By Paul Mason (@KOBoxingSets)
This weekend sees another clash for airtime, as rival promoters Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren again put their shows head to head. Hearn promotes a show at the Birmingham Barclaycard Arena, while Frank Warren showcases his fighters at the First Direct Arena in Leeds.
Here I preview both cards:
Matchroom Show – Birmingham Barclaycard Arena, Main Event – Kal Yafai (21-0 KO14) v Suguru Muranaka (25-2-1 KO8) For The WBA Super Flyweight Title
Eddie Hearn promotes a card in Birmingham on Sky Sports, which is headlined by local lad Kal Yafai defending his WBA Super Flyweight Title for the first time since dazzlingly outpointing Luis Conception on the Gennady Golovkin v Kell Brook bill last September. He makes the first defence of the belt against an unknown quantity in Japan’s Suguru Muranaka.
Yafai was a standout amateur, representing Great Britain at the 2008 Olympics, and winning Silver in the 2010 European Amateur Boxing Championships. He decided to turn professional after losing in a box-off to Fred Evans. In what was meant to be a best of three series, Yafai pulled out when one bout down, thus handing the Olympic slot to the Welshman.
Kal turned over in July 2012, with a retirement victory over the 150 fight veteran Delroy Spencer. He then won nine straight fights over a 15 month period against a range of journeymen type fighters. He challenged for his first professional title in May 2014 when he stopped Yaqub Kareem in three to lift the Commonwealth Super Flyweight Crown in Leeds. World ranking building was next on the agenda, as Yafai picked up the IBF Intercontinental Title by knocking out Harald Molina in two at Wembley Arena. He easily defended this one fight later by widely outpointing Everth Briceno in Dublin, going twelve rounds for the first time in the process. Three routine wins followed, before Yafai took on Jason Cunningham for the vacant British Title in his home town at the Barclaycard Arena. Kal won every round on the cards for a unanimous success. He then picked up a ranking with the WBA, knocking out Dixon Flores within a round to pick up the Intercontinental belt. While Yafai marked time before his shot at the full title, he duly stopped Jozsef Ajtai in the first, and knocked out Johnson Tellez in the third with a body shot. This lead to a challenge in his most recent fight for the WBA Super Flyweight Title at the o2 Arena in London, although the belt was to only be on the line for Yafai, due to his opponent, former Champion, Luis Conception, failing to make weight for the fight. Yafai was flawless, winning widely on the cards, to become Birmingham’s first World Champion.
Saturday night sees Yafai make the first defence against a man unknown to most, unless you are a hardcore Japanese fight fan! Suguru Muranaka seems Taylor made for a first World Title defence. He has never ventured outside of his native Japan. Moreover, he has never ventured outside of the Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, which is where all 28 of his paid bouts have taken place. Muranaka turned over in November 2004, and suffered defeat in just his fourth fight less than a year later, losing by split four round decision to Shigeo Saito. After four wins, he lost again, this time by majority decision over six, to Tomoya Kaneshiro. Again another four wins followed before the next blemish on his record, this time a technical draw due to a clash of heads with Katsumi Makiyama. Since then (July 2008) he has gone 14 unbeaten (KO4), but has only picked up the Japanese Flyweight Title in this time. He beat Takuya Kogawa by split decision in December 2013, and defended twice before dropping it on the scales prior to him beating Tetsuma Hiyashi in April 2015. Murunaka’s most recent fight was in December 2016, where he squeaked past Hiroyuki Hisataka over eight rounds by majority decision.
So it’s fair to say that this should be a routine defence for Yafai. I expect him to win via a landslide points decision, considering the Japanese fighter has never been stopped. However, this is a whole new level for Murunaka, and it will be interesting to see how he handles the twelve round pace, considering he has only been ten rounds on two occasions and never past this distance.
The undercard is decent. Sam Eggington (20-3 KO12) looks to build on some recent impressive displays, when he challenges Sefarino Rodriguez (24-1 KO12) for the European Welterweight Title.
Frankie Gavin (23-3 KO14) again begins the climb for titles, following his stoppage loss to Eggington in a wild shootout last year. He was due to meet Derby’s Dave Ryan in a must win match in a ten rounder, near to the Super Lightweight (140lbs) limit. But the former Commonwealth light-welter king has reportedly retired after two stoppage losses on the spin. It is now been confirmed today that Gavin will face France’s Renald Garrido (18-14-1) over 10 rounds, close to the 10st 7lbs Welterweight division. The 33-year-old caused an upset when he last performed in this country, beating Bradley Saunders on disqualification just over a year-and a-half ago. Gavin knows losing will spell the end of a once promising career following Amateur World Championship Gold. Nothing less than a win, and looking good doing so, will do for the man from Birmingham.
“Showtime” Sean Davis (12-0 KO0) squares off against Kal Yafai’s younger brother Gamal (11-0 KO4) for the WBC International Super Bantamweight Title over ten.
