Ricky Burns fails to rally back from torrid start
Former Super Feather and Lightweight WBO champion Ricky Burns suffered another defeat last night at the hands of unbeaten Montenegro-native Dejan Zlaticanin whilst trying to get into the mix for the WBC lightweight title.
Burns sprinted out of his corner at the beginning of the first round, and almost immediately ran straight into a big, powerful left hook - sending him crashing to the deck as his home crowd gasped.
He wearily got himself to his feet but was set about for the rest of the round by the short, pitbull-like Zlaticanin.
Burns managed to come out for the second round with clear head, but was firing shots over the head of the circa 5'5" tall opponent, who looked to drop bombs on Burns at every mistake and opportunity.
A pattern emerged of Burns going to the ropes and being punished with body shots and bowling hooks over the top. He was rocked several more times before the Sky telecast went off air due to a technical problem.
The action resumed for the 10th round, and Burns was having more success by now, but the viewer had to rely on fellow Scotsman Jim Watt for a recap - whom declared to the returning viewers that he had Burns only one point down, so can only assume Burns managed to stem the tide somewhat whilst off air.
Burns rallied for the final two rounds, but scores of 113-115 Zlaticanin 115-113 Burns 115-113 Zlaticanin - saw the visitor win via Split Decision.
It's not known where Ricky Burns goes from here, if anywhere. His aspirations to win another world title took a serious setback. It was a fight he could have possibly won, if not for the over-eager start which saw him walk onto a punch he struggled to overcome for a few rounds.
Promoter Eddie Hearn said post-fight that Burn's was "devastated" and that they might have to consider domestic options now, should the popular fighter wish to continue albeit at a lower level.
Fellow Scot Alex Arthur believes that changing trainers at such an advanced stage of his career wasn't wise and that he believed "Burns should have just trained in Scotland" as he always did. Personally I disagree, in the fact that Burns has been enjoying some excellent sparring and a fresh enviroment with his decision at a time he was seeming tired and stale.
But the reality is that maybe he's in decline ? The huge heart only showed glimpses of it's self last night - a fact spotted by Sky's Glen McCrory, whom believes since the broken jaw that Ricky Burns has seemingly become a little gun shy.
McCrory also commented that Burns played right into Zlaticanin "again and again" throughout the rounds, indicating his reading of the fight and adjustments were lacking. That he was content to retreat and go to the ropes.
Who knows what Burns does next, if he retires he will be known as one of the most successful (and humble) boxers that Scotland has ever produced. If he continues then his loyal supporters will be there regardless what tier he decided to operate on.
Burns, still aged only 31 years old falls to 36-4.
Luckless Connor looking to stop rot with Devine intervention
By Michael J Jones
Hackbridge contender Danny “Cassius” Connor is looking to put a shocking six months behind him ahead of his September 6th clash with Michael Devine. The Alec Wilkey-trained fighter lost his Southern Area crown last October by a single point to Tony Owen before suffering a further defeat to old rival Tyler Goodjohn just two months later. Since then the likeable 28-year-old has been restricted to just one six-rounder and suffered a back injury...but then had to hear the words no man ever wants to hear just weeks ago.
“It was just horrible news” Danny tells Livefight of the tragic death of his father who passed away from multiple organ failure at just 57-years-old. “Me and my dad weren't the closest but he was still my dad. He came to watch me box in Prizefighter last year, that was the first time he'd ever seen me fight which was nice.”
The 11-8-1 (0) Danny insists he will use the emotional trauma as fuel for his boxing career starting with his September grudge match with Michael Devine. The Masters title bout goes ahead at York Hall and the two have exchanged heated words on social media. I ask what started the needle between the two fighters?
“I don't know really” admits Connor. “I don't know how it started but it's been going on a while now. Even his manager has been saying he'll do this and that to me but I'm going to destroy him no doubt about it.”
The bout will mark Connor's debut as a lightweight following Masters and Southern Area success at the weight above. The plucky contender also upset the odds to reach the Prizefighter final last year where he was stopped by Welsh star Chris Jenkins.
“I lost to the better man that night” concedes the Londoner. “I had two burst ear-drums entering the final from my previous fight but all credit to Jenkins.”
Since the successive defeats to Owen and Goodjohn, Connor's lone outing was a six-round victory over Polish journeyman Arek Malek in April; a bout he edged by just a single point though Danny strongly objects to the scoring of the contest.
