U.K. fight fans are presented with a glut of bouts (of differing appeal and quality) to sieve through this weekend. Sky Sports, who once monopolised boxing coverage on these shores, embark upon a period of reduced output whereas Mick Hennessy, shunned for years by the very same network, continues to flourish under the umbrella of terrestrial broadcaster Channel Five.
Sky, in conjunction with Matchroom Sport, serve up the latest chapter in Sheffield welterweight Kell Brook’s quest to acquire part of a world championship, and have garnished it with a solid undercard that includes a pair of exciting reruns. Directly afterwards, Five and Hennessy (working alongside Sanigar Events), dish up heavyweight Tyson Fury’s latest escapade, against the blood-and-guts New Yorker Vinny Maddalone while Darlington bantamweight Stuart Hall vies with Bristol’s Lee Haskins for the vacant EBU 118-pound championship.
Kell Brook vs Carson Jones
Oh how different it all was when Adam Smith took up the reins as Sky Sports’ head of boxing last year. As the only show in town, the network, prompted by sensible governance from the British Boxing Board of Control, managed to press-gang the U.K.’s pre-eminent promotional outfit into working together (while taking risks) in order to secure airtime. The result was a series of summit meetings between the domestic top brass. Clarity and competitive matches rolled effortlessly into living rooms across the country each week. Times were good. Then, after heavyweight David Haye torpedoed the company’s pay-per-view model with a pair of laudable outings against Audley Harrison and Wladimir Klitschko, the milk suddenly began to sour.
With revenue streams diminished, Frank Warren was first to bolt. In order to re-establish himself as captain of his own ship, he helped launch rival subscription channel BoxNation and transported his mushrooming stable of fighters along with him. Newcomers Hatton Promotions and old hands Maloney Promotions were next to the exits, victims of an austerity drive that left the resurgent Matchroom, who held a hand that included super middleweight Carl Froch, Brook and the popular Prizefighter series, sitting pretty as the station’s main feeder.
After toying with Stockport’s Matthew Hatton -- in what turned out to be a nice bit of business from the low risk-decent dividends school of matchmaking -- Brook, 27-0 (18), reverts back to acquiescing to the demands of the alphabet organisation he hopes to promote, as he did when steamrollering Poland’s Rafal Jackiewicz last year. Carson Jones, 34-8-2-2 (24), Oklahoma City, Okla., U.S.A., is the man standing between Brook and another “final eliminator” and then (maybe) a crack at the hammer-fisted veteran Randall Bailey.
Jones comes to the Motor Point Arena in Sheffield as a bit of an unknown quantity (at least on this side of the ocean). His ledger details eight losses (two of those via stoppage) while video footage reveals a pretty solid all-rounder with decent pop in both hands. He prefers to advance with a high guard, scouting for a chance to impose himself using spirited, two-fisted combinations. On the flipside to that, Jones has repeatedly been zinged, stunned and rattled. Said Ouali, Jesus Soto Karass and Alfonso Gomez all made his knees dip, due mainly to Carson’s tendency to square up on a man. Jones, though, is nothing if not brave; only Gomez and Chicago-based Mexican Luciano Perez have managed to stop him (with the Gomez call bitterly disputed).
One point worth noting is that the scar tissue on his record was almost exclusively inflicted north of welterweight. Since boiling down to 147 lbs. in 2010, Jones has racked up a seven fight winning streak, all of them inside schedule.
There has been an edge between the pair in the build up. One senses that Jones, as the more seasoned campaigner, believes he can rattle the young hotshot who he claims has built a padded resume against fighters paid to make him look good. Brook, though, is legitimately tough, for all his flash moves. Carson’s lip appears to have focussed him more keenly and the Sheffield switch-hitter will be hell-bent on ramming the American’s barbs back from whence they came. Brook is fresh, crafty, quick and confident. The more dynamic of the two, he’s better on defence and is fighting in front of an adoring home crowd.
The uppercut may prove to be a key punch for both fighters as they look to work their way inside – and especially so for Brook. It is a punch that can dishearten Jones en route to a lopsided decision win. Jones is stubborn and experienced enough to ride out the rough patches he will surely face here, but will be well beaten by the final bell nevertheless.
Gavin Rees vs Derry Matthews II
When last they met, Rees, the European lightweight boss, inadvertently scraped his skull across Matthews’ face during a raid, crumpling the Liverpudlian’s nose in the process. With Matthews unable to continue, a technicality ruled the bout be drawn after three completed rounds (despite the fact that Rees was ahead 29-28 on all cards). After Italian Emilano Marsili then took “Dirty” Derry to the cleaners in his next fight back, it looked like the end of the line for the gregarious Scouser.
