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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

Lerrone Richards

‘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.

Umar Sadiq

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.

Dan Azeez

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.

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Five Fights to Look Forward to in the United Kingdom


By: Oliver McManus

At the top level of the game there are plenty of great fights taking place with Britain blessed to have world champion after world champion but take a step backwards to appreciate the full scene and you’ll find a whole host of tasty match-ups happening at levels of the game –

Jason Welborn vs Tommy Langford

Welborn vs Langford has all the ingredients for a scintillating rematch as the “Battle of the Baggies” moves onto round two (well, technically, rounds 13-24) in Birmingham on September 8th.

First time round in Walsall, Jason Welborn took to the centre of the ring right from the off with an incredible work-rate, targeting the body of Langford whilst the champion, Langford, looked to establish what he believed was his technical superiority.

Both fighters were fast on their feet and willing to trade punches with neither afraid of taking a shot in order to land a flurry of their own and even though Welborn came into the fight the, large, betting underdog, he showed no signs of relenting as went into the championship rounds, staying busy and landing an accumulation of punches.

The fight was up for grabs and in a genuine domestic thriller, Welborn emerged the victor via a narrow split decision (114-113, 114-113, 113-115) and claimed the British Middleweight championship from his rival.

This time round on the undercard of Khan-Vargas, Welborn will be looking to go one step even further than he manged in May and stop Langford within the distance – let’s not forget that Langford was counted in the 2nd round after the ropes had held him up –, enhancing his position as a genuine contender in the packed middleweight scene.

Tommy, on the other hand, will be looking for redemption and bounce back from his second loss in the space of 13 months – the first, a fifth round TKO loss to Avtandil Khurtsidze – with a dedicated, technical performance that, prior to these potential hiccups, had seen him being targeted for an all-British showdown with Billy Joe Saunders.

Indeed Langford wasn’t on his A Game when the first fight occurred, not that we should take any credit away from Welborn, and you could argue that he adapted a little too much to the game-plan of his challenger – stick to the basics, work the jab and that’s when Langford really hits his stride.

Jeff Ofori vs Jumaane Camero

Has this fight been mentioned enough recently? Spot the sarcasm because this fight is, put simply, A FIGHT. One better than that, it’s a fight that you genuinely cannot pick a winner from.

It’s a fight that you don’t want to HAVE to pick a winner from, either, both of these guys are genuine, humble people who haven’t forgotten where they come from. Ultimately, though, on September 15th one of these lightweights will emerge as the Southern Area champion – Camero having defended it successfully or Ofori having mounted a victorious challenge.

Stylistically the two are vastly different with Camero having, typically, been the more patient and measured boxer who likes to control the fight at his own tempo and has quite a unique style but, make no mistake, is capable of packing a whack so you do not want to be on the end of one of those big punches.

As Jumaane says, himself, he is “freakishly long limbed” and possess a style that makes dealing with him incredibly awkward – Ofori, on the other hand, is much more of your typical aggressor, seeking to take each and every fight with a high-tempo, guns-blazing style of boxing.

At the end of June, Ofori faced a tough journeyman, Luke Fash, in full knowledge that this Southern Area fight was to follow and Jeff looked imperious, cutting off the ring really well and attacking the body of Fash with vim and vigour – speaking to Ofori afterwards, however, he said he wanted more rounds to get used to the longer distances, as opposed to his fourth round knockout.

This will be Ofori’s first ten round bout but with both men talking as though they expect it not to last the scheduled distance there is no doubt that September 15th will see fireworks aplenty – Ofori needs to keep up his aggression, work the short uppercut when he’s on the ropes whilst Camero should look to use his awkward style and height advantage to the best of his ability, the styles will mesh and produce a sumptuous bout so all that’s left to do is buy the tickets because you do not want to miss this.

Cello Renda vs Luke Cowcroft

Cello Renda is a man who, for a long time now, has always promised much and whilst he has achieved one hell of a lot – current Southern Area champion, challenged for the English and British belts – there’s been a distinct feeling that, actually, he could be coming into the best years of his fighting career.

