BT Sport/Boxnation Leicester Arena Show – A Return To Form For Frank
Saturday night saw BT Sport and Boxnation provide a great night of boxing at the Leicester Arena with World Championship and domestic level contests taking place. I was ringside for The World Boxing Wall providing round by round updates on the undercard. Here’s what we learned from the show in its entirety:
Leicester Arena Is A Great Arena For Boxing
The Leicester Arena is a great addition to the boxing venue circuit. It didn’t ever feel small hall and the majority of people that attended were in their seats early on in the evening, making for a good, populated feel to the event. The atmosphere felt lively throughout, and it would be great to see another event on in the city sooner rather than later. The Arena is flexible with events, as only the Leicester Riders Basketball team operates from there, so there could be further opportunities for shows to take place here. With a 2,400 capacity, its perfect for boxing.
Zolani Tete Is A Smaller Weight Star
Before the main BT Sports portion of the show, Boxnation broadcast the Interim WBO Bantamweight Title clash between Zolani Tete and Arthur Villanueva. I would have liked to have seen this further up the card, but the fight was originally an eliminator, and was hastily changed to the interim version, after champion Marlon Tapales lost a battle with the scales prior to his defence against Shohei Omori. Tete dazzled Villanueva, and it felt every time he threw his left against the Filipino, he couldn’t miss. Sure enough the left knocked Villanueva down in the eleventh, and secured a landslide points victory for the South African. Watching Tete from ringside was a joy. His footwork, movement and shot selection were brilliant to watch, and he went about his business ruthlessly. The only problem, if you like, for Frank Warren, is how to best market Tete in this country, as only hardcore fans seem to really appreciate him and he obviously isn’t a British native. He is however a fast rising star at the lower weights, and it would be good to see Frank Warren try and entice a big name over to Britain to fight Tete. Current champions at Bantamweight are the Ricky Hatton trained WBA Champion, Zhanat Zhakiyanov, WBC Champion, Shinsuke Yamanaka, and the IBF Champion is currently Bristol’s Lee Haskins. In my opinion, the Zhakiyanov and Haskins fights could easily be negotiated, and hopefully they could be unification fights, if Tete is upgraded to the full WBO Champion.
Smyle v Williams II Has To Happen!
Fight of the night on the card, was without doubt, Jahmaine Smyle v Darryll Williams. Leicester’s own Smyle, was edged out via split decision, thus losing his English Super Middleweight Title to Williams in what was an absolute barnburner. Both swung for the fences, and left little regard for defence throughout. The crowd loved it, and it was toe to toe action all the way. I edged it for Williams, but the fight was so good and subjective, that a rematch has to be a natural thing to happen, and no doubt Frank Warren will be getting Clifton Mitchel and Mickey Helliet together soon (Smyle and Williams’ handlers) to make this a reality.
Saunders v Khurtsidze Is In Play For July – Langford Will Learn From Defeat
It wasn’t to be for Birmingham’s Tommy Langford on Saturday night. He boldly challenged Ring Magazine rated Georgian Avtandil Khurtsidze for the Interim WBO Middleweight Title, and came up short. He should be commended for taking the leap though, and will learn a lot in defeat for the first time as a professional. Tommy was in the fight until the end of the fourth, when a bad cut above his eye seemed to ruffle him. It only took less than twenty seconds into the fifth round for the crude and wild Khurtsidze to detonate a left hand to end matters. Langford was badly shaken, and luckily, referee Phil Edwards stopped Tommy on his feet, and spared further punishment. This now paves the way for the full WBO Champion, Hatfield’s Billy Joe Saunders to defend against Khurtsidze. Frank Warren seemed to confirm that a July 8th date was when the fight will take place. Saunders was quick to dismiss the Georgian’s win and believes he will win easily. This spilled over to the post fight press conferences, where the two nearly came to blows. I believe Saunders will be too quick for Khurtsidze and will frustrate the Georgian, who was very wild with his punches against Langford. Hopefully this will then be the final fight for Saunders before making a serious assault on unifying the division, or at least a career defining fight, which was previously mooted for June this year, but fell through against Gennady Golovkin. It feels like Saunders has stalled since beating Chris Eubank Junior and Andy Lee in 2014 and 2015, although he has been injured, and fights have been postponed and cancelled, limiting him to making only one defence of his title since December 2015, against Artur Akavov in December 2016 (unanimous points win). For Langford, this will be a learning curve, and I expect him to bounce back quickly and still has options as the British Middleweight Champion to rebuild again.
Tyrone Nurse Is An Enigma
Tyrone Nurse defended his British Super Lightweight Title, high up the bill against Joe Hughes, in a fight he was expected to comfortably win. I feel he was slightly unfortunate to not be declared a winner following a majority draw decision being returned. This was still disappointing for Nurse, giving his warm favouritism pre fight. The three judges scored a draw, a Nurse win, and a Hughes win respectively. Although Nurse didn’t lose his title, his career is in desperate need of lift off. In his last five outings, all for the British Title, he has won three (Chris Jenkins, Tommy Coyle and Willie Limond) and drawn two (Jenkins & Hughes). What hinders the Huddersfield man further is his style of fighting. He implements an awkward, orthodox style, that at times is not fan friendly, and he has struggled to elevate himself to main event status as a result. He has also seen fighters like Josh Taylor, Jack Catterall and O’Hara Davies overtake him in column inches and opportunity despite having half the fights Nurse has had in his paid career. Maybe a shot at the European Title would be something to aim for next. Anthony Yigit is the current holder, and the Swede is no stranger to these shores, having defeated Lenny Daws in Carshalton to win the Title in February 2017, so this could be a realistic match to make, but this may change now that Yigit is the champion. Time is still on Nurse’s side. He is only 27 despite a 38 fight paid career, but I would like to see him make moves sooner rather than later, and it could well be the case that the better the opposition, the better Tyrone Nurse we will see.
The Future Is Bright For Frank Warren’s Prospects
The card also saw many Frank Warren prospects take part. Obviously the most talked about were 19 year old Heavyweight hope, Daniel Dubois, and Light Heavyweight wrecking ball, Anthony Yarde. Dubois moved to 2-0 with a second round stoppage victory over Blaise Mendouo, while Yarde seamlessly moved to 10-0 (KO9) with a first round body shot knockout of the overmatched Darren Snow. Yarde now moves onto his first title shot, for the Southern Area title against Chris Hobbs on the Gervonta Davis v Liam Walsh bill in London next month, and it will be interesting to see over the next year or so how far he progresses, as he possesses good attributes to get excited about for the future. The show stealer for the prospects on the night was arguably Leicester’s Leon Woodstock. He captured the Midlands Area Super Featherweight Title in style, stopping Birmingham’s Paul Holt impressively in three. The English title is currently vacant, so this is definitely something that could be arranged in the short term for Woodstock to fight for, hopefully on a bill in his hometown. Highly touted Welsh Super Middleweight (where have we heard that one before, Joe Calzaghe?!) Alex Hughes also stretched his record to 10-0 (KO4) with a first round victory over Daniel Urbanski. Raza Hamza, Sam Maxwell, Chris Blaney, Ekow Essuman all secured wins to remain unbeaten. Where Eddie Hearn prefers to mainly wheel and deal to obtain talent for his stable, Warren certainly puts lots of trust in youth, and it’s good to see. The prospects are mostly given good hard rounds and this can only be good for the future.
All in all it was an enjoyable card to watch, and was well organised and presented. Frank Warren and BT Sport will be pleased on a job well done, and it will now be onto the next one at the First Direct Arena, Leeds, for Josh Warrington’s fight against Kiko Martinez.
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