The week leading to the second edition of Fight Camp was full of drama. From the back and forth between Joe Gallagher and Stefy Bull, to the weight drama involving Hopey Price opponent Johnny Phillips, and them the first cancelled fight of the series after the unfortunate withdrawal of Aqib Fiaz from his bout with Kane Baker due to illness.
However, come fight night, the commotion of the preceding week was long forgotten, and the four remaining bouts on the card got underway. Hopey Price looked well as he cruised to a points victory over the rugged Johnny Phillips. The Shane Mcguigan trained duo of Chris Billam-Smith and Anthony Fowler looked impressive as they stopped Nathan Thorley and Adam Harper respectively.
Most notable of all was the main event, which transpired to be a terrific yet controversial draw between Tasha Jonas and Terri Harper in their all-British world title clash. While many observers thought a draw was a fair result, many others felt Jonas did enough to take home the spoils. Many, myselfincluded, wrongfully wrote off Jonas leading up to the bout, but the scouser proved she more than belongs at world level and was arguably unfortunate to return to Liverpool without the titles. Jonas and Harper produced a scintillating contest that was an advert for British boxing, and hopefully, the bout will be rerun in the coming months.
With any luck, this week's penultimate portion of Fight Camp will serve a lot less drama outside the ring and produce more contests like Harper versus Jonas inside it. Although this card is not full of big household names, it is possibly the most competitive of all Fight Camp four cards.
Felix Cash 12 (8) – 0 – 0 vs Jason Welborn 24 (7) – 8 – 0
12 x 3 mins Commonwealth Middleweight Championship
This week’s headliner is a real crossroads fight with Felix Cash firmly on the ascension, while the 34-year-old Welborn, a former British champion at middleweight, returns after successive losses at the hands of Jarret Hurd and James Metcalf at super-welter.
Felix Cash, an accomplished amateur that was once part of the elite set up at Team GB, has looked very well in his twelve professional contests thus far. Since turning pro in 2016, he has built a string of victories, without really taking the world by storm. However, his performance in his electric bout against Jack Cullen last time out represented a coming-out party of sorts for the Wokingham man, and people have since begun to take more notice of the 27-year-old. In his fight with Cullen, Cash displayed his heart in navigating a cut and some tricky moments. He also showcased his power after dropping his opponent twice before finishing him in the eighth. He will hope a win against someone as experienced as Welborn will stand him in good stead as he looks to angle a shot at the British title at 160lbs.
Welborn is a well-travelled combatant who has shared the ring with several world-class operators like Matthew Macklin, Liam Smith and most recently Jarret Hurd when he challenged the American for his IBF and WBA world titles, on the undercard of the first Wilder and Fury fight. Although the West Midlands man has fallen short in those bouts, he has certainly proved his salts at domestic level. He has railroaded Marcuscomment Morrison, then an unbeaten prospect seemingly destined for big things, and twice beat local rival Tommy Langford for the British middleweight championship. Despite a few losses against lesser opposition like William Warburton, every time he has been written off, Welborn has succeeded in bouncing back with a win.
Welborn is a respectable test for Cash. He will not be phased by Felix Cash after having fought at such a high level, and if the Tony Sims charge is not at his best, it could be a real banana skin. Having said that, Cash will not have to go looking for Jason Welborn, and a come-forward fighter who will go toe to toe certainly plays into the hands of Cash. If Welborn is not careful, he will ship some big punishment in his return to 160lbs, especially given the fact Cash is a big lad for a middleweight. Although Welborn fought the lanky Tommy Langford, Langford's punch power is incomparable to Cash's.
While Tasha Jonas proved me wrong for writing off the elder fighter last week, Jason Welborn has a lot more miles on his clock than Cash, and in reality, it could be said he has gone as far as he can go in the pro game in challenging for world honours. Although Welborn can prove a sturdy challenge for many at middleweight domestically, will he have the appetite to keep going after a loss to Cash? Personally, I think not, and imagine, he'll make it a dog fight against Cash, but the younger man will stop him in the mid to late rounds. Having said that, Welborn has bounced back many a time before and may well produce another shock victory, but I believe his best days could well be behind him.
Prediction: Cash Stoppage.