A win against Leon McKenzie, last year, re-established himself on the map and look at his record, you’ll see he’s fought Liam Conroy, Jack Arnfield, Sam Horton, Martin Murray, Danny Butler, Tom Doran, Paul Smith and these are not names to be sniffed at by any stretch of the imagination.

But, as mentioned, it was that fight against McKenzie that really seemed to, on paper, ignite something within him as he demonstrated his power, precision and sheer toughness to an absolute tee – Renda was in a war and he came out on top. Since then he’s been targeting the English title that Darryll Williams holds and this fight against Cowcroft is serving as an eliminator for that belt.

Cowcroft, on the other hand, is taking a huge step in quality but Stefy Bull clearly thinks he’s talented enough to carry off an upset and the mood around the Doncaster light-heavyweight is distinctly upbeat and it’s clear to see that he’s improved significantly in the three years that he’s been out of the ring.

Not so much of a power puncher as Renda, Cowcroft has an absolute engine within him and will be looking to out-work Cello, tiring the Southern Area champion, before mounting a late surging attack as he, to boot, looks to prove any doubters wrong.

This fight has all the makings of an absolute classic, Cello Renda looked the best he’s ever looked up against Leon McKenzie, punch-perfect stoppage, and Luke Cowcroft is constantly developing, constantly learning and not just in training but in the ring, too, up against Renda he will need to have learnt an awful lot but if anyone can secure such an upset, surely, it’s the man from Doncaster.

Jazza Dickens vs Martin Ward

A rematch for the vacant British super-bantamweight title, made possible by Thomas Patrick Ward withdrawing from the scheduled fight and opting to fight for the IBF European belt instead.

Jazza Dickens has had a frustrating last couple years following his loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux, a fight that resulted in a broken jaw for Dickens, and was unfortunate last year to suffer a cut above the left eye against Patrick Ward that forced the contest to go the scorecards early – Dickens was trailing but had momentum and the fight was shaping up to be a real pick ‘em with everything likely coming down to the final three rounds.

Since then the Liverpool fighter has looked crisp in training, arguably in the shape of his life, and against Martin Ward, on July 27th, there’s every expectation of a better, more convincing performance than the last time they fought (in 2015).

Three years ago this duo fought the full 12 rounds before a split decision rendered Dickens the winner and, in turn, the British champion – Dickens was the fighter pressing the case and working the angles but a split decision was probably accurate.

With Dickens there is little doubt just how talented a fighter he is and the southpaw possess all the technical traits that could see him go all the way, on top of that he has a brilliant energy, work-rate and stamina that marks him out as a complete fighter just waiting to get tested.

Martin Ward, former British and Commonwealth Champion, is not to be underestimated and the experienced fighter relies on a patient game-plan, looking to take the fight at a constant, comfortable pace, often fighting at distance.

Past performances would suggest that Ward has peaked at around the British level with his previous step up to European level resulting in a second round knockout loss to Abigail Medina – not the greatest of opponent but no-one to discredit – and this fight in Houghton Le Spring will be seen as the 30 year old’s golden opportunity to really propel his name back into the talking.

Dickens would, you assume, prevail in this contest especially if he is to reach the heights he is expected but, as happens time and time again, you can never assume anything in boxing and the winner of this contest, Dickens or Ward, will have a couple of cracking clashes in the offing.

Kyle Yousaf vs Tommy Frank

Stefy Bull has been announcing some really good fights as of late – Atif Shafiq vs Andy Townend, Robbie Barrett vs Matty Fagan – and Kyle Yousaf vs Tommy Frank is part of the stellar card taking place in Barnsley on October 5th.

An application has been made to the BBBofC for this bout to be for the English belt and when you look at the domestic shake-up then there can be no qualms about the fight having such status.

