By Paul Mason (@KOBoxingSets)
The next two weekends sees wall to wall boxing from both sides of the Atlantic for us boxing fans to enjoy. Next Saturday (4thMarch) will see David Haye v Tony Bellew in London, followed in the early hours (UK time) by the fascinating welterweight showdown between Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia. But before all that, this weekend sees two shows both televised here by Sky Sports. The UK leg will come from the Ice Arena in Hull, where Gavin McDonnell will attempt to equal his brother Jamie’s achievements, as he attempts to capture the vacant WBC Super Bantamweight title, against the unbeaten, yet unknown quantity, Rey Vargas.
Then, in the early hours of Sunday morning in the UK, Alabama native Deontay Wilder will make the fifth defence of his WBC Heavyweight crown against late replacement Gerald Washington.
Here is the preview for the two cards.
It is only really in his last five fights that Doncaster’s Gavin McDonnell (16-0-2 KO4) has really flourished into a legitimate title contender with some impressive wins. McDonnell turned professional in 2010, and was held to a draw in only his fifth outing by the then 1-1-1 Ashley Lane in Doncaster. He won the Central Area title two fights later, and, after impressive wins against proven British title level campaigners in Ross Burkinshaw and Josh Wale, he was matched with Leigh Wood for the British Super Bantamweight Title. A sixth round TKO was enough for the win, but in his following fight, he was held to a split draw in a rematch with Wale in Leeds. This was to be the last blemish on McDonnell’s record, as he has since been on a five fight unbeaten run, all by unanimous decision over decent opposition, and has started to step out of the shadow of his WBA Bantamweight Champion brother, Jamie. Vusi Malinga was beaten, before McDonnell lifted the European title in an entertaining fight with Oleksandr Yegorov. He then defended unanimously against former Carl Frampton victim, Jeremy Parodi, before cementing his high WBC ranking by defeating Jorge Sanchez for the WBC Silver Super Bantamweight Title. In his last fight, he took on a marking time bout against the 6-2 Robin Zamora, and comfortably triumphed on points.
Rey Vargas (28-0 KO22) is one of those typical unbeaten foreign fighters in the sense that not much is known about him. This usually means that he will either be a wrecking ball that has been kept under wraps, or a protected fighter that will be defeated easily in his first real test. Although he does have good amateur experience, Vargas has built his record with wins over relatively non-descript opposition, with 26 of his 28 bouts being contested in his native Mexico. He has won two fringe WBC titles, the WBC youth and WBC International Super Bantamweight titles, to gain his lofty ranking with the Mexican based organisation. In his last fight, he knocked out the former WBA Champion at Super Flyweight, Alexander Munoz. The McDonnell fight has been arranged following the retirement of previous champion, Hozumi Hasegawa.
As I don’t know anything about Vargas, my pick would be for McDonnell to win the title on the cards by decision, using his rangy boxing skills, and going into the trenches where necessary as he has done in his most recent fights.
The undercard in Hull sees 2012 Olympic Gold Medallist and hometown hero, Luke Campbell (15-1 KO12), take another tentative step towards a world title shot, against the limited Mexican, Jairo Lopez (21-6 KO14). In a division packed with intriguing potential match ups, Campbell currently holds the WBC Silver Lightweight Title, with the WBC World title being held by the ultra-impressive Mikey Garcia, who recently spectacularly knocked out previous champion, Dejan Zlaticanin on the Frampton v Santa Cruz II undercard. Campbell should get the knockout win around the half way mark in this one.
The other televised fight sees big Hull ticket seller, Tommy “Boom Boom” Coyle (22-4 KO10) take on late replacement Rakeem Noble (11-1 KO5) over 10 rounds at Super Lightweight. Kofi Yates was originally scheduled to fight Coyle, but had to pull out due to injury. Coyle has lost 2 of his last 3, albeit against decent opposition in Luke Campbell at Lightweight (L TKO10) and, last time out, in a cracking fight for the British title at Super Lightweight against champion Tyrone Nurse. Coyle lost by a unanimous but close decision, and gained credit in defeat. I expect Coyle to still have too much in the tank for the inexperienced Noble, and can see a points win.
The Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama will then host the WBC Heavyweight Title clash between Deontay Wilder (37-0 KO36) against late replacement Gerald Washington (18-0-1 KO12). Washington steps in for the disgraced Andrzej Wawrzyk, who failed a drug test for an anabolic steroid. This followed another opponent due to fight Wilder, Alexander Povetkin, who also failed a test in late 2015. So Washington saves the show and gains a shot at the coveted championship. Wilder has compiled his impressive record following his 2008 Olympic Bronze Medal with early career wins over several faded fringe contenders. He also holds wins over 2000 Olympic Champion Audley Harrison (TKO1), and former WBO Champion Sergey Liakhovich (KO1). His first 32 wins had all come before the fourth round. After defeating Jason Gavern (RTD 4), he secured a shot at the WBC title against Bermane Stiverne in Las Vegas. In his only fight to go the distance, Wilder prevailed unanimously on the cards to lift the title. Since then Wilder has been overly extended, and hasn’t looked as impressive as he was before the Stiverne win. He has made four defences of the crown, a harder than expected ninth round knockout of Eric Molina, and the same again in a knockout win over Johann Duhaupas (KO11). This looks less impressive following Anthony Joshua’s recent crushing win over Molina, and Alexander Povetkin’s pasting of Duhaupas (albeit after failing another drug test before being due to fight Stiverne). Artur Szpilka was beaten in nine in January 2016, and in Wilders last fight, he dismantled Chris Arreola into an eight round retirement.
Gerald Washington comes from an American Football background, and only turned pro at the age of 30 in 2012 following being part of both the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks practice squads, and also serving in the US Navy. He won 16 straight bouts, before looking fortunate to gain a draw against Amir Mansour, when he looked to badly tire and fade from the fourth round onwards. In his previous two contests, he gained wins over former Heavyweight Title Challengers Eddie Chambers (UD8) and Ray Austin (KO4) to gain his unexpected shot at the belt.
The pick is for a Wilder knockout before the sixth, I don’t see Washington posing him any problems at all in what should be a routine defence for the man from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
On the undercard is an unexpected second World Title fight, as following Jermell Charlo’s decision to move up to Middleweight, his old IBF Super Welterweight Title will be on the line as Jarret Hurd (19-0 KO13) takes on Tony Harrison (24-1 KO20). Dominic Breazeale (17-1 KO15) also makes a comeback following his spirited loss to Anthony Joshua for the IBF belt last Summer. He goes straight back in against the highly touted Izuagbe Ugonoh (17-0 KO14), who has fought mainly in his native Poland and New Zealand.
All in all it will be a long, but enjoyable night for fight fans, and long may it continue!