Danny Flexen previews Josh Kelly vs Ray Robinson, Chris Algieri vs Tommy Coyle and Callum Smith vs Hassan N’dam
It has often been observed over the last two decades that while the English Premier League has been flooded with expensive imports, far fewer British players have elected to ply their trade abroad. The inflated wages on offer in the top tier of English football are a significant factor of course; athletes, like most businesses, tend to go where the money is.
In the last year, boxing has become like football in reverse. While the launch of Matchroom USA and its links with both Sky Sports and DAZN has seen a handful of American prospects cross the Atlantic (Ray Ford, Anthony Sims Jr etc), Brits making their US bows has been a more frequent occurrence. Because, right now and for the forseeable future, the Land of the Free is where boxers go to accrue their riches. Even Anthony Joshua - one of the sport’s top 3 stars globally - is making his US debut on June 1, against plucky substitute opponent Andy Ruiz Jr, and the unified heavyweight champion is taking a glut of fellow Brits along for the flight.
Here I assess the chances of Super WBA super-middleweight champ Callum Smith, determined super-lightweight Tommy Coyle and uber-talented welter Josh Kelly of making a fruitful impression in the Big Apple.
Callum Smith vs Hassan N’Dam
The Cameroon-born Frenchman is tough, awkward and has usually proved competitive at world level. That’s the good news. On the flip side, N’Dam is now 35, gets this chance due to a contentious win over Martin Murray and is a longtime middleweight (Murray was at 168 but a former middle himself) going up against a huge, clinical super-middle probaby at his fighting peak. Smith, 25-0 (18), may take a few rounds to work his opponent out and shed rust added by an eight-month hiatus since knocking out George Groves to win the World Boxing Super Series. But he can become the first man to score a genuine stoppage or KO over a brave N’Dam, 37-3 (21).
**Joshua Buatsi gets Marco Antonio Periban on this show**
Chris Algieri vs Tommy Coyle
This contest has been misrepresented in some quarters as two equivalent, hearty veterans hoping for one last big fight, but in reality Algieri has fought - and sometimes won - at a much higher level. The former WBO super-lightweight champion is, however, some way removed from the skilful battler of his brief 2014 reign. Coyle on the other hand has improved significantly since Luke Campbell dominated him the following year, albeit predominantly at domestic level. The Hull hero has added a degree of nuance and variety under trainer Jamie Moore. Algieri, 23-3 (8), only returned from two years out in November, while Coyle, six years the younger man, is on a three-fight win streak in decent company. Coyle is 25-4 (12) and will push the pace but my tentative pick is for Algieri to edge a decision in his home state.
Josh Kelly vs Ray Robinson
The most intriguing fight on the card pits 9-0 (6) Kelly, a former amateur star with a flashy, reflex-based style, against more experienced (as a pro) Ray Robinson, 24-3-1 (12) and from Philadelphia. Robinson is without a win in his last two but that stat is deceptive; he was stopped by Yordenis Ugas who went on to push Shawn Porter exceptionally close, then drew with highly touted Egidijus Kavaliauskas, in March. Robinson has a clutch of wins over goid veterans and fringe contenders, and is a tall southpaw who boasts guts and ability. Kelly, meanwhile, looks world class when unloading fast bursts with dazzling footwork but can become frustrated (and frustrating) if his opponents stand up to his early power. That was certainly the case against tough Krzstof Runowski in April and veteran ex-champ Carlos Molina last year. At his best however, Adam Boith-trained Kelly looks a truly special talent and should win, but may have to go the full 10 rounds.