BUMPER NIGHT LOOMING AT THE 02
By Frank Warren
OUR MAMMOTH SHOW at the 02 Arena on April 14 is now firmly on the horizon and it promises to be a real treat for true fans of the sport.
It is a card that is potentially compelling from top to bottom, one that is stacked with proper fights that could go either way and one that will have huge bearing on how the rest of the year plays out.
For the co-headliner, Billy Joe Saunders, for instance, the stakes couldn’t be much higher. He has got a real awkward job on his hands against Martin Murray who, as he pointed out himself, brings nothing to the party apart from a bloody hard fight.
As ever with Bill, it is about what comes next, but his ultimate prize of a date with either Canelo or Golovkin will only become a reality if he overcomes Murray in style.
We do seem to have been talking about him fighting the ‘big two’ for some time, but we are dealing with a different animal in Bill now – a switched on professional athlete who I believe has moved himself into the elite category.
It is now a ‘big three’ for me and what Bill has to do is maintain his momentum and then the super fights he craves will materialise.
But nobody, especially Bill, should be lulled into thinking he is going to have an easy night’s work against the St Helens man. Murray has been a bit inactive for a reason over the last year or so and that is because he represents a big risk for any champion or leading contender.
The second helping of world title combat at the 02 is provided by Terry Flanagan and the also unbeaten American Maurice Hooker for the vacant WBO world super lightweight title.
We have the unusual situation of all four recognised world titles being vacant at the moment due to Terence Crawford stepping up a weight – although Channel 5 strangely chose to acknowledge only three governing bodies and omitted the English interest while dissecting the title prospects of Josh Taylor at the weekend – so there will be some lucrative unification prospects in the pipeline for the winner.
For Terry, however, there are also some tasty domestic duels he might like to consider in the event of him becoming a two-weight world champion.
It is not insignificant that he is sharing a bill with one of our new recruits, Ohara Davies, who will have his first fight on our watch at the 02.
An eye-catching display from Ohara will nudge him towards world title contention, although I am fully aware that both Jack Catterall and Josh Leather will have their own say on the matter a little further down the line and they will all fancy first dibs at Terry, should he overcome Hooker.
Similar to the featherweights, it makes for exciting times on the domestic front for the super lightweights.
Last week we topped up the 02 bill with two fights that you would put money on delivering excitement for the fans.
Darryll Williams defending his English super middleweight title against Lennox Clarke and the unbeaten Raza Hamza taking a big step up against Lewis Pettitt are two top quality additions to the undercard.
Darryll did dabble with the idea of retirement a few months ago before I managed to talk him out of it. He made a big impression on the BT Sport audience last year with his two thrilling wins over Jahmaine Smyle and calling time on himself would have been a great shame.
Unfortunately he wasn’t able to capitalise on his epic double in the following months and part of that was down to me, so we are hopefully going to make up for it now.
Lewis, as I am sure he will acknowledge himself, is entering into crossroads territory with his fight against young Raza, so there is everything to play for in this one.
It is a big leap up in class for the unbeaten Birmingham boy and it is always pleasing when young fighters show the inclination to enter into fights where they know they will be up against it.
It is the only way forward though for fighters who back themselves and we need to see more of it from young prospects across the board.
All the ingredients are there for a classic night of boxing.