Following three successive weeks of debatable decisions, all-out wars, huge stoppages and two exceptional women’s contests, Fight Camp is drawing to a close. It’s been a marvellous means of returning boxing to our screens in a world blighted by COVID. With any luck, the last portion will be the spectacle fight fans deserve and miss so dearly.
Saturday’s swansong live from the 'Matchroom Square Garden', is the most significant out of the four. The five fights taking place ought to send the series out with a bang.
Two elite contests headline the card. Arguably the face of women’s boxing, Katie Taylor, defends her unified 135lbs titles in a rematch against the toughest of her opponent’s so far. This will be followed by WBC mandatory challenger and ‘Interim’ heavyweight champion Dillian Whyte, taking on Alexander Povetkin in a vastly meaningful contest in terms of the heavyweight landscape.
Three other well-matched and exciting conflicts support in the form of Clay vs Kongo, Cullen vs Chelli and Babic vs Winters. Each supporting contest is a big opportunity for the fighters to make an impression on this monumental stage, and each has the potential to be the fight of the night depending on how they unfold.
Although each fight is confirmed, this final serving has had to endure some disruption in the build-up. Katie Taylor did not have her opponent confirmed until mid-July when Persoon stepped in after Taylor’s promotional team failed to agree on terms with Amanda Serrano. There was also the unfortunate cancellation of Martin Bakole vs Sergey Kuzmin, which would have been an excellent matchup and should be rearranged for a later date.
Whyte, Povetkin, Taylor and Persoon all had to be granted special dispensations from the government to waive quarantine periods, so they could arrive at Fight Camp this week. Hopefully, there will be no last-minute drama, failed tests or cancelled fights like the second week, and this pay per view event will prove value for money.
Dillian Whyte 27(18)-1-0 vs Alexander Povetkin 35(24)-2-1
12 x 3 mins for WBC Interim World Heavyweight & WBC Diamond Heavyweight Titles
As we all know, the WBC enjoy making up silly decisions (see Canelo vs Yildrim), but most of all they enjoy creating silly titles. In addition to their world title, they have ‘Diamond’ champions, ‘Interim’ champions, ‘Silver’ champions, and perhaps worst of all, their nonsensical ‘Franchise’ champions. Last week, the WBC decided to put their ‘Diamond’ title at stake on Saturday, in addition to Whyte’s ‘Interim’ title.
A cynic such as I might suggest this gesture is intended to appease ‘The Body Snatcher’, who has long been denied a shot at the full title, despite over a thousand days as their number one contender.
The positive news for Dillian is that providing he is victorious Saturday; it will be a necessity that Whyte gets a shot at the full title by February. No matter what transpires with Fury vs Wilder III or a potential undisputed fight, Whyte will finally get his shot, welcome news for the South-Londoner.
But first, he must get past Alexander Povetkin, and that is quite a proposition in itself.
Povetkin, a former WBA ‘Regular’ world champion, has an abundance of credentials. He started as a kickboxer and collected gold at the WAKO World Championships way back in 1997, before turning his attention to the realm of hands only.
As an amateur boxer, the Russian won Gold in the super-heavyweight division at the World Championships in Bangkok 2003, the European games in 2002 and 2004 and the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
As a professional, he holds impressive wins over the likes of Hasim Rahman, Chris Byrd, Ruslan Chagaev, Mike Perez, Carlos Takam, Manuel Charr and more recently Hughie Fury and many others to boot.
‘The White Lion’s’ only two losses as a professional have come at the elite level. He lost against the dominant Wladimir Klitschko when challenging the Ukrainian for the unified championship in 2013. His other blemish was at the hands of Anthony Joshua when Povetkin was stopped when the two met at Wembley in 2018.
There have also been a couple of doping allegations surrounding Povetkin. He was previously scheduled to fight former WBC champion Deontay Wilder in 2016, but the fight fell through after Povetkin failed a doping test. He was also due to fight Stiverne for the WBC ‘Interim’ title, and that too was cancelled following a failed test for the Russian, this time leading to a ban.
