Following the monumental success that was Fight Camp, Matchroom return on Sunday with a six-fight behind closed-doors card, live from Milton Keynes. Eddie Hearn was hopingwe would have seen the return of crowds at a reduced capacity by now, however following a rise in COVID cases, the October 1st deadline for the return of events has now sadly fallen by the wayside.
Consequently, it remains to be seen when crowds will return to boxing and live sport in all together. Nonetheless, the show must go on. With any luck, Sunday’s card will be the first of a packed autumn/winter schedule from the Essex promotional outfit.
Joshua Buatsi12-0-0 vs Marko Calic11-0-0
12 x 3 Mins for World Boxing Association International Light Heavyweight Title
After more than a year’s absence, arguably one of Britain’s most talented upcoming fighters in recent years, JoshuaBuatsi, makes a welcome return against undefeated Croatian Marko Calic.
Buatsi is extremely well thought of in boxing. The Croydon man and Olympic Bronze medallist is signed to Anthony Joshua’s management company, and they fully expect Buatsi to go on to become a major player in the light-heavyweight division. Although he has only twelve professional contests under his belt, Buatsi has already been British champion,fought on some of the biggest cards in world boxing and worked his way into the top fifteen of each governing body. He is looking to emulate his mentor AJ by fast tracking his way to the peak of the 175lbs division.
Buatsi originates from Accra in Ghana, a boxing powerhouse that has produced a plethora of world champions in recent years. Fighters such as three-weight world champion Azumah "The Professor" Nelson, Joshua Clottey, Ike Quartey, Isaac Dogboe and Richard Commey to name but a few, all hail from the city. Buatsi will hope to emulate his compatriots by winning world honours in 2021.
Outside the ring Buatsi is amicable and friendly as they come. Inside it, he’s a sincerely dangerous individual. He possesses ferocious power, great footwork, excellent boxing IQ and is afirst-rate finisher when he gets a whiff of blood, and his ten stoppages are verification of such.
He’s one of a select few fighters who commands a perfect intermingling of the amateur and pro styles, and it’s difficult to highlight any obvious weaknesses in his repertoire.
But what challenge does Calic pose?
The Croatian is an experienced operator. He had a lengthycareer as an amateur and had a trilogy with heavyweight flavour of the month, Alen Babic, winning twice. Calic also partook in the WSB, turning out for the Croatian Knightsteam. Nevertheless, for all his experience, Calic is yet to face anyone with the credentials of Buatsi, and his eleven triumphsas a professional have come at the expense of novice pro’s or journeymen.
The Croatian is confident he will find a way of upsetting the applecart, but realistically it’s difficult to see how he will grind out a victory against someone with the calibre Buatsi possesses.
Though Buatsi is yet to face a real acid test as a pro, he has boxed at a decent standard of opposition in the likes of Liam Conroy, world title challenger Marco Antonio Periban and Canadian Ryan Ford. None have set the world alight, and Buatsi is in need of a dust-up with a dangerous adversary who will give him a chin check before he steps up to world level. Still, after over a year out Buatsi needs to dust off the cobwebs, and Calic is a decent fighter for Buatsi to shake off the ring rust.
Given that Calic has fought up at heavyweight as an amateur, it will be interesting to see how well he makes the 175lbs light-heavyweight limit, and whether he might be a bit soft around the middle. Although he has fought at a couple oftimes at light-heavy as a pro, he hasn’t faced lived opposition that are even close to the standard of Joshua Buatsi. To this end, I have a sneaky feeling Buatsi will pull off a stoppage victory with a body shot.
If he is victorious as I believe he will be, Buatsi can then turn his attention to what’s next.
There has long been talk of a potential London derby between Buatsi and Anthony Yarde. Yarde must first get past the formidable Lyndon Arthur in his next outing, and that is no mean feat in itself. Even if Yarde does prevail from that contest, one imagines the promoters let that fight build for a bit until it is possible for a world title to be on the line.
If Buatsi avoids what would be a disastrous upset, he should turn his attention to the winner of Callum Johnson against European champion Ighor Mikhalkin, if and when that fight is rescheduled for. If that is not a possibility, Buatsi could look to target another fringe world level fighter such as Sullivan Barrera or even Eleider Alvarez. Either would be a sign of intent and would be the perfect preparation for Buatsi before challenging for a world title.
Prediction: Buatsi stoppage.
Linus Udofia 15-0-0 vs John Harding Jr 8-1-1
10 x 3 Mins for BBBofC English Middleweight Title
Linus Udofia defends his English 160lbs title against the Dillian Whyte managed John Harding Jr, in an intriguing match-up that’s tricky to split.
Fighting out of Luton, Udofia picked up his title with a MD victory over Tyler Denny in November of last year. The Denny victory aside, it’s hard to get a measure on how talented Udofia could be, as he is yet to fight any notable opposition. A victory over Harding Jr would be a good indicator of where the Nigerian born pugilist is at in terms of his development.