“It was a joke really and I've no idea how the ref could have scored it that way. I won the first four rounds clearly, but I hurt my hand on his hard head at the end of the fourth round. Guys like him can sense when something like that happens and when I couldn't jab him because of the pain he pressed forward and probably won the last two. Everyone was shocked by the score-line at the end.”
Following an atrocious six months or so does the Hackbridge boxer feel he's back to his best at this stage?
“I feel really good and back to 100%” replies Danny immediately. “To be honest I thought I did enough to beat Tony Owen but it went against me so I can't complain. The fight with Tyler I f**ked about with the weight and paid the price. I've always said when I'm a 100% I'm a hard man to beat. I was 100% for Chris Evangelou, a 100% for Prizefighter and I'll be the same for smashing up Michael Devine.”
If he has struggled in the past with making 140lbs will making the lightweight limit prove to be a burden?
“No I'll definitely be ok making weight” he replies without hesitation. “The only time I struggled making weight in the past was when I f**ked it up and didn't do it right. I struggled before my first fight with Evangelou but still got the win but made weight great for the second and you could see the difference; I absolutely battered him the second time.”
“The Tony Owen fight I made weight fine and did ten hard rounds but for the Tyler Goodjohn fight I looked like a junkie! As a lightweight I know I can make the limit and be massive at the weight.”
Despite engaging in several tough battles in his four years in the pros, Connor has yet to score a knock-out in twenty bouts. Is he surprised he has never forced an inside-schedule win to date?
“I am a bit surprised” admits the former Southern Area champion. “I know I'm not a massive concussive puncher but I can punch a bit I know. I used to not sit down much on my shots but we've been working on that; planting my feet for certain punches. Alec Wilkey my trainer takes me on the pads and says I can punch but it's putting that into the fight.”
“I know the knockouts will start coming and although I've never stopped anyone yet ask Chris Evangelou and Ryan Taylor if I can punch. I'm not saying I'm Mike Tyson but if I catch anyone cleanly I'll hurt them.”
I interject that Connor has also faced a high calibre of opposition since making his pro bow just over four years ago...
“Yeah I've not fought many journeymen and the ones I have were all guys who never get stopped. I fought Russell Pearce and dropped him with a clean left hook but the ref called it a head clash which may have denied me a stoppage win. Guys like Malek, Danny Dochev and Sean Gorman are guys who nobody knocks out. If I'd have gotten bums from overseas who just take the money I could have got those knockouts on my record.”
One fight which looked a certainty to be made last year was Danny vs unbeaten Ricky Boylan. I ask was the fight ever close to being made at any time?
“The fight was never made because Ricky didn't want it” says Danny flatly. “When I lost to Tyler in December and Ricky stopped Tony Owen it seemed a natural fight to make but the truth is he never wanted that fight and it's been offered to him several times. It's not going to happen because he doesn't fancy it but we're both getting on with our careers and I wish him all the best for his.”
“My fight with Michael Devine will be for the Masters Gold title and we're hoping it can also be a eliminator for the English or Southern Area title. I'm going to smash up Devine and take him out and put my career back on track.”
Saunders gets tough Frenchman on Fury-Chisora bill says “I’m the true UK number one”
By Michael J Jones
On June 7th, Sedgefield prospect Bradley Saunders faced his toughest test to date in his first title fight of his short pro career against durable Ville Piispanen. The Newcastle bout was for the WBO InterContinental light-welterweight belt and many wondered how the former amateur star would perform against his most experienced opponent to date. Those questions were answered clinically in just 81 seconds as Saunders raced to 10-0 (8) and sent a devastating message out to all of his UK rivals.
On July 26th, the North East puncher gets another tough test (on paper) when taking on iron-jawed Frenchman Christopher Sabire over eight rounds on the Fury-Chisora undercard in Manchester. In 31 pro contests, Sabire has only been stopped once inside schedule and has already this year taken both Chris Jenkins and Bradley Skeete the full distance.
Speaking exclusively to Livefight from his camp in Marbella, Saunders is clearly relishing the chance to go in with another tough and experienced opponent.
“He is a very tough guy who goes the distance with everybody” Bradley tells Livefight. “It’s going to be eight rounds a little over the light-welterweight limit so I’m just looking forward to getting some rounds in and showing people what I can do.”
“People keep doubting me because I stop guys early, but it’s not my fault, we get guys who usually do the distance but I end up stopping them. Hopefully in this fight it will go a few rounds so everyone can see what damage I can do later on in a fight.”
I ask the heavy-handed Bradley to talk me through his stoppage of Piispanen, which came courtesy of a crushing combination which ended with a sickening left to the ribs.
