By Frank Warren
WITH BEING OUT of action for a couple of weeks across the New Year period I am little late in jumping on the 2021 boxing bandwagon when it comes to making my personal wish – or To Do – list for the year ahead.
Boxing, especially, always remains a moveable feast so it is interesting when you reflect on a year to look back and see what you set out to do at the beginning and whether it proved possible or not. As we all know, making matches isn’t as straightforward as putting names in the fixture computer, but as promoters and fans we know the fights we want to see and we do our best to make them happen.
Despite the ongoing, challenging circumstances we still find ourselves in, 2021 has the potential to be something of a vintage year for the sport and our squad at Queensberry can play a big part in what should be a year that will live long in the memory.
Probably top of my ‘To Do’ chart is to help in bringing about the biggest fight that can be made in boxing. Like it or not, it is the big fellas that focus the eye balls of the world on the sport of boxing and booking in two fights between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua is an absolute must.
There is no good reason for these mega events not to happen and the most important thing is both parties are committed to delivering what will be monumental occasions.
The fans don’t need to hear blow-by-blow progress reports on negotiations, although I appreciate there is an interest and questions will always be asked. What people want is confirmation and a date and the complete focus of all concerned on bringing this about.
Fury-Joshua will obviously dominate the boxing agenda for the year, but there are many other top, top fights to be made to supplement the 2021 top of the bill.
One such battle we are working hard to bring about is one that will see Joe Joyce move one step closer to his world heavyweight title dream. Joe taking on the former cruiserweight great Oleksandr Usyk for the WBO Interim title makes perfect sense. Fury and Joshua can fight for the honour of being undisputed champion, with the WBO World Title on the line, whilst the winner of Joe and Usyk will be first in line to fight the winner or, more likely, be upgraded to WBO World champion and seek to unify in the future.
It is a win-win all round and more so for the fans, who will get to see another great heavyweight blockbuster.
In beating Daniel Dubois, Joe has propelled himself right to the forefront in the division and I believe he has got the beating of Usyk, who is obviously not a natural heavy. The British dominance of the heavyweight scene would really be cemented by Joe adding himself to our title holders and also add another huge – potentially undisputed – clash to the 2022 diary.
Tyson Fury v Joe Joyce for all the belts? Yes please.
Another heavyweight objective for this year is to bring Daniel Dubois back with a bang. I had a virtual get-together with Daniel and his team last week and the hope is there is no lasting damage to his eye following the orbital fractures he sustained against Joe.
He has a further specialist examination booked in for early February where we are hopeful he’ll be given the all-clear to resume training. That will be a blessed relief to Daniel, who is in good spirits and is looking forward to getting back in the thick of the heavyweight action.
Much the same can be said of Nathan Gorman, who I see as being ready and waiting to fight for titles and with Joe Joyce moving on to bigger things, the British and Commonwealth would be a good starting point.
Other keynote fights we are working towards include our menacing middleweight Liam Williams making his challenge for the WBO title held by Demetrius Andrade. Purse bids are looming so news on this one will be quickly forthcoming. Liam is one of the most improved fighters in world boxing and I think he’ll establish himself as a dominant world champion.
If Liam prevails, as I expect, it will be interesting to see if Chris Eubank jr really fancies a proper fight.
I know his name has probably been mentioned in a couple of New Year wish list pieces by now, but Jack Catterall’s time will come this year. He will fight the winner of the undisputed match-up between Jose Ramirez and Josh Taylor, which will be a huge – and overdue – opportunity for our man at super lightweight.
I along with probably most other boxing fans in Britain hope that Taylor triumphs on the proposed May date because this would bring about yet another massive domestic clash with all the belts at stake.
Two others I want to see competing for world titles this year are the Edwards brothers, Sunny and Charlie. They are both at a level where they need to be fighting for the biggest prizes and it would be quite some story if we can fix it for them both to do it on the same night. It’s a rare thing in this sport to have two brothers competing at such an elite level, and I’d love to showcase that to the world.
Of course, in our light heavyweight ranks, Lyndon Arthur is currently leading the way and he has been rewarded with the option of an eliminator for the WBO world title following his defeat of Anthony Yarde with the Commonwealth title on the line, but of course the bigger prize being the world ranking previously held by Anthony.