Zelfa Barrett 23 (14) – 1 – 0 vs Eric Donovan 12 (7) – 0 – 0
12 x 3 mins IBF Inter-Continental Super Featherweight Title
Zelfa Barrett is one of Matchroom’s most recent signings. He makes his debut for the Essex promotional outfit when he takes on Irishman Eric Donovan. Barrett is the nephew of former world title challenger Pat, who is the trainer of Zelfa out of the renowned Collyhurst and Moston gym in Manchester. Donovan, a standout amateur and Bronze medallist at the European Championships, was late to cross over as a pro at the age of 31 back in 2016. He will hope to make up for lost time with a victory over Barrett.
At one time, the “Brown Flash” was one of the most exciting prospects in the country at super-featherweight. As ever in boxing, some of the fickler fans began writing him off after a shock loss to veteran Ronnie Clark in 2018 and decided the future of the division would be one of the likes of Sam Bowen, Lyon Woodstock or Archie Sharp, who is the only one of that trio to remain undefeated. As time has gone by, Barret has rebuilt with solid victories over the aforementioned Woodstock and Jordan McCorry, picking up the commonwealth title in the process. The Mancunian hits hard and possesses very fast hands and will hope to showcase both on Friday. A former chief sparring partner to Scott Quigg, Barrett remains well thought of in boxing, with many impressed at how he has grown from his defeat. Eddie Hearn will personally hope Barrett can spearhead a new era of Manchester boxing, following the recent retirements of Quigg and former favourite Anthony Crolla. Barret will hope to signal his intent with an impressive performance over Donovan.
As mentioned, Donovan was quite the amateur and has also competed in the WSB. Since turning over, he has won the BUI Irish titles but is still yet to fight significant opposition. A win over Barrett would be massive for him and his career as he can introduce himself to a wider audience and also pick up a ranking belt. At the age of 35, Donovan needs to make the most of his time remaining if he hopes to leave a significant mark in the pro ranks.
“Lilywhite Lightning” Donovan can also bang, and holds seven stoppages from twelve contests, so he will hope to chin check Barrett, who was dropped by Clark in their battle. Barrett will also be his first real test as a professional, so we will see how good the man from Athy is. On paper, this has the makings of an intriguing fight. Both men cannot afford a defeat. Donovan at the age he is will be sent right down the pecking order with a loss at the hands of Barrett, whereas the Mancunian will want to make a statement on his Matchroom bow, and demonstrate he is still destined for big things.
I think it’ll be a very competitive fight, and I anticipate Donovan trying to drag Barrett into dark waters, and I would not be surprised if this transpires to be the fight of the night. However, I believe Barrett as the younger man should just have too much for Donovan.
Prediction: Barrett points.
Shannon Courtenay 5 (2) – 0 – 0 vs Rachel Ball 5 (0) – 1 – 0
8 x 2 mins Super-Bantamweight Contest
Courtenay versus Ball is the second of three women's fights taking place on the Fight Camp series. After the barnstormer that was Jonas Harper last week, and next week's hotly-anticipated rematch between Katie Taylor and Delfine Persoon, this is a huge opportunity for either Courtenay or Ball to prove they have the potential to progress to world level as per the stated two contests.
Shannon Courtenay has been an exciting addition to Sky. A former Haringey box cup winner hailing from Watford, she doesn’t possess the pedigree of some of other Matchroom’s other female stars like Jonas, Harper, Taylor or Chantelle Cameron, but remains a very exciting proposition. She trains out of Adam Booth’s gym and has been surrounded by world-class fighters like Mick Conlan, Ryan Burnett and Joe Joyce. Undoubtedly, being in the presence of such a high pedigree of fighter has rubbed off on the Londoner. Courtenay is a testament to the positive impact of boxing. She used it to her benefit following a rough growing up, leading her to find solace in fast food, booze and fags. After using the sport to channel her compulsive tendencies, Courtenay has found her feet in boxing. She is a decent come forward and aggressive fighter who likes a row, but that could well be her downfall. For example, when she took on Jasmina Nad, she only shaded victory by a point and some even had her losing. In terms of her opposition thus far, Rachel Ball is a different animal completely.
Hailing from Aldrige in the West Midlands, Rachel Ball is a three-time kickboxing world champion. She racked up four wins on the bounce after switching to professional boxing in 2017. The 29-year-old’s only loss came in her fifth contest when she took on Norway’s Katharina Thanderz at short notice, losing by majority decision in Thanderz's home country. Thanderz is now the interim WBC super featherweight champion, and with Ball dropping down two divisions to super-bantamweight, she must fancy her chances of beating the better-known Courtenay. Courtenay won't have to go looking for Ball, who is the only woman to win the BBBofC Midlands Area “Fight of the Year Award”, andcertainly won’t think twice about getting into a tear up with Courtenay.
