Matchroom have put together a surprisingly decent undercard for Saturday night's Wembley show with another world title bout and two eliminators on the card, plus a brief appearance by Anthony Joshua.
The pick of them is James DeGale's Matchroom debut. He takes on unbeaten Brandon Gonzales in what's being billed as an IBF eliminator, which means the victor should be next in line for the winner of the main event, although winning an eliminator doesn't guarantee anything as the governing bodies tend to do as they please.
Gonzales in unbeaten in nineteen fights and has halted ten of his foes, the only blemish on his record is a debatable draw against Thomas Oosthuizen in June last year. In truth, Gonzales had done more than enough to get the decision but a sloppy last couple of rounds cost him on two of the judges scorecards.
The draw against Oosthuizen was followed by an almost punch perfect performance against the unbeaten Jonathan Nelson. Gonzales showed all of his talent against Nelson – quick and classy combination punching, neat footwork, fast hands and sound defensive movement – it was light years ahead of any other performance in his career and was an eye-opener for many people, this writer included.
Having seen Gonzales struggle his way to victories over Isiah McFadden and Ossie Duran there was a feeling that whilst he had the ability, he was perhaps lacking in the mental aptitude and desire needed to succeed at the top level. There were no signs of him switching off or coasting against Nelson though, he looked an altogether different beast, one that will give DeGale a long hard night.
DeGale has also been guilty of being lackadaisical at times during his career, switching off mentally and spending too much time leaning on the ropes when he should be using his footwork to dance around opponents. DeGale has put this down to not being involved in big fights, saying he'd become stale and a touch bored, hence the move to Matchroom.
It's hard to disagree with DeGale, his career has stagnated over the past couple of years and as he's fast approaching 30, he could ill afford to spend the next couple of years fighting more B and C level fighters. Gonzales represents the first world level operator he will have faced since losing a majority decision to George Groves three years ago, DeGale should be more than up for this fight, if he's not he could come a cropper.
Both boxers have quick hands, good footwork and carry respectable punch power, DeGale looks to have a vaster array of shots whilst Gonzales seems to have the tighter defence. The fight may come down to who wants it the more in the final four rounds of what will be a close affair. With the majority of the 80,000 fans in attendance behind him and his greater experience of doing twelve rounds, DeGale should be the one who finds the extra drive down the stretch to secure a close points victory.
The other IBF eliminator on the bill see Kevin Mitchell take on the unbeaten Canadian Ghislain Maduma.
Mitchell has looked great since returning to Tony Sims, the trouble is that he hasn't fought anyone who could be described as a danger to him. Maduma will bring that danger, he's solid technically, carries serious power in either hand and puts together lethal looking combinations often switching from body to the head beautifully.
Having failed at world level twice already, Mitchell knows another defeat here would all but end his hopes of winning a world title. He has a huge advantage in terms of experience and he's not short of knockout power himself, the question is whether or not he can take Maduma's punches if he gets caught cleanly. Mitchell's shown in the past against Michael Katsidis and Ricky Burns that he can be hurt, dropped and stopped. If he's to stay upright he's going to need to produce another performance like the one against John Murray, when he fought with discipline and a composure that he's not shown enough of during his career.
The fight is a big step-up for Maduma, he's never fought outside Canada before and has never fought in an arena or on a card anywhere near the magnitude of this one. If he can cope with the pressure of fighting on such a bill and can consistently get his shots home, he looks capable of upsetting Mitchell, most probably inside the distance.
Rounding off the undercard is Jamie McDonnell's attempt at becoming a two time world champion when he faces Thailand's Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat for the vacant WBA title.
McDonnell was unfortunate to lose his IBF title last year, being stripped of the belt after failing to fight his mandatory in the allotted time, which was mainly down to him splitting from Dennis Hobson to join Matchroom and the fallout from it.
Na Rachawat's 52-2 record looks impressive at a glance, on closer inspection it's not too good. He's not fought a single fighter of note and considering he's 31, has been boxing for eleven years and lives in an area where there are plenty of good bantamweights to fight, it's quite revealing.
Not to judge a book by its cover, YouTube came in handy yet again. Alas, having watched half a dozen of his fights, it's quite apparent he's not very good, don't get me wrong, I've seen much worse than him but I've no idea how he's got a world title fight. He's a come forward boxer who rarely throws straight shots – every shot is a hook, his defence looks tight when he's coming forward and throwing head shots but when he throws the left hook to the body he leaves himself wide open. His footwork isn't the best either, he can only be described as being a bit of a plodder.
This shouldn't be too taxing for McDonnell, he should be able to pick off the oncoming Na Rachawat with ease, an authoritative jab to control the fight and uppercuts should be the punches that can penetrate the Thais high guard and cause the most damage. McDonnell will either win a very wide decision or maybe even stop Na Rachawat late, Na Rachawat looks like he can take a shot but he has been stopped in both of his defeats.
Anthony Joshua is also on the card, he knocks out Matt Legg in the opening bout of the night. Legg's a decent lad and you can't fault him in terms of coming to have a go but he's not going to last long against Joshua. James Toney stopped Legg in Prizefighter last year and the only thing Toney has hammered in the past few years is Burger King. I hope Joshua is getting quality sparring that he can learn from because he won't learn a thing being in these type of fights.