Friday night on Merseyside will have even more action than normal, with former amateur star and local lad Anthony Fowler facing-off against world-level veteran Brian Rose (21.00), and there’s a stacked undercard well worth checking out too.
On Saturday, the attention turns to Northern Ireland, where Olympic stand-out and rising pro Michael Conlan fights Argentina’s Diego Alberto Ruiz (21.00), and Paddy Gallagher battles Chris Jenkins for the British and Commonwealth belts at 20.00.
Boxers have rites of passage and one of those is beating the gatekeeper to the next level. Fowler actually failed his last test – dropping a razor-thin decision to rival prospect Scott Fitzgerald. But he aims to move onwards and upwards, by beating former world-title challenger Rose.
Brian ‘The Lion’ was comprehensively battered by current middleweight champ Demetrius Andrade when they met in 2014, but he was the domestic ruler for an extended reign before that. Rose’s record since that world championship defeat is a sub-par 6-and-3.
What is even more worrying for the 34-year-old Rose is, that after his most recent defeat he was out of the ring for a year-and-a-half and since his comeback, has only beaten two journeymen usually reserved for novices.
We don’t know how good Fowler will end up being as a pro but we’ve already seen world class levels of stamina, strength and aggression. Rose doesn’t have the power to keep the Scouser at distance and his chin is questionable, but Blackpool’s favourite middleweight has the heart to make it to the middle rounds.
Bet of the bout: Fowler in rounds 5-6 @ 4/1
On the busy Liverpool undercard the bout between Qais Ashfaq and Sean Davis stands out). Leed’s Ashfaq was an impressive amateur and Davis represents his first real test as a pro. The Birmingham man has won some ranking titles but he came up short fighting for the British belt.
Davis’ form is a patchy two wins and three losses from his last five fights and I expect his southpaw prospect opponent to put him on the back foot early. Ashfaq to win by KO at 6/5.
Jack Cullen has won his last four fights by stoppage and he’s favourite to win his English middleweight title bout with John Harding. The start to Harding’s professional career has been rocky. Cullen will win inside the distance at 11/10.
Wales’ Sean McGoldrick was another outstanding amateur, but he’s not been totally convincing as a pro. Despite his record, Thomas Essomba is a tough assignment for anybody. I am betting on the Cameroonian to cause an upset at 13/2.
If you are tuning in to the early action, treble up on Lewis Ritson, Robbie Davies Jr and Martin Bakole all to win by KO.
Conlan was due to face Olympic arch-nemesis Vladimir Nikitin this weekend (you know, the bloke who got diced up by Conlan but still got the decision, and the Irishman responded with a middle finger salute to the authorities), but the Russian has withdrawn and in his place is San Miguel’s Ruiz.
For Conlan’s 12th pro bout this still represents an impressive class of opponent. No doubt, Mick’s team think they have the beating of the away featherweight but they have chosen to take a path through Ruiz because they see a record with a few losses and a KO ratio south of 50%.
The thing is, Ruiz has improved plenty since his last loss three years ago, when he was just 22, and he’s held one Latino ranking title or another for more than a year-and-a-half. The seasoned switch-hitting Latino could be worth a little emotional hedge at odds of 12/1.
The most likely result is Conlan winning on points, and although Paddy is squeezing us a bit on the price it’s still a good bet. The Belfast boxer has only won by KO once in his last in the five bouts and under new trainer Adam Booth I expect him to take a pragmatic approach,
Bet of the bout: Conlan on points @ 4/11.
The British and Commonwealth welterweight belts have been battled for by better boxers than Gallagher and Jenkins, but this could go down as a classic championship contest. Both are aggressive, but both have been dropped and beaten before.
Jenkins won the belt in March and this fight is the first defence of title he worked seven years to get his hands on. The Swansea man has the superior résumé and he’s our odds-on favourite.
Belfast’s ‘Pat-Man’ has never been stopped and Jenkins has a KO ratio of only 31%, so the sensible money is on ‘Rok’n’Rolla’ to make a successful defence via the judges cards. But these two are always in close scraps and I like the long odds on a shared result.
Bet of the bout: Draw at 22/1.
The prelims in Belfast include Luke Keeler’s match-up with Luis Arias. Keeler has scored a couple of decent wins in Ireland but Arias is a legitimate fringe world-level operator – snap Paddy’s hand off for the 8/13 for the American to win.
Steve Collins Jr can notch up his first credible professional win this Saturday at 9/4, and bet on Paddy Barnes to get back to winning ways with a points victory.
*Prices correct at time of posting