Joshua vs. Takam – The Undercard
By: Ste Rowen
Despite the late change of opponent, the biggest draw on Saturday night remains the main event, with Anthony Joshua taking on Carlos Takam for the WBA, IBF and IBO Heavyweight World title belts. However, hidden gems may lie in the undercard.
Photo Credit: Esther Lin/Showtime
Yafai v Ishida
Chief support to Joshua’s bout sees WBA Super Flyweight Champion Khalid Yafai take on Sho Ishida in his second title defence. Kal (22-0-0 14KOs) won the vacant WBA belt back in December 2016 from Luis Concepcion, who’d come in over the limit in two attempts at the scales, meaning the only Yafai could win the belt. Then in May this year Kal got his first defence in the bank when he dominated Suguru Muranaka. Yafai was mightily impressive in both bouts, scoring legitimately wide scorecards. He’ll be hoping that this is the stepping stone fight to being included on HBO’s ‘SuperFly 2’ in early 2018. His opponent Sho Ishida’s record is good on paper, 24-0-0 (13KOs) however that does include six debutants including his last two bouts in which Ishida stopped first timers Patiphon Saithonggym and Phetnamnung Sisaketphattana in rounds three and two respectively. This will also be Sho’s first fight outside of Japan, he’ll be hoping to upset the Brit’s party and join his countryman, Naoyo Inoue at the top table of the Superfly division.
Whyte v Helenius
Dillian Whyte (21-1-0 16KOs) is looking to turn up the heat on the current Heavyweight belt holders when he goes up against Robert Helenius. In his most recent outing Whyte made quick work of Malcolm Tann on the undercard of Crawford v Indongo in Nebraska. Though sloppy at times, he made sure his keep-busy fight didn’t last long, dropping Tann for a third time with a body shot in the third round. A stark contrast from his split decision win previous to that, when he fought in a Fight of the Year contender, going all twelve in a heavyweight war against Dereck Chisora. His opponent, Robert Helenius (25-1-0 16KOs) was once the man to beat in the European Heavyweight scene. A sparring partner of Anthony Joshua’s leading up to the Klitschko fight, Helenius was racking up victories including a controversial decision over Chisora in 2011 and knocking out an unbeaten Gregory Tony in 2010. His steady rise took a big hit in 2016 though when he was knocked clean out by a big 1-2 from Johann Duhaupas. He’s on a three-fight win streak and will be looking to take Whyte’s status as a number one contender for the belts.
Sanchez v Taylor
Katie Taylor (6-0-0 4KOs) fights for her first world title in just her seventh fight when she takes on Anahi Esther Sanchez for the WBA Lightweight belt. It will be Taylor’s second schedule ten round fight, in her second stadium fight, and the omens are good because in that ten-rounder at Wembley Stadium last April, Taylor continued to show her class when she dispatched of unbeaten Nina Meinke in the seventh. In her one fight since, the Irishwoman beat up Jasmine Clarkson for three rounds before the American’s cornerman pulled her out. Anahi Esther Sanchez, as expected should represent Taylor’s biggest challenge yet. Sanchez (17-2-0 9KOs) has previously held a world title when she won the IBF Super Featherweight belt in March 2016. She’s also fought and lost twice in world title fights. Once in December 2016 via a unanimous decision to Nina Wahlstrom for the WBC Super Feather title and again in May this year, when she was given two standing counts and eventually stopped in the fourth for her old IBF title. She bounced back quickly, and in her second fight at the 135lb limit, stopped Cecilia Sofia Mena for the WBA belt, that will be on the line this Saturday.
Cult hero Dave ‘White Rhino’ Allen (12-3-1 9KOs) was looking to exact revenge on Commonwealth Champion, Lenroy Thomas when the two were set to meet for the second time on Saturday night for an immediate rematch of their May 2017 split decision. However, the Jamaican has pulled out due to a virus. Allen is expected to remain on the undercard in a six round keep busy fight before going again for the British and Commonwealth belts.
Buglioni v Richards
Another late change to Saturday’s card sees British Light Heavyweight Champion, Frank ‘Wise Guy’ Buglioni take on Craig ‘Spider’ Richards. Buglioni (20-2-1 15KOs) was due to fight Callum Johnson in a mandated bout but Johnson withdrew last week, leaving the door open for Craig Richards (9-0-0 3KOs), who has been campaigning mainly at Super Middleweight up to this point.