“I was over the moon with the win” says the 28-year-old. “Me and my coach Seamus Macklin had been working on that shot but we didn’t think it would work that early. We were expecting ten full rounds because he was so tough and experienced.”
“Piispanen’s manager called my team and said (Piispanen) had been forced to have two weeks off work because of his badly damaged ribs. He said they knew I hit hard but didn’t expect me to do that to him.”
Is the WBO InterContinental champion confident he can carry that power up to the highest level?
“Yes I do” replies the Sedgefield body snatcher with certainty. “I know from the amateurs and all the sparring I’ve done I’ve got the power, not just to the body but to the head too. I’ve hurt full middleweights in sparring and shook them up so with 8oz gloves (my power) will always take its toll at some point.”
This weekend British light-welterweight champion Curtis Woodhouse makes his first defence against Scottish veteran Willie Limond. I ask Saunders who he thinks will prevail?
“Curtis wins for me, he’s just that bit hungrier at this stage than Limond and he’ll definitely win. Neither wanted to face me as we offered them more money than they’re making on Saturday to fight me but I’ll definitely get my chance. For know I’m just concentrating on my next fight.”
Bradley’s promoter Frank Warren recently called his fighter the best light-welterweight in Britain. That surely must give the North East star huge confidence?
“Yes it gives me confidence but I also believe in myself” comments the 28-year-old who following his win over Piispanen has been rewarded with a number 12 ranking with the WBO. “I really do believe I’m the best in my division. I feel if you don’t believe in yourself then it will never be. People have doubted me but they are just starting to believe in me and beginning to see I’m a real player. I’m just going to keep proving it with my performances.”
Bradley would like to thank his sponsors; webuyanyhouse.com, ESRG Marketing groups, his trainer Seamus Macklin and his team at the MGM Gym Marbella, plus his manager Daniel Kinahan and promoter Frank Warren.
Saunders demolishes Piispanen-
Pretty Ricky Boylan eager to resume promising career after injury woes
By Michael J Jones
Last December at the London Excel Arena, Carshalton prospect Ricky Boylan scored his best victory to date by stopping defending Southern Area champion Tony Owen in four rounds. In securing his tenth win, the hard-hitting Boylan showed poise and confidence to weather some good early work from Owen before ending matters in a conclusive fourth session.
Some seven months later and the Matchroom-promoted prospect has frustratingly been mostly on the side-lines due to injury. His only outing since the Owen stoppage was a six-round decision over Krysztof Szot in April. The win takes his tally to 11-0 (4) and with the UK 140lb division starting to come to life, Boylan is keen to return to activity as soon as possible.
Livefight caught up with “Pretty” Ricky to discuss his career so far and his hopes for the future.
LF) You turned pro in December 2010 and your first scare occurred in your third contest when receiving a standing count against Bulgaria’s Radoslav Mitev in the first round; what happened?
RB) I basically didn’t know who I was fighting until I got into the ring. Then when the bell rang he came out swinging wildly and he just caught me with a silly shot. I was more off balance than anything and that was the only standing count I’ve ever had in my whole career.
Note: Ricky went on to stop Mitev in the fourth.
LF) Your first title fight was against the 3-0 Jan Holec for the vacant British Masters Bronze title and you won a decision. Were you happy with your performance that night?
RB) Yeah he was quite crafty and came to win plus he was a southpaw but I boxed well that night. I was really happy with my performance which was my last with my manager Dean Powell before he died.
LF) Last December you faced Tony Owen for the Southern Area title and stopped him in the fourth. Was that your best performance to date?
RB) Without a doubt it was. Tony Owen is a good fighter and a friend of mine but it’s a business and we are luckily still friends now after the fight. To be fair, Tony was boxing brilliantly until I stopped him I think he settled better than me but I knew I’d catch up with him. I took my time and caught him with that left hook. He got up but the ref stopped it moments later.
LF) You’ve only boxed once since then due to injuries is that correct?
RB) Yes Tony Owen perforated my eardrum so that kept me out a bit longer than expected. I’ve had a few niggling injuries in all since December the last one was a stress fracture to my shin but I’m hoping to be able to start training again next week. I’m hoping I can get going again then and be out either August 23rd or the 30th.
My career has been a little bit slow so far at times but now I’m with Matchroom and won the Southern Area title it’s all looking good.
LF) The UK light-welterweight scene seems to be hotting up right now with several good veteran fighters and prospects coming through. Is it exciting to be part of that mix?
