the knockout when it comes but I won’t go searching for it.”
Jez Smith took on Anthony Hardy over eight rounds in the welterweight division and Hardy looked fresh in the opening couple rounds – it was nip and tuck but the Hitman looked gritty and gutsy. Smith, in the third, started to crank up the tempo and boxed into his own style as he dropped his man twice – though one was ruled a push.
In the fourth round, Smith emerged looking to really work the jab and rarely missed the target as he out-manoeuvred a game opponent who, himself, was looking to work the angles and create opportunities of his own. Several shots to the eye of Hardy, who has just undergone laser eye surgery, seemed to do the toll and it was the fifth round that saw Smith really start to unwind. Hardy hit the canvas and didn’t beat the count on the second occasion; Jez Smith looked impressive and showed he packs serious power but Anthony Hardy put in a warriors display and remained magnanimous in defeat – both these fellas look to have a bright future.
Across the rest of the card, Mason Smith impressed on his debut as he mauled Rudolf Durica throughout the four rounds, looking far too strong for his man to claim the win by 40 points to 36; Mitchell Preedy signalled his intent early on and with a vocal support he secured a comfortable 40-36 win; Louis Lye, also making his debut, put in a phenomenal performance to knockout Norbert Szekeres in the second round thanks to scintillating body shots; Jan Balog landed a peach of a looping left to secure an upset win over Davis Pagan thanks to a second round KO; there were 40-36 points wins for both Fuuad “The Pirate” Husseen” and Alec Bishop whilst Taran Willett moved to 3 and 0 as a pro with a 40-35 victory and Richard Harrison won the “battle of journeyman” with a 40-37 victory over Haroon Karim.
A simply brilliant night of entertainment that produced thirteen absolutely cracking contests – we had knockouts, upsets, flamboyance, arrogance, a pirate ring walk, humility, serious prospects and major talent on display. You cannot ask for any more.
British Prospects to Watch
By: Oliver McManus
With so many young prospects coming through the ranks in British boxing it’s hard to come up with new categories for these articles so I’m not even going to try – here are just five of the most eye-catching prospects in British boxing as it stands –
Photo of Tey Lynn Jones
‘Sniper the Boss’ seems to be, to me at least, the forgotten man from Frank Warren’s stable of fighters and I mean that in the nicest way possible because for someone of his talent he’s getting very little in way of opportunities from his promoter.
Campaigning at super middleweight, the 25 year old looked like kicking on when he won, Warren’s trademark, WBO European title in November of last year but since then his progress has stagnated with just a single six rounder to his name this year.
None of that is Richards’ fault who, earlier this year, told me he wanted a shot at the English title by the end of 2018 and you’d suggest, certainly, on his talent that he is a man more than deserving of such a fight.
Incredibly mature in the ring with a strong, established jab and fantastic amateur pedigree, Richards is a commanding presence at the centre of the canvas, working the angles, cutting of the ring with ease and packing a ferocious left hand.
Having sparred with the likes of George Groves and Lerrone Richards there can be no doubting his class in the ring and, hopefully, it’s only a matter of time before we see him getting the opportunities he deserves.
Possibly the classiest man both inside and outside of the ring, Umar Sadiq has already attracted a huge fan base thanks to his impressive performances and innovative use of social media.
It sounds like something so simple but ‘Top Boxer’, as he’s known, really has mastered Twitter and YouTube in order to connect with his fans – myself, included – and whilst I’ve wanted to interview him for quite some time, I’ve not managed to do so yet, his manner in everyday life makes it, near, impossible to not want him to do well.
That’s all by the by, however, what really matters is his ability in the ring and having come from a strong amateur background he already looks at ease, moving through the motions quickly, and stamping his authority over his three opponents thus far.
Back in June Umar looked at his most complete, yet, with a masterful control of the fight tempo, insightful shot select before unfurling a vicious left hook into the body of Kamil Al Temimi to send the Polish fighter crumpling to the canvas with consummate ease.
Arguably the most terrifying thing about Sadiq is that he’s not even looked out of breath upon the conclusion of his three professional fights – I know they’ve only been four and six rounders, thus far, but it bodes well for the big bouts.
Targeting a clash with “Chihuahua” Darryll Williams, Sadiq looks likely to face Zak Chelli next in October but his rise to the top is surely going to be as quick as it will be stylish and sophisticated.
Explosivity personified, Dan Azeez is part of Britain’s burgeoning light-heavyweight scene looking to force their way into title contention and with the Southern Area belt currently vacant then your money would be firmly on Azeez to be the next champ.
Backed by the big boys at MTK Global, Azeez dropped his first three opponents a total of six times to instantly raise the eyebrows of many a fan and fighting with such fierce regularity – September 21st will be his fifth fight in just over six months – ensures that his development is constant, he’s always learning, there is no standstill for Dan Azeez.