Having the poisoned chalice of competing in the lower weight divisions, Yousaf and Frank have had a criminally small amount of media attention throughout their careers despite them both being absolutely phenomenal fighters.

Yousaf, the more experienced with 13 fights, beholds an impressive fighting brain with his ability to pick punches marking him out at an early stage of his career. Not many fighters, when they first turn pro, are mature enough to identify periods of the bout when they don’t need to come out swinging but Yousaf, still only 25, has frequently shown incredible maturity during the ring.

Against Gyula Dodu there was a punch-perfect display from the Golden Kid as he used his left jab repeatedly to keep on top of his opponent before dropping down to the body with some telling right hands to the body. A superb right to the head of Dodu, launched with exquisite timing and precision, finished off the fight and even though the bout lasted 118 seconds, the talent on show was mouthwatering.

Tommy ‘Super Frank’ is the current Central Area Super Flyweight champion and against Craig Derbyshire, in Frank’s seventh fight, the Yorkshire boxer impressed with his fight pace, going 10 rounds but looking comfortable throughout, and his commanding presence at the centre of the ring enables him to cut space off for his opponent, shortening the distance and letting Frank work the inside of his opponent – something he does particularly well.

When the hands get loose, they don’t half pack a punch and with a strong preference for targeting the body, he knows to pressure the opposition onto the ropes before unleashing with a series of alternating shots to the body.

In terms of power Yousaf probably has the upper hand, that should be evident from his superior knockout rate, but this is a fight you don’t see getting stopped early, it’s an enthralling battle between two young, hungry, undefeated fighters and it has all the ingredients of being an absolute barnstormer.

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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!

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Five Fighters to Watch in 2018


By: Eric Lunger

As the final wrapping paper gets cleaned up from under the tree, and as we collectively vow – in varying degrees of enthusiasm and conviction — to get back to sensible eating and exercise, it’s time to take a glance ahead at the upcoming year in boxing, and count down the top five fighters to keep an eye on. This is a pretty eclectic list, and no doubt you have your own picks; I’d love to read which boxers you are watching for 2018 in the comments below.


Photo Credit: WBSS

Joseph Parker (Heavyweight). The Kiwi WBO champion had a great 2017, defending his newly-won belt twice. In May, he took care of business against Razvan Cojanu, a late-minute replacement in a not-so spectacular bout, but in September, Parker traveled to Manchester, UK, to take on the talented contender Hughie Fury. Parker (24-0, 18 KOs) answered a lot of questions that night, and won over some critics. Still, there are some commentators who feel that Parker is the odd man out in the top tier of the division, that he doesn’t really belong in the same rarified air as Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, and Tyson Fury. But with his power, his hand speed, and most importantly, his meteoric learning curve each and every outing, Parker can be a real spoiler in the division. Will he get a shot at AJ in 2018? That is tough to envision, given Team Joshua’s current aversion to risk, but as the WBO Champion, unification of the belts has to go through Parker at some point.

Oleksandr Usyk (Cruiserweight). Usyk (13-0, 11 KOs) fought on the same Olympic team as Vasyl Lomachenko, training with Lomachenko’s father, and it shows in Usyk’s footwork and use of angles. Already WBO world champion, the Ukrainian southpaw is in the semi-finals of the World Boxing Super Series Cruiserweight tournament, slated to take on undefeated WBC champion Mairis Breidis in Riga, Latvia, on January 27. Supremely confident, Usyk is one of those few European amateurs who understands that the professional game is about more than just scoring points; a fighter needs to be exciting to watch if he wants to build his fan base. With knockout artist Murat Gassiev and Yunier Dorticos in the other semi-final in February, the WBSS tournament is exciting and dynamic, and Usyk has to be the favorite to unify all the belts and lift the Muhammad Ali Trophy.

