Before the small issue of Wilder vs Fury II, live at The MGM Saturday evening, we will be treated to the latest instalment of the engaging ‘Golden Contract’ tournament from MTK. Since it’s arrival, the competition has been a welcome addition to the British boxing calendar. Similarly to the World Super Series it gives the contestants something to strive for, with the promise of a big contract and bonuses for knockouts. Enough to get fighters hungry, and as we know, a hungry fighter is a dangerous fighter, and a dangerous fighter is an exciting fighter, and we have a good few of them competing on Friday.
The quarter-finals in each weight class (the light-heavyweight semi is will conclude March 20th) were exciting and provided some great dust-ups.
On Tuesday afternoon the semi-final draw was made. As with the previous round, a golden ball was introduced, so one fighter would have their pick of his opponents. Ryan Walsh and Ohara Davies were the men to have the pick of their respective opponents. Norfolk man and British champion Walsh picked Tyrone McCullagh. Davies, on the other hand, opted for Ofori, who entered the tournament as a late replacement after the withdrawal of Lewis Benson just days before the quarter-final.
I have analysed each fight and chose who I believe will likely emerge victorious from each contest.
Super-lightweight Semi-final 1
Ohara Davies 20-2-0 vs Jeff Ofori 10-1-1
A local derby will ensue when the two men from Hackney meet due to Davies choosing the lesser-known Ofori to be in the opposing corner fight night.
To say Ohara Davies cuts a controversial character would be to understate it somewhat. Since his emergence onto the boxing scene he has hit the headlines spectacularly and has managed to upset a lot of people. Over the last few months he says he has changed, and now proclaims himself ‘Humble OD’, insisting he will only be doing his talking inside of the ring. Another change he’s made is the introduction of his new trainer Angel Fernandez, the man credited with helping Anthony Joshua improve his movement for the Ruiz rematch. Davies looks to have improved his balance with Fernandez, and if he lets his shots go like in his previous bout, Ofori could be in for a rough night.
As stated Ofori’s presence in the tournament is due to a last-minute withdrawal of Scot Lewis Benson. He also benefitted from a referee’s call following a split-decision draw against Kieran Gething in the quarter-final. Ofori is the least experienced of his three tournament counterparts, and his best win comes at the expense of scouser Ged Carroll back in November. On paper, he is the safe option, and that is the reason for Davies selecting him. However, most would have preferred to see Davies square off against McKenna, given their previous bad blood.
Before Davies’ fall from grace due to his provocative comments about the city of Liverpool, he was touted to be a potential superstar by Sky and Matchroom. Things haven’t entirely gone his way, but nobody can deny his resume is impressive domestically. He has wins over Derry Matthews, Tom Farrell and a controversial victory over former world champion Miguel Vasquez. He was also famously beaten comfortably by now world champion and pound-for-pound star Josh Taylor, after a bitter feud between the two. To Ohara’s credit, he pushed unbeaten WBO mandatory Jack Catterall to a close decision which could have gone either way, despite Davies not throwing many punches at all. He also had trials for Team GB and was a good amateur. To say Davies has had the better boxing education would not be a disservice to Ofori; it is a fact. I feel this should stand him in good stead, and he knows Ofori will not have the experience of significant occasions like he has. I believe that along with Fernandez could make the difference.
Prediction: Comfortable victory for Ohara Davies, probably by way of stoppage.
Super-lightweight Semi-final 2
Mohamed Mimoune 22-3-0 vs Tyrone McKenna 20-1-1
The two fighters that were not picked, Mimoune and McKenna, were left to face off with each other. McKenna stated he wanted to fight OD, although a final clash between them would be an even larger occasion if both men can progress, although Mimoune will be quite the hurdle.
Mohamed Mimoune is best known on these shores for his European welterweight title victory over Sam Eggington on the Crolla Burns undercard in Manchester. The Frenchman also battled former world champion Victor Postol last year, losing a comfortable points decision to ‘The Iceman’. Despite not being regarded as a puncher, he stopped Durham man Darren Surtees in the quarter-final to book his place in the semi. Mimoune is even a former world champion himself, albeit coming in the form of the lowly regarded IBO belt.
Tyrone McKenna is one of the more entertaining fighters we have seen in recent times. His challenges with the other Tyrone (McCullagh), Instagram videos and dress sense have made him a hit with boxing fans. He can also fight like hell, doesn’t take a backwards step and isn’t often in a dull contest. The Belfast man recently changed his training situation and is now trained by Peter Taylor, (father of Katie) in Dublin. McKenna had a great fight with Jack Catterall in which he was unsuccessful, his only blemish so far. He did have a close battle with Lewis Benson, a contest many thought he was fortunate to triumph in. He has since taken comfortable wins over Foley and Mikey Sakyi. Each of these victories is respectable, but neither pugilist mentioned above compares to Mimoume in terms of ability.