And that last fight, on July 13th, against Adam Jones was a fight where you could see Dan thinking on the job, having to adapt, you could see all his training coming to the fore because, as much as I wanted to see a fourth knockout on the trot, Jones was awkward and forced Dan to go one step further than his comfort zone and, ultimately, it’ll pay off in the long run.
Stepping up to six rounds in his next outing, I’m torn between whether I want to see more of that vicious punch power – which we all know Dan possesses in spades – or if I want to see him in with those opponents that are going to be awkward, aren’t really going to come to fight because as boring as that sounds and as bad it would be, these fights are going to test Dan but my money says, regardless of opponent, he will always find an avenue to launch that knockout shot because he is just constantly thinking, he’s a smart boxer and I, for one, cannot wait to see him knocking on the door for those titles.
Tey Lynn Jones
Southern Area middleweight champion Tey Lynn Jones makes this “prospect” list despite already being quite established in the domestic scene because, to be honest, he has just got bags and bags of potential.
In claiming the Southern Area crown against MH Legg earlier in the year he looked destructive, dropping Legg in the first round and easing his way to the win – Legg retired after the seventh – but his first defence, against Darren Codona was, by reports, not entirely convincing.
Now I don’t mean that to sound horrible, you’re allowed off nights, and having first seen Tey back in February 2017 it would be impossible to deny just how far he’s come in that, relatively, short space of time.
‘Teysty’ is no longer rushing his shots, he’s taking his time and remaining patient but, in equal measure, he’s not afraid to go for the stoppage when there’s blood in the water and he’s always looking to exploit his opponents weakness – I think that’s, for me, one of the most tell-tale signs that the 24 year old has learnt SO MUCH since his loss to Nicky Jenman in March last year.
He’s gone away, worked his nut off, thought “okay, how can I get better?” and is now reaping the rewards so hat’s off to him and for as long as he stays in these title fights then he’ll always be pushing himself to get better and there’s some real good opportunities out there for the Essex man to push his name up the rankings.
Chris Billam Smith
Now Chris Billam Smith is a man I have been excited about for a long time and I know Barry McGuigan shares that excitement so the young cruiserweight must be doing something right!
I’ve said it before but the Bournemouth man has a style that makes you want to watch him, his fast footwork makes him hard to hit but his long, lanky – in a nice way – stature means you’re seemingly never out of his reach and when he starts to get into his rhythm he packs one hell of a right hook.
A fighter who prominently targets the body of an opponent, Billam Smith has mastered the art of teeing up the shot with sharp combinations to the head before dropping down and slamming home that right hand into the ribcage of his opposite man.
Last time out the 28 year kid faced Michal Plesnik and was convincing on his way to securing a shut-out points victory over eight rounds, setting him up nicely for title challenges and I like that every time you see him out in the ring you see his boxing maturity, he doesn’t rush shots to try to force the stoppage but is patient in working the angles and that is a characteristic that, more often than not, brings success.
They call him the gentleman but, trust me, there’s nothing chivalrous about him when he’s in the ring!y
I trailed this piece on Twitter by asking what these guys had in common and whilst I’m sure they’ll probably have quite a lot in common, the main factor is that they’re just ridiculously good fighters so make sure you keep an eye on them before the whole bandwagon rolls in.
British Prospects Shine in York Hall
By: Oliver McManus
York Hall, Bethnal Green, was the location for the latest British Warriors promotion – entitled The Big Bang, twelve of Britain’s most exciting prospects descended on the iconic venue to showcase their skills and the night produced contest after contest.
Jake Anthony opened the night with a four round bout against, former Central Area Champion, Darryl Sharp. Anthony, a 19 year old from Wales, controlled the fight from the off with a commanding work-rate and evasive footwork. The key to Anthony’s success was a simple jab used to good effect, doubling up in the face of Sharp to, ironically, make Jake the sharper of the two men. A 40-37 points victory saw Anthony improve his record to 2 and 0.
Moving into the night we witnessed Jeff Ofori ahead of his showdown with Jumaane Camero for the Southern Area Lightweight belt, he was in with Luke Fash (2-41-2) over a scheduled six rounds tonight and Jeff took to the centre of the ring immediately, relentlessly throwing out his jab, mirroring the footwork of his opponent to good effect.
Fash fought clever and dirty, not illegally, in the clinch but Ofori remained calm, starting to explode into life every time he was tested with a particular target area to the body of Fash, sickening punches landing and, whilst the uppercut could have been used to better effect, Ofori was beating Fash to every punch and making him pay.
To all intents and purposes this was a lesson in composure with the superior work-rate being carried out by Ofori before the Tottenham-resident emerged in the fourth round a man possessed, determined to get the stoppage, working all sorts of angles and landing a phenomenal series of punches to force the referee to intervene and plead the mercy rule.
