Sam Eggington defends his British and Commonwealth welterweight titles on Saturday night when he faces old foe Dale Evans at the Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham.
Eggington was due to meet fellow Birmingham fighter Frankie Gavin in what was a genuine 50-50 derby match-up. Unfortunately Gavin suffered a foot injury and was forced to withdraw just under a fortnight ago. Having Evans step in at such short notice is as good as it was going to get for the fans - whilst he isn't one of the top welterweights in the country, he is a decent operator that always comes to fight and already holds a win over Eggington, albeit in Prizefighter.
Evans' victory over Eggington in Prizefighter is one of two stand-out performances on his record, although a close points decision over three rounds against the then nineteen year old Eggington should have very little bearing on their fight on Saturday, Eggington has improved almost immeasurably in the two and a half years since.
The more impressive victory on the challengers record is against one time prospect Erick Ochieng, who was edged out by a point in a close and entertaining fight. At his best Ochieng could be hard to catch cleanly and had an awkward style that could be hard to figure out, Evans did well pin down Ochieng and bully him against the ropes for most of the fight and deservedly took the decision after eight rounds.
Since Eggington suffered the first defeat of his career against Evans, he's gone 13-1, suffering another close points defeat in Prizefighter against Johnny Coyle - the short format clearly not suiting Eggington, who can be a slow starter.
In the thirteen victories he's beaten good domestic fighters like former Commonwealth champions Dave Ryan and Denton Vassell, the then unbeaten Shayne Singleton and Glenn Foot last time out to win the British title. He's noticeably improved with each performance and has also been looking more of a puncher than he did at the start of his career.
Eggington is a more patient boxer these days, which is partly down to his increasing confidence in his own ability. He's much better when he's working behind his jab and building his attacks as opposed to some of the wild swinging he was culpable of when he was younger and more reckless. The one bad trait he still has is that he can leave himself open to counters at times, most noticeably when throwing hooks. His defence has improved but is still a work in progress.
The fight should be good viewing, Evans usually comes out fast and will surely take the fight to Eggington, who will be looking to keep behind the jab and take the fight long, gradually wearing down the challenger. Evans can be easy to hit, he's the type of fighter that's happy to take a punch to land one. The trouble with him fighting with that kind of style is that he's not the biggest of punchers and has been floored two or three time in his career, raising questions about his chin.
His chin probably isn't bad, it's just that he takes shots so cleanly that he's always one pinpoint punch away from tasting canvas - it's entertaining but is arguably more dangerous to himself than it is for opponents.
Eggington's got advantages in footwork, punch power, accuracy and stamina, and the longer the fight goes the easier it should become for him. Evans will be game but it's hard to make a case for him winning. I fully expect Eggington to nullify Evans' early fire and start bossing the fight from the fourth or fifth round onwards, catching a tiring Evans more and more before the stoppage comes around the ninth round.
The main support comes from Kal Yafai and Matthew Macklin, two hometown fighters at opposite ends of their careers. Yafai challenges for the first title of his career, taking on Jason Cunningham for the vacant British super-flyweight title, whilst Macklin knows he's one defeat away from the end of his career or potentially two or three wins away from another world title fight, it's the last throw of the dice for him.
Cunningham should provide Yafai with the stiffest test of his career but the Birmingham man is still a massive favourite, and rightly so, his amateur pedigree and all-round ability should be more than enough for him to take the title. A wide points victory or late stoppage look the most likely of outcomes, an early stoppage would be very impressive.
Macklin hasn't fought well for a couple of years and seems to be coming towards the end of a very good career. He's taken the surprising step of dropping down to super-welterweight (light-middle in real words), a decision that has baffled a lot of people. He last fought at that weight nine years ago when losing a thrilling fight against his now trainer Jamie Moore, he said at the time that he was struggling making weight, nine years won't have made that any easier.
Welborn isn't bad but he shouldn't be much of a threat to someone of Macklin's calibre, if he does pull off a shock win it will be more down to where Macklin is at this stage of his career than anything else. Macklin knows he can't afford a loss here and has vowed to retire if he does lose, that shouldn't happen though, Macklin should still have enough left to beat Welborn, most likely inside six rounds.