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ByBoxingAsylum

Up close and personal with David Brophy

By Steven Donnell

Asylum man Steven chats with Scottish boxer David Brophy as he prepares for Commonwealth title tilt

So I had been invited out to Billy Nelson’s gym in Airdrie to catch up with David Brophy before he heads out to Australia to fight Zac Dunn for the Commonwealth title and watch him spar with a Brazilian lad called Diego, whom David described to me as “one tough guy”. We also got to catch up with Stephen Simmons and Gary Cornish and both looked in fantastic shape.

In the gym you get the feeling this is one close stable; made up by a group who you can tell enjoy each others company. As the lads are getting ready there is a lot of laughter and storytelling. We were even treated to three jokes by Billy – the same three jokes he tells anyone new in the gym, according to Gary Cornish, and even then he still managed to mess one up.

Then Billy’s tone changes ever so slightly and the laughter stops as these lads get ready to go to work. After watching David look really impressive in sparring against a very tricky partner we got our chance to sit down for a chat and a Q and A session.

So David how are the preparations going for the fight?

“Aye it’s going well, the training has went as planned, I’m feeling sharper every day. The sparring is going well, the running is going well and there’s been a great atmosphere in the gym so I’m really enjoying this camp and I’m looking forward to getting over there, getting away from this weather and doing a job over here.”

Zac Dunn has a bit of a reputation as a puncher, does that worry you or do you think his power is a bit overrated?

“It doesn’t worry me, I’m going over there and there’s a ring there – a fight’s a fight. We have got to deal with this the right way. He is powerful and he is fit but he’s beatable. We will get our tactics spot on, the preparation in the gym is going according to plan for this fight.”

I saw on twitter last week you had Liam Williams up for sparring. Preparation doesn’t get much better than that does it?

“Liam is a good friend of mine, we have helped each other out with sparring loads of times before. He has the biggest fight of his life coming up against Liam Smith, which is going to be a cracker. So he comes up and I go to Cardiff sometimes and we have a great relationship that way and he was great sparring. Liam was here for three days so we got an eight-rounder and 10 rounds of sparring in so it was great preparation. You couldn’t get any better than that.”

I notice with Billy Nelson and yourself on Twitter yous go at it, no holds barred. Do you find it hard to separate Billy the mate from Billy the cornerman?

“We know there is a fine line between that, but I’ve known Billy for seven years now unfortunately. We’ve got a good relationship inside and outside the gym but it’s two very different relationships. Billy has done a lot for me inside and outside the gym and we do know when to change it. It is only banter on Twitter.”

With the wealth in knowledge Billy has it must give you confidence to go over there and get talked through any changes that might need made?

“Billy has been in these situations loads of times, world title fights everywhere with Scott Harrison and Ricky Burns so I couldn’t ask for any more experience to take over there with me. It’s worked up until now but we do have a long way to go on our journey.”

Powerful: Brophy has been winning at the lower levels and is ready to step up again

We also had time to ask David his thoughts on the George Groves fight.

The Last time I saw you, you were training hard to fight George Groves in the bright light lights of London. How was that experience?

“It was good in terms of experience but it wasn’t good what happened [Brophy was stopped by Groves in round four]. Don’t get me wrong if I get offered that fight again tomorrow for no money I would take it because that experience is priceless to have. It never went our way last time, it was bad, it’s the loneliest shower I’ve ever had. I got things wrong although I wasn’t nervous before the fight. Maybe the big stage did overcome me a little bit.”

Steven and the Asylum would like to thank all the MTK lads and Billy for having us down. It really was an education watching these guys.

Watch: The excellent video of the interview in full

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Follow Steven Donnell on Twitter @dinobhoy86 @Djayboxingblog

Photograph Credits: Sean McNally

ByBoxingAsylum

A Defining Spring for the Welterweight Division

By Ashley Kates

In recent years the landscape of boxing has been vague, a lack of distinction has caused confusion and dispute amongst boxing fans over where the sport is heading, and who the characters spearheading that movement would be. Wladimir Klitschko’s eventual demise at the hands of Tyson Fury in 2015 lead many fans to believe that the heavyweight division would once again lead the way in offering 50/50 fights and blockbuster events.

Sadly, but somewhat predictably, that belief was short lived. Failed drugs tests, politics, pay splits, whatever the excuse, the fights have not been made and fans have been left to dwell over what could have been, and although an April date at Wembley between IBF Champion Anthony Joshua and a rejuvenated Wladimir Klitschko may go some way to relieve the tension, questions over the motivation of ‘Dr Steelhammer’ have dampened the excitement for boxing’s more pessimistic followers.

Movement in the heavyweight division was short lived

Events in the 147lb division have followed a similar path whereby the long reign of Floyd Mayweather Jr came to an end after reaching the landmark of a 49-0 record. The activity within the welterweight division had long been determined by the actions of the self-proclaimed ‘best ever’, as a long line of gunning challengers attempted to manoeuvre themselves into position for a guaranteed career high payday. After his retirement top contenders including Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, Kell Brook and Amir Khan were expected to battle it out for the supremacy, though what followed left little to be desired.

It does seem however, that there is change on the horizon, an announcement that a fight between Kell Brook and Errol Spence Jr will take place on May 20th at the Sheffield Arena follows the already confirmed bout between Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia, which is set for March 4th at the Barclays Centre, New York.

