Last Saturday’s return of boxing on Sky provided no shortage of drama. Josh Warrington’s crusade towards supremacy in the featherweight division was railroaded by hard-hitting Mexican, Mauricio Lara. Lara pronounced his arrival on the world scene in a huge way, dropping Warrington twice on his way to knocking the Leeds man out in the 9th round.
There is any number of explanations for Lara’s dismantling of Josh. Potentially Warrington just fought the wrong kind of fight. He may have overlooked Lara, or the weight may have been an issue. Perhaps, Lara was simply too good.
Whatever the reason, the fact of the matter is that a young man in Mauricio Lara changed his life, through boxing. That is what the sport is all about; fighters seeing their years of devotion and sacrifice rewarded. It’s what makes boxing beautiful. However, the show was marred by one of the sport’s ugliest sides. One which has plagued these shores in recent years and needs addressing urgently. Poor judging.
After a competitive tussle in a chief support contest that most thought could go either way, Zelfa Barrett and a horrifically mistreated Kiko Martinez, listened on as David Diamante delivered scores of 118-111, 118-111 and 116-113, all in favour of the British Barrett. The one-sided result a far reflection from what actually occurred in the ring.
Painfully, it is a sight we have become accustomed to in the last few years. Foreign fighters arriving on British soil, producing excellent performances, only to be so severelywronged on the cards. Kiko Martinez joins the likes of Miguel Vasquez (twice) and Mohamed Mimoune in the unhappy club of foreign fighters to fall victims to inept judging.
Britain has become the Germany of yesteryear. How can we expect top-level international fighters to compete on these shores, with the sorry state our scorecards are often in? Things must change. We ask so much of fighters, who dedicate their lives to the sport. Yet many do not even get a fair crack of the whip. It’s not right, and the board must act. Period.
With any luck, this weekend’s card will be free from such controversy, and the only post-show discussion will be of the performances of each fighter.
David Avanesyan 26-3-1 vs Josh Kelly 10-0-1
EBU European Welterweight Title
Kelly vs Avanesyan, a fight three years long in the making, finally takes place this Saturday following a string of cancellations.
The bout was pencilled for the undercard of Brook vs Rabchenko back in March 2018, until a cancellation on the day of the bout due to illness sustained to Kelly. This last-minute drop out understandably angered between team Avanesyan, with Neil Marsh and Adam Booth clashing amid claims Kelly was a bottle job.
After the fall out of the cancellation, the two pugilists went their separate ways for a period. ‘Pretty Boy’ Kelly fought and beat Carlos Molina, Kris George, Walter Castillo, and pole Przemyslaw Runowski, before running into and drawing with American, Ray Robinson, on the undercard of Joshua vs Ruiz I.
Meanwhile, former world titleholder David Avanesyanbecame the European champion, twice stopping the hammer-fisted and apparently indestructible Kerman Lejarraga. ‘Ava’ then looked terrific once more when he knocked out Jose del Rio in December of 2019.
A fight between Kelly and Avanyesan was long-mooted in theperiod since their first cancellation and became even more appealing following Avaneysan’s European title triumph. The two men saw their contest rescheduled for the first half of 2020. However, the prospect of that fell on its face following the unwelcome arrival of Covid on these shores. The fight was remade for January 30th of this year. The contest then fell through yet again due to the BBBofC’s month-long ban on boxing because of lockdown 3.
This Saturday, providing there are no last-minute disasters, the fight is finally here, although many won’t believe it’s truly happening until the first bell.
At one point, Kelly was arguably the brightest prospect in British boxing. He looked electric in his first five or six fights. However, since then, the buzz around Kelly has diminishedsomewhat, due to a combination of bad luck and inactivity induced by injury and the pandemic. The reduction in hype may be due to his disappointing performance against Ray Robinson. Some boxing fans now even favour Connor Benn as the best domestic welterweight, despite Kelly’s extensive amateur pedigree.
It's strange, three years ago, Avanesyan was certainly the underdog despite being a former world champion, with a win over the legendary Shane Mosley. Since Ava’s performancesin Spain, and a draw for the seemingly untouchable Kelly, things have flipped on their head, and Kelly is thought of as the underdog by many.
For me, it’s clear to see how man each man can triumph. Avanesyan has the power to knock out most in the division, and if he lands clean on Sunderland’s 2016 Olympian, Kelly, he can evidently win. However, if Kelly can use his terrific lateral movement and dancing footwork, boxing and movingwell in the Adam Booth style, I can see him proving too elusive for Avanesyan. The risk with that approach is if Kelly does not throw enough, as was the case with his draw against Robinson. It is not enough for Kelly to avoid most of what Avanesyan throws, he must also land often on Avaneysan to win the rounds.
The pressure is on Kelly, he needs to post an impressive display to reaffirm his status as a star in the making. Win or lose, there is a prospect of a domestic dust-up with Connor Benn for Kelly, while Avanesyan will likely put himself in pole position for a shot at another world title if he wins. It’s difficult to split the two, and I can’t call a winner.