Javier Fortuna (Lightweight) A southpaw from the Dominican Republic and former WBA World champion at junior lightweight, Fortuna (33-1-1, 23 KOs) has an important title shot this coming January against undefeated IBF lightweight champion Robert Easter, Jr. Fortuna is an underdog in this fight, to be sure, but the matchup will be competitive and entertaining. The Dominican standout is a risk-taker, and he can get caught. But he is also brilliant to watch, especially when he makes intuitive adjustments in the ring or decides to ramp up the performance aspect of his game. This will be no easy tune-up for Easter, and Fortuna should not be overlooked as a potential upset of the year.

Danny Garcia (Welterweight). Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs) has always been one of my favorite fighters. A guy with deep Philly roots, he’s had tough battles with the likes of Amir Khan, Zab Judah, Lucas Matthysse, Paulie Malignaggi, and Keith Thurman. Danny is an accurate counterpuncher whose risky style is based on one of the most dominant left hooks in the game. The split decision loss to Thurman last March had to be a bitter pill for the proud Garcia to swallow. How does a fighter who has accomplished so much in the sport find the motivation to rebound from a loss like that? We will find out where Garcia is mentally and physically this February 17 as he takes on Brandon Rios (34-3, 25 KOs) in a twelve-round welterweight clash.

Vasyl Lomachenko (Junior Lightweight). Obviously, the slick Ukrainian southpaw is on top of the boxing world right now, and is a factor in everyone’s pound-for-pound discussion, but the real unknown for Lomachenko in 2018 is: whom should he fight next? Who will give him a challenge? Who will draw a big audience? Miguel Berchelt (32-1 28 KOs), who holds the WBC belt, seems like the logical next opponent for “HiTech,” but a case can certainly be made for Francisco Vargas (24-1-2, 17 KOs) or even Gervonta Davis (19-0, 18 KOs). There has also been significant social media chatter about Lomachenko moving up to 135 to fight Mikey Garcia (37-0, 30 KOs), and what a fight that would be. Unfortunately, for now, Garcia has moved to junior welterweight to face Sergey Lipinets (13-0, 10 KOs) for the IBF title. Regardless, Lomachenko remains a fighter to watch in 2018.

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Five Keys to Victory for Errol Spence


Five keys to victory for Errol Spence
By: Kirk Jackson

Kell “The Special One” Brook 36-1 (25 KO’s) aims to defend his IBF welterweight championship for the fourth time facing Errol “The Truth” Spence 21-0 (18 KO’s) May 27th, at the Bramall Lane Football Grounds arena, in Sheffield, Yorkshire, United Kingdom.

spence

In a battle of welterweight supremacy, this bout may shape out to be a career defining fight for Brook or a coming out party for Spence.

Each fighter is highly skilled and holds certain advantages. What are some factors determining the outcome?

Size:

Brook is considered a big welterweight; moved up and fought as a middleweight his last fight. His struggles to make the welterweight limit are well documented.

However, Spence is a big welterweight as well.

“At the face off, you look at us, I’m taller than him. I’m a bigger guy than him,” says Errol Spence.

“You just have to be disciplined. A lot of guys blow up in weight before training camp. I live it, because I can get up to 180, 180 (lbs) plus, if I really engorge myself.”

Spence suggests he won’t be bullied inside as the bigger man.

If Brook attempts to hold Spence in attempt to nullify his offense on the inside or in an attempt to frustrate the American challenger, Spence’s size and perceived strength may foil Brook’s plans.

Size plays a major part regarding reach and the distance in which the fight is fought.

Range/Distance control:

Continuing the discussion of size, reach and the measure of distance is important.
Physical attributes play a part in range/distance control because the physical tools of a pugilist typically dictates the style and type of contest the combatant wants to enforce.

Some boxers are versatile and can fight effectively at different ranges; but utilize various tools to be effective in different scenarios.

For example, Spence has the reach advantage, as his reach is 72 inches while Brook is 69 inches.

Brook likes to fight from the outside so in this match-up he will have to utilize speed and timing to successfully combat Spence from the outside and deliver his patented “Chocolate Brownies.”