Spence at the time of Money May’s retirement wasn’t much more than an exciting prospect, but an impressive victory in April 2016, which also saw him become the first person to beat the durable Chris Algieri by stoppage ensured his right to battle at the top of the division. Following that came a trickier than expected encounter against Leonard ‘The Lion’ Bundu, but one that he ultimately ended with a KO victory.

Spence had too much for brave veteran Bundu

Kell Brook on the other hand has been on a somewhat different path. A string of derisory defences of his IBF strap against mandatory challengers Jo Jo Dan and Kevin Bizier highlighted the need for reform in the way governing bodies rank their fighters. With the gentle simmering of a domestic showdown with Amir Khan at Wembley in the background, neither fighter nor their promotional teams did anything significant enough to convince the public that it would ever actually happen.

Brook was however handed a gift-wrapped ticket back into the limelight in the summer of 2016, when it seemed like a contest between Chris Eubank Jr and Gennedy ‘GGG’ Golovkin was all but signed, only for the Eubanks to pull out in the final hour.

Bottled it: Eubanks didn’t really fancy Golovkin clash

Brook was given the opportunity to step in for Eubank Jr and fight Golovkin at middleweight live on Sky Sports Pay-per-view. What followed was a surprisingly resilient challenge from the Sheffield man, who also managed to land some effective shots of his own. The bout ended when trainer Dominic Ingle somewhat controversially threw in the towel following an eye injury that was visibly causing Brook serious distress. An unfortunate injury took nothing away from the fact that it was a sterling effort from Brook in a contest where few gave him a chance.

It could be said however that the match up with GGG could prove detriment to his cause against Spence in May. When broken down, there seem to be far more questions surrounding the champion in this instance than the challenger which isn’t common in such an eagerly anticipated world title bout. The first question surrounding Brook is whether or not the eye injury will withstand the threat of Spence. Orbital fractures are relatively simple for surgeons to repair but their unpredictability in terms of healing time and response to impact make it a definite cause for concern for ‘The Special One’.

The vulnerability of Brook’s eye becomes even more of a factor in this fight when you consider the extreme punching power of the man who calls himself ‘The Truth’. Spence’s KO victory over Leonard Bundu was something that another proven welterweight power puncher in Keith Thurman failed to achieve. That coupled with the impressive KO win over Algieri, who admirably lasted 12 rounds in punishing encounters with both Amir Khan and Manny Pacquiao, makes for an extremely dangerous challenger. The step up to 160lb was a big one for Brook, but one that he seemed to meet comfortably.

Insider: Amir Khan associate spills the beans on Brook negotiations during Asylum pod

It could be said that Brooks natural weight falls within the super-welterweight and middleweight divisions, so it will be interesting to see what sort of shape he is in come fight night. Struggling to make the drop in weight could have a major impact on Brooks conditioning which could see him suffer in the later rounds of the contest with Spence should the fight last that long.

Whether or not Errol Spence can target and exploit these possible weaknesses remains to be seen, but a well-executed game plan could catapult him to the top of the division. After making it clear that he would like to unify the welterweight division, fight fans could finally get to see the best in the division battling it out amongst each other should Spence get the victory on May 20th.

Kell Brook has made it clear that he would like to make a permanent step up in weight sooner rather than later, so a successful defence of his crown in this instance could be shortly followed by the belt being vacated and won by one of the IBF’s questionable pool of ranked fighters.

The script on the night is anyone’s guess, however what comes next for this great and historic division is fundamentally dependant on whether or not Spence can pull off a small upset, and take the IBF title back to the States.

Image Credits: Sky Sports

 

ByBoxingAsylum

Does Hughie Fury deserve a title shot ? 

By Steven Donnell

Well it’s official, Joseph Parker will take on Hughie Fury for the WBO heavyweight title in Auckland, New Zealand. This is a fight Team Fury will be looking at as very winnable after seeing Parker looked ordinary against Andy Ruiz, who let the chance of an upset slip through his fingers by giving Parker too many of the middle rounds. That error proved to be the difference at the end of the fight and duly resulted in Parker taking home the vacant title. Before I can get too excited about seeing Fury bringing another world title back to the UK (the same title that was indeed stripped from his cousin Tyson) I have a few concerns about this fight.

Firstly, what has Hughie Fury done to deserve this title fight? He hasn’t fought anyone of any real stature in the division and in fact, on Fury’s last outing, he looked awful against Fred Kassi in a fight that was brought to an end after a clash of heads gave Fury a nasty cut which took the fight to the cards. All three judges had Fury clearly ahead but don’t be fooled, this was awful viewing, and to be honest, I couldn’t see what the Hughie Fury fuss was all about. Before Kassi, Fury was taken the distance by 40-year-old veteran Dominick Guinn. Again Guinn is hardly the kind of name that should get you a world title shot but I am a big boy and I’m not naïve – I know how corrupt boxing can be, especially at the top level.

Now on to the more sinister and bizarre “doping” fiasco that has surrounded Team Fury for the past six months. News broke last year about Tyson Fury having failed a drug test and he was accused of using PEDs but by the time the public had found out, Tyson Fury had already served his ban and that has cast doubts over Hughie’s long absence  from the ring  There are many people out there who believe that Hughie was actually serving a ban in silence and not, in fact, dealing with his blood condition as we have been told. Now, if there is any truth or substance [good pun, Ed] to these rumours, that will make this fight a sham and an embarrassment to the sport as a whole.

