Clashing pay-per-view cards on two rival channels the week before Christmas is not the gift we were after, but at least the broadcasters are serving up a feast of British beef.
The main course in Manchester is the mouth-watering world title showdown between new champion Josh Warrington and former two-weight boss Carl Frampton. Rising star Mick Conlan is in a tasty match-up with Jason Cunningham, and on side we will be entertained by Mark Heffron versus Liam Williams, Martin Murray, Billy Joe Saunders and Nathan Gorman.
Down in London, the show-stopper is the rematch of Dillian Whyte’s and Dereck Chisora’s 2016 classic. The entrées include a world championship shot for Charlie Edwards against bogeyman belt-holder Cristofer Rosales, a British title dust-up between Ryan Walsh and Reece Bellotti, and a chance for Joshua Buatsi to move to fringe contender level.
This was supposed to be the settler between Barry’s Lee Selby and Belfast’s Carl Frampton after a long running dispute about who was the best featherweight this side of the Atlantic, but Josh Warrington ruined the well-laid plans when he ambushed the Welshman in May and took his title.
Once again, the Leeds’ fan favourite starts as an underdog but there are many that think Frampton is a faded fighter from the one that unified the super bantamweight division before moving up and beating the formidable Leo Santa Cruz in January 2017.
Warrington is known for his energy and tenacity, and he can win the fight if he control’s the centre of the ring and out-lands Frampton. The challenger can fight more than one way but he’s a sharp-shooter who can afford to pick his moments to attack.
Based on their records, the chance of a stoppage is slim.
But I can see two ways we get an early night and massive odds.
Warrington has a career KO ratio of just 22 per cent, but Frampton can fade down the stretch and the champ could force a win in rounds 10-12 at 25/1.
For the Irishman to slow down Warrington he needs to target the body early, and the Yorkshireman’s been hurt there before. You can get 11/1 for Frampton to win in rounds 4-6.
Aged 31 and after 27 pro contests, I don’t think ‘The Jackal’ is past it, I just think he dropped his game against lower level opposition, but I do believe Selby underestimated Warrington and badly underperformed.
Frampton has the jab and the footwork to deal with a pressure fighter but Warrington might find some success in the latter rounds. I’m backing Frampton to regain the title via a decision but I’ll probably buy a bit of insurance on the draw at 16/1.
Bet of the bout: Frampton to win on points at 11/10.
Belfast’s Mick Conlan has already appeared high up on the card at some massive events but this is his first step up to championship level. The opponent this weekend is former two-time Commonwealth champ and huge underdog Jason Cunningham.
Cunningham is a busy, tough southpaw but as he’s moved up the weights he’s lost his size advantage, the stoppage wins have dried up and he’s lost two of his last three.
I am sure the Irish Olympian will have too much for Cunningham, but Conlan’s strengths are his speed and skills and I think the Yorkshireman will give him a decent test.
Bet of the bout: Conlan to win on points.
Look out for the British middleweight title clash between Mark Heffron and Liam Williams because this one could be absolute flames. Unbeaten Oldham man Heffron has won 17 of 21 inside the distance, while the Welshman’s last ten wins have all come via KO.
To add a bit of fuel to the fire, Williams retired Heffron’s older brother back in 2014. I am a bit suspicious about why ‘Kid Dynamite’ Heffron has been a pro eight years and never fought at this level, or faced anybody could bang, and I’m backing Williams to win by KO at 3/1.
Four-time title challenger Martin Murray is making one last run at a belt but he needs to beat another perennial contender, the gritty but flawed Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam, to get there. Betting on Murray to win by KO is an option, but I think wagering on the upset points victory for N’Dam N’Jikam at 15/8 is the way to go in this one.
In the heavyweight division, young British prospect Gorman takes on former championship hopeful Razvan Cojanu. In reality, the Romanian doesn’t bring a lot of pedigree to the ring and my money is on the 9/4 for Gorman to win a wide decision on the judges’ cards.
Earlier in the night, keep an eye out for an easy return to the ring for Billy Joe Saunders, which will almost certainly be finished by a KO win, Paddy Barnes’ comeback fight after his first defeat, and the debut of Tyson Fury’s younger brother Tommy.