British fans are in for a treat this weekend with two quality shows clashing on Saturday night. Sky and Matchroom's show is headlined by an intriguing Commonwealth title clash between Derry Mathews and Curtis Woodhouse, whilst BoxNation and Frank Warren's show is headed by a terrific British title match-up between Billy Joe Saunders and John Ryder.
Both shows have solid undercards but it's Boxnation's which looks the better. The night will also be an opportunity for boxing to pay their respects to Dean Powell, Warren's long-time matchmaker, who sadly died a couple of weeks ago.
Powell was a boxing man through and through. Whilst he dealt with the business side of boxing well, deep down it seemed like he was a fight fan first and foremost, someone who not only wanted what was best for his boxers but one who also wanted the fans to get their money's worth. With that in mind, the best possible way of remembering him and celebrating his life would be with a barnstorming fight, which is what Saunders and Ryder should hopefully provide.
Neither man has tasted defeat, Ryder being unbeaten in fifteen bouts, Saunders in eighteen. Both men have solid amateur pedigree, although Saunders was the far more decorated of the two, and both men have similar attributes – southpaws, solid chins, respectable punch power and good engines. The big differences between the pair come in terms of speed and experience, Saunders holding a significant advantage in both.
Ryder will look to press the action and force Saunders to work at a high intensity, Saunders will probably be happy to work off the back foot early in the fight before standing his ground more as the fight wears on.
It should be a close fight and will make entertaining viewing, although Saunders extra experience and slight edge in all-round ability should see him eventually gain the upper hand and finish strongly enough to take a clear but hard fought points decision.
Dereck Chisora vs Edmund Gerber
The undercard at the Copper Box Arena is led by Dereck Chisora, who takes on Edmund Gerber for the vacant European title. Chisora's coming in off two stoppage victories, most notably last time out when he halted Malik Scott in the sixth round after being outboxed for the majority of the bout.
Whilst Chisora has already fought at world level a couple of times, Gerber has yet to be really tested in his career, beating numerous tough but limited types. The only defeat on Gerber's record came last year when he was outpointed by Michael Sprott, the veteran Brit edging a majority decision.
Gerber's not a bad fighter, although he isn't a good one either if I'm being completely honest. He's a bit of a plodder who has a poor work-rate and doesn't hit particularly hard for a heavyweight. He does possess a solid chin and for that reason alone I expect the fight to go the distance with Chisora taking a lopsided decision.
Frankie Gavin vs David Barnes
Frankie Gavin will be looking to win the British title outright with a victory over former champion and one time hot prospect David Barnes.
Barnes was tipped for superstardom having raced towards the British welterweight title in just thirteen fights and at the tender age of twenty-two to boot. It all went wrong a couple of years later when he drew with Ali Nuumbembe and was stopped in the final round against Joshua Okine, two lacklustre performances in a row that seemed down to a lack of mental strength rather than a lack of talent.
Barnes trod water for three years after the Okine defeat before eventually re-emerging at title level in 2008 to outpoint Ted Bami for the light-welterweight title, becoming the first man to have won British titles at both 140 and 147lbs. He defended the title once before disappearing for over twelve months, eventually re-emerging again at the back end of 2009, losing to Colin Lynes in Prizefighter.
Ever the enigma, Barnes went walkabout again, this time for two years. Once again he found his way back to the ring and has had four fights in the past two years, albeit against nobody of note, unless you count a decrepit Vivian Harris.
Whilst Barnes was incredibly talented in his prime, he lacked the mental strength needed to fight at the top level. He's now closing in on his 33rd birthday, his body will have slowed, his reflexes will be somewhat diminished and his sharpness will be all but gone due to his lack of activity as well as his age. Those problems combined with frailties he's shown in the past lead me to believe Gavin could well force a late stoppage.
The problems Gavin has had outside of the ring seem to be a thing of the past. He's looked impressive over the past twelve months, especially last time out when he gave Denton Vassell a one-sided beating, something very few had predicted beforehand. If the Gavin that beat Vassell turns up then I fancy him to get the job done around the eighth round. He should be too young, fresh, quick and hungry for Barnes to contend with.
Liam Walsh vs John Murray
Another intriguing undercard bout sees Liam Walsh make the third defence of his Commonwealth super-featherweight title against unbeaten Joe Murray.
Murray was a superb amateur but has yet to set the ring alight in the paid ranks. He's a solid technician, has fast hands and looks to have a solid chin, yet there's something missing about him. He's obviously not a big puncher yet there seems to be more to it than that, I can't quite put my finger on it, he just lacks a touch of magic, for want of a better way of putting it.
The switch-hitting Walsh has looked classy at times and has mixed at a higher level than Murray. He's got good skills and can whack a bit with either hand. There are still questions marks about his chin though, having been floored by Paul Appleby and been stunned by Scott Harrision early in their fight of April this year.
It's doubtful that Murray has got the power to test Walsh's chin, if Murray's to win he's going to have to go the distance. Walsh looks to have most of the advantages and looks a safe bet to win on points.
Paul Butler vs Miguel Rodriguez
The other big name on the undercard is Paul Butler, the British and Commonwealth super-flyweight champion. He takes on the unbeaten Chilean Miguel Rodriguez over twelve rounds for a WBO tinfoil title that no-one cares about.
Butler looks to be a quality operator, the struggle is going to be getting the correct opponents to bridge the gap between domestic and world level. Hopefully Rodriguez will be of that ilk, although it's hard to say considering there seems to be no video footage of him available. Hopefully Rodriguez is decent enough to make a good fight or at least good enough for Butler to get some hard rounds in.