A fourth round TKO for Jeff extended his record to 7 and 0 as a professional and I caught up with him after the bout;
“As soon as I went out there I thought I was going to work my jab and he ate the first two, I was getting a good rhythm, and he kept getting caught with the jab so I thought he was going to try and catch me over the top. His head was really hard but when I hit him with the body shot I knew the stoppage was going to come… I thought they should have stopped it earlier”.
Talking about that fight with Jumaane Camero, Jeff was having none of it when I asked him if he thought he could win…
“Ollie, Ollie, of course I do, you are insulting my intelligence, of course I will. You want to be there Ollie”.
Good job Jeff and I get on well, then.
Alfie Price competed over four rounds against the durable journeyman Fonz Alexander, 5 wins and 83 losses, with Price keen to get a knockout victory.
When the bell rang to signal the start of the contest Price kept the bout at distance, boxing at range and his classy boxing skills were clear to see – this is a man who has sparred with the likes of Jorge Linares and Ohara Davies.
The measured approach of the southpaw super lightweight was producing success and some fizzing left hands and fast, flirtatious, combinations, kept his challenger on the ropes. A BIG smile began to emerge on the face of Alfie as he produced two right hook ‘albatross’ punches and began to really enjoy the fight, teeing off on the body of Alexander.
Concussive combinations against a durable opponent began to turn this into a Western-esque standoff as Price went BAM BAM BAM against the granite chin of Fonz. Truth be told he probably deserved the knockout but a 40-36 points victory was enough to enhance his record to 2 and 0.
Talking to me afterwards he said;
“I thought I boxed pretty well, I was staying composed, with the first fight I thought I was trying to hard but I found my range early on and I fought really well… I’m not too bothered (about not getting the knockout) because I put on a really good boxing display, I teared him apart and I know I’ve got the power to produce knockouts when I really get going”.
Daren Gibbons was up against, debut-maker, Aaron Green with Gibbons looking to go 3 and 0 as a professional over the course of 4, 3 minute rounds.
Gibbons, the taller man, was drawn into a fire fight from the off with Green not shying from the occasion, firing with rapid right hands, a smirk emerged on the face of Green, swiftly dented by a furious counter flurry from Gibbons.
Green rallied and a scintillating salvo resulted in a dazed Gibbons losing his gum-shield.
An overhand right followed by a prolonged attack to the body saw Green crumple to the canvas and the fight was waved off in the first round – a real flash-in-the-pan war. But what a fight this was.
Alex Bishop made his debut and brought big support from Luton as he fought Rudolf Durica, who had only been knocked out once, with Bishop’s kickboxing background standing him in good stead as he proved the aggressor throughout, utilizing a beautiful left hand to keep a sustained rate of pressure and high tempo throughout to come away from the fight with a convincing, CONVINCING, points victory.
Chris Kongo returned to the ring in a six rounder and looked in imperious physique – ‘2Slick’ looked, well, just that. He looked too slick for his opponent and with an explosive first thirty seconds, he shellacked his man into the neutral corner, dropping Mitiev to the floor within 70 seconds to establish, firmly, why he is such a hotly-tipped talent.
Ryan Charles was another man on the bill looking to make a statement and, having been scheduled at cruiserweight, Charles took the decision to stay busy in a heavyweight fight against Phil Williams in a fight that saw the former amateur-star going through the motions, working the jab, testing out combinations and just polishing his development – a good victory.
He told me;
“Yeah I thought I did well, I think I could have boxed a lot better, I know my capabilities, I got the win and I’m happy. I just couldn’t get the weight down in time but I wanted to fight so I’ll look better at cruiser, I’m hoping to get some titles next year but 2018 is all about keeping busy and learning with every fight”.
British Warriors living up to their name, then, warrior after warrior and fight after fight. If you want small-hall shows doing it big then look no further than Mo Prior and British Warriors because, as it stands, they’re the best around.
Five Fighters to Watch in the United Kingdom
By: Oliver McManus
British boxing has got it GOOD at the moment, you’d go as far as to say we’ve never had it any better but it’s not just at the top with Anthony Joshua, Dillian Whyte and Tony Bellew in which we’re excelling, there’s talent across the board and here are five of the best lower weight class fighters you’d be a fool not to keep an eye on.
*DISCLAIMER* Lower weight = Super lightweight and under
QAIS ASHFAQ – Bantamweight
Gold medallist at the 2011 Commonwealth Youth Games, Silver in the 2014 Commonwealth’s and 2015 European Amateur’s and a bronze at the 2015 European Games, Qais Ashfaq left a mark on the amateur scene and there’s no doubt he’ll do the same in the pro ranks.
Initially signing a deal last year with Hayemaker Ringstar, Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing announced the signing of Ashfaq in February of this year and quickly set him to work against a durable Brett Fidoe.
A comfortable points victory put the bantamweight on the path to glory. Now 2 and 0 – thanks to a victory over Ricky Starkey in April – the 25 year old has already shown over the course of eight rounds just why he is such a hotly tipped fighter.