Should Hughie be getting a title shot or is it an embarrassing scenario as Steven describes? Let us know in the comments or over on social media.

Follow Steven Donnell on Twitter @dinobhoy86 @Djayboxingblog 

Image Credit: Boxingnews24

ByBoxingAsylum

Frampton and Santa Cruz Weigh In – Ready to rumble

By Steve Wellings, in Las Vegas 

Carl Frampton weighed in yesterday at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas and, just like his opponent Leo Santa Cruz, he made the 126 lb limit. Making weight is occasionally taken for granted in some quarters, only becoming a major factor when someone fails to slip inside the standard parameters. Here there was no catchweight nonsense, or 127.5 lb middle ground agreements – just a real fight at a real weight between two real combatants.

Skinning his frame down to a sprightly 125lbs, a weight which I haven’t “made” since I was about 8 years old, Carl appears to be revelling in his new featherweight mould. ‘El Terremoto’ meanwhile scaled the same at 125, so no issues were presented with his physique either.

There’s something primal about boxing weigh-ins. Hyped up supporters lean forward over barriers and scream with excitement as their charge stands on the scales, torso bubbling under the lack of body fat, flexing their muscles to the delight of the faithful. American security guards look on in bemusement at the fervour whipped up by this boxing formality.

“Caaaam ooon the Jackal!” shouts a middle-aged punter just behind me. Eyes bulging, belly spilling over his dark blue jeans, this chap might as well have gone through the through an intense 12-week training camp himself, such was the devotion. While my new friend was living every second, I was trying to be slightly more measured – more boring to be precise. But why not get swept up in the emotion of this occasion? After hours spent travelling across oceans and time zones surely it’s acceptable to punch the air and give it the big ‘un in the name of the Jackal.

The weigh-in as an event has become a real occasion for fans to enjoy. It provides one final opportunity to venerate and encourage a hero before he goes into war against the “enemy”. Santa Cruz isn’t so much of an enemy in this case; not really a villain at all in fact. Softly-spoken and apparently non-threatening in appearance (maybe Carl would disagree on that latter point) Leo seems like a thoroughly decent bloke. But he can fight and will no doubt put it all on the line later tonight.

Just before the weigh-in started there was a nice media luncheon provided as the weight-drained stick insects (also known as the boxers) no doubt looked on, salivating. Not many people have a kind word to say about show promoter Al Haymon. Lurking darkly in the shadows it’s hard to root for such an evasive and, at times, polarising, figure. But I’m willing to stick up for Al on this one – from a purely selfish point of view of course. Haymon’s PBC employees know how to look after the media and always put on a good spread. Sandwiches, pasta, coffee, cookies…OK, you get the point, but these things go a long way in boxing writing circles. Just ask Dan Rafael. I didn’t, mainly because he’s a unit, and he blocked me on Twitter and probably doesn’t care a jot about my eating habits or silly points of view. But he knows how to attack a quality buffet and I respect him for that.

Anyway, I digress, back to the weigh-in.

Sometimes the final days leading up to the fight give us the best opportunity to look at each man and really assess who you think is going to win. Both are, hopefully, at the peak of their powers by this point. Focused, prepared, sparring done, media all chatted too, obligations fulfilled and only one single thing left to accomplish.

Frampton struggled with super-bantamweight, no doubt, but weight will not be a factor tonight

“I see a bit more energy about Carl now and more left in the tank,” former world champion Brian Magee told me last week.

“For his size, height-wise, Carl could probably go up another weight because he’s got the power and the strength; it’s just a problem fighting the guys who are too tall for him. He’s handling them OK now though.”

Ex-British champion and one-time world title challenger Neil Sinclair concurred, citing Carl’s move up in weight as a key factor behind his resurgence -the Quigg fight aside- since the Gonzalez Jnr struggle in the desert.

“The extra four pounds have made a big difference for Carl as he’s not tiring late on now – he’s a lot stronger as the fight progresses,” agreed ‘Sinky’. “The extra pounds make you more comfortable and stronger when you’re down at the weight and drying out.”

One man who had most certainly dried out was IBF champion Lee Selby. Taking to the stage with almost translucent skin and a skeletal frame, Selby was understandably frustrated and emotional as he apologised to a small pocket of travelling Welsh fans for the fact that he would not be fighting. It wasn’t Selby’s fault, who had fulfilled all of his contractual obligations. Scheduled opponent Jonathan Barros had been forcibly removed by the Nevada Commission after reportedly testing positive for Hepatitis.

No problems, spats or medical conundrums to veer around for the main men, however. Thankfully Carlos and Leo are both primed and ready for action.

I suppose there’s only one thing left to say.

“Caaaam ooon the Jackal!”

