Brook v Gavin-and the rest of this weekends action
By Rory Fitzgerald
There is one man responsible for the incredible rise in British boxing over the last few years. That same man is credited for so many British fighters either having a world title, or on the cusp of having one. He is also the main reason behind Sky deciding to extend their lucrative deal to cover British and world wide boxing so exclusively until 2021. That man is Eddie Hearn and his Matchroom stable is thriving at the moment.
Hearn has put on huge shows all over England, each one surpassing the previous. This Saturday’s card at the 02 in London is no different. Three world title fights, two British titles and a Commonwealth title are all on the line at the famous venue. The small matter of an Olympic gold medallist also features on this stacked super card.
Anthony Joshua is the man being hyped up by Sky and Matchroom as the next big thing on the heavyweight seen. Joshua has seen off all his opponents as of yet with the minimum of fuss. All 12 opponents have been stopped, with none of them able to see the 4th round. He faces tough challenger Kevin Johnson this Saturday and he knows he is in for the hardest night of his pro career as of yet.
The man known as “Kingpin” has faced a number of top class heavyweights in his career. He has suffered defeats to both Tyson Fury and Vitali Klitschko but neither of them could get the American out before the final bell. In fact, no man has been able to halt the 35 year old inside the distance in his entire 36 fight career. Johnson has 29 victories to his name.
This is a huge test for “AJ” and one that he seems very confident he can come through. If the Olympic gold medallist could dispose of “Kingpin” inside 6 it would send out a huge statement to the rest of the heavyweight division. It would not be the end of the world however if Johnson took Joshua into the later stages of the fight or even to a points decision. The more rounds Joshua goes with the tough experienced American could stand him in great stead in the future.
The first of the world title fights on Saturday night is Lee Selby’s pursuit of the IBF world featherweight title. In his way is the tricky Russian Evgeny Gradovich who will be making the fifth defence of the belt he beat Billy Dib for back in early 2013. Make no mistake about it, Selby is in for a hard nights work but the man who has been called “the Welsh Mayweather” in the past has all the tools to pull it off.
Selby has come back from an early loss in his career and now has the chance to shake off the label “prospect” and become a world champion. The ultra slick featherweight from Barry in Wales has looked very impressive since he beat Martin Lindsay back in 2013.
Very shy outside the ring, he lets his skills do the talking inside the ropes. Come Saturday night, Eddie Hearn and Matchroom might have one more world champion on there books.
Or maybe they could have two?
It could be third time lucky for Kevin Mitchell as he looks to finally get that world title he believes he so richly deserves. It will be Mitchell’s third attempt at a world title with defeats coming against Ricky Burns in 2012 and Michael Katsidis back in 2010. With well publicised problems outside the ring and his apparent loss of love for the sport, it seemed like we had seen the last of the Dagenham man in a ring.
Mitchell took nearly a year out of the sport before coming back with a confidence boosting points win. It still seemed it wasn’t enough to convince the boxing world that “the hammer” was back and back in love with boxing.
Since then, the 30 year old has racked up 5 straight KO victories capturing the inter-continental and the WBC silver lightweight title in the process. His last victory against Daniel Estrada was by far Mitchell’s most impressive performance in years, dominating from the opening bell before stopping his opponent in the eight.
Standing in his way is Venezuelan hotshot Jorge Linares who will be looking to make it third time unlucky for Mitchell. He is the current WBC world lightweight champion. This is an intriguing contest between two orthodox fighters who don’t mind being involved in a tear up.
Linares with 25 of his 38 victories by KO, and Mitchell with 29 of his 39 victories coming by the same outcome, we could have a fight of the year candidate on our hands here. I suggest that you keep your blinking at a minimum for this one.
The main event on the card sees Kell Brook take on former Irish Champion Frankie Gavin for Brooks IBF world welterweight title. It is the first time we see two British welterweights fight for a world title.