Fast with the feet, his game is all about dominating his opponent with superior movement, bouncing around the ring, before landing some crushing counter-punches. The style has brought him incredible success and being a pressure fighter with lightning fast hand speed, Ashfaq is always going to be one of those fighters you just love to watch.
JEFF OFORI – Super Featherweight
King Jeffy, as he’s known, Ofori made his debut in May of last year and has notched his way to five victories without defeat since – his 6th bout will come this weekend (May 19th) and in only his second bout at Super Featherweight he’ll be looking to send some statements.
A dominant third round TKO victory over Aleksandrs Birkenbergs in April saw Ofori display expertly the sort of power needed to mix it at the top but most impressive was his temperament to deal with an awkward opponent who came to duck and weave.
Ofori, himself, was critical and said he thought he tried too hard in the first couple of rounds to get the stoppage and whilst that may be true, the Tottenham-fighter kept a cool head when it came to crunch time to lay it on the Latvian and give, referee, Mark Bates no choice but to stop it.
Targeting a Southern Area title by the end of the year, there’s no doubt in my mind that Jeffy is just going to keep better with every fight he has – who knows where he can end up…
RYAN GARNER – Super Featherweight
It’s not hard to understand why Ryan Garner is known as The Piranha given the ferocious way in which he attacks his opponents in the ring.
With seven fights under his belt, the 20 year old is already learning more than you do at University and the maturity developed within the ring is clear to see since he initially turned pro back in the summer of 2016.
A patient fighter, the former junior European amateur champion, is already experienced enough to know when to step on the gas and punish his opponent but, equally, when to take a breather and just play the waiting game.
An enforced sixth month absence from the ring, due to personal issues, has only made the Piranha even hungrier and his display against Lesther Cantillano on February 24th was a perfect example of a boxer looking to go places – he showed in that fight that not only does he pack a really solid flurry of punches capable of stopping his man but, more importantly, he has the technical ability to outbox opponents.
When you can whack, dance, and out-work those who step in the ring then you’re very unlikely to taste defeat and, luckily, for Ryan he has all of that. Let’s not forget he’s only 20, too, so he’s going to get so much better as the years progress… it’s almost scary!
ARCHIE SHARP – Super Featherweight
Dubbed “the best kept secret in British boxing” by his promoter Frank Warren, Archie Sharp is a super featherweight on a mission and at 23 years of age there’s plenty of time, for the 12 and 0 Super Feather, to create his legacy.
Nine years in the amateur ranks saw him pick up nine national junior titles and Sharpshooter has wasted no time in racking up win after win in the professional game.
A clever fighter with fluid movement, Sharp takes to the centre of the ring from the outset in an attempt to draw his opponent into a proper fight and against tough, durable, journeyman Sharp has found considerable success when targeting the body of his opponent – often sending them crumpling to the canvas. Seven of his triumphs have come via knockout.
Having stepped up to eight rounds for the first time last year there can be no question marks about his stamina with Archie having the energy of a puppy throughout his eight round points victory over Rafael Castillo back in December.
Indeed the young whipper snapper isn’t far away from competing for his first title and with the widely held belief being that the classier his opponent, the better Sharp will look, he really is Hollywood.
BRING IT ON, that’s all I can say!
SAM MAXWELL – Super Lightweight
Now Sam Maxwell *just* makes the upper limit for this list and that’s not something that happened on purpose, it was a decision made beforehand that only fighters up to Super Lightweight would be included and, boy, what a decision it was because Sam Maxwell is of the most exciting boxers building a profile in the United Kingdom at the moment.
Having turned pro in October of last year the MTK Global fighter has shot to seven victories in double-quick time with the former Great British Lionhearts fighter recording six knockout’s along the way.
Already having fought on the undercard of a world title fight – that between Manuel Charr and Alexander Ustinov – Maxwell is no stranger to the big stage and, indeed, when thrust into the limelight at the SSE Arena on April 21st this year he blasted out Michael Isaac Carrero in less than sixty seconds.
The bruising super-middle is causing a stir in the domestic scene, he’ll be next out on June 9th as part of Frank Warren’s Manchester promotion and there’s a very real chance that the 29 year old Liverpool-resident will send a thunderous statement as he looks to gate-crash his way to the top of an, already bustling, British super lightweight division.
I’m only allowed five main fighters to pick but I can’t let this finish without mentioning two classy, classy fighters in Osman Aslam a 12-0 super bantamweight who brings a whole new definition to the word “technical fighter”, his movement is sublime and his shot selection incredible; and Ukashir Farooq the Scottish Area Bantamweight kingpin waiting for his postponed title tilt against Josh Wale, at just 22 Farooq still has a lot of learning to do but with experience under his belt he could well live up to his nickname – Untouchable.
NOW that’s just scratching the surface of lower weight fighters that should be in the spotlight but we’d be here all day if I was to talk about everyone with bags of talent so I implore you to get down to the small hall’s, see boxing at its purest and discover someone worth talking about because, I can’t say this enough, British boxing is having the time of it’s life!
