This afternoon (American time) in Sheffield, Kell Brook and Matthew Hatton meet in a clash of top British welterweights, in a fight designed to send Brook to the next level. We'll have a bit more on the main event in just a bit, but let's take a look at the undercard, which features a couple of standout fighters on their way up in the sport.
Bad Left Hook will have live round-by-round coverage of the full Sky Sports broadcast this afternoon, starting at 5:00 p.m. EDT.
Middleweights, 12 Rounds (European Title)
Grzegorz Proksa (26-0, 19 KO) vs Kerry Hope (16-3, 1 KO)
To say that this isn't the best first defense of Proska's belt would be putting it very, very kindly. The 27-year-old Proksa, born in Poland but now living in and fighting out of England, decimated Sebastian Sylvester last October to win the vacant title, stopping the credible veteran after three rounds, when a battered and bloodied Sylvester could take no more.
He's an interesting fighter, still somewhere between prospect and contender in certain ways, such as his rather uneven record, which features a few solid wins, but also a lot of fights that were just plain too easy for where he should have been at in his career.
Stylistically, he's somewhat similar to Sergio Martinez, the middleweight world champion who is also in action later on Saturday. He's shorter than Sergio (Proksa is listed at 5'8"), but is a flashy southpaw who fights with his hands down and uses a ton of upper body movement to make himself elusive. Here's the Sylvester fight, if you've never seen Proksa in action:
He's got an extreme cockiness, too. Maybe you'd call it confidence, but I really don't think there's much question about it: For better or worse, Proksa is a very arrogant fighter. Thus far, no one's given him any good reason not to be.
Kerry Hope is a 30-year-old Welshman whose record tells you all you need to know about his punching power: He doesn't have any. His last fight on October 22, a win over Tony Hill, was an eliminator for the British middleweight title, but instead he's taken this fight. For all intents and purposes, his temporary nickname could be Kerry "No" Hope -- I don't mean that to be disrespectful of the fighter himself, but I don't feel bad saying I'm disrespectful of his chances in this fight.
Nothing indicates he'll give Proksa any trouble, and the greatest outcome here is that Proksa looks to move into a big fight at 160 after this one. Hope has been stopped twice, by Matthew Hall and Taz Jones, and he was actually stopped by Jones just two months after Proksa beat Jones in in four rounds. He also lost a decision to Caleb Truax in 2009, when he came over to Minnesota for some reason. Prediction: Grzegorz Proksa via TKO-5.
Super Bantamweights, 12 Rounds (Commonwealth Title)
Carl Frampton (12-0, 8 KO) vs Prosper Ankrah (18-2, 13 KO)
Usually I would warn against counting out a fighter from Ghana, because it's often tough to find footage of them that it's hard to figure out if they can actually fight or not. It's not particularly uncommon for double tough fighters to come out of places like Ghana and surprise everyone by being a lot better than might have been thought.
But looking at Ankrah's record, it's hard to find much to respect. He turned pro in 2004, but didn't fight regularly until 2009. He lost a couple of early fights by stoppage, and between those fights had a bout "declared no contest as both boxers fail to live up to expectation (and) the fight was not competitive," which I imagine looking something like Rocky Balboa vs Spider Rico.
Since that unfortunate stretch, he's gone 11-0, all wins by stoppage, but his combined opponents' records coming into those fights was 11-47-2, and nine of those wins were from Michael Barnor, who himself had never really fought anyone. It's just plain impossible to look at Ankrah's record with even the slightest bit of a critical eye and come to the conclusion that he's a troublesome opponent for Frampton. Maybe he is, maybe he's better than he looks, but there's no way you could think that from a light study of what he's done in the sport to date.
Frampton, 25, is an emerging star in what is rather an uncommonly strong group of fighters at 122 pounds in the United Kingdom. He last fought on January 28, thrashing Kris Hughes and knocking him out in the seventh round. He's a still-improving fighter with good power and a fiercely determined mindset. Frampton has repeatedly called out British champion Scott Quigg, who may fight Rendall Munroe next. If Quigg were to beat Munroe, and Frampton keeps winning, that fight could be really interesting. An early prediction would be that Quigg is just too good, but Frampton is no slouch, and has become a legit prospect in the division, and not just at the domestic level.
One figures Belfast's "Jackal" to notch another win here. If there's a shocking upset here, I could imagine it being either a case of a fluke knockout, or just simply Ankrah being better than anyone knows. We're dealing with an unknown here, which does make it hard to pick the fight, so I'm basically just taking my best guess at this point. Prediction: Carl Frampton via TKO-9.
Welterweights, 10 Rounds (Vacant English Title)
Lee Purdy (16-3-1, 9 KO) vs Adnan Amar (25-1, 7 KO)
This one won't be televised by Sky, but Purdy is notable anyway. Purdy had a big 2011 which ended on a deflating note, as he defeated Craig Watson for the British welterweight title, then successfully defended it in a rematch, before dropping the belt in a fairly sizable upset against veteran Colin Lynes, who was just supposed to be a decent name to scalp but actually showed up and fought his ass off instead.
Amar, 29, has built up his record with very easy wins, but hasn't lost since 2004, when he was stopped by Dean Hickman. By all accounts, Purdy should be able to "get well" with this fight. Prediction: Lee Purdy TKO-7.
Middleweights, 8 Rounds: John Ryder (9-0, 6 KO) vs Alastair Warren (8-1-1, 4 KO)
Middleweights, 6 Rounds: Ryan Aston (5-0, 2 KO) vs Lee Noble (13-21-2, 3 KO)
Middleweights, 6 Rounds: Eamonn O'Kane (3-0, 2 KO) vs Wayne Reed (8-3, 3 KO)
Junior Welterweights, 4 Rounds: Scotty Cardle (pro debut) vs Sid Razak (8-82, 3 KO)