Spence can and probably will attempt to fight on the outside at times, but there will be a point when he attempts to move the fight inside the trenches to land his trademark body blows.

Former IBF welterweight champion Shawn Porter 27-2-1 (17 KO’s) believes Spence has the advantage in physical tools.

“I see Errol [Spence] being patient and working behind his jab. Using his head movement and setting up good body shots.

I just see him keeping the fight pretty clean. That southpaw style can sometimes be hard to adjust to. I just think a lot of things are in his favor.”

But Porter believes Brook can emerge victorious as well.

“It’s just a matter of what both fighters want to do. I think Kell [Brook] will want to keep him on the outside. I think he’ll use his jab to control. I look for Errol to use some good foot movement to get inside and work his way from the outside as well.”

This will be a fight of inches.

Technique:

Spence doesn’t stand out in regards to sensational hand speed, swiftness and devastating one punch knockout power. All of the sexy attributes.

But the Olympian from Texas can punch hard; his punches are like thudding shots leaving a lasting impression, wearing down opponents. With his technique, Spence is able to generate the power necessary to punish opponents.

A trait more important than speed is timing. Spence times the rhythm of his opponents and can offset speed with his timing and with his awareness of range and distance.

Spence has tremendous balance as well. He is always in position to catch punches with his gloves, to slip punches and counter, to pursue or escape. Great balance allows for a seamless transition from offense to defense and great balance stems from proper foot work and coordination.

Spence has a mastery of the basic fundamentals; great punching technique, elite level footwork, effectively shifts his weight when placing power and precision on punches and is an overall balanced fighter.

Pace/Pressure:

Brook likes to control the pace and fight composed. The only time viewers could sense some kind of stress or adversity from Brook (body language) was when he fought reigning middleweight champion Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin 37-0 (33 KO’s).

Golovkin applied not only physical, but mental pressure as well; constantly in Brook’s grill, not allowing the welterweight champion time to breathe or think.

When fighting Porter and facing relentless pressure and pace placed from Porter, Brook was able to maintain composure and fight at a controlled pace.

Brook’s jab played a major key, as he was able to create the space he needed and was always a step ahead of Porter, catching him with the jab whenever he lunged in to attack.

Spence must push the tempo at times, but must also practice patience because Brook can slip punches and be elusive.

Spence must establish his rhythm early, dictate the pace of the fight and must create the threat of an incoming attack. Feinting, along with another staple of Spence’s game will accomplish this task.

Attacking the body is one of the key components to Spence’s game, along with establishing the jab. The jab is important because it serves as a range finder and can dictate offense and defense for Spence.

Road to the fight:

This fight is highly anticipated and will answer questions regarding the hype for both fighters.

Some critics state Spence is yet to prove himself with his resume of opposition. Former WBO super lightweight champion Chris Algieri 21-3 (8 KO’s) is the only notable name.

Similar assessments can be echoed with Brook and his level of competition.

It’s great to face high level opposition like Golovkin, but the confrontation resulted in a five-round TKO defeat. A victory over Shawn Porter is impressive, but aside from that, who else is there?

Critics of Brook can point to limited mandatory title defenses against Kevin Bizier 25-3 (17 KO’s) and Frankie Gavin 24-3 (14 KO’s), or bouts against guys with more than 100 losses like Peter Buckley 32-256-12 (8 KO’s) and Brian Coleman 24-141-7 (5 KO’s).

The timing of this fight favors the younger challenger, Errol Spence. He is riding a seven-fight knockout streak dating back to 2014 and is in his physical prime.

Something to consider is the accumulative damage a fighter suffers from previous fights. Brook endured a beating from unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin his last bout.

Triple G is not only a middleweight, but one of the most devastating power punchers in boxing. Brook’s orbital bone was severely damaged and we can only speculate how healthy Brook is entering this fight.

Spence claims to be one of the most avoided figures in boxing and is hungry for the title. The question will be if he can channel his hunger, determination and hard preparation for this singular moment? Can he realize his dreams of capturing a world title?