He has since passed every drug test he was subjected to in his previous six bouts, and the Russian will hope to finally get a shot at the full WBC title with success over Whyte.
Like Povetkin Whyte was also a kickboxer. The Brixton man competed in K-1 and MMA before switching to boxing. A good amateur, Whyte famously beat Anthony Joshua in 2009.
While Joshua would go on to win gold at London 2012, Whyte had to do it the hard way without the backing of the whole country. He fought on small hall shows, building experience without the acclaim his rival AJ was receiving.
Also, like Povetkin, Whyte suffered a setback when he was given a two-year ban by UKAD in 2012 after unknowingly buying a banned over the counter supplement. After serving his ban, the unrelenting Whyte returned. In 2015 he rematched Joshua as a pro with the British title on the line when the two headlined at the O2 on pay-per-view.
Although Whyte was stopped, he hurt Joshua early on in a wonderful battle that was declared the British Fight of The Year for 2015.
Whyte improved massively since the loss and has done tremendously well in rebuilding, remaining undefeated since that night at the O2. He has produced impressive conquests over the likes of Chisora twice (two outstanding fights), Robert Helenius, Lucas Browne and Joseph Parker in what was another war.
He then fought the dynamite-fisted Oscar Rivas and won again, however the loss was tainted by more drug controversy. Whyte was cleared of all wrongdoing in the coming months, and rightfully deserves his position in the top three of the division.
Whyte has been training in Portugal training in preparation for this fight with new trainer Xavier Miller, following his split from Mark Tibbs a few months ago. On Tuesday, Whyte also added Dave Coldwell to his training team, and Coldwell will work in conjunction with Miller in his corner. The reasons for which are yet unknown, but Dillian looks in terrific shape, and will look to make a declaration of intent with a knockout over Povetkin.
Both fighters possess a monstrous left hook and have both scored highlight-reel knockouts with the punch. The fight could transpire to be an all-out war, however, the stakes are extremely high for either man, so I anticipate a cagey opening as both look to avoid any blunders early on.
This is Povetkin’s final opportunity to earn another world title shot. With the other belts tied up before a possible undisputed match next year, the 40-year-old will be right at the back of the queue with a loss. In reality, If he does not win, he will most likely retire. This is why he cannot make any foolish mistakes early on, and you would expect someone like Povetkin to be a bit long in the tooth for such idiocy.
Whyte is on the cusp of a full shot at the title. The WBC has confirmed it, and he has had to overcome some huge challenges inside and outside of the ring to get to where he is. A slip up against Povetkin will undo all the hard work he has done so far. He needs the victory, and I believe he will get it on Saturday for a few reasons.
Povetkin’s last fight against Michael Hunter was a razor-tight split-decision draw that could have gone either way, and in fact I personally felt Hunter did more than enough to win. Although Whyte is a very different fighter to the slick backfoot Hunter, would Hunter have been able to do that against the Povetkin of a few years ago? I think not.
The Russian also has vulnerabilities. He was dropped a few times by Joshua in their fight, five times by Klitschko, and was almost knocked out by David Price in 2018 and was very fortunate the referee provided him with a standing count. Granted, it is heavyweight boxing, and Joshua, Price and Klitschko are all big punchers. However, since Povetkin’s loss to Joshua, his last two fights have been against slicker boxers in Fury and Hunter who are not famed for their punch power, so he hasn’t had a massive bomb on the whiskers for some while.
Dillian Whyte hits incredibly hard, and given his age, can Povetkin stand up to his power over twelve rounds? I believe not.
Although Whyte has been put down a few times against Joshua, Parker and Rivas, he has always demonstrated a good chin and managed to get back up each time excluding the Joshua fight.