The Frenchman has had better wins that McKenna and has also tested himself against a higher standard. McKenna will hope a victory over Mimoume is his breakout win and will set up a final with bitter rival Davies. Is that likely though? I’m not too sure. While I favour McKenna’s style, I feel Mimoume will box on the backfoot and frustrate McKenna, in a similar fashion to his victory over Eggington. The Frenchman is a pure boxer, and I feel he will have better ring craft than McKenna which should see him avail in a tight contest. I hope I am wrong, as McKenna vs Davies is the fight we want to see in the final.
Prediction: Mimoume split decision win.
Featherweight Semi-final 1
Ryan Walsh 25-2-2 vs Tyrone McCullagh 14-0-0
Each of the two featherweight bouts is equally exciting and hard to call. Any of the four men are very capable of winning the whole competition, although Cromer man Ryan Walsh was the bookie’s favourite from the start.
Ryan Walsh is one of the boxing Walsh brothers, with the others being Liam and Michael. He is British champion and has been for five long years. The likeable Walsh has long hoped for a step-up to test himself against the best in the division, and will hope victory in the competition will pave the way for those landmark fights and paydays. Walsh raised a few eyebrows when he chose the panda-loving southpaw as his opponent. McCullagh is an awkward fighter and hasn’t put a foot wrong in any of his previous fourteen contests. Not the ideal boxer to battle for anyone, but Walsh will hope he proves to be the best opposition for him from three tricky competitors.
McCullagh like good friend McKenna, now trains out of Dublin with Peter Taylor. Also, like McKenna, McCullagh lacks a standout win, and success over Walsh would certainly tick that box. McCullagh will likely try and time Walsh as he comes forward and then try to move off. This style has worked well for him so far and has seen him capture both the BBBofC Celtic and WBO European super-bantamweight titles. It is likely to be the correct style to frustrate Walsh, who is incredibly robust, and worked well for Lee Selby when he beat Walsh comfortably back in 2013.
Walsh has been in with the superior opposition and was bested by the likes of Selby and Denis Ceylan, who he fought for the European title. The latter loss was a dubious decision, that come in Ceylan’s home country, and was somewhat unfair on Walsh. Walsh has had a few draws against decent opposition also but has experienced big nights against big fighters. As a professional, he has seen and fought it all, and I feel he should have enough in his arsenal to triumph. I do feel McCullagh is good enough to make it tricky for Walsh and will take some of the earlier rounds, but the strength and experience of Walsh should allow him to take over down the home straight.
Prediction: Walsh late stoppage.
Featherweight Semi-final 2
Leigh Wood 23-1-0 vs Jazza Dickens 28-3-0
Wood vs Dickens is another compelling and intriguing matchup between two very talented fighters, and I think it is the hardest to call.
Leigh Wood has been very impressive of late after blasting out Ryan Doyle and standout amateur David Oliver Joyce in his previous two contests. The Commonwealth champion has improved a lot since his stoppage loss to Gavin McDonnell back in 2014 when the two competed for the British super-bantamweight title. He has since been managed by Dave Coldwell and has become a real force domestically at featherweight. He has made no secret he wanted to fight Ryan Walsh as he craves the British title. He will hope himself and Walsh meet in the final, so he has the opportunity to win the tournament and its spoils, along with the British title to boot. However, Jazza Dickens stands in the way.
Boxing is a small community, and Dickens is managed by Tony Bellew who was trained by Dave Coldwell, who now manages Wood. Fair to say there will be some split allegiances come Friday. Dickens has had a bit of an up and down career, and an equally rocky road outside the ring. After a good run of successive victories in which he picked up the English title, he lost to world title challenger Kid Galahad. He rebuilt and won the British, before being matched against Cuban icon Guillermo Rigondeaux. In that fight be broke his jaw and had a long lay-off. He returned against Thomas-Patrick Ward, who is now on the verge of a world title challenge himself, in another fight he lost. Again, he has rebuilt and began training with George Vaughn and Derry Matthews, picking up the IBF European title in the process. Another tricky southpaw, Dickens feels he is ready for another assault on the best in the division. Victory in this tournament will give Jazza the platform to show he means business in the featherweight class.
Both Dickens and Wood are both at a crossroads. It’s difficult to see where the loser goes after this. The winner will be afforded the opportunity to win a contract with Matchroom and enjoy all the fruits that Sky has to offer. Neither will want to fall short and miss out on booking their place in the final, and the prospect of this should ensure either of these talented fighters will want to leave nothing in the ring. It really could go either way, and I will park myself firmly on the fence and say; I genuinely do not know who will win this fight, but I’m sure there will be fireworks.
Prediction: A very, very good fight.
Whatever happens, this is one of the strongest domestic cards I can remember and features some great talent. I would urge any boxing fan to tune in, as it will be an excellent appetiser for the big one in Vegas.
By Aaron Ludford
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