Jeff Ofori Loks to Win the Golden Contract
By: Oliver McManus
Tottenham’s Jeff Ofori is set for a career-defining twelve months with MTK’s Golden Contract hotting up nicely. The format will crown a winner, in three weight divisions, before the end of the year and, with it, a lucrative multi-fight contract with “a world leading promoter”. Ahead of the semi-finals, on the 21st at York Hall, Ofori began by reflecting on the year just gone:
“It was a slopey up and down year. The first half was frustrating because I was meant to defend my [Southern Area] title twice (against Lucas Ballingall) and then that got put off twice. A lot of people told me that it wasn’t going to happen but I was sticking to it. I think I learned a lot in that year so I’ve decided to just let things be.
“I (look back and) see it as things working out for a reason. If I did fight Lucas Ballingall then perhaps I’d never be in the situation I am now. I’ve just got to go with the flow and everything will happen if it’s supposed to: the opportunities will still be there if it’s meant to be.”
When the 29 year old was able to defend his belt, held at lightweight, his opponent was a distinguished amateur in the form of Alfie Price. On the night Price, snapped up by Queensbury Promotions, executed his game-plan from the off. It wasn’t to be for the defending Champion but Ofori was able to reflect on the bout with real pragmatism.
“It wasn’t the sort of fight I was expecting it to be because I was thinking it would be a rough, tough bout. In the end it was more hype than the fight turned out to be and I learned that is sometimes how it is in boxing: not everything will be the best fight of your life. I feel as though I was too nice in that fight and didn’t take things into my own hands when I should have done. Sometimes you’re going to have to box in ways that won’t be pretty.”
Seven weeks later and Ofori was refusing to sit and mope. “I wasn’t going to cry”, he told me, and was eager to return at a similar level: no more six rounders against Aleksandrs Birkenbergs. This was the start of an MTK Global love-affair with the Londoner brought to Liverpool for a fight with, unbeaten, Ged Carroll.
“After the title fight it didn’t take much out of me. It was my second ten rounder and, to be honest, I just didn’t feel as though it had happened. In my first one (against Jumaane Camero) I knew I’d be in a ten rounder for a good couple days after but I was back in the gym on Monday this time. I was feeling ready and I got the call “do you want to fight in Liverpool?” and I was thinking ‘I get to go away, I get another, I get the TV experience, of course I’m saying yes’.”
Ofori found himself billed in the away corner for the first time in his career but boxed as he always has done. “Rough, ready, and raring to go”, Jeffy picked up a 79-75 win over eight rounds to return to winning rounds. A well-earned victory that served as the highlight of a thoroughly enjoyable weekend for the Londoner.
“It was beautiful (Liverpool) and I’d never been to Liverpool before but everything was there. Everything I’d ever want was right there. We were bang in the city centre and all the people were lovely and I just felt calm and relaxed. I definitely plan on going back up there, in my own time, it was a great place. I got a good four, five days out of it.”
“I was pushing for the stoppage but the guy was tough” he continued, “even though I felt, after six rounds, I was winning this I really wanted to stop him. When they gave me the decision I was thinking “okay, what’s next?”
Luckily for Ofori he didn’t have to think for too long. Just five days later and his phone was ringing again. Once more it was MTK Global on the other end after Lewis Benson was forced to withdraw from the opening Golden Contract quarter-finals. Having been caught up in the bubble of Liverpool, Ofori confessed to “not really knowing” what the format was but he was keen to put ink to paper once hearing of his fellow competitors.
“Again I got a call telling me what was next and I’m saying “for real, hell yeah.” If they thought I was going to go in there as a soft touch then I don’t know what was on their mind. When they called me I thought they were pulling my leg: they rang me on the Wednesday night after my manager had offered me a slot on the undercard. At that point I wasn’t really going for it because I’d obviously only just had a fight but as soon as they mentioned a tournament there was no need to think about it.”
Ofori stepped up to super lightweight for the competition and fought to a split draw with, Welshman, Kieran Gething over ten rounds; Ofori progressed in the tournament courtesy of the referee’s scorecard. The former super featherweight highlighted the strains of making weight in those early days as standing him in good stead for the 140lbs division.
“Getting down to super feather was good for me mentally because it made me aware of the diet. I’ve learned all these things about nutrition because I had to make those weights in the past so now, even when I’m fighting at super lightweight, I’m aware of the process and it makes it so much easier. Mentally it’s made me stronger, too.
That’s where I feel things clicked with the (Gething) fight. In my mind because it was all last minute I didn’t have time to think about things and overthink what I was going to do. I got in there and I fought the fight, largely, on instinct.”
