Before Saturday’s 2018 World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight final, