By Frank Warren
We’re off to the starter-home of boxing in London tonight at York Hall – the ageing, atmospheric fight theatre with a charm all of its own.
York Hall is where virtually all of the young boxers from the south have launched their careers over the years before hopefully progressing to grander surroundings.
It really is something of a proving ground where young pretenders have to demonstrate that they have what it takes.
It is hard to believe now because there seems to be a show on at York Hall near enough every week, but back in 2003 the famous venue was faced with closure due to lack of usage before the local council bowed to public demand and the doors remained open to boxing.
Fighting at the famous old arena, built in 1929, is probably on the bucket list of most British boxers and it remains the stage where we seek to keep active and develop the young talent in our stable.
Our show tonight is headlined by a fight for the Commonwealth flyweight title between the champion, Thomas Essomba, from Tyne and Wear and the unbeaten Swansea starlet Jay Harris.
The 26-year-old Harris, who has stopped his last six, is the narrow favourite with the bookies, but Essomba – originally from Cameroon – has a 7-2 record, having lost his first and last fight.
Last time out he came up just short on the cards against Iain Butcher, who is soon to challenge for the British title at super flyweight against Charlie Edwards.
Success for Harris would propel him into the big fights in the division, where I believe he has the tools to succeed. Many at his weight rely on workrate, whereas Harris is a really spiteful puncher who gets the job done.
There are some good fighters coming out of Wales at the moment and he is up there with the best of them.
There is another title fight in chief support, with Boy Jones Jnr making a first defence of his Southern Area strap against Craig Poxton.
Ben, who doesn’t have an amateur background, is learning the game as he goes along and is making a pretty good fist of it. Area titles provide the perfect learning curve for young fighters like him and there is rarely any quarter given.
He could have carried on stepping in against selected opponents to gradually further his education, but he wanted to step it up and win a title while still in his teens and he did that in some style against Martin Hillman at the Brentwood Centre in November, where he showed a real maturity to win by a wide margin on points.
Former top amateur Lerrone Richards takes the next step on his pro journey on the card tonight, with the iBox Gym-trained super middleweight wanting to demonstrate that he is more than just a fearsome sparring partner.
Management issues kept him out of the ring for pushing two years, during which time he set about improving himself behind closed doors. Billy Joe Saunders rates him incredibly highly and it was Lerrone who helped him prepare for his world title win over Andy Lee as his only sparring partner.
It is opening night for three young lads stepping into the ring for the first time as a pro at York Hall and one of them will probably be more under the spotlight than usual for these occasions.
Harley Benn – son of Nigel – will get his career underway and there will doubtless be some comparisons with his father and half brother.
We will just allow him to develop at his own pace and not put any pressure on him. He is another without an amateur pedigree so will need time to find his feet in the pro game.
Zak Chelli and Naylor Ball also make their pro debuts tonight and I wish all three of them the best of luck.
Top prospects Charlie Driscoll, Archie Sharp, Danny Carr, Billy Long and Sanjeev Sahota are also in action in what should be a quality night of boxing that can be viewed live and exclusive on BoxNation.
I am afraid I can’t get too excited about Deontay Wilder’s fifth defence if his WBC heavyweight title against Gerald Washington in Birmingham, Alabama, this weekend.
Like Wilder himself, it is a fight that has slipped somewhat under the radar in the public consciousness.
I am rather disappointed in Wilder. After winning his Olympic bronze medal in Beijing in 2008 he arrived on the pro scene with a bang – literally.
Ask Audley Harrison and the stream of opponents The Bronze Bomber flattened as he progressed towards becoming the first American world heavyweight champion in nine years, brilliantly outboxing Bermane Stiverne two years ago -the only time he has been taken the distance his 37-fight career.
But since then he seems to have been marking time, venturing only once outside his native Alabama and not looking too impressive in disposing of undistinguished opposition.
He has also had injury problems, notably a torn bicep, and hasn’t fought for seven months while two of his prospective opponents, Alexander Povetkin and Andrej Wawrzk, have failed drugs test. Hardly perfect preparation.
Not that 34-year-old 6fty 6in ex- American footballer Washington, bald and bearded, should bother him too much. He certainly comes into that category of undistinguished opposition.
In rather like the comment made by veteran boxing scribe Colin Hart on BoxNation’s Boxing Matters this week: “George Washington has more chance of beating Wilder than Gerald Washington. And he’s been dead for 217 years!”
Unbeaten he may be in 19 bouts but Washington has fought no-one of consequence and seems yet another in the line of hand-picked fall guys for Wilder to swat at will on his home turf in Alabama, the southern state which produced that great heavyweight champion Joe Louis, aka The Brown Bomber.
On the evidence so far The Bronze Bomber has much to live up to.
Coming up next: Alan Hubbard’s Punchlines