By Frank Warren
WELL, OUR ITALIAN double for the weekend didn’t quite come off, even though Lyndon Arthur gave our prospects a shot in the arm with his victory over the previously unbeaten Davide Faraci on Saturday night at the Royal Albert Hall.
When England gets put on the spot it doesn’t normally end well, so it was business as usual in that respect, but what I must say is I believe the team did the country proud and the way they approached the competition will have won them a new-found respect across the continent.
It does all bode well for the future when you look at all the top young players forcing their way into the squad and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were another half a dozen or so strong contenders for a place come the World Cup in 18 months time.
What I also found refreshing was the return of bumper crowds at Wembley and what a difference it makes to the spectacle. I hope more of the public are inspired to return to our sporting arenas by the sight and sound of the fans rocking in the aisles at Wembley.
Unfortunately we were limited to just a thousand across town in South Kensington, but it still made a huge difference to the atmosphere and the fighters relished having fans back to cheer them on.
None more so than Dennis McCann, who received a sizzling reception when he bounced into the ring and it was pleasing to see that he is capturing the imagination of the public. Our little Menace also returned to doing what he does best and that is going for the jugular and applying a spectacular finish.
Another who more than falls into that category is our super middleweight contender Zach Parker, who bludgeoned his experienced opponent – who hadn’t been stopped before – in the first round.
Zach is a proper star in the making and a genuine banger who can also box. People are soon going to sit up and really take notice of the Derby man and realise that we have a real force to be reckoned with at 168lbs.
He is already in line for a shot at the WBO world title when it comes around, so we are going to give him as much exposure and experience as possible before he gets the call.
Lyndon Arthur was a little bit lacklustre at times against Faraci, who was certainly in it to win it in the early rounds. As WBO No.1 contender Lyndon needs to show more of his repertoire to justify his billing and show people that he is the genuine article.
There is no doubting his ability, but the fight game is also the entertainment business and I believe Lyndon has got more to show in both respects because he is a top talent who needs to make the most of his obvious attributes.
He still came through with a strong finish and his focus now will turn to his rematch against Anthony Yarde in the autumn, when I expect both men to turn on the explosive stuff and really deliver for the fans.
Also, don’t forget, Callum Johnson is back in training after a hand injury and we will have him right back in the fold in a big fight at the earliest opportunity.
Archie Sharp also perhaps made harder work than he should have in accounting for his Mexican opponent and ended up suffering two cuts that will keep him out of action for a while. Archie can fight a good fight and talk a good game and is never shy of calling out the top guns of the super featherweight division.
Now, along with his new trainer Alan Smith, we need to determine whether to take the plunge and capitalise on his high WBO ranking, or look to apply some polish to his performances and put another couple of solid fights in the bank.
Talking of polish, Karol Itauma is shining bright as one of our rising stars at light heavy and he put away a tough customer in the second round to confirm his status as ‘one to watch’.
Next up, with the Euros over, we’re off to Wembley and the SSE Arena on July 24 for the huge heavyweight collision between Joe Joyce and Carlos Takam.
It is a proper test for Big Joe, full of peril and jeopardy, because we know Takam has mixed it with the best of them and is a two-time world title challenger. In terms of professional experience it is a mismatch, but Joe’s amateur grounding was such that he can mix in such company after just 12 pro fights.
It will be the biggest heavyweight fight of the year so far and it is the opportunity for Joe to really put his marker down in the division ahead of Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua getting back in the ring in September-October.
A convincing win will put Joe right in the thick of the world title conversations, while also confirming his position as the top contender with the WBO.
With the restrictions set to be lifted, we will be all systems go to welcome back fans in their thousands to get right behind Joe on his world title trail and create an unforgettable atmosphere to prove that we can punch our weight alongside the national sport.
Thank you football, it’s been fun. Now let’s get back to boxing and a heavyweight cracker.