Scotland’s Sensational Seven
By: Oliver McManus
Scotland has a proud history of fighters and I’m not just talking your modern day Ricky Burns, the last superfluous talent hailing from north of the border to hold a world title, but look back through the time-honoured history of boxing and you’ll see, again and again, the burning blood of a Scotsman – Benny Lynch, Ken Buchanan, Jim Watt, Alex Arthur, Jackie Patterson to name just a few – so who could be next to stoke the fires of such a fiercely patriotic nation?
Well the immediate choice that springs to mind, perhaps patently obvious to many, is Josh Taylor who, for a long time now, has had, not just Scotland, but much of the world set on notice as to his sublimely ridiculous boxing ability.
The Super Lightweight has a world title of his own firmly on the horizon with his participation in the 2018/19 World Boxing Super Series potentially resulting in three of the sport’s most prestigious rewards belonging to The Tartan Tornado come the end of 2019.
One of the purest talents in boxing at the moment, Taylor’s rise to the top of the 140lb division has been as quick as it was predictable and his ability to dictate the pace of bout from the centre of the ring, utilising the full area of the canvas, ensures that he always looks in full control – even against Viktor Postol when the Ukrainian rallied forward, Taylor was able to remain calm and collected.
And, talking of Viktor Postol, that fight seemed to be a potentially defining moment in the development of the 27 year old with the bout being a perfect display of timely match-making which, whilst far from the most complete performance, produced plenty of aggressive intent – Taylor kept his left foot on the outside of Postol’s lead leg, allowing him the freedom of movement not often allowed to southpaws and, indeed, a failure to do this from Terry Flanagan saw him embroiled in a firefight with Maurice Hooker earlier in the year.
Simple things but they don’t half make life easier when done well.
Looking towards Josh’s immediate future, specifically the WBSS, then you would say it is hard to see who, from the chosen eight competitors, has the capability of beating him. Regis Prograis is the one who would come closest but you’d still put good money on the 2014 Commonwealth gold medallist to do the job and, equally, to do it in style.
From the established contender to the emerging talent and I’m actually going to double up on this category with both Willy Hutchinson and Lee McGregor already looking like a couple of classy prospects with big futures ahead.
McGregor has had a torrid time out of the ring with three family deaths last year but, in spite of all that, the bantamweight is refusing to let his motivation waver with a renewed desire to fulfil his potential and make his family proud.
With Shane McGuigan in the corner it’s not hard to see where the 21 year old gets his grit and determination from with McGregor taking his, relatively, limited amateur experience and continually learning on the job but learn he does with each fight marking a clear progression in his ring maturity.
Against Goodluck Mrema in June we saw a calculated display against a vastly more experienced competitor as Lee immediately controlled the bout with a peppering left jab from his crouched stance before piecing together some well-thought-out three, four punch combinations to stop Mrema in the fourth round – a fourth stoppage from four fights – to claim the IBF Youth title.
Evidently still in the early phase of his career, you’d like to see him cut off the ring a bit more and press the tempo a bit more but that’s something that will come when he gets in the ring with a higher of calibre of opponent so it’s more of a nitpick than any major concern but, certainly, it’s all looking good for Lightning as he looks to make a flashing impact on the bantamweight scene.
If we then move up to the light-heavyweight division you’ll find Hutchinson campaigning under, Frank Warren’s, Queensbury Promotions banner with the Carstairs-resident possessing a five and 0 record just 10 months into his career.
Having started life in the paid ranks as part of the, ambitious, Hayemaker-Ringstar platform, the move to Warren coincides with a readiness to start challenging for titles of some sort or other and, like with many, his biggest learning fight came against the experienced Adam Jones.
Jones, 7-32-6 at the time, is one of the durable, awkward journeyman in and around the division and has caused issues for more than a handful of prospects – Dan Azeez, Andre Sterling, Charlie Schofield, Fred Evans, Paul Upton, the list goes on and on – but the, relative, threat of Jonesy was nullified pretty easily by Hutchinson who swept his way to a 40-37 decision win.
Freakishly lanky for a 175lb campaigner, Scotland’s most successful amateur boxer, has the requisite skill-set to enable him to box successfully at range as well up close and in the pocket but tends to start in a blistering fashion with an immediate flurry of punches being thrown in the direction of his opponent.
