By Rachel Aylett

Despite the cream of British boxing’s participants being signed to either Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom or Frank Warren’s Queensbury Promotions, the best UK card of the year so far takes place in Glasgow on Saturday night and is promoted by neither. Instead, it brings the second batch of semi-finals in the World Boxing Super Series’ 2018/19 tournament.

Perhaps the card does not carry the depth of some Matchroom shows but the two semi-finals, on paper at least, more than make up for any shortfall in that respect.

The main event and super-lightweight semi-final pits Josh Taylor, 14-0 (12 kos), against Belarussian Ivan Baranchyk, 19-0 (12), and is also for the latter’s IBF belt.

The bantamweight semi-final will be just as eagerly awaited by boxing’s hardcore fans, as it showcases “The Monster” Naoya Inoue, 17-0 (15 kos), boxing in Europe for the first time. Japanese star Inoue faces Emmanuel Rodriguez, 19-0 (12 kos), of Puerto Rico, and the fight doubles as a unification match as Inoue holds the WBA belt and Rodriguez the IBF.

Firstly, to the super-lightweights and Taylor is a 2/11 to 2/13 favourite to defeat Baranchyk. Both had relatively straightforward victories in the tournament quarter-finals. Taylor, in particular, almost had a bye when American opponent Ryan Martin rather froze on the big occasion, allowing Taylor carte blanche to hack away at him with his vaunted body attack, before succumbing to the pressure in the seventh round.

For his part, Baranchyk was aided in his victory over Anthony Yigit by a horrible swelling to the latter’s left eye which brought him victory via doctor’s stoppage, also in the seventh round.

Going into Saturday’s fight, neither boxer will have had ideal preparation for their opponent. Taylor will not have met someone who constantly bulldozes forward in rampaging style, throwing heavy shots with bad intentions. Likewise, Baranchyk will find that he has not faced someone who is as versatile, hard punching and skillful as Taylor.

In the Yigit fight, Baranchyk clearly felt that he was able to walk through his opponent without worrying too much about what was coming back at him. He will certainly not be able to do this with Taylor, who carries terrific power, with his right hooks to the body from the southpaw stance particularly devastating. Also, whilst Baranchyk is relentless in his forward march, there was a definite drop-off after four rounds against Yigit. He was still winning the rounds but his punch output dropped significantly.

As for Taylor, the two biggest names on his record are his last two opponents, the aforementioned Martin and Ukrainian Viktor Postol. Both boxers are tall and long, the antithesis of this Saturday’s opponent. Although the aforementioned Martin offered no challenge at all, Postol was a different kettle of fish entirely.

Back in June 2018, Postol took Taylor to the wire in easily his hardest fight to date. Despite the ridiculously wide margins on the judges’ cards that night, most observers saw this fight in the balance until the end.

It is Taylor, then, who has had to go to the well to retain his undefeated record, whilst Baranchyk has not really been pushed that hard yet. Expect this to change on Saturday. I don’t imagine we will see anything different from Baranchyk in this fight. His nickname is “The Beast” which adequately describes his fighting style. He is a relentless, marauding front foot fighter. He is certain to win rounds against Taylor, with the Scot having to face real difficulties in the early going. However, Baranchyk will be taking severe punishment on his way in – he will never have been hit so hard.

I am going with a close but clear points victory for Taylor. If he can stop Baranchyk it will be a sensational result. Of course, the IBF world title is on the line and the winner will go on to meet top seed Regis Prograis in the WBSS final later in the year. Good luck with that!

To the bantamweights, and it is so great to have the pound-for-pound Japanese boxer Inoue fighting on these shores. Of course, Inoue is already a three weight world champion. It would be four, no doubt, but he decided to jump over flyweight without stopping there. In his two outings at bantamweight he has scored stunning first round victories over good opposition, Britain’s Jamie McDonnell and former champion Juan Carlos Payano.

As befits a semi-final of such a great tournament though, Inoue will surely face his toughest task to date in Emmanuel Rodriguez. The latter won his IBF belt in May last year with an overwhelming and one-sided points victory over Paul Butler. Rodriguez was an absolute revelation that night, winning every round and giving Butler a terrible working over. Butler was covered in cuts and bruises at the end and completely outclassed.

In his quarter-final though, Rodriguez was given a much sterner examination by Aussie Jason Moloney. The Boricua boxed beautifully again in the first third of the fight but Moloney is made of stern stuff and battled back, with the two almost punching each other to a standstill in one of the best fights of last year. In the end Rodriguez had to survive a storming finish to win a deserved split decision.

Rodriguez is a real joy to watch. He has a lovely compact style and his footwork and movement leave him always in place to throw and land his educated shots.

Everything he does is with an economy of movement and his counter punches are sublime. But how good is Inoue? There is no way to guage his form at bantamweight other than two first round knockouts. Surely he can’t knock everyone out? What happens if he lands his best shots in the opening two rounds and Rodriguez is still there in front of him?

The bookies have Inoue 1/8 to 1/10 to win this fight. I am quite amazed that he is such a hot favourite and consider this rather an insult to Rodriguez. Perhaps this fight will either go for Inoue early or Rodriguez late. I am plumping for the former, but with no real confidence. Filipino Nonito Donaire awaits the winner in the competition final.

As an hors d’ouevres, Saturday’s card also features appearances from new British super-middleweight champion Zach Parker, world-rated bantamweight Paul Butler, and two of the finest prospects in the UK in Scottish bantamweight Lee McGregor, the new Commonwealth champion, and Chantelle Cameron, now appearing at the top of the world ratings in the women’s lightweight division.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s