Like most boxers, the 27-year old Udofi had intentions topress on in 2020 and start climbing the ranks. Like most boxers he has had to bide his time because of the pandemic, and will hope to make up for lost time on Saturday after ten months out. He will be optimistic that victory over Harding will allow him to kick on, and possibly look to try and angle a tilt at the British title at some point in 2021.
The 36-year old Harding Jr is a tribute to the power of boxing. Coming from the mean streets of South London, like many a young man without options before him, he fell into the world of gangs and drugs. Three prison sentences followed, before Harding returned to the sport he trained in as a young man. He utilised the discipline boxing gave him, and vowed to use it to turn his life around.
Since leaving prison for the last time in 2015, Harding has turned 8-1-1 as a pro and also acts in his spare time. He previously contested the English title in 2019, however was stopped by an impressive Jack Cullen, in what was an entertaining bout while it lasted. Following his loss, Harding licked his wounds, and bounced back with a win last time out in one of the last shows before lockdown. Like Udofi, Harding’s record is absent of a standout win, and the Brixton man will hope to rectify that come fight night.
It’s a well-matched bout, and one several pundits are predicting could transpire to be fight of the night. At 36, you would have to say Harding has his career on the line, as it’s difficult to say where he goes after a loss, whereas Udofia can come again after a defeat.
It’s hard to split the two but if I was forced to pick, I’d side with the upcoming Usofia to take home the spoils. He has already risen to the occasion to take a victory in a title fight, whereas Harding is yet to register a significant win on a big occasion, having being felled by Cullen in his biggest fight to date. For me, that could prove to be the difference.
Prediction: Udofia points victory.
Chantelle Cameron 12-0-0 vs Adriana dos Santos Araujo 6-0-0
10 x 2 Mins for Vacant World Boxing Council World Female Super Lightweight Title
Another of Matchroom’s upcoming female stars, Chantelle Cameron will challenge for world honours when she fights Brazilian Adriana dos Santos Araujo. The title on the line will be the WBC super-lightweight title, that was vacated by thenew undisputed welterweight champion Jessica McCaskill, who recently took that crown off formerly undefeated and long-standing champion, Cecilia Braekhus.
Northampton’s Cameron is well versed in combat sports. From a young age she was competing on the kickboxing circuit, winning the WAKOs as a youth before turning her attention to the realm of hands only. As an amateur boxerCameron accomplished her fair share. She was a member of Team GB, an ABA champion, and was also a silver and bronze medallist at the 2010 and 2011 European championships.
She turned pro in 2017, signing with Cyclone Promotions,with whom she started to build her record in the paid ranks. In the process, she picked up the lowly regarded IBO lightweight title. Following a bitter split with the McGuigan’s, Cameron linked up with MTK and Jamie Moore, then turned her attentions to making a clash with Katie Taylor, who beat Cameron as an amateur.
The Taylor fight was not to be, and an opportunity came upfor Cameron to fight a WBC final eliminator for the super-lightweight title against Anahí Ester Sánchez. Cameron beat Sánchez comfortably last time out, way back in November2019. Cameron will hope to finally fulfil her dream of becoming a world champion by defeating Araujo on Saturday.
Araujo is an Olympic Bronze Medallist from the 2012 games, and holds a victory over Tasha Jonas as an amateur. An impressive victory, especially after Jonas herself reminded usall how good she is on the back of her phenomenalperformance against Terri Harper last month at Fight Camp. Although Araujo has had half the fights Cameron has had as a pro, the Brazilian has faced a similar standard of opposition, and has bags of amateur experience. Therefore, she should not be phased by the occasion.
On paper, it’s a competitive match-up. It should serve as awelcome indicator of how talented Cameron is, and whether she has what it takes to mix it with higher profile fighters such as Taylor or McCaskill.
Although her opponents haven’t been hugely inspiring, Cameron hasn’t put a foot wrong in any of her previous contests, winning each handily. She feels she has benefited from linking up with Manchester duo Jamie Moore and Nigel Travers, and has improved no end for training alongside world class operators like Carl Frampton.
While I anticipate the Brazilian Araujo being a tough customer, she has her work cut out, having had to travel under such circumstances to fight the home fighter. This coupled with Cameron’s boxing ability leads me to back the Brit, and I fully expect Cameron to succeed fight night.
Prediction: Cameron points victory.
Alen Babic 4-0-0 vs Niall Kennedy 13-1-1
8 x 3 Mins Heavyweight Contest
Another of Dillian Whyte’s protegees Alen Babic is the other Croatian on the card. He fights Irishman Niall Kennedy in what looks to be a fun fight.
