Haye-Bellew: The Five Big Questions plus Prediction & Odds
By Michael J Jones
AN UNLIKELY GRUDGE match which has divided opinions in the boxing world in more ways than one. When WBC cruiserweight champion Tony “Bomber” Bellew faces former two-weight world titlist David Haye next Saturday at the O2 Arena, it will conclude a long, bad-tempered build-up which has been rolling on for some six months.
Both men have their fans and detractors in their respective droves, but neither (the seemingly endless) trash-talking, tension or mud-slinging between the two men can get away from the fact this is a good fight between two of the UK’s most successful pugilists of recent years.
Most of the boxing community point to Haye being the bigger man with an edge in speed and power and hint at an early, explosive victory for him. Bellew has been stopped before and by a smaller man in Adonis Stevenson; but is that the foregone conclusion people are saying?
Here Livefight asks five big questions ahead of the non-title heavyweight clash which will be screened on Sky Sports Box Office in just a handful of days.
1. Does Tony Bellew actually believe he can win this fight?
If a man becomes hell-bent on making a fight in boxing it’s usually for one of two reasons; either he firmly believes he can win or he’s taking it for the inflated purse. To this writer’s knowledge a contest between the two punchers had never been even vaguely suggested until that chaotic moment after Bellew knocked out long-time Haye sparring partner BJ Flores last October.
Haye was sat ringside as the WBC cruiserweight champion screamed abuse from the ring in heated scenes. Just days later the fight was getting forged together by the respective teams but, if anything, the hatred has spiralled since that night between the two bitter rivals.
The 34 year old Bellew is long-known for his fiery nature ahead of fights but he seems to be especially loathsome towards Haye, often suggesting the “Hayemaker” has been pampered throughout his highly-prolific career.
Hate rarely means genuine confidence though but in this case I believe Bellew is coming to win. He’s younger, has been far more active in recent years and is in the form of his life after wiping out both Ilunga Makuba and BJ Flores in style. The out-spoken Scouser has hinted at a suspected decline in Haye (“he’s not the fighter of six or seven years ago”) and may be confident from the infamous sparring session from several years ago in which he claims he clearly got the better of the Bermondsey man.
2. The weight issue; will it matter?
The fight has been set at the heavyweight limit (i.e. no limit), which at first glance favours long-time heavyweight Haye. Since knocking out Enzo Maccarinelli in two rounds back in March 2008, Haye has been a fully-fledged heavyweight so while Bellew makes his debut at boxing’s highest division, Haye has been there for nine long years right?
OK so the above is true but it’s not as cut-and-dry as appears. Bellew was a strapping amateur who was an ABA heavyweight champion on three occasions before slimming right down for his pro debut nearly ten years ago.
The Liverpool fighter made no secret to the fact he struggled mightily every camp making weight but continued until he was hammered in six by Adonis Stevenson three years ago. Since moving up, Bellew has gone 8-0 with six knock-outs in decent company.
Plus, is it really that bad getting stopped by one of the biggest punchers in the 175lb division while severely weight-weakened? Nobody has wanted to mention incidentally, Haye got knocked out by a 40 year old who was supposedly shot…or that he was floored heavily early in his career against blown up super-middleweight Lolenga Mock.
Both men are 6’3” and Haye for most of his fights has weighed around 210lbs; just 6lbs above the cruiserweight limit. For his last two comeback contests, the 36 year old Haye has been nearer 224 and may be that again come Saturday night. Bellew has said he will come in at under 220 so there probably will only be a few pounds between them come fight night.
I expect Bellew, after top-class sparring with the likes of Dereck Chisora, will be comfortable at the (slightly) higher weight and will be sharp. Don’t be surprised either if the “Creed” star looks the bigger man on the night as he usually boxes tall while Haye fights in a slight crouch.
Worth noting also is the fact Haye has the longer reach by some four inches.
3. Has Haye taken this fight seriously?
It’s always hard to gauge what’s on Haye’s mind but some of his behaviour recently has been rather baffling. Just before a major fight it’s simply not usual for a fighter to praise his training camp as if it’s been a holiday and then go out with celebrity pals to fashion shows.
Does the former cruiserweight and heavyweight champion see this as an easy fight to the point he’s not at all worried about what Bellew brings to the fistic table? Haye hasn’t been in a competitive bout for nearly five years and encountered little resistance in the pair of Mark de Mori and Arnold Gjergjaj in his two return fights.
Many have started calling Haye “Boxrec man” as whenever his opponent gets announced we all have to search Boxrec as we have no clue who it is (funny).
Although the Londoner seems mostly relaxed, I feel he is experienced enough to know any fight is dangerous and he will have trained hard for this. Trainer Shane McGuigan will have put him through a gruelling camp and Haye will be all business on the night.
4. Will Haye’s inactivity bite him on the ass?
The brash Haye was a revelation as an amateur and a young pro and seemed fearless as he cut through the pro cruiserweight ranks with a string of explosive knock-outs. Only Carl Thompson bested Haye in the under 200lb cruiserweight division, out-lasting his much-younger opponent before dispatching him in five torrid rounds.
After returning to win the European title, Haye would stop Frenchman Jean Marc Mormeck on away turf to become the WBC and WBA world champion. To top an excellent campaign at the weight, Haye would blitz Welshman Enzo Maccarinelli in two to add the WBO belt to solidify his status as one of the best men to compete at the weight.
The “Hayemaker” would then move up to heavyweight in search of a match with world number one Wladimir Klitschko. First he out-boxed the far bigger Nicolai Valuev to become WBA heavyweight champion in Germany.
He then followed up with another solid display in stopping former champion John Ruiz in nine rounds six months later. After one more defence (that awful farce with Audley Harrison) Haye got his wish and fought Wladimir Klitschko in Germany for the unified heavyweight titles.
Haye lost the decision that night but vowed to return which he did…after a year off. Twelve long months after his loss to Klitschko, Haye knocked out Dereck Chisora in five at Upton Park but then wasn’t seen again in a ring until three-and-a half years later.
Fights with Tyson Fury (twice) and Manuel Charr all fell through as many questioned if Haye actually still wanted to be a fighter anymore.