Strong punch variety, mixing up the shot selection and working the angles with a ramrod left jab followed by protruding shots to the head and body, Hutchinson has the firepower to finish off many an opponent and with many years ahead of him, he’s only going to get better.
Rising up the rankings across multiple weight divisions in the women’s game is, aptly named, Hannah Rankin who has already been making huge waves just seven fights into her professional career.
A former white collar boxer, Rankin made the transition into the professional game in May of last year and has had more than her fair share of issues when it comes to finding opponents – a shot at the Commonwealth title in April had to be cancelled due to visa issues but in the back half of 2018, Rankin’s stock has risen immeasurably.
Up against Saana Turunen, for the WBC Silver title, Rankin went 10 rounds for the first time in her career and did so with ease, picking off her Finish opponent comfortably and stamping her authority on the bout.
A world title shot followed a mere seven weeks later, again going up in weight, as she challenged Alicia Napoleon for the WBA Super Middleweight belt and – outrage about it not being shown on the Fox broadcast aside – despite losing the contest by a margin of six, eight and six rounds on the scorecards, Rankin put in one hell of a fight to emerge with a bolstered reputation.
Mentored by the great, Sweet D, Derek Williams and managed by Sam Kynoch, the professional bassoonist has invigorated a whole new demographic into the women’s boxing scene and with a comparatively small pool of fighters, the 28 year old has the class and pedigree to compete at the top for a long, long time.
Always producing fireworks, Rankin may very well be the spark that ignites a whole new generation of boxers to take risks, refuse to believe supposed limitations and just take the dive into the deep end.
It is curveball time because this next man isn’t Scottish but, well, rather a Congolese heavyweight based in Airdrie and coached by “Scotland’s most successful professional boxing gym” with Billy Nelson – so whilst Martin Bakole doesn’t strictly count, I wanted to include as much for how much Nelson rates him as anything else.
Those that have seen him spar Anthony Joshua repeatedly declare that Bakole is “a handful for any heavyweight” and Dave Alllen is one of those guys that think the IBO Inter-Continental champion has the attributes to go all the way to the top.
A fixture on Channel 5’s broadcasts, Bakole has hit his stride as of late with two successive first round knockouts – over Ali Baghouz and DL Jones, namely – and whilst a fair few are quick to denounce those wins as bums, nobodies, journeyman (Twitter is a wacky place), the manner in which Bakole has dispatched of the two was nothing short of destructive.
Indeed what’s more impressive is that he managed to beat Baghouz and Jones in a quicker fashion than two of the more hyped world heavyweight prospects in Daniel Dubois and Tony Yoka. Despite that, Bakole has a distinct lack of attention being shone his way which, in part, is down to his quiet and humble demeanour.
Heavy-handed from the opening bell, Bakole comes out firing punches with bad intentions, immediately settling into a rhythm and looking to detonate the, almost, rhythmic right hook of his with consummate ease.
Martin Bakole is next out on October 13th, in London, with his proposed opponent being a former world title challenger – a chance, presumably, for Bakole to test himself against somebody of note.
Back from that minor detour to a full-blooded Scot and, quite possibly, the most Scottish boxer there is in Gary Rae and the bantamweight has found his a delightful consistency with his trainer, Mark Breslin, who has overseen his progression from an amateur all the way back in 2010.
A relationship that Gary describes as “like father and son”, the 30 year old thinks their bond is something that separates him from his rivals –
“For me it’s so important, the continuity, I need that and Mark has looked after me ever since I started… I’ve got a really good bond with Mark, there’s a mutual trust and a genuine care for each other. Not many others have that relationship with their coach, other than when they train with their dad, but I trust him completely and, hopefully, it’ll stand me in good stead”.
At 5ft9, Rae has had to adapt to punching downwards in the 122lb division but likes to stick to the basics, keeping his distance, landing some nice body shots before jumping into the inside and landing a quick 1, 2, 3. It’s this pattern of his that he uses to keep the fight flowing and in his control before the time comes to crank up the pressure.