With that win, the always likeable, Ofori continued his run of feel-good results. A semi-final awaits and, for a fighter who was never meant to be in the competition, every opportunity really is a golden one. Last year Ofori did a sponsored sky-dive in aid of Ringside Rest and Care and it was noticeable his first thoughts were with that charity when discussing the ramifications of winning the competition. “There’s a lot riding on it because I want to win big for the guys at the care home”, he revealed.
When poked to talk about himself Ofori began to open up on his experiences as a perennial underdog. Five years ago his goal was to become a professional boxer and people were sceptical; two years he wanted the Southern Area title but had to remain patient. This most recent opportunity may have arrived in part to good fortune but Ofori is determined to show the world just why it was him that got the call.
“Winning this competition would be a big statement for me. If you do win it then obviously there’s a contract waiting and things can sort of take care of themselves, you don’t have to force opportunities any more. I need to prove (that I deserve to be there) and I want to keep proving it.
When we first spoke I was all about being Southern Area champion and I’ve done that but I’m now hungry for the next goal. There will always be someone that’s there to give you a challenge and that keeps me going. Even when you’ve set yourself a goal and achieved you don’t sit back and say “job done”, you set yourself a new goal.”
MTK Golden Contract Quarter-Finals Results
By: Ste Rowen
York Hall, London was the setting for the inaugural featherweight MTK Golden Contract tournament quarterfinals that saw Tyrone McCullagh, Jazza Dickens, Ryan Walsh and Leigh Wood progress to the semi-finals.
All four bouts provided their own kind of entertainment but let’s start at the end.
The fourth quarter-final of the Golden Contract tournament tonight saw Leigh Wood massively impress with a fantastic performance that saw him knockdown formerly unbeaten David Oliver Joyce twice and finally force the stoppage in round nine.
Talk before the fight was wondering why Wood, the featherweight Commonwealth champion had chosen Joyce, 11-0 (8KOs), as his quarter-final opponent, considering Joyce’s reputation within the boxing community, but in round two Wood landed a perfect, hard left hand that dropped the Irishman and clearly put Leigh, 22-1 (12KOs) before tonight, up on the scorecards early.
But Joyce reacted well to the knockdown, and his experience as an amateur kicked in as the fight drew into the middle rounds. Wood’s power was clearly affecting the Irishman when he landed clean, but David’s punch selection and speed was making it a tough fight to score. However, once again, in the 7th, Leigh Wood cracked onto the head of an open Joyce and, but for a strong display of defence and conditioning from Joyce, he struggled his way out of that particular attack but, with seconds left of the same round, the Irishman was toppled for a second time with a slightly soft knockdown. He was hit with a solid right but seemed to be dropped by a light left hand body shot. Still, the unbeaten man made it into round eight.
Then in the penultimate round of a scheduled ten, after the Commonwealth champ obviously rocked Joyce whilst he was still on his feet, the referee stepped in before any more serious damage could be done and called an end to the fourth quarter final.
‘‘I’ve never been one for taking the easy route. I wanted to make a statement and I did that…I just didn’t wanna upset my corner. I moved and showed my power. People don’t believe I have power, but I did it.
I think I beat the best kid, so bring it on.’’
Tyrone McCullagh got the MTK Golden Contract quarter-finals underway with a conclusive decision victory over Razaq Najib.
It was sloppy from the start by both the southpaw, McCullagh and late replacement, Najib, 11-3 (2KOs), before tonight, with both men seemingly more happy to swing and clinch that take on a more technical approach to the bout. The unbeaten man from Northern Ireland was struggling to get to grips with the awkward, Razaq but as the rounds passed on Tyrone’s good work was overshadowing ‘Lionheart’s’ spoiling style. Whilst Najib continuously struggled to close the distance, McCullagh countered at an almost perfect rate. The fight went the full 10-round distance with the final scorecards returning as, 97-93, 98-92, 96-94 all for McCullagh.
‘‘I thought I controlled most of the fight.’’ Now 14-0 (6KOS) Tyron said post-fight. ‘‘It was good to get the ring-rust off. We’re working everyday hard in the gym.
I have aspirations of winning the tournament, but I want the performances to be better.’’
James ‘Jazza’ Dickens, 27-3 (11KOs) heading into tonight, improved his winning column to 28 as he scored a decision victory of Carlos Ramos.
Dickens, of Liverpool was keen to set fire to the bout and excite the crowd earlier as he swung with fury in the early rounds but for the most part, Ramos did well to avoid his opponent’s best shots as well was landing his own fairly decent body shots. Carlos, a southpaw like Dickens, seemed happy enough to fight off the back foot as the fight continued beyond the middle rounds of another scheduled ten, but Jazza’s selection of punches seemed superior to the Spaniard’s occasional spurts. The hard work paid off for the Brit as he scored a knockdown in the 4th round, landing a right-left to the crown, but Ramos, 11-1 (7KOs) responded well with some sharp left hooks to the body to end the round.