Both fighters appear to be on weight, look sharp with their public workouts and the time for talk is over.

Will it be another “Man Down” for Spence or will he suffer defeat via too many “Chocolate Brownies?”

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Five Keys to Victory for Kell Brook


Five keys to victory for Kell Brook
By: Kirk Jackson

Kell “The Special One” Brook 36-1 (25 KO’s) aims to defend his IBF welterweight championship for the fourth time facing Errol “The Truth” Spence 21-0 (18 KO’s) May 27th, at the Bramall Lane Football Grounds arena, in Sheffield, Yorkshire, United Kingdom.

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In a battle of welterweight supremacy, this bout may shape out to be a career defining fight for Brook or a coming out party for Spence.

Each fighter is highly skilled and holds certain advantages. What are some factors determining the outcome?

Punch variation:

One of the unique elements regarding Brook is his versatility. Brook has the ability to throw punches from different angles and can effectively throw a variety of punches with precision and power.

Possessing an excellent right hand lead and a right uppercut, Brook will have to emphasize landing these types of punches against Spence.

Brook also possesses one of the best 1-2 or (left jab, straight right hand) combinations in boxing. His jab will be crucial in regards to establishing range, locating his target and finding his comfort zone early in the fight.
Facing a southpaw,right hand proficiency is crucial. Although Spence has the edge is reach 72 inches compared to 69 inches for Brook and is the slightly taller man standing 5’9 ½” – Spence likes to fight on the inside to attack the body.

To ward off Spence’s pursuit and eventual attack, Brook may aim uppercuts down the middle, in between Spence’s high guard as he enters up close.

Alejandro Barrera 28-3 (18 KO’s) landed occasional right uppercuts and right hand lead punches when he fought Spencein November of 2015.

Brook may aim to do the same.

Size:

Is Brook the bigger man? Fellow welterweight Danny Garcia believes so talking to Boxingscene.

“I think the timing favors Spence a little bit because Brook just fought Triple-G [Gennady Golovkin]. All that weight, saying he couldn’t make the weight, to come back down, we don’t how he’s physically gonna feel.”

Brook however, altered his diet in preparation for his return to welterweight.

“First, we put him on a strictly-controlled keto diet for a couple of weeks which burns fat,” said nutrition expert Greg Marriott.

“If he spars in the morning, he’ll wake up at 7am and eat slow-release carbohydrates like a bowl of simple oats. An hour before he spars at 10am he has a fast-release carbohydrate like white bread with jam or honey,” Marriot continued.

“In the evening he’ll have a low-glycemic carbohydrate like sweet potato with lean fish.”

Diet and recovery is imperative to maintaining strength. This will allow Brook to fight at full effectiveness; he can fight on the inside and use his frame to keep Spence off balance and attempt to clinch whenever Spence tries to work inside.

Brook can nullify the inside attack like he did in route to defeating Shawn Porter for the IBF title back in August of 2014.

Punching power:

Brook’s power ties into his size and overall strength; he is considered a large welterweight and is rumored to walk around up to 180 lbs or higher when not preparing for a fight.

Brook not out of shape however, possessing the physique of a body builder.

Lead by nutrition expert Greg Marriott and his comprehensive dietary plan, Brook should maintain his strength leading up to his fight with Spence.

With 25 KO’s in 37 bouts, Brook boasts a KO ratio of 68%. He stopped two previous opponents, Kevin Bizier 25-3 (17 KO’s) and Frankie Gavin 24-3 (14 KO’s) prior to facing middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin this past October.

His stoppages against high quality opposition may be questioned, but even against the bigger man Golovkin, the reigning middleweight championwas rocked a few times.

At the very least, Brook possesses enough power to keep opponents honest. Those very weapons, Brook refers to as “Chocolate Brownies.”

Underrated skillset:

For those believing Spence will easily walk through Brook,must think again.