As good as he is in the ring, for Gary the key strengths lie outside of it, in his mentality and the people around him and it’s his slightly obsessive personality that gives him the edge –
“I always want to do the best job and I will always give 100%, blood, sweat and tears. If I don’t win I want to be able to say it was by the better man not because I didn’t give everything and I will never cut corners, I need to know I’ve given myself the best opportunity.”
Fighting on October 6th, in Paisley, against Scott Allan for the vacant Celtic Bantamweight title, the full-time painter is looking to get the title under his belt in order to fulfil his aspirations of turning fully professional by the end of next year; with a desire to move through the weights and a determination stronger than iron, Gary “Bueno” Rae is the one guy you’d put your money on to deliver the goods.
And as if to bring this whole article full circle, dare we even rule out Ricky Burns? 50 fights as a professional and still going strong, in a division where one or two good wins can earmark you for a world title shot, Burns is well placed to chase those legacy-defining marquee fights as he enters the final stage of his career.
Looking at the landscape of Scottish boxing, you’d be hard-pressed to say the future doesn’t bode well with experienced wise guys and blazing young challengers carving their own paths through the divisions – some are seeking one last shot at glory, some are building to an ever-lasting legacy whilst others, well others, are just doing it for the love of the sport but every fighter starting out, winding up, has the proud blood of Scotland running through their veins with the knowledge that, win or lose, they’re giving it their all and doing a nation proud.
Josh Taylor Wins in Scotland
By: Oliver McManus
Scotland’s Finest were on display at the SSE Hydro Arena in Glasgow last night as Cyclone Promotions featured five title fights on their first show of 2018 with all eyes on one man – Josh Taylor.
The Tartan Tornado is a man avoided fervently at the top of the lightweight division with his impressive array of attributes being enough to scare off all bar a few plucky warriors. Having to go about things the hard way, then, Taylor was looking to force his way into a world title shot as he faced Winston Campos, of Nicaragua, for the WBC Silver title following a late withdrawal to Humberto Soto.
Having produced career best performances across the board in 2017, Barry McGuigan’s protégé was tipped to make an explosive start to this year and backed himself to deal convincingly with the threat of Campos.
Should Taylor come through this battle unscathed then a WBC world title eliminator had been provisionally pencilled in for June but the whole of Scotland knew they could look no further than the busy, gritty, South American. For now, anyway.
Dubbed a “southpaw banana skin” for Taylor, Campos was hoping the Scotsman would slip up against him and, in doing so, provide a platform for the big time.
From the outset Taylor marked his intentions by rushing to the centre of the ring and aiming a stiff jab into the face of Campos – the Nicaraguan looked rocked and was caught by subsequent hard-hitting jabs. Having said that Campos played into the hands of the South American fighting stereotype by bouncing around the ring and looking comfortable from range.
All the signs were, however, that as soon as Taylor was allowed, nay decided, to close the gap and attack Campos up close that his opponent would then succumb to The Tartan Tornado.
Big, looping, booming hooks only went to reinforce Taylor’s early dominance and despite Campos hitting the canvas at the end of the first round it was ruled merely a slip, a dubious one though.
Round Two began in an upbeat fashion with Campos firing in a few shots to the body of Taylor with, admittedly, little impact but more as if to say “hey, I’m not going to be a walkover”. Cyclone’s Champion responded however with a punishing right hook after an attempted counter-punch from the late replacement opponent, to put Campos in a world full of trouble.
Shot after shot into the body of his opponent saw El Zurdo crumble to the canvas in credit to a scything body punch – the story would be repeated mere moments later when the South American ate repeated right hooks from Taylor and fell to the canvas again.
Hanging in via sheer guts alone the 25 year old foolishly turned his back in the opening moments of the third and fell victim to a ferocious onslaught of punches from the former Scottish amateur sensation with savage left hooks draining the stamina from his legs.
Whilst managing to get up before the count of four, referee Victor Loughlin had seen enough to suggest that the southpaw was only going to suffer unnecessary punishment should the bout have continued.
A third round knockout to add to Taylor’s collection now making it 11 from 12 as The Tartan Tornado looks set to be on a destruction path of the lightweight division in 2018… let’s get it on!
The other results from the night featured Glenn Foot capturing the Commonwealth Super Lightweight title following a rapturous contest with Jason Easton – arguably domestic fight of the year – Foot landed the first punch of the night and within thirty seconds the pair were tearing into each-other from within the space of a postage stamp. Wild swinging left and right hands by Easton were countered by tight, inside body punches.
