Amir Khan v The Best in the World
At the, still relatively tender, age of 24 Amir Khan has stepped through the heavy velvet curtain into the room where the business end of world Boxing is parleyed and right now he looks more than ready for it. His trainer Freddie Roach has given him ring craft to go with his speed of hands whilst also miraculously developing a solid chin. This is huge contrast to the small broken boy who didn’t know Christmas from Italy, whilst staggering out the ring after what can only be described a ’good slapping’ from Breidis Prescott in 2008. His astonishing rehabilitation under Roach recently culminated in the destruction of Zab Judah and is now set to be tested on a career defining level with some big, big fights in the pipeline. His route to the respective cash cows of Mayweather Jnr or Pacquiao should start with a fairly routine fight against a shop worn Erik Morales and then a potentially explosive semi-finalesque showdown with Tim Bradley. Throw the prospect of an all-British tear up with Kell Brook and Amir Khan has some mouthwatering options unfolding before his eyes. No other British fighter is anywhere near this top table and the next 12 months should provide an exciting and fascinating insight as to whether or not Khan has the skill, mental strength and heart to become a true World Champion.
Ricky Burns v Edinburgh Castle
Very quietly Scotlands Ricky Burns has captured the WBO super-Featherweight title by beating some of the best fighters in his class and is preparing to make his fourth defence against mandatory challenger Adrien Broner in November. Although no venue for the fight has been set it is widely rumoured that it may be in the grounds of Edinburgh Castle. Now, whether it will happen for this fight or his next one against the much fancied South African Mzonke Fana, it remains a huge, huge backdrop for any fighter, let alone a Scottish one. Ken Buchanan, Jim Watt and Benny Lynch, all gods of Scottish boxing, none of whom ever got close to a venue of that gravitas. Nor did Edinburghs most recent boxing star Alex Arthur, who coincidently inflicted the only career defeat on Burns. A native of Coatbridge, near Glasgow, Burns will need to step up and inspire the Scottish public that he can fulfill the sense of history and importance that would swirl around an event like that. Whether or not he is capable of achieving that is up for debate but a big title fight in Edinburgh Castle would be a spectacle worth seeing.
His fight against Chisora was a hugely entertaining brawl of the type not seen outside of grainy footage of gypsy fights on Youtube
Tyson Fury v Boring Heavyweight Boxing
Following the chip butty that was his recent fight against Derek Chisora it’s easy to see what is on the menu for Tyson Fury. Pretty much more of the same I would suggest. The next 12 months should see an unrefined brawling whirlwind of a scrap against probably either Mark Regan or Audley Harrison. Talk of either Klitchko is wildly premature and would permanently dent the career of a fighter who needs many, many more fights before he comes close to being what the British public want, a genuine Heavyweight Champion of the World. Whether Tyson ‘I Found Jesus’ Fury is the answer to...well... anything remains to be seen but in the meantime you have to admit he’s great fun to watch. To see such a big, un-athletic guy throw successful creative combinations like he does is a joy to behold. His fight against Chisora was a hugely entertaining brawl of the type not seen outside of grainy footage of gypsy fights on Youtube and was encouragingly shown live on Channel 5 too. His adventurous fighting style and the unpredictable nature of his bouts also spikes the interest of non-boxing fans and in a time when British Boxing needs as many fans as possible Tyson Fury is gold-dust.
Nathan Cleverly v Bernard Hopkins
Welsh Light-heavyweight and part-time Nick Cotton lookalike sits astride an impressive 22-0 unbeaten record with the WBO Light Heavyweight title adorning his waist and looks to be the real deal when it comes to this pugilism lark. Having recently graduated from Cardiff University he is now being linked with the type of fighter Carl Froch or Joe Calzaghe shared rankings with in the past. In fighting the likes of Bernard Hopkins, Chad Dawson, Jean Pascal and/or IBF Champion Tavoris Cloud he can effectively follow the trail thrashed out by Mr Froch and Mr Calzaghe. Expect him to make short work of his next couple of opponents over the course of the next year or so and put his hand u p for more exhilarating bangers and perhaps even an eventual step up in weight to challenge either Froch or Ward.
