On Saturday, it’s the turn of world champion Josh Warrington to defend his title against Sofiane Takoucht, and there are a couple of Commonwealth title contests on the undercard, while in Chicago, Oleksandr Usyk makes his heavyweight debut against Chazz Witherspoon and Dmitry Bivol battles Lenin Castillo for the light heavyweight belt.
In 2018 Warrington won a world title for the first time and beat his two, more famous domestic rivals Lee Selby and Carl Frampton. ‘The Leeds Warrior’ was supposed to take over the States and unify the division in 2019 but it hasn’t worked out that way, and this weekend he’s stuck in rainy Yorkshire fighting a Frenchman nobody has ever heard of.
Takoucht is your typical French boxer – he’s well-conditioned, pretty tough, not very gifted and pillow-fisted. He’s won his last eight, he’s only ever lost three times and they all went the distance, and he’s a southpaw.
For all the testosterone of both men, I just can’t see this fight catching light. Takoucht is an awkward lefty who will be pragmatic in attack and Warrington always struggles to breakdown these opponents – that’s why he has a KO ratio of just 21%.
The Brit is a world-class fighter with speed, skill and the right mentality but he must be lacking motivation for a scrap with an unknown opponent. I expect Josh to take every round against Takoucht on his way to a landslide victory, and fingers crossed he gets the contest he deserves in 2020.
On the undercard, Zelfa Barrett (9PM) and Lyndon Arthur (8PM) compete for the super featherweight and light heavyweight Commonwealth straps respectively. Barrett faces experienced toughman Jordan McCorry, but the meeting comes at the right time for Zelfa and I expect him to win by KO at 4/9.
Arthur has been knocking over tin cans with ease but Ghana’s Emmanuel Anim will come to the ring in condition and with ambition. ‘King Arthur’ is a big favourite to win by KO but I think it could be an ugly bout with Lyndon winning on points at 8/1.
Former undisputed cruiserweight boss Usyk is finally making his long-awaited move up to heavyweight, and he faces short notice opponent Witherspoon. The American is a 38-year-old veteran but he’s way out of his depth against one of the best pound-for-pound punchers in the world.
Maybe in 2008 or 2009 the American could have given Usyk some rounds, but today any fluidity he had has dried up. For the Ukrainian’s first fight in a new division, it’s a passable challenge and we’ll see if Usyk has any issues overcoming the size disadvantage.
It could be a cagey opening round but then I think the southpaw slickster will start landing at will. Usyk wasn’t known for his one-punch power as a cruiser and I think it might take a few sessions to complete the job.
The fight to look out for on the prelims is Dmitry Bivol’s world title defence against Lenin Castillo (2AM). The uber-talented Russian champ has fallen under the radar a bit by scoring steady points wins against tricky opponents, and I predict the same result again in this one – Bivol on points at 7/4.