Five UK Based Fighters Who Need a Big 2019
By: Oliver McManus
12 months can be a long time in the sport of boxing – it can see you go from the cusp of retirement to the brink of a world title and for these next boxers, they’ll be hoping that 2019 is the year for them because these are five fighters in need of a BIG 12 months.
Photo of Jay Harris and Kristian Touze
Andrew Selby – Flyweight
There was a time, not so long ago, that we thought we had seen the last of Andrew Selby when he announced “I’m not fighting anymore”, quite understandably this prompted confusion because for a long time he had been scheduled to fight for the European title – indeed a clash with Vincent Legrand was postponed back in June – and Selby was deemed, by many, far good a talent to be allowed to go to waste.
Last month, at last, there was some good news as Jamie Sanigar won the purse bids for his challenge to, Frenchman, Legrand and set a firm date for the Welshman’s return – October 27th at the Newport Centre. Since then there has been mixed signals about the fight with no official confirmation save for the European Boxing Union website who, incidentally, have assigned officials for the contest but the good news is that Selby is back in the gym with fire in his belly, once more.
Further to that, consider the former Team GB member has been mandated to fight Julio Cesar Martinez Aguilar in a world title eliminator with the winner set to face, WBC Champion, Cristofer Rosales – a man who Selby comfortably outpointed last May – and you start to see the makings of a sensational 2019 where, if all goes well, we could see the crowning of a new British world champion.
Anthony Yarde – Light Heavyweight
With one sharp intake of breath we get reminded that Yarde is the number 2 ranked challenger with the World Boxing Organization and, swiftly after, it is explained to us that he’s still not ready for a world title because he’s learning the trade.
Now there’s nothing wrong with either of those statements but the constant juxtaposition of the two leave me crying out for Yarde to have a monumental 2019 and this is nothing to do with Anthony Yarde, not at all, because he is a genuinely nice guy and rather this frustration is born out of a desire for him to do well and prove critics wrong – at least, attempt to prove them wrong.
Since fighting Nikola Sjekloca on December 9th, Yarde has seen his stock fall with the 27 year old facing, less than inspiring, Tony Averlant and Dariusz Sek in the meantime; that performance against Sjekloca was a top quality, high energy, explosive performance against a respectable opponent whilst against Averlant and Sek it is almost as though he’s dropped down to their level.
Next out on October 20th Yarde, now 16 and 0, will face the Argentine national champion Walter Gabriel Sequeira who steps up to the plate after, it is believed, Sean Monaghan priced himself out after initially accepting the fight – regardless, the whole boxing world wants to see Yarde get in the ring with an opponent will provide him with a solid test and there are plenty of British light-heavies that would be gunning for the fight.
Hopefully, for him and us, 2019 will see Anthony Yarde start to really make his mark on the 175lb scene.
Lawrence Okolie – Cruiserweight
British, Commonwealth, WBA Continental Champion with only 10 fights under his belt, things are going pretty well for Okolie from a belts point of view and you certainly can’t criticise Okolie for the guys he’s been willing to face – Isaac Chamberlain, Luke Watkins and Matty Askin in only his eighth, ninth and tenth fights.
That’s all fine and dandy but his much-hyped contests against Chamberlain and Askin, in particular, have failed to live up to the expectations as Okolie imposed a largely physical, holding game-plan much to the irritation of those watching.
Far be it from me to criticise a professional boxer unnecessarily but Okolie himself admits his performances were disappointing and, yes he got the win, but he’s in a situation where he needs to start letting his hands go and relaxing through the bout in order to become a big Box Office attraction.
With strong amateur pedigree, Okolie was always going to take a hastened route to the top but the cruiserweight sensation needs to go back to basics and work the jab to tee up openings that he can exploit in order to look every bit as good as we know he can be.
Plenty of domestic challengers are salivating at a potential fight with the Hackney-man and I like Okolie, I really like him, but time is a friend not an enemy and, having smashed his way through his first 10 fights, he can afford to be patient for 2019 in terms of names but the performances need to be big.
Okolie needs to be seen as adaptive and exciting otherwise people, having seen what they have, will be inclined to switch off – I’ve little doubt as to the quality and desire of the cruiserweight prospect so he should be able to take it in his stride!
Joseph Parker – Heavyweight
Returning to the ring on December 15th having been subjected to back-to-back losses against Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte, respectively, Joseph Parker is in danger of becoming the forgotten talent of heavyweight boxing.