The Current British Heavyweight Scene
By: Oliver McManus
On the face of it Britain should be a haven for heavyweight boxing – in a division where, outside the Top 10, the quality is somewhat questionable – with global superstar Anthony Joshua being the most marketable man in the sport, arguably in ANY sport.
The unified WBA, IBF and IBO Champion is able to sell out 80,000, 100,000 arenas without named opponents due to the sheer levels that he has pushed himself to and looks set to be THE most successful British boxer for the foreseeable future.
Underneath AJ’s glory, however, belies a mixed picture with the only real challenger being Dillian Whyte who has power to challenge anyone in the division but has been found to be lacking in explosiveness when it comes to the highest level.
A split decision victory over Dereck Chisora – which many felt Chisora had won – was the first sign of armoury chinks and these were further exemplified during a lacklustre points win against Robert Helenius.
Nonetheless the 29-year-old has established himself as an incredibly avoided fighter with prospective opponents stalling in contract talks and Deontay Wilder demanding a monumental $7million in order to entertain Eddie Hearn’s man.
Lucas Browne is his next opponent at the 02 on March 24th in what promises to be an explosive (scheduled) 12 rounder but, let’s be honest, if this goes the distance then something’s gone awry. A win over Browne, in the Australian’s second fight since being suspended for drugs, would solidify his name in all four governing bodies rankings and ensure his next fight was of the World Title variety – Joseph Parker he’d surely beat but, for now, AJ and The Bronze Bomber remain a step above Whyte’s artillery.
The next supposed challenger is Tony Bellew who’s been running his mouth calling out Parker, the WBO Champion, after a surprise victory over David Haye last year – a rematch is scheduled for March 5th – and I’m by no means a Haye fan but let’s be clear, Bellew took 11 rounds to knock out an out-of-shape, one-legged David Haye and was far from convincing in his execution.
Having said that he must be respected for the level of heart he has shown throughout his career but, if you ask me, his Mr Nice Guy, fairy-tale story is rather hard to swallow. He’s made a very calculated decision by marketing himself as a “fat cruiserweight” because it ensures he has nothing to lose;
The current cruiserweight champions (Lebedev, Dorticos, Briedis, Gassiev and Usyk) all have Bellew’s number, in my opinion, and if he were to return to his conventional weight, I suspect, he’d be found lacking. Staying at heavyweight, however, and by positioning himself as the plucky chancer means that if he loses he gets all the plaudits for having a go, not being a “true” heavyweight but, if he wins, then the achievement is magnified tenfold – and who can blame him?
Echeloned just below rest Dereck Chisora, David Haye and David Price whose own individual ability varies greatly but are collated due to the fact that they now come under the category of gatekeepers looking for one last payday.
Haye has already achieved that lucrative fight in his rematch with Tony Bellew but should he come through that then he’ll be chasing Anthony Joshua in a stadium-fight that would, presumably, better all his previous fights earnings put together; Chisora is looking to square up with Dillian Whyte again and avenge his split decision loss but, frankly, his last performance against Agit Kabayel only went to reinforce suggestions that he no longer possessed motivation for the big fights; David Price is a man that is past it but keeps on coming back even after heavy losses to Tony Thompson, Erkan Teper and Christian Hammer, insisting that THIS time he is destined for the top. If Tyson Fury makes a comeback, there’s lots of people who anticipate this matchup but, aside from that, I can’t see him going anywhere past domestic level.
With all that in mind let’s not forget that this is heavyweight boxing, one punch changes anything, and both Chisora and Haye still have incredible power capable of spinning the jaw of those at the very top – we could still see a resurgence from the pair.
Talking about the domestic scene is something that gets me incredibly passionate because even though it’s a whole different quality in comparison to the European-World level fighters featured above, it is undeniably a far more competitive, arguably, enjoyable subdivision to pay attention to.
Sam Sexton is, for me, far better than his record of 24-3 suggest with the only real names from those 24 wins being Martin Rogan and Gary Cornish but a man who has won Commonwealth and British Heavyweight titles is never to be sniffed at. With time not in his side, aged 33, it’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here but defending the British title is honour enough for the Norfolk-man and a privilege that isn’t bestowed upon many.
At a level where no-one really knows how good they are is Dave Allen who, and this bit is no secret, has one of the toughest chins in world boxing – Luis Ortiz couldn’t drop the man, for heaven’s sake! One of the nicest men in boxing, he himself has admitted to lacking motivation at times and his performance against Lenroy Thomas for the Commonwealth title was disappointing but no more so than the postponement of that rematch and, now, the indecision from Thomas’ camp as to whether or not they wish to have a rematch at all.
Still aged just 25 he’s been in with Whyte and Ortiz and garnered a great deal of respect for his courage and bravery. Blessed with raw boxing ability, we’ve yet to see what a fully focussed White Rhino is capable of but it’s time the people’s champion became THE champion and added a few belts to his collection.
