Anthony Joshua challenges for his first professional title this Saturday night when he faces Gary Cornish for the vacant Commonwealth title. Whilst both boxers are unbeaten, it's got to be said that there looks to be a huge gulf in ability between the two. Cornish is a solid fighter and is good enough to win a domestic title or two in his career but one senses that's his ceiling, whereas Joshua already looks to be beyond that level.
Most of the build-up to the fight has been overshadowed by the simmering rivalry between Joshua and Dillian Whyte, who fights on the undercard. Cornish has hardly been mentioned in the build-up at all, which is a shame because he's just as worthy of being in the spotlight as Whyte is. In fact, Whyte v Cornish would've been a much better match-up.
Cornish has a slight height advantage, meaning Joshua will be the smaller man for the first time in his career, and the Scot seems to be sitting down on his punches more recently, showing punch power that many thought he didn't possess. The downsides are that he doesn't look particularly strong physically, has an ineffective jab and has a habit of pulling his head back in straight lines leaving his chin wide open.
It'd be nice to see Joshua come under pressure and have to take a shot or two but it's seriously doubtful as to whether that will happen. Cornish isn't the most aggressive fighter, preferring to keep a fight at distance and wait for an opportunity rather than trying create an opportunity. That could be dangerous against Joshua, who judges distance very well and has the accuracy and speed of punch to take Cornish out before the Scot has had a chance get any of his own punches off.
Joshua hasn't been taken past three rounds yet, and despite Cornish being the best opponent he'll have faced thus far, that looks unlikely to change on Saturday night. Expect Joshua to land a fight finishing shot within two rounds.
The fight of the night will be Dave Ryan v John Wayne Hibbert, it's an easy prediction to make considering they've already shared the ring twice in two thrilling battles. There are certain fighters whose styles are made for each other and these two make the perfect combination.
Ryan has won the two previous bouts, the first on points and the second by ninth round stoppage in what has been the best fight of the year so far. Ryan was dropped twice in the fight despite looking in control before twice dropping and stopping a game but out-gunned Hibbert later in the bout. Despite Ryan looking the superior boxer, Hibbert showed in both fights that he's a game fighter and has done more than enough to deserve a third fight and a second shot at Ryan's Commonwealth title.
Whilst neither fighter is a big name, both are good honest professionals and are the kind that the hardcore fans love to watch. It's also worth mentioning that Ryan seems to be a late bloomer, five years ago you wouldn't have thought he was capable of winning a domestic title but he's gradually got better and better and now, at thirty-two years of age, looks to be a completely different fighter to the one that was losing to the likes of Michael Lomax and Stephen Haughian.
Expect fireworks from the first bell, Hibbert feels he's got the power to stop Ryan and will be on the front foot looking to pile the pressure on. Whilst Ryan has been dropped a few times in his career, he's always managed to get back to his feet, which is mainly down to his phenomenal conditioning as well as his courage. It wouldn't be a shock if he had to do so again in this fight, Hibbert carries decent power and has shown he can hurt Ryan before, whether or not he can finish off Ryan when he's hurt is another matter altogether.
This should be another crowd pleaser but the improving Ryan should get the job done in convincing fashion, even if he has to survive a rocky moment or two to do so. Another late stoppage or a wide points decision look the most likely outcomes.
Dillian Whyte rounds off the main fights on the card, taking on Brian Minto over an optimistically scheduled ten rounds. The Minto of ten years ago would've provided a good test for Whyte, unfortunately, he's well past his best and is coming in at short notice. The good thing is that Minto usually has a go, especially early in a fight, so it could be entertaining whilst it lasts.
With a fight with Joshua already line up for December, Whyte will be looking to get through this fight without any hiccups and make a statement with a quick fire stoppage. Expect the heavy handed Whyte to bomb out Minto inside four rounds.