The Londoner, now 28-2 (26), has had those two comeback fights last year (three rounds of action) since that Chisora fight. In that same time Bellew, with a similar over-all record of 28-2-1 (18), has boxed thirteen times and has been in tough, competitive matches not just easy one-sided, blow-outs. If this fight goes over the four-round mark, Haye will be in a position he hasn’t been in for a long time.
If Bellew is planning a cagey start to the fight, Haye could struggle in a physically-gruelling fight (especially if he hasn’t caused any significant damage to his foe). It’s bound to play on Haye’s mind if the going does get tough.
5. Will emotions affect the fight on the night?
The build-up has been one of the most heated in recent memory between two fighters who genuinely seem to despise one another. Could things get so heated on Saturday night something crazy may happen?
Bellew has been very animated in build-ups before yet boxed conservatively on the night (the Edison Miranda fight springs to mind). As a light-heavyweight he often disappointed fans by talking the talk but on the night fall short of walking the walk.
Since he has moved up the careful boxing has evolved and Tony has been more attack-minded in his cruiserweight campaign. Against Makuba to win his WBC title, Bellew was formidable. Dropped in the first, Bellew fought back hard and went all-out in the third to end matters.
A massive final left hook took everything out of the South African on the ropes for a clinical stoppage and Bellew was equally business-like in stopping Flores five months later.
Haye has seemed increasingly uncomfortable as the build-up has progressed. Bellew has undoubtedly gotten under his skin at various times but I doubt Haye will be anything but controlled on fight night. In Haye’s mind; Bellew can’t take his power and he only needs two or three good shots for the fight to be over.
Expect Bellew to behave too as he will be trying to execute a carefully-constructed game-plan and won’t want to give Haye any advantages by being silly.
Haye will start the fight the huge 1/6 favourite with Bellew 4/1. For a Haye KO it’s 1/3 while Bellew is far wider at 7/1. Points victory to Haye is 5/1 with Bellew 14/1. The draw is 33/1 with a victory inside three rounds to Haye a very short 15/8. The same bet for Bellew is a whopping 18/1.*
*Odds courtesy of William Hill.
It’s a tough fight to call as we don’t quite know what Haye has got left at 36 after barely fighting for half a decade and it’s hard to say what will happen when they both start to land their respective bombs. I wouldn’t be totally surprised to see a slow start as both try hard not to make any mistakes and walk into a big shot early.
For Bellew, he will try to keep an air-tight defence and take the fight into the second half whilst keeping a strong, busy jab into Haye’s face to break up momentum before cranking up the pressure from round four or five.
With Haye it’s simple; he’s going to jab, feint and try to set up a big right-hand or left hook and when he sees a weakness he will try to seize his moment and end the fight there and then.
I see Bellew falling early but rising to make it through the first few rounds. Just as the gutsy Scouser starts to make some ground back I envision Haye finding an opening for a massive shot; probably a booming right-hand. That moment will change the fight irreversibly. A following barrage will bring the referee’s intervention and give victory to David Haye.
Haye by KO in five rounds.
To book the big fight with Sky Box Office go to http://www.skysports.com/haye-vs-bellew/news/34770/10770257/1
Dale Evans talks Mike Towell heartache, S4C title clash, Eggington-Malignaggi, more
By Michael J Jones
IT’S EVERY boxers worst nightmare; something that is always at the distant back of a fighter’s mind. They know it can (thankfully rarely) happen and simply pray that it doesn’t happen to them or an opponent. Boxer’s block it out the same way a motorist blocks out a potential road accident but now and again, tragically, we realise the devastating consequences that can occur in our beloved sport.
Facing the promising “Iron” Mike Towell last September, Welshman Dale Evans was eager to put in a good performance to set up a British title shot. The welterweight bout saw the two men go to war in Glasgow before the away fighter prevailed via fifth-round knock-out. Towell was subsequently rushed to hospital and, with his family and the boxing community praying for his swift recovery, battled his last ever fight.
Just twenty four hours after his contest with Evans, the brave Scot sadly passed away. He had just turned 25-years-old.
Days later, the family and friends of Mike Towell consoled the emotional Dale at the funeral in tear-jerking scenes as everyone joined together to celebrate the life of the brave young boxer who gave his life to the sport he adored.
Speaking to Livefight last week, Evans painfully relives the heart-breaking moments following his tragic last contest five months ago.
“I one hundred percent see boxing as vastly different now” begins the St Clears contender. “After my last fight with Mike I questioned everything and was ready to leave the sport completely. You step back and see boxing and think ‘so people are paying to see two men fight each other and that (tragedy) could happen?’ I wondered what it was all about and what I was a part of.”
“Obviously, my thoughts have constantly been with Mike’s family but now what I want to do is carry on Mike’s dream and become British champion in his memory. What happened to Mike is always in the back of my mind and I’d hate for my family to be put through what his family have had to deal with.”
“When I turned pro I had dreams of becoming a world champion but I’m realistic that’s unlikely to happen but I know I can become British champion for Mike.”
Firstly though, the 25 year old returns on March 25th against fellow Welshman Tony Dixon with the Welsh welterweight title up for grabs. The ten-round bout sees a return for boxing to Welsh TV channel S4C after a lengthy absence. Dixon is 8-1 (2) and most people know him for a one-round stoppage defeat to talented Belfast puncher Paddy Gallagher on the Lee Haskins-Ivan Morales undercard last May.
The Mountain Ash prospect gave some experience away in that contest and could be far better than he showed that night.
“That’s the only fight I’ve seen him in to be honest” comments Evans of his co-challenger’s sole loss. “A while ago he came down to spar (former gym-mate) Liam Williams one day and Liam was bigger and technically a lot better so it’s hard to take anything from that.”
“He seems a strong, game lad but I feel my experience and punching power will tell against him. I’m no fancy boxer but I’m physically strong and hit a lot harder than my record says. My record doesn’t do my power justice. I feel I’m one of the biggest punchers in the (147lb) division.”
Evans at 12-3-2 (4) hasn’t got the numbers of a huge hitter but can clearly punch with either his right-hand or thumping left hook. Since leaving Prizefighter as the runner up four years ago, he’s boxed at mostly title level and has shared the ring with quality opposition such as Sam Eggington (twice) as well as (eventual PF champion) Glenn Foot, former British title challenger Adil Anwar and the slick Larry Ekundayo.
