Bellew v Makabu FIGHT PREVIEW; Will it be third time lucky for Bellew?


Tony Bellew (26-2-1, 16 KOs) has a date with destiny.

The 33 year old from Liverpool will make his third attempt to win a world title when he takes on Ilunga Makabu (19-1, 18 KOs) for the vacant WBC cruiserweight world title, at Goodison Park on Sunday evening.

Following his recent adventure in Hollywood, where he starred as “Pretty,” Ricky Conlan, in Creed the latest installment in the Rocky franchise, Bellew will be hoping he can turn fantasy into reality.

The opportunity came about as a result of WBC Cruiserweight champion Grigory Drozd being declared a ‘champion in recess,’ when injury forced him to pull out of a mandatory defence against Makabu for the second time. A fight was then put together involving Bellew and Makabu, with the winner having to face Drozd down the road.

For Bellew, a former British and Commonwealth light-heavyweight champion, European Cruiserweight champion and two time world title challenger it was an opportunity to set his record straight and get his hands on a convented emerald belt.

Bellew’s previous world title challenges came in the light heavyweight division. He lost a majority decision to Nathan Cleverley in 2011 (later avenged) and suffered a bruising sixth round stoppage at the hands of Adonis Stevenson in 2013.

Since then Bellew has won six on the bounce and moved up to the cruiserweight division. However he faces a formidable opponent in theSouth African based, Congolese born Makabu.

Despite being annihilated in thirty seconds in his professional debut, Makabu won his next nineteen fights, and developed a reputation as a dangerous puncher.

Makabu (right) is a devastating puncher.

Eighteen of his wins have come inside the distance. Along the way he has beaten the former IBF light heavyweight champion, Glen Johnson, albeit a much faded version of the once great ‘road warrior,’ and the world rated, Dmytro Kucher, who coincidentally was the one opponent who managed to take him twelve rounds.

Makabu earned his world title shot against Thabiso Mchunu, when he rallied late in the fight to stop his opponent in the eleventh round. That was in May 2015 and Makabu has been inactive since as a result of his proposed fight with Drozd being postponed twice.

In contrast, Bellew has fought three times in that period.

A criticism of Makabu is that he fights square and can be caught down the middle. There is also a view that he doesn’t deal well with pressure. That said, he is no push over. Makabu is a southpaw who can punch and with Bellew having visited the canvas on at least four occasions in his career he should be mindful of his opponents power.

Although some consider Makabu the slight favourite, Bellew can certainly win this one. He carries height and reach advantages into the fight, but a win will require him to concentrate, maintain his composure, avoid any defensive mistakes and execute his plan to perfection.

Although Makabu has built his reputation as a puncher against largely unknown opposition the danger is that Bellew could underestimate his ability. The Congolese fighter is an unknown quantity, but he didn’t get to this point through sheer luck. He remains a dangerous opponent.

Bellew should aim to box at distance, utilise his overhand right and uppercut and do his utmost to avoid Malibu’s lethal left hand. A safety first performance should be encouraged.

All things considered, it would be the icing on the cake for Bellew, a life long Everton fan, if he could lift the world title belt aloft his head in front of a partisan crowd at Goodison on Sunday. It almost sounds like the end of a Hollywood blockbuster.

Rising Super-Middleweight Callum Smith features on the undercard.

Liverpool’s boxing brothers the Smiths feature heavily on the undercard. Super-Middleweight Callum Smith (19-0 14 KOs) squares off against Cesar Hernan Reynoso (14-7-3, 7 KOs). Stephen Smith (28-2 13 KOs) on the rebound from his unsuccessful bid for the IBF world title against Jose Pedraza, takes on Daniel Eduardo Brizuela (28-5-2, 8 KOs) in a ten round Super-featherweight contest for the vacant WBC Silver title. Elder brother Paul Smith (36-3, 21 KOs) takes on Hungarian southpaw Zsolt Dudas (15-2, 8 KOs) in a six round contest.

Also featured on the bill is Heavyweight David Price (19-3 16 KOs) who will be looking to put the disappointment of his loss to Erkan Teper for the European title, and the subsequent revelations about Teper’s failed drugs test behind him when he takes on Vaclav Pejsar (9-2, 8 KOs).

Coverage of Bellew v Makabu is live on Sky Sports 1 from 6pm on Sunday 29th May 2016.

Burns v Di Rocco FIGHT PREVIEW; Will Burns become Scotland’s first three weight world champion?