Three of Matchroom’s 2016 Olympic signings will also be on the card. Cruiserweight Lawrence Okolie (5-0-0 4KOs), taken the distance for the first time in his last fight with Blaise Mendouo. Super Featherweight and Welshman Joe Cordina (4-0-0 4KOs) fighting in Wales for the first time in his pro career. And Light Heavyweight Joshua Buatsi (2-0-0 2KOs) a bronze medallist in Rio, and arguably Britain’s most highly thought of from the class of 2016.
What’s next for WBA super-flyweight champion Kal Yafai?
By: Dale Josephs
Khalid “Kal” Yafai finally revived Birmingham boxing by bringing world championship boxing back to the region earlier this year, with a lively card of extremely high quality bouts, as well as a WBA world title on the line.Suguru Murunaka was the preferred opponent for Yafai’s first voluntary defence; a durable Japanese fighter who’s never been stopped but had previously only ever fought in his home surroundings of Korakuen Hall, Tokyo.
Eddie Hearn, the figurehead of Matchroom Boxing, delivered once again with a truly enjoyable spectacle which witnessed local Brummies compete; younger brother Gamal Yafai, Sam Eggington and Frankie Gavin emerged victorious from their bouts. Still WBA super-flyweight world champion, Kal Yafai, headlined the Birmingham bill which enticed a rammed arena to cheer, jeer, and drink plenty of beer. The Barclaycard Arena, which sits next to Brindley Place overlooking the famous canals, was occupied by a energetic, vibrant crowd which, along with the lights, music and fighters, created a thrilling atmosphere.
Admittedly, fans wereentirely anticipating Yafai to unite both his raw talent and ferocious power to make easy work of Murunaka. Yet, the Japanese fighter showed heart, courage and commitment to ensure Kal had to work to retain his belt. Despite the contest lasting 12 rounds being seen as extra, unnecessary ring time, it did mean the super-flyweight champion was allowed to showcase his superior boxing ability. Over the distance, Murunaka was completely out-boxed.And, considering Yafai’s hands were immediately in ice following the fight, Murunaka proved he is very tough and durable and is able to take a volume of big punches. Kal was clearly a fan favourite in his home town and he made certain the fans observed a successful defence of his prestigious title.
Now, despite Yafai allowing his bruised hands to heal thoroughly before he advanced any further in his career, the next move in his so-far perfect career has now been plotted. Later this year, the Birmingham based boxer will encounter a Japanese fighter for the second successive fight, and yet another fighter with an unblemished record. The second defence of Yafai’s WBA super-flyweight title will see him share the ring with 25-year-old, Sho Ishida.
So, will this Japanese fighter be able to achieve what the previous one couldn’t and inflict a first defeat on Kal Yafai’s record?
Well, Yafai himself seems to think this will be his most difficult fight to date, and believes Ishida’s unusual height for a super-flyweight will potentially cause him problems. He told Sky Sports, “I’ve watched a few bits of him and the first thing about him is he is very tall. He’s very, very tall for a super-fly so I have no idea how he does that, but he actually looks very good as well.”
Alongside his incredible 5 foot 8 frame, which is 4 inches more than Yafai, he also possesses natural, fierce power which has enabled him to win 13 out of his 24 professional wins inside the allotted distance. But, it’s his range and boxing ability that could prove to be the difference, with a huge reach advantage of 10cm, Kal may discover an extreme difficulty in getting close enough to land his own decisive shots. Although, Yafai is a big body puncher and has showed time and time again his ability to land ferocious punches to his opponents’ ribs and midriff. With that in mind, if he can reduce the gap between himself and Ishida, hurtful body shots could take its toll on a taller, thinner opponent.
Providing Yafai successfully defends his title and retains the WBA super-flyweight belt, an obvious progression would be to establish himself in America and aim to unify the division. Even though Roman Gonzales was finally conquered by Srisaket Sor Runvisai, he remains a colossal name within the 115lbs division, and still has an opportunity to acquire revenge in his rematch with Runvisai. So, along with Roman Gonzales, other opponents which could assist Yafai in creating a legacy would be the other champions; IBF champion Jerwin Acajas, WBO title-holder Naoya Inoue or even WBC champion Srisaket Sor Runvisai if he beats Gonzales for the second time would set up massive clashes in the super-flyweight bracket.