RB) Yes I think for a few years now the light-welterweight division has been pretty boring but right now there are so many of us in the top twenty all around the same level so the division should be pretty exciting in the next year or two. For me, I’ve got to keep getting the wins and letting Eddie (Hearn) and Matchroom get me the fights I need.
LF) One man currently making waves in your division is Bradley Saunders. Is that a fight you would welcome at some point?
RB) Bradley is a great fighter and another friend of mine but, like I said earlier, boxing is a business and if the fight was for the right title and money I’d do whatever I needed to progress my career. It’s not a fight either of us need at the moment though.
LF) Where do you see yourself in a few years; do you think you’ll ever go all the way to world title level?
RB) When I first turned pro I set out to win the British title and that’s still my goal. I think in nine months to a year I can be fighting for the British title and from there maybe the European and the world but I don’t want to get too ahead of myself. It all depends on me keeping winning and being the best I can possibly be. I’m hoping in my next couple of fights to be boxing for the English title, if that can’t be arranged then maybe the WBC International belt or whatever Eddie says.
LF) Next month sees the big heavyweight clash between Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora. Who do you think will prevail in that one?
RB) I hope Tyson Fury as I rate him and I think he can do it again and beat Chisora. Fury has been a bit lazy in the past but he’s a good fighter, pretty light on his feet for a big man and a decent boxer too.
LF) Thanks Ricky is there anything you would like to add?
RB) Yes can I thank my sponsors; GVC Vans, Rapid Ready mix, Sugar Ray’s boxing equipment, Nuffield Health, Soulmate food and Ampro boxing equipment.
Ricky’s win over Tony Owen-
James “Quick” Tillis talks heavyweight career “Tyson didn't hit as hard as Shavers”
By Michael J Jones
People rather cruelly label the 80's heavyweight division as one of the worst eras for world heavyweight boxing in history. This despite stars such as Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Tim Witherspoon, Frank Bruno and Gerry Cooney all boxing in the decade.
One man who more than held his own in the largely uncommercial but tough period was “The Fighting Cowboy” James Tillis. Standing 6'2” and weighing around 210lbs, Tillis was a fleet-footed boxer with a quick jab who could also punch pretty hard too. In a 23 year pro career he mixed it with the best fighters of the day with mixed success. The trouble with “Quick” was he never seemed able to win the big ones, most notably decision losses to then WBA champion Mike Weaver and a young “Iron” Mike Tyson.
As a boy, Tillis would become interested in boxing after listening to the 1964 world heavyweight title bout between Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston. Ironically, the Oklahoma man would later get his fighting nick-name from his hero...
“I'm the 'Fighting Cowboy' and Muhammad Ali gave me that name” James tells Livefight proudly. “Ali is why I wanted to be a fighter ever since the age of seven.”
As a star amateur, the smooth boxing Tillis would go an impressive 92-8 winning several Oklahoma Golden Gloves titles as well as the AAU and regional Golden Gloves. Illness would force the young American to miss out on a place in the 76' Olympics so two years later he turned pro at 21-years-old.
“I did base my style on Muhammad Ali and also Sugar Ray Robinson” reveals the 56-years-young Tillis. “I made it my goal to fight like those guys and just move and move. Not a lot of heavyweights can really move on their toes like I did. I was even trained for a while by Angelo Dundee and Bundini Brown, he used to scream at me 'float like a butterfly sting like a bee' like he had done for Ali.”
In less than three years of his pro career, Tillis forged himself a perfect 20-0 (16) record. After knocking out Argentine contender Domingo D'Elia in four rounds, the heavyweight prospect would be rewarded with a WBA title shot against dangerous-punching champion Mike Weaver in Rosemount, Illinois.
The challenger made a good start and seemed ahead by halfway though seemed to let Weaver off the hook a few times to the frustration of trainer Angelo Dundee who kept shouting for his man to keep the heat on the champion.
At the end of fifteen competitive rounds, Weaver retained by scores of 147-142, 146-142 and 145-143. Amazingly, Tillis would never again fight for the world heavyweight title in the remaining twenty years of his career..
“I feel I won eleven of those rounds but he got the decision due to boxing politics” reflects James some 33 years later. “I hurt him four or five times in there and was sure I had done enough to take the title but Mike Weaver is a good friend of mine and was a great champion.”
After two comeback victories, the high-ranking contender would face another legendary puncher in the still-dangerous Earnie Shavers. The ten-rounder was on the undercard of Larry Holmes vs Gerry Cooney and provided some drama of it's own.