Ricky Burns (39-5-1, 13 KOs) is aiming to become Scotland’s first triple weight world champion when he takes on Michele Di Rocco (40-1-1, 18 KOs) for the vacant WBA Super-Lightweight title at the SSE Hydro, in Glasgow on Saturday night.

For the 33 year old Burns, a win on Saturday night would not only see him written into the history books but it would set him firmly on the road to redemption following a torrid three years which saw mixed results in the ring, the loss of his WBO lightweight title to the slick Terence Crawford, a court room battle with his former promoter Frank Warren and bankruptcy.

His opponent on Saturday Di Rocco 34, is the former European Super-Lightweight champion. Di Rocco a one time top amateur has not lost a professional fight in eight years. His sole loss came at the hands of veteran Giuseppe Lauri in 2007. Boxing fans in the UK may be familiar with Lauri a former European super-lightweight champion who was stopped by both Junior Witter in 2002 and Paul McCloskey in 2010. In the rematch, Di Rocco stopped Lauri in the first round in April 2014.

Di Rocco is unbeaten in 8 years

Di Rocco is an orthodox fighter, he likes to box and move using his jab to set up his overhand right. He out boxed Londoner Lenny Daws on route to a unanimous point’s decision in a European title defence in 2013. However a potential weakness in Di Rocco’s style is his defence, he fights with his left hand held low and he looks tailor made for Burns’ chopping overhand right.

It would be easy to write Burns off on the basis that he is 3-3 in his last six fights, that said those losses were to the extremely talented Terence Crawford, former lightweight world champion Omar Figueroa Jr and a tricky southpaw and potentially a world champion in waiting Dejan Zlaticanin. Even in defeat Burns managed to give a good account of himself in all three fights. It may be an exaggeration to say that he is on the slide, he is still relatively young by modern standards and he has the style to beat Di Rocco. Despite being unbeaten for eight years the general quality of opposition Di Rocco has faced has been poor. Burns has the more impressive record in that regard.

All things considered this is a must win for Burns. He has a strong jab and he will also have height and reach advantages over his opponent so the most likely verdict is a points win for the Scot.

Burns is not regarded as a puncher, but he has stopped his last two opponents. His ability to wear down opponents is perhaps underrated, a perfect example of this is his fight with Kevin Mitchell so do not be surprised if he wears Di Rocco down and forces a stoppage in the latter half of the fight either.

On the undercard, British Super-Lightweight champion Tyrone Nurse (32-2-1 6 KOs) defends his title against the former British and Commonwealth champion Willie Limond (39-4, 11 KOs). An accomplished domestic fighter Limond never lost his titles in the ring. The four losses on his record came against quality opposition in the form of Anthony Crolla, Erik Morales Amir Khan and Alex Arthur. It will be an exciting clash of styles as the unorthodox Nurse will have to contend with Limond’s pressure and experience.

Middleweight John Ryder (22-2, 12 KOs) continues his comeback following his loss to Nick Blackwell for the vacant British title in May 2015. He takes on Poland’s Robert Talarek (13-11-2, 8 KOs) in a six round contest.

Also featuring on the undercard is Undefeated lightweight Scott Cardle (19-0-1, 6 KOs) who takes on Ivan Njegac (7-1, 1 KOs)in a six round contest.

Nigel Benn’s son Conor ‘The Destroyer,’ Benn (1-0, 1 KO) takes the next step in his professional career as he goes up against Luke ‘The Nuke,’ Keleher (2-4-1) in a four round contest and former Olympic Bronze medallist Anthony Ogogo (8-0, 4 KOs) makes his long awaited return to the ring following injury setbacks as he takes on Chris Hermann (21-10-1, 12 KOs) in a six round middleweight contest.

Coverage of Burns v Di Rocco is live on Sky Sports 1 from 8pm on Saturday the 28th May 2016.

The Good, The Mad and the Ugly in this weekend’s Heavyweight FIGHT PREVIEW


Let’s begin by taking a moment to ruminate on the age old question, “Why are boxing fans so interested in the heavyweight division?” The most obvious answer is that’s where the action is. The heavyweight division traditionally serves up adequate helpings of danger, drama and divisive characters in equal measure.

There has been no shortage of heavyweight drama in the last seven days, which began with the current WBA/WBO heavyweight Tyson Fury making a public apology for controversial remarks he made during a 57 minute clip which had been uploaded on YouTube.

A few days later Fury put himself up for sale on the online auction website eBay, allegedly fell out with his uncle and trainer Peter Fury over an incident in sparring, before dismissing the apparent bust up as a ‘wind-up.’