Both fighters loaded up with real vigour and spite packed into their punches and whilst neither landed clean enough to spin the jaw of their counterpart, each punch added to the sheer spectacle of the contest.
Jabs were to be the order of the day for Easton in order to be successful but throughout the opening rounds they were found to be lacking in the extreme as Foot was never disrupted from laying leather into the home-crowd favourite.
The tempo followed the same as that of Foot’s last bout, with Josh Leather, – that contest for the IBF European title – and the fighter was fortunate enough to be displaying the best performance of his career whereas Easton seemed to be hindered by emotion.
A thunderous left overhand straight into the face of Easton gained audible gasps from the paying spectators and, at first glance, looked to break the nose of the Scotsman. With both men throwing their whole weight with each punch it was a miracle, almost, that neither ended up cold but the war raged on into the second half of the fight.
An incredible bout worthy of being a headlining contest, should we see the rematch, both fighters were gutsy throughout battle with sickening body shots from Easton only being matched with equal fire from the Sunderland man.
Easton looked to exploded towards the latter stages and with each shot slammed into the head of Foot, you felt his confidence grow and, with it, his fighting began to feel all the more fluid. On paper this was a good fight, in the ring it was an EXCEPTIONAL fight and proof, if any was needed, that trading punches is always going to produce a viewing spectacle to delight the masses.
Into the championship rounds we went although you’d be forgiven for thinking the bout had just started thanks to the sheer constant barrage of shots being fired, a simply sumptuous right hook into the side of Foot’s face left the 30 year old visibly dazed, borderline concussed, and Easton began to tee off on what was, temporarily, a sandbag begging to be hit.
All that was keeping Glenn Foot up was the sheer courage in his heart and the heaviness of his legs willing not to go down but boy, did it bring out even more from the fighter, who survived only to follow up with huge right hands of his own.
The 11th round was to be the home of the crescendo as an amalgamation of all that had been before, the build-up of all the fire, resulted in one big explosion. This barnstormer, cream-cracker of a fight had a climax witnessed only before in Athenian battlegrounds but was bestowed upon a packed, salivating SSE Hydro Arena crowd; toe-to-toe action, would we expect any more, saw Sunderland’s saviour shellac the dreams of Easton into disarray with a concussive crack of a right hand sending the whole of Scotland into shock and with that final punch, the fight was over as Glenn Foot won the Commonwealth title in a fight to go down in the history books.
10 rounds of boxing scheduled for the vacant Celtic Lightweight title took place as “The Railman” Ryan Collins took on “The Mailman” Charlie Flynn. Going into the fight it was hard to tell who the betting favourite was and given that their previous fight, 11 months ago, ended in a head collision there was very little to take from that.
Flynn started off by taking to the centre of the ring and his physical superiority made an immediate impact when a huge right hand sent Collins to the canvas with just 40 seconds gone of the first round; on weak legs, Collins looked rattled and Flynn was able to land shots at will.
Almost as though he was out of his depth the expression on Ryan Collins was one of bewilderment and did well to box at range, being sensible, but Flynn’s grit and determination earned him the unquestionable better of the opening round.
A cagey round followed with Flynn controlling the distance of the bout with ease – Collins often found himself coming up short with his punches – but both men kept their legs moving as they navigated the ring comprehensively with neither fighter really wanting to ignite the contest into a barn-burner.
The most pertinent observation over the cause of the opening two rounds was the repeated near-head-collisions between the two men, giving rise to fears that this fight could be equally as short-lived as their first duel.
And so it proved in the third when a visibly wincing Flynn was struck by the head of Collins during an up-close exchange of punches. Fortunately there was no major damage and the 24 year old recovered to pressure Collins into a real toe-to-toe battle – the first real round where both boxers could lay claim to having won it.
With rounds in the bank and the tempo of the fight set, Charlie Flynn was able to establish his authority in the following round as his controlling jab continued to pop into the face of Collins followed up by varied combinations to the body of his opponent. Boxing well and securing the rounds on the judges’ scorecards.
