The undercard at the O2 in London this Saturday features a British Heavyweight hope, and a Welshman looking to plot a way back to World Titles.
Putney Heavyweight, Joe Joyce (7-0, KO7), continues his progression at pace, as he meets a former WBC Champion on the bill. “The Juggernaut” has been flawless so far in his fledgling career, but at 33, he is naturally being fast tracked by his handlers.
His latest assignment comes in the form of Haitian former World Heavyweight Champion, Bermane Stiverne (25-3-1, KO21), with Joyce’s Commonwealth Title on the line. The match also serves as an eliminator for the WBA “Regular” Heavyweight Title.
Stiverne has talked well in the build-up, stating he will step over Joyce in order to knock current unified Champion, Anthony Joshua. This is a bold statement coming from Stiverne, as he hasn’t been seen since being blasted out inside a round against Deontay Wilder in November 2017.
Stiverne benefitted from Vitali Klitschko’s retirement to become World Champion. In May 2014, he rematched Chris Arreola for the vacant WBC Title, after outpointing him just over a year before. Although behind on two cards, Stiverne knocked the Californian in six rounds to be crowned.
The coronation didn’t last long though, as he lost nearly every round, and his Title, with a meek display against Deontay Wilder in January 2015. After a tougher than expected ten round points win over Derrick Rossy, where he was down in the opener, Stiverne received a rematch for the WBC Title with Wilder. This time the Alabama native destroyed him inside a round, knocking “B-Ware” down three times in all, with the final count waived. Stiverne’s only other reverse came in 2007, when stopped by journeyman Demetrice King in four. He also has a six round draw on his slate, with Charles Davis in April 2009.
This seems like a perfect name then to put on Joe Joyce’s record. Joyce has been flawless so far as a professional, since striking Olympic Silver in Rio in 2016.
He has won all of his fights thus far by knockout, and picked up the Commonwealth Title in just his fourth outing, with a dominant second round knockout of Jamaican, Lenroy Thomas in London. His last outing, in December 2018, saw him pick up the ranking building WBA Continental Title on the Wilder v Fury undercard in Los Angeles. He impressed by scoring a first round knockout against Joe Hanks.
Don King backed Stiverne has certainly been making all the right noises, but this seems like a decent payday for him to retire on. I think as soon as he feels the fresher Joyce’s power, he will be suitably discouraged. Joyce will work well of the jab, and he may even score an opening round knockdown with his booming combinations. My pick is Joyce to win inside four, but wouldn’t be surprised if Stiverne doesn’t hear the bell to end the opening round.
Lee Selby (26-2, KO9) makes his comeback on the bill, two weight classes higher than when last seen in May 2018. Selby lost his IBF Featherweight Title at Elland Road that night to an inspired underdog in Josh Warrington. Maybe the weight had been an issue for a while with the Welshman, as since capturing the Title, in May 2015 against Evgeny Gradovich, he has been largely unimpressive.
A former British, Commonwealth and European Champion, Selby defended the belt he won at the O2 four times, all by unanimous decision against uninspiring opposition. Selby is a slick operator, and punches at awkward angles, and it will be interesting to see what his move to Lightweight will bring. By bypassing the Super Featherweight division, Selby must have been extremely tight at Feather, and hopefully this will see a return to form.
Standing in Selby’s way this Saturday is Delaware’s Omar “Super O” Douglas (19-2, KO13), who will be taking part in his first twelve rounder.
The American visitor ventures out of his homeland for the first time, and also moves from Super Featherweight, but doesn’t boast a spectacular record.
After seventeen straight wins since turning over in 2011, Douglas suffered back to back losses in 2016/17. Former WBA Champion, Javier Fortuna was decked by Douglas in the opening round in November 2016, but recovered to take a tight, ten round unanimous decision. Edner Cherry then made it successive losses in April 2017, when he handily won on the cards, also over ten.
Since those reverses, he has rebuilt with two straight wins. He knocked out Isaias Gonzales in a round in December 2017, and in his last outing, he was taken the full eight rounds, but won widely on the cards against Haskell Lydell Rhodes in August 2018.
I don’t expect Douglas to trouble Selby much in this one. It’s a gentle introduction to the higher weights for the man from Barry, and it’s a perfect opportunity for him to showcase his skills. He may force a late stoppage, but I fancy him to take nearly every round in a comfortable points win.
Elsewhere on the card, Andre Sterling (9-0, KO4) clashes with Walsall’s former British Title challenger Ricky “Digger” Summers (15-1, KO5) at Light Heavyweight.
There are also appearances from Anthony Cacace (16-1, KO7), Chris Kongo (10-0, KO6), and Sebastian Eubank (1-0).