During his Prizefighter bid, Evans would out-point Eggington in a crowd-pleaser before the two men would engage in a return with the British and Commonwealth belts on the line some three years later. On that occasion, Stourbridge’s Eggington would recover from an early knock-down to sweep most of the middle rounds before navigating some late trouble to retain by a clear, unanimous decision.
With the first bout being a three-round fight in Prizefighter and the second match occurring with Evans receiving just ten days’ notice, there seems ample reason for the two great rivals to have a decider down the line.
“It would be interesting if we could go at it again with me having a full camp with a title on the line and I think we’d both be interested. I think right now he’s a little further along than me so he’s got to do what’s best for him and his career but it definitely could happen in the future.”
“In the second fight, I had to cram eight weeks training into ten days so I was doing long sparring sessions in the week of the fight. When I dropped him in the first I had two choices; go hell for leather and risk gassing out or try and ease off and wait for my next chance. I picked the latter and it didn’t work out but I did my best.”
“The difference was he was in twelve round shape and I wasn’t.”
The tough and relentless Eggington faces veteran Paulie Malignaggi next week on the Haye-Bellew bill. I ask Dale how he sees his former opponent doing against the brash and out-spoken American in their WBC International clash.
“It’s a very good fight for Sam and I think he’ll stop Malignaggi later on. Whereas Malignaggi’s best days are probably behind him, Sam gets better with every fight and I just think he’ll be too strong for him at this stage.”
Back to his own career, I touch on Evans’ inactivity which has plagued him since his pro bow nearly six years ago…
“It’s very annoying to me as I’d like to fight every month if I could” the Welshman tells Livefight. “It’s frustrated the life out of me for years. There’s usually only a handful of shows in Wales in a year which means I’ve got to sell rucks of tickets to box out of town to get anywhere and have my fans travel miles to come and see me.”
“I’m hoping to be nice and busy in 2017 and I’d like to thank my new sponsors Castle Scaffolding Wales who have been so generous in helping me focus on boxing full-time.
Their help is much appreciated so I want to give big thanks to Jason and Wyn for all of their support.”
Final thoughts on his Welsh title bout next month against “Welsh Terrier” Dixon?
“It’s very good for Welsh boxing that the sport is returning to S4C. It’s going to be a great fight between me and Tony Dixon and a chance for terrestrial viewers to see the Welsh talent coming through.”
“Camp has gone great with my new trainer Tony Borg*, I get great sparring there including (IBF featherweight champion) Lee Selby. I won’t go in against Dixon with a big game-plan or expecting a knock-out. I’ll take it as it comes and if the KO is there great, but we’ll see what he does first and go from there.”
*Evans’ former trainer Gary Lockett is still part of the team as Dale’s manager.
“If all goes well I’m looking to either face Bradley Skeete for the British title or anyone for the vacant belt if he vacates. Whoever I need to beat I’ll face to win that British title for Mike Towell.”
RIP “Iron” Mike Towell 1991-2016
Dale “Big Boy” Evans vs Tony “Welsh Terrier” Dixon goes ahead at the Rhydycar Leisure Centre, Merthyr Tydfil on March 25th. Ten rounds for the Welsh welterweight championship. The contest marks a return for boxing to Welsh terrestrial channel S4C and features a solid undercard featuring some of the best talents in Wales.
Quigg leaves Gallagher to join Roach at Wild Card
Scott Quigg has teamed up with new trainer Freddie Roach and will train at the famous Wild Card gym in Los Angeles.
The former WBA Super-Bantamweight World champion and current WBA Featherweight International title holder made the decision after consultation with old trainer Joe Gallagher and both parties have agreed to part company on amicable terms.
The 28 year old stepped up to 126lbs in style in December, delivering a stunning ninth round KO of Jose Cayetano in Manchester to announce his intentions at his new weight, and Quigg heads to LA this week to begin work under future Hall of Fame trainer Roach as he targets a World title shot in the summer.
“After six years of working together I announce my departure from Joe Gallagher,” said Quigg. “We have been a great team and achieved a lot and had some great wins together.
“I have moved up to Featherweight with the goal of becoming a two-weight World champion and believe I need a fresh challenge to help me grow. Over the last few weeks I've been in America training and I'm delighted to announce I will be basing myself in Los Angeles at the Wild Card gym working under the guidance of Freddie Roach.
“This is an opportunity that I couldn't pass up and I believe this move and change will take me to another level. I'd like to thank Joe for everything he has done for me; he is a tremendous coach and friend, which we will remain. Our first fight together was for the British title and I went on to become world champion under his guidance and for that I will be forever grateful. I wish Joe and all the lads every success in the future.”
FLANAGAN: "IF I'M NOT 100% AGAINST PETROV I COULD SLIP-UP"
WBO Lightweight Champion of the World Terry Flanagan and his latest challenger Petr Petrov came face-to-face at a press conference today at the home of Premier League giants Manchester City ahead of their showdown at the Manchester Arena on Saturday 8th April, live on BT Sport and BoxNation.
Undefeated Flanagan, a City fanatic and season ticket holder at the Etihad Stadium, is gearing up for the fifth defence of his WBO strap and insisted no corners will be cut in his preparation for former World Title challenger Petrov.
“If I’m not 100% against Petrov I could slip up,” said Flanagan. “If I’m not on my game he’s a potential banana skin and I won’t get those big unification fights later on in the year. First and foremost I need to get in the gym and do the hard work. Me at my best beats him at his best.
“He’s been at World level for years now and he’s right up there. He’s got four losses on his record but they were all against good fighters. Petr is a seasoned fighter but on the night I can adapt and deal with whatever he brings.
“Personally I don’t think you’ve seen the best of me yet. There’s still a lot more to come from me and I’m looking forward to showing people what I can do on April 8th. I still think I’m boxing within myself. I’ve never been behind in a fight so I’ve never had to show what I’m made of. You’ll see the best of me when I do go behind in a fight.
