By Rachel Aylett

Nottingham kicks off the big action this weekend, on Friday (10 May), with the latest in Matchroom’s JD NXTGEN series, which features some of their up and coming fighters.

The outstanding fighter on the card is featherweight prospect Jordan Gill, who has come to the fore with excellent victories in his last two fights. In fact, he might have already passed the prospect stage as he is on the brink of the world’s top 20 at his weight.

This time out he faces Mexican, Enrique Tinoco, in a 12-rounder for a WBA ranking belt. Tinoco does not present a serious challenge for Gill and one would hope for a more imposing task for Gill before the end of the year.

Chief support sees local boxer Leigh Wood defending his Commonwealth featherweight belt against Ryan Doyle, who previously held this title before losing it to Gill last time out.

This is a really fine match carrying huge importance for both men. Wood looked terrific last time out in March when winning this title, but the opposition this Friday as far more severe.

Wood is about 1/3 favourite with the bookmakers, but Doyle has upset the odds before against Reece Bellotti and is a live underdog, to say the least. The card also showcases several of Matchroom’s latest prospects and should be a good watch on Sky Sports.

Also on Friday, the latest edition of Showtime TV’s ShoBox series hits the screens. This series is renowned as having brought many of the sport’s stars to the public eye early in their careers.

The shine has gone off lately as so many of the top promoters have exclusive deals for their fighters on other networks, but ShoBox has still managed to feature the likes of Devin Haney and Jarron Ennis in the last 12 months.

The latest prospect to be featured is Ruben Villa, a former top amateur who had two victories over Shakur Stevenson back in the day. Villa is 15-0 (5 kos) and should continue his upward momentum with another points victory over Luis Lopez.

On the undercard, Russian lightweight Petr Petrov will get an easy win over Ruben Tamayo. Petrov is now in the gatekeeper slot and should still get plenty of work in the coming months as a decent test for budding contenders.

A European title fight takes place in Germany on Saturday, when Robin Krasniqi makes the second defence of his super-middleweight title against Stefan Haertel, also of Germany.

Big things were expected of Haertel when he turned pro with the Sauerlands in 2014 after representing Germany in the London Olympics. However, despite only suffering one defeat to date, his career has been disappointing, with only two stoppage victories out of 17. Vastly experience Krasniqi, a former two time world title challenger at light-heavyweight, is 1/8 favourite to retain his belt, and rightly so.

Two major shows take place in the U.S. on Saturday. In Arizona, two fascinating rematches head Top Rank’s latest card. WBC super-featherweight champion Miguel Berchelt defends against fellow Mexican Francisco Vargas, the man from whom he won the belt over two years ago.

The chief support sees WBO super-bantamweight champion Emanuel Navarette give an immediate rematch to ex-champion Isaac Dogboe. The show will be televised in the U.S. on ESPN and in the U.K. on BoxNation.

A full preview will follow separately.

Easily the best card of the weekend, depth-wise at least, takes place in Virginia under the PBC brand. Jarrett Hurd is the star of this show as he defends his IBF and WBA super-welterweight belts against live challenger Julian Williams.

Without doing anything spectacular, Hurd has established himself as the no.1 in the division. Williams is a lovely boxer but failed in his previous attempt at world honours, being stopped in five rounds by Jermall Charlo for this same IBF belt over two years ago. The champion is 1/7 favourite to retain his belts.

There are four other excellent matches on the card with perhaps the most intriguing being the middleweight battle between Russian Matvey Korobov and American Immanuwel Aleem.

This will be Korobov’s first fight since his very competitive title fight loss to the aforementioned Jermall Charlo last December.

He is in tough with Aleem, 18-1-1 (11 kos), who was going great guns before an inexplicable loss to Hugo Centeno Jr. in August 2017. Worryingly, Aleem has only fought once since. This is the archetypal crossroads match and Korobov is placed at 4/11 favourite. He has under-performed before though and if Aleem is on his game he has a real chance to put his career back on track. This Fox television programme is also shown in the U.K. live on ITV4.

Finally, an IBF flyweight world title fight takes place in Tokyo on Monday, when South African veteran Moruti Mthalane makes the second defence of his belt against home fighter Masayuki Kuroda.

The champion is now 36 years old and is one of the real unsung heroes of the sport. This is his second reign at flyweight with the IBF, having made four successful defences in his previous reign. When you consider that one of those winning defences was against Zolani Tete and that one of only two career defeats came against a peak Nonito Donaire, the little South African should be treated with the utmost respect.

Eddie Hearn has mentioned Mthalane’s name on a number of occasions as a potential future opponent for Matchroom’s WBC champion at the weight Charlie Edwards in a unification match-up. For neutrals, let us hope that Mthalane comes away from Japan unscathed and with his belt intact as, should Kuroda win, there is little to no chance of him being tempted out of Japan for such a unification.

Prospect watch: This week’s prospect was a difficult choice, as there are many on display, particularly on the Matchroom card on Friday.

However, it has to be Uzbek Olympic gold medallist Fazliddin Gaibnazarov, who has his eighth fight on the Top Rank card in Arizona. Fayzi, as he likes to be known, is one of the stream of new Uzbek and Kazakh professionals who are aleady making a big mark on the professional side of the sport.

To date, the super-lightweight is 7-0 (4 kos), and his latest test comes against Mykal Fox.

The latter is 19-1 (5 kos) and only suffered his first loss in February against another Uzbek prospect, Shohjahon Ergashev.

Fox is a nightmare opponent, tall and lanky, a 6’4 southpaw who boxes long. He gave Ergashev fits before losing a close decision. How Gaibnazarov deals with him will tell us a lot about the future prospects of the Rio gold medallist.


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