Follow @stevenwellings

ByBoxingAsylum

Charlie Edwards: Daring to be Great

By Ben Churchard

Asylum scribe Ben meets a young fighter determined to make it to the top

Like 2 Box gym is the new home of young and talented prospect Charlie Edwards. Charlie is a skilled and well-schooled fighter bred from the gritty hard knock life of amateur boxing, now making his way in the glamorous but somewhat ruthless world of professional game. Recently making a big career move to sign with the coveted trainer, Adam Booth – a man who has etched his name into the boxing records with great British fighters of all weights including: David Haye, George Groves and, more recently, the likes of Ryan Burnett and Andy Lee. It has to be noted that there are not currently many more talented stables than that of the current Booth regime. Upon walking into the gym, Booth has Charlie on the pads working meticulously to get a combination of movement and striking, whilst Ryan Burnett works alongside with another trainer on pads and Andy Lee is going through the motions on the heavy bag. Success breeds success and you really get the feeling that right now in the Booth camp, that’s exactly what’s on the horizon for what is a mixture of experienced world level fighters along with young and hungry prospects.

  

“Hungry” is a word that sums Charlie up to a tee and a word he uses a lot. Here is a fighter that knows where he comes from and appreciates the opportunity that he has been given through boxing but wants more than to just rest on his laurels. When discussing this new approach through Adam, Charlie touches on how quickly the two have gelled: “It’s going really well, we’re gelling great, his style suits mine down to the ground. There’s a few things he’s really changing about me and I think you’ll see a different me over the coming months”.

Charlie adds…

Adam’s a great trainer and I respect everything he says

You really get the sense that Edwards has found a home with Booth, albeit early days, there’s a connection forming between the two: “You really have that bond with Adam, he really looks after you. He gives you 100 per cent but equally he expects 100 per cent. He’s your coach in the gym and your mate outside the gym and it’s kind of like that father son relationship”.

Charlie has grown throughout his career with his dad by his side and therefore you feel to have that relationship with his trainer can be nothing but positive moving forward with his career. Edwards also touches up on what a great tactician Booth is and how he is looking forward to seeing the positives effects that he has on his style of fighting: “I wish I could fast forward and see the difference that his one to one training will have on my work in the ring, I’m already seeing massive changes already. Adam’s a real perfectionist, he said. 

Adam Booth clearly reciprocates the respect and prospect of their partnership: “He’s got a great attitude, I think he’s got huge potential, he’s a smart fighter and he’s very determined. These are great ingredients for a coach to work with”.

Experience is key in the game known as the sweet science and the crop currently training alongside Edwards are as good as they come. With the WBO middleweight champion, a stable mate of Charlie’s for some time under the MGM (soon to be MTK Global) banner, Billy Joe Saunders training closely alongside, Edwards admits his admiration for Saunders style of fighting: “Billy Joe has got a lovely style that I’ve always liked, I’ve been around him a lot out in Marbella and we’ve always got on really well”.

Another fighter that is in a similar position to Edwards is the heavily-touted Ryan Burnett. A young man from Belfast who has done just about everything in the amateurs and is set to be the poster boy of Irish boxing with the likes of Frampton and the Conlan brothers.

“Ryan Burnett is a top fighter who’s knocking on world title doors, Charlie says, with a wry smile, before adding, “We fought in the amateurs and he beat me. I just remember him being one of the hardest punchers I’d faced. It’ll be interesting sparring him again”.

Edwards was a high quality amateur boxer

With the camp around him, Edwards clearly understands the importance of sparring and mentions the trio of himself, Burnett and Lucian Reid, another young prospect (5-0), and how well they all bounce off each other.

Edwards had a lucrative amateur career, where he spent the best part of six years working with Great Britain’s most successful boxing team, training alongside what are now household names such as Anthony Joshua and Luke Campbell. “I loved my amateur career, it was great. I met a lot of great people and worked with a lot of good coaches. I travelled all over the world and won titles from schoolboy all the way up to the European Championships,” says Charlie.

Unrivalled experience had at amateur level no doubt, the young flyweight makes it clear that he is now looking forward to the pro game: “The pros are for me, I’ve always felt that I am a better fighter over rounds and that my style suits the pro game”.

A young man who clearly lives the life and is incredibly fit and athletic, I agree that it benefits Charlie to go rounds. His relentless style of fighting lends itself to breaking down opponents over time, rather than a one-punch knockout artist. A relative novice in the game he has already gone past 10 rounds on three separate occasions and therefore shows a promising tank at an early age.

Eddie Hearn has really got behind Charlie Edwards from the start of his career and he seems to be somewhat of the Matchroom sweetheart, being placed on some huge cards. The O2 Arena staged his debut against Craig Derbyshire in front of 20,000 on the Mitchell vs. Estrada card. Since then he has continued to be thrown into the deep end on high-octane nights of British boxing.

“I’ve been spoilt really. Golovkin Brook, Crolla Perez (1 and 2) and Frampton Quigg, so some really big events. It’s just been great to get around the country and showcase my skills”.

It’s clear being associated with the highest grossing and most popular promotional company has its perks and Charlie seems very positive about working with Eddie Hearn and the rest of the Matchroom team: “Eddie is really behind me, as is Barry, and has been from day one and it’s been great to have that support”.

Charlie goes onto to express that Hearn invests a lot of time in his fighters: On my comeback fight after Casimero, Eddie put me on at 4:00pm to settle my nerves and take me away from the spotlight, but he was still there watching on at ringside”.

Hearn has been touting his young prospect since signing him and does hold him in high regard, saying back in 2015: “The sky’s the limit for this kid, he’s got talent in bundles”.