“Earnie Shavers could still hit believe me” chuckles Tillis who survived a heavy knock-down in the ninth to win a decision. “He hurt me three times and had me in the land of make-believe. I'm a cowboy and no word of a lie a Shavers punch was like being kicked in the head by a horse.”
Later in the year, Tillis would suffer back-to-back stoppage defeats to future champions Pinklon Thomas and Greg Page. In both bouts he was competitive before tiring. The slick contender would later be diagnosed with a rare allergy condition brought on by the healthy foods he was eating during training.
“I had a stamina problem due to an allergy” says the former heavyweight. “I was real tired against Thomas and Page but just couldn't quit. I'd be eating oatmeal, milk, making weight good but I'd then feel like I had a cold.”
In September 1983, Tillis would be matched against Tim Witherspoon for the vacant NABF title in Ohio. Two fights earlier, the Philly puncher had given Larry Holmes all he could handle in an IBF title shot and was the pre-fight favourite though few could have predicted a win over Tillis in just 2:16 of the very first round.
“I didn't feel right at all for that one” sighs James who fell three times in the short-lived bout. “I wanted another fight with him but never got that chance.”
Tillis would take a little time out before reeling off four knock-out wins the next year. He would then drop five successive decisions when stepping back up in class though none were of the straight forward variety. Carl “The Truth” Williams provided the first loss while Marvis Frazier had to survive early punishment to eke out a points verdict next time out.
Tillis would then travel to South Africa to take on former world champion Gerrie Coetzee over ten rounds. After appearing to out-box and bust up Coetzee, Tillis would frustratingly see another decision go against him.
The loss still clearly rankles James to this day though he reflects with typical humour...
“I put that guy in hospital but he got the decision in his home-town. I put it on him all night, the next day he blew up like a croc', I messed him up so bad I put him into Australia! I always had bad breaks and that was another one of them.”
Four months later, the luckless contender dropped an eight-round decision to Tyrell Biggs in Pennsylvania as his career again seemed in a downward spiral. Four months on though, Tillis would have the fight which cemented his name in heavyweight history forever when taking on a 19-year-old prospect named Mike Tyson.
“I'd met him in New York before he was famous and he had two left feet then but...he got better.”
The two men met in New York in May 1986. The scheduled ten-rounder pitted the savage aggression of the 19-0 (19) Tyson vs the ring smarts and experience of Tillis. Most expected a fast and explosive victory for the Brooklyn ace but the ten-years-older Tillis was ready to derail the Tyson train.
“I knew he was a tough boy but by this time I'd discovered my allergies so was able to train very hard for the fight” says James who scaled 207¾lbs to Tyson’s 215. “ I was running and training as hard as I could and felt like a million dollars.”
The fight started with Tyson looking to load up but Tillis sensibly jabbed the shorter man before tying him up whenever he got too close. On the inside, Tillis would cleverly find room for hard shots to the mid section before spinning away.
To the shock of the crowd, Tillis seemed ahead after three rounds and was winning the fourth before disaster struck. A mistimed right left James open to a Tyson left hook and down he went hard though got up straight away with a wink though had to spit out some teeth.
“He didn't hit me with no power” insists Tillis who Tyson later said gave him his toughest ever fight. “He hit me on the chin and I didn't even feel it. He was supposed to murder me in two rounds yet I put it on the man all night.”
The fight was in the balance until the final few rounds. A big finish by Tyson saw Tillis hold more as the rounds progressed. Mike was rewarded with a decision by 8-2 by one judge and just 6-4 for the other two. Many had it a draw with some even suggesting Tillis had been robbed, a notion James agrees with.
“I won eight of those rounds, I hurt him with a lot of stuff. I threw a lot of combinations, body-shots, I put it on him man.”
Despite arguably the finest performance of his career, the veteran would never again hang tough at the highest level. He would fall to many over the next few years including a stoppage loss to Frank Bruno at Wembley.
“I beat a whole lot of good boys in my career” the “Fighting Cowboy” reflects. “But by the Bruno fight I felt I'd lost all of the momentum I'd gotten before. My body clock was off for that fight and I got cut bad. Bruno was a good fighter but a little slow. I knew by then I'd never be able to get back to the title.”
Following his TKO loss to Bruno, Tillis would fight on and off for a further fourteen years, eventually retiring for good after a knock-out loss to Rob Calloway in Missouri. He would walk away with a 42-22-1 (31) record with many of those defeats coming in the latter stages of his long career. In all the man known as "Quick" would face nine world heavyweight champions in his long career and a host of top contenders and danger-men to boot.
Was there anyone he would have liked to fought in his prime that he never got the opportunity to?
