MTK promote at Bolton Whites Hotel this Friday night, with former world title challenger, Jay Harris, at the top of the bill, as he contests a final eliminator for the IBF Flyweight title against Ricardo Rafael Sandoval.
The title is currently held by Sunny Edwards, who expertly wrenched the belt from Moruti Mthalane at the end of April.
Swansea’s Harris (18-1, KO9) challenged for world honours in February 2020, when he bravely took WBC champion, Julio Cesar Martinez, all 12 rounds before losing out on the scorecards. Harris was also floored in the tenth frame.
The 30-year-old has won Commonwealth and European honours at Flyweight, and he was last seen in October 2020, taking a clear win over ten against Marcel Braithwaite in South Kirkby.
22-year-old Sandoval (18-1, KO13) has an identical record to the Welshman, but nowhere near the same experience levels, having never been past eight rounds as a professional, while his opponent has gone the championship distance on three occasions.
Sandoval’s career and first eight fights took place in Mexico, and he suffered defeat in his fourth paid contest against Alonso Ceja, losing a majority verdict over four rounds.
The Californian has won everything since, including his last five via the early route. He has also picked up the WBC Youth Intercontinental strap along the way. His last appearance came in February 2020, a seventh round knockout of Raymond Tabugon. He comes into this contest ranked five with the IBF, with Harris at eight.
Prediction: Harris is a threat at this weight, and he didn’t disgrace himself in losing to Julio Cesar Martinez last year.
Sandoval hasn’t been at this level before and is unproven, and that should allow Harris to control the tempo, and take a clear win on the scorecards.
There is talent aplenty on the undercard, with some solid clashes in the preliminaries. Hosea Burton (25-2, KO11) looks to bounce back from defeat in his last outing, as he faces Liam Conroy (18-6-1, KO9) over ten rounds at Light Heavyweight.
Burton was defeated last time out in September 2020, where he travelled to Latvia and was widely outscored by the underrated Ricards Bolotniks in the semi-final stage of the MTK Golden Contract tournament.
Conroy has lost three of his last five, one at British title level to Joshua Buatsi (TKO3), and, in his last bout, he was stopped in four by Serge Michel, also in the MTK Golden Contract tournament, but at the quarter final stage.
Burton should get back on track here by halting Conroy in the latter stages.
Paul Butler (32-2, KO15) only fought once in 2020, and he will hope to kickstart his year with an appearance here. He was due to take on former IBF Bantamweight champion, Joseph Agbeko. However, due to visa issues, the 44-year-old Ghanaian is unable to compete so in steps Mexico’s Willibaldo Garcia (12-4-1, KO6).
Butler is a former IBF champion at 118 pounds himself, winning the belt from Stuey Hall in 2014, and is unbeaten in six since losing to Emmanuel Rodriguez in May 2018.
He aims to climb the ladder once again after a frustrating few years, and the Ellesmere Port native will feel more frustration with Agbeko withdrawing during fight week.
Garcia lost three of his first four professional contests, but has won eleven of thirteen since, with one draw.
This will be his first fight outside of Mexico, and the 31-year-old has yet to be stopped in his quartet of losses. Butler should take the title on the scorecards.
Gary Cully (12-0, KO6) gets a decent test over a scheduled ten at Lightweight, as he squares off against Viorel Simion (22-5, KO9). Cully stopped Viktor Kotochigov in two in his last fight, in what was an impressive win, and he will look to add a decent name in Simion to his record.
The Romanian has lost four of his last five, including to Shakur Stevenson in a round in 2018, but could still ask questions of the Irishman. I still lean towards Cully to get the job done around the halfway mark.
Tyrone McCullagh (14-1, KO6) returns from his MTK Golden Contract semi-final defeat to Ryan Walsh, and ‘White Chocolate’ should take a points win over the teak-tough Brett Fidoe (14-65-5, KO6).
Pierce O’Leary (6-0, KO2) is also in action, and the talented Irishman could get a good workout against Jan Marsalek (8-3, KO7), who dropped Kelvin Davis in his last fight before losing on the cards. O’Leary can stop the Czech inside scedule.
At Welterweight, Inder Bassi (2-1, KO0) should be able to take a win over the distance against Chris Adaway (10-70-4, KO1).
Liverpool Flyweight, Blane Hyland (3-1, KO0) can bounce back from defeat last time out, and he should take a comfortable points win against Reiss Taylor (2-7, KO1).
Jordan Reynolds (1-0, KO0) makes his second pro start, and ‘The Wanderer’ will likely need the distance to see of Jan Ardon (2-6, KO0).