“My better nights are still to come, which says a lot a 32-0 and preparing to make my fifth World Title defence. Petrov is a great fighter, he can come at you and also box a bit. This is going to be a tough fight and your next fight is always your hardest fight. Every time I’ve boxed at arenas in Manchester I’ve come away with stoppage wins, I want to keep that up on April 8th.”[IMAGE1]
33-year-old Petrov (38-4-2, 19 KOs), a native of Russia who fights out of Spain, was stopped by Marcos Maidana in his previous attempt at a World Title back in 2011. Since dropping 12-round decision in 2013 to Dejan Zlaticanin, the WBO no.2 ranked danger man has won six fights in a row and says his experience gives him an edge over Flanagan.
“I’ve been waiting a very long time for another shot at a World Title,” said Petrov. “Finally it has come around and I think at the age of 33 this fight has come at the perfect time for me. I’m quicker and more agile than ever, I’m in the best form of my life.
“I’m stronger and I’m smarter than I was earlier in my career. That comes from training in America, it has made me a more intelligent fighter. Los Angeles is a great place for sparring, I’ve been sparring with southpaws from Japan, Russia and the United States in preparation for Terry. I understand how important sparring is and that’s what we’ll be paying attention to in the run up to the fight.
“I respect Terry as an undefeated World Champion, you have to. He is a very good boxer but I still think he has a lot to show. I’ve been around the block and fought a lot of different opponents. If I prepare well and execute my game plan I know I can beat him."
Flanagan vs. Petrov tops a mouth-watering night of action at the Manchester Arena; Super-Welterweight rivals Liam Smith and Liam Williams clash in one of the most anticipated domestic dust-ups in recent times; slick South African Zolani Tete faces Arthur Villanueva in a final eliminator for the WBO World Bantamweight strap; double Olympic Gold Medallist and women’s boxing icon Nicola Adams OBE fights for the first time as a professional and former Team GB Heavyweight monster Daniel Dubois makes his highly-anticipated professional debut.
Elsewhere on the card former World Title challenger Jimmy Kelly takes on Bolton man Rick Godding in a tasty local tear-up; rising Super-Featherweight star Zelfa Barrett fights over six; Liverpool Super-Welterweight James Metcalf takes on Heywood’s Mark Thompson; undefeated Super-Lightweight Steven Lewis faces Andy Keates; Oldham Super-Middleweight Mark Heffron, Ellesmere Port Super-Welterweight Mason Cartwright, Manchester Cruiserweight Jordan Thompson and Super-Middleweight Anthony Leak complete a stacked card.
Tickets for April 8 priced £50, £70, £100, £150, £200, £300 and VIP £500 are available from eventim at www.eventim.co.uk and 0844 249 1000 and the Manchester Arena at www.manchester-arena.com and 0844 847 8000.
Welsh Star Liam Williams talks Smith showdown, motivation & assesses last two knockout victories
By Michael J Jones
ONE OF THE most talked about pieces of British boxing news recently was the announcement that former WBO light-middleweight champion Liam “Beefy” Smith would take on Welsh star Liam Williams on April 8th. The mouth-watering clash of talented name-sakes takes place in the Manchester Arena and sees the more-experienced Smith return from a gallant defeat by Mexican superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez to take on one of the most dangerous young fighters in the UK.
Williams, 24-years-old and the reigning British, Commonwealth and WBO European champion, has had a stop-start career since turning pro just over five years ago but had arguably one of his finest years in 2016, stopping all three opponents in style.
The Clydach puncher eased into 2016 with a stoppage of Argentinian journeyman Gustavo Alberto Sanchez in June. The warm-up victory paved the way for a grudge match with unbeaten Londoner Gary Corcoran in Cardiff just a month later. The British title bout lived up to the hype before the champion eventually retained with a clinical eleven-round knock-out.
The heavy-handed Welshman then closed the year with a body-shot stoppage of the slippery Hungarian Gabor Gorbics to add the WBO European belt to his rapidly-growing collection. Implored by his corner in between rounds to target the ribs of Gorbics, Williams duly marched out to sink the Hungarian with a powerful left-hook downstairs to dramatically conclude matters in the eighth.
Now 16-0-1 (11), Williams is undoubtedly in superb form but will need to be when facing by far his toughest opponent to date in Smith. Speaking to Livefight during a sparring trip in Scotland a few days ago, Williams reveals he is hugely motivated for his show-down with “Beefy”.
“I’m absolutely buzzing the fight has been made and I’ve not had this kind of motivation for my last few fights” the Welshman tells Livefight over the phone. “I’ve been waiting for this kind of big fight for a while and I’m just made up it’s actually happening.”
Around two years ago the fight was first mooted with Smith the reigning British and Commonwealth ruler. Williams’ trainer and manager Gary Lockett declined the contest at the time as his fighter was still building up experience. Smith went on to vacate both titles to lift the WBO 154lb crown before defending twice and surrendering his title to Alvarez last September in Texas.
“When the (Smith) fight was first offered I didn’t know about it and Gary (Lockett) turned it down as he felt I wasn’t quite ready. He’s my manager and I listen to what he says. He said I wasn’t ready then and I respect that he made that call.”
In an interview a couple of months ago Liverpool's Smith appeared to disrespectfully comment that Williams’ title wins were merely a case of picking up the Scousers’ "left-overs" after he had vacated the British and Commonwealth belts to pave the way for the South Walian to claim both titles.
Williams surprisingly doesn’t take any offence to the comments as he explains…
“Well he’s right really isn’t he?” comments the 24 year old matter-of-factly. “He’s not wrong in that he vacated the titles and I went and won them. A lot of people have said he’s disrespected me but it’s just the way it was so I haven’t taken any offence to what he said.”
Was Williams shocked that, after facing “Canelo” in Texas in a high-profile match, Smith agreed to face a dangerous domestic rival back in the UK in his comeback contest?
“No I’m not at all surprised. It’s a big fight over here and a good domestic match and the best lads at British level are only just below world level in my opinion. I’m the WBO number three and he’s the number five and we’re just hoping this fight will be for the full WBO belt we are just waiting to see if Alvarez vacates*. Fingers crossed he does and it will be a world title fight.”
*Alvarez faces fellow Mexican Julio Cesar Chavez Jr at a whopping 164lbs on May 6th in Las Vegas.
