By Paul Mason (@KOBoxingSets)
This Saturday sees Frank Warren’s BT Sport show go ahead without its original main event. Originally this was slated to be Billy Joe Saunders defending his WBO Middleweight Title against New York based Georgian, and loose cannon, Avtandil Khurtsidze. Khurtsidze had brutally stopped Tommy Langford in Leicester in April for the interim WBO Title to earn the crack at the full belt.
This was spectacularly scuppered though when Khurtsidze was arrested in New York for links to organised crime, along with 33 other alleged members of an organised crime syndicate. A statement issued by the acting Manhattan US Attorney, Joon H Kim, read: “The dizzying array of criminal schemes committed by this organised crime syndicate allegedly include a murder-for-hire conspiracy, a plot to rob victims by seducing and drugging them with chloroform, the theft of cargo shipments containing over 10,000 pounds of chocolate, and a fraud on casino slot machines using electronic hacking devices.” So it’s safe to say we won’t be seeing Saunders v Khurtsidze any time soon!
The show must go on as they say, and here I preview the bill, which takes place at the Copperbox Arena in Stratford.
Bradley Skeete (Champion) (26-1,KO12) v Dale Evans (13-3-2, KO4) For The British Welterweight Title
Penge’s Bradley Skeete attempts to win the Lord Lonsdale belt outright on Saturday, as he looks move on to World level competition and honors. He meets St Clears, Wales’ Dale Evans, who has previously unsuccessfully challenged for the British and Commonwealth Titles back in October 2015.
Skeete turned professional in 2010, and picked up the Southern Area and English Welterweight Titles within his first fifteen fights, defeating respected operators such as Peter McDonagh (PTS) and Colin Lynes (PTS) along the way. After eighteen straight wins, Skeete made the step up to meet Birmingham’s Frankie Gavin for the British and Commonwealth crowns at the ExCel Arena, London in November 2011. After twelve turgid rounds, Gavin prevailed unanimously on the cards in what was a difficult fight to score. Skeete has been largely impressive since that difficult night, and has rebounded with eight straight wins. He picked up the WBO European Title in his next fight, a first round knockout of Anzor Gamgabeli at the 02 Arena. After three successful defences, Skeete then went into enemy territory both of his opponent and promotor, as he travelled to Birmingham to take on Sam Eggington in another challenge for both British and Commonwealth Titles on a Matchroom promoted show. Skeete produced a career best performance to outbox and outwork Eggington, prevailing unanimously on the scorecards. He has since regained the WBO European Title, beating Alexandre Lepelley (TKO7) and then unanimously outpointing John Thain in November 2016. His last fight was just over a month ago, when he looked impressive in halting Shayne Singleton in five rounds in Brentwood. So the stage is firmly set for Skeete to claim the British Title outright and move on to World Championship class.
Dale Evans has endured a patchy professional career thus far. He drew with Leon Findlay in only his second fight, and then four wins later, entered Prizefighter in Wolverhampton in December 2012. After defeating the aforementioned Sam Eggington on points in the quarter finals, he then did the same against Mark Thompson. He fell short in the final however, losing to Glenn Foot on a split decision. After a good points win over Eric Ochieng, Evans had to settle for a technical draw against Mark Douglas in Cardiff following a clash of heads. Two fights later, Evans suffered a second career defeat, when he was stopped in five against Larry Ekundayo. He immediately rebounded from this by outpointing Adil Anwar in Sheffield. This set up a crack at the British and Commonwealth Titles, in a rematch, this time over the twelve round distance, against Sam Eggington. Although Evans had Eggington down in the second round, Sam wasn’t hurt, and controlled the remainder of the fight to win widely on the cards. After a tune up win in Cardiff, Evans fought an eliminator for the British, travelling to Glasgow to take on Mike Towell. The fight was to prove tragic. Towell was knocked down in the first and fifth rounds, before the fight was stopped by referee Victor Loughlin. Towell was removed from the ring on a stretcher, and in dire straits. He died in hospital the very next day due to severe bleeding and swelling on his brain. Evans has since has to question his participation in the sport, but fights on for the memory of Towell and his family. He has since fought once since that fateful night in September last year, when he defeated Kevin McCauley on points in May in Swansea.
I can’t see anything other than a Skeete win in this one, and I can see him negotiating his way to a wide points win, as he will discourage Evans throughout the fight with awkward angles and superior work rate.
A decent looking undercard sees Anthony Yarde (11-0) go for a ranking building WBO European Title at Light Heavyweight. He challenges the Champion, Hungary’s Richard Baranyi (18-1). I can’t see the fight seeing the middle of the contest, let alone the end, and Yarde should come through early against the limited Baranyi.
A cracking trade fight at Welterweight sees Gary Corcoran (16-1), coming off a first career defeat at the hands of bitter rival Liam Williams last year, taking on the slow to progress, former Prizefighter champion Larry Ekundayo (12-0) for the WBO Intercontinental strap. My pick is for Ekundayo to outpoint the Wembley man in a good competitive scrap.
A rematch was almost a certainty after the barnburner they served up at the Leicester Arena in April, so Darryll Williams (15-0) and Jahmaine Smyle (14-5-2) do it again for the English Super Middleweight Title. Williams squeaked a split decision in the first bout, in what was an all-out war. Williams has since hooked up with Ricky Hatton as his trainer, and should be able to repeat the trick more decisively this time.
Hughie Fury (20-0) tunes up for his crack at the WBO Heavyweight Title in September against Joseph Parker, by shaking off the ring rust against an opponent to be confirmed.
Daniel Dubois (3-0) again features. The Heavyweight hope goes for the WBC Youth Title against Julian Fernandez (5-0) of Mexico.
Local lad and West Ham fan Sam McNess (7-0) challenges for the Southern Area Title at Super Welterweight, taking on Asinia Byfield (12-1)
Leicester’s Leon Woodstock (9-0), who impressed on the Leicester Arena show in April, gets a runout , as do prospects Archie Sharp (8-0), Ryan Garner (5-0) and Sanjeev Sahota (7-0).
An action packed night is expected.
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