Just at this fight was looking to kick into life there was déjà vu of incomprehensible magnitude as both boxers leaned in and smashed heads. Gaping cuts emerged on the forehead of both with oozes of blood flowing out of the gashes.
Sometimes it’s best just to put things in the past and move on – for Collins and Flynn, after their second technical draw, I think that’s the best bet for both men.
On the undercard lightweight sensation Chantelle Cameron looked to defend her IBO title over former world title challenger Myriam Dellal – the champion looked to be on an unstoppable rise but the challenger boasted the experience necessary to render this a competitive fight.
To be brutally, brutally, honest this fight provided very little to write about with the performance perhaps best described as clinical. That’s in no way to suggest that Chantelle Cameron’s fight was anything short of top-drawer, just to say that the contest followed the same pattern throughout the 10 rounds.
In truth this was probably one of Chantelle Cameron’s best performances as Wham Bam Cam proved to be technically superb with her balance and footwork being nothing short of sublime. The former GB amateur proved that it’s not all about flashy knockouts and rather her ability to dictate the pace and position at which the fight was fought was the defining aspect of her fight-plan.
Dellal was not a slouch and came to win but the sheer gulf in class was undeniable as Britain’s best female boxer dominated the rounds by out-manoeuvring the Frenchwoman before firing off rapid combination shots with incredible hand speed.
A superb performance from Chantelle Cameron if, admittedly, a little less explosive and extravagant than many had been hoping for. Who knows, hopefully the next fight will warrant more in-depth commentary.
The rest of the results were as followed; Marc Kerr knocked out Iain Trotter in the third round to secure the Scottish Area middleweight title and now goes 6-0; Lee McGregor continued his perfect record by knocking out Pablo Narvaez to move 3 and 0 and Malik Zinad goes to 11-0 thanks to a 2nd round knockout.
If that was Scotland’s Finest then roll on 2018 because what a year it’s going to be!
Scotland’s Best Return to the SSE Hydro, Glasgow
By: Oliver McManus
Cyclone Promotions continue their whistle-stop rise of ‘The Tartan Tornado’, Josh Taylor, who defends his WBC Silver Super Lightweight title against Winston Campos following the withdrawal of, original opponent, Humberto Soto.
Taylor comes off the back of a sensational 2017 that saw him defend his Commonwealth title against Warren Joubert, fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, DEMOLISH the hype train of Ohara Davies and prove his mettle in the toughest of tests as he rallied his army of fans ahead of his bid to become the GREATEST Scottish boxer of all time.
The distinguished amateur already looks super technically with exemplary footwork able to see him, quite literally, jump around the canvas as he avoids the shots coming his way – good movement is often the forgotten skill of a boxer because, after all , if you can’t get hit you can’t get sparked out!
With 10 of his 11 wins coming by way of knockout including Davies’ devastating demolition, last July, knock-out power of the highest order is an obvious gift for the 27 year old but I’d like to see him really work the combination shots against Campos for, as much as anything, preparation for his inevitable step-up to World title level.
Campos provides a completely different challenge, stylistically, to Soto with the most prevalent difference being his southpaw stance – it’ll be interesting to see how Taylor handles this, with his in-your-face style susceptible to walking onto the punches of a southpaw.
On the back of a 14 win streak, admittedly against dull opposition (including two opponents, back-to-back, TWICE), El Zurdo captured the WBA Fedcaribe title in December with a wide points decision (oddly over nine rounds) against Galvis Guerra.
This will be his first fight outside of his home country for some five years and, with that, his first step up in quality in just as long – unfortunately for the 25 year old, it’s set to be a miserable flight home with Taylor expected to dispatch the South American with relative ease.
On the undercard Chantelle Cameron looks to defend her world title as she battles it out with Myriam Dellal for the IBO Lightweight title – Cameron possesses an unblemished record at 5-0 and looked at her scintillating best last December against Viviane Obenauf, forcing her Brazilian opponent to retire at the end of the sixth.
Obenauf had previously gone the distance with Katie Taylor so for Wham Bam Chan to blast the 15 fight veteran out of the ring in such impressive fashion demonstrates clearly the necessary skills of an elite level boxer.
In Dellal she faces an experienced veteran of the women’s game, having been a professional for 10 years and mixing it with the cream of the crop on many an occasion – Delfine Persoon and Maiva Hamadouche to name just two. Hailing from France, the 39 year old will need to be on the top of her game to stop the unmissable ascent of Chantelle Cameron.