“Yeah I would have liked to fight Michael Dokes when he was champion” replies “Quick”. “I also would have liked to get another opportunity to fight Witherspoon again and Greg Page. I had Page down for like thirteen seconds in our fight (Tillis dropped Page in the second before being stopped in the eighth). I also would have liked to fight Tyson again when he became champion. I would have fought him the same way just with a little more side-to-side movement. I felt I won eight rounds against Tyson but had to knock him out to win.”
Having fought some of the biggest punchers of the 80's I have to ask who was the hardest hitter that Tillis faced in his 65 pro bouts. He doesn't hesitate in making his choice...
“Earnie Shavers without a doubt” smiles James. “Shavers was the baddest man I ever fought. Like I said it was like getting kicked by a horse. I'm a cowboy I know what that feels like and it was just the same.”
Following the release a few years ago of his biography “Thinking Big: the story of James Quick Tillis” the former fighter is currently trying to raise funds to make a big screen version of his novel. The former boxer has had experience in the movie industry before, starring alongside Whoopi Goldberg in the critically acclaimed drama “The Colour Purple” in 1985.
“I've been inducted in the Rochester boxing hall of fame and they also have a James Tillis day here in Oklahoma. Sometimes I get scrap book out about my boxing career that's my memories right there.”
In boxing sometimes a fighter's nickname can be misleading but in James' case he is most certainly “The Fighting Cowboy”...
“I feel like I was born at the wrong time” says “Quick”. “Me and my wife are two peas in the pod, we ride together, rope together, she's just like me a true cowboy.”
Livefight would like to thank Chico Sherwood for setting up the interview. Mr Sherwood is currently arranging a charity boxing night next April with “Quick” Tillis and a host of famous faces from the boxing and movie world set to attend. For more information please go to http://www.tulsacelebrityfightnight.com/
Sonjica warns “I am the man to ruin Rigondeaux!”
By Michael J Jones
Fresh off a resounding first-round knockout victory, IBO super-bantamweight champion Thabo Sonjica has called for WBA Super and WBO champion Guillermo Rigondeaux to face him in a unification bout later this year.
The talented South African, nick-named “Super Eagle”, is currently in the form of his life, winning his last five contests in impressive fashion and picking up the SA and IBO crowns in the process.
A tall, dangerous-punching southpaw, Sonjica insists he is ready for arguably the best fighter on the planet in Cuban star Rigondeaux. The 33-year-old champion next defends against Thai veteran Sod Kokietgym in Macao on July 19th. Sonjica claims he is primed and ready for meeting the 13-0 (8) Rigondeaux in October.
“Of course I believe in Mr Rodney Berman” says Thabo of his promoter. “He will convince Rigondeaux's camp to fight me on 25th October. All I can say is bring him on then you will see it your self that Sonjica is at his peak and Rigondeaux can’t stand in front of me. Come October the “Super Eagle” will prove everyone wrong."
The 26-year-old Sonjica suffered two knockout losses in 2011 to arch nemesis Macbute Sinyabi but has not been beaten since. The winning streak includes a third-round hammering of former world champion Simphiwe Nongqayi and a revenge points win over Sinyabi.
The IBO champion puts his excellent form down to old-fashioned hard work and promises he can improve even more against the best fighters in the world.
“I worked very hard in the gym to keep myself unbeaten for three years and that makes me know that I've reached my prime and I'm still going to improve it for sure.”
“I believe I can beat Rigondeaux” reiterates the confident Thabo. “I'm not underestimating him no, I'm not, but I also believe it’s my time to shine so I will start with (Rigondeaux) then the rest will follow him.”
Three weeks ago in Eastern Cape, Sonjica blew away the usually durable Toto Helebe at 2:36 of the first. I ask him to talk me through the short-lived bout…
“The fact that Helebe didn't even manage to go to go the scheduled distance with me didn't surprise me at all because I'm way too good to face him. I set him up with my right jab then let him commit himself then I threw a straight left to the body then the fight ended just like that.”
Though Thabo is dismissive of Helebe, his fellow countryman was unbeaten in the previous seven years and had never been stopped. He had even reigned as the SA champion in the division below recently.
After recently calling out WBA (Regular) champion Scott Quigg, Sonjica sees Rigondeaux as his ticket to world stardom…but what if the contest isn’t made?
“I don't want to lie to you so if the Rigo’ fight didn't happen of course I will be disappointed” admits the South African. “But it’s not the end of the world but I don't see any reason why it won't happen and even if it doesn’t happen I'm still calling for Scott Quigg to face me.”
