This St Patrick’s Day you can celebrate with a weekend-long Irish-American boxing sandwich.
The pugilistic triple-decker starts on Friday with two tasty title fights in Philly. Irishman Jono Carroll will have his minerals tested by American champ Tevin Farmer, and five-star lightweight Katie Taylor attempts to unify the division by beating tough Brazilian Rose Volante.
The juicy middle is served up by welterweight supremo Errol Spence and four weight boss Mikey Garcia on Saturday night in Texas. The world championship showdown is the best bout of the year to date and will flesh-out where both men are on the pound-for-pound list.
Topping off the weekend is the spicy meeting between fan favourite Michael Conlan and experienced Mexican Ruben Garcia Hernandez. There’s certainly plenty to get stuck in to.
Friday: Farmer v Carroll – Bet Now
Essex geezer and boxing promoter Eddie Hearn has plenty of critics, but Irish super featherweights can’t say they haven’t had a fair go. In October, James Tennyson got a crack at Farmer’s crown and now it’s the turn of Carroll, and this time I reckon the challenger will provide a proper test.
Farmer picked up a vacant belt in August last year and rattled off two defences before celebrating the New Year. The slick southpaw is unbeaten in more than six years, but his early career featured four defeats, two early.
The twinkle of a glassy jaw will give Carroll the belief his ferocious style can lead to an upset win.
The 26-year-old Dubliner has found his power in the last 18 months – stopping two of his last three opponents. You can back the undefeated Carroll at a whopping 6/1 to win.
The 2014 Prizefighter winner showed grit to win that frantic tournament and he’s seasoned over 12 rounds. Heart and guts might be not enough for victory, but it should be sufficient to let him hear the final bell. I am backing the decision to go in favour of the home town hero.
Bet of the bout: Farmer on points at 8/15.
Friday: Taylor v Volante – Bet Now
The promotion machine is trotting out the usual spiel about unification fights and top opponents for Katie Taylor, but the reality is that the talent pool in women’s boxing is shallower than a paddling pool. Even so, this will be a total brawl.
Very few ladies across all divisions are in Taylor’s class, but Volante has the equaliser. The unbeaten Sao Paolo slugger has stopped eight from 14 opponents – which is not shabby for a 135 pounder with a maximum of 10 two-minute rounds.
As the hardest hitter on Taylor’s CV Volante should get some respect, but Paddy places the Brazilian at 25/1 to win by KO – that’s got to be worth a punt! A more likely result is that the Bray boxer collects the third of four major titles via the judges’ cards.
Bet of the bout: Taylor on points at 1/3.
On the undercard, it’s worth backing Luke Campbell to win his ‘keep busy’ bout by KO at 1/2.
John Joe Nevin is also appearing in the preliminary contests and he can notch up a rare stoppage win.
Saturday: Spence v Garcia – Bet Now
The adage you’ll hear a lot around the Spence-Garcia scrap is that “a good big ‘un beats a good little ‘un” – there’s a little bit more to it than that, but ultimately Garcia’s two division jump to meet the welterweight champ is a big ask.
In recent history, we’ve had Kell Brook and Amir Khan step up two weight classes, only for both to be skittled in less than six rounds. Manny Pacquiao was more successful when he moved up two divisions in one year, managing to stop an ageing Oscar De La Hoya.
There’s an over-confidence from Spence that suggests he believes he’s just too big for the four-weight world champ, and there are rumours that his camp hasn’t been perfect.
These two are elite boxer-punchers: both like to stay in punching range and I am expecting fistic volleys back and forth. Mikey must have seen something in Spence to call out the Texan champ specifically, but no one outside of his circle is quite sure what.
If Garcia’s recruitment of nutrition and conditioning specialists pays off, and the Californian’s tactical hunch is spot on, and Spence struggles to make the weight, then Garcia can win this contest on points at 4/1 and claim the throne as the pound-for-pound number one.
If Spence is 100%, Garcia is in for a rough night. The smaller man has shown balls to ask for this bout but he’s struggled a bit when he’s been roughed up before, and his one technical flaw is that he can square-up – a cardinal sin against a power-punching southpaw.
I see Garcia holding his own and leading the fight after four rounds, but having to work extremely hard to do it. If he can continue through the middle rounds he stands a great chance, but I think Spence will score a knockdown and finish the job soon after.
Bet of the bout: Spence in rounds 5-8 at 16/5.
Sunday: Conlan v Garcia – Bet Now
It’s three years in-a-row for Conlan at Madison Square Garden on St Patrick’s Day and that must count as a tradition. The rowdy crowds will be back, but now the training wheels have been taken off the Irishman.
Ruben Garcia has been a pro for more than eight years despite only being 25 years old and he’s faced former champions Nonito Donaire and Randy Caballero. The Mexican come up short both of those times, but he’s only lost one other contest.
Mick should still dominate against an opponent without too much power, but I reckon he’ll struggle to put away a savvy and strong operator.
Bet of the bout: Conlan to win on points at 4/7.
* All prices correct at time of posting