Carl Froch v Andre Ward
To a large extent Carl Froch has fought his career in the shade. The limelight cruelly blotted out by a perfect storm of warring promoters, failed TV deals and the giant shadows cast by Calzaghe, Khan, Haye, Hatton and the professional false god that is Audley Harrison. Yet come September 29th in Atlantic City and after a decade-long slog Carl Froch will finally get his chance to shine. To step out into the blinding hot light of scrutiny and the proffering of big league glory in the spurious shape of a Super Six Title and all the riches and legacy that go with it. Andre Ward, the American holding the whip hand in the opposite corner, is as daunting and unyielding as they come. Swanking an impressive 24-0 record and an Olympic Gold he has the Boxing world slavering all over his ability and prospects. But Froch brings Kryptonite in the form of a man who has spent the past five years fighting tough, world class fighters, often in their own back yards and often without much of a break between fights. Through sheer hard work and perseverance he has single-mindedly bludgeoned his way to this point of destiny without ever taking an easy option and this alone presents a very dangerous prospect for Ward to deal with. Whatever the outcome you can be guaranteed Froch will fight with all the enthralling venom and determination of a man who will empty his locker and try to snatch glory with his heart pinned firmly on his low left hand lead.
The 2008 Olympic Alumni v James DeGale
The development of Frankie Gavin (okay, I know he didn’t actually fight in Beijing) and Billy Joe Saunders is hugely encouraging with both remaining unbeaten so far and posting some impressive performances. Both fighters should continue to develop well but almost more interesting is the fate of James De Gale. So often he was heralded as the real prospect out of all of them but this myth seemed to unravel a fair bit during his close points defeat to unfancied George Groves in May. Such was the bitterness surrounding this bout and the slim margin of victory that a re-match must almost certainly be on the cards. It will be fascinating to see if DeGale can beat Groves and get his stellar career back on the rails or whether he will flounder as Gavin and Saunders emerge from beyond the behemoth of his hype to rightfully claim the spotlight for themselves.
David Haye v His Pride
The dictionary definition of the word ‘hubris’ cites it as extreme haughtiness, pride or arrogance. Six months ago it may as well have carried a picture of David Haye next to it. The problem is that Haye has since fallen on his conceited sword in Hamburg against Wladamir Klitchko and now adopts the all-too-familiar wounded animal role in British Boxing. His biggest battle in the near future will be in the mirror. Does he stick to his ‘retirement’ date in October or does he gulp that back and call out Vladamir for another bite at the big Heavyweight cherry? We can only hope he fights on because ironically he stands a better chance against the looser style of Vitali than he did against Dr Steelhammer and a showdown against Klitchko Snr at Stamford Bridge or The New Den would be an engrossing and lucrative fight. The incentive for David Haye to swallow his ‘extreme haughtiness’ is very much there, let hope he takes heed.
The subject of booze and boxers is as old as the sport itself.
Kell Brook v Rafal Jackiewicz
Kell Brook wants Amir Khan but Khan has bigger fish to fry. In the meantime, there’s no better sight than two boxers goings at it to eliminate each other from a title shot. On October 8th in Sheffield, Kell Brook will have to be at his best to get the better of Rafal Jackiewicz. The Polish fighter has only lost once in his past 24 fights and has never been stopped in one of his 48 bouts. On the line will be the chance to have a pop at Vyacheslav Senchenko and his coveted WBA Championship Belt. Also in the mix for Brook is the possible size up against either Jan Zaveck or Andre Berto depending on who triumphs in their head-to-head in September. Whatever happens Kell Brook is a technically outstanding young British boxing talent and his forthcoming pagger with Jackiewicz will take him places he’s never been before in the ring and will tell what he really holds deep down in his war chest.
Kevin Mitchell v the Bottle
The subject of booze and boxers is as old as the sport itself. Usually it’s after retirement that the problems happen but not always. Kevin Mitchell was and is an electrifying fighter. His raw power and selection of shots when on form leave his opponents seemingly defenceless against his onslaught. His humiliating knockout byMichael Katsidis at Upton Park in May and his admission that he had been struggling with alcohol problems had looked to be the final bell for his career as a top-class boxer but from the groggy ashes of that low point he somehow beat the standing count of booze and got himself back in shape to upset the odds against John Murray in Liverpool in July. In one of the fights of the year so far Mitchell eventually overwhelemed Murray and showed exactly what all the publicity was about. Hopefully he can stay on the wagon and remain focussed enough to beat Katsidis in a rumoured re-match and start re-building a career that once promised the moon and stars.
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