After absorbing £19.95 offerings for non-title fights and sub-standard undercards for some time now, this weekend’s bill is worth the fee and more.
In season two of the excellent World Boxing Super Series, the Super Lightweights have reached the final stage, with the Muhammad Ali Trophy, and WBA (Super) and IBF World Championships all on the line at the O2 Arena in London.
Sky Sports Box Office is the UK broadcaster for the event.
WBA (Super) Champion, and the marginal pre-tournament favourite is Regis Prograis (24-0, KO20). “Rougarou” has enjoyed a relatively trouble free professional career thus far, and he has been gradually improving with each contest. He is sure to receive a stern test of his credentials though in the final, as his opponent is also yet to taste defeat in the paid ranks.
IBF Champion, Josh Taylor (15-0, KO12) has also impressed through the tournament, and it’s always good to see the top two seeds, and top two ten stone fighters in the world go head to head, although WBC and WBO Champion, Jose Carlos Ramirez may have something to say about that.
Taylor entered the competition on the back of an impressive win against former WBC Champion, Viktor Postol, and he backed this up in a dominant seventh round stoppage of unbeaten American, Ryan Martin in the quarter finals.
This win set up a semi-final clash with tough Belarussian, Ivan Baranchyk, and his IBF Title on the line as an extra incentive for Taylor. In a thrilling encounter, Taylor crucially twice knocked down Baranchyk in round six, before surviving some rocky moments on the way to a points win to reach the final and become World Champion.
Prograis’ path to the final has been a lot more serene. Prior to this tournament, the Texas resident had scored an impressive second round stoppage of former unified Champion, Julius Indongo. October 2018 saw him enter the WBSS fray, and he dominated Manchester’s Terry Flangan over twelve rounds, scoring an eighth round knockdown along the way to secure a last four spot. Here he stopped Kyril Relikh in six to become WBA Champion.
Prediction: This fight is such a tough one to call, and it’s why we love the sport so much. Both men have high boxing IQ’s, but also carry power. I think after a tentative opening to the contest, the pair will then engage and put it all on the line. I honestly cant split them, but ever so slightly lean towards Taylor with the better pedigree, and experience of going into the trenches. The tentative pick is for the Scot to score a famous win by the tightest of margins, maybe via razor thin split decision.
Chief support on the night comes in the form of Dereck Chisora (31-9, KO22), who believed his fight with Joseph Parker should have been the headline act. Regardless of this claim, Chisora’s fight fell by the wayside as the New Zealander suffered an insect bite, ruling him out of the fight.
In steps David Price (25-6, KO20), who has breathed new life into his career in the last year with some vital wins. This is a must win fight for both if they harbour ambitions of big fights in 2020 and beyond.
2008 Olympic Bronze Medallist Price was last seen back in July, when he dominated Dave Allen over ten, one sided rounds. Allen started as bookmakers’ favourite, but Price, behind a booming jab, turned in arguably a career best performance. He is now unbeaten in three.
Pirce was at a crossroads, and gambled by taking on Alexander Povetkin in March last year. After being knocked down in the third, he knocked down the Russian in the same session, but ran out of time to finish the job. This allowed Povetkin to regain his senses, and he brutally scored a fifth round knockout. Price has suffered one more reverse since, retiring after four against Sergey Kuzmin after tearing a bicep. A stoppage win against Tom Little started the rebuild, and he has kept momentum going with a disqualification win against Kash Ali, and his triumph over Allen.
After several defeats, Chisora was involved in a struggle with Carlos Takam in July last year, which he eventually turned around with a stunning eighth round stoppage after struggling for the majority of the fight. This earned a second crack at Dillian Whyte, after their absorbing first encounter in December 2016, where Whyte scraped home via split decision. Their rematch two years later was another classic, and with Chisora ahead on two cards going into the eleventh round, Whyte rendered the judges’ redundant with a chilling knockout.
Chisora has won two straight since, and his last outing was on the same card as Price’s encounter with Allen. In a fight that most though would be a tough one for the Zimbabwe born Londoner, he brutally attacked Artur Szpilka and knocked him out in two rounds. He would have hoped to build on this with the Parker fight, but must remain focussed on his replacement this weekend.