The champion’s erratic behaviour can hardly be described as contributing to ideal preparations ahead of his hotly anticipated rematch with Wladimir Klitschko on the 9th July in Manchester.

Elsewhere in the division, WBC world heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder was forced to postpone his title defence against Alexander Povetkin in Russia this weekend when the challenger failed a pre-fight drugs test.

Povetkin’s A-sample tested positive for meldonium, the same substance that resulted in Maria Sharapova’s ban from Tennis. Meldonium had been added to the World Anti-Doping Authority banned list in 2015, and similar to Sharapova, Povetkin is protesting his innocence saying he used the substance when it was still legal.

Wilder who had been training in Sheffield in preparation for this mandatory defence was furious and it was later reported in that Wilder is prepared to go to court to ensure Povetkin’s promoter Andrei Ryabinsky pays him the $4.6 million he is owed for the fight.

The relative stability that the heavyweight division enjoyed over the last fifteen years under the reign of the Klitschko brothers is a distant memory, but perhaps that is a sad indictment of that era. The Klitschko’s dominance to a degree stifled any genuine drama in the division.

During their prime the Ukrainian brothers were too big and skilful for the distinctly average challengers they faced. However with Tyson Fury’s upset in Germany last November there is a sense that a new era is dawning in the heavyweight division, one that could restore real excitement in the hearts of boxing fans.

Takam (Left) takes on New Zealander Parker

The excitment begins with two significant heavyweight fights this weekend. The first involves Joseph Parker (18-0, 16 KOs) who takes on Carlos Takam (33-2-1, 25 KOs) at the Vodafone Events Centre, Manukau City. This is an IBF eliminator which will earn the winner a shot at Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight title.

Parker 24, has fought for the majority of his career in his native New Zealand. Undoubtedly, he wields genuine knockout power but he tends to overwhelm his opponents with his short hooks and angles. Parker’s technical ability and chin has yet to be tested against a top drawer opponent. The most recognisable names on his resume are; journeyman Brian Minto who he stopped in seven in 2014 and a faded Frans Botha who he clubbed into submission in two rounds in 2013.

Parker faces a sterner test in Takam who is regarded as something of a human windmill in the boxing ring. Takam 35, holds weight and reach advantages over his younger opponent. He is perhaps the better ring technician and carries an impressive record with stoppage wins over Michael Grant, Michael Sprott, Frans Botha and a points victory over former two time world title challenger Tony Thompson.

Takam’s tenth round knockout loss to the aforementioned Povetkin was regarded as one of the best fights of 2014, if not recent years. He is a genuine threat, with his movement, defence and pressure but up until most recently he has been on the comeback trail and fighting eight rounders. This will be his first step up in class against a top ten ranked heavyweight since the Povetkin loss.

Parker will perhaps enter the fight as the favourite. He will have the edge in power and the gulf in class may not be as great considering the highest profile wins for Takam were against opponents long past their prime. Still, Takam is the type of fighter who will go out on his shield and this will be a genuine test of Parkers credentials.

The other prominent heavyweight in action this weekend is former WBA heavyweight champion David Haye (27-2, 21 KOs) who continues his comeback against Arnold Gjergjai (29-0, 21 KOs) in a fight scheduled for ten rounds at the O2 Arena.

Gjergjai enters the ring with an impressive undefeated record but this has largely been built on fighting European journeymen. The most recognisible name on his record is Denis Bakhatov, who was dispensed with by Anthony Joshua in two rounds in November 2014. Bakhatov took Gjergjai the distance and even had him on the canvas at one point.

No disrespect to Gjergjai but this should be a win for Haye, who according to the rumours is set for a showdown with former WBO heavyweight champion Shannon “The Cannon,” Briggs in the near future.

Is Briggs next in line for Haye?

Briggs (59-6-1, 52 KOs) perhaps most famous now for gate crashing press conferences and his, “Let’s go Champ,” catchphrase, will feature on the undercard at the O2 Arena and faces Argentine journeyman Emilio Ezequiel Zarate (20-16-3, 11KOs) in another ten rounder.

Coincidently, Zarate was stopped in seven rounds by Gjergjai in March 2014 so expect the veteran Briggs to make short work of him as well.

This weekend could generate some significant developments in the heavyweight division in the months ahead. The interest that has been rekindled in boxings big men should be viewed as positive for the sport. It’s also fair to say that love them or loathe them the heavyweights never fail to provide drama on the big stage.

Coverage of Haye v Gjergjai will be broadcast live on Dave (Sky Channel 111) from 8pm, Saturday 21st May. Coverage of Parker v Raman will be broadcast live on Sky Sports 3 from 11am, Saturday 21st May (repeated on Sky Sports 1 at 11.30pm).

