It’s not just the SAS and the US Navy SEALS who fight in the world’s backwaters, champion boxers do too.
This Saturday Hull’s Ice Arena hosts Gavin McDonnell’s fight with Rey Vargas over a vacant belt and Olympic gold medallist Luke Campbell’s bout with Jairo Lopez.
Later on in the night in Birmingham, Alabama Deontay Wilder defends his heavyweight crown against Gerald Washington, the winner of Jarrett Hurd and Tony Harrison will be taking home a world title for the first time, and Dominic Breazeale and Izu Ugonoh vie for top heavyweight contender status.
It’s not so fun living in your famous brother’s shadow, especially when you’re a twin, but this weekend McDonnell has the chance to join Jamie as a world champion.
It’s Gav’s first title shot and fortunately for him he hasn’t been pitched against some super bantamweight bogeyman, instead his opponent is a young, inexperienced Mexican.
For Vargas it’s also a first attempt to win a global belt and he’s only competed outside of Mexico on two occasions. Both of those fights were in California, so the Ice Arena in Yorkshire might be a bit of a shock to the system. The other good news for McDonnell is that Vargas has been floored by two less than formidable foes but you can still get the Yorkshireman at 9/1 to win by KO.
The bad news for the Brit is that Vargas has quick hands, nice combinations and enough power to win by KO in 22 of his 28 bouts so far. McDonnell, on the other hand, has pillows for fists and only four stoppage victories in 18 contests. Gav has his brother’s engine and chin but not his skills, and I’m backing Vargas to win by decision at 3/1.
Campbell is back to winning ways since his 2015 shock defeat but the former Olympic champion still has work to do rebuilding his aura of invincibility.
Having been put on the seat of his pants again last year Campbell will be grateful that this Saturday’s opponent is probably the worst he’s faced in five fights.
Lopez isn’t awful but he has lost three of his last six contests, and they were to some fairly anonymous fighters.
Mexico’s seventh best lightweight has been stopped twice and both times it was early. Jairo Lopez is trying to write cheques he can’t cash and Campbell is only 4/6 to win in rounds 1-6, but I prefer the 2/1 for Campbell in rounds 4-6.
Wilder has talked about unifying the heavyweight division, he’s whined about opponents ducking him and he’s hollered about how good he is, but after two years and four fights as champ he’s yet to face a legitimate contender.
This weekend’s opponent looks the part and has the unbeaten record but Washington is rightly an 8/1 outsider.
The ex-pro American footballer has built a record of 18 wins and 12 KO,s but he needed the good grace of the judges to escape with a draw against one mid-level opponent.
The well-known secret about Washington is that he gasses after four or five rounds. Wilder will look super-charged opposite his ponderous opponent and a stoppage is on the cards.
The ‘Bronze Bomber’ hasn’t won in under eight rounds for five fights but what worries me about Washington is how low he holds his hands.
The super welterweight bout between Hurd and Harrison is one of those where two equal-looking prospects have a shot at a vacant title and the chance to get themselves in the mix with the division’s stars.
There’s a lot of unanswered questions about both boxers but Paddy thinks he’s seen something in Hurd and puts him slightly ahead at 4/6 to win.
Hurd may have the edge in strength, while Harrison might be a bit slicker, but both come to the ring in great shape. In their short careers one flaw has been exposed – Harrison’s chin.
The Michigan man was left dizzy in one fight in 2015 and 10 seconds wasn’t long enough to recover. 4/1 for Harrison to take a points victory is a great price but I’m getting on the 11/4 for Hurd to win by KO.
Back in the heavyweight division there are a couple of big lads trying to reach the big time. Breazeale had a shot at glory in his last contest but came up short against British world champ Anthony Joshua.
The American showed impressive heart and chin when his fists and footwork let him down, and he’ll be desperate for another title chance.
Breazeale’s opponent Izu was born in Poland, to Nigerian parents and was kickboxer before he moved to New Zealand for better opportunities in boxing.
But the away fighter isn’t some sort of side-show – he’s a physical specimen and skilful with it.
Paddy makes Izu a 4/9 favourite but I see a close, tough contest and I’m picking the Pole to win via a decision at 10/3.