Prediction: Although Price is a replacement opponent, he is sure to cause Chisora problems with his considerable size advantage. I’m going against the grain in this one, as I believe if Price sticks to his boxing skills, as he did in the Allen fight, and stay out of trouble from Chisora’s winging attacks, I think he can wear down “Del Boy” down the stretch, and score a stunning late rounds stoppage win.
If Chisora v Price has a crossroads fight feel to it, then Lee Selby (27-2, KO9) against Ricky Burns (43-7-1, KO16) is surely in the same mould and more.
The two go head to head in a twelve rounder at Lightweight, and a loss for either would surely be catastrophic.
Ricky Burns’ ambition still shines as brightly as it did the night he survived a first round knockdown to outpoint Roman “Rocky” Martinez to win the WBO Lightweight Title back in September 2010. The Scot made eight defences of the belt, but rode his luck towards the end of his reign.
He eventually surrendered the Title in a one sided points loss to the excellent Terence Crawford in March 2014, and his career looked in tatters after two further defeats, but Burns received a shot at the vacant WBA Super Lightweight Title, and became a two weight World Champion by stopping Michele Di Rocco in eight in May 2016. He defended once, but his luck ran out when the then IBF Champion, Julius Indongo, dominated him in a unification clash in Glasgow. It looked like the game was up again for the 36 year old when Anthony Crolla made it back to back points defeats for him, but he has scored two wins since, stopping Scott Cardle in three last time out in November 2018.
Selby’s star has faded recently, and will be desperate to breathe new life into his career, starting with a win against Burns.
The Welshman reigned as British, Commonwealth and European Champion, before turning in a dominant technical decision win against Evgeny Gradovich to win the IBF Featherweight Title in May 2015. After four successful defences, Selby travelled to Elland Road, Leeds as favourite to defend against Josh Warrington. In a subdued performance, Selby lost his belt via split decision.
The reaction was to jump two weight classes to Lightweight, where last time out, he outscored Omar Douglas over twelve in February.
Prediction: I think Burns, in the twilight of his career, will give it everything in this one in a bid to prolong his career. Selby is a stylish fighter though, and will frustrate the Scot with awkward angles of attack that will be sure to rack up the points. The pick here is for Selby to take a comfortable points win, with Burns left with nothing to prove, just as he did before the fight.
Lawrence Okolie (13-0, KO10) gets a shot at the European Cruiserweight Title on the bill, but it’s no “gimme” as Yves Ngabu (20-0, KO14), the Champion from Belgium, should prove a decent test of his credentials.
Dominic Ingle trained Ngabu has defended the belt he won against Tamas Lodi (TKO4) in June 2017, with a stoppage win against Geoffrey Battelo, and, last time out a wide points win against Micki Nielsen in February.
Okolie has received negative attention after two hard to watch wins against Isaac Chamberlain and Matty Askin last year. “The Sauce” has had a busy 2019 so far, blasting out the aforementioned Lodi in three in February, stopping Wadi Camacho in four in a defence of his British and Commonwealth belts in March, and a seventh round stoppage of Mariano Angel Gudino back in July.
Prediction: Crucially, Ngabu has never fought outside of his native Belgium, and this could be a factor at the cavernous O2, in front of a big crowd. I hope to see a more relaxed Okolie, rather than the tentative version we tend to see on occasion, which usually sees plenty of holding and spoiling. Okolie can stamp his authority early, and pound out a wide points win here.
Elsewhere on a busy bill, Conor Benn (15-0, KO10) meets Steve Jamoye (26-7-2, KO5) over ten, after original opponent, Laszlo Toth withdrew. With the Belgian’s limited power, and being stopped three times in his seven defeats, an early Benn win is expected.
Precocious German Welterweight talent, Abass Baraou (7-0, KO4) makes a big step up as he defends his WBC International Silver Title against John O’Donnell (33-2, KO11). 33 year old O’Donnell has had a stop start career, and this could be to his cost against Baraou, who has beaten faded former World Champions, Carlos Molina and Ali Funeka in his fledgling career so far.