‘The Savage’ Babic won a lot of fans with his antics in Fight Camp week 4. From his fiery press conference, to his wild, two round destruction of Shawndell Winters and subsequent call out of most heavyweights.
Babic is raw and powerful, and what he lacks in experience he makes up for in aggression and drive. At 29, he wants to fast track himself to the big fights. He is targeting an all Croatian grudge match with countryman Filip Hrgovic, although one would tend to suggest that Babic is not ready for such a step up just yet.
Babic does get his wish for a quick return however, and on Saturday must overcome a 6-foot 3 obstacle in the form of Niall Kennedy.
Hailing from Gorey in Ireland, for the most of his careerKennedy has been plying his trade stateside. He built up a string of victories in the US, winning the New England areatitle in the process.
The 36-year old Irishman hasn’t fought for over a year. Last time out, he recorded the first blemish on his record as a pro, when he lost to Devin Vargas after being stopped in the fifth round. A win over Babic would do wonders for Kennedy at this late stage in his career, and if victorious he could look to fight the likes of Dave Allen, Nathan Gorman or even Nick Webb, whom Kennedy beat as an amateur.
In terms of who will prevail come Saturday, there are two ways of looking at it:
First, despite his winning record, Kennedy is getting older andhasn’t been active for over year and will not be at his sharpest. Babic returns hot on the heels of his last camp, and Kennedy would be a decent notch on to add to Babic’s build resume, which is why he was picked. For Kennedy it will be a welcome payday following a year out, and could be a final throw of the dice, which is why he accepted the offer.
The second way of looking at it, is that Babic, is a wild novice pro, and although Kennedy has had a long time out, he feels he is far better technically than Babic. He may have seen weakness in the Croatian’s last performance and is possibly backing himself to expose Babic, and build his own profile in the UK in the process if he can withstand Babic’s pressureover eight rounds.
Whatever happens, it’s an interesting proposition, and I imagine Babic’s new fans will be glad to see him back in the ring. In terms of choosing who will emerge victorious, one would tend to suggest Babic is likelier man to win. He is fresher having not long fought, is younger, hits hard, and is on the ascent, while it appears Kennedy may have had his day.
Therefore, I would be inclined to suggest the first option is the likelier result.
Prediction: Babic win.
Aqib Fiaz 5-0-0 vs Kane Baker 13-6-0
8 x 3 Mins Lightweight Contest
This is a massively well-talked about fight given that it was due to take place on the second week of Fight Camp. Following a dramatic turn of events, Fiaz had to withdraw from the bout a day before it was due to take place because of illness.
Most were touched by the emotional reaction of Kane Baker, who had plainly dedicated the last few months to training for the fight, before having it cruelly pulled from under his feet with a day to go.
There were arguments between the camps, and Baker accused Fiaz of having weight issues, and not being ill at all. This was proven not to be the case, but certainly served to add someextra drama to the Fight Camp experience.
Gladly, Matchroom were true to their word, and rescheduled the fight at the earliest possible opportunity and on Saturday, Baker will finally get his shot at Fiaz.
Jamie Moore’s prospect Aqib Fiaz has a stern test in the form of the Brummie. Baker, a former Midlands Area lightweight champion and English title challenger, holds a decent win over formerly undefeated city rival Ishmael Ellis. He has also been in with quality operators like Sam Maxwell, and some notable prospects such as Connor Benn and Gary Cully. He will not be looking to make up the numbers, and will undoubtedly serve as a good measuring stick for where Fiaz is at in terms of his development.
Although it is very early days, Fiaz hasn’t put a glove wrong in his five previous outings, and at just 20 years of age, the Oldham man still has time to grow into his man strength. When he does, we could see him forcing some stoppages in future contests.
He is well thought of, and Matchroom signed him on Moore’s recommendation. He has an excellent opportunity against an experienced Baker, who will hope to gate-crash what could signify a coming-out party for Fiaz. If the Mancunian can win and look good doing so, Fiaz will announce himself to British boxing fans in a big way.
Prediction: Fiaz points.
John Hedges Debut vs Julio Cesar 3-4-0
4 x 3 Mins Super-Middleweight Contest
The highly regarded 6ft 5in southpaw amateur superstar John Hedges, makes his first appearance as a pro this weekend when he fights the Angolan, Julio Cesar.
Hedges was a standout amateur and a four-time national champion. Managed by Sam Jones, he is one of a number of talented young UK traveller prospects like Dennis McCann, Hopey Price and Charles Frankham. Big things are expected from each of them.
Hedges is an elusive boxer, is very slick and moves well. At the tender age of 18, Hedges has time to develop his man strength and will look to build his power as he progresses as a pro. He will hope to get the ball rolling with a solid victory over Cesar, and it’s hard to see how he will get anything but.
Prediction: Hedges points.
By Aaron Ludford