Williams has always been a strong fighter who goes to the body well. It was thus frustrating to see him in his last fight with Gorbics continuously head-hunting, though, once Lockett and John Pegg had ticked him off, Williams landed that sickening left to the ribs to abruptly halt the Hungarian to hand the beaten man his first inside-schedule defeat.
With Smith getting stopped by a similar shot last time out vs Alvarez is that an obvious tactic for team Williams?
“Against Gorbics I was guilty of targeting the head too much as I was in search of a knock-out. I neglected body shots but when I started using them they paid off.”
“Our tactics for Smith will just be to go out and do our own thing we’re not taking too much from (Smith’s defeat by Alvarez). He showed a weakness to the body that night but body-punches can hurt anyone if they land the right way. I’ve been hurt by a few over the years and they really sicken you.”
“Smith is more experienced than me in terms of the amount of fights he’s had (25 in total compared to Williams seventeen) but I think we’ve had similar opposition in our British title fights. The guys he fought for the WBO title; John Thompson, Jim Kelly and the other guy (Predrag Radosevic), weren’t world beaters either apart from “Canelo”.
“There’s no needle there between us” continues the British and Commonwealth champion. “There’s a bit of tension but it’s nothing personal. I think we mutually respect each other but you can’t get too friendly when you’re going to fight someone!”
Was the former six-time ABA champion pleased with his progress last year?
“I was overall happy but we had one or two little setbacks with a couple of fights falling through but that’s boxing. I would have liked another fight really but apart from that it was a good year for me.”
Williams’ grudge-match with the 15-0 Corcoran was easily his most exciting contest of the year after the two men had engaged in a lengthy spell of goading ahead of the match. During the fight it appeared the prefight trash-talk had gotten in the Welsh-man’s head at times as his work often proved messy by his usual standards against a dogged opponent.
After an enthralling slugfest, Williams detonated a smashing right-hand in the 11th to stop his dazed opponent and win the battle of unbeatens.
“I was disappointed with my performance at the time” admits Liam. “It did get messy and I made hard work of it but I still feel I ticked a lot of boxes so no whinging; I got the win and I got the knock-out so that’s the main thing.”
To top a solid year, the undefeated Welshman was then named the Boxing Writers ‘Young Boxer of the Year’ at the BBB of C awards ceremony to complete 2016.
“It meant a lot to win that award to follow some of the names that have won it in the past is an honour. Ricky Hatton, Joe Calzaghe, Amir Khan are massive names to be following and I’m proud they voted me to take the title.”
To finish I ask how the sparring has gone up in Scotland with super-middleweight contender David Brophy?
“It’s gone great. Brophy is a big strong guy with a good defence and keeps coming forward. He’s only lost to George Groves and is bigger than me so it’s very good work. He’s got a Commonwealth title fight soon in Australia and I’ve no doubt he’ll take that.”
“To everyone reading this, tune into my fight with Liam Smith on April 8th as it will be a great fight. I don’t want any backward steps in my career so if this isn’t a world title fight my next one will be. I’m working my nuts off to be a world champion.”
April 8th A New Era
Undefeated WBO World Lightweight Champion Terry Flanagan defends his belt against Petr Petrov at the Manchester Arena, with a mouth-watering clash between Liam Williams and Liam Smith in support on April 8th.
Also on the show, two-time Olympic Flyweight gold medallist Nicola Adams makes her professional debut after an impeccable amateur career where she won Commonwealth, European and World honours as well as her success at the London and Rio Games.
Flanagan (32-0, 13 KOs) holds the longest current unbeaten run in British boxing and will be making the fifth defence of his crown. Since winning the belt in July 2015, he has convincing wins over Diego Magdaleno and Derry Mathews and destroyed Orlando Cruz in Cardiff in November. This will be the 27-year-old first appearance in his hometown since October 2015, when he blitzed the tough Magdaleno in just two rounds.
The southpaw is targeting unification bouts at Lightweight this year. Russian-born Petrov (38-4-2, 19 KOs) fights out of Madrid and his only two defeats since 2007 came to Marcos Maidana and Dejan Zlaticanin. The 33-year-old is the WBO second-ranked contender behind Felix Verdejo.
Manchester fans will also witness the mouth-watering Super-Welterweight clash between domestic rivals Williams and Smith. Williams recently picked up the WBO European Title with a win over Gabor Gorbics in Cardiff. The unbeaten Welshman is ranked at number three with the governing body and is aiming for a World Title shot this year, but first he must overcome a former World Champion who is eager to get back to the top of the division. Last September Smith put in a brave effort against Saul Alvarez in Texas but was stopped in the ninth round by the powerful Mexican, handing Smith his first defeat and lifting the WBO belt.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words for Farrell
Lots of time can be wasted talking in boxing. Months can drift by with little forward movement on the most obvious issues, let alone the more complicated ones. 65%-35%, PPV platforms and ‘A sides’. It gets wearying.
Instead of reading about people trying to talk their way into things, out of things or around things, last night I got to spend time around an organisation which has quietly gone about achieving every single goal it has set itself.
Less than eight months ago, Kieran Farrell launched his promotional career with a four fight card at the Middleton Arena. The goodwill generated by his astonishing recovery from a severe brain injury undoubtedly contributed to the sellout crowd, as did the promise of pizza delivered to ringside, but rather then resting on his laurels [finding his feet?] the inexperienced Farrell instantly plunged himself deeper into the world of boxing promotion.
Last night, at the revamped Bowlers Exhibition Centre [or the BEC Arena if you like], Kieran Farrell Promotions staged their fourth show. Boxing is a unique business. Knowledge of accounts and spreadsheets, standard marketing practices and break even analysis mean little compared to a real feel for the sport and, so far, Farrell has shown that he ‘gets’ it.
Tickets for Farrell’s events start at just £20, last night’s top ticket price was £55. I have been to Bowlers many times over the years and last night was the first time I have seen the entire exhibition hall opened up for a boxing event. The events have very quickly developed a ‘big’ feel. Every fighter walks through a pyrotechnic storm and make their way to the ring along a ramp that Anthony Joshua would be proud of.