Making history by becoming the first New Zealand heavyweight world champion, you’d be hard pressed to suggest that Parker looked impressive in the fight that saw him crowned WBO king – against Andy Ruiz – or indeed in his subsequent defences over Razvan Cojanu and Hughie Fury and, actually, that fight against Dillian Whyte is, arguably, the best we’ve seen Parker.
That sounds weird to say given that he was on the reverse side of a unanimous decision but when Parker really got into his rhythm he was able to control the tempo of the fight, force Whyte into hot water and he looked like a physically imposing roughhouse fighter as opposed to the technical man we’ve got used to seeing.
It raised questions of WHY haven’t we seen this fire and aggression from the Kiwi before and whilst I can’t answer that question, I look forward to seeing how it impacts the 26 year olds fight plans going forward.
Parker gets the benefit of being in a comparatively weak heavyweight pool of talent than in years previous with a distinct gulf in quality even ranging throughout the top 15 and that should, on paper, ensure that Parker gets back into the world title mix sooner rather than later and, certainly, there are relatively few challengers that you wouldn’t tip Duco’s main man to topple.
The rebuild starts on December 15th, the climb back to a world title shot continues into 2019.
Now this is the slightly left field option for this article because who said I was going for the obvious? Jay Harris is a fighter who has had a frustrating year thus far with the Commonwealth flyweight champion scheduled to defend his belt – won via unanimous decision over Thomas Essomba back in February 2017 – against Dexter Marques back the first quarter of the year before visa issues put that fight indefinitely on hold.
He would fight for the first time in nine months when he entered the ring at the Llandarcy Academy of Sport on August 11th and eased his way to a 60-55 points decision over Critisan Narvaez and with those rounds under his belt he quickly set about establishing a date to defend his coveted belt.
That fight, against Ross Murray, was scheduled for this month but pushed back ever so slightly to November 3rd at York Hall; Mo Prior, the man behind British Warriors, has taken the Welsh flyweight under his wing and is already on a mission to provide Harris with regular fight dates for, put simply, the 28 year old is a sumptuous talent.
With one on the winner of Ryan Farrag vs Sunny Edwards – that bout for the WBO European Super Flyweight strap – Harris has already been mandated for the British Super Flyweight belt as well as the EBU-EU title so there are plenty of opportunities available for the Swansea-man, and that’s without even considering the permutations of the CBC!
By no means is this an exhaustive list of fighters who require a big one next year nor, for that matter, is it the five fighters who need it the MOST but they are guys who, in my opinion, should be hoping to leave a mark over the course of the next 12 months.
For guys like Jay Harris it is through no fault of their own that they are in the frustrating situation that they are and, certainly, there are plenty other candidates for this article – Kell Brook, Amir Khan, Liam Walsh, Roman Gonzalez to name just a handful but keep an eye out on these five fellas as they look for a career-best 2019.
Vivian Harris Gets “Big Payback” Against DeMarcus Corley
by: Sean Crose
It was called The Big Payback, and indeed, Vivian Harris got his big payback as he beat popular veteran DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley in a rematch of their 2017 bout. The two super welterweights now have a win a piece over each other, both victories coming by way of unanimous decision. The bout, which was the main event of a card titled “The Big Payback,” went down at the FedEx Forum in Memphis. The event was a product of Lank Promotions, which is run by 33 year old Langston “Lank the King” Hampton. It was one of a total of four cards Hampton plans on staging this year.
Photo Credit: Lank Promotions Facebook Page
Hampton worked with Affiliation Management, which is affiliated with Floyd Mayweather’s The Money Team. The Mayweather association paid off. Not only was Corley a former Mayweather opponent, on the card, other Mayweather fighters plied their trade on Saturday, as well. Lanell Bellows, a onetime Mayweather sparring partner, beat Lamar Harris via TKO in the fourth round of their super middleweight bout. Bellows, who has said he never intentionally goes for the knockout, still claimed beforehand to be “mentally, spiritually and physically strong.” The victory put Bellows back in the win category after battling Naim Terbunja to a draw in May.
Charvis Holifield, another fighter whose a part of the Mayweather universe, didn’t fare as well as Bellows. The super middleweight, who recently got his real estate license in Nevada, lost a unanimous decision to Donald Ward of West Memphis. “I’m the guy,” Ward told the Commercial Appeal, “who’s supposed to lose…who figured out in the first round that Holifield didn’t have a match for his speed.” In other contests, bantamweight Ava Knight, heavyweight Grover Young and welterweight Marco Hall Jr all logged in victories. According to the Commercial Appeal, between two and three thousand fans were in attendance.
