Boxing Tips: Your best bets for this weekend’s biggest fights

Our tipster Matt Gipon prepares for some more pugilism this weekend.

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*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change

Big Joe Joyce turns 37 in September so he hasn’t got time for a summer holiday, instead the heavyweight contender takes on European gatekeeper Christian Hammer at Wembley Arena this Saturday. The card also features the Commonwealth crossroads clash between champ Jason Cunningham and former star Zolani Tete, and Down Under cruiserweight boss Mairis Briedis defends against local challenger Jai Opetaia.

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10pm: Joe Joyce v Christian Hammer – Joyce in Rounds 7-8

The global pandemic slowed ‘juggernaut’ Joe Joyce down to just three fights in the last three years, but the somersaulting giant is looking to spring into title contention by next year. Christian Hammer, 34, isn’t the biggest name or the best boxer, but Joyce will want to nail the German quicker than any of his rivals.

Hammer has notched up some solid victories at European level, including a stoppage win over fragile British big man David Price, but he’s better known for his losses. In 2015, Tyson Fury forced Christian to quit, and in 2021 Hammer injured a bicep against Tyson’s cousin Hughie – other than that, the German-Romanian has lost to Alexander Povetkin, Luis Ortiz, Tony Yoka and Frank Sanchez on points.

If Big Joe can get the stoppage win it will be a solid statement. The Putney heavyweight has KO’d 12 of his 13 professional opponents, and he’s got them out of there in round 1 all the way up to round 10.

The ‘Juggernaut’s’ style isn’t sexy but it is effective – his shots look slow and wide, and his footwork seems amateurish, but the 2016 Olympic silver medalist sets a relentless pace and he throws heavy leather from unpredictable angles. Daniel Dubois was a decent size favourite against Joyce because of his speed and eye-catching combinations, but Joyce steadily landed until he broke the prospect’s orbital.

Hammer has 36 fights’ experience and he has fought all styles and sizes – he has the footwork and ring IQ to avoid damage for long periods. Older pros in this position can often be looking for a payday but the away fighter this weekend has shown enough ambition to compete twice already this year, with his most recent bout resulting in a first round TKO win.

I think Hammer will look to mix it with Joe early doors but when he starts to feel the force I think he’ll be on his bike. Fury retired Hammer in round 8, and in those days the best heavyweight of a generation wasn’t sitting down on his punches – I think Joyce will get a similar result less through finesse and more through heavy artillery. Joyce to Win in Rounds 7-8 is the pick.

9pm: Jason Cunningham v Zolani Tete – Tete Points or Decision

The support act at Wembley is an intriguing Commonwealth super bantamweight bout between two of boxing hardcore’s favourites. Doncaster’s Jason Cunningham has been up and down the weights and up and down on the canvas, but after seven good wins on the spin he’s trying to elevate his status by beating two weight South African world champion Zolani Tete.

Since losing to Mick Conlan in a fairly competitive featherweight fight in 2019, Cunningham, 32, has moved down and refocused on the 122-pound division. The first big win of the recent run was the powerful performance against rising star Gamal Yafai for the European strap, the Yorkshireman followed that up by taking the British title from Brad Foster, and most recently he snatched the soul of Terry Le Couviour with his trademark body punching.

Between 2013 and 2018 Tete was a world champion and on every boxing hipster’s pound-for-pound list. The former champ at 115 and 118 pounds is massive for the lighter weights and he has 22 KOs in 29 wins, however Tete has only fought one round since being battered by John Riel Casimero in 2019.

Zolani, 34, might be done at the top level but I think he still has enough for Commonwealth champs. Cunningham sets a pace but he doesn’t have big power and he’ll be at a size disadvantage – I think Tete wins this via Points or Decision with a class jab and inside work when he needs.

12pm: Mairis Briedis v Jai Opetaia – Opetaia KO/TKO

Briedis, the consensus number one in the cruiserweight division, has spent a year or more shamelessly trying to catch Jake Paul’s eye and cheque book with bizarre antics like recording a diss track and dressing up as Mario, but this weekend the Latvian champ, 37, who has maybe lost some hunger for the sport, may, if he’s not careful, lose his title.

Opetaia, 27, is a talented 200-pounder with good size and an impressive KO ratio of 80%. It’s a huge step up for Sydney southpaw who has been operating at domestic level, but the odds of an Opetaia KO/TKO upset against an ageing, distracted boxer fighting halfway around the world are too good to ignore.

Boxing tips

10pm: Joe Joyce v Christian Hammer – Joyce to Win in Rounds 7-8
9pm: Jason Cunningham v Zolani Tete – Tete Points or Decision
12pm: Mairis Briedis v Jai Opetaia – Opetaia KO/TKO

*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change

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