By Steven Bateson
Welcome to a very special Election Day edition of the Chin Check. Special you say? Why I hear you cry? Special because it has absolutely nothing to do with the race for Number 10 and for the next ten minutes or so you can escape the impending doom that is apparently now surrounding this country.
Straight down to business, apparently that’s my problem, and Chris Eubank Jnr has a fight. An actual fight as well, one worth giving a little credit for. July 15th he defends his IBO (it’s not a world title) championship against Arthur Abraham in London. Now granted Abraham is about 4-5 years past his best but he’s still a wily veteran and a very stern test for a man who has lost the only other time he’s stepped up in class. Eubank is quick but he doesn’t possess devastating power so keeping AA at bay for twelve rounds will not be simple. ITV Box Office (I know it’s a sham) is covering this one and one has to wonder why on earth they persist. This would be a brilliant Saturday night terrestrial showcase but alas they’d rather make £30 and buy themselves a well earned curry.
This will tell us if Eubank Jnr has a future at 168lbs. He’s already called out George Groves and accused James DeGale of having "no heart" but unless he can maneuver his way past Abraham those words are going to look pretty foolish.
Talking of James DeGale, the IBF Super Middleweight Champion has had shoulder surgery this week. I hear the damage was a little worse than first expected but the champ is expected to make a defense of his belt before the year is out. I think it’s unlikely we see him in with Groves or even Callum Smith in 2017 but there’s always the outside possibility he picks Eubank Jnr on name alone should he come through the acid test.
The undercard of the Eubank-Abraham fight will include Liverpool’s Robbie Davies Jnr in a "big fight". Davies is now #3 with the WBA at Super Lightweight so there’s a possibility this could be some kind of eliminator. Davies could find himself in with a Rances Barthelemy before the year is out. Martin J Ward will also defend his British Super Featherweight crown against Ireland’s Anthony Cacace in what could potentially be a show stealer. Ward is attempting to win the Lonsdale belt outright whilst adding the vacant Commonwealth strap to his collection but Cacace is no mug and he could very well win this one.
There was no heavyweight news last week but I’ve got plenty to offer you (apparently that’s also a lie and I should stop embellishing the truth) so listen up:
The Joshua-Klitschko II event has been green lighted by the IBF so long as it takes place before December 2nd. Mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev will step aside so long as the winner defends against him within 90 days of the fight. Now whilst the possibility of AJ-Klit is very exciting, one has to wonder why on earth Joshua has been granted dispensation for this when Tyson Fury wasn’t. You can save all that "applied for it" nonsense because I don’t believe for a second that Fury’s camp didn’t follow the letter of the law. Unfortunately it smacks of favouritism and it’s not something I can respect. That being said this is yet another monumental event for the sport and I’ll be there in person should it go down.
Hughie Fury is fighting July 8th in Manchester and then again in September, opponents yet to be announced. Fury, himself, said on Twitter that the fans would be surprised by who he is getting in against but I don’t know if that means pleasantly or in dismay. He is after all the #1 ranked contender for Joseph Parker’s WBO strap so that’s the fight we want but is that the fight we are going to get? July could be a tune up of sorts but the opponent still needs to be of a calibre that prepares him for the top.
According to Eddie Hearn it is more than likely that Tony Bellew and David Haye will re-match around the end of the year. It makes me believe that the Fury-Parker fight must be going ahead and the WBO belt is now off the table for Bellew. It’s a shame because I have no desire to see this re-match but it will undoubtedly sell to the public. I would have liked to see Bellew fight Deontay Wilder, if only for the buildup alone but I hear Wilder-Stiverne II is likely for July-August. On a sidenote; David Haye has split with trainer Shane McGuigan and will be seeking a new team. I have to wonder whether this is just a ploy from Haye to suggest his training didn’t go to plan for the Bellew fight, beforehand he claimed it was the best camp he’d ever had.
And finally on the big men front I was scrolling Twitter today to witness the Dillian Whyte-Lucas Browne conflict. Regardless of what you believe about the validity of both men being banned for PED’s in the past the fact remains they are licensed now and that would be a cracking tear up. They can stick that on any undercard on these shores and it will garner interest. Both men need that kind of fight to push themselves back into the limelight, Eddie Hearn should get on his phone and sort that one out.
Just before I started writing this week’s column I heard Billy Joe Saunders’ July 8th fight with Avtandil Khurtsidze has been called off, due to Khurtsidze being arrested in New York under the RICO Act. Basically the Georgian is facing 40 years in jail on rackateering charges that includes stealing a shipment of 10,000lbs worth of chocolate. I don’t know if Billy knew about that though because it looks like he might have had some of it. In all seriousness this is yet another huge blow for Saunders’ career and Frank Warren is going to need to rectify this quickly. Saunders won the WBO strap in December 2015 and he’s defended once since then, he either makes a meaningful defence soon or his credibility dwindles to nothing.
Carl Frampton has a date for his next fight but as of yet we don’t know his opponent. He confirmed on Twitter that he’ll be returning home to Belfast on July 29th and although it won’t be an all British showdown with IBF Featherweight Champ, Lee Selby, we can expect an action packed fight. I had heard mention of a move up in weight and fight with Bryan Vasquez, if that is the case then July 29th is a date for the diary because you can expect fireworks from that one.
Matchroom Boxing have unveiled yet another exciting prospect in Joshua Buatsi, the Olympian will be campaigning in the 175lbs division and debuts on July 1st. Buatsi rose to prominence in the Rio games with his hard-hitting style which propelled him to the Bronze medal and he will be one to watch. He was courted by Floyd Mayweather following his success in 2016 but he’s chosen to sign on home soil and I think he’ll be in very meaningful fights sooner rather than later.
The July 1st date is headlined by Frank Buglioni’s first British title defense against unbeaten Ricky Summers. Buglioni won the strap last December with a sensational twelfth round KO of Hosea Burton and has his eyes set on climbing the ladder to Euro and World honours. Buglioni is guaranteed action, one of my favourite fighters to watch, so this should be good whilst it lasts. The undercard features the return of Conor Benn whilst there are outings for Cruiserweight prospects Issac Chamberlain and Lawrence Okolie (which, by the way, is a fight we have to see within the next 12-18 months).
Boxing this weekend and Sky are broadcasting live from Belfast; headlined by the IBF Bantamweight Title clash between Lee Haskins and Ryan Burnett. This is a tasty fight and a really intriguing one. Haskins has that really awkward style and he carries enough power to stun but Burnett looks like a really good talent and could easily end the night as a world champion. For most this is viewed as a 50-50 considering Haskins experience at a much higher level than his challenger but I worry that his age will catch up with him in this one. Haskins was pushed to his limit by a game but domestic level fighter in Stuart Hall and I see Burnett as levels above that. I think the IBF belt will be staying in Belfast.
Lastly this week we take a turn back in time (this isn’t a Cher rendition) to June 8th 2002. Lennox Lewis vs Mike Tyson in Memphis for the IBF, WBC & IBO. Obviously these are two career greats but this fight came way too late and with both men past their best. It is, however, still the highest grossing heavyweight fight of all time. Lewis, for me, is still so underrated and overlooked in the All Time Great stakes and deserves so much more credit for just how good he was. Take a look for yourself and treat yourself on this Thursday evening
Have a cracking weekend boxateers, catch you on the flip.