(Photo from Sky Sports)
Tomorrow at 3pm ET in the United States and 8pm local time in London, York Hall will play host to the latest edition of Sky Sports' Prizefighter tournament, a one-day tournament of three-round fights.
As always, it's no use lying. The Prizefighter tournament will likely not turn out a real contender. What makes Prizefighter worth watching is the format and the hunger of the fighters taking part. Try convincing one of them this isn't step one toward world glory.
Here's a brief introduction to each of the fighters, for those unfamiliar with the field.
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DANNY BUTLER v. BRETT FLOURNOY
Butler is a tall, lanky fighter with plenty of guts but really minimal power. In 2008, he fought in a middleweight Prizefighter tournament, losing in the semifinals to Martin Murray, after beating Paul Samuels in the opening round. Now, he returns to junior middleweight after a couple of tough losses at 160 in 2009.
Last November, Butler was outpointed by Darren McDermott in his bid for the English middleweight title, falling one point short on referee John Keane's card. Just 15 days later, Butler jumped in to face Darren Barker for the British middleweight title on extremely short notice (obviously) when Wayne Elcock withdrew from the fight. Barker battered the game Butler, stopping him in seven.
Butler's best win was probably his rematch victory over Paul Samuels, a 10-round decision victory last July.
Flournoy, a 30-year-old who served in the Army, will tell you he's stepping up in weight from welterweight to 154, but a quick scan of his brief pro career will tell you this is a technicality. He may consider himself a welterweight, but in truth he has actually never made 147 pounds, though he came within a quarter pound back in 2006. Mostly he's fought near the 154-pound limit, so weight is not an issue for him whatsoever.
Flournoy has mostly fought really inexperienced guys, but he's beaten super journeymen Ernie Smith (13-142-5, 1 KO as of this writing) and Vladimir Borovsky (21-37-2, 10 KO). Last October, a chance against Kevin McIntyre was called off when ringside medics had to rush backstage to deal with a fighter who had passed out after a loss.
He's been quite inactive, really, especially in the last two years. Since May 2008, he's had just the one fight with McIntyre, which lasted just two rounds.
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GEORGE HILLYARD v. PRINCE ARRON
Hillyard is listed as a 33-to-1 underdog, and rightfully so. He's ranked as the 274-best middleweight in the world by BoxRec, and in his last fight, quit after four rounds against Marcus Thirlwall, who had floored him with a left hook to end that round. Hillyard didn't come out for the fifth.
The 25-year-old Canning Town native says he's in it to win it, and not just for the payday. He really has zero notable wins on paper, as the one that looks best at first glance would be Danny Goode. Goode came in 12-2, but had also lost his last two. Hillyard just put the exclamation point on that one.
Arron may be remembered by some as a past and most ridiculous opponent for John Duddy. Back in 2007 -- two months before Arron, then 10-2, turned 20 years old -- he was matched against Duddy in Dublin. Duddy was already 21-0 at that point, and it was a disgusting mismatch. Arron even had to cut weight at the last minute, coming in two pounds over on the scales and dropping them off in about an hour. Duddy stopped him in the second round.
At 6'3", Arron is by far the tournament's tallest competitor. Since the Duddy disaster, he's gone 4-0-1 against journeymen, drawing in his last bout with Max Maxwell (real name), who had lost four in a row and is now 9-8-2.
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STEVE O'MEARA v. MARTIN CONCEPCION
O'Meara is a Hennessy Sports fighter making a pretty large step up in class with this tournament, especially drawing the opponent he did, one of the best punchers and most experienced fighters in the field.
The 26-year-old is now training and fighting out of Philadelphia, actually, working with guys like Chazz Witherspoon and Tyrone Brunson, both of whom have been meeting great success of late...
American fight fans might remember Concepcion from that "Contender" US/UK deal, and in particular a TKO-7 loss to Alfonso Gomez in 2007. He's been stopped four other times in his career, and when he met Gomez was in the middle of a hellacious career stretch where he went 2-6 over eight fights, though one of the wins was a shocking TKO-1 over then-unbeaten Matthew Hall.
Put simply, Concepcion can punch a little and his chin sucks. It's not just middling guys like Gomez that have stopped him, but some bad fighters like Ivor Bonavic, who came into their fight at 3-8-2 and knocked Concepcion down four times in the second round before it was stopped. I actually think Concepcion is a decent darkhorse here, but he needs to be totally on his game.
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BRADLEY PRYCE v. NEIL SINCLAIR II
The two most accomplished fighters in the tournament juuuuust happened to draw one another first round. Former Commonwealth titleholder Pryce has had several setbacks, but been in with a lot of solid domestic competition, including Matthew Hall (TKO-2 loss last March), Ted Bami, Thomas McDonagh, Anthony Small, Concepcion, Michael Jennings, Peter Buckley, and ... you guessed it, Neil Sinclair.
Pryce and Sinclair met way back on February 1, 2003, with Sinclair winning (TKO-8) to successfully defend the British welterweight title.
Pryce is an Enzo Calzaghe product who at times looks every bit like one, and at other times looks every bit like the sort of non-Joe Calzaghe guy that you usually think of when you honestly think of Enzo Calzaghe fighters. Pryce has a bad habit of fighting pretty boldly (or dumb, if you prefer), but then again getting things done in a hurry is what this tournament is all about.
For pure ability, he probably has no peer in this field.
Sinclair is long in the tooth at 36 and to be totally blunt, really has not done anything of note since beating Pryce seven years ago. Since then he's gone 6-4 with the wins coming largely over journeymen, and the losses coming largely to journeymen, too. He's just not the fighter he used to be, although he says (as they all do) that he's in great shape, and his team will swear by it, too.
For Sinclair, this is a last chance, really. But Prizefighter is good like that -- it was the last chance for Audley Harrison, too, and now here he is preparing to fight for the European heavyweight title. So you never know. And the last thing to go, as they say, is the punch, which Sinclair has never lacked.
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Hillyard over Arron -- I agree with Sky's Adam Smith that Hillyard is trouble in this format, especially for Arron who despite his height has absolutely no power whatsoever and isn't going to be able to back Hillyard down.
Pryce over Sinclair -- Sinclair is just too old, and I don't think he'll hold up to Pryce in this rematch, which like Hopkins-Jones II, might as well not even be considered a rematch since it has so little in common with the first fight.
Concepcion over O'Meara -- I like the power of Concepcion to stun O'Meara early.
Butler over Flournoy -- I don't like Flournoy's lengthy inactivity, and Butler can box a little, has been in with way better competition, and has a good chin.
Pryce over Hillyard -- Because Pryce is much, much better than Hillyard.
Butler over Concepcion -- Because if Darren Barker can't get Butler out before seven on about two days' notice, 15 days after Butler went ten hard with Darren McDermott, Martin Concepcion isn't going to be able to do it within three rounds. It then comes down to the fact that I think Butler's a better boxer than Concepcion.
Pryce over Butler -- Because Pryce is the best fighter in this tournament and every single smart cent is on him walking out with the money.