Thursday, 29 November 2012

Great British boxing action this weekend

At the Aintree Equestrian Centre in Liverpool Friday night, exciting British heavyweight champion David Price defends his title against veteran Matt Skelton. Many people have already waved this fight off as being a pointless defence as Price looks almost guaranteed to win via an early stoppage. I disagree with these people.

Price won the British title, the oldest belt in boxing, against Sam Sexton just two fights ago and his first title defence was against Audley Harrison in his last fight. He needs to defend it twice more to win the title outright. I think this should be his first priority before even thinking about anything else. The Lonsdale belt is among the most prestigious title belts out there, even today, and should be held in very high regard.

The rumours before the Audley Harrison fight were that he could fight Skelton afterwards, followed by the winner of Richard Towers vs Lucas Browne. If Towers is unsuccessful, and Browne wins, Price would be unable to defend the British title against him as he is Australian; only the Commonwealth title would be on the line. This would therefore still leave an interesting third British title defence open to Price. How about a final title defence against Dereck Chisora or Dillian Whyte? Better still, a clash between himself and fellow giant Tyson Fury?

Time to drop the British title and move up a level? I think not. I can only speak for myself, but if I was given the chance of owning a British Lonsdale belt or a generic “World” alphabet title, I would choose the British title every single time and have a piece of history in my possession.

David Price should beat Skelton, and most probably will, via an early stoppage. If he does, I think this would be a very significant win for the tall Liverpudlian. Nobody stops the likes of John McDermott, Sam Sexton or Audley Harrison early on but that is exactly what David Price did to them. Throw in the fact he now has 8 wins within the distance in his last 8 fights and it’s evident the man has some power in his fists.

Skelton has lost 6 times, each time to very capable opponents, and only 3 times within the distance. Those 3 times were against tough Irishman Martin Rogan (TKO 11), Italian prospect Francesco Pianeta (RTD 8) and top heavyweight contender Kubrat Pulev (KO 4).

Despite 4 losses out of 5 from 2008 to 2010, he seems to have bounced back in recent months. He has 3 wins this year already, one against prospect Tom Dallas, and only a close split decision loss to Michael Sprott in 2010 prevented him from winning the Prizefighter tournament.

Skelton may be 45 years old, but he is in good shape, very rugged and the only guy to beat him in fewer than 8 rounds is a guy who I rate as only second to the Klitschko brothers.

If Price is able to stop Skelton early on, I think the heavyweight division should be put on high alert as this guy’s power will be coming for them very soon.

Verdict: Price will stop the durable Skelton within the first 3 rounds despite all of Skeltons’ efforts to remain in the fight.

At the Manchester Arena, also on Friday night, we will see Commonwealth welterweight champion Denton Vassell defend his title against fellow undefeated Briton Ronnie Heffron.

Heffron has some decent domestic experience with wins over guys like Peter McDonagh, Barrie Jones and Kevin McAuley but he hasn’t yet fought anyone on Vassell’s level. He will be happy with this title opportunity though and will be going in there in determined mood.

He tends to fight up close to his opponents, taking punches in order to throw some. I see him going to the body a lot in this fight as he tries to wear Vassell down.

Vassell isn’t shy of a fight himself though. He will see this as another day at the office and will give Heffron back everything he receives.

With wins over Lee Purdy, Samuel Colomban, Bethuel Ushona and plenty of domestic level success as well as 97 rounds boxed as a professional, Vassell has the edge in experience and quality of opposition. I see this as being a very competitive fight between two good prospects.

Verdict: I’m going with Vassell’s experience and heart to outdo Heffron on points. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Heffron pulled off an unlikely points decision either, perhaps setting up a good rematch.

Also, on the undercard former England cricket star Andrew Flintoff makes his professional boxing debut. Many fans are wondering why he would make such a move at his age (just short of 35), but only he will really know.

At 6ft4, close to 20 years of professional sporting experience and a supposedly hard punch (according to those training him), it would seem as though he has all the credentials to do well in boxing. We must also take into account that playing cricket requires guts; having a ball weighing 160 grams thrown at you at speeds of up to 100mph isn’t for wimps, and those helmets are about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike.

