Boxing finally returns in the United Kingdom after a January shutdown, with a big card from Cardiff, featuring Chris Eubank Jr facing Liam Williams and Claressa Shield’s return to the boxing ring for her UK debut.
Who wins the fights on Saturday? We’ve got our picks in!
Claressa Shields vs Ema Kozin
Scott Christ (0-2)
Unless Shields’ confidence has been irreversibly rocked to its foundation by her loss in MMA, she should win this handily. Outside of Savannah Marshall, Kozin is the best available opponent for Shields to fight, and the build is for Shields-Marshall later this year in the UK. Claressa tunes up here, Marshall in March.
Considering I’ve made two bum picks to start the year, I shouldn’t sound so confident, but I am. Claressa took the L in MMA for what it was, a defeat in a sport she’s still learning. This is boxing, though, and outside of Marshall, there’s nobody north of 147 I think presents any challenge to her at all, really. Nobody can box with her, they’re just not skilled enough. She’s on another level and will prove it again. Shields UD-10
Wil Esco (1-1)
I’m not sure that Claressa Shields’ loss in MMA has knocked much sheen off her overall confidence or not, but I am pretty certain that there’s simply a clear talent gap between Shields and Ema Kozin. With Shields back in element I fully expect her to dominate Kozin over the distance, and if she were a better puncher than she is, I’d probably pick the stoppage. What seems much more likely is that Shields largely cruises to a wide unanimous decision, and that’s exactly what I’m banking on. Shields UD-10
If nothing else, the MMA phase of Claressa Shields showed everyone the trick to defeating her: Tackle her off her feet, and keep her on the ground where she can’t move around and hit you. Unfortunately for Ema Kozin, that strategy doesn’t translate to boxing.
Kozin has a nice record, and a higher than usual KO rate for a female fighter. But, a couple of those knockouts came against opponents where Kozin was, for some reason, avenging a previous knockout victory. And at least one of her title defenses happened at a bar in Hungary that currently advertises Reggaeton Night every Thursday, and Glow Parties every Friday and Saturday. They also offer billiards, foosball, and ping pong!
None of that is meant as a slight on Kozin. Just to say that there are levels to the game for women, just like for the men. And Kozin doesn’t have anything in her history to indicate she’s a clear level above the best of the eleven other women that have already faced Shields and lost.
Shields already has victories over five challengers who were previously undefeated. No reason to think she won’t get number six against Kozin. Shields UD-10
Patrick L. Stumberg
To be clear, Kozin’s not some hand-picked chump to help “T-Rex” get her mojo back after tasting defeat for the first time in ages. She’ s a legitimate champion at just 23, boasting solid wins over Maria Lindberg and Chris Namus. Outside of Shields and Savannah Marshall, she’s probably the best female middleweight out there.
But it’s still the same old story. Above 147 pounds, Shields stands alone.
Really, the only way Shields loses this is if she goes berserk in pursuit of her first knockout since 2017, and even then it’s 80-20 at best. She swept another light-punching southpaw in Marie Eve Dicaire last time out and I don’t picture Kozin doing any better. Bring on Marshall. Shields UD-10
And the staff winner is...
Claressa Shields (4-0)!
Chris Eubank Jr vs Liam Williams
Scott Christ (0-2)
I like this fight a lot, and I think Liam Williams is a real threat here. But while Eubank has had his stumbles against his better opponents, so has Williams, going 0-3 in fights with Liam Smith (twice) and Demetrius Andrade. Williams has good skills, he’s tough, he’ll bring some fight, but he’s come up short at that level. Eubank has a big advantage in natural athleticism, and he’s got both speed and power that he can really flex when he truly wants to show it.
I do think we’ll see Eubank have his spots of struggle in this fight, because he rarely fully dominates even when he wins fights at this level. But I don’t think Williams has the trickiness and craft of Billy Joe Saunders or quite the all-around rock solid game of the George Groves Eubank faced in 2018. Williams will win some rounds, but there will be times Eubank shows that raw talent gap, and it’ll see him through. Eubank UD-12
Wil Esco (1-1)
I actually think this will turn out to be a pretty fun fight despite my expectation that Chris Eubank Jr will ultimately prove to be too much for Liam Williams. My biggest reservation here is that I believe Eubank largely squandered his momentum following his big win over James DeGale a few years ago and has largely been fighting lesser opposition since. Against Williams he’s going to need to be able to dial it back up and I do believe Eubank is at least a dedicated athlete that will come into this fight physically prepared.
That being said, I do think Williams gives Eubank a little bit of trouble with his overall experience, but also believe Eubank will find a way to outpace Williams with his power shots that I think will at least carry him to some rounds even if he doesn’t manage to put Williams away. I’m going to take Eubank to win a fair narrow points win. Eubank UD-12
John Hansen (1-1)
We have four fights this week, so I’ll keep this one relatively short and sweet. This one comes down to two potential factors.
If you believe in a higher power that takes an active hand in earthly affairs, He/She/It obviously does not want Chris Eubank boxing anyone.
On the other hand, Liam Williams borked his shoulder nine months ago fighting Demetrius Andrade, aggravated it badly enough training for Eubank that the original date had to be postponed, then seemingly went with rest rather than surgery to allow for a mere six week delay.
If Eubank actually gets to step in against a diminished Liam Williams, I don’t think he’ll have much more trouble with him than Andrade did. Eubank UD-12
Patrick L. Stumberg (1-1)
In February 2019, Eubank put the final nail in James DeGale’s coffin. In the three years since, he’s gotten smacked around by Matt Korobov for 3:34 before the latter’s shoulder exploded and handily run over a pair of designated victims. What I’m saying is that it’s hard to say where exactly he stands in the modern middleweight division despite BoxRec’s algorithm somehow contriving to put him at #1.
Fairly certain he stands above Williams, though; whether or not Roy Jones Jr. has actually managed to mold him into a proper boxer, his chin and motor far outstrip “The Machine’s.” Williams may be the more polished technician, but I’m not convinced he can hurt a man who happily traded leather with super middleweights to no ill effect. Without the raw thump to keep Eubank honest or enough craft to consistently pick him off, expect Williams’ strong start to give way to a progressively more one-sided firefight. Eubank UD-12