By Frank Warren
I DON’T WANT to tempt fate or put the mockers on it, but I think all England fans are allowing ourselves to dream a little at the moment, aren’t we? There is – until events finally unfold for real on Wednesday night – a strong chance that we will be looking forward to a Euro2020 (/21) Championship final between England and Italy at Wembley Stadium on Sunday evening.
As a long-suffering football fan who has lived through all of England’s many years of hurt (and then some…), I fancy that Gareth Southgate pitting his wits against Roberto Mancini is now much more than just wishful thinking on our part.
Hopefully these statements won’t come back to haunt me.
But if we are going for an Italian on Sunday, we have got a tasty little starter to get you all in the mood taking place across town at the magnificent Royal Albert Hall on Saturday night.
If you are looking for an England v Italy theme with the possibility of a few lucky omens coming into play, well, look no further than a clash of unbeaten light heavyweights between our own Lyndon Arthur from Manchester and the 15-0 Italian puncher Davide Faraci, the former national champion with seven KOs to his name from Lazio.
Of course, we had absolutely no idea of the potential neat symmetry between the Euros and the boxing when we made the match, but Faraci could be as much of a test for the 18-0 Lyndon as the tough-as-nails Giorgio Chiellini might be for Harry Kane.
There is a lot riding on this one for Lyndon. Following his December triumph over Anthony Yarde, he has taken up the No.1 spot with the WBO and really made a name for himself in what is a brutally tough division. Yarde, who also features on Saturday, previously owned the top ranking and wants it back.
Providing both come through their respective Albert Hall assignments, all roads lead to Arthur-Yarde II and a fight I am confident will deliver more fireworks than the first. Yarde now says himself that boxing his way to a points decision is not the way forward for him.
Yarde specialises in the spectacular and intends to revert to type.
Our original intention for this show was to showcase all three of our leading light heavies and have Callum Johnson on parade. Unfortunately, a hand injury held up his training and time became too tight for Callum to be on this one.
Mark my words, Callum is going to have a big say in the world title picture before too long and is happy to jump in with absolutely anybody in the division.
So we have got huge possibilities moving forward in the 175lbs bracket and I would urge those lucky enough to be in possession of a ticket for the Royal Albert Hall to take your seats in time to watch a young pretender to the throne.
Karol Itauma, as I have noted before, has got success written all over him. He is only two fights in and just 20 years of age, but you can tell he has got that wow factor about himself. He looks a complete natural at the sport and possesses a talent and personality that should see him crossover and become a star of the mainstream.
He is an Olympic Youth gold medallist so he has got the pedigree and it will be fascinating to see him perform on the same night as Lyndon and Anthony. Like so many of our younger crop, he is a star in the making.
Sam Noakes is another who has really caught the eye since turning pro and he has clocked up five wins via stoppage and is a real bull in a china shop when the bell rings. Much the same can be said for our 2016 Olympian Muhammad Ali, who will have his third fight on Saturday and he also goes about his business with ferocious intent.
Those three are huge talents topping up what is an extremely strong card, headed by Lyndon and Anthony, but also featuring our super middleweight force Zach Parker in his second fight under the Queensberry banner.
Unusually for us, Zach was something of an oven-ready recruit when we linked up last year, with him already occupying the No.1 spot with the WBO, as opposed to our normal home cooking.
Zach is a mightily impressive character and fighter and I am particularly excited to be taking up the reins and guiding his journey from now. The plan is to keep him busy in good fights and top up his experience ahead of the call ultimately coming to make his world title challenge.
He is in a good fight for his WBO International belt against Sherzod Khusanov, the 22-2-1 Uzbek, who is an Olympian and world championship finalist as an amateur. He hasn’t been stopped as a pro and his only defeats came against opponents with a combined record of 59-0-1.
Archie Sharp is also on the cusp of pushing for world honours at super featherweight and he steps up a grade to challenge for the WBO Global title against the Mexican Diego Andrade Chavez. Mexican fighters have pulled off a good few upsets over here across the lockdown period and Archie will have to be on his guard if he wants to maintain his pursuit of the likes of Shakur Stevenson and Jamel Herring.
He is a big talent though and I am looking forward to seeing his first fight in tandem with his new trainer, Alan Smith from the Queensberry iBox. Smith’s Bromley finishing school has three young fighters out on the night, with Sam Noakes and Archie Sharp being joined by our bantamweight livewire Dennis McCann.
Pretty much everybody knows how highly I rate Dennis and it was pleasing to see him tested over the course of 16 rounds across his last two fights. Not that Dennis was so happy about it and he is vowing to return to the knockout business against John Chuwa, who holds a decent record of 20-4.
With such a strong card – that also includes a second fight for promising light middle Levi Frankham – it is just a real shame that only a thousand fans will be allowed through the Royal Albert Hall doors to witness it in person.
Thankfully, Boris Johnson has now signalled a return to capacity at live events just in time for the biggest heavyweight night of the year on July 24, starting off at the SSE Arena, Wembley.
The Big Juggernaut, Joe Joyce goes in with the formidable Carlos Takam in the London leg of the evening before, a few hours later, Tyson Fury will head into battle with Deontay Wilder for a third time over in Las Vegas.
The two biggest heavyweight fights of the year so far on the same night and on the same channel.
Come out and celebrate our new-found freedom by being part of a bumper crowd at Wembley to support Big Joe in part one of the night before heading home to see Tyson – hopefully – topple Deontay once more.
It is the perfect night to return to ringside and see boxing in all its brutal beauty again at long last.