But, we must remember he is nearly 35 and has a history of injury problems. In the early days of his career he was criticised for his fitness levels and since then injuries have blighted much of his career. He has suffered injuries to his foot, back, groin, shoulder, knee and most notably has had reoccurring ankle issues.

As a cricketer, he was the star of the 2005 Ashes series as England beat Australia for the trophy for the first time in 18 years, he won BBC Sports personality that same year, and at his peak he was rated as one of the world’s best players. But that was in cricket, this is boxing.

His opponent is undefeated American Richard Dawson, who fans will know even less about. All this fan knows about him is he is quite a few inches smaller than Flintoff. Will this be significant? Only time will tell.

Verdict: Who knows what to expect?! Richard Dawson is the favourite to win but i wouldn't gamble on this in a million years.

On Saturday night, at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast, Tyson Fury fights experienced American heavyweight Kevin Johnson. Fury is the favourite to win but HOW is another matter.

Johnson has only lost twice in his 9 year professional career and they were to Vitali Klitschko on points in 2009 and to prospect Tor Hamer over 3 rounds in the Prizefighter International heavyweight tournament back in June. He also has 173 rounds under his belt which is 80 more than Fury does. So the experience is in Johnson’s court in this fight.

He has some decent wins too but nothing too spectacular; the best probably being against Alex Leapai, Devin Vargas, Damian Wills, Terry Smith, Matthew Greer, and Robert Hawkins.

Tyson Fury can actually boast a better record with wins against notable challengers such as Dereck Chisora, Vinny Maddalone, Martin Rogan, Neven Pajkic, Nicolai Firtha and John McDermott.

Fury garners as much praise in the boxing community as he does derision. Personally, I have nothing but praise for the boxing giant. At 24 years old, he has already had 19 fights and many of which against good domestic challengers or former/current world contenders.

His fights are entertaining, his character has brought interest to the heavyweight division both at home and abroad, and he has fought a full array of talented boxers that no other young heavyweight boxer even comes close to.

Show me the record of any other 24 year old heavyweight out there today who has a better record than Tyson Fury. I can assure you this is a challenge that nobody will take up.

Can he stop the tough American within the distance? I think he has the power to do so but Johnson did go the distance with Vitali Klitschko; although that was 3 years ago.

Verdict: Fury wins a unanimous decision after a gruelling fight.

On the undercard, I expect John O’Donnell and Chris Eubank Jr both to record unanimous decision victories. 

Friday, 23 November 2012

Ricky Hatton Returns

Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton returns to the ring after a near 3 and a half year layoff. Fans of the ferocious former light welterweight King will be excited by his return and cynics will of course be wondering what his return is all for.

Personally, I don’t think it’s a smart move on his part as I have watched boxing long enough to know that comebacks are very rarely successful. For every success, there are a dozen failures. But I suppose it all depends on what one would rate as “success”. Is he returning to lift more world titles? He’ll be competing at welterweight where he has only fought twice before; against Luis Collazo and Floyd Mayweather Jr; if so, can he compete against the current crop of welterweights? The list of top fighters currently on the welterweight scene include Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley, Devon Alexander, Marcos Maidana, Robert Guerrero, Kell Brook and Victor Ortiz. I’m not sure how many bookmakers would make Hatton favourite against any of those fighters.

As for this fight, Hatton starts as the favourite but Senchenko was a world champion up until his last fight. But that fight resulted in him being stopped by Paulie Malignaggi, a fighter not renowned for his power.
If Hatton brings at least 75% of what he once had I think he can beat Senchenko within the distance. He looked in peak shape at the weigh in earlier today so that is already half of the work done. Hatton’s power and body assaults should be enough to wear Senchenko down and force a stoppage in my opinion.

I wish him all the best and hope he succeeds in his plans and will reserve judgement until after he has fought Senchenko.

Verdict: I don’t think the fight ends before round 6 but I don’t think it goes to the full 10 rounds either. So I’m picking an 8th round stoppage for Hatton.

The undercard is just as intriguing as the main event.

Britain’s top 2 super bantamweights Scott Quigg and Rendall Munroe battle for the WBA interim title. Quigg starts as the slight favourite but Munroe should never be counted out. Quigg will have his work cut out for him if he is going to try to stop Munroe inside the distance. This means he will probably try to outbox Munroe over the 12 rounds.