As the fight headed into the final two rounds, it became much more tit-for-tat than the fiery exchanges of the earlier rounds and both fighter’s inside game suddenly became crucial to the scoring of the bout. Dickens jumped to the corner when the final bell rang for the second quarter final. The final scorecards came back as, 97-92, 99-91, 97-92 all for Dickens, and the IBF European champion spoke immediately after,
‘‘We knew he was tough, game and had one shot but we went from there. He was dangerous but we put him on the backfoot and boxed.’’
The third quarter-final of the night saw British featherweight champion, Ryan Walsh, now Walsh, 25-2-2 (12KOs) blasted out the previously unbeaten Hairon Socarras in the penultimate round to progress to the semi-finals.
Socarras, 22-0-3 (14KOs) when he stepped into the ring, seemed to make a more successful 1st round but Walsh began to rough up his Cuban foe as the bout hit the midway point. And with the momentum behind him, the British champ scored the first official knockdown where he landed a precise left hand, sending Hairon sprawling with only the ropes to keep him standing. Three rounds later, the fight had switched back to a much more technical event, with both men seeming to be looking for the point scoring shots rather than the finisher, that was until with thirty seconds left of the 9th, Walsh landed a dislodging right hook, once again sticking Socarras to the ropes and the Brit unleashed an almost non-stop fury of punches until the referee stepped in and ended the bout, rocketing Ryan into the semi-finals.
‘‘After I win this tournament, I’m taking my kids to Euro Disney. My team are my family.’’
MTK Golden Contract Tournament Preview
By: Ste Rowen
Mention the words ‘boxing’ and ‘tournament’ together in the same sentence to boxing fans and most would meet the idea with derision, but despite it still being almost impossible to get the best of the best in the ring together – Wold Boxing Super Series excluded – mainly domestic tournament formats have got hardcores and new fans alike, interested in the sport, and this Friday the inaugural MTK’s featherweight ‘Golden Contract Tournament’ gets going at the famous, York Hall in London.
The tournament, like many creations in boxing, will begin in a quarter-final format, and the eight men only found out who they’ll be fighting this fight week.
Friday’s featherweight scheduled 10-round bouts will be as follows;
Tyrone McCullagh, 13-0 (6KOs) vs. Razak Najib 11-3 (2KOs)*A late replacement for Carlos Araujo
Jazza Dickens, 27-3 (11KOs) vs. Carlos Ramos, 11-1 (7KOs)
Hairon Socarros, 22-0-3 (14KOs) vs. Ryan Walsh, 24-2-2 (11KOs)
Leigh Wood, 22-1 (12KOs) vs. David Oliver Joyce, 11-0 (8KOs)
As it stands, it’s unclear who the favourite for the eight-man knockout format is, but despite his relative professional inexperience, former amateur standout, David Joyce of Ireland, could be the man to watch both on Friday and as the tournament progresses, assuming the 32-year-old makes his way past Commonwealth featherweight champion, Leigh Wood.
The eventual winner of the tournament will snatch up a five-fight contract with a promoter, most likely to be Matchroom.
Hearn, Espinoza Engage In Heated Twitter Battle
By: Sean Crose
Not only did super promoter Eddie Hearn throw down publicly with Showtime Sports’ honcho Stephen Espinoza on Tuesday, the two boxing powerhouses offered a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the sport at its highest level. The Twitter fight was centered around Anthony Joshua – the heavyweight powerhouse who, at the moment, possesses multiple titles in boxing’s glamor division – and a potential bout against he and American knockout artist (and WBC heavyweight titlist) Deontay Wilder. The megafight was in discussions last year before eventually falling flat. Wider went on to fight a memorable, controversial battle with former heavyweight kingpin Tyson Fury, while Joshua prepares to make his US debut against Jarrell “Bib Baby” Miller this spring.
While the heart of the Hearn-Espinoza argument dealt with a fight that never was made, the details of the online battle focused on international broadcast rights. “Contract was sent and Matchroom saw it,” Espinoza tweeted. “Contract said Sky (a British outlet) got the UK rights.” Hearn responded by essentially calling Espinoza a liar. Espinoza then suggested that Hearn lied when discussing broadcast rights for the 2017 bout between Joshua and former heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko (which Showtime was able to air in the US).
Espinoza then moved back to last year’s Joshua-Wilder negotiations, showing what appeared to be a portion of a contract dealing with Sky Sports and broadcasting rights (presumably for the potential Wilder fight). Hearn responded by demanding that Espinoza “show the contract you (Espinoza) sent.” Espinoza tweeted that he never claimed to have sent it but that “Wilder sent it and you (Hearn) confirmed receipt.” Hearn reacted with a tweet filled with emojis and capitalization. “…so now you are saying the personal email from Wilder (that was one paragraph) offering $50m was a contract!!!!,” he stated. “Hahaha – CONTRACT WAS REQUESTED AND NEVER SENT.”