I feel this contest is a case of shrewd matchmaking. Povetkin is a terrific fighter with great credentials and is more than up to shocking Whyte if Dillian is not on his game. However, he hasn't looked fantastic against Hughie Fury or Hunter, and you would have to say his better days are behind him. Even so, it is a truly tough test for Whyte before he takes on the likes of Tyson Fury or Joshua, but the bout is excellent preparation for that step up.
I believe that timing is everything and I think Whyte is coming into his prime and is within touching distance of fighting for the full world title. Povetkin, on the other hand, has already been a world champion and has challenged the best and come up short both times. Time waits for no man, and in reality, Povetkin is one loss away from retirement and that is what I believe will happen Saturday night.
Prediction: Whyte stoppage mid-to-late rounds.
Katie Taylor 15(6)-0-0 vs Delfine Persoon 44(18)-2-0
10 x 2 mins for Undisputed Lightweight Championship
There have been some gigantic fights in women’s boxing over the last few weeks. First, the first ever all British women’s world title contest between Terri Harper and Tasha Jonas, which transpired to be an absolute barnstormer. Then there was the great domestic dust-up between Shannon Courtenay and Rachel Ball last Friday. Then in America last Saturday, we witnessed a shock in the welterweight division when Jessica McCaskill acquired the unified welterweight championship from the formerly undefeated Cecilia Braekhus, who reigned as world champion for almost eleven years.
Optimistically Saturday night will produce more of the same when Katie Taylor, who formerly beat McCaskill in their lightweight match up a few years ago, rematches Delfine Persoon. Taylor previously bested Persoon on the undercard of Joshua Ruiz I at the MSG in New York in June of last year.
Their first meeting produced a contentious result, to say the least.
Many thought Persoon won, while many others scored it a draw. The scoring judges on the night, however, umpired it to be a majority decision for Taylor, much to the frustration of the Belgian, Persoon. Following the controversial ending to the first bout, boxing fans have long shouted for a rematch.
Finally, we have it, and Katie can look to put to bed any claims of dodgy decisions with a dominant victory over the Belgian. Taylor is a gold medallist at the London 2012 Olympic games, and also represented Ireland at Rio 2016. She and the likes of Clarissa Shields have to take enormous credit for spearheading the advance of women’s boxing on a global scale.
Taylor still has much to achieve in boxing, and surely by now has earned the right to headline a show in Dublin. Something she is still yet to do as a professional.
With a victory over Persoon, Taylor can look to move up to welterweight, and rematch McCaskill to try and attain the designation of undisputed world champion in two weight divisions and cement her legacy as one of the best female boxers of all time.
However, Persoon will do all she can to make it a dogfight. She feels she was wronged in the first match and will battle every second of every round to ensure history does not repeat itself. Taylor will also desire to silence the doubters, and I feel the two will meet in the centre of the ring and slug it out at a frantic pace for ten rounds.
I anticipate it being another close affair, but after the first bout, I feel Taylor will know just how good Persoon is and will not underestimate the Belgian. Taylor will have learned from the first fight, and I imagine she should be able to avoid this potential banana skin and will emerge triumphantly.
Prediction: Taylor points.
Luther Clay 13(5)-1-0 vs Chris Kongo 11(6)-0-0
10 x 3 mins for WBO Global Welterweight Championship
This is a mammoth opportunity for either Clay or Kongo to showcase their abilities on this huge platform, in what is an intriguing domestic match up at 147lbs.
There is no love lost between Clay and Kongo, and there has been a bit of back and forth between the two in the build-up. The winner will have a good WBO ranking and should go onto play a big part domestically in the division with the likes of Connor Benn, Chris Jenkins and Josh Kelly all looking to return soon.
Born in South Africa, the 24-year old Clay is a compact come-forward fighter. His only loss was a points decision against Russian Vazir Tamoyan when fighting in Georgia. 'The Black Panther' holds impressive wins against the then-unbeaten Dario Morello, when he dropped the Italian twice on his way to a unanimous decision in Morello’s home country and Freddy Kiwitt last time out.