The English title scene is currently residing in the bizarre depot with Nick Webb having been mandate to fight for belt for the past four months – initially against Nathan Gorman in a fight that was scheduled for November, before Gorman withdrew to “pursue other routes”. Daniel Dubois was next to be issued the challenge but according to, Dubois’ promoter, Frank Warren, Webb “priced himself out”. So, here we are, with Nathan Gorman yet again mandated to fight Nick Webb for the English title and thusly the merry-go-round continues.
I think Nick Webb is an underrated commodity in the domestic rankings given the raw power he possess but Gorman is someone who looks to be going places further than the mere regional and national titles – mentored by Ricky Hatton, the 21-year-old was convincing in his win against Mo Soltby last November and is looking to push on in 2018 to climb up the rankings with the WBC (where he is currently 37th).
Finally we move to the two hottest prospects in British, nay, World Heavyweight boxing with Joe Joyce and Daniel Dubois.
Both men are proving hard to match-make although Dubois has the advantage of being 12 years younger than Joyce who’s 32 meaning he can take the progression a tad slower. Joyce on the other hand has to move quick as is evident from his debut fight against Ian Lewison – a bold move for anyone other than those with resounding confidence.
Triple D is without a doubt going to be challenging for a world title in a couple of years and has comfortably demolished with his six opponents all inside the distance – making decent area level fighters look like rank amateurs. David Allen, Gary Cornish and Sam Sexton are all reported to have turned down offers to fight the man so it’s certainly not as though his promotional team aren’t trying to get him in bigger fights.
I’ve got in on good authority that his next fight, a Southern Area title defence, against DL Jones will see Jones earning in the region of £11,000 – £14,000 which is a sum belonging to fights far above the stature of the Southern Area but just goes to show how avoided Dubois is becoming – having such a hot prospect doesn’t come cheap!
And that is my lowdown on the British heavyweight scene – I hope I didn’t get too personal with any of the fighters in question but it’s something I’m extremely passionate about. The domestic level is full of underrated men capable of making an impact and the quality runs deep so next time someone mentions Anthony Joshua just stop for a minute and think of all the other Brits making their own path in his shadow because following on from the legacy of AJ will be a whole new breed of history-makers.
British Boxers to Watch
By: Oliver McManus
Boxing in Britain is burgeoning at the present moment with no less than eight world champions ranging from featherweight all the way up to Anthony Joshua’s two heavyweight straps – but it’s not all about those at the top, there’s a plethora of young talent looking to make their mark in the ring so with that in mind let’s take a look at some of the most exciting prospects in British boxing.
The first talent goes by the name of Chris Billam Smith, a former English Amateur heavyweight champion, fighting in the cruiserweight division; with Lawrence Okolie and Isaac Chamberlain having the spotlight shone on their rivalry, Billam Smith is flying under the radar in the hotly-contested weight class.
Born in Bournemouth, the orthodox fighter turned professional fighter back in September under the management of Cyclone Promotions and has since move to a 4 and 0 record with all wins coming by way of knockout – for further comparison he fought Russ Henshaw in his debut bout, an opponent who Okolie and Chamberlain faced in their fourth and fifth fights respectively.
Known as The Gentleman , there’s nothing chivalrous about the manner in which he’s dispatched those that dare to get in the ring with the youngster already showcasing a full range of skills that are destined to take him far – a prolific body puncher, his right hand hook is ferocious to say least and enough to send anyone crumpling to the canvas.
It’s a boxing cliché that “styles make fights” but Billam Smith has one of the most appealing styles on the domestic scene across all weight divisions with fast footwork and a long lanky stature making him hard to hit yet easy to avoid.
An intriguing fight that could find itself in the works for 2018 is Billam Smith against Wadi Camacho for the Southern Area Cruiserweight title – a real domestic dust-up that would give the young cruiserweight a real platform to progress and given that he’s already stated he wants to be challenging for an English or Commonwealth title by the end of next year, it’s clear to see he’ll be rising the ranks rather quickly.
Daniel Dubois – Heavyweight
Daniel ‘Dynamite’ Dubois is only 20 years old but since turning professional with Frank Warren back in April he’s established himself as one of the most exciting prospects in all of heavyweight boxing; David Allen, Sam Sexton and Gary Cornish are all reported to have turned down fights with the 6ft 5inch Englishman.
Packing a powerful right hand jab, his former amateur coach Richie Woodhall has tipped the youngster to reach the Top 15 by the end of next year and Dubois himself states that he’s on a mission to claim “all the belts”.
The level of opposition he’s faced has drawn criticism from some areas of the boxing fraternity but for a 5-0 fighter with little amateur experience, it’s hard to pour scorn on the quality of opponent or, indeed, the manner in which Dubois has dispatched with them.
