Following the success of the World Boxing Super Series, a new concept arrives at York Hall, Bethnal Green this Friday, as thought up by MTK Global.
The MTK Golden Contract tournament is much in the mould of the WBSS, although all four quarter finals take place on one night rather than staggered over several nights.
Sky Sports are on board with the live rights in the UK, while Top Rank ESPN broadcast in the USA.
Future tournaments have already been confirmed for Light Heavyweight and Super Lightweight divisions, but Friday night sees the turn of the Featherweights. The winner of these eight man tournaments will be rewarded with a lucrative contract with one of the world’s leading promoters. They will land a two-year, five-fight deal that guarantees six-figure purses for every fight along with global exposure, which sets this idea apart from the WBSS, and one night tournaments like Ultimate Boxxer.
The draw was made on fight week in another unique move, with some intriguing ties being picked out. All four fights will take place over ten rounds.
The favourite for the crown is current British Champion, Ryan Walsh (24-2-2, KO11) and he meets Cuban danger man, Hairon Socarras (22-0-3, KO14) in the last eight.
33 year old Walsh has long been waiting for a real opportunity at stardom for a while, and due to a lack of promotional offers, he has sensibly been defending his Lonsdale Belt in the interim. He has held the title since September 2015, after a split decision win against the awkward Samir Mouneimne. Back to back fifth round stoppage wins against Darren Trainer and James Tennyson followed, before an unsuccessful shot at the European belt, when unluckily dropping a split decision to Denis Ceylan in Denmark.
Walsh then won the prestigious belt outright in May 2017 with a stoppage win against Marco McCullough, and has since retained with a draw against Isaac Lowe, and successive split decision wins against Reece Belotti and, last time out in June against Lewis Paulin.
His 26 year old Miami based opponent is something of an unknown quantity. Hairon Socarras is a small, stylish boxer, and has mainly been appearing in several American outposts through his career so far. He has three draws on his slate, over four, six and eight rounds.
Prediction: I think the could be a tactical fight, with Walsh an awkward switch hitter, and Socarras squat and hard to pin down. In a messy contest, I favour Walsh to prevail, possibly via split decision once again.
Current Commonwealth Champion, Leigh Wood (22-1, KO12) was among those allowed to pick his opponent in the unique draw format, and he made an interesting choice in picking 2016 Irish Olympian, David Oliver Joyce (11-0, KO8).
Wood has really come on under trainer Dave Coldwell, and captured the rainbow belt in March this year with a second round body knockout of the hapless Abraham Bonsu in Peterborough. He had a homecoming in May, where he scored an impressive tenth round knockout of Ryan Doyle.
He has one blemish on his record, with Gavin McDonnell stopping the Gedling man in six in a challenge for the British Super Bantamweight belt in February 2014.
His opponent certainly has amateur pedigree. David Oliver Joyce reached the last 16 at the Rio Olympics, and has made steady progress in the pro ranks thus far. Joyce stopped Stephen Tiffney in seven in Dubai in April to win the WBO European Title, and his last outing was a wide points win in Kazakhstan against Breilor Teran back in July.
Prediction: This is another tough call, and I expect Wood to employ rough tactics to try and throw the Irishman off his usual game plan. I think Joyce could be cut early on with this in mind, and I favour Wood to take a close points win.
Former British Super Bantamweight Champion, James “Jazza” Dickens (27-3, KO11) is another threat to the big prize, and he was another afforded his own pick for his quarter final opponent. He chose the current EU Champion, Carlos Ramos (11-1, KO7).
Liverpudlian Dickens has only lost in good company, with Kid Galahad stopping him in ten in 2013, and the excellent Guillermo Rigondeaux forcing him to retire in two with a broken jaw in July 2016 in a challenge for the WBA “Super” Title. Thomas Patrick Ward outscored him via technical decision when cut after nine rounds in May 2017.
He has won five straight since the Ward reverse, with four low key stoppage wins preceding his last fight, where he went into the trenches to outscore Nathanial May over ten rounds.
Madrid based Ecuadorian Ramos has operated at a much lower level, with his only loss coming over eight to Irvin Gonzalez in September 2018. He has rebounded to win the Spanish Featherweight Title two months later, and then winning the EU belt last time out with a wide points win against Razaq Najib in June.
Prediction: I can’t see past Dickens in this one, with the 28 year old a class above in experience compared to Ramos. I think the Scouser can get on top early, before turning the heat up to stop his continental opponent in around seven rounds.
The fourth quarter final sees Northern Ireland’s Tyrone McCullagh (13-0, KO6) meet Mexican, Carlos Araujo (15-1, KO12).
WBC Latino Champion Araujo is somewhat of a banger, and McCullagh will have to be on his mettle in this one The Derry man has picked up Celtic and WBO European Titles so far, and has been the ten round distance three times.
Araujo went the twelve round distance in his last fight, outscoring Abel Rodriguez in April. He hasn’t fought outside of his home country either which could be a factor.
Prediction: After a tough start, I think McCullagh should take over to win his fair share of the later rounds. I fancy the Irishman to pick up a well earned points win.