Chris ‘2slick’ Kongo was an accomplished amateur and spent time at Team GB. He also made it to the 2013 ABA finals where he was beaten by Josh Kelly, a decision he still disputes to this day and is aiming to rectify as a professional. Although he is yet to fight any notable professional opponents, Kongo has not put a glove wrong in his eleven contests thus far.
It’s a genuinely hard fight to split. Clay has the experience as a professional, whereas Kongo has it as an amateur. Clay has had the benefit of featuring on some of the bigger shows so has had better exposure of late, while Kongo has had to ply his trade on the small hall shows.
The 6′ 0″ tall Kongo holds quite a height advantage over the 5′ 8½″ Clay. If Clay is to get to Kongo, he will have to attempt to get past Kongo’s jab and sit on his chest. Although Kongo has been out of the ring for sixteen months, he is a fit lad and trains with the fitness mad Jim McDonnell. Therefore, he should be in top condition, and he will need to be as Clay will look to make it a dog fight.
Like every other fight we have seen on Fight Camp, both combatants have everything to gain with a victory so I fail to see how it can be anything but a good contest. It’s authentically hard to split the two, but if I had to, I’d edge towards the taller Kongo for win and look to move on to the big names in the division.
Prediction: Kongo points.
Jack Cullen 18(9)-2-0 vs Zak Chelli 7(3)-1-0
10 x 3 Mins Super-Middleweight Contest
Another great match up between two young hungry fighters, who both love a row and will both want to make a statement with a massive performance on Saturday night.
Cullen fought and stopped one of Dillian Whyte’s’ protegees in John Harding Jr for the English middleweight title, before taking on Felix Cash for Commonwealth glory at 160lbs. Although Cullen was stopped by Cash, they had a terrific contest with a hell of a lot of action. The lanky Cullen proved his minerals in that fight and should have more punch resistance up at super-middleweight.
Zak Chelli is an exciting fighter and at just 22 years old is still relatively inexperienced at this level. Last time out he lost to the well-rated Kody Davies. Chelli gave a decent account of himself in that contest and even dropped the Welshman in the second round, before just falling short in a close decision.
Cullen and Chelli will undoubtedly endeavour to impress with a great showing. Both have been defeated before, so have nothing to lose and everything to gain with a big performance. Hopefully they will go out hammer and tong and end up having a right tear up.
'Little Lever's Meat Cleaver' Jack Cullen is a big-ticket seller, and always brings an army of rowdy fans with him. It is a legitimate point whether he will be able to navigate the trickier points of the fight without a crowd to buoy him on, and the lack of atmosphere could play into the hands of Chelli.
Having said that, Cullen has more experience as a pro. If he wants to go on and challenge the likes of Lerrone Richards for the British title at 168lbs, he will need to triumph over Chelli. The Fulham man will have his own ambitions domestically, and that would be enhanced with victory over Cullen, so expect him to turn up in a big way too.
Prediction: Tight Cullen points win.
Alen Babic 3(3)-0-0 vs Shawndell Terell Winters 13(12)-3-0
With Fillip Hrgovic beginning to make his name at world level, it’s a good time for Croatian boxing. The 29-year old Alen Babic will hope to proclaim himself as another fighter with big prospects from the Balkan country.
The heavy fisted Babic looks well online, and after impressing Dillian Whyte as a sparring partner, he inked a management deal with Whyte and fought on the undercard of Whyte Rivas. It’s a big sign of intent from their team by matching him with Winters, who also punches very hard as his twelve knockouts suggest. The American will also have benefited from five rounds with former WBO champ, Joseph Parker last time out.
Winters is an experienced campaigner, who is coming to win. He will prove a decent measuring stick for examining how good Babic could be. Like all the Fight Camp cards, it is a massive opportunity for both men to make a name for themselves on this biggest of platforms. With a stoppage, Babic could get a good ranking and look to move on and challenge for regional titles as he looks to ascend through the division.
Prediction: Bebic stoppage.
Aaron Ludford for SimBoxx