GUEST ARTICLE: Matchroom Birmingham Show – What We Learned

By Paul Mason (@KOBoxingSets)

This past Saturday saw Eddie Hearn return to the second City to deliver a night of World Championship boxing. Kal Yafai topped a busy bill defending his newly won WBA Super Flyweight Title against the unheralded Japanese challenger, Suguru Murunaka. I covered the card in full, providing Twitter updates for The World Boxing Wall. Here’s what we learned from the nights proceedings.


Kal Yafai Came Through A Tougher Than Expected Test


On looking at Suguru Muranaka’s record, you could be forgiven for thinking (like myself!) that with all 28 of his paid contests taking place at the same venue in Tokyo, and with two losses on the slate, this would be a routine homecoming first World Title defence for the likeable Birmingham man, Kal Yafai. However, the Japanese man was teak tough, and took everything Yafai threw at him. Although Kal knocked his man down In the second (albeit with Murunaka’s knee momentarily touching the canvas) and triumphed unanimously on the cards, Murunaka was competitive throughout the fight, and even caught Kal with some hard shots at times. I think this bodes well for the future for Yafai. Rather than blowing out an overmatched challenger and learning little, he has been twelve keenly contested rounds, and the experience will be valuable to him. I would expect him to make another defence, possibly in Birmingham as the main event, or as chief support on a big bill somewhere down the line. The division currently boasts some big names and prospects, such as recently dethroned pound for pound contender Roman Gonzalez, his conqueror and WBC Champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, WBO king Naoya Inoue, and Carlos Cuadras to name a few, so there are plenty of lucrative options for Kal to aim for.


Is Sam Eggington Ready For Danny Garcia In Vegas?


Sam Eggington overcame a tough test in relieving Spaniard Cefareno Rodriguez of his European Welterweight Title. In a wild at times contest, including a round of the year contender during the bout, Eggington finally chopped down Rodriguez in the tenth round. He knocked him out and out of the ring. Eggington’s long term biggest champion of him, Barry Hearn then excitedly suggested in the post-match interview that he wanted Eggington to fight Danny Garcia in Vegas as soon as possible. This fight was mooted some time ago when Garcia held a version of the World Title, but I wonder if this is still way too soon for the likeable man from Stourbridge. Let’s not forget he is only 23 years of age and has plenty of time to grow into a great fighter. Added to this, it was only just over a year ago that Bradley Skeete comfortably beat him, and I’d like to see him make a few tricky defences of his newly won title, before going in with the big boys at the weight. There is plenty of time ahead for Sam though, and he will only improve with each fight.


What Next For Frankie Gavin?


Frankie Gavin went through the motions somewhat on Saturday night, and took a 77-75 closer than expected victory over the tough and unpredictable Frenchman, Renaldo Garrido. Garrido attacked Gavin from the opening bell and made things uncomfortable for “Funtime”. When Gavin was able to box at range, he looked good, and you wonder whether Gavin lacked the motivation for this fight following the late notice change of opponent. The official line from the Gavin camp is that he will campaign “at either Welterweight or Super Lightweight”. For me it has to be one or the other. The options at Welterweight though are limited. The British and Commonwealth Titles are currently occupied by Bradley Skeete, who Gavin defeated in a dull fight in 2013. The fact that Skeete is with Frank Warren, who Gavin split with, doesn’t make that fight any more viable. The European Champion is now the aforementioned Eggington, and now that they are gym mates, and coupled with the fact that Eggington was too big and strong for Gavin in their encounter in 2016, it doesn’t make much sense going over old ground. Other than that, domestically there isn’t much out there at Welter, but at World level, it’s one of the toughest divisions to crack, housing Kell Brook, Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia and Errol Spence to name a few. As I’ve said before, in my opinion Frankie may need to take a step backwards before he goes forwards. If (and it’s a big if) he can get back down to Super Lightweight, the likes of O’Hara Davies, Josh Taylor, Robbie Davies Junior are up and comers domestically, and a win over any of these would put Gavin back into contention. Maybe even a fight with Tommy Coyle may be fan friendly enough to put Frankie back where he needs to be.


Another Impressive Yafai


Also on the bill, Kal Yafai’s brother Gamal took on fellow unbeaten Brummie “Showtime” Sean Davis, in a match postponed from late last year due to injury to Gamal. “The Beast” was impressive, flooring Davis six times during the contest with body shots, and his shot selection in general was impressive. Davis gave as good as he got at times, but ultimately Yafai came through with his superior power and timing. The sky is the limit for the new WBC International Super Bantamweight Champion. The current British Champion is Thomas Patrick Ward, but he may have an obligation to rematch James “Jazza” Dickens following their contest being cut short due to a clash of heads in Leeds on Saturday. Ward triumphed on points following the ninth round stoppage. Yafai’s handlers may go down the European route as suggested by Eddie Hearn post-fight. This is a very likely fight, as the current champion is Spain based Dominican, Abigail Medina, who defeated Jeremy Parodi unanimously back in December 2016. So we could see that fight next for Gamal


Hopefully The Barclaycard Arena Will Be A Regular Matchroom Feature


Hopefully, as both Yafai brothers are on the up and Sam Eggington is building a solid fanbase, the Barclaycard Arena will become a permanent fixture on the boxing circuit. The atmosphere was decent, and the crowd were treated to some great action. Both Frankie Gavin and Sam Eggington bought large fan bases with them, and there was good vocal support for the Yafai’s. There is also the Genting Arena (formerly the NEC) in Birmingham that has hosted shows before, but the location of the Barclaycard Arena, in the centre of the city, is ideal for fans to get to and from.


Local Talent On The Undercard


Aside from Sunderland’s Rio Olympian, Josh Kelly, who looked impressive in halting Jony Vina in four, the early undercard bouts were a local affair.


The highlight was a great back and forth tussle between Aston Villa fan, and Tewkesbury based Adam Harper, and Birmingham City fan “Ruthless” Ryan Kelly. In a tight fight that was hard to score, but full of action, it was Harper that took the Midlands Area Super Welterweight Title via a 97-95 verdict from referee and judge, Shaun Messer. A rematch would be a great watch.


Cori Gibbs moved to 11-0 with a points victory over Ahmed Ibrahim, while Jordan Clayton, Aaron Lovell and Kieron Conway all extended their unbeaten records with four round points wins. There was a setback however, for Tamworth Lightweight Charlie Williams, who was knocked down in the first round against the 1-9-1 Josh Thorne. Williams managed to get up off the deck, but could only rescue a 38-38 draw.


All in all it was a great show, and some good, well matched contests. Hopefully Midlanders won’t have to wait too long for the next one.

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