AJ Carter was the last man to step into the ring with the Greenwich-born fighter and felt the power of Dubois immediately with a thunderous right hand sending Carter to the canvas in a fight which secured Dubois the Southern Area Heavyweight Championship.
An underrated asset to Triple D is his footwork which, admittedly, isn’t lightning fast but moreover tactical in order to evade getting hit from his opposing foe – let’s not forget he’s only 20 and has got plenty of years ahead to improve on these already honed attributes.
Reported to have dropped Anthony Joshua in sparring, Frank Warren’s protégé fights Dorian Darch on the 9th December and is slated to battle for the English Heavyweight title in the early stages of next year – from there, anything is possible.
Chantelle Cameron – Women’s Lightweight
Wham Bam Chan, the 26 year old is the pick of British female boxers coming through the ranks although with Katie Taylor (admittedly Irish), Nicola Adams and Ashley Brace all rising rapidly it’s becoming a bit of a crowded scene.
From five fights since turning professional in May, Cameron has knocked out four opponents with the only fight going the distance being her debut against Karina Kopinska – a devastating display of her rapid, concussive punching style with a work-rate that, gym-mate, Josh Taylor admits pushes him to the limit during training.
Another boxer promoted by Blain McGuigan, the Northamptonshire fighter has already established herself as someone able to sell tickets as well as draw TV audiences thanks to her humble nature and easy-on-the-eye performances.
Having already ascended to the top of the lightweight division her last fight was for the IBO World Title where she became the first woman to stop Viviane Obenauf – something Katie Taylor failed to do.
Always smiling there’s a chilling coolness about Cameron as she looks to continually impose herself on her opposing corner, making sure to take to the centre of the ring with an array of commanding jabs and strong right hands to the body keeping her in control at all times.
2018 promises to be Chantelle Cameron’s year with challenges for major world titles sure to come and potentially a unification grudge match with Katie Taylor – if anyone still has their doubts about women’s boxing then Chantelle Cameron is the woman to change attitudes.
Lucas Ballingall – Super Featherweight
Probably the least heard of fighter to be featured, Lucas Ballingall has made his name boxing in and around the South of England with many suggesting he’s got the skills to challenge at the top – domestically, at least.
Despite the plaudits coming his way from die-hard boxing fans the 21 year old has yet to make his television debut – not that needs to be a barometer of quality – but has moved to an 8-0 record since turning pro in 2015 with this year being one where he’s sort to push on, three wins from three fights in 2017 suggest his career is headed in the right direction.
Whilst none of his opponents have been household names by any means none of them have been walkovers with all being considered durable, tough, gritty, journeyman who come to fight not to pick up a pay-check and rollover.
Pretty Boy, as he’s known, leads with the right but has a penchant for dropping down in stature and firing away two or three left handers to the ribs in order to fatigue the opponent – his latest fight, in November, was a textbook display of out-and-out aggression, keeping the fighter on the ropes, pummelling shots to head and body in order to win by a 2nd round knockout.
The eye catching work from the Portsmouth super featherweight is often the simple stuff that he manages to make look like an art-form, the way he throws the jab and bounces his way around the ring is purely beautiful to watch and has already garnered him an army of fans back in Pompey.
The super featherweight division has several young fighters coming through with Zelfa Barret and Leon Woodstock all joining Ballingall as British boxers on the ascendancy but with Barret and Woodstock all signed up to high-profile promotional deals, Ballingall is having to go about this the hard way – keep an eye out as he progresses through the rank across the next calendar year.
Josh Kelly – Welterweight
Perhaps the pick of Eddie Hearn’s “NXTGEN” products, Josh Kelly is a distinguished amateur fighter having competed at the Rio Olympics as well as bringing home a Bronze medal from the 2015 European Games for the Great British amateur team.
Turning his attention to the paid ranks at the turn of the year, PBK (Pretty Boy Kelly) made his professional debut and since then has fought four times with four increasingly impressive victories coming his way.
Such is the esteem that he’s held in, there’s been no mucking about in terms of opponents with them all having a winning record and, to all intents and purposes, being no pushovers; his next fight on the 13th December sees him take a step up against Jean Michel Hamilcaro, a former IBF International title holder, who’s floating around the Top 125.
The inventor of the ‘albatross punch’, Kelly does not box by the book with him often standing statuesque in the middle of the ring, baiting the opponent, before ducking and weaving with his hands down by his side in a display of sheer outlandish audacity.
When he gets those hands into play, however, he packs magic in them; against Tom Whitfield in June, he dropped his man to the canvas with EIGHT consecutive left hand power shots to the body. As an opponent it’s hard to prepare for facing Pretty Boy because you simply have no idea what he’s going to throw at you.
From Sunderland, the 23 year old has been the motivation behind Eddie Hearn’s desire to bring boxing back more regularly to the North-East of England and if Kelly can keep the eye-catching, headline-grabbing performances coming than it won’t be long before he’s headlining in his own backyard.
