Lawrence Okolie (15-0-0) vs Krzysztof Glowacki (31-2-0)
12 x 3 mins for vacant World Boxing Organisation World Cruiserweight Title
Lawrence Okolie is a testament to the many benefits of the sport of boxing.
During the 2012 Olympics, he was overweight and working in McDonald's. Inspired by AJ’s gold medal triumph, Okolie decided he too would become an Olympic boxer.
Fast forward nine years; Okolie is a former Olympian, an unbeaten professional boxer, a regular sparring partner for his mentor AJ and is even managed by Joshua’s 258 Management.
To top it off, on Saturday evening, Okolie finally gets his crack at attaining world honours when he challenges Poland's Krzystof Glowacki for the WBO strap live at Wembley Arena.
The bout was previously scheduled for the undercard of AJ vs Pulev back in December. Glowacki withdrew from the contest after falling victim to a positive Covid test.
Instead Okolie boxed a compatriot of Glowacki’s, Nikodem Jezewski. 'The Sauce' excitingly destroyed Jezewski, dropping the Pole multiple times on route to a second-round stoppage.
Okolie looks to have added to his game since linking up with Shane McGuigan. The Londoner let his hands go to a devastating effect against Jezewski, taking the fight to his opponent from the first bell. Okolie will hope to emulate that particular performance versus Jezewski’s countryman, Glowacki.
Glowacki is a very proficient operator and former two-time world champion. The only blotches on his record are respectable losses against pound-for-pound stars Oleksandr Usyk and Mairis Breidis. The former world champion also holds notable wins over Marco Huck and Steve Cunningham.
Okolie will need to be at his best if he is to emerge victorious. If the Brit can avail, he’ll warrant the lofty praise that will undoubtedly accompany taking a scalp like Glowacki’s.
Okolie is technically sound and strikingly tall. His height an attribute he has used to full effect in his previous contests. One of the most consistent criticisms levelled at Okolie is that he is a dull fighter and has a reputation of holding too often. Particularly so after his fights with Isaac Chamberlain and Matty Askin.
Okolie remedied that last time out. He did not hold once and looked remarkably destructive.
Glowacki is five inches shorter than his opponent. If Okolie can assert his jab early and dictate the distance throughout, he can stamp his authority from the get-go. Okolie has the benefit of being slightly more active than Glowacki, having had a run-out in December, while his Polish opponent has not fought since June 2019.
I anticipate Okolie triumphing handily. He is young, athletic and improving with each new performance. I fully expect him to be the latest British boxer to win a world title. If he does, he can then turn his attention to staking a claim for supremacy in the cruiserweight division.
Prediction: Okolie Knockout.
Chris Billam-Smith (11-1-) vs Vasil Ducar (9-3-1)
10 x 3 mins vacant World Boxing Association Continental Cruiserweight Title
Okolie’s gym-mate and sparring partner Chris Billam-Smith has an opportunity to earn a WBA ranking when he fights, Vasil Ducar.
Billam-Smith was mandated to fight Deion Jumah for the vacant British title. That contest was initially scheduled for November 21, until Jumah dropped out with an eye injury. The bout was rescheduled for March 20, but sadly Jumah had to withdraw once more.
Hopefully, it will be the third time lucky, and ‘The Gentleman’ Billam-Smith can rearrange the fight with Jumah later on in the summer. In the meantime, the Bournemouth man required a dance partner. And so, up stepped Vasil Ducar.
Saturday’s fight will be Ducar’s second appearance on British soil. The first was a KO of Nick Parpa at York Hall, back in 2017.
The Czech champion looks to be a big puncher and has eight stoppages under his belt. In 2019, Ducar contested the lowly regarded IBO world title with South African Kevin Lerena. Ducar lost comprehensively on points but went every round, losing on points.
Ducar is a potential banana skin for Billam-Smith, but I’m confident the Bournemouth man has enough in his arsenal to take home the victory.
Billam-Smith looked sensational in his last performance when he stopped formerly unbeaten Nathan Thorley at Fight Camp. The only blemish on Billam-Smith’s record so far is a razor-thin SD loss against Richard Riakporhe in 2019.
While I hope Billam-Smith gets the opportunity to rematch Riakporhe if possible, he has options regardless. He is still mandatory for the British title, so could look to go that route and try and clean up domestically. He may also skip ahead to European level and take on Tommy McCarthy if the Irishman is willing.
Of course, Dorset native Billam-Smith must first get past Ducar, but I believe he should be able to do that handily.
While Billam-Smith punches like a mule kicks, he has underrated boxing skills. He can outbox an opponent just as easily as he can render them unconscious.
The McGuigan gym is thriving currently. Being around the likes of Okolie and Anthony Fowler each day will motivate and inspire Billam-Smith on a daily basis. I think he will produce a stunning display and post a comprehensive victory on Saturday night.
Prediction: Billam-Smith points.
Anthony Fowler (13-1-0) vs Jorge Fortea (21-2-1)
10 x3 mins World Boxing Association International Super Welterweight Title
Anthony Fowler joins gym-mates Okolie and Billam-Smith on the bill as a late addition to the card.
Fowler was due to fight Fortea on the Avanesyan v Kelly undercard. However, a positive Covid test for the scouser put paid to those plans. Fowler kept training and stayed in the gym, meaning he was ready for a call to step up and take his place on the show.