In their first fight back in June, which ended in the 3rd round due to a clash of heads, Munroe pressed the fight pressuring Quigg early on. Quigg tends to do the pressuring in his fights so this could prove to be a tricky fight for Quigg if it goes the distance. Munroe is nowhere near finished and can still be a big player on the European scene. Quigg is the deserving favourite but I think it will go the distance and that means he will have to be at his absolute best to beat a top British fighter in Munroe. A stoppage win for Quigg though would be a big accomplishment and set up a potential mouth watering fight against Carl Frampton.

Verdict: I think Quigg wins on points. However, do not be at all surprised if Munroe has his hands raised at the end.

Also, Stephen Foster Jr challenges British super featherweight Gary Buckland. This could be the best fight on the night potentially. Buckland is odds on favourite to win and I’m not sure many would dispute that. But some are picking Foster to pull off the upset.

Foster doesn’t have a great deal of big wins but he’s only been beaten 3 times, all over the distance, and to top fighters. He will be aiming to stifle everything Buckland does on the night and will definitely have some success. His overall success on the night will depend on how well Buckland can handle the pressure.

Buckland on the other hand has some really big wins in recent years against the likes of Gary Sykes, Paul Truscott and the super featherweight Prizefighter tournament in 2010. He has been in quite a few brawls and Foster will be aiming for another. Expect to see another Buckland vs Sykes II.

Verdict: I expect another brawl and think the odds on Buckland to win might be a bit low. I think he will win a really close points decision but Foster could win this one no problem. Rematch to follow?

Martin Murray won’t know much about the little known Venezuelan Jorge Navarro but that shouldn’t stop him from winning comfortably.

In any fight where the opponent is unknown it makes predicting a knockout very tough. We must ask a lot of questions: How good is his chin? Can he punch? What’s his stamina like?

Roberto Bolonti lasted the full 12 rounds with Tony Bellew last weekend despite the latter being odds on to win within the distance. So we could see the same again, afterall Murray only has 10 knockouts from 24 bouts.
However, rumours are that if Murray wins he could receive a world title shot at Sergio Martinez in April next year. I think that should act as the ultimate motivation booster. If he can’t get up for that then he’s in the wrong career.

Verdict: I expect Murray to stop his opponent by the middle rounds; maybe round 7.

Also: Sergey Rabchenko should beat Cedric Vitu before round 6.

Friday, 9 November 2012

WBC light middleweight title eliminator in Las Vegas

In the main event this weekend in Las Vegas, light middleweights Erislandy Lara and Vanes Martirosyan battle it out for a shot at WBC champion Saul Alvarez.

The bookies seem to know who they think will win as they have made Lara a big odds on favourite. Is he really THAT likely to win?

Lara has certainly fought the better quality opposition. He fought, and beat in the eyes of most observers, Paul Williams in 2011. He followed that up with a first round stoppage of Ronald Hearns and then a unanimous decision win over Freddy Hernandez. Add the draw with Carlos Molina and a late stoppage win over Grady Brewer in 2010 and his career has started to shape up nicely in the last 2 years.

He is considered by many to be a high risk, low reward fighter and accusations have been made against numerous opponents from fans and media alike claiming he is being “ducked” by many of the top fighters. He certainly is a dangerous southpaw fighter.

Martirosyan had an extensive amateur career in which he won numerous awards in the USA and beat some top fighters. His pro career has been a lot less inspiring to date though. Having made his debut 7 years ago he has had 32 fights but not one against top contender status. However, this fight changes all of that.

Also, it must be made clear that despite the lack of world class competition he has still been showcasing his talents. He has a good orthodox stance, a boxer puncher style and loves to throw combos when the time is right.
In this fight he will have a 3 inch height advantage over Lara which could play a big part in the outcome. However, Paul Williams also had a big height advantage and it didn’t trouble Lara much at all.

One last thing to consider: This is boxing. Martirosyan is promoted by Top Rank and is an undefeated American star. I’ll leave that thought with you.

Verdict: If you believe that in this fight the best fighter will definitely win, then Lara by points is probably the best bet. But, if you are slightly cynical of the higher echelons of boxing then Martirosyan by decision could be a very good bet.