Gavin is a huge underdog coming into this fight but try telling him that. The 29 year old truly believes he has the style to beat Brook and believes his presence on the world stage has been long overdue. With the amateur background he has (He is England’s only ever World Amateur Champion) it is a wonder to many in the boxing community as to why it has taken this long for Gavin to make his mark on the world stage.
Saturday night will be a huge step for the southpaw who only last year was defeated on points by Leonard Bundu. The Birmingham man must have thought he would never get a chance to show what he was really capable of, as he showed as an amateur. He has is chance now, and he is convinced he is going to take it with both hands.
Brook on the other hand has shown the world what he can do. Special K had already amassed a total of 32 fights before he got his chance at a world title when he challenged Shawn Porter last year. Not many gave the Sheffield man a chance. What we saw that night was a dominant powerful Kell Brook, something we had not seen before. He won the fight via majority decision to claim the IBF title. All of a sudden names like Mayweather, Khan and Pacquiao were being mentioned. Why the fight with Amir Khan has not happened yet, only the Bolton man can tell you that.
Two weeks after the best moment of “Special k’s” career, tragedy struck. Brook was on a holiday with his family when he was stabbed three times in the leg in an unprovoked attack that left the Sheffield southpaw in a critical condition. The 29 year old admits that he thought he was going to die.
Physically he has healed and judging from his impressive comeback against Jo Jo Dan, whatever mental scars he had seem to be long behind him. Brook must feel blessed to be back in the ring and he is chomping on the bit to get back in the ring against Gavin on Saturday night.
If Kell Brook is focused on the task at hand and is not looking towards a potential fight with Brandon Rios then the Sheffield man should be too good. Underestimate Gavin at your peril though, and the former standout amateur will be keen to shock the world and show he belongs on the world stage.
Elsewhere on the card,
John Ryder takes on Nick Blackwell for the vacant British middleweight title.
Scotty Cardle battles Craig Evans for the vacant British lightweight title. This one might be a bit feisty after the pair came to blows at the recent press conference.
Dave Ryan defends his Commonwealth light-welterweight title against John Wayne Hibbert in a much anticipated rematch from 2013.
Nathan Cleverly makes his first return to the ring since his defeat to arch rival Tony Bellew last November against Tomas Man from the Czech Republic.
A thrilling night is in store with so much riding on every fight. Eddie Hearn deserves a pat on the back for putting together this amazing night of boxing.
The Barclays Centre in Brooklyn New York plays host to two very interesting fights this Friday night.
Amir Khan, still desperately chasing his “dream fight” against Floyd Mayweather takes on Chris Algieri in what some fans have called a boring choice for the Olympic silver medallist. The 28 year old side stepped a world title fight against Devon Alexander and also continues to ignore the rise of IBF champ Kell Brook in order to get the Mayweather fight. If that fight falls flat on its face, “King Khan” may look a very foolish man.
An impressive performance against Algieri may not be enough to convince “Money” to have his last fight against the Bolton man. Algieri’s last fight was against Manny Pacquiao, in a fight where he was put on the floor no less than six times on his way to a wide points defeat.
It may still be a good fight to watch as Khan brings incredible hand speed and movement to the table but has never convinced he can take a clean shot. If Algieri lands solid on Khan’s chin, how will he react?
The vacant world super-featherweight title is on the line as Javier Fortuna takes on Bryan Vasquez.
The unbeaten Fortuna steps up to super-featherweight for the first time but many will tell you that he has the size to do that with ease. The 25 year old has won 20 of his 29 fights inside the distance and his speed and power will certainly trouble Vasquez.
Vasquez has won his last 5 fights since his knockout defeat by Takashi Uchiyama three years ago. The 27 year old beat Sergio Thompson in December last in what was meant to be for the world super-middleweight title. Inexcusably the Costa Rican failed to make the weight and the title was only one the line for Thompson.
Surely he won’t make the same mistake again.