By Oliver McManus: Boxing returns to Belfast in a couple of weeks’ time with Carl Frampton returning to the ring for his first fight in Northern Ireland since February 2015.
With two World Title fights on the bill, it’s hard to decipher who the real headline act is but a cracking night of action is guaranteed on Saturday 18th. Promoted by Frank Warren and live on BT Sport & BoxNation, the card features Zolani Tete, Jamie Conlan, Paddy Barnes, Darryll Williams and, of course, The Jackal himself.
Jerwin Ancajas defends his IBF World Super Flyweight against, Belfast’s own, Jamie Conlan; Ancajas has been steadily building up his profile in the Asian hemisphere, having captured the title back in September last year against McJoe Arroyo – since then he’s made two defences against Jose Alfredo Rodriguez and Teiru Kinoshita, to move his record 27-1-1.
Jamie Conlan will be in his first fight for 8 months, his last runout saw him take the vacant WBC International Silver title to move him up to 4th in the IBF Rankings and 3rd with the WBO. 19 and 0 with 11 knockouts, Conlan has already won the Commonwealth Super Flyweight Title as well as an array of Continental belts but gets his first World Title shot at the age of 31.
Conlan will be facing his first southpaw since, journeyman, Elemir Rafael way back in January 2012 so he could find it tricky to deal with Ancajas’ cagey nature in the opening rounds but will look to get on the front foot quickly, establishing his open stature and giving room for his sharp, snappy, right hand.
Ancajas, known as Pretty Boy, has built a growing reputation based on a patient fighting blueprint with deceptive knockout power. With a strong, powerful, right hand jab, he’s capable of keeping his opponent at length before turning on the fast, flashy, footwork to throw a trademark left hand hook.
His movement is unquestionably better than Conlan who has often been criticised for being “flat-footed”, and Ancajas’ lucid body movement could prompt flush air-shots from The Mexican.
Nonetheless Conlan always comes ready for a scrap, a brawl, and is never afraid to just let shots fly if he feels the heat start to crank up – home advantage is nothing to be sniffed and with 11,000 Irish fans roaring him on, you could do worse than put your money on the 11/4 priced amateur legend.
Carl Frampton is next up, he’ll be facing Horacio Garcia – a fringe fighter from Mexico, with a 33-3-1 record. Scheduled for 10 rounds, this will be the 30 year old’s first bout since his majority decision loss against Leo Santa Cruz in their second encounter.
With Frampton’s previous fight cancelled after his opponent, Andreas Gutierrez, suffered facial cuts and broken teeth the night before their clash, this will be his first bout under MTK management and with promoter Frank Warren.
Although The Jackal, with a record of 23-1, narrowly missed the weight for that postponed battle, he’s decided to stay at the Featherweight division and a convincing win against the 27 year old Mexican could set him up for an instant return to World level and, indeed, a tantalising trilogy with Santa Cruz.
Horacio Garcia seems an uninspired choice of opponent given that he’s never competed at anything higher than regional level – he’s challenged twice for NABF titles but never taken home the belt. Consider that less than 4 months ago he was outboxed over 8 rounds by Diuhl Olguin (at the time 11-6-3) and it’s clear that Garcia is already on the downward slide.
Carl Frampton will be looking to go through the motions once more and shake off any ring rust that he may be suffering; having reduced his sparring workload by ½ in order to prevent lasting brain injuries, any competitive rounds under his belt will always be useful but the 2-time World Champion will want to utilise his fast, flying hands, to make a statement to the rest of the division.
Having already conquered the Featherweight and Super Bantamweight divisions, should Frampton come through this with ease and go on to avenge his sole loss, we could see him attempt to become Northern Ireland’s first ever three-weight World Champion and capture the crown of the Super Featherweight division.
Also on the card is the WBO World Bantamweight Title fight between, the champion, Zolani Tete and, challenger, Siboniso Gonya; Tete was installed as champion following Shohei Omori’s transition to Super Bantamweight, having already captured the interim title against Arthur Villanueva in April this year.
Born in South Africa but fighting in the United Kingdom, Last Born has quickly been adopted by the city of Liverpool as one of their own – in no part hindered by his explosive power and all-round cheeky nature.
Fighting from a southpaw stance, Tete has been with Frank Warren since March 2015 and has been described as a “modern day road warrior”. With a come-forward style, the two-time World Champion has a fast fighting nature and utilises two quick straight jabs before unleashing a sharp under-hand hook.
Not one to be involved in boring, slow fights, Tete has on occasion literally jumped around the ring and is as evasive as he is powerful with opponents finding it near on impossible to connect with any real power shots – from his 25-3 record, the Eastern Cape fighter has suffered just one knockout defeat, to Moruti Mthalane in the 5th round way back 7 years ago.
Since then his jaw has more than improved to the point where he is, in my opinion, the number one bantamweight in the world.
Siboniso Gonya, on the other hand, is a relative novice to the fighting world with a mere 12 professional fights consisting of 11 wins a singular loss – incurred against Thabo Siswane, a point’s decision against the overwhelming favorite.
Since that defeat 4 years ago, Gonya has fought for, and defended, the WBA Pan African Bantamweight Title on 3 occasions with the two defences coming by way of knockout. His last fight came in April against, former World Title challenger, Immanuel Naidjala and having overcame the roaring away crowd in Namibia, Gonya took a unanimous decision over The Prince to prove his pedigree.
And that’s the thing because despite the fact literally no-one will have heard of Siboniso Gonya before, he is a very good fighter who’s definitely worth of a shot at Tete’s title; the fact it’s going to domestic dustup only adds to the intrigue and Gonya is going to throw some shots in the early stages before, I suspect, eventually falling fowl to Zolani Tete’s superior power and movement.
Also on the card and getting an honourable mention is Darryll Williams (16-0) who defends his English Super-Middleweight title against Birmingham’s Lennox Clarke (15-0-1), having come through to sensational fights with Jahmaine Smyle in April & July of this year. Clarke is 18 months younger at 26 but has no real names on his record thus far – although both men share a 1st round knockout over Richard Horton – despite that though, this fight feels like a 50-50 because both men will be giving it there all. A real burner in Belfast, bring it on!
Paddy Barnes features in his 5th professional fight, he’ll be attempting to gain his first ever knockout against an as-yet unnamed opponent slated for his first defence of the WBO European Flyweight title that he won against Silvio Olteanu back in June. By his own admission, his last outing against Juan Hinostroza was not a vintage performance from the Olympic bronze medallist and The Leprechaun will be looking to shake off some rustiness before building to a potential World Title shot towards the back end of 2018.
A thrilling card that promises not to disappoint, the SSE Arena is going to be absolutely bouncing come Saturday 18th with 11,000 Irishman cheering on their hero Carl Frampton as well as revelling in two, top-class world title clashes.