Anthony will be back firing on all cylinders before too long and there remains the prospect of a rematch with Lyndon at some point. Lyndon can up the stakes for a return if he jumps into pole position with the WBO.
This next bit is where I can get myself into a bit of bother. We have a huge and talented pool of young fighters we represent and it would be an extraordinarily long read if I was to outline our plans for all of them. So I will do a bit of pick ‘n’ mix and shine a light on a few that have won some prominence over the last 12 months or so.
One such emerging superstar is Light middleweight Hamzah Sheeraz, who Carl Frampton described as the best talent in British boxing right now. Hamzah has already begun to establish himself with winning the WBO European title and twice defending it. He impresses me more every time I see him fight and I’ve got big hopes for him. Likewise, Troy Williamson hasn’t put a foot wrong and holds the IBF European.
It strikes me that the next move should be to put them in together and really advance the career of the winner, with the loser also gaining valuable experience before going again. It would be a fantastic fight and one I am sure the fans would approve of.
Willy Hutchinson, I believe, is a real star in the making who I believe can go all the way. His next fight for the British and Commonwealth super middleweight title, at the age of just 22, is a tough, tough assignment against Lennox Clarke and it shows you the belief he has in himself – and we have in him.
Archie Sharp, rejuvenated by his move to the iBox Gym, will be looking to press forward in the year to come. Unfortunately Archie is nursing an injury right now but when he is match fit it will be interesting to see what adjustments Alan Smith has made to his game.
Archie is highly ranked by the WBO and will be taking a particular interest in the forthcoming Herring-Frampton encounter on February 27. The winner, hopefully Carl, will be obliged to entertain Shakur Stevenson at some point later in the year, but I can see no reason why Archie won’t be nudging up the queue to force his own shot before too long.
Another Ibox prodigy is young Dennis McCann. At just 20 years old, he put the boxing world on notice in 2020 with statement stoppages over Brett Fidoe and Pedro Matos. I am personally very excited by the Kent youngster’s talents and believe he’ll be in meaningful title fights by the end of the year.
Others I can see making significant title steps this year include dynamic featherweights Louie Lynn and Nick Ball, super bantam banger Andrew Cain and his teammate of the same weight, Brad Strand, ferocious lightweight Mark Chamberlain and his teammate Ryan Garner, who I hope will make the most of his considerable talents at super feather.
We’ve got a clutch of title holders ready to crack on and be in big battles for bigger prizes. Notably, our outright British super bantamweight champion Brad Foster, who has cleaned up the domestic division at the age of just 23. There is a natural fight there to be made with fellow Brummie and European champion Gamal Yafai, so we will look to set the wheels in motion on that one.
British middleweight champion Denzel Bentley has also had a juicy looking fight put forward by the Board against Commonwealth champion Felix Cash. Denzel is ready to go so we will see how that one plays out.
We are lucky to have a good few in the middleweight mix, with the aforementioned Liam Williams obviously leading the way. As well as Denzel, we’ve got Black Thunder ready to rumble, with Caoimhin Agyarko poised to step up, while Nathan Heaney, who has had to be patient, will showcase his talents in March. Mark Heffron, whose rematch against Denzel was abruptly halted by a horrific eye swelling, is still very much in the mix and ready to fight anyone.
British welterweight champion Chris Jenkins will soon be defending against Ekow Essuman, JJ Metcalf is set to battle Ted Cheeseman for the vacant super welterweight belt and super featherweight champ Anthony Cacace will defend his title against Lyon Woodstock. Super lightweight Sam Maxwell is also on the verge of a shot at the Lonsdale belt. The same move is the next logical step for our impressive super bantam Chris Bourke, who continues to post big statements each time he steps into the ring.
The British title action will come thick and fast this year, with Jack Massey also knocking at the cruiserweight door.
To conclude, it is also my wish to see a solid year of progression from our younger contingent including the likes of David Adeleye, Tommy Fury, Henry Turner, Sam Noakes, George Davey, Eithan James, Joshua Frankham, Micky Burke jr, Muhammad Ali and co.
So a busy and hopefully title-laden year is well and truly on the cards and my last – and perhaps most important – wish is we can watch it unfold together at some point soon with the unrivalled atmosphere of a British fight crowd inside the arenas. Until then, we can look forward to Herring v Frampton on February 27th, and two more to-be-announced shows on March 13th and March 27th.
Here’s to 2021.