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The Chin Check - Volume 2

By Steven Bateson


Fellow boxing fans, welcome back for the second edition of the best weekly column on the net right now, I didn’t win an award by the way I just decided it was.


It was a quiet weekend in Britain for the boxing but this weekend we are back with a bang, Sky Sports & Boxnation/BT Sport offering up servings of action that should keep us entertained on Saturday night.


Starting out with Sky; we get to see the homecoming of the WBA Super Flyweight Champ, Kal Yafai. Yafai, for me, is one of our most skilled and talented world champions and I look forward to him putting on a display against Suguru Muranaka in front of a packed out Birmingham crowd. So far in his career I haven’t seen Yafai put a foot wrong and at 27 I believe his best years are still in front of him. I doubt Muranka will prove a pushover but I also don’t envisage a point where he troubles Yafai enough to make a claim for the belt. Yafai with a late stoppage would be my pick and then on to bigger and better things. The Super Flyweight division is jam-packed with talent, Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez, Naoya Inoue, Sor Rungvisai and Juan Estrada are just four stellar names that would stand in Yafai’s way of dominating, but don’t count him out. On British shores there is always Jamie Conlan if the rival promoters could work together on securing another big fight for the fans. Either way I think the future of Yafai is going to be a highly exciting one.


The undercard of this bill has a couple of very intriguing fights and is definitely worth a watch. Sam Eggington challenges Spain’s Ceferino Rodriguez for the EBU Welterweight Title. Eggington is all action and I expect a good fight here. Last time out he beat veteran, and future hall of famer, Paulie Malignaggi and he will be looking to push himself further up the 147lbs ladder. Eggington can be outboxed, see his 2016 loss to British Champion Bradley Skeete, and I’d like to see a little more defense to his work as he moves up in class but there is no denying his value for money and heart to compete. Do I think he can be world level? No, honestly I don’t see it in the slightest but that doesn’t mean his career can’t go places and at 23 he could have plenty more fights in him, I could be proved wrong. The sport needs fighters like Sam, willing to get in the ring with anyone and fight with everything they have.


Gamal Yafai, brother of Kal, defends his WBC International Super Bantam title in a Birmingham derby against fellow undefeated fighter Sean Davis whilst former British Welterweight Champ and world title challenger, Frankie Gavin faces the biggest crossroads fight of his career. Gavin, who promised so much, has failed to live up to any of the hype in his career and one has to wonder if there is anywhere he can go should he lose to the tough, but beatable, Renald Garrido.


Meanwhile up the road in Leeds we have the return of Josh Warrington, live on Boxnation/BT Sport, against the wily road warrior and former world champion, Kiko Martinez. Martinez is somehow only 31, meaning he was only 21 when stopped Bernard Dunne in Ireland, but after a career filled with wars there is no doubting he is shopworn. Warrington has amassed one heck of a following in Leeds, the atmosphere inside the First Direct is always electric, and they will be hoping their man can take another big stride toward a world championship fight. Warrington is quick, throws in combos, but his power is not explosive and that is the only real question mark that surrounds this fight. Should he win? I think nowadays he should but Martinez is a relentless, front foot, fighter and the only real way to earn his respect is by making him taste your power, what if Warrington can’t keep him at bay?. Carl Frampton, Scott Quigg, Rendall Munroe and Leo Santa Cruz have beaten him but all four will attest to the fact that he isn’t an opponent you take lightly. I think in the twilight of his career, seems crazy saying that at 31, he won’t have enough for Warrington, who will box to a gameplan and tire his man out to a comfortable points victory. What next? Warrington has continuously called out Lee Selby, it seemed at one point Matchroom was building that fight, and that may very well be his target but I don’t think Selby sees the point unless forced into a mandatory. I like Warrington, he is very down to earth and has a fan friendly style, but I do wonder if his lack of serious power will hinder him at elite level. In a division filled with the aforementioned Frampton, Santa Cruz, Quigg, Selby as well as the WBC Champion, Gary Russell Jnr and WBO champ, Oscar Valdez I just don’t know if I see Warrington in that mix.


On the same bill we turn our attention to the continuing rise of women’s boxing and the fantastic Nicola Adams. Adams, in the same way I mentioned Katie Taylor last week, is a real ambassador and role model for the sport and aspiring female boxers. This is the second pro outing for the two time Olympic gold medalist and already she is breaking down barriers by competing in three minute rounds instead of the usual two minutes that are used in women’s boxing. This will be the first time she has competed in her home city for twenty years when she takes on Mexico’s Maryan Salazar. I talked about Katie Taylor getting a world title shot and I don’t think Frank Warren and his team should wait too long in making the same strides with Nicola Adams. The skills are already there and I think after 2-3 more fights, settling into the professional ranks, she should be more than ready. At 34 she won’t be around forever and in these cases I don’t think tune ups and stay busy fights are of any use to anyone.