Too much: Experienced Casimero was a step too far at this stage of Edwards’ career

Fighters are often mollycoddled at the beginning of their professional careers, with their records padded to gain momentum, sometimes without substance. Edwards however showed his courage when taking a huge world title clash against two-weight world champion, John Riel Casimero on the 10th September 2016. A fight in which he would put up a brave performance but ultimately fall short.

The fight would take place on the biggest night of the British boxing calendar in 2016, Golovkin vs. Brook, on Sky Sports Box Office.

“The fight made sense. It made sense career wise and money wise. The exposure I got for taking a world title fight in my ninth fight was huge. Imagine I’d won that. You have to dare to be great,” laments Charlie.

It’s very refreshing to see a fighter take a fight of that magnitude so early and really grab the bull by the horns and have that attitude to “dare to be great”. Fighting on such a huge platform in the early stages of your career is incredibly valuable for the mental side of boxing; a trait that many say is more than half the battle.

“Even now, the best moment of my career so far is walking out on the main stage of a Sky Sports Box Office bill. It was an unbelievable experience.”

It was clear that experience played a massive part in the fight and it seemed that Charlie just lacked the boxing nous to adapt to the constant pressure of the heavy hitting Philippine: “He could really bang. From the very first round his clipped me round the back of the head and it was if he had two horse shoes in his gloves.”

After a difficult start to the fight, Edwards had some success in the middle rounds and began to show that he could mix it up at world level: “I felt that I was finding my way back into the fight and started to feel comfortable and got too confident. I threw a reaching left hook and was caught with a peach of a left hand.”

The shot was a devastating left hook that knocked Edwards off of his feet and was the final nail in a coffin that Casimero had been building over 10 rounds. To Edwards’ credit, he showed experience enough to take a knee and wait until eight before making his way to his feet: “I can’t even remember the shot, I remember being completely dazed on the floor. As I went to get up, I could see no one else but my brother, Sonny. He gestured to me to take a knee and wait till eight. I still don’t know how I made it up.”

The writing was on the wall and Charlie made it up on shaky legs only for the ref to stop the fight in the 10th round. In an age where the “0” in boxing seems to be paramount it is often said that you learn more from your losses than you do your wins and you really get the sense that Charlie knows this, adding, “It’s a learning curve and I will take a lot from the fight moving forward. After I’d lost the fight I wanted to hide away, I couldn’t look people in the eye when they mentioned the fight. After a while I dusted myself down and realised what I had achieved competing in a world title fight”.

Boxing runs in the family for Edwards

 It seems the talent for boxing runs in the family with Charlie’s younger brother, Sunny, now also making his way through the pro ranks at bantamweight. The two brothers, who are both managed by MTK Global, are clearly close and have a vested interest in each others careers: “Sunny’s doing really well, he’s up in Sheffield now training with his old amateur coach Grant Smith at the Steel City Gym and he’s waiting to release some big news on his promotion moving forward.”

Both 2015 and 2016 have proved to be whirlwind years for this down-to-earth young lad from Croydon and he’s fully aware how far he’s come: “When you think two years ago I was losing at the Commonwealth games as an amateur and since then I haven’t looked back, I’ve pushed on and I understand that you only get one shot at this”.

2017 proves to be another huge year for Charlie Edwards who is looking to potentially capture a European title and is also eyeing up a tasty domestic clash with the skilful Andrew Selby, younger brother of current IBF featherweight Champion, Lee.

“I want to fight Andrew. I know it’s a fight the British public want to see and it’s a fight I’m really confident that I can win, I know I’ve got the tools to beat him,” he affirms.

The classic saying goes, ‘styles make fights’ and it’s hard to see this fight being anything other than a classic with two young prospects, both with slick styles, clashing under the lights in a mouth-watering battle. The European route is another option for Edwards who also has the potential to move up to super-flyweight to hone his skills: “We are keeping an eye on the European title and there is that option, or I can move up to super-flyweight and compete for the British title so we’ve got plenty of inroads.”

There’s clearly real excitement in the Edwards camp and he’s got huge ambition to put his foot on the gas, but admits he must take a step back: “It’s time for me to let my promotional team guide my career, I’ve previously been so desperate to do everything at 100 mph, but with their guidance and with Adam behind me I really think they can take me all the way to world title honours”.

Edwards, who is still only 23, has got a long career ahead of him. An experienced head on a young body, he’s proving to be a bright spark on the British boxing scene. He has an infectious attitude and his willingness to learn and hunger to move forward is refreshing to see.

A world title does not seem too distant for this young lad, daring to be great

Follow Ben on Twitter @bchurchard93

Catch the Nuthouse pod every Sunday at 8pm UK time

ByBoxingAsylum

Is Kell Brook ducking Errol Spence?

By Steven Donnell 

“Dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge.” These famous words of dodgeball guru Patches O’Houlihan seem to have been adopted by IBF welterweight world champion Kell Brook when it comes to facing his mandatory, Errol Spence Jnr.

For well over a year now, I’ve been shouting to anyone who would listen that this fight needs to be made. It did look like it was going to happen when Spence beat Chris Algieri (very convincingly with a fifth-round stoppage) then called out Brook.  Now with Brook having a long lay off with injury, then coming back to defend his strap against Kevin Bizier, this looked like a great a fight and at the right time for both. As loud as Spence shouted, the silence from Brook was deafening. Then we had Eddie Hearn say in an interview that: ”No matter how loud Spence shouts for the figh,t behind closed doors him and his people don’t want it and we would have no problem making the fight otherwise.”