There’s been talk of title shots in 2018, with no specification as to which title, but the most likely route is for Kelly to battle it out domestically in order to solidify his standing before pushing onto loftier heights towards the back end of the year moving into 2019.
So there you have it, five of the most exciting British boxers to keep an eye on in 2018 and beyond – the list could have seen 10, 15, 20 names make the cut – giving reason to be more than a little positive about the state of boxing in Britain with so many young talents coming through, who knows, this time next year we could be looking at five more world champions.
Fury – Joshua | The Great and the Glorious
Fury – Joshua | The Great and the Glorious
By: Courtney Riley
Fighters work their whole lives, shedding gallons upon gallons of bodily fluids, to make their ascension to the summit of the sport by becoming the champ – the man who sits above the pile of hungry contenders who are steadily vying for their own chance at glory. Glory, however, comes from a victory in a title fight whereas greatness is attained from the actions that are taken thereafter. For instance, will the likes of Charles Martin (23-1, 21 KOs) be remembered as a ‘great’ after being dethroned in only his first title-defence to Anthony Joshua (16-0, 16 KOs)?
Tyson Fury (25-0, 18 KOs) is the lineal world heavyweight champion. In short, he is ‘the man’ in the sport’s ‘glamour division’. He was crowned king after traveling to the champion’s backyard in Germany to claim three of the four major belts. However, it is the new titlist, Anthony Joshua, who is basking in the adoration of the public. History has shown us that winning the belt alone does not automatically win over the hearts of the public. In fact, many losing fighters have transcended to become the ‘people’s champ’. Look at Frank Bruno (40-5, 38 KOs) for example, he lost three world title challenges to Tim Witherspoon, Mike Tyson, then Lennox Lewis before finally winning the coveted WBC belt from Oliver McCall in 1995; only to lose it in his very first defence to a post-incarcerated Mike Tyson in a rematch 6 months later. Frank Bruno was (and still is) one of Britain’s favourite ever boxers – the people’s champ. So what’s the trick? Is there a secret to unlocking hearts?
Tyson Fury is the fighter who took the hard road. He claimed the English, the British, the Commonwealth, then the European titles before taking on the undisputed world heavyweight champion in Wladimir Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs) to challenge for the World WBA, WBO, and IBF titles. He dared to be great but his glory was somewhat dampened when the IBF placed an order for him to fight their mandatory challenger in Vyacheslav Glazkov (21-1, 13 Kos). Fury was contractually bound to fight Klitschko in a rematch so could not fulfil his mandatory obligation to defend of the IBF belt. He was stripped of the title as a result. The IBF then mandated that their mandatory and their next-ranked challenger would fight each other for their vacant belt. Thus ‘Prince’ Charles Martin was born. He claimed the belt after Glazkov was forced to retire because of a twisted knee. Martin will receive no plaudit in this article for that victory.
Martin then proceeded to ‘call out’ the sweetheart of British boxing in Anthony Joshua for his first title defence. We all saw how that ended; the paper-champ flew into London and was torn to shreds inside two rounds by the same counter right hand that had floored him a few seconds earlier. He failed to beat the count after sitting down on what he proved himself to be – a bum. No credit is being taken away from Joshua though. The lad is immensely talented and has all the attributes to go on and dominate the division like a Lennox Lewis or a Wladimir Klitschko before him. He won the title in only his 16th fight after destroying all previous challengers via knock-out. The boy is a beast and is a specimen of a man. His good looks has wooed the women and his humility has resonated with the public. His events are always a sell-out and soon enough, even your momma will know his name, I can bet that your sister already does. The boy is fast becoming a household name under promoter Eddie Hearn’s guidance, but no one can justifiable call him a hype-job. It is true that he has yet to fight anyone of note, and even his world title victory was against what is quite possibly the worst heavyweight world champion that I have ever seen. But the 2012 Olympic Gold medallist can fight. He is still a learning his trade in the professional game and he has already claimed a world title after only 16 fights. That is a noteworthy achievement. Tyson Fury is a veteran in comparison even though he is only a year older than Joshua. Fury has fought much better opposition and has claimed the right to be called the legitimate world champion after his victory over Klitschko. He has a chance to banish any idea that the public may harbour about his victory in Germany being a fluke when he meets Klitschko in a rematch in July. This should pave the way for a massive unification bout for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world against the winner of the WBC title fight between Deontay Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs) and Alexander Povetkin (30-1, 22 KOs). Those big high-profile fights would generate more than enough coin to line the pockets of generations of Furys, as well as solidifying his credentials as a great among the pantheon of boxing legends. He could then go out by having an all-British showdown against Anthony Joshua to win over the hearts and minds of the British public. Joshua on the other hand, should he continue his winning ways, will have the chance to claim all the belts and turn all of is glory into greatness.
It is a fantastic new era to be a boxing fan. And I, for one, I am loving it.