Wembley Arena will play host to an all-female world title tripleheader this Saturday, the likes of which never seen before on these shores.
While the pandemic has wreaked bedlam across live sport, it has had its benefits in further raising the profile of women’s boxing, with several notable female contests taking place on Sky.
There was a controversial barnstormer between Harper and Jonas. The exciting and closely contested rematch between Katie Taylor and Delfine Persoon. The world title triumphs of Chantelle Cameron and Savannah Marshall. The nip and tuck domestic clash between Rachel Ball and Shannon Courtenay.
Perhaps it is the intense all-action two-minute rounds, or equally, it could be that the fantastically talented athletes mentioned, deserve their dwelling on the world boxing scene. In my view, it is a combination of both.
Whatever it is, no one can deny that the fights have proved fantastic adverts for female boxing.
Saturday's bill shall undoubtedly provide more of the same, with the tripleheader consisting of Katie Taylor vs Miriam Gutierrez, Terri Harper vs Katharina Thanderz and Rachel Ball vs Jorgelina Guanini.
Sadly, there is one notable absentee from the card, in the form of Tasha Jonas. Jonas was aggrieved to leave Fight Camp with only a draw and no title after her contest with Harper. Her absence comes at the heart of a very sour, and very public dispute between Joe Gallagher, Jonas’s trainer, and Eddie Hearn, regarding purses. With any luck, Tasha will soon return to our screens and challenge for a world title or get a deserved shot to rematch Harper.
Katie Taylor 16(6)-0-0 vs Miriam Gutierrez 13(5)-0-0
10 x 2 Mins for WBC, WBO, IBF, WBA and Ring Magazine Lightweight Titles
Katie Taylor needs no introduction. A two-time Olympian. Olympic Gold Medallist. Two-weight world champion. Undisputed 135lbs champion. A female’s pound-for-pound top five. Simply put, she is a global icon and trailblazer for women’s boxing.
Ideally, we should be seeing Taylor move up to welterweight and challenge the winner of the McCaskill vs Brakehaus rematch if that happens. This would afford Taylor the prospect to become the undisputed champion at both lightweight and welterweight. If that match cannot be made, surely Taylor is due a huge homecoming in Dublin when crowds return, given the fact she is still yet to fight there as a professional.
Granted, nobody knows when crowds will return, and whether the McCaskill Brakehaus rematch will happen. Therefore,Taylor must carry on fighting and take care of her WBA mandatory, the Spaniard, Miriam Gutierrez.
Gutierrez is the WBA ‘Interim’ champion at 135lbs having defeated Venezuelan Keren Batiz last time out in November 2019. She is also a former European champion, having defeated a brit in the form of Sam Smith, (not the singer) in Madrid way back in March of 2019.
There is not much footage available of Gutierrez available online, but in the build-up, Taylor has made it clear she is wary of the threat her opponent presents. She stated: “I think she is a lot better than what people think. I am expecting a very tough fight. She can be very tricky at times and awkward as well".
While Taylor will not want to underestimate her opponent, it’s hard to make a case for Guttierez winning. Only four of Gutierez’s preceding opponents have had a winning record. She is relatively new to boxing, and has not had the extensive amateur experience that Taylor has had.
Guttierez is presented with a gigantic opportunity to make a name for herself globally by means of a shock win over Taylor. She may well prove a decent opponent, but Katie Taylor is an elite combatant. Simple. The Irishwoman should have more than enough in her arsenal to prove why she is rightfully the face of women’s boxing.
Prediction: Taylor stoppage.
Terri Harper 10(5)-0-1 vs Katharina Thanderz 13(2)-0-0
10 x 2 Mins for WBC and IBO Super-Featherweight Titles
Harper makes her second appearance since the pandemic following her shock draw to Tasha Jonas back in August. WBC and IBO champion, Harper, was fortunate to retain her titles that night, in what was a brutal and closely fought bout that most seemed to think Jonas did enough to win. It is hoped that the fight will be rerun, but first Harper must deal with her mandatory, Katharina Thanderz.
The Norwegian Thanderz acquired the mandatory status after winning the WBC ‘Interim’ title a year ago against one, Dnila Ramos. The Nordic pugilist has waited patiently for her shot at the full title and gets her chance at last on Saturday. She will hope to seize that chance with both hands against Harper,in what will be her first full world title contest.
The Norwegian’s most notable victory came in March 2019 with a Majority Decision triumph over Rachel Ball, who appears in her own world title contest. The Ball fight was close, and the Norwegian was very much pushed to the wire by Walsall’s Ball.
Prior to the Jonas bout, Harper was yet to put a glove wrong. Many, I included, thought she would win handily over Jonas. Jonas surprised a lot of people with her gutsy showing and revealed some chinks in the armour of Harper that the Norwegian will hope to take advantage of.
Personally, I feel Harper will have learned a lot from the Jonas fight. She will also have the confidence to navigate tricky moments and go toe to toe when needed. That should stand her in good stead against Thanderz.
While Harper has faced some world level opposition in the likes of Jonas, Eva Wahlstrom and Viviane Obenaudf (who stopped Jonas previously), Thanderz is yet to have a real acid test, aside from Ball. She has one Saturday night, and I am backing the Brit, Harper, to have enough in the locker to prevail on fight night.
Prediction: Harper points.
Rachel Ball 6(0)-1-0 vs Jorgelina Guanini 9(1)-1-0
10 x 2 Mins for Vacant WBA Bantamweight Title
Social Worker Rachel Ball warmed hearts with her emotional post-fight speech after her gutsy triumph over Shannon Courtenay last time out. Three-time kickboxing world champion, Ball, made it abundantly clear how much boxing meant to her, and how desperately she wanted further opportunities
Matchroom wilfully accepted and have now provided the West-Midlander with a WBA bantamweight world title fight. The fight was intended to be against the Australian ‘Blonde Bomber’ Ebanie Bridges. However, the Aussie had to pull out, and Argentinian Jorgelina Guanini stepped up to challenge for what could be her second world title. The Buenos Aires native is a former IBF super-flyweight Queen and will attempt to become a two-weight champion with a victory on Saturday.