He may not have developed a natural headline act yet, but by announcing his dates and fixing who will appear on his shows way ahead of time [there are two more already scheduled], Farrell gives his fighters plenty of time to sell their tickets. Once a ball starts rolling, momentum builds. If the fights are entertaining and good value, fans will return. If fighters feel like they have been treated well and get paid on time they too will want to come back and if good boxers get to fight regularly in front of sold out crowds, it stands to reason that stars will emerge.
Last night, Farrell put on a ten fight card. Now, the show went on too long, the final fight - Osman Aslam’s first round stoppage of Georgi Georgiev ended at half past midnight - and I can assure you that being in the famous rave warehouse at that time of night without the benefit of alcohol becomes a particularly cold experience, but fans got to see plenty of good action and a couple of shock results.
Zahid Hussain (10-0, 2KO’s) and George Brennan (3-0, 1KO) continued to build with unanimous decision victories. Danny Craven and Reece McMillan went directly at their opponents. The exciting Craven (2-0, 1KO) floored the decent Nathan Hardy and then out punched him in a mini war whilst McMillan showed some nice head movement and bodywork to outpoint tough Fonz Alexander.
Jay Carney (4-1-2, 3KO’s) got his third consecutive victory by easily outboxing Russ Midgley and slick Jack Sellars (5-0-1, 1KO) got his first stoppage victory when the ever dependable Chris Jenkinson came out of a clinch and dropped to the floor with blood streaming from his left eye. Sellars might be one to keep an eye on.
Not everything went to plan for Farrell. The popular Lee ‘Kombat’ Clayton (2-2, 2KO’s) was knocked out in spectacular fashion by Latvian opponent Dmitrijs Gutmans and Ryan Watson (1-1) deservedly surrendered his unbeaten record to Yousef Al Hamidi. It was only Al Hamidi’s 14th victory in 119 contests but I remain convinced that if he put his mind to it more regularly, he could beat plenty of fighters operating at around 10stone. The Syrian probably values his fortnightly phonecall from a matchmaker more than a few more ticks in the win column.
Every fan will have zipped up their jacket or clenched their handbag to their sheer crop top and braved the arctic winds whipping across Bowlers car park happy with their evenings entertainment. Farrell will expand his operations into Belfast in April. If he can repeat the impact he has made in Manchester with the traditionally fanatical Irish fight fans, who knows where his story might end.
'Chino', Jason and Tevin. It's a Family Affair.
There may have been a nod of mutual appreciation or support as their hands were wrapped. They might have shared the odd joke as they waited for the knock on the door telling them that it was their turn to make the walk. Their ears will have undoubtedly pricked up and they will have cast a glance - consciously or unconsciously - when they heard the crack of the other beginning to warm up on the pads.
Whatever moments of camaraderie Jason Sosa and Tevin Farmer shared during a tense few hours in the away fighters quarters at The National Guard Armory in Philadelphia in January 2012, it’s almost certain that during the hours they spent prowling the same square of lino, neither fighter envisioned just how big an impact they would eventually have on one another’s lives.
That night, Sosa, then 4-1-1, battled to a draw with Angel Luis Ocasio and Farmer, 3-2-1 at the time, outpointed Tim Witherspoon Jnr. The pair collected their wages and went their separate ways. Both certain they had talent, neither with any idea how to harness it.
In New Jersey, Raul ‘Chino’ Rivas immersed himself fully in his training career when his cousin and mentor Oscar Suarez [renowned for his work with Acelino Freitas and Prince Naseem Hamed] suddenly and sadly passed away at just 47 years old. Rivas was proud to continue Suarez’s legacy but every trainer longs for the opportunity to forge their own path and mould their own champions. Rivas went about devising his system. He just needed the right characters to debug and implement it.
“I had the privilege of being under Oscar. I was with him for over 20 years until he passed away around ten years ago. I had to take the responsibility of training the rest of the guys because my cousin was no longer there,” Rivas told Livefight. “Then Jason came into my life and I started building. When I got Jason he was 4-1-2. I took him on a run of 13 knockouts and people started wondering who this guy ‘Chino’ was.
“When I [started with] Jason Sosa. He had nothing. And I mean nothing. We got him a place and a car. We got him a job. He came from Camden, New Jersey. His mother was an ex-drug addict and he never met his father. At the end of the day, I gave him a father figure. That kid loves me. It’s me over anybody. He came from nothing and he came into my life with nothing and I’ve given him love. Plus I’m building him a career. All we’ve done is go knockout, knockout, knockout.
“My motto is “Family Structure” I’m Puerto Rican and my father always raised us with so much love in my household. I knew that if that worked at home, then combined with what I know, that’s going to work for me and my fighters.”
“‘Chino’ means the world to me,” says Sosa, who is something of a poster boy for Rivas’ system. “He’s my father. I was born and raised without a dad in my life. I’ve always known ‘Chino’ here and there but we actually got together about four or five years ago. We clicked then and we have a special relationship. I trust him with my life and whatever he says goes. It’s not just me, it’s about all of us in this team and that’s why were getting as far as we want. We listen and have a big family structure. There’s a lot of love in the gym.
“We’re accomplishing things together. We started out rough but we got it together and little by little we’re accomplishing it.”
That family structure plays a major part in the success Rivas and his team are currently enjoying. Sosa - who has agreed to take on WBO title holder Vasyl Lomachenko in a title unification fight on April 8th - is the WBA junior lightweight world champion. A title he won by walking down the heavily favoured Javier Fortuna in China. A solid routine was also a big factor in attracting the extremely talented Farmer to make the move down the I-676 from Philadelphia
“We all help each other. We got to where we’ve got by helping each other,” Farmer told Livefight. “I was from Philadelphia and I would come over here to spar Sosa. He was here a year or two before I joined up. I always liked the way they worked and the relationships they had. I split up with my trainer and these were the first people I thought about.
“It was like a family right away. We’re all good people so there was a connection there instantly.
I think ‘Chino’ is one of the best trainers in the world and I’ve also gotta mention Rashiem Jefferson. ‘Chino’ takes what we’ve got and gets the most out of it. He don’t switch nothing up or change nothing. He doesn’t have just one style, he can work with any style. It isn’t just me and Sosa either, he has a lot of other top quality fighters.