I can say in confidence, if Courtenay doesn’t show big improvements from her performance two fights ago to Jasmina Nad, she will lose. To keep away an experienced fighter like Ball, who has competed a lot longer in combat sports, Courtenay will have to show us a far slicker and more measured style than we have seen from her previously. The southerner is certainly in the right environment with Adam Booth and the other people around the gym, but whether she can implement it on fight night, remains to be seen.
In my opinion, having seen women’s boxing go from strength to strength of late, Eddie Hearn will be looking for other potential female stars to compete on the world stage. Rachel Ball could be that, and a huge performance against someone as well-known as Courtenay puts her in good stead to be signed by Matchroom. This is a real acid test for Courtenay and one in which we can see how good she really is. Based on what I have seen from either woman and their performances and achievements, I believe it will be Rachel Ball who will have her hand raised after the final bell.
Prediction: Ball points victory.
Kieron Conway 14 (3) – 1 – 1 vs Nav Mansouri 20 (6) – 3 – 2
10 x 3 mins WBA Intercontinental Super-Welterweight Championship
Again, while these two might not have the profile of some of the other fighters on the other Fight Camp shows, this is a competitive contest between two decent fighters in the 154lbs mix.
Northampton’s Kieron Conway only loss as a pro is a split decision in the semi-finals of the Ultimate Boxxer against eventual winner Derrick Osaze. He then had a fortunate draw against then British champion, Ted Cheeseman, after taking the fight on short notice. Like many others, I felt Cheeseman was hard done to by being deprived of the win, however, Conway did perform very well. On the back of his performance, Conway received a contract with Matchroom and has since fought and beat both Konra Stemkpowski and Craig O’Brien.
A victory over Conway would put Nav Mansouri into a fantastic position to throw his name into the bustling mix for domestic honours at super-welterweight. Despite having an early loss to Terry Carruthers, a bogeyman of sorts to upcoming fighters, Mansouri has built a string of decent wins. He did also suffer a few losses to Jorgea Fortea for an IBF ranking title and to Stephen Danyo in the dutchman’shometown of Rotterdam back in November, the Rotherham man will hope to get things back on track by taking home the spoils Saturday.
Conway and Mansouri are former sparring partners in Marbella from their time at the MTK gym there, but both will throw all niceties out of the window on fight night as they battle it out on this huge platform. The loser will be firmly at the back of the queue for future big domestic fights, whereas the winner will be able to throw their name into the mix with the likes of Fowler, Fitzgerald, Cheeseman and Eggington.
Personally, judging on their performances of late, Conway is on the ascent, whereas Mansouri has come up short in his previous step-ups, and if he lets Conway get a foothold, it could be more of the same. As the younger man, who has pushed the likes of Cheeseman to the wire, I believe Conway should have enough to triumph over Mansouri.
Prediction: Conway points
John Docherty 8 (6) – 0 – 0 vs Anthony Fox 8(0) – 12 – 4
8 x 3 mins Super-Middleweight Contest
A step up in class for the promising John Docherty he fights Anthony Fox Friday evening.
Hailing from Montrose in Scotland, the 22-year old Docherty is another of Matchroom’s hottest prospects. He took home the bronze medal in the 2018 Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast in Australia and also won the gold medal in the 2015 youth games in Samoa. Although he fought at middleweight at both of those game, he is a big set lad and looks to be in the right mould for super-middleweight, the division in which he now competes. The Scot is another charge of Tony Sims' and will hope a victory will place him in good stead to aim towards domestic titles in the coming year.
"The Matador" Anthony Fox is better than his record suggests. He holds wins over Luke Blackledge, Morgan Jones and Duane Sinclair in his last three fights. The 25-year old also has had some very close and questionable points losses. Despite his record, he is young enough to have a good career in boxing, no matter how he performs on Friday.
Fox is a respectable challenge for John Docherty, but really with Docherty’s pedigree, it should be a good measuring stick for where the Scot is at in terms of his development as a pro. It will be interesting to see if he can stop Fox, as Fox has only been stopped once before and that was four years ago in only his second fight.
Prediction: Docherty points
By Aaron Ludford of SimBoxx