It’s back-to-back boxing this weekend and we begin on Friday night with Olympic heavyweight silver medallist Joe Joyce’s debut against South London rival Ian ‘Lay Em Out’ Lewison.
The main event on Saturday evening is the massive unification bout between Northern Ireland’s Ryan Burnett and Kazakhstan’s Zhanat Zhakiyanov.
While the biggest boxing show in England has Josh Warrington welcoming the visit of Denmark’s Dennis Ceylan, plus there’s some undercard and other action to look forward to.
‘Hotly anticipated’ is probably a few degrees higher than the real levels on the hype-ometer but Joyce’s bout with Lewison is a proper debut test. It’s the headline fight at the O2 Arena in London and it’s on free-to-air TV in the UK (Dave, home of ‘witty’ banter and boxing that’s been passed over by Sky, ITV and Boxnation).
Just a year ago Lewison gave Dillian Whyte a run for his money before grinding to a halt in the 10th round. Lewison may be 36 and score highly with his BMI but he can box and he can punch, and that defeat to Whyte was his only stoppage loss.
In the other corner, the Rio silver medallist is a top prospect but not a young one. Aged 32, he and his promoter, jack-of-all-trades David Haye, know that if they want to get a world title shot and earn some decent dollar they can’t waste time with bums.
Joyce is known for his energy but he’s more of a bludgeoner than a banger and he was hurt early a few times as an amateur. ‘Lay em out’ Lewison is in this fight in the first few rounds and he’s well worth a dabble at 10/1 to win by KO and a whopping 33/1 to win in rounds 3-4.
From round three or four Big Joe should take over and he can stop his first professional opponent in the middle rounds.
The star attraction this weekend is Burnett’s scrap with Zhakiyanov. The wee Ulsterman is a true talent with gunshot hand speed and although winning the belt from Lee Haskins was an impressive feat, the challenge of Zhakiyanov is another level up.
The Kazakh is a rival champ in the bantamweight division and his one loss came very early in his career against a top opponent. The visitor to the SSE Arena in Belfast is strong and dogged, and he’s used to being on the road.
The other advantage for Zhakiyanov is that his current coach Ricky Hatton, the former multi-weight champ, previously trained Burnett. Paddy doesn’t think the advantage makes a difference and has Hatton’s charge as a 3/1 underdog.
The unbeaten favourite hasn’t scored a KO win in six contests but he does have a ballsy, hands-by-his-hips stance, both of which will bring Zhakiyanov on.
If you’re not a fan of prodigious, likeable Northern Irish boxers, or you’re a hardened punter looking for big odds, then back ‘Double Z’ to win in rounds 5-8 at 18/1.
The draw is a decent gamble at 25/1 but I think Burnett will be too fast and too clever, and he’ll take both the belts home by judges decision.
Bet of the bout: Burnett to win on points at 8/13
The First Direct Arena in Leeds is doing some serious business out of Warrington’s career. The unbeaten Yorkshire lad has made the venue his home for his last seven domestic bouts and he wants to make the visit of Ceylan his 26th career win.
Denmark’s finest featherweight is no mug and he beat highly rated Brit Ryan Walsh by split decision last October. Ceylan is tall with a good jab but he lacks power and has a KO ratio of only 40%.
Although Warrington’s stoppage stats are even worse than Ceylan’s, his record of three KOs in his last seven bouts is less powder puff. Ceylan was rocked by Walsh and given an eight count in the first round of their bout and I think Warrington can finish the job his countryman couldn’t.
Bet of the bout: Warrington to win in rounds 5-8 at 7/1
On the undercard in Leeds is Tyrone Nurse’s tear-up with Jack Catterall for the British super lightweight strap. Nurse is a solid all-rounder but he’s lost and drawn twice, while Catterall has an unblemished and impressive record. Get behind Catterall to win at 4/9.
The final fight is a cracker in the cruiserweight division. Murat Gassiev holds one of the division’s baubles and he’s looking to qualify for the World Boxing Super Series semi-finals by beating Krzysztof Wlodarczyk. The Russian champion powerful and skilful but he’s up against a tough, old Pole, so bet on Gassiev to win on points at 5/2.