“Let’s put it like this. Without ‘Chino’ and Raishem I wouldn’t be where I am today. No way. They both bring something different to the table and they put in a tonne of hard work. ‘Chino’ is the mastermind behind it all. Raishem is the lever guy. He does the work. ‘Chino’ thinks about things and masters it and then ‘Raishem’ is the guy that goes out and puts it together.”
On the face of it, Sosa, now 20-1-4 (15 KO’s), and Farmer, 24-4-1 (5KO’s), look to have little in common but the fact that they both compete in the super featherweight division. To categorise the two based purely on their boxing styles and personalities would be to overlook the core beliefs which have been central to their eventual success.
Quietly spoken and unassuming, Sosa’s work ethic was forged by his upbringing in Camden where determination and an uncompromising will were crucial factors in avoiding the trappings of the notorious locality. Farmer is a livewire. His enthusiasm for the sport is infectious but he is fuelled by an unshakeable self-belief that if he keeps working hard, the opportunities will come. The line between self-confidence and impatience became blurred early in his career but rather than instilling doubt, the setbacks simply reinforced his inner steel.
“Sosa had about three amateur fights and I had around 16. We’re definitely both short on amateur careers,” Farmer said. “We had to take those [early] fights. We had no guidance. We didn’t have ‘Chino’ or Raishem in those days. We had jobs and we had to learn. We would hope that somebody would see us and maybe decide that we had enough talent to get behind. Eventually, it happened.
“Those early experiences are definitely helping Sosa and it’s helping me purely by watching [him do] it. I know that he’s from the same gym as me and that if he can do it, I can do it. It’s definitely motivating me mentally to know that I can do the same thing.
“A lot of my work comes from sparring Sosa and him getting me to work on the inside. Now, I think I’m one of the best inside fighters out there. In Sosa’s last fight, he boxed a lot more. That’s come from me helping him. He already had a way of coming forward, I had the boxing skills, footwork and head movement and he’s helping me out on the inside and helping me come forward. Now we’ve got the best of both worlds.”
It’s perfectly natural for an offspring to feel jealousy when somebody else begins to compete for their parents affection. Sosa remembers the day a familiar face bounced into his gym and, as it turns out, into his life. Rather than feeling threatened by Farmer’s presence, Sosa welcomed it.
“I was with ‘Chino’ first and I saw Tevin Farmer walk through the gym doors. My first impression was that he’s a very smart kid. I already know exactly what I’ve got on my hands with ‘Chino’ and for somebody who is looking for a new trainer and a new beginning to come looking for ‘Chino’, I straight away thought that this kid was smart.
“I respected him from day one. The first time we shared a ring is was just perfect, man. It was him and me, me and him and now, [look at] the growth that we’re accomplishing together. He’s getting better, I’m getting better. It’s beautiful to see. I’m surprised they haven’t made a movie about me and Tevin Farmer yet.
“We push each other to the max. He’s my brother and I love him to death but for this Lomachenko fight - just like every other fight - Tevin is going to be there and he’s going to push me to the max. I want that from him. He’s going to make sure that when I get in that ring, that I’m at my best.
“It’s fate. It was meant to be.”
Whereas Rivas knew Sosa from the streets of New Jersey, he had no such connection with Farmer. The brash, self confident fighter was a entirely different pupil to this laid back classmate and Rivas has worked hard to create a bond. The fact that he has had to work hard to earn his own recognition enabled him to understand Farmer’s mindset.
“One of the most difficult things with Tevin was teaching him how to be patient. He knows that he’s better than a lot of these guys at 130lbs but he isn’t getting his shot. I tell him that politics plays a huge part in what he’s going through.
“If I’d had him since the beginning he’d be undefeated. No manager or promoter who has an elite fighter or an undefeated guy who had a great amateur record is going to fight him. In order for us to get Tevin a title shot, we’re going to have to earn it. Just like we’ve been earning our stripes for the past five years he’s been with me. He’s 26 years old. When we do get a shot we’ll take it and we’ll be world champions for a long, long time.”
For Rivas, putting together a team who share the same values as he does was the difficult part. He had no doubts about his ability to successfully impart his methods on two fighters who are constructed of such different raw materials. Sosa will happily walk into the teeth of a gale in order to impose himself but whilst Farmer ha grown comfortable operating in the eye of the storm, he is more inclined to dodge the raindrops.
“The first thing I do is teach them the value of love and respect, “ Rivas says. “I tell them that everybody is equal. We have to love each other and support each other. We go out together and go to the movies. I cook dinner and the team all comes to my house and I’ll do BBQ’s. That’s the structure we have. You can’t come to my place and think you’re better than anybody else. That’s not how it works.
“I take the good in a fighter and keep it. I don’t try to change him. For example, I looked at Tevin and decided what I thought he needed. We had to make him a little more exciting but I did that by improving his defence and adding in more angles. We could stand and exchange but still be that elusive, quick fighter. Jason is a power fighter so I took some of Tevin’s boxing skill and implemented that into Jason’s style. I’ll take the strength of one fighter and add it to another one.
“In my house right now I have four fighters. I cook for them all. I’m not their manager but this is how I do things. If I’m going to the store, they come. If I’m going to my mothers house, they come. They embrace that. They all call me ‘Pops’ andI know that whatever I teach, they believe in because it is no longer a coach - student relationship, it’s father-son and they don’t want to let me down. They will tell you, they’ll say, “I cant let ‘Pops’ down.”
Sosa and Farmer were totally focused on their own interests that night in Philadelpjhia. Now, the two have developed into inseparable allies and integral figures in each others development. Rivas has created a real team in New Jersey. In fact, scratch that. For the fighters and trainers in ‘Chino’s’ household, win or lose, boxing is a family affair.
Curtis Stevens talks Lemieux showdown "I'll destroy him then beat up Billy Joe"
By Michael J Jones
MIDDLEWEIGHT puncher Curtis Stevens is clearly a man of few words. One message he repeats to me over the course of our twenty minute interview is plain though; David Lemieux is in trouble. The two ferocious punchers clash over twelve rounds on March 11th with the Canadian's NABO belt up for grabs as well as the chance for the victor to challenge for further world honours.