'The Machine' was in great form when he comprehensively dismantled Adam Harper in his last appearance back at Fight Camp in August.
A shot at revenge against Scott Fitzgerald this summer beckons for Fowler if both men win their respective bouts. If a fight with Fitzgerald does not materialise, Fowler could well fight the winner of Cheeseman versus Metcalfe.
Fortea will hope he can scupper those plans with a victory over the former Team GB star. Spaniard Fortea is no stranger to beating British opposition, having pipped Nav Mansouri to a split decision back in 2019.
Fowler is an entirely different proposition to Mansouri. The Liverpudlian doesn’t tire, has a great chin, hits very hard and possesses underrated boxing skills to boot. Many seem to forget Fowler is a Commonwealth gold medallist and former Olympian too.
I fancy Fowler to stop Fortea this weekend and continue his progression under Shane McGuigan.
Prediction: Fowler Stoppage.
Joe Cordina (11-0-0) vs Faroukh Kourbanov (17-2-0)
Tony Sims charge Joe Cordina makes his first appearance since November 2019 when he takes on former EBU-EU super-featherweight champion, Faroukh Kourbanov.
Throughout his career, Kourbanov has predominately campaigned out of his native Belgium. He has travelled to Italy and France for bouts and lost to Devis Boschiero and Samir Ziani on those particular occasions.
Cordina is yet to put a foot wrong as a pro and looked to be on the verge of fighting for European and world honours in 2020.
However, as with most, Covid delayed these plans. Cordina used the lay-off to his advantage and had a hand operation he previously avoided.
Now back fit and with two fully functioning hands, Cordina can begin rebuilding and look for upcoming challenges at either super-feather or lightweight. If he can impress against Kourbanov, a logical step up would be someone like European champion Ziani, who beat Brit Alex Dilmaghani back in September.
Eddie Hearn thinks highly of Cordina and has publicly stated that he expects him to be fighting for a world title by the end of the year. A victory over Kourbanov and Ziani successively would put Cordina in a strong position to earn a shot at making Hearn’s comments become a reality.
I expect a big performance from the Welshman, and him to set himself up for what could be a huge year in his career.
Prediction: Cordina late stoppage.
Bradley Rea (9-0-0) vs Lee Cutler (7-0-0)
It’s the north versus the south when Manchester’s Bradley Rea and Bournemouth man Lee Cutler put their unbeaten records on the line in an engaging middleweight clash.
Both men are young, Rea 23 and Cutler 25. They have had their learning fights against journeymen, and are now ready to put it all on the line and make a name for themselves on a huge platform.
Lee Cutler is a former national champion as an amateur. To prepare for the fight with Rea, Cutler has sparred numerous rounds with top domestic talents like Anthony Fowler and Ted Cheeseman.
Steve Wood managed Rea does not have the amateur pedigree his opponent has but does seem to have a size advantage and will hope to utilise that to take the victory back to Stretford.
Each man will want to impress this weekend. The winner will be able to stake their case to appear on more significant shows. The loser can too, providing they make it an exciting contest.
Both have everything to gain with a triumph, and that should compel them to give it their all to make it an exciting and competitive contest. The victor will go on to regional titles or perhaps a tilt at the English championship.
Prediction: Cutler points.
Ramla Ali (1-0-0) vs Bec Connolly (3-8-0)
Ramla Ali will make her second appearance in the ring as a professional when she squares off against Swindon’s Bec Connolly.
Connolly has been a regular fixture in British women’s in recent years. She’s faced the likes of Terri Harper, Carly Skelly, Tasha Jonas, Rachel Ball and Ellie Scotney. Connolly lost each of those particular bouts, but is a well-versed pro. She will hope to use her experience to her benefit and pull off a shock victory.
Like the headliner Okolie, Ali is managed by AJ’s 258 management. She too is another testament to the positive effects of Boxing. A Somalian war refugee, she represented both Britain and Somalia as an amateur. Outside of the ring, she is a published author and represented model too.
Last time out Ali boxed tidily and beat German Eva Hubmayer on the Uysk Chisora undercard. Ali will hope to emulate Tasha Jonas and Terri Harper by stopping Connolly, though you would expect Ali would be just as happy with rounds banked a win on points.
Prediction: Ali points.
Ellie Scotney (1-0-0) vs Mailys Gangloff (4-1-0)
Like Ramla Ali, Ellie Scotney makes her second professional appearance this weekend when she fights France’s Mailys Gangloff.
Training out of Adam Booth’s gym, Scotney is a former Team GB boxer and an ABA champion. Scotney posted a solid debut when she beat Bec Connolly on the Ritson versus Vasquez card back in October.
Scotney has the talent and pedigree to achieve big things in the pro ranks especially, under the guidance of Matchroom and Adam Booth.
French woman Gangloff has a decent record. Her only loss was a split decision in 2019 when she challenged for the French female bantamweight title.
The woman’s game is thriving in the UK. Scotney will hope to emulate the likes of Chantelle Cameron and Terri Harper by picking up a world title in the future. If Scotney can reach such heights, she will need to beat Gangloff handily, and I expect her to do so.
Prediction: Scotney points.
By Aaron Ludford of SimBoxx