The focus amongst followers of the noble art this weekend is on Anthony Joshua’s latest title defence as he makes his American debut against John Ruiz Jr at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. The Londoner is widely expected to continue his winning run with an inside-the-distance result over his Californian foe.
Joshua – Ruiz Jr isn’t the only fight of note on the card, however, as Matchroom Boxing give some of the sport’s brightest names a chance to shine state side. Chief support comes in the form of Callum Smith v Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam for the WBA world super middleweight strap and the programme also pairs Chris Algieri v Tommy Coyle for the WBO International super lightweight crown and Katie Taylor v Delfine Persoon for the female IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO world titles.
It’ll be a late start for UK fans planning to tune into the live coverage offered by Sky Sports Box Office, with the ring walk for the main event expected to be around 4.00am, but the line-up promises it’ll be one well worth staying up for. Joshua has it all to lose but a convincing win over an opponent with a 31-1-0 record would help pave the way for a unification bout with WBC champ Deontay Wilder, hopefully later this year. The current boxing betting has AJ nailed on for a win.
It may have slipped in under the radar for most folk but in Smith v N’Jikam we have a world title bout that will shape the path ahead for one of British boxing’s most promising stars. Mundo claimed a world title last time out when stopping fellow countryman George Groves in the final of the World Boxing Super Series. Halting St George in seven rounds before a Saudi Arabian audience, Smith realised a lifelong dream of becoming champion of the world but also got his hands on the Muhammad Ali Trophy, an achievement that sent him up through the world rankings.
29-year-old Smith has won each of his previous 25 opponents, dealing with 18 inside the distance. He is rated number one at super middleweight and is sizing up a shot at some of the sport’s biggest names, including Gennady Golovkin and Saul Alvarez. It’s thought if neither fight can be made in the near future, Smith will take on another avoided Brit in Billy Joe Saunders, a man who recently won a version of the middleweight world title. Moving up a division in an attempt to become a two-weight world champion is also an option open to Smith and his team and there’s the opportunity to share a ring with the great Sergey Kovalev at light heavyweight.
Returning to more pressing matters and if Smith is to live up to the hype, he must make light work of respected African Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam. British fight fans may remember the French based fighter from an upset win over Martin Murray in Manchester late last year when the WBC Silver title was on the line at middleweight. Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam caused an upset when nicking a majority decision over Murray and that was the 37th win of what has been an interesting 40-fight career.
That win over Murray means Hassan has been given a bit more respect in the build-up to this clash. As reported by TBA bookmaker comparison website, all major UK betting apps have Smith as favourite to win the fight and there’s no more than 1/25 available. Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam is 14/1 and that tells us the money men expect this to be a wasted trip for the away fighter. Hassan has 21 knockout wins on his record, but this represents a major step up in class for the challenger and that should be evident from the first bell.
Hassan goes into this contest having moved up from middleweight and in Smith he will face one of the biggest super middleweights in the business and a man who could cut it at light heavyweight, it is believed. The difference in natural size and strength between the two gladiators was obvious at the press conference and will be striking again when the pair share a ring. Its little wonder bookmakers are scrambling to keep on the right side of Smith. The Englishman and his team will fancy getting the job done with minimal fuss on Saturday, but they will be aware of the increased interest from an American audience and know a strong performance here will catch the eye of Golovkin and Alvarez.