If you’re lost for things to do between the festivities of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, your saviour is the Saturday night boxing from New York and London.
The highlight of the weekend is Amir Khan’s chance to resurrect his career at the very top by beating boxing superstar Terence Crawford. The American is a huge favourite for victory at Madison Square Garden and ‘King’ Khan’s chin could betray him again.
In London, heavyweight Dave Allen needs to see off former contender Lucas Browne quicker than his Easter lunch if he wants a shot at the big time later this year, and in the co-main event fellow heavyweights Dereck Chisora and Senad Gashi will be scrapping harder than a couple of kids claiming the last egg on an Easter egg hunt.
Crawford v Khan
After flirting with the idea of fighting Kell Brook for the umpteenth time, Khan decided he could still do better. Facing one of the pound-for-pound best in welterweight world champ Crawford is a tougher task and one most people don’t give Amir a hope of winning, but it will be a fun fight as long as it lasts.
Three weight supremo ‘Bud’ has essentially chosen ‘King’ Khan because the former titleholder has a big name and a glass jaw, and because the other champions are aligned on the other side of the promotional divide.
The thing is, the Brit hasn’t been losing a fight on the judges’ cards since the 2004 Olympic final. Sure, he’s been knocked out three times as a pro and he lost a very controversial decision in 2011, but Khan’s rapid hand speed has been a problem for everybody, including Canelo Alvarez, Danny Garcia and Marcos Maidana.
In fact, Khan has never lost at welterweight – a record that stretches over five fights. If Khan’s belief that he’s best at 147lbs is true then the odds of 12/1 for former super lightweight boss to win on points are well worth considering.
Crawford is so good that he makes the hardest skills look effortless, but his best attributes might be his accuracy and his ability to go through the gears. The Nebraskan has stopped eight of his last nine opponents – and they were all world championship bouts.
I see this fight playing out a bit like Khan’s contest with Canelo – the Bolton man’s speed will make him competitive in the early rounds but when he gets caught it will be all over. I don’t think Crawford can caramelize him in one punch a-la-Canelo, but once Khan is hurt he will be finished in a round or two.
The undercard at MSG is stacked with top prospects, and the brightest star is Honduran-American Teofimo Lopez. Last time out the 21-year-old lightweight blitzed two-time title challenger Diego Magdaleno, and now Lopez faces long term European ruler Edis Tatli.
The Fin has a wealth of experience and he’s shown his mettle before. Lopez will take the step-up in his stride but I think he’ll struggle to really hurt Tatli – I like the 11/4 for Lopez to win on points. Double that bet up with a decision victory for fellow 21-year-old American Shakur Stevenson at 6/4.
A happy Dave Allen is a fit Dave Allen, and a fit Dave Allen could be dangerous. The 27-year-old Doncaster heavyweight is seeking to move up the rankings, while 40-year-old Browne needs a win to prevent falling away from contention.
Allen has a complicated relationship with conditioning, and he’s shown up to fight night overweight more often than not. But a new-found determination, maturity, and a new coach have got him in the sort of shape where he could challenge on the international stage.
Browne has already been there and done it to some extent – winning a secondary world title in 2016 – but a savage KO loss to Dillian Whyte last year seems to have broken the Australian.
The ‘White Rhino’ relied on his resilience when he lost to Whyte, title-challenging Cuban Luis Ortiz and Olympic gold-medalist Tony Yoka, but he’s a better boxer and much better prepared this time. Allen and Browne will duke it out, but a lack of finesse and plenty of heart will probably result in this one going the distance – and Allen has enough in the locker to get the nod.
You can never accuse Chisora of making a fight dull, and Gashi is more than a little bit like a young ‘Dell Boy’ – expect a slugfest of the highest order when these two meet at the O2. Both are coming off losses but both know a win probably puts them one or two steps away from a big money bout.
At the very end of 2018, Chisora was beating number four world-ranked Whyte after 10 rounds when a monster shot iced the Finchley man mid-way through the 11th. That performance – coupled with employing David Haye’s conditioning team and Tony Bellew’s former trainer Dave Coldwell – has people thinking this is the best version of Chisora yet.
In the opposite corner is up-and-coming hard man Gashi. The ‘GachineGun’ has achieved all 17 wins by KO, his only losses were a disqualification and against Carlos Takam when he took the scrap on one week notice, and he clearly has the best nickname in the game.
Gashi is not the biggest but he looks like a bodybuilder for this bout. We know the German has the minerals and, after his full training camp, I suspect he’ll be able to live with ‘War’ Chisora. The Brit isn’t the most accurate puncher and I’m backing Chisora to get the decision in this battle.
The best of the rest from the London bill is Joe Cordina’s clash with Andy Townend for the British lightweight strap. Townend is a domestic-level gatekeeper with power in both hands but the former Team GB Olympian can pick him off by the middle rounds – take the 4/1 for Cordina to win in rounds 4-6.
Also in action is fellow Olympian Josh Kelly. The Sunderland prizefighter will have too much skill, speed and size for unbeaten Przemyslaw Runowski. The Pole does have youth and fitness, so I am looking at Kelly to win in rounds 7-12. Also worth a punt is Conor Benn to win on points.