Stevens, now 31-years-old, returned from a period of inactivity last year to score two impressive victories over the previously undefeated Brazilian Patrick Teixeira and James De La Rosa. The latter win went the full ten rounds after the man known as the “Cerebral Assassin” injured his hand early in the fight. However, the two-round of dismissal of Teixeira, 26-0 going in, provided a spectacular knock-out.
The Brazilian was wobbled in the first by a stiff jab but walked into a thunderous right-hand in the next which jack-knifed him violently to the deck. The devastating win raised Stevens record to 29-5 (21) as he successfully defended his WBC Continental Americas title but insists he is yet to reach his peak under new trainer John David Jackson.
Speaking exclusively to livefight.com, Stevens sounds ready for another explosive performance when he takes on the 36-3 (32) Lemieux after a long-time feud between the pair.
“Training has gone very well. I’ve been with my trainer (former world champion and coach to Sergey Kovalev John David Jackson) for a year and two months now. He’s not just helped with bringing out my boxing but he’s helped with everything from boxing, my jab, slugging…everything you can imagine.”
“I’ve been trying to get a fight with David Lemieux for about two years now. I think the turning point was when I hurt my hand in my last fight. I think they’re trying to catch me when I’m injured and that’s the reason the fight was made. My hands are perfect now as they’ll find out on March 11th.”
Stevens turned pro in 2004 but it was following a lengthy spell on the side-lines and a drop in weight (168 to 160) which brought the New Yorker's finest form with a series of high-light-reel knock-outs in 2013. The eye-catching form lead to bout against world ruler Gennedy Golovkin and the two men met at Madison Square Garden in November 13.
The fight didn't disappoint, Stevens was floored by a brutal left hook in the second but came back to chin-check “GGG” as the two men unloaded their full arsenal of power-punches against each other to the thrill of the crowd.
Once the smoke cleared though it was Golovkin who retained his WBA and IBO titles with a seventh-round corner retirement after a sustained barrage ended matters. Stevens' March 11th opponent also lost via stoppage to Golovkin and emerged from the defeat with much credit.
Stevens isn't taking anything from the respective bouts the two men have shared with the still-unbeaten Russian as he comments.
“I don’t really take anything from (Lemieux’s) fight with Gennedy Golovkin as everybody fights everyone differently. He may (box) the same way against me but they can do whatever the f**k they want to do come March 11th he’s in trouble against me whatever he tries.”
“Of course I’d like to face Golovkin again, I’d love to correct the mistakes I made against him. It was a good, entertaining fight but there was things I should have done differently in there. I’m moving forward now and I’d definitely like to be able to reapply myself against him.”
The Stevens-Lemieux match at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino, New York, has got fans in a frenzy as a multi-knock-down war is predicted by many. Lemieux has won both contests since losing his IBF title to Golovkin but has returned with two wins and looked as good as ever last time when dispatching decent Glen Tapia in four. Stevens, despite the expected fire-works, clearly is focused on winning and isn't goaded into making any bold predictions.
“All I’ll say is when it goes it goes. Whether it’s the first, second, third, eleventh, twelfth whatever round; I will beat him” the feared Stevens tells Livefight menacingly. “My tactics will be just to use my jab, control the fight, dictate the fight and not let him do what he wants to do.”
“I don’t really see (Lemieux) as a one-punch knock-out artist. I know he has power but not as much as I do and he’s not as strong as I am. He has a good, short, hook and I’ll be timing that and staying away from it. I’ve had an excellent camp and I'm ready for anything.”
I ask the Brownsville puncher if he feels in his prime at 31 after just over a year under John David Jackson?
“I’m 31-years-old now but if you look at my career I’ve had three years out of the ring since I started so there’s no boxing wear-and-tear I’m still pretty fresh. I had two years out (2011-2012) and then in 2015 I couldn’t get a fight as nobody wanted to face me.”
“Golovkin vs ‘Canelo’ Alvarez would be a great, great fight” Stevens replies when I ask who would prevail should the two mega-stars finally meet each other in the ring. Stevens shared seven torrid rounds with Golovkin and also spent time in camp with Alvarez before the Mexican's contest with Miguel Cotto so should have a excellent idea on the fight.
“I think it would pretty much come down to who got their (game-plan) right on the night and who could impose themselves better in the fight. Canelo is a huge guy, I’ve no idea what weight he comes down from to make 154lbs but he’s a big guy so I believe he could have the power to hurt Golovkin.”
Is there any one of his career victories he is most proud of as he looks back at his 34 bout career?
“There’s no one victory for me that stands out in my career as every win is one I’m proud of. Generally, a win is a win and it doesn’t matter how it comes. I feel for me there’s a lot more to come and I’m not where I can get to. I’ll be very proud when I win against Lemieux on March 11th.”
“I have no prediction for the fight just that it will be my hand that’s raised after it’s finished. Whatever round it is or whatever means I will win this fight.”
And after the fight should he be victorious?
“Once I’ve won this fight I’ll be hoping to fight for a world title again against one of the champions. Billy Joe Saunders has the WBO belt so I’ll be looking for him. I’ve seen two of his fights and he’s nothing. No fight is easy but he’s nothing special from what I’ve seen. If he wants it it will be easy to make it happen.”
“To all my fans, tune in to me vs David Lemieux on March 11th it’s going to be a good fight and excellent knock-out.”
Livefight.com would like to thank Main Events' Ellen Haley for helping to arrange this interview. Also to Mr Curtis Stevens for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk to us this week.
Stevens' stunning KO of Teixeira
Lemieux vs. Stevens is a 12-round middleweight bout for the NABO Middleweight championship, presented by Golden Boy Promotions in association with Eye of the Tiger Management and Main Events,and sponsored by "Tecate, BORN BOLD." The HBO Boxing After Dark telecast begins at 11:00 p.m. ET/PT.
For more information visit www.goldenboypromotions.com, www.mainevents.com, www.hbo.com/boxing, and www.turningstone.com follow on Twitter at @GoldenBoy, @main_events, @HBOboxing @TurningStone and visit us on Instagram at @GoldenBoyBoxing, @main_events and @TurningStone. Follow the conversation using #LemieuxStevens.