BT Sport/Boxnation Show – Leeds First Direct Arena – Main Event – Josh Warrington (24-0 KO5) v Kiko Martinez (36-7-1 KO26)
Meanwhile, in Leeds, big ticket seller and local lad, Josh Warrington makes his debut under his new promoter, Frank Warren on BT Sport (Boxnation will televise part of the undercard) when he continues his quest for a World Title shot against perennial gatekeeper, and former IBF Super Bantamweight Champion, Kiko Martinez. The fight takes place at Featherweight over twelve rounds.
Warrington turned professional in October 2009, and after 12 straight points wins, he clinched the vacant English Featherweight Title, by outpointing Chris Male over ten. He defended twice against Jamie Speight and Ian Bailey (both unanimous points) before scoring his breakthrough win on his Sky Sports debut, a final round stoppage win over Lee Selby conqueror Samir Mouneimne in Hull for the Commonwealth Title. He followed this up with a win over former World Title challenger, Rendall Munroe, with Munroe’s corner retiring him after seven due to mouth damage. He then picked up the British title, outpointing Northern Irishman, Martin Lindsay. Davide Dieli was then despatched in four as Warrington picked up the European Title in Leeds. He then had an outing in Germany, winning via fifth round stoppage against Edwin Tellez. In his last four fights, Warrington has ventured into World Class. He first unanimously outpointed Denis Tubieron to pick up the WBC International Title. He then did the same to both Joel Brunker and Hisashi Amagasa, all by wide unanimous decision. In his last fight, he stopped Patrick Hyland in nine rounds to solidify his World ranking.
Warrington has been courting a fight with IBF Featherweight Champion Lee Selby for some time, but instead he gets crude and tough Spaniard Kiko Martinez in the opposite corner this Saturday.
Martinez turned pro in 2004, and racked up 16 straight wins in his native Spain, before making his name known to UK and Ireland fans by spectacularly knocking out unbeaten home favourite Bernard Dunne in Dublin inside a round in 2007. He ripped away Dunne’s European Super Bantamweight Title in the process. He couldn’t back this up however, as a peak Rendall Munroe triumphed by majority decision in Nottingham seven months after the Dunne win to hand the Spaniard his first loss. He rebounded with three straight wins, and then met Munroe for a second time, this time losing unanimously in Barnsley almost a year to the day after the first meeting. This somehow, however, paved the way for Martinez to fight in an eliminator for the IBF Super Bantamweight Title in his very next fight. Martinez was again outpointed unanimously, this time in South Africa, against Takalani Ndlovu.
Martinez rebuilt, and regained the European title three fights later, outpointing Arsen Matirosyan in Dublin. He defended this in Spain, Knocking out Nottingham’s Jason Booth in ten, and then stopping Matirosyan in a rematch in France in the last round. This set him on a collision course with Belfast man, Carl Frampton. Frampton stopped Kiko in nine, relieving him of his European title. In a way, defeat again shaped Martinez’ career, as after a comeback win, he was thrown in as the opponent, challenging Jhonatan Romero in Atlantic City for the IBF World Title. Martinez stopped Romero in six to lift the title and become World Champion in his 33rd fight. He defended back in Spain, knocking Jeffrey Mathebuela out in nine, before travelling to Japan to stop home favourite, Hozumi Hasegawa in seven. That’s as good as it got for Martinez, as Frampton this time removed his World Title from him in the Titanic Quarter in Belfast with a unanimous points win.
Since then Kiko’s form has been patchy. Two fights after the Frampton loss, he was wrecked inside two rounds by Scott Quigg in a challenge for the WBA Crown. Three routine wins in Spain against non descipt opposition gave him a shot at the WBA Featherweight Title against Leo Santa Cruz. Martinez was stopped in five. If recent form is to go by, in Martinez’ case, its alarming. The 28-17-2 Eusebio Osejo held him to an eight round split draw in July last year, and in November 2016, Leonel Hernandez was outpointed over the same distance.
I feel that Martinez is coming to Leeds for a final payday, and can see Warrington winning via late corner stoppage, or by a wide points margin. Kiko is not the same fighter from yesteryear, and looks shot.
On the undercard, James ”Jazza” Dickens (22-2 KO7) comes back from a horrible jaw injury loss to the gifted Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux, in a challenge for the WBA Super Bantamweight Title, by meeting Thomas Patrick Ward (20-0 KO2) for the British Super Bantamweight Title that he still holds. Josh Leather (11-0 KO5) meets Philip Sutcliffe Jnr (13-1 KO8) for the IBF Intercontinental Super Lightweight Title.
Nicola Adams (1-0) receives a homecoming fight for her second paid contest, against an opponent not yet announced, and flyweight prospect Joseph Maphosa makes his debut.
Boxing fans are again spoiled for choice across the two channels.