Prediction: Kelly points or Avaneysan stoppage.
Robbie Davies Jnr 20-2-0 vs Gabriel Gollaz Valenzuela 22-2-1
vacant International Boxing Federation Inter-Continental Super Lightweight Title
Former British and European super-lightweight champion Robbie Davies Jnr returns to action as he looks to start working towards a shot at a world title at 140lbs. Davies will find himself in the IBF rankings if he can beat little known Mexican, Gabriel Gollaz Valenzuela.
Davies is rebuilding after his loss to Lewis Ritson in theirdomestic barnstormer in October 2019. Davies did return with a routine win over journeyman Damian Leonardo Yapur on the undercard of Quigg vs Carroll, however, that was almost eleven months ago.
Davies cannot afford to underestimate the Mexican Valenzuela, as demonstrated by Warrington last Saturday. Davies must win and win well if he hopes to one day carve himself out a tilt at world honours.
Saturday’s bout is Valenzuela’s first outside his native Mexico. The 26-year-old will be inspired by compatriot Mauricio Lara's performance last weekend and will hope hetoo can upset the apple cart with victory over Davies Jnr.
Valenzuela is young, hungry and coming to win. I suspect he will come and put it on Davies Jnr, however, I believe Davies should have enough in his arsenal to box his way to victory.
Prediction: Davies Jnr points.
Jordan Gill 25-1-0 vs Cesar Juarez 25-9-0
Dave Coldwell charge Jordan ‘The Thrill’ Gill has his own Mexican challenge in the form of 29-year-old, Cesar Juarez.
Juarez is a decent step up for Gill. Juarez challenged for world titles at super-bantamweight against Nonito Donaire in 2015and 2018 when he fought Isaac Dogboe for the WBO ‘Interim’ title. Juarez last fought in July, losing to US prospect, Carlos Castro.
Gill posted a respectable performance last time out, taking aten-round decision victory over Reece Belotti in Fight Camp. Gill is continuing to rebuild from his 2019 shock loss to Mario Enrique Tinoco in his hometown of Peterborough.
Gill was allegedly very sick for the Tinoco bout, hence his remarkably subpar performance. Since his loss, Gill has come back and twice won. He seems to have put that performance and other injury issues behind him. The young featherweight is in a thriving division domestically. With the British title tied up with his friend Leigh Wood, Gill could put himself in line for a shot at a European title with a notable performance this weekend.
Juarez has competed at the highest level and is long enough in the tooth to make it a gruelling night for Gill. Gill cannot afford to switch off or take Juarez likely. He will have learned lessons from his loss to Tinoco and like Davies Jnr, will desperately want to avoid a repeat of what happened toWarrington the previous weekend.
I like Gill. He boxes very well, and at just 26, he’s young enough to keep improving and adding to his repertoire as he continues his ascension up the ranks.
Prediction: Gill points.
Florian Marku 7-0-1 vs Rylan Charlton 6-0-1
‘TNT Marku returns after his surprise draw with Jamie Stewart on the AJ vs Pulev undercard. Marku takes on Rylan Charlton, who makes his first appearance since his impressive victory over former Team GB amateur, Joe Laws.
Albanian favourite Marku is a fighting man through and through. He competed in MMA before crossing codes to boxing. He is well supported and has an army of Albanian fans who follow him religiously. Marku has long called out Conor Benn and possesses self-confidence in abundance.
The ‘Pint Size Powerhouse’ Charlton was an unknown quantity before he dismantled Laws last time out. Norwich’sCharlton has a fan-friendly style and will look to trade with Marku. They certainly won’t need to go looking for one and another.
Both Marku and Charlton are signed to Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom, and can both rebuild whether they win or lose. However, neither man will want to take a loss. Each hope they are the one to make another forward step in their progressionwith a victory over their unbeaten opponent on Saturday.
Could be the battle of the chins, and if that is the case and I have to pick, I would guess that Marku may be the last man standing, though it really can go either way.
Prediction: Marku late stoppage.
Johnny Fisher (Debut) vs Matt Gordon 2-5-1
S-JAM Boxing’s latest heavyweight addition Johnny Fishermakes his maiden bow on Saturday. Fisher is a bit of a mysterious figure, having not had the extensive amateur pedigree some of his heavyweight colleagues possess.
The 21-year-old is a graduate of Exeter University and trains with the renowned Mark Tibbs, who is particularly choosy of who he coaches. Fisher signed to Eddie Hearn before evenmaking an entrance into a professional ring, so must possess something that makes him stand out as a top prospect. ‘The Romford Bull’ is young and has a lot of time to develop. Itwill be interesting to see how he figures in this thriving domestic heavyweight scene.
‘The Bull’ will hope for an explosive stoppage of West Midlander Matt Gordon. Gordon has recently been stopped byyoung British heavyweights, David Adeleye and Tommy Welch, son of former British champion Scott.
Prediction: Fisher knockout.
By Aaron Ludford