Preview: A busy month of February for UK boxing
By Gav Duthie: January is always a relatively quiet month in boxing, and the BBBoC took further steps to ban boxing in the first calendar month due to a surge in cases of the Coronavirus Omicron variant in the UK.
Make no mistake, though. This will make February twice as good as we hit 2022 with a bang on British shores. Sky Sports are going aggressive with their new look involving Boxxer promotions, and we have a title fight on a Sunday night at the back end of the month with DAZN. Here is a preview of the main fights in the cards with predictions.
5 Feb (Cardiff)
Sky Sports and Boxxer promotions are starting 2022 with a bang with two very good cards in February.
Chris Eubank Jnr 31-2 v Liam Williams 23-3-1
The first is a big grudge match between Chris Eubank Jnr and Liam Williams. It’s a great domestic dust-up that always sells well in the UK, but both fighters have ambitions beyond domestic success.
Eubank and Williams have had one failed title shot each against George Groves and Demetrius Andrade, respectively. They will both feel that a win gets them closer to another shot.
It really depends on how Liam Williams decides to fight. He can outbox Eubank Jnr, but he loves a fight, and that takes him into Eubank territory.
Eubank can still only fight one way, in this writer’s opinion, despite the influence of Roy Jones Jr. If he can close the distance, he will outwork Williams. I don’t think Williams will be able to stay disciplined for 12 rounds, so Eubank should win a close but exciting decision.
Eubank MD 12
Claressa Shields 11-0 v Ema Kozin 21-0-1
Boxxer promotions have worked wonders persuading Shields to sign for a UK promoter in the hope of matching her up with stablemate Savannah Marshall 11-0 (9) later in the year.
Shields failed adventure into MMA has made her realize her place is in boxing, and Marshall is the best fight out there.
First up, though, there is Ema Kozin, who has twice the amount of professional fights as Shields, has been a world champion herself, and is undefeated.
Make no mistake, despite 22 pro fights of Kozin to 11 of Shields; the latter is the far more experienced fighter. Kozin is a capable southpaw with good feet and a solid body puncher at close range.
Shields is just better in every department. The American doesn’t get many knockouts, but Kozin is a pressure fighter and will be walking into shots all day long. I think Shields stops her in the late rounds.
Shields TKO 9
Chris Jenkins 22-4-3 v Julius Indongo 23-4
This card gets a real pass as there are three good fights on it. This fight could easily headline a small show in the UK. Indongo is a unified champion and fought for the undisputed title in 2017. All Jenkins’s losses have come at the domestic level, but the matchmaking for him is perfect in this instance.
The 37-year-old Indongo looks completely shot. He is surely still fighting only for money. He has lost 4 out of his last five fights and looked terrible in getting stopped early against Prograis, Yeleussinov, and Mwakinyo. Jenkins, however, has still been boxing well recently, and I expect he can win this one on points.
Jenkins UD 10
12 Feb (Alexandra Palace)
Daniel Jacobs 37-3 v John Ryder 30-5
A bit of a random one but exciting nonetheless. The first fight at the Ally Pally as its dubbed in the UK since Audley Harrison v Michael Sprott and it involves an American Daniel Jacobs.
Hearn stated he owed both men an opportunity. Jacobs is a two-time middleweight champion, and Ryder is on the form of his life with six wins from his last 7, with his loss a highly disputable one against the then-unbeaten Calum Smith.
Despite some talk that both would fight at light heavyweight next (Bivol v Ryder was close), the contest will take place at the super middleweight of 168lbs. Most boxers in this weight class will just be hanging around until Canelo Alvarez relinquishes the four belts he has accumulated.
Of course, looking at the career achievements of these two, it looks like an easy win for Daniel Jacobs. Ryder keeps overachieving, though, and Jacobs looked poor in his SD win over Gabriel Rosado on his last outing, which was over a year ago.
Still, I would have to pick Jacobs by decision with a spirited performance from Ryder, but the American needs to up his punch output.