Now anyone who has watched Spence over the years knows this is a down right lie; the kid has always looked to challenge himself and move up as fast as possible. As for Kell Brook, he has one world level win against Shawn Porter to his name, which was in August 2014, and although that was great win for Brook it was a close fight – in fact I know a few people who scored it the other way. Brook was supposed to fight Jessie Vargas which would have been fine with me but then we find out Brook never actually signed to fight Vargas in a unification fight, instead he elected to fight Pound-for-Pound superstar GGG at middleweight. Now this was ballsy -as he didn’t really have a chance in the fight- or was it? Brook went into that fight knowing no matter what, he had a pass and not only that but his IBF title was safe at home where he likes it.

Now onto this week, we finally see Errol Spence Jnr brought up in an interview with Brook as the IBF have ordered him to take the Spence fight next. As it turns out Brook only wants big paydays if he’s to bother making the weight but I can’t imagine he got paid big cash to fight Bizier. The massive stadium fight with Amir Khan is on for the end of the year, but Khan says: “only if he fight Spence first.”

I was once a big Kell Brook fan, right the way up to the Porter fight. I thought Brook might just be in the top three welterweights in the division but as it turns out Brook getting his hands on that IBF title was the worst thing that could have happened for the division, and for his fans. He didn’t want to go on the road to get the big names, like Garcia or Thurman, but he would rather stay in UK and hold the title hostage while becoming an irrelevance. If I am being honest, I cannot see this Brook-Spence fight happening now which is a real shame as it would be a great fight. I can, however, see Brook going up to 154lbs to try his luck.

Follow Steven on Twitter @dinobhoy86 @Djayboxingblog

Image Credit: Sky Sports

ByBoxingAsylum

Weekend Boxing Review: DeGale draws with Jack; Davis breaks out

By Steven Donnell

Well, what a way to kick off the year. We were promised a big night by Floyd Mayweather and Eddie Hearn and we weren’t disappointed.

In the main event, Badou Jack took on James DeGale for the IBF and WBC super-middleweight titles. In my preview I had picked DeGale, saying he would have to much skill for Jack, and as the fight started that’s how it looked like it would turn out. DeGale started quickly and was moving well in the opening round against a cautious looking Jack. Going into the last 30 seconds of the round DeGale sent Jack to the ground with a well-timed overhand left which caught Jack offguard. Even though Jack was up quickly and didn’t look hurt, it was a wake-up call that he was going to have to slow DeGale down.

Regaining his composure in the second round, Jack then started to turn the screw by the third, landing some nice body shots which would pay back in dividends towards the end of the bout. Going into the middle rounds it was Jack who was really establishing himself and his body shots landing with great power and accuracy which was noticeably  taking the wind out of DeGale. When DeGale was landing, most of his work seemed to be coming off Jack’s gloves and arms. DeGale seemed to be taking a lot of shots flush which was snapping his head back whilst only landing tapping jabs in return.

Before this fight I had said I think that DeGale could get to Jack on the inside but it was Jack who looked the better and landing big shots on the inside. In round nine, DeGale had to try and stop this onslaught from Jack and DeGale did show his class with a big round but although he was landing more, the quality of Jack’s work was far superior. This late rally from DeGale set us up  for a nail biting finish, even though Jack had dominated most of the fight, that knockdown in the first round could prove to be the difference on the cards.

As both came out their respective corners for the final session it was clear that DeGale was a spent force. His face was in a hell of a mess and his legs looked heavy – in contrast Jack, as ever, showed no signs of slowing. After trading some early blows you could see that Jack had lost respect for any power DeGale had and was ready to lay it on him. Jack’s hard work paid off, sending DeGale to the canvas and as DeGale got up you could see he needed the bell. James had nothing left to give and was in survival mode as the relentless Jack went looking for the KO. The end bell came with both going toe-to-toe in the middle of the ring and what a fight this was from start to finish.

For me there was only one winner. The tempo, quality and accuracy of Jack’s work was far better than DeGale’s and when the judges scored it a majority draw I couldn’t help but feel for Badou Jack.

It was a close fight but for me Jack was the clear winner

As a starter before the main course we had Jose Pedraza vs. Gervonta Davis for the IBF  super-featherweight title, in a fight I had been intrigued by as it was my first time seeing Davis after hearing he was a top prospect. Against Pedraza he was testing himself at a whole new level – refreshing for a lad of just 22.

Right from round one Davis looked to settle quickly, also sending a warning shot to Pedraza with a beautiful uppercut, thrown as a clear intention that he had came to win the fight. As the early rounds went by anytime Pedraza tried to get his jab working he would be caught by Davis, backing him up, Pedraza just couldn’t read these awkward shots from Gervonta.

It looked as if Pedraza was trying to let Davis gas himself out -which for me was crazy- letting the youngster build up an early lead, whilst landing some big shots of his own. By round four Davis was still unloading and obviously trying to finish this one early but by now Pedraza was having his success landing on Davis’ body while also posturing at every opportunity, trying to get under Davis skin.