FIGHT PREVIEW: Haskins v Morales – Will “El Terrible’s,” brother conquer the ‘Playboy’?

FIGHT PREVIEW: Haskins v Morales – Will “El Terrible’s,” brother conquer the ‘Playboy’?

Bristol boxer Lee ‘Playboy,’ Haskins (32-3, 14KOs) makes the first defence of his IBF bantamweight world title this weekend against Iván Morales (29-1, 17KOs) at the Ice Arena in Cardiff.

Morales is the younger brother of former four division world champion and Mexican great Erik “El Terrible,” Morales.

Haskins won the title on the scales when the former champion Randy Caballero failed to make weight in their proposed clash in November 2015. Haskins will be keen to prove his mettle on Saturday night in a fight which has the potential to be something of a thriller.

Haskins’ opponent is part of a modern day boxing dynasty headed up by the aforementioned elder brother Erik Morales. It is difficult not to draw similarities between the siblings.

The 24 year old Iván has a similar style to his older brother. He is a tall upright boxer, with a southpaw stance, a good jab and he likes to mix it up to the head and body. He is perhaps not as concussive a puncher as his older brother and despite a high defensive guard he can be caught square and hit easily. There are also question marks over his ability to cope with pressure.

Ivan Morales will be intent on causing an upset.

The sole loss on his record was against journeyman Edgar Ramirez in August 2015. It was a fight in which Morales was under the cosh and despite rallying in the second half of the fight he lost a ten round majority decision. It was considered something of an upset at the time but Morales has since bounced back with a stoppage victory proving that one loss does not necessarily make someone a bad fighter.

The matchup presents an interesting clash of styles. The 32 year old Haskins trained by Chris Sanigar is also a southpaw who likes to throw shots from various angles. He has a relaxed, hands down almost Roy Jones Jr-esque style which can sometimes leave him open defensively.

Haskins most recent loss came against the Belgian Stephane Jamoye for the European bantamweight title in December 2012. In that fight Jamoye piled the pressure on Haskins for round after round until he eventually forced a stoppage when a series of body shots halted the Englishman in the eighth round.

If Morales was able to match the intensity and volume of punches thrown by Jamoye that night then the crowd could be witnessing an upset. However Jamoye is a more experienced operator than Morales having mixed in the company of world champions; Scott Quigg, Jamie McDonnell, Tomoki Kameda, Pungluang Sor Singyu, Shinsuke Yamanaka and Leo Santa Cruz. Therefore there is no shame in Haskins having lost to an elite level operator.

The outcome of this fight may just be decided on experience. Haskins must be considered the more accomplished boxer, he is a former British and European bantamweight champion and a British and Commonwealth champion in the super-flyweight and flyweight divisions. He also holds wins over current WBA champion Jamie McDonnell and former IBF champion Stuart Hall.

In contrast, the most recognisable name on Morales record is that of two time world title challenger Luis Maldonado who is currently on a six fight losing streak.

It’s difficult not to favour the champion in this fight, but with the Morales name and reputation on the line the Mexican will be sure to bring his all and it should provide an entertaining spectacle for the fans.

The main event is flanked by some quality fights on the undercard. Former Olympian Andrew Selby (4-0, 3KOs) takes on the more experienced Louis Norman for the vacant British Flyweight title and Cardiff’s own Craig Kennedy (14-0, 8KOs) steps up against Joel Tambwe Djeko (9-1-1, 4 KOs) for the vacant IBF international cruiserweight title.

This event is a co-promotion between Sanigar Events and Barry McGuigan’s Cyclone promotions and it also features Irish middleweight prospect Conrad Cummings (8-0-1, 3KOs) who takes on former Welsh champion Frankie Borg (9-5, 3 KOs). Borg was previously stopped in six rounds by Chris Eubank Jr in November 2013 and will be an interesting test for Cummings.

The undercard will also feature the 2014 Commonwealth Gold medallist Josh “The Tartan Tornado,” Taylor (4-0, 4 KOs) in a contest at super-lightweight.

The full undercard for Haskins v Morales will be televised on Spike, Sky Channel 160 from 7pm on Saturday the 14th May, with coverage of the main event switching to Channel 5 from 10pm.

Will Khan upset Canelo? – FIGHT PREVIEW: Alvarez v Khan

Will Khan upset Canelo? – FIGHT PREVIEW: Alvarez v Khan

It’s been twenty-nine years since the unfancied Sugar Ray Leonard jumped two weight divisions to shock the world by defeating “Marvelous,” Marvin Hagler to claim the WBC world middleweight title in Caesars Palace, Las Vegas.