Jacobs UD 12
19 February (Manchester)
Amir Khan 34-5 v Kell Brook 39-3
It is hard to believe this fight is actually going to happen. Writing these two names together would normally only be seen on a British boxing wish list.
It seemed to promoters and analysts that this fight was well past its sell-by date, but the event sold out in 10 minutes.
Both have seemed semi-retired but will have no problem getting up for a contest versus their greatest rival. It’s fair to say on the world stage, these men are far from relevant, but the fight is still huge in the UK because we have always wanted it.
Khan was last a world champion in 2011 over ten years ago, and Brook lost his against Errol Spence Jnr in 2017.
Despite their rivalry, they only have one shared opponent in Terence Crawford. Although Crawford dispatched Brook in one less round than Khan, the Sheffield man gave a much better account of himself in terms of boxing ability.
This is a personal opinion, but I’ve always felt Brook wins this at any point in their careers. Khan has hand speed; he is one of the fastest of all time but has always struggled against good timing. Khan will have his moments, but Brook will get through with punches that Khan won’t see coming, and that could be his undoing.
Brook KO 8
Frazer Clarke debut
Just as a side note, Boxxer/Sky Sports have signed the next big thing in heavyweight British boxing. The Bronze medalist spent ten years in the GB Amateur squad and was the team’s captain for the 2020 Olympic team.
He was a slow starter in the amateurs and turns pro aged 30, but he is strong, aggressive, and definitely more suited to professional boxing. As of yet, his opponent is unnamed, but he should be someone to watch.
26 February (Glasgow)
Josh Taylor 18-0 v Jack Catterall 26-0
Incredibly despite Taylor’s vast advantage in experience, he has fought eight fewer fights than Catterall. They have one shared opponent in Ohara Davies, and whilst this serves as Catterall’s best win, it barely registers in Taylor’s top 5.
Frank Warren is good at guiding his fighters to mandatory positions with the WBO, and Jack is a very capable fighter. For most, this feels like a homecoming fight for Taylor, though.
His first fight in Scotland since picking up his first world title against Ivan Baranchyk in 2019. It’s a contest for Taylor to show off his belts and his skills. Catterall, of course, is here to spoil the party.
Both southpaws and both look to get inside when they can. They are actually quite similar fighters, but Taylor is just better at doing the same things.
There is no evidence to suggest at this point that Catterall can be stopped as he has never been down before, but Taylor should be able to break him down before he says goodbye to 140lbs and chases the lucrative welterweight fights.
Taylor TKO 10
27 February (02 London)
Lawrence Okolie 17-0 v Michal Cieslak 21-1
What is going on in the cruiserweight division? More people are speaking about the likes of Canelo and Jake Paul than the division’s actual champions.
At the back of the end of last year, Mairis Briedis promoter Kalle Sauerland said they were going to push for a fight with Lawrence Okolie in an IBF/WBO unification contest.
Since the start of the year, though, Okolie has signed to face Cieslak, and Briedis is calling out Jake Paul with a tattoo inscribed ‘Jake’s bad karma.’
Cieslak only has one loss against WBC champion Ilunga Makabu in a competitive but relatively dominant win for the Congolese fighter. It is a good stepping stone to a fight with Briedis before moving up to heavyweight.
Okolie has come on a lot recently. I really didn’t think too much of him in his fights against Isaac Chamberlain and Matty Askin in domestic fights.
He wasn’t using his size and reach and had little comprehension of distance. He was a good amateur, but if you watch him get battered around the ring by Erislandy Savon, you don’t really see a future world champion.
Since his win against Yves Ngabu and his switch to trainer Shane McGuigan, he is looking much better. I expect him to beat up Cieslak to set up the Briedis showdown for the summer.
Okolie KO 7
- Josh Taylor to defend against Jose Zepeda at 140
- Amir Khan says Conor Benn is next PPV star in UK
- Josh Taylor stripped of WBA 140-lb title
- Amir Khan retires, ends 17-year career