At the halfway mark it looked as if Pedraza had sussed out that he could get to Davis on the inside and even had some success there. But it didn’t take the talented youngster long to work things out and he really shook Pedraza up with a beautiful left hook to the body, followed another to the head, and by now Pedraza must have known this was slipping away. The victory came for Davis in the seventh round. By this point there was very little coming back from Pedraza.

Davis was ruthless with his bodyshots then switching to the head with unbelievable accuracy and it all eventually became too much as Davis sent Pedraza to the canvas, through the ropes and although he made it to his feet the ref has seen enough. What a performance from this lad and what a way to announce yourself to the world. On this evidence there is plenty to come from Gervonta Davis and I can’t wait to see him in action again.

Listen to top analysis of the card in this week’s Boxing Asylum podcast

Follow Steven @dinobhoy86

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Image Credit: Boxingsphere (via YouTube)

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The “Not So Super” Super-Middleweight Division

By Asif ‘Doc’ Mahmood

We recently witnessed a very good fight between two belt holders in a division with a deep and rich history. The WBC belt holder Badou Jack fought back to a fair draw against IBF champion James DeGale. Those who follow me on twitter may have come across a few comments I made at the time. The end result of the fight was fair and I got satisfaction from Eddie Hearn’s prediction, which was wrong, in that Degale would win every round and that the winner would be the best in the division. The other belt holders include Mexico’s undefeated WBO champion Gilberto Ramirez with the scandalous WBA title being shared between Fedor Chudinov and Tyron Zeuge.

Over recent years we have witnessed an excellent Super 6 tournament with great fighters such as Andre Ward, Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler.

It made me realise that the division now has four champions but no actual proven elite or even world class boxer. Yes, they are very good boxers caught in a great triangle theory by throwing George Groves into the mix given his history with both Degale and Jack. The latter is moving up to light-heavyweight so he is now out of the picture. Jack is seeking a fight with Adonis Stevenson which is very much feasible but Superman is in negotiations with Joe Smith Jr and also has a mandatory (Bute/Alvarez) to commit too.

We then have Callum Smith who will likely face Anthony Dirrell for the soon-to-be-vacant WBC trinket. There was a lot of hype around probably the most talented Smith brother but his long wait for the WBC mandatory seems to have fizzled this out somewhat.

“King “ Arthur Abraham is a shadow of his former self and is in a WBO eliminator vs Robin Krasniqi which is horrendous as nobody wants to see him rematch the aforementioned Ramirez where he was beaten comprehensively.

You know the division is weak when the disgraceful Paul Smith Jr can get recurrent world title fights despite not progressing beyond British level.

My personal hope is that if our British fighters can get hold of the IBF, WBC and WBA belts we can see some excellent domestic unification fights to see who the man on this side of the Atlantic is. I rate Gilberto Ramirez highly and feel he causes any current champion problems if he can remain injury free.

The current crop of middleweights would have failed miserably in the Super 6 tournament and reflects the poor standard of the division but I feel the winner of Gilberto Ramirez versus the last Brit standing can call themselves world class.

There have been mentions of Golovkin stepping up but given his age I don’t see him having the longevity at super-middleweight. I do think that should he continue to improve Chris Eubank Jr can ask questions of all those currently at the Division. #warIBO

Photo Credit: Sky Sports

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Boxing’s middleweight madness

By Asif Mahmood

The Doc runs the rule over a vibrant middleweight division

The middleweight division is one of my favourite divisions, ever since we saw the emergence of Gennady Golovkin when he faced Proksa on his HBO debut. Most boxing fans are aware that the best fight that can be made is between the unified champ, nicknamed “Triple G” or “GGG”, and one of the biggest Pay-Per-View (PPV) stars in Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.

The gulf between these two and the rest of the division is HUGE, which could be due to the elite quality of the above or due to the mediocrity of the rest. There are a few sound contenders making some noise and this article will discuss the current state of the division.

Golovkin is due to fight “miracle man” Daniel Jacobs which is arguably, on paper, the fight between the two best middleweights. I say this because Canelo can’t seem to make up his mind about what his real weight class is but whichever it is his management will make sure it is not the same as GGG for now. Jacobs has some good wins over names like Quillin, Truax, Mora and Fletcher. It is the best fight out there for both boxers at the moment and I for one am happy this got made. The reason for this is, we know Jacobs is advised by Al Haymon but the consensus was that a deal would never get made due to the politics in boxing. The PPV segment of the fight made this fight and although it is not a PPV fight, if that is what it takes to make this fight then so be it.

The rest of the division has been cleaned out by GGG. He has wiped the floor with fringe contenders and champions with the likes of Lemieux, Wade, Monroe Jr, Murray, Macklin, Curtis Stevens and blown up welterweight Kell Brook all being defeated.

I do not see the GGG–Canelo fight happening this year, as the latter will go on to rematch boxing’s diva Miguel Cotto

So let’s have a look at the rest of boxing’s middleweight division

We have the very inactive Billy Joe Saunders who reminds me of former cruiserweight Guillermo Jones, given his high levels of inactivity as champ. In reality he is just buying time to see which promotion offers him the most money for  his WBO belt – Golden boy or K2. We know the WBO mandatory is now Canelo but as he is seeking a fight versus Julio Cesar Chavez Jr I expect Saunders to sit quietly in his caravan.