The fight itself is an interesting proposition. Rachel Ball is an aggressive all-action fighter that doesn’t mind a row. She will hope that her world level experience in kickboxing can now be translated into the realm of fists only. Ball’s fight with Courtenay was extremely close, with most observers split on who deserved to take home the victory.
Jorgelina looks to be a respectable fighter herself, but hasn’t fought for over eighteen months. Is she just here for a payday? Or does she think Ball is a very winnable fight, and that she has a golden opportunity to become a two-weight world champion and make her name in the UK, where the women’s game is flying?
It’s intriguing, and I am very much in two minds as to who will win. Purely based on notice given, I will side with Ball, and I back her to win the championship and set up a rematch with Courtenay in 2021.
Prediction: Ball points.
John Doherty 9(7)-0-0 vs Jack Cullen 18(9)-2(2)-1
10 x 3 mins Super-Middleweight Contest
Originally, Doherty and Cullen, were due to fight Jack Arnfield and Jamie Cox respectively. Both fights fell through due to injury, so these two were put together in what will be a final eliminator for the British title at 168lbs.
Doherty is one of the highest regarded talents that hails from the UK. The Scotsman had an extensive amateur career that saw him win bronze at the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast in 2018. The hard-hitting southpaw is tutored by the eagle-eyed Tony Sims at the Matchroom Gym in Essex.
Doherty has looked sublime as a pro thus far, and big things are expected of him. ‘The Doc’ is seemingly on a collision course with another young Scottish super middleweight star, Willy Hutchinson. Hutchinson is due to fight Leronne Richards for the British title next, and if he wins, Doherty will become his mandatory. The two grew up together and know each other very well. They have both said they would happily put that aside for a seemingly inevitable and historic all-Scotland clash.
However, Before Doherty can even think of Hutchinson, he must first beat the ‘Little Lever Meat Cleaver’, Jack Cullen.
Cullen has put in some decent performances of late. Last time out, he grabbed a controversial draw against Tuesday’s Boxxer champion, Zak Chelli.
Cullen is a former English title champion, and holds a respectable win over John Harding Jr. He also posted a phenomenal display when having a barnstormer with Felix Clash last November. Although Cullen lost, be performed admirably against Cash and exposed just how tough he is.
Having said that, at super-middleweight Doherty hits ridiculously hard. I think he will have too much fire power for Cullen who will be without his usual army of fans. The subdued nature of the arena will likely suit Doherty more, who has experienced similar many times before as an amateur.
P.S. Look out for Cullen’s North Face tattoo. It’s a screamer.
Prediction: Doherty stoppage.
Thomas Whittaker-Hart 4(2)-0-0 vs Jermaine Springer 7(1)-1-0
8 x 3 Mins Light-Heavyweight Contest
Whittaker-Hart is another product of the famous Rotunda Gym in Liverpool. He is another of Tony Bellew’s protégées and is a former ABA champion and Team GB alumnus who competed in the World Series of Boxing.
The Scouser was originally aiming to go to Tokyo 2020, but suffered a significant knee injury in 2018 that put him out of action for some time. When he recovered, he elected to instead turn pro and looks to make his mark in the paid ranks. He has looked the part in his first four fights as a pro and will hope to extend his record to 5-0-0 with a win over Bradford’s Springer in what will be his first eight-round fight.
Springer is coming in off the back of a good win against unbeaten Casey Connelly last time out in March. A win would do great things for his career, which has thus far been spent on the small hall shows.
Unfortunately for Springer, Hart is not just an incredibly talented amateur, he is also well versed in the pro-style from his days in the WSB. I believe Hart will utilise his experience and talent to drag Springer into deep waters and validate just how good he is.
Prediction: Whittaker-Hart Points.
Kash Farooq 13(6)-1-0 vs Angel Aviles 20(6)-5(1)-1
Hopefully, it will be a case of second time lucky for Glasgow's Kash Farooq, who looks to make his maiden appearance for Matchroom on Saturday. The Scot was due to fight Mexican Martin Tecuapetla on the Chisora Uysk card, however that fell through due to a positive COVID test for one of his team.
Although that fight could not be rearranged, Farooq does finally get to fight, and shall take on another Mexican, Angel Aviles.
At 24, Farooq is a young, hungry fighter who has already won the British bantamweight title outright. Big things are expected from him as he looks to progress towards world level. Farooq is targeting a rematch with McGregor, who himself is fighting for the European title this month. If both win their respective bouts, a rematch in Scotland when crowds return would surely be a substantial occasion that would take a big card to the north.
Before Farooq can think of McGregor, he must first shake off his ring rust against Aviles.
Aviles has spent most of his career fighting in his home country of Mexico. He once travelled to South Africa to unsuccessfully challenge Gideon Buthelezi for the IBO world super-flyweight title. The Mexican looks to be tough, with a typical relentless Mexican style, and has only been stopped once before.
One would imagine he will be the ideal candidate to give Farooq some tough rounds, and not allow ‘Untouchable’ to get an easy night’s work. Farooq is in need of rounds, and I imagine that is what Aviles will provide. For Farooq, it is a chance to dust off the cobwebs against a hungry fighter that will want to win. Perfect preparation before he continues his assault on the division.
Farooq is an excellent fighter, and I feel is more than capable of competing at world level one day. On this basis, I believe Farooq will emerge victoriously.
Prediction: Farooq points.
By Aaron Ludford for SimBoxx