On the undercard, talented featherweight Mike Garcia fights Jonathan Victor Barros in what could be a very competitive bout. The undefeated American starlet will be favourite to win and further showcase his skills to the world. Most in the boxing world think the young star is the real deal and I agree. He has all the talent in the world, power, speed, good defence and furious attack. He is a star in the making in my opinion.

However, Barros is no slouch himself. He has all the experience in this fight having fought some of the best fighters in the world and once holding the WBA title. He will definitely put up a fight against Garcia and has a chance to win.

Verdict: Garcia is just on the up and up and I think he will prove how good he is. Barros has never been stopped so the smart money is on points. But the brave money is on a late stoppage.

Action packed card at the Staples Center on November 10

The Staples Center in L.A will play host to a great night of boxing this Saturday. 

In the main event Abner Mares defends his WBC super bantamweight title against Anselmo Moreno.
These two fighters are among the top four at the weight. The other two are Nonito Donaire and Guillermo Rigondeaux. The winner of this must be closing in on a place in the top 10 p4p rankings.

Mares is a slight favourite at the bookies which I think is fair. The Mexican warrior is a very good fighter and has a fantastic resume holding wins over the likes of Vic Darchinyan, Eric Morel and Joseph Agbeko. But, his first fight with Agbeko was shrouded in controversy as the Mexican landed continuously throughout with low blows without any deductions being given and then in round 11 the ref called a knockdown for Mares which made the fight impossible for Agbeko to win by then. Most observers would agree Agbeko was hard done by in that fight. Also, a draw to Yhonny Perez in 2010 and we see that Mares can be beaten.

Anselmo Moreno has an equally impressive record with wins notched up against Vic Darchinyan, Nehomar Cermeno, Volodymyr Sydorenko, Tomas Rojas and Mahyar Monshipour.

He is a very awkward southpaw who is constantly on the move. But, when he plants his feet and throws he does land at will. Add in the fact he has a height advantage of 2 inches and a reach advantage of nearly 4 inches and I think the bookies may have called this one wrong.

Verdict: I’m going with the upset here. Moreno makes it tricky for Mares for much of the fight and wins a close decision win.

Britain’s Nathan Cleverly will also feature in what will be just his second fight in the USA, but first as WBO light heavyweight champion. He will defend his title against Shawn Hawk who stepped in at just a week’s notice after Cleverly’s team struggled to find him a suitable opponent after several scheduled fights had fallen through.

On paper Hawk shouldn’t pose too much of a problem in theory but this is boxing and an upset is always only around the corner. His two biggest wins to date were decisions against respected American fighters Otis Griffin and Henry Buchanan but he has yet to fight an elite fighter. He has spoken about his belief that he will pull off a miracle win this weekend and he will need to be at his very best to do so. Even then, it might not be enough.

Cleverly has also yet to fight an elite fighter but he does have two big wins against undefeated opposition in Germany’s Karo Murat and fellow Briton Tony Bellew. The latter was quite controversial though with many claiming Bellew deserved the nod on the cards.

It is agreed that Cleverly has the skills and speed and his power is possibly a bit underrated. But he will need to prove all of this against top opposition if he is to be remembered in a similar way to his fellow Welshman Joe Calzaghe.

Verdict: Cleverly wins a unanimous decision on the cards with perhaps a few close rounds.

IBF bantamweight champion Leo Santa Cruz defends his title for the second time against Victor Zaleta. The champion will be expected to beat his opponent who has never fought at bantamweight before. On paper it looks like a one sided affair and I think that is how it will play out in the ring. Unless Santa Cruz has completely underestimated his fellow Mexican he should win this one comfortably.

Verdict: Santa Cruz to win comfortably. Decision or knockout? That’s for you to decide. He has a 55% KO ratio but his opponent has never fought at the weight. I favour the decision.

Finally, Alfredo Angulo returns to the ring for the first time since his battle with James Kirkland a year ago. He has spent much of the last year trying to remain in the USA after immigration issues. He will be fighting little known Raul Casarez. Angulo will be very likely to win this fight which looks like a gentle fight to get him back into the swing of things. I don’t know much about Casarez but I can’t see Angulo losing to anybody other than a top contender at the weight.

Verdict: Routine win for Angulo and good to see him back in the ring. Probably a knockout victory in the mid to late rounds. I’m going round 8.