THIS WEEKEND’S BOXING ACTION
By Rachel Aylett
All eyes in the boxing world will be on the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas this Saturday night, to see one of the biggest fights of the year to date. Obviously Canelo’s latest appearance overshadows everything else on offer this weekend, but there are still a lot of other distractions going on.
Golden Boy once again gets the action going with another Thursday night show, once again to be televised live on their Facebook page. This week’s headliner features their new Canadian signing Steven Butler, a middleweight who fights outside of Canada for the first time. The 26-1-1 Butler is in against Ukrainian Vitalii Kopylenko, who is 28-1. Despite his impressive record on paper, Kopylenko was outclassed in his only previous step up in April 2014, against Willie Monroe Jr. Butler is 1/10 favourite here and should get his Golden Boy career off to a winning start. The chief support displays another outing for London Olympics bronze medallist, middleweight Yamaguchi Falcao of Brazil. Although Falcao is 16-0, any progress he is making is at a snail’s pace. He should be able to defeat Christopher Pearson and is 1/2 with the bookies to do so. However, any buzz surrounding Falcao diminished some time ago.
The prolific MTK Global team shows up in Newcastle on Friday, with the promoter of record being Lee Eaton. Headlining their show this week is Derry boxer Tyrone McCullagh, 12-0, who defends his unbeaten record at super-bantamweight against Spaniard Alvaro Rodriguez, 9-2-1. McCullagh’s will-o-the-wisp style is not to everyone’s taste, but it is damned effective. Although Rodriguez won the Spanish title in his last fight he had previously lost every round of a 10 to Thomas Patrick Ward last July. Don’t expect him to do any better against McCullagh. Darlington middleweight Troy Williamson, 9-0-1, also gets a run out. Williamson was the ABA champion in 2015 and should have no difficulties against a Romanian journeyman on Friday. All being well, he is scheduled for a slot on the undercard of Warrington-Galahad on 15 June. Let us hope that his opposition is a bit more demanding there. As is customary, MTK’s show is being streamed live on iFL TV’s youtube channel.
The main card in Europe this weekend is promoted by Sauerland Event, who put on a show in Germany on Saturday night. One of their current hopes, light-heavyweight Leon Bunn, 13-0, tops the bill against Leon Harth, 18-3. This might not be a “gimme” for Bunn. After all, Harth has been campaigning at cruiserweight and has taken rounds off Krzysztof Wlodarczyk and another Sauerland prospect Artur Mann. Bunn is 2/7 favourite but this is a decent test for him. Also featuring is light-welterweight Anthony Yigit, returning for his second fight since losing to Ivan Baranchyk in the WBSS quarter-finals last October. Yigit is matched with Sandro Hernandez, 15-7-3, a journeyman from Venezuela. The latter has been stopped in three of his last five fights, and not at top level either. This really is poor opposition for a fighter of Yigit’s stature.
Top Rank goes up against the big Golden Boy/Matchroom card on Saturday night. Their offering takes place in Stockton, California and features two IBF title fights. First up is the super-flyweight defence of Filipino Jerwin Ancajas, 30-1-2, who defends against Japanese challenger, Ryuichi Funai, 31-7. The Japanese looks like a bit of a puncher, with 22 inside the distance victories, including six in his last seven fights. However, it is his first fight outside Japan and Japanese boxers don’t tend to win abroad that often. Add to that his age (33) and the fact that Ancajas is a consensus 1/10 to 1/12 favourite and it looks like a safe bet for the Filipino to retain his belt.
Alongside this fight, Chechen light-heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev, 13-0, makes the second defence of his title against Serbian, Radivoje Kalajdzic, 24-1. At 34 years of age, Beterbiev needs to get a lot busier if he is to establish himself as one of the stars of the sport. Of course, all his victories have come inside the distance. Kalajdzic has rather come out of nowhere to get this title shot, with his only really recognisable opponent being Marcus Browne, to whom he lost a split decision over eight rounds in April 2016. Kalajdzic fought well against Browne, putting him over in the sixth round. Only a spurious knockdown called against him in the opener cost him a possible draw. Unfortunately, subsequent to that fine effort, he has only fought three times (all stoppage victories). The fact that Beterbiev was put down in his last fight against Callum Johnson and Kalajdzic took hefty blows from Browne without flinching, leads me to label this fight as the potential “upset of the week”. However, the bookmakers do not agree, having Beterbiev 1/11 to retain his title. This show is televised live in the UK on BoxNation.
Rounding out the weekend’s action is, of course, the Canelo-Jacobs blockbuster from Las Vegas. This has an intriguing chief support, of particular interest to UK fans, with John Ryder matching up against Golden Boy charge Bilal Akkawy, for a WBA interim super-middleweight belt. This is overall a terrific card, as it also showcases Vergil Ortiz Jr., Lamont Roach and Sadam Ali, all in decent tests. A rare occasion these days where a whole card is worth watching. The main fights will be shown in the UK on Sky Sports. I will pen a full preview of this show later today on the website.
Prospect watch: this week I would point inquisitive eyes to the above-mentioned Sauerland card in Germany and the third outing for their female featherweight hope Sophie Alisch. Sophie is only 17 years old but has looked terrific in her two victories to date. She looks certain to play a huge part in the fast-growing women’s code in the coming years. At merely 15 years of age, Sophie took the first of two national youth titles as an amateur but turned pro this February rather than wait for Olympic opportunities. She has an attractive all-action style and is headed right to the top. She is certainly with the right promoter to get her there.