Moving back to the Super Lightweight division then where we find a tasty clash for the Commonwealth title between, Edinburgh’s own, Jason Easton and Glenn Foot, a feisty warrior from Sunderland.
Foot was most recently in action on the undercard of Liam Smith-Liam Williams 2 when he pushed, hot prospect, Josh Leather the full 12 rounds, dropping him in the second and, for many, winning the fight. Nonetheless the leaves didn’t crunch for him and a narrow points decision saw him on the losing end.
Despite the loss, Foot showed he was far from done with the industry and is far from an easy opponent from Easton who’s yet to be in with a real livewire of an opponent. For Foot the key is to impose himself early on, get in the face of Easton and don’t let him settle.
Unbeaten Easton has a record of 11 wins with no defeats and has the likes of Steve Jamoye, Josef Zahradnik and Zoltan Szabo on his resume – the deceptively gangly (in a good way) fighter moves with confidence, commanding the centre of the ring before unleashing pure power in his right hand. A real phonebox fight in the making, BRING IT ON.
Also fighting on the bill are Charlie Flynn and Iain Trotter, both fighting in title fights, who’ll look to make it five titles in one night for the best of Cyclone’s talents ahead of what could be a stellar year for the fledgling promotion company – Martin Bakole Ilunga, Lee McGregor and Joe Ham also fight on what promises to be a simply sumptuous night of championship boxing.
Crolla and Burns set for “Battle of Britain”
By: Thomas B Nicholls
British Lightweight stars Anthony Crolla and Ricky Burns are set to do battle at a packed Manchester Arena on October 7th.
Matchroom chief Eddie Hearn announced the bout earlier this week and Sky Sports will broadcast the crossroads clash.
Both Crolla & Burns have been relieved of their world titles in 2017 and with their careers in jeopardy, it’s a simple “must win” for both men.
48 fight veteran Scot, Ricky Burns was convincingly beaten in his unification fight with Julius Indongo back in April, the Namibian southpaw outclassed Burns with a slick performance and is now set to tackle P4P star Terence Crawford.
Similarly, Mancunian Crolla lost his rematch with Jorge Linares in March as he had no answer for the Venezuelan’s s elite and elusive fighting style. Linares is now set to defend his world honours against British Olympian Luke Campbell at the end of September.
Burns will no doubt be backed by the partisan “Tartan Army” as he bids to find his former glory. Burns is Scotland’s first and only three-weight world champion and at 34, he knows he must win if his career is to get back on track.
Burns said “It’s going to be a great fight, there was a lot of talk in recent weeks, the response we got was unbelievable. People want to see it and now the deal is done I’m looking forward to it.”
“It doesn’t bother me where I fight, there will be a good crowd coming down from Scotland. It’s a fight the fans have been getting up for and I’m sure they will turn up in their numbers.
“When I held world titles at super-featherweight and lightweight, Crolla’s name was always mentioned but it never happened.
“He’s a great guy and a great fighter, I don’t think you’ll get much trash talk in the build-up. The best man will win on the night.”
Bookmakers SkyBet have installed Crolla as the pre-fight favourite, perhaps favouring the youthfulness of the Manchester man. Both fighters will be desperate for the win as a defeat could determine the end of their career.
Speaking of the importance of the fight, Crolla said “All I want to do is be involved in big fights and Ricky Burns is a three-weight world champion. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s a great fighter and only lost to the very best.”
“I’m looking forward to going to battle and putting on a display for the fans. Camp started a few weeks ago and I’m in a good place. “It’s at a good time for both of us. A win puts us back in the mix for titles. I’m not going to say the loser has nowhere to go, but it’s going to be a tough road back. We’re both coming off losing our world titles and the incentive is to win the fight and get back in the frame.”
Despite there being no title on the line, this has the foundations to be a fight for the ages. Both men conduct themselves impeccably outside of the ring and there was little trash talking in the press conference, it’s clear to see that their energy will be channelled in to resurrecting /prolonging their careers.
If I was to give my prediction, for whatever it’s worth, I predict Ricky Burns the victor in a barnstorming 12 round war.