Following the lifting of lockdown restrictions, boxing, like everything else, is emerging as a changed sport. But emerge it must, and the new format – no crowds, unusual venues – is adding something interesting to the experience even as it takes something else away. Frank Warren restarted his UK boxing calendar earlier this month and last weekend hosted an event headlined by Joe Joyce in the BT Studios.
This Saturday the 1st of August, Eddie Hearn and Matchroom resume proceedings with the first of their ‘Fight Camp’ cards at Matchroom headquarters in Essex.
Headliner: Sam Eggington vs Ted Cheeseman (IBF International Super-Welterweight title)
There are consequences to this fight. Both men are rebuilding, and a loss for either of them would be a big setback. Cheeseman is as tough as they come but has suffered two defeats in his last three fights (plus a draw), during a period which has seen both the European and the British titles slip from his grasp. Eggington is no stranger to a comeback and has fared well after being stopped by Liam Smith in March last year. The most significant of his four wins since then took place in Italy, where he won the belt he will be defending at the weekend. But losing to Cheeseman might mean he has found his glass ceiling, and therefore must win to rekindle any hopes of big fights in the future.
Fights like this aren’t enjoyed through dwelling too much on their outcomes, however. This one is odds-on to be a barnburner. Both men love to come forward, both can take a punch, both have high work rates, and neither man has much of a Plan B. Their styles will clash, and when they do should produce a brilliant fight that is worthy of announcing Matchroom’s return. Picking a winner depends on the Sam Eggington that turns up on the night. The version who beat Ceferino Rodriguez and Frankie Gavin will make a real contest of this. But he gets caught asleep at the wheel sometimes, thus revealing a weakness that Cheeseman could well exploit. It’s a pick’em fight, but the gut feeling here is that if Cheeseman can drag the big punching Scott Fitzgerald the distance, he will likely withstand Eggington’s onslaught, and pull away in the championship rounds to edge a 12 round decision (providing, of course, that his recent poor form is temporary and not terminal).
James Tennyson contests the vacant British Lightweight Title against Gavin Gwynne, who looks to win the belt at the second time of asking. Welshman Gwynne gave a good account of himself in his first attempt against compatriot Joe Cordina but is otherwise untested at this level of the sport. Tennyson, a European and Commonwealth champion and world title challenger down at super-feather, looks excellent at lightweight, stopping all four of his 135-pound challengers since the move up. Tennyson will apply early pressure, and his experience should see him begin to solve Gwynne’s height and reach advantages around the halfway mark and maybe force a late stoppage thereafter.
Former WBA International featherweight champion Jordan Gill hopes to continue his winning return to form against former Commonwealth champion Reece Bellotti over ten rounds. Gill is a talent; his only loss was to tough-but-unknown gatekeeper Mario Enrique Tinoco, and needs to prove that this was nothing more than a mere off-night. He’ll have his work cut out for him; two of Bellotti’s three defeats were split-decisions against good opposition, and Bellotti, who can punch, will believe he can trouble an opponent who was stopped by the limited Tinoco fairly recently. I’d pick Gill to avoid a gunfight and take a decision, but wouldn’t be surprised if Bellotti managed to upset the applecart. Interestingly (according to BoxRec), this contest was originally slated for 12 rounds despite no title being at stake. Eddie Hearn might have something big planned for the winner.
Fabio Wardley makes a step up against Simon Vallily for the English heavyweight title over 10. Wardley looks good, yet has been living in the shadows of other British heavyweights who have won world titles and headlined arenas. Defeating Vallily won’t make him a supserstar, but it will certainly add value to his CV; a win over a competent opponent (Vallily contested the same title down at cruiserweight) and a well-respected domestic title in his possession mean he’ll have more chips at the bargaining table when bigger opportunities come knocking, and come knocking they surely will. Wardley, therefore, won’t take this fight lightly; expect a stoppage in the second half of the contest.
Undefeated lightweight prospect and former amateur standout Dalton Smith faces Nathan Bennett over eight. Both have faced fairly unspectacular opposition until now, but with noticeably different results; Bennett has boxed to a 9-1 record with 2 KOs. Smith, on the other hand, has blitzed his way to a 5-0 record with 4 KOs. Smith, who won European Silver and Commonwealth Bronze in the unpaid ranks, has experience, power and boxing pedigree on his side, and will want to prove he can do more than simply open the show. Bennett’s best chances are to take this to the later rounds, but he risks getting caught – possibly around halfway – in doing so.