“The Special One” has an underrated skill set and can do many things; inside fighting, slipping punches, effectively maneuvering on the inside and pushing off with his shoulders to create separation and different angles, pull back counters, etc.

Brook is crafty in the trenches, can disguise punches effectively and it can be argued he is more fluid – from a punch combination aspect compared to Spence. Brook also looks a shade quicker in regards to hand speed.

Experience:

Brook has been here before, participating in five world championship bouts. He is the reigning IBF welterweight champion and held his own against the current unified middleweight champion of the world.

He has experience fighting in front of his hometown fans in Sheffield, Yorkshire. Brook has familiarity fighting in front of a large, ruckus audience, as he fought in front of 19,000 at the O2 Arena in London. Last thing he wants to do is loose in front of the hometown crowd for the second time.

Brook may want to use the elements at play to his advantage and jump on Spence early to create a level of doubt in his mind. Establish himself as the champion and control the fight. This will be key in defending his crown.

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The Five Fights I Want to See in 2017


The Five Fights I Want to See in 2017
By: Eric Lunger

As New Year’s Day approaches, boxing fans can look back on the year that has been, and cast a longing eye towards the year to come. Here, in descending order are the top five fights I’d like to see in 2017, some already scheduled and some in the boxing fan’s dream world.

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5. Garcia vs. Thurman

​This bout is scheduled for March 4th in New York for the WBA and WBC welterweight belts, and I can’t wait. Danny Garcia (33-0, 19 KO’s) is a tough, talented, professional, Philadelphia fighter who has a number of big welterweight wins on his resume (Amir Khan, Lucas Matthysse, Lamont Peterson, Paul Malignaggi). Keith Thurman (27-0, 13 KO’s) is coming off a sterling unanimous decision win against Shawn Porter in June, a bout that will rank high on many Fight of the Year lists. This is a true unification fight with two popular American fighters, and some genuine antagonism. I was in Philly for Garcia’s battering of Samuel Vargas, and the post fight antics (which I usual discount as so much theatre) between Garcia and Thurman seemed rancorous enough to be real.

​Garcia is fast, smart defensively, and adaptable in the ring. He can land from unexpected angles, especially his left hook. Thurman is powerful, athletic, and always coming forward. I think this combination of styles will present a great fight, and the unpredictability of the outcome makes this an edge-of-the-seat contest.

4. Ward vs. Kovalev II

​This bout is in the “dream, but likely” column. The first fight was a tactical brilliance by Ward, a fight for aficionados. Reasonable fans and observers can certainly disagree on the judges’ cards. I felt that Kovalev was ahead going into the last three, but was not active enough to win those rounds. Nonetheless, fight fans would love a second dance, which might also allow the promoters to garner a larger national audience and tap into the general sports fan base. Andre Ward is a fantastic fighter, and a compelling human being outside the ring. Couldn’t he be the face of American boxing in the post-Mayweather era?

​Strangely, Ward has been making noises on social media about retiring, though is not clear why. Maybe he’s serious about walking away, maybe he’s trying to goad Kovalev. Or perhaps this is just an odd (and misdirected) way of generating publicity for the rematch.

​There are some interesting questions that a Ward – Kovalev II could answer. Can Kovalev change his style, box more, or does he remain a pressure fighter, looking for a knock out? Can Ward rely on the judges a second time, or does he need to be more aggressive in the early rounds? How much does Kovalev’s frustration at the decision, and Ward’s seeming ambivalence about the sport, drive the outcome?

3. Rigondeaux vs. Frampton

​This bout is in the “dream, unlikely” category. Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KO’s) is scheduled to fight Moises Flores (25-0, 17 KO’s) on February 25 on the Cotto vs. Kirkland undercard. Rigondeaux is putting his WBA junior featherweight title on the line, and I am excited to see the Cuban born fighter come in from the cold, so to speak. Rigo has been in boxing exile, with no one willing to face him in the ring (with the exception of Jazza Dickens of England), and no networks really willing to feature him. Rigo has had only three fights since 2014, but he remains a formidable figure in the sport because of his brilliant defensive footwork combined with devastating punching power. Of course, there are critics who find Rigo’s style boring, too cautious and defensive, not suited for the professional game. I am not one of them; I find Rigondeaux fascinating to watch – he’s certainly learned his lesson (that fans and networks want a more aggressive style) and I expect the Flores bout to be action-packed from the opening bell.