Perhaps the biggest draw of the night, however, was Floyd Maywather Jr himself, for the legendary fighter flew in and then hosted an after party. “Like I TOLD YAL,” Hampton stated on the Lank Promotions Facebook page, “FLOYD “MONEY” MAYWEATHER Did Arrive Last Night in Memphis. Next Fight will be Biggengs.” The after party took place at the Memphis Cook Convention Center in Memphis. All of this, of course, was good for Hampton, who strives to bring an original approach to his promotions. As described, Lank Promotions is a “new boxing/entertainment” enterprise “that’s designed for the world.”
One Eye & a Bag of Tricks That Was Philly’s “Gypsy” Joe Harris
One Eye & a Bag of Tricks That Was Philly’s “Gypsy” Joe Harris
By: Ken Hissner
In the 60’s the baddest gym in Philadelphia was the 23rd PAL on Colombia Avenue. Such boxers as “Bad” Bennie Briscoe, “Cyclone” Hart, “Sugar” Hart, “Classy” Al Massey, Jimmy Young, “Boogaloo” Watts, “Smokin” Joe Frazier and the one-eyed “Gypsy” Joe Harris trained there.
“I came to the 23rd PAL from the 39th PAL and was one of the few boxers. The others there liked to go to war. One day in order to see whowas the baddest guy in the gym insteps none other than “Bad” Bennie Briscoe and “Gypsy” Joe Harris into the ring. There was no referee or trainers involved. It was only for about a one when police officer Duke Dugent who ran the gym with an iron hand jumped in the ring pulling the two of them apart! Duke yelled at the two and said NEVER AGAIN! You’ve heard of Philly Gym Wars?
This was best of the best,” said Al Massey.
Briscoe was the AAU 147 champion and had a jab coming up from the floor like a sledge hammer always coming forward. Harris on the other hand was as slippery as you could get using angles (due to the eye) with arms wrapped around himself and weaving around hard to hit.
“He don’t make plans because he don’t know what he going to do until he do it,” said Willie Reddish (trainer). Born in Camden, NJ, word is Harris was “bag snatching” on Halloween and got hit in the right eye with a brick! He was a jokester so when he took eye exams he joked and got by them.
I was there the night Harris was fighting “Irish” Bobby Cassidy, a southpaw, who was holding Harris with his right hand on Harris’ left shoulder and he still couldn’t hit him! He had a bald head and could slip punch after punch.
Harris’ biggest win was over then welterweight champion Curtis Cokes in a non-title fight at Madison Square Garden in New York City. He would be asked afterwards “where’s the party?” He replied “ain’t no party here man, I’m from Philly!”
Today Cokes would have been stripped of his title for he was “nowhere to be found” when Harris showed up in Dallas for the rematch this time for the title! There was no ring in the hotel lobby and Cokes was “out fishing” per the local newspaper with picture in a row boat! Harris would move up to middleweight never to get close to a title fight again.
Harris turned professional in November of 1964 in Worcester, MASS, stopping Fred Walker in 3 rounds. In 1965 he went 9-0. In 1966 he defeated C.L. Lewis over 6 rounds in a bout filled with bad blood between the two of them. In May of 1966 he took on fellow Philly fighter Johnny Knight, 14-4-1 improving to 13-0 with the last 12 fights all in Philadelphia.
In October of 1966 Harris took on fellow Philadelphian Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, 22-2-1, stopping him in 6 rounds though coming off the floor in the third round. Next up was Cuban Jose Stable, 27-8-2, defeating Sidney “Sweet Pea” Adams and C.L. Lewis in NY. Then he defeated Cokes, Philly’s Charley Scott and Hayward in NY before coming to Philly to defeat Dick Turner, 19-0-1. In 1965 he lost in a title fight to Emile Griffith before returning to Philly losing to Percy Manning. He would lose to Harris in 1966.
Harris would go onto stop Knight in a rematch in 1967. Then he had the non-title win over Cokes weighing 151 improving to 18-0 at MSG before returning to Philly weighing 160 defeating Teddy Wright, 46-15-10.He would return to Dallas in the co-feature to Cokes defending against France’s Francois Pavilla. Harris posted a win but was at 158 ½ while 3 months later down to 152 in a war against Miguel Barreto, 15-1, winning a close one. Then coming off the canvas in the ninth to defeat Cassidy and win a rematch with Barreto. In February of 1968 he beat Dick DiVeronica, 38-8, just 6 months to his career ending fight against former world champion Emile Griffith, 55-9 in Philly.
