It’s a brave new world for Eddie Hearn and Matchroom this Saturday night, as they promote from Fight Camp in Brentwood, Essex, but a late blow to the original bill topper now sees Can Xu up against Leigh Wood for the WBA featherweight title at the head of affairs.
Xu (18-2, 3 KOs) was on the radar of Josh Warrington for some time when the Leeds man was IBF champion, but a unification match never came to fruition, and Warrington vacated his belt.
Wood (24-2, 14 KOs) now gets an unexpected opportunity to perform at the highest level, and he aims to grab it with both hands.
The 32-year-old went on a run of a dozen straight wins, including winning the Commonwealth title but he was edged out by James ‘Jazza’ Dickens by majority decision in the semi finals of the MTK Golden Contract tournament in February 2020.
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He rebounded in his next and most recent fight, stopping Reece Mould in nine to win the vacant British title in February this year.
After two early career setbacks, Xu is on a 15-fight winning streak, and won his WBA strap in January 2019 with a wide points win against Jesus Rojas. He defended in his homeland with a sixth round stoppage of Shun Kobo, and his last outing came in November 2019, a comfortable decision win against the unbeaten Manny Robles III.
— Matchroom Boxing (@MatchroomBoxing) July 27, 2021
Prediction: Xu has been impressive in his spell as champion, and it’s a tall order for Wood to dethrone him this weekend. I expect the home fighter to put in a spirited effort, before being defeated clearly enough over the full twelve rounds.
McCarthy clashes with Billam-Smith for domestic belts
A triple title showdown comes at cruiserweight, where Northern Ireland’s Tommy McCarthy puts his European title on the line against Commonwealth king, Chris Billam-Smith. The vacant British crown is also at stake here.
McCarthy (18-2, 9 KOs) took the vacant European trinket in October 2020, taking a majority verdict against Bilal Laggoune, and defended for the first time in May with a sixth round stoppage of Alexandru Jur in Manchester.
Bournemouth’s Billam-Smith (12-1, 10 KOs) took the vacant Commonwealth crown with a stoppage of Craig Glover in November 2019, and has also defended once, stopping Nathan Thorley in two, and last time out, he outscored Vasil Ducar in March to take the vacant WBA Continental belt.
Both have previous with Richard Riakporhe, with McCarthy suffered a fourth round stoppage loss to the Londoner in March 2019, while Billam-Smith was defeated by split decision four months later.
Prediction: McCarthy has been in some excellent recent form, but Billam-Smith is an excellent technician, and cuts the ring off well. The pair don’t get along well, and I don’t think the contest will go the distance. I lean towards Billam-Smith to take this after halfway.
Yildirim returns against Cullen
A left-field match-up takes place at super middleweight, where Jack Cullen (19-2-1, 9 KOs) tackles former two-time world title challenger, Avni Yildirim over a scheduled ten.
Yildirim (21-3, 12 KOs) was last seen in February, where he received a shot at the WBC and WBA (Super) belts, but was hammered by Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, and forced to retire after three rounds.
It would be a great name on Cullen’s record, and he comes off an impressive ten round points win against John Docherty in November 2020.
Prediction: Cullen can take this one on points.
Fowler, Hatton, Ryan in action
New father, Anthony Fowler (14-1, 11 KOs), defends his WBA International super welterweight belt on the bill, against late notice opponent, Rico Mueller, who steps in for Roberto Garcia, who was forced to withdraw.
Mueller (28-3-1, 19 KOs) has only been stopped by Jeff Horn, back in 2016, and has already fought this month, scoring a stoppage win in his native Germany.
Prediction: Fowler can retain before the halfway mark in this scheduled ten rounder.
Campbell Hatton (2-0) has his third professional bout on the card, and he can score a first inside schedule win in his lightweight four rounder with Poland’s Jakob Laskowski (4-4-1, 2 KOs), with the visitor halted in his last two contests.
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Standout amateur, Sandy Ryan makes an eagerly awaited pro debut, and the Derby super lightweight should have far too much for Kirstie Bavington (3-1-2, 2 KOs), but Ryan may need the distance, with Bavington going ten rounds in her only loss, to Cherrelle Brown in July 2019.