By Frank Warren
Billy Joe Saunders has been assigned with a mission he simply must accomplish in Glasgow this weekend.
The WBO middleweight champion finally gets to make a first defence of the title he won nearly a year ago against Andy Lee. This time he faces Brooklyn based Russian Artur Akavov and, should he do what we expect and retain his belt, it is our intention to make up for lost time in 2017.
It has been incredibly frustrating not being able to push Billy to the forefront this year, where he belongs, but untimely injuries and some tedious negotiations have put us where we are.
Akavov is no imported body drafted in to provide Billy with easy pickings; he suffered one points defeat early in his professional career and has previously won and three times defended the WBO European title.
The Russian slugger has got his eye on the prize and has not come over to just make up the numbers. Billy will have to be on his game and do the job if the proposed big fights for next year are to come to fruition.
It was disappointing that we weren’t in a position to retain this fight on the Cardiff show last week due to medical documentation issues, but it is certainly a bonus for Scottish fans and BoxNation viewers on Saturday night.
Billy needs to get some rounds under his belt, get that rust out of him and get in fighting mode again. We intend to keep him busy now and get him out again early next year, so he needs to look after himself over Christmas and keep himself in good nick for the challenges ahead.
Also on the card at the Paisley Lagoon Centre are two top operators seeking to further fine tune their relationships with new trainers.
Paul Butler, who takes on the Mexican Alexander Cazares, didn’t put a foot – or a hand – wrong in his precise picking off of Alexis Ruiz last time out.
It was his first fight in tandem with Joe Gallagher and the early signs are that it will be a productive partnership. Paul wanted to get another fight in before Christmas ahead of a return to the world stage next year, so we were happy to accept the opportunity to send the BoxNation cameras to Glasgow.
Paul, one of the most naturally skilled boxers I have been involved with, will probably have to employ some patience with Cazares who, in his last fight, went the distance with Karim Guerfi.
BoxNation viewers will remember Guerfi for his brutal felling of Ryan Farrag in June and the fact he was unable to put Cazares away suggests he is durable.
Jack Catterall is another with all to play for. He takes on Diego Luque in his first fight working with new trainer Haroon Headley. The pair are not unfamiliar as Haroon used to work with Jack’s previous trainer Lee Beard, but the 23-year-old was keen to get a fight under his belt following the switch before setting his sights again on a British title challenge.
Terry Flanagan set himself up for a productive new year with his dismantling of Orlando Cruz in Cardiff last weekend.
Unfortunately, Cruz was disappointingly passive once he tasted Terry’s power and went into survival mode. It is horrible when you fight someone who simply shuts up shop as it makes it awkward to get your shots away, but Terry eventually wore him down and did what he had to do.
We are striving to book in some major dates for Terry in 2017 where he can really put his marker down as top dog in the lightweight division.
It has already been put out there so I am not breaking any confidences, but we have made an offer to Luke Campbell with an opportunity to challenge for the world title held by Terry and I am hoping this attractive option will be taken up.
Campbell is a talent and this would be a good fight for the fans. He is an Olympic gold medallist with a wealth of amateur experience behind him and has been up and running as a pro for pushing four years now, so he should be ready to take the step up.
Look at the fantastic Vasyl Lomachenko, another Olympic champ and my favourite overseas fighter who is another potential opponent next year for Terry. He was challenging for a world title in only his second pro contest.
Campbell now looks established in the pro ranks and his last performance against Derry Mathews was the best I have seen him fight and a mature performance.
People have tended to give Terry a swerve up to now, so let’s hope Campbell has the cojones to buck the trend and gives us a great domestic dust-up to look forward to.
I am aware that Terry gave me a little bemused glance during the post-fight press conference in Cardiff when I floated the possibility of a super fight next year at Old Trafford.
Of course I am fully away that Terry is a true blue City fan and I made a rick with that.
I put it down to having a senior moment!
Coming up next: Alan Hubbard’s Punchlines