Chris Eubank Jr is an enigma as looking past him (and his father’s circus act) he is actually a very talented fighter with very good hand speed. I actually believe he causes GGG a lot of problems. Yes he already lost to BJS but I feel he is a much better fighter now and hence why a lot of people see him beating BJS should they ever rematch. It remains to be seen if he returns to middleweight as there are plenty of domestic fights for him at super-middleweight.

Maciej Sulecki has been fighting on PBC over the past two years and has an undefeated record with a recent step-up in competition which he won all by KO. He has wins over the likes of Proksa, Cunningham, Findley and probably his best win to date came against Hugo Centeno Jr. This was a battle between two undefeated prospects which the Pole won impressively.

Rated: Asif enjoyed Sulecki’s battle with Centeno Jnr

Hassan N’dam N’jikam is a funny guy as he has two losses, both in title fights where he was dropped six times, but still won six rounds in those fights. He is coming off a Knockout of the Year victory over Alfonso Blanco to put himself in a good position to fight GGG at some stage. Most likely he will get dropped multiple times but it would be interesting to see if GGG can be the first guy to STOP the Frenchman. Personally I think he should fight fellow French fighter Michel Soro who is also a fringe contender fighting between light-middleweight and middleweight.

Jorge Heiland is an unlucky man as he beat Mathew Macklin many moons ago in a WBC Eliminator. We all know Jose Suleiman bent his fat rear end over for Cotto and Canelo only for them to leave him crying. Heiland was forced to wait around for the past two years and has now been told he must fight in a four-man tournament with Lemieux, Stevens and Khytrov for the winner to fight for the WBC title against Golovkin.  Personally I hope he does go on to win the tournament which I think he can as I don’t want to see GGG fighting his own leftovers. 

I will end with Avtandil Khurtsidze who was the original mandatory for Billy Joe Saunders before the Puerto Rican-based WBO saw more money in their pockets with Canelo. To be fair, they did not break any of their rules but once again the brutality of the business shows how a smaller-promoted fighter struggles in the world where money is the root of all evil. At 37 years of age he is waiting for that final pay day which WILL be for the WBO title but either versus Canelo or BJS at a yet unknown date.

Khurtsidze beats Douglas but has struggled to secure a title shot

Once again the gap between the two levels is very large and I anticipate many fighters in the lower divisions such as the Charlo Brothers, Lara and Andrade will all eventually move up to middleweight but with the luxury of multiple titles I do not see many fights where they fight one another.

Whatever happens as long as Golovkin remains active he can dispose of these fighters before Canelo gets his hands on them forcing him through no other path but his.

Follow the Doc on Twitter @Doc_Asif

FURTHER READING —> Check out the Doc’s previous entry when he assessed the heavyweight boxing scene.

Photo Credit(s): HBO Boxing, roundbyroundboxing.com.

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Preview and Prediction: James DeGale vs. Badou Jack

By Steven Donnell

Asylum writer Steven is looking forward to the big unification clash next weekend

Well folks it’s nearly time to kick off a great start to 2017 with a mouthwatering unification fight between IBF super-middleweight champion James DeGale and WBC champion Badou Jack, in Brooklyn.

For me, James DeGale is the most underrated boxer in the UK today. Not only  did DeGale pick up his IBF title up on the road against Andre Dirrell but this will also be his third time defending it away from home, following tough tests against Lucian Bute and ‘Porky’ Medina. On his day, DeGale is brilliant to watch. There are few that can switch from southpaw to orthodox as naturally as he can and these switches open up angles for DeGale to land his lightening quick combinations, and, when it comes off, it really is a joy to watch. DeGale lacks power but after sending Dirrell to the canvas twice, he did prove that his timing can make up for that. However, on DeGale’s last outing against Medina he had a howler for his high standards. Medina’s high volume punching and constant pressure seemed to throw DeGale, resulting in him eating some big shots and spending most of the night fighting off the ropes, as well as long periods covering and tying up. Although his skills got him the victory on the cards, it was far too close for comfort.

Press Conference: The pair faced off in a recent presser

Badou Jack has a totally different style to DeGale. Jack is really one of those guys with limited ability but what he can do, he does very well. When Jack fought Groves, he bossed Groves from start to finish also sending Groves to the canvas in a stand out performance from the Swede. His judgement of distance really was superb in that fight; he completely nullified Groves’ attacks before he could get inside (to expose what I suspect is his Achilles heel). It really was a great performance against a George Groves that had given James DeGale his only loss to date. In Jack’s last fight against Lucian Bute, he was dragged into a fight that I didn’t think he had in him. Bute came for a war (as he did with DeGale) but in fairness to Jack, he stood up and a showed heart and grit that I’ve never seen from him before in a very entertaining  fight that finished a fair draw .

Prediction

For this fight I just can’t see past James DeGale

I have a feeling Jack might just be tailor-made for him. I think the way DeGale works his way inside will see him take this fight on the cards if not by a late stoppage. DeGale does have flaws that Jack has to exploit and Jack can’t let DeGale dictate the pace at which he fights. One big criticism of DeGale is he takes too much time off during the fight and as Medina showed, he can be got-at and put off his stride. This should be a good, intriguing fight.

Follow Steven on Twitter @Dinobhoy86   @DJayboxingblog

Steven also ran the rule over Joseph Parker in his fight with Andy Ruiz Jnr in a recent piece.

Image Credit: Boxingsphere (via YouTube)