Just before the Griffith fight Harris would marry a bar maid in Atlantic City and disappear showing up at the 23rd PAL Gym. “I only had a week to get him back in shape for Griffith,” said Duke Dugent (ran the gym). He was up to 160 losing to Griffith over 12 rounds. His offense was not there but his defense was. His 24 bout win streak was stopped. This fight set an indoor attendance record in Philly.
Getting back into the ring with Manny Gonsalves was to be his comeback fight when it was finally discovered at the examination he had no sight in an eye. The charade and career for Harris was over. It was blamed on a gym war with C.L. Lewis who thumbed him and Harris hit him in return in the “family jewels!” With a blood filled eye it brought the attention of the physician.
This writer made an attempt to get Harris to either Puerto Rico or Canada where he would possibly be able to fight. I was with him at the 23rd PAL with Dugent and we went to his family doctor to get the records to prove he had been blind fighting for some time but the doctor was not there. I never saw Harris again and he never fought again! Harris was one of the most “colorful” boxers out of Philadelphia in their history! He was only 22 and lived another 22 years before dying from a heart ailment at age 44! He is still talked about in Philly gyms this day.
More Boxing History
Selby Defends IBF Crown Against Jon Barros With One Eye on a Unification Fight
Selby Defends IBF Crown Against Jon Barros With One Eye on a Unification Fight
By: Phil Oscarson
Former WBA World featherweight champion Jonathon Victor Barros (http://boxrec.com/boxer/244423) fought his way to a split decision over Satoshi Hosono in early October. Barros` 41st professional victory laid the path for a mandatory title shot against Lee Selby (http://www.premierboxingchampions.com/lee-selby) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 28th.
This will only be the third fight in the last year and half for Selby since he took ownership of the IBF belt. Selby has made good on each of his two previous title defenses – both by unanimous decision – since he snatched the IBF World featherweight belt away from Evgeny Gradovich in May of 2015. Barros seems to be all that stands in Selby’s way of big payday unification battle at some point in 2017.
Appeal of a Selby-Gradovich Rematch TKO’d
Sports book review (http://www.sportsbookreview.com/betting-sites/) was primed to set odds on a potential Selby – Gradovich rematch, but Mexico’s unbeaten Oscar Valdez erased that notion in April of last year. The undefeated Valdez hammered the Russian featherweight, winning by TKO at the 2:14 mark in the 4th round.
Boxing enthusiasts are salivating at the idea of a Valdez vs. Selby unifying title fight, but Selby must first handle the experienced Barros. The main event at the MGM in just over three weeks will throw a third belt holder in the unification conversation.
The Argentinian Has Experience
While Selby would appear to be the odds-on favorite to continue as the IBF titleholder, the Argentinean veteran has the ability to drag the fight out, maintaining a punchers chance at an upset. Selby’s only loss came nearly 8 years ago to Samir Mouneimne a high stamina fighter with a knack for taking fights the distance.
Barros built an esteemed record, undefeated with a single draw during the first 8 years of his career. With 28 victories on his card, Barros was given a shot at the WBA featherweight title in early 2010. Cuban Yuriokis Gamboa would hand Barros his first professional loss, but later that same year he would take advantage of another title opportunity, knocking out Panamanian Irving Berry in the 7th round.
Lee Selby has fought only twice in the last year and a half, albeit both were defenses of his IBF crown. Selby has weathered a barrage of criticism from the boxing world for stepping into the ring one single time in 2016.
All the critical comments from boxing experts aside, Selby might need to worry about shaking off a little rust against a seasoned fighter like Barros. While most predictions give little chance for an upset by the 32-year-old former champion, Barros has 46 fights to draw from, almost double the professional fight count of Selby.
Selby’s United Kingdom based promoter Eddie Hearn has even voiced his criticism of his fighter for only taking to the canvas twice since earning the IBF belt. Hearn’s in all honesty has a valid point since Selby has taken an extended vacation since the Welshman defended his title the second time against the Outlaw – American Eric Hunter.
Selby Eyes Frampton Unification Bout
Also looming on the featherweight horizon is another promising unification fight between the winner of January 28th main event Carl Frampton vs. Leo Santa Cruz. Selby has already voiced an interest in stepping into the ring against Frampton, but the undefeated “Jackal” must first defeat Santa Cruz a second time in less than a year. Cruz will be looking to avenge his only professional loss courtesy of Frampton in their July title fight at the Barclays Center in New York.
All indications point to the question of how decisively Lee Selby can defeat Barros, not whether Barros has much of a chance to hoist another belt. Selby should be able to win by a wide decision, laying the groundwork for some intriguing future title matchups. But, he better keep both eyes on Barros and not one on a big payday future fight, or he might end up with the second blemish on his professional fighting record.