Fast forward to the present day and we have a similar situation playing out this weekend as Britain’s Amir Khan (31-3, 19 KOs) jumps two weight divisions to challenge Saul ‘Canelo,’ Alvarez (46-1-1, 32 KOs) for the WBC world middleweight title in (where else?) The T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas.

Speaking to The Mirror newspaper this week Khan said, “This is a huge fight, as Canelo [Alvarez] is a star in Mexico and America. I know I’m here as the underdog, but I’m ready to win and take this WBC belt back to my home in England.”

This fight represents a monumental task for Khan, who will need to rely on all his speed and guile to overcome his formidable opponent. Alvarez is physically the bigger man, holds nearly as many knockouts on his record as Khan has had fights and one loss on his record at the hands of Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2013.

With this in mind, Khan should be given credit for taking on Alvarez and for the way in which he has rebuilt his career since his back-to-back losses to Lamont Peterson in 2011 and Danny Garcia in 2012. Khan enlisted the help of Andre Ward’s trainer; Virgil Hunter who has done an impressive job of getting him back to winning ways. He has won his last five on the bounce, albeit that he was taken the distance in four of those fights, he has demonstrated improved boxing acumen.

Often regarded as pound for pound one of the fastest punching fighters on the planet Khan will need to utilise his natural speed and movement in this fight. This one is a classic match-up between a boxer and a puncher. Alvarez is a wrecking ball of a fighter who likes to come forward, and grind his opponents down. However many people underestimate his own speed, movement and technical ability.

The best hope that Khan has is to box on the outside and avoid getting dragged into a slug fest. This had been a weakness in Khan’s armoury in the past but since his link up with Hunter he seems to be more conscious of not absorbing punishment in the ring.

In May 2014, Khan fought a brilliant technical fight against American Luis Collazo at welterweight. That fight could provide the tactical blueprint for this one. Khan utilised his jab, superior reach and movement to drop his opponent three times on route to a unanimous point’s victory. If nothing else the win against Collazo highlights that Khan has the ability to outbox his opponents.

The question is can he replicate a similar performance at middleweight?

Whether Khan has retained his hand speed as a middleweight or whether he can box to a plan for twelve rounds are questions that can only be answered on the night. He has the ability and the potential but a lot rests on how the champion performs.

Alvarez is regarded as pound-for-pound one of the best fighters on the planet. The Mexican may only be 25 years old but he has been a professional for ten years and has faced nine current or former world champions in that time.

The aforementioned loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. was his only reverse. Mayweather negated Alvarez’s aggressive tactics by out boxing him. For someone regarded as a supremely defensive fighter Mayweather boxed on the front foot, jabbing to Alvarez’s head and body and keeping him under pressure whilst maintaining his own watertight defence.

Once again, that fight provides a blueprint for how to beat Alvarez, but is Khan as slick as Mayweather?

The answer is no. Khan’s last fight was against Chris Algieri at welterweight. Algieri was the aggressor against Khan, who employed counter-punching tactics to neutralise his opponent and pick up a unanimous point’s decision. Algieri’s aggression and determination made the fight a lot closer in the eyes of those at ringside than the final scorecards suggested. He had success repeatedly in landing his punches to Khan’s body and head and although the British fighter’s punch resistance has improved it will be interesting to see what happens if a middleweight like Alvarez has similar success landing his power punches.

In his last fight against Miguel Cotto, Alvarez ran out a clear winner as his aggression and ring general-ship impressed the judges despite the Puerto Rican’s speed, movement and jab. One feels it will take a superhuman effort to outbox the Mexican in Vegas. The climb up in weight may adversely affect Khan. After a weigh in Alvarez re-hydrates well and can weigh as much as ten pounds heavier by fight night. Khan will automatically be at a physical disadvantage coming into the fight.

The odds are stacked against Khan, but perhaps not as greatly as they were when the inactive Sugar Ray Leonard fought the seemingly invincible Marvin Hagler. Khan’s speed remains unmatched in the fight game and as the old adage reminds us in boxing, “speed kills.”

If Khan can utilise the best weapon at his disposal; his speed and manages to execute his game plan to perfection then there is a possibility for an upset. It may seem remote, and arguably it would be unwise to favour him over Alvarez but there is still enough in this fight to make it intriguing and worth tuning in for.

Coverage of Alvarez v Khan is live on BoxNation Channel 437 & 491 (HD) from 1.30AM on the 08/05/16.