Season preview: Welsh boxing is on the brink of new tales and titles
Although most boxing fans recognise the sport’s schedule on a year-by-year basis, the traditional season operates from September to July. The usually inactive month of August offers observers a checkpoint to assess the state and rate of a boxer’s success and BoxingWales have taken the trouble to preview what the new season will bring for our boxers… Six weeks in to the new season, ‘Sugar’ Lee Selby (19-1, 7KO) has the opportunity to take a big step towards becoming Wales’ 12th world champion when he headlines London’s 02 Arena in a Final Eliminator for the IBF featherweight title against Australia’s unbeaten Joel Brunker (27-0, 15KO) on October 11th. Brunker executes the basic fundamentals effectively and can look fearsome when he gains front foot momentum where he’s able to launch two fisted flurries from. The Ozzie is unlikely to have fought a featherweight with Selby’s size but the main difference between the contenders may be that Selby can fight going backwards and forwards. The Barry boy will be tackling the sixth undefeated fighter of his six year career and whatever happens, the styles should suit. Thankfully for Selby, he won’t be facing an unknown quantity like he has had to in the past because the pair have shared a ring before. Selby’s manager, Chris Sanigar swears by American training experience and it allowed Selby to spar Brunker at Floyd Mayweather’s gym in Las Vegas last year, giving him a first fist idea of what to expect. It’s all but official that in November, Cefn Fforest’s former world champion Nathan Cleverly (28-1, 14KO) will again meet his nemesis when he rematches Liverpool’s loud Tony Bellew. The pair first punched each other in 2011 with the Welshmen prevailing, courtesy of a deserved Majority Decision. Cleverly defended his WBO light-heavyweight title that winter night but a lot has changed since then with both boxers changing weights, trainers and promoters since. However, one thing that hasn’t changed is the hate they share for each other. Both clashed in the build up for the first fight, it kicked off again when they shared a show in July and it’s sure not to settle down ahead of the second instalment of British boxing’s most bitter rivalry. On to another man who isn’t too fond of Cleverly, Welsh boxing eagerly awaits the next move of former WBO world cruiserweight champion, Enzo Maccarinelli (38-7, 30KO). The Swansea light-heavyweight was unlucky in a world title bid against WBA ‘Regular’ champion Juergen Braehmer in April, suffering a horrendous eye injury which led a fifth round stoppage in a contest he was holding his own in. Unfortunately, Maccainrelli’s unlikely to get a return with the German or be motivated to return to domestic level where he has more than proved his worth but at 33 years and 45 fights old, the banger from Bonymaen can’t afford to be too inactive. A few levels below but gradually catching up, Clydach Vale’s light-middleweight Liam Williams (10-0-1, 5KO) and Swansea’s light-welterweight Chris Jenkins (15-0, 7KO) are fast rising stars within a whisker of British title shots. First though, Williams must overcome the winner of the Scottish civil war between John Thain and Kris Carslaw in a Final Eliminator likely to happen in November, while it looks likely that Jenkins will travel to Liverpool in October to face Scouser and former Team GB Olympic captain, Tom Stalker. Neither of the hot prospects will have an easy route but British title eliminators are a solid base to gain valuable experience, where they can learn lessons that will benefit their young careers and bring out the best in them. Cardiff’s middleweight Frankie Borg (9-2, 3KO) and Merthyr’s featherweight Dai Davies (11-23-2, 2KO) hold outside chances of securing a voluntary domestic title shot following their career best wins at the Rhydycar Leisure Centre in March and July, respectively. Both boxers are Welsh champions and they own championship experience where they have shown that they’re game and have enough guts to challenge at the next level. Should they get a shot, Borg and Davies would both be underdogs but it didn’t stop them winning their last contests and on their day, they could cause upsets again. On the other hand, their victims must climb back up the ladder. Merthyr’s Kerry Hope (20-7, 1KO) has moved to Australia where there’s a plethora of middleweights such as current IBF world champion Sam Soliman, plus former world champions Daniel Geale and Anthony Mundine. Hope would undoubtedly be an away opponent but decent pay days and the opportunities would be worth it. Cefn Fforest’s Robbie Turley (13-5, 3KO) will return to super-bantamweight where he holds the Celtic and Welsh titles to retarget the British bauble which may soon be held by part-Welshman Josh Wale (16-6-2, 9KO) who is mandated to contest by the end of the year following a draw with the current champion Gavin McDonnell in May. Another Welshman on the British title hunt will be Cardiff’s experienced Gary Buckland (28-5, 9KO). The 27-year-old has suffered three defeats in the past year and it looks likely that he’ll now drop back to super-featherweight. At 130lbs, Buckland will retain his physical advantages and aim to complete a trilogy with current British champion Gary Sykes, who has already been beaten twice by Buckland. Gary’s younger brother Mitchell Buckland (7-0, 1KO) will be looking for more activity in the new season. The 21-year-old has only fought once in 2014 and been unable to build on his stellar Celtic lightweight title win in 2013. Newport’s Jerome Samuels (5-5, 1KO) is in the same shoes and shares the ultimate enemy of inactivity. The Welsh light-middleweight champion has re-joined St Joseph’s Boxing Club but not been seen in a ring since winning the Welsh title with a points win over Blackwood’s Dai Jones (4-4-1) in March. Fellow Blackwood boxer Craig Evans (12-0, 3KO) has struggled to retain momentum following a frustrating spate of opponents withdrawing. The southpaw was due to face Olympian Joe Murray in April but he has instead had to make do with unknown opponents. It would be an exaggeration to say Evans is stagnating but he’s talented enough to fight above at a few levels above the one he’s been at and must be desperate for a breakthrough bout in the new season. Another Welshman without as many bouts as he’d have liked this year is Cardiff’s Craig Kennedy (9-0, 5KO). The cruiserweight fought seven times in 2013 but dates have been harder to come by this year with just two outings, both points wins over durable journeymen. Despite the inevitable frustration, the 29-year-old has stayed in the gym and sparred with Nathan Cleverly and Enzo Maccarinelli. Refreshingly, Kennedy is desperate to step up in levels and he could be helped by Sanigar Events’ commitment to small hall shows that could open doors to title shots. The fans will also be looking forward to the fortunes of fellow prospects Dale Evans (8-1-2, 3KO) and Lewis Rees (9-0-1, 5KO) who will both return from disappointing draws, albeit in different circumstances. St Clears’ Evans is eager to rematch Mark Douglas who dropped the welterweight for the first time in his career before an accidental head clash ended the contest and the Rhondda’s light-welterweight Rees would be wise and should be eager to rematch Rendald Garrido towards the end of the year. Promoter David Coldwell will continue to build boxing back up in North Wales and it’ll centre on the undefeated Tom Doran (11-0, 3KO) of Deeside, who now operates at super-middleweight and fights next on October 3rd. It would be no surprise to see Doran eventually lined up to face Welsh super-middleweight champion Tobias Webb (14-2-1, 2KO) who is yet to defend his belt or appear in a ring since suffering a second round stoppage to the spiteful Scouser Callum Smith in May. Meanwhile, the methodical Maxi Hughes (12-1-1, 2KO), who is also handled by Coldwell, has been unable to secure a meaningful domestic fight but he gets the chance to leapfrog a few places when he faces former world champion, Joseph Laryea (17-9, 13KO). The pair were due to fight in May but a last minute injury ruled the African out and they’ve rescheduled to fight on September 12th.