At present, Guillermo Rigondeaux is considered one of the finest boxers on the planet after widely out-scoring both Filipino legend Nonito Donaire and Joseph Agbeko last year. The Cuban southpaw is expected to get little resistance from his next challenger Koktiegym. The 63-2-1 (28) veteran last tasted defeat to Daniel Ponce De Leon in 2005 and 06’, the latter bout seeing him bombed in the first.
Since then the Thai challenger is unbeaten in eight years and an astonishing 37 contests though further inspection reveals a brace of home-town mismatches against poor opposition.
Although the 19-2 (14) Sonjica would be a hefty underdog vs Rigondeaux, this writer would give him far more chance of upsetting “El Chacal” than the 37-year-old Koktiegym.
Many will have never heard of Sonjica but he’s a big-hitting talent who’s improving his skills with every bout. Despite a somewhat frail appearance, “Super Eagle” punches like a welterweight. The world’s best at 122lbs have been warned…
Hanrahan and Williams impress, Conroy upset
Super-bantamweight Liam Hanrahan continued his promising rise through the professional ranks as he overwhelmed Isaac Owusu in a second round stoppage victory at Manchester’s Bowlers Centre.
The 24 year-old Macclesfield prospect sent his Ghanaian opponent back pedalling into his own corner with a sharp one-two combination before dropping Owusu (23-5, 18 KO’s) with a stiff left hook.
After featuring on the undercard of Matchroom-promoted Scott Quigg in April and now coming through his own headlined show impressively, Hanrahan (8-0, 5 KO’s) targets more big nights with tougher tests.
“I’m absolutely buzzing to finish the season 8-0 with five knockouts,” he said.
“When we got this fight, we knew it was a step up and that’s all I want. I want to have more tests and make more statements every time. It’s my first headlined show and I’m pretty happy with it.
“I took so much away from my night on the Scott Quigg bill and I realised this is what I want to do. I want to headline shows at the Bowlers and then the dream is to headline the M.E.N. Arena one day. That’s the dream”
“I’m excited,” added promoter David Coldwell.
“It was a genuine step-up for Liam and he handled it really well. Good prospects go out there and impress and that’s what he did.
“I like to bridge my fighters before title fights and we will just continue to build and then maybe look at Commonwealth-rated kids. I honestly think that outside of Frampton, Quigg and Galahad he is the best super-bantamweight prospect in the country.”
Coldwell labelled the show “Feel The Noise” and the crowd certainly made sure you felt your ears pop as Liam Conroy entered the ring to a chorus of drums and horns.
However, you could hear a pin drop amongst sighs of disappointment when the final scorecard was read out.
In a close six-round fight, Conroy suffered his second career defeat to journeyman Max Maxwell (18-47-3) by a single point verdict of 58-57.
“Mad Max” dominated the opening round as he barraged Conroy with heavy blows on the inside. Despite the 34 year-old Birmingham fighter’s bullying tactics, Conroy started to use his jab well to edge round two.
Maxwell picked up the pace in round three as he connected successfully on many occasions in the round with a flurry of hands.
The fourth and fifth round could have gone either way with hard-hitting exchanges being made in a fast toe-to-toe battle.
Barrow’s Conroy (6-2) could have taken his chance to reverse the decision in the final round when Maxwell ran out of steam and the pace slowed to a game of physical chess.
There were more unexpected upsets on the undercard when previously undefeated prospect Rob Hough (2-1) was stopped by Darren McKenna (5-13-3) in round two.
Hough unleashed a thunderous shot to send McKenna crashing to the canvas in the opening round as everyone expected an easy night’s work for the 32 year-old Stockport man.
McKenna had a different ending in his mind.
To his credit, McKenna got up from that big-swinging bomb and dusted himself off before swinging back himself in round two. He caught Hough with a big overhand right and then dazed him with a straight left.
The 29 year-old Surrey fighter smelled blood and went in for the kill as he pummelled Hough with so many punches that referee Steve Gray had no choice but to step in and stop a charge of manslaughter being issued.
Wallasey’s Stevie Williams (15-2, 5 KO’s) continued his comeback to the ring after a 15-month absence.
After securing a points win at Deeside Leisure Centre four weeks ago, he used a refined and razor-sharp jab to record a dominant 40-36 points win over Lithuania’s Arvydas Trizno.
“It’s good to be back out again so soon,” Williams said.
“I used my jab and then went back to my old self and stood my ground and picked up a cut, which is a shame but it’s all stuff to work on.”