Jazza Dickens defends his British Super Bantam Title against undefeated Thomas Patrick Ward whilst Josh Leather and Phillip Sutcliffe Jnr will contest the IBF Inter-Continental Super Lightweight belt in other notable contests on the bill. All told another good weekend on these shores.


Taking a look at the news of the week and the license hearing of former Heavyweight boss, Tyson Fury continues. A decision is expected before the week is out and hopefully, in my opinion, Fury will be cleared to compete. Like him or loathe him, Fury was the recognised #1 big man on the planet before his drug suspension and it leaves more questions unanswered than not if he isn’t in the mix. Do I think he can beat Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua or even the version of Wladimir Klitschko that pushed AJ to the limit? The fact is I just don’t know. I hold up my hands, I thought Klitschko would wipe the floor with him first time around and I was proved extremely wrong in that assessment so until the day comes, if it ever does, when someone can best the "Gypsy King" I wholeheartedly believe no Heavyweight discussion can take place without the mention of his name. The division has a lot to offer and I think Fury’s involvement in that is beneficial rather than harmful. Let’s get him out on July 8th and take it from there.


George Groves will meet Fedor Chudinov for the WBO Super Middleweight Championship on May 27th on the undercard of Kell Brook-Errol Spence Jnr. Is it fourth time lucky for Groves? The skills and the raw power are there, as they always have been, but is Groves’ mind on task? Because for me that would be the only way he stops himself from realising a dream. I’m not saying Chudinov doesn’t have skills, he does, but Groves on his best night is better and he should prove that against the Russian. I just hope the unfortunate and tragic injury suffered by Eduard Gutknecht in Groves’ last fight doesn’t weigh too heavily on his mind. It has happened to fighters in the past, I can only imagine how that must feel, but Groves must absolve himself of any blame, as Gutknecht’s family have, so that he can turn in a performance worthy of a world champion in just over two weeks. A Super Middleweight division that could potentially boast three British World Champions, DeGale, Groves and Callum Smith (whenever he finally gets his shot) is exactly what we need right now and will lead to yet more monumental nights and stadium fights. DeGale-Groves II anyone? I imagine Eddie Hearn has that penciled in his diary for November/December.


Frank Warren announced that Liam Smith and Liam Williams will collide for a second time, probably in September, in another WBO 154lbs title eliminator. The first fight, last month, ended in controversy after Williams was stopped on a cut, despite being ahead on the scorecards. There was a lot of public and internal clamour for the re-match and the deal is now done. It is likely, given Canelo’s rise to Middleweight, that the eventual winner of this bout ends up being crowned the full WBO Champion. It’s a fight that delivered first time around and I look forward to the second rendition, Warren should look at September 16th and make it a special day for boxing fans.


Warren has also confirmed that Joseph Parker must meet Hughie Fury next, despite the rumours that Parker would defend his WBO heavyweight crown against Tony Bellew or Dillian Whyte later in the year. Fury is mandatory, despite dropping out of last week’s fight with an injury, and Parker must fulfill that obligation or face being stripped. For anyone who witnessed Parker’s fight on Saturday, first of all I am sorry you will never get that hour back, his limitations were pretty obvious to see. It was a late replacement so I’m not going to throw him under a bus but he is certainly helping paint the bull’s eye on his back as the weakest world champion. Can Fury beat him? Well I touched upon last week that Fury’s calibre is still unknown but after watching Parker on Saturday I think it’s a fight Hughie could potentially take. Warren should do his very best to bring that one to the UK, surely BT and Rainham Steel can dip into their enormous pockets?


Keeping to the Heavyweights for a moment and I hear the IBF will rule this week as to whether they will enforce Kubrat Pulev’s mandatory positon to face Anthony Joshua. We know there is no such thing in boxing as consistency and fairness so don’t be surprised if they rule in Joshua’s favour, despite stripping Tyson Fury when he was faced with the same dilemma. This isn’t a slight on Joshua by the way, I’m a fan, but just of governing bodies in general and their bogus rulings. Meanwhile, Luis Ortiz has threatened legal action if he doesn’t receive his mandatory WBA shot against Joshua next. Expect this one to get very ugly and messy before the next time you see AJ in the ring.


I’ll leave this week’s column on a rumour I heard. Chris Eubank Jnr, ’member him? Well apparently his ITV Box Office calamity against Renold Quinlan, no me either, was such a success that ITV are considering sanctioning another foray into the market for Eubank’s first "world" ,and I use that word so loosely it fell apart before I finished it, title defense. The opponent? Anthony Mundine. That’s 41 year old Mundine who has lost 3 of his last four. I guess when Jnr lost his pen for the Golovkin contract it ended up on the other side of the planet and he’s just slowly making his way back around to this side, knocking off tainted opposition whilst proclaiming his world class credentials. It all makes sense now and I’m sorry I doubted him.


Next week we’ll preview Liam Walsh and Gervonta Davis, that is a fight to get excited about, and all the British news that comes our way between now and then. Have a good one guys, enjoy the weekend’s action, and I’ll catch you on the flip.

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