“Three detailed pages,” Espinoza replied, “not one paragraph.” Hearn continued to hold onto his position. “I repeat,” he tweeted, “despite requests we NEVER received a 1 page, 3 page or 50 page contract. If I’m lying then show the contract you sent.” Espinoza then reiterated that he “never said ‘we’ sent a contract. I said a contract was sent.” Hearn insisted that team Joshua “NEVER received a contract from you, Wilder or ANYONE despite requests.” Espinoza went on to tweet “I’m not going to expose private business arrangements in a Twitter discussion.” The argument went on, however, with each side accusing the other of being less than forthright.
“You lost AJ because you ran out of money you know that,” Hearn went on to claim, indicating that Showtime can no longer air Joshua fights. “You also don’t have one of the top 3 heavyweights under contract. I get you are under pressure but don’t tell porky pies. Have a nice day.”
Manny Pacquiao and Bob Arum Continue to be at Odds Over Prospective Opponents
By: Bryant Romero
Manny Pacquiao’s return to the ring sometime this year has been on been ongoing saga on whether the proposed bout with Argentina’s Lucas Matthysse (39-4, 36 KOs) will actually pull through for sometime this summer. Reports of strain relations between Pacquiao and Arum should come to no surprise as there were signs prior to Pacquaio’s fight with Jeff Horn in Australia. The Pacquiao camp caused a stir in recent weeks as they announced to boxing press that Pacquiao is currently a free agent and no longer contractually obligated to Top Rank.
“I reviewed the contract and I found out that Bob Arum has no more say even in the rematch, should there be any between Manny Pacquiao and Australian boxer Jeff Horn,” said Pacquiao’s lawyer Eldibrando Viernesto to the Philippine press.
Furthermore, the camp also announced a date that has since been rescheduled at a site in Malaysia with the hopes of sealing a deal with Matthysse through his promoter Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. Pacquiao was reportedly insulted with the initial offer from Top Rank to perhaps be on a undercard to Horn-Crawford to fight Mike Alvarado. Manny rejected the offer and is now reportedly negotiating a fight through his own without the involvement of Top Rank.
Pacquiao and Arum have been down this road before and it’s obvious that Manny had very little interest in fighting Jeff Horn last summer in Brisbane as he tried to set up a fight with Amir Khan in the UAE instead. The fight fell through however, and Pacquaio was left to fight Horn as Arum didn’t seem to offer any other opponents.
There are doubts that the Pacquiao vs Matthysse fight will pull through to a now rescheduled date of July 8. Aquiles Zonio who is Pacquiao’s media relations officer has made allegations that promoter Bob Arum has in the past threatened to sue some of the financial backers for which resulted in the fights being scrapped. Accoring to Zonio, Arum is trying to sabotage the Pacquiao vs Matthysse fight in Malaysia by threatening a lawsuit to the Malaysian financial backers.
It’s going to be an interesting next couple of weeks on finding out whether Pacquiao is truly a free agent and whether Bob Arum can once again convince Manny to get back on board and fight an opponent of his choosing instead.
Pacquiao Signs to Fight Jeff Horn this Summer
Pacquiao signs to fight Jeff Horn this summer
By: Matthew N. Becher
It has been a wild couple of months trying to keep up with who and where WBO welterweight champion, Manny Pacquiao would be fighting next, but today he signed on the dotted line, to take on his mandatory challenger, Jeff Horn (16-0-1 11KO).
Bob Arum, announced today to the LA Times, that not all the details were finalized, but that Pacquiao did indeed sign to fight Horn.
“We’re slowly finishing up the deal to fight,” Arum was quoted as saying.
“People have agreed on essential points.”
“We’re dealing with an Australian promoter, the state government,” he said. “Here, in this case, you’ve got to cross the T’s and dot the I’s, and that’s what we’re in the process of doing.”
The fight which is slated to take place at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, is predicted to hold more than 50,000 fans and will become one of the largest sporting events to ever take place in the Country of Australia.
This was confirmed also by Manny’s manager Michael Koncz, as told to the Agence France-Presse,
“We signed the Jeff Horn contract this Morning. Fight is July 2nd in Brisbane, Australia”
This fight comes on the heels of Pacquiao and Koncz trying to make a deal, without Top Ranks Arum, to take on England’s Amir Khan in a $38 million dollar mega fight, which was supposed to take place in the UAE. The deal fell apart when neither party could figure out where the money was actually coming from.
Arum has been trying to tap new markets for his fighters, especially Pacquiao, who he had fight in Macau and now in Australia, which sports a very large Asian and Philippine population.