When asked what his next move was Williams revealed a clue to his next venture
“I can’t say too much but Dave’s got a big fight planned. It involves me going on a plane abroad.”
Peter Spencer TKO2 Paul Haines
Dan Blackwell beat James Higgy 40-37 on points
Chris Conwell beat Yousseff Al Hamidi 40-37 on points
Nathon Smith beat Mick Mills 40-36 on points
Andy Kremner rtd Matt Seawright- Round 2 (damaged left eye)
Tommy McCarthy TKO2 Imantas Davidaitas
Nadeem Sidique KO1 Alexander Farkas
Ivan "El Terribel" Redkach returns next Friday night
New York, NY / St. Charles, MO (6/20/14) - Next Friday night, DiBella Entertainment and Rumble Time Promotions, in association with Joe DeGuardia's Star Boxing, will present that week's edition of ESPN Friday Night Fights/ESPN Deportes' Noce de Combates from the beautiful Ameristar Casino in St. Charles, MO. Headlining the card will be red-hot lightweight contender Ivan "El Terribel" Redkach (16-0, 13KO's) putting his undefeated record on the line against former title challenger Sergey "The Surgeon" Gulyakevich (41-2, 17KO's) in the 10-round main event of the evening.
ESPN will begin live coverage at 9p.m. ET on ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN.
Redkach recently took time out of his busy training schedule to sit down and answer a few questions about his upcoming fight on Friday night as well as his career.
How has training camp been for this fight? Have you worked on anything different since the victory over Luis in your last fight?
This was a very good training camp for me. I learned from the Luis fight that as I progress in my career, the competition will get better and it will become more difficult to win
fights with early knockouts. I have been working on my stamina and my power for later in fights. I know that my power is there in the early rounds, but I want to be as dangerous in the 10th round as I am in the first round.
What did you learn from the Luis fight and were you happy with your performance?
I was happy with my performance. Tony Luis is a very good fighter and he's very tough. I would have liked to end the fight with a knockout for the television audience, but even without a knockout, I won a convincing decision over a tough fighter. With every fight, there are things that I can improve upon, but having never gone 10 rounds before, it was good experience and I got the win, and that's always the main goal heading into any fight.
You have devastating power and are known for your vicious knockouts, but against Luis you showed that you can also box. Is that something we can expect to see more of?
I think people overlook my ability when they see how many of my fights end in a knockout, but I am not just a power puncher. I am able to use my hand speed and movement to get into a position where my power can be devastating. I don't want to just rely on my power to get victories because in order to be a champion, you need to have the tools to win in different ways. I showed in my fight with Luis that I can outbox a talented boxer, but I've shown in the past that I am also capable of winning via knockout.
What kind of fight are you expecting out of your opponent next Friday?
Gulyakevich is a very talented fighter with a lot of experience. This will be his first time on television in the United States and I expect him to fight the best fight of his career on Friday. He is a former European champion and has fought for a world championship before. I think both of us are going to try to impress the audience and test each other from the opening bell, I am hoping for an exciting fight for the fans.
Some people were a bit critical of your performance against Luis and thought you should have knocked him out, what are your thoughts on that?
It's very hard to knock out a professional fighter, I always look for the knockout, but my goal is to win and that is what I did in the Luis fight.
Are you looking to make a statement in this fight, and if so, what is it?
Every time I fight, I am trying to make a statement. I want to fight for a world championship and the only way that will happen is to impress the audience and continue to win.
What is your prediction for this fight?
I believe that I will win. I believe that my power is going to be too much for Gulyakevich and that the fight will end with a knockout.
Where would you like to see yourself after a win on Friday night?
I want to continue to move up the rankings toward a world title fight. I am the USBA lightweight champion and on Friday night, I hope to solidify myself as a championship contender.
Anything you would like to say in closing?
I want to thank ESPN for giving me the opportunity to fight on television once again, as well as my promoter Lou DiBella and my manager Larry Army Jr. for making it possible for me to have this fight for the fans.
Tickets are currently on sale and are priced at $80 for ringside and $40 for general admission. Tickets can be purchased by calling (800) 293-5949, or by visiting www.metrotix.com. Doors open at 5p.m. CT with the first bout scheduled for 6p.m. CT.
ESPN will begin live coverage at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN.
Tickets are currently on sale and are priced at $80 for ringside and $40 for general admission. Tickets can be purchased by calling 1(800) 293-5949 or by visiting www.metrotix.com. Doors open at 5 p.m. CT with the first bout scheduled for 6 p.m. CT.