​Carl Frampton (23-0, 14 KO’s) is slated to meet Leo Santa Cruz (32-1, 18 KO’s) in January for a rematch following the exciting and tense Frampton majority decision last time the two met in July of 2016. This is one of those 50-50 fights that make the lower divisions exciting to watch. Both guys are highly skilled and highly motivated. They respect one another, but they are both tough, action fighters. It should be a great bout.
​So, for Rigondeaux and Frampton to meet in the ring, many dominoes must fall in the proper order. Both fighters need to win, obviously, then Rigo needs to move up to featherweight (certainly a plausible move at this point in his career), and he needs to defeat Flores in a way that makes him marketable enough for Frampton’s team to be interested in the bout. And Rigondeaux has other targets in the super bantamweight division, such as Jessie Magdeleno (the WBO titleholder) and Jonathan Guzman (IBF).

2. Wilder vs. Joshua

​This bout I will optimistically put in the “dream, but possible” column.

Anthony Joshua (18-0, 18 KO’s) is wildly popular in the UK, and his upcoming April bout against Wladimir Klitschko (64-4, 54 KO’s) will probably sell out Wembley Arena in London, and should do massive numbers on PPV. British fans are convinced that Joshua will dominate Klitschko, as they can’t imagine their hero struggling against anyone. I would not be surprised if the crafty and experienced Klitschko used his puzzling combination of pawing jab and clinch to confuse and disrupt Joshua. After his embarrassing loss to Tyson Fury in November of 2015, the Ukrainian champion will be more than motivated to bring his best game to London.

​However, if Joshua can get the win against Klitschko, he will capture the WBA and the IBF belts, and be the big stack at the heavyweight table. Between the other belt holders, Joseph Parker of New Zealand (WBO) and Deontay Wilder of the USA (WBC), Wilder is the much more compelling next step, should “AJ” be willing to make the leap. But there are other, complicating factors, namely that the WBA and IBF challengers, currently Luis Ortiz and Kubrat Pulev, might make more sense financially for Joshua and Matchroom Promotions, before they contemplate facing the dangerous Bronze Bomber.

1. Golovkin vs. Canelo Alvarez

​This is the big one – the Holy Grail for boxing fans. Oscar de la Hoya has promised on not a few occasions that the fight will happen in September, after Canelo has “had time” to move up to middleweight. I have always been a big Canelo fan, but his two wins this year – a big knockout against an undersized Amir Khan, and a not very entertaining dispatch of an overmatched Liam Smith – did not do much for his reputation among American fans. Right now there are rumors of a Billy Joe Saunders fight for Cinqo de Mayo weekend, but I would be stunned if Saunders actually climbed into the ring against the Cinnamon destroyer.
​And of course, GGG must stay undefeated, something Danny Jacobs will have something to say about. Their March 18 date in New York promises to be a great night. Madison Square Garden, practically a home fight for the Brooklyn born Jacobs, GGG with his own fan base in New York, his relentless Mexican style – these are the ingredients of a great show and a great boxing match. And let’s be perfectly clear: Jacobs is going to be a stiff test for the Kazak superstar. No one is Golovkin’s camp is overlooking Jacobs; both Golovkin’s and trainer Abel Sanchez’s comments in the media have exhibited nothing but high praise and meaningful respect for Jacobs. Fighters with the kind of power that Jacobs and Golovkin possess, they know that one punch can change the direction of any fight, and that nothing is for certain in this sport.

Nonetheless, the number one fight I want to see in 2017 is Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs. Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. What fights are at the top of your list for next year?

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