Five Fights To Look Out For In The U.K. This Autumn

Gavin McDonnell vs Vusi Malinga – Sky

Doncaster’s McDonnell relinquished his British junior featherweight crown in August, hoping to locate the groove rutted out by his twin brother Jamie — who is world-ranked at the weight. With five years less experience than his sibling, McDonnell (11-0-2, 4 KOs) makes a considerable step up in class against South Africa’s Vusi Malinga, who has thrice, unsuccessfully, contested 115 lb. world titles.

McDonnell is likely to be posted as underdog against Malinga (21-5-1, 12 KOs), who provided Darlington’s Stuart Hall with a tumultuous tussle just prior to Christmas (Hall, incidentally, bids to become a two-time world titlist against American Randy Caballero later this month).

The career trajectories of both fighters seem headed to an intersection point at Hull’s Ice Arena on Oct. 25: Malinga, 34, a strong, sharp-punching port sider, has mixed in higher class but is possibly slipping; McDonnell is bidding to be fast-tracked, despite only having braced the 12-round distance for the first time last year. You can write your own ticket attempting to predict the result.

Tom Stalker vs Jack Catterall – BoxNation

In an example of how intriguing bold matchmaking can be, unbeaten prospects Tom Stalker and Jack Catterall gamble with their reputations on Oct. 25 at Liverpool’s Echo Arena.

21-year-old Lancashire lad Catterall (9-0, 5 KOs), a quick southpaw who works well to the body, flattened another Liverpudlian prospect in Nathan Brough in his last bout (Brough, a good amateur had been unbeaten in eleven fights).

A highly decorated amateur, Stalker (9-0, 2 KOs) captained Team GB at the London Olympics and at nine years Catterall’s senior, is looking to accelerate towards major titles in the pros. Fighting out of the Macklin gym in Marbella, Stalker had been scheduled to face Welshman Chris Jenkins – an even more mouth-watering clash — in an eliminator for the British title, but made a U-turn once the Catterall fight suddenly presented him with a potential alphabet world ranking. He’ll be favoured to win but will need to avoid Catterall’s snappy-looking left hand in order to do so.

Gary Sykes vs Liam Walsh – BoxNation

Sykes and Walsh finally meet on Nov. 29, having been scheduled to face off on numerous occasions, dating from as far back as 2012. Dewsbury’s Sykes is the British junior lightweight champion; Walsh, a left-hander from Cromer, is the Commonwealth king.

Sykes, 30, has been blighted by bad luck: whilst winning the Lonsdale belt outright against Jon Kays in May — a career high point – he broke the middle finger on his right hand, which subsequently became infected and resulted in multiple surgeries. Walsh, 28, one of a trio of boxing brothers, will be vociferously supported at London’s ExCel Arena.

The result could hinge on whether Sykes (27-3, 6 KOs), a high-energy distance fighter, has been satisfied after securing the belt for keeps or, as can so often occur, he has improved again as a result. Walsh (16-0, 11 KOs) will be banking on opposing Sykes at precisely the right time.

Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank, Jr. – BoxNation

After a two-year apprenticeship (consisting of 17 routine wins with 12 KOs), the jury is still very much out on middleweight Eubank, Jr. (pictured). Saunders (20-0, 11 KOs), the outspoken British and European boss from Hatfield is well-tipped within the trade to have too much experience, skill and nous for his flamboyant foe (on the same card as Sykes vs Walsh).

Eubank, though, is reported to have shown his mettle in sparring against the likes of Carl Froch, George Groves and James DeGale, exhibiting greater potential there, perhaps, than any of his paid outings (where, quite often, he’s resembled a man playing at the sport).

British promoters marketing bouts behind the perception of a grudge is currently in vogue (however authentic that may be in reality); however, the malice here appears genuine. In that sense, it echoes middleweight beefs such as Mark Kaylor vs. Errol Christie and the original Eubank throwing down with both Nigel Benn and Michael Watson; although in actuality, it’s probably somewhat closer to the 2011 showdown at super middleweight between DeGale and Groves.

Stephen Ormond vs Terry Flanagan – BoxNation (TBC)

Manchester’s “Turbo” Terry Flanagan makes his first start since becoming British lightweight champion against Dubliner Stephen Ormond on Nov. 24, the potential main event of an upcoming charity boxing show (promoter Frank Warren is the vice president of DebRA, who work for people suffering with a genetic skin disorder) and a red-hot trade fight.

Ormond, 31, is in fine fettle, having seen off Adam Dingsdale, Derry Mathews and Karim El Ouazghari in successive fights; Flanagan, the fit-as-a-whippet, Steve Maylett-trained lefty, has struggled for opponents over recent years, yet after halting the tough Walsall man Martin Gethin in July, the 25 year-old will be hoping that a strong showing against Ormond will continue his rise.

Known as “The Rock”, Ormond (17-1, 8 KOs) is brawny, aggressive and comes wielding a tommy gun. The unassuming Flanagan (25-0, 9 KOs), who holds a victory over an aged Nate Campbell and the aforementioned Sykes and Mathews (the latter two wins scored in a 2012 Prizefighter tournament), will utilise his laser-sharp jab and clever feet in an effort to eke out a hard-fought decision. This could be the best fight on the list.

About Andrew Harrison