While Matthews licked his wounds, Rees invaded Hauts-de-Seine, France, to successfully defend his championship with a seven round stoppage over local man Anthony Mezaache (who British fans may recall outpointed Norfolk’s Jon Thaxton in 2009). A rematch at that point would have appeared cruel matchmaking; however, in April, something quite extraordinary happened.
Matthews, an underdog presumed shot, bludgeoned the well-regarded Mancunian Anthony Crolla to defeat inside six rounds in the year’s best home fight thus far. In doing so, Derry appeared a rejuvenated fighter and a million miles away from the wan looking ghost who shrivelled up before Marsili. Startling physical turnarounds are becoming less unusual in the modern game and if Matthews, 30-6-1 (16), can replicate the form he showed against Crolla then he has to be given a real chance of scoring another significant upset.
Rees, 36-1-1 (17), too, has been hampered with facial damage. The Welshman almost came a cropper in his British title triumph over Liverpool’s John Watson back in 2010, when a nose injury picked up in sparring re-occurred mid-fight (Rees rallied to halt Watson in round 11). A sawn-off whirlwind of a fighter, “The Rock” is feisty and game with underrated boxing ability. His stamina has threatened to let him down in recent bouts, though, firstly against Watson and then subsequently against Ulsterman Andy Murray. Despite being heavily favoured at odds in the region of 2/7, this is a fight where anything could happen. It could be a case of whoever falls apart last wins.
Kerry Hope vs Grzegorz Proksa II
Southpaws Kerry Hope, 17-3 (1), Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, and Grzegorz Proksa, 27-1 (20), Redhill, Surrey, by way of Jaworzno, Poland, also rematch on the undercard. Hope scored one of the upsets of the year against Proksa back in March to clinch the European middleweight title in a fight which turned on a dime after a clash of heads tore Proksa’s left eye open in the second session.
It was a fabulous result for the unassuming Welshman, on a night when everything seemed to go right for him. In fact it’s difficult to imagine the sun shining on him quite in the same way again. Proksa should be fitter this time around and can pick his punches a little better to reverse his sole reverse. A win for either man could put them in line for a match with Londoner Darren Barker. A good fight seems guaranteed.
Tyson Fury vs Vinny Maddalone
Fury, who appeared chirpy and in fine physical fettle on a recent video viral, returns to action at an Equestrian Centre in Clevedon, Somerset, against American import Vinny Maddalone, 35-7-1 (26), Flushing, Queens, N.Y. After Quantum Leaping between the guises of highly motivated prospect to overweight, existential bar-room brawler to cautious Irish southpaw in recent bouts, it isn’t easy to predict which version of Fury will turn out against the fan-friendly Maddalone.
Last year, the gutsy visitor would have stood a better chance. An overweight and immobile Fury had rendered himself a sitting duck, allowing limited types Nicolai Firtha and Neven Pajkic to put him on Queer Street with wild hail Marys in consecutive bouts. Unfortunately for Maddalone, though, Fury looks to be in the best shape of his life and mentally, in a far healthier place. This could and should be a whitewash, and a painful one for Vinny. Fury can win handily within six rounds.
U.S. fans can follow the action live on WealthTV.
Stuart Hall vs Lee Haskins
Haskins had originally been slated to face diminutive menace Stephane Jamoye. However, when the Belgian pulled up lame, it paved the way for Hall to grab a second chance. Haskins, 25-2 (11), is a former Commonwealth and British champion (at flyweight and super flyweight respectively), an awkward little southpaw with an elusive style all of his own. Hall, 12-1-1 (7), is a former British champ at 118 lbs. who lost a hotly contested battle with Doncaster’s Jamie McDonnell for the European championship back in September.
If Hall had been given more notice, he’d have been the pick. Huge at the weight, he’s the more powerful man with a formidable engine. At short notice, though, on away ground and after fighting up at featherweight in his most recent outing, there may be too much going against the hard-nosed County Durham man who’ll never stop trying to win against an opponent favoured to edge a greater number of rounds. Hall is a decent outside bet all the same.
Middleweight Chris Eubank, Jr. rolls again further down the bill. The prodigal son takes on honest Brummie Terry Carruthers, 11-11-6 (1), in his fifth pro outing (all wins, two quick). Carruthers is no pushover and will provide rounds for Eubank, whose method is refreshing. One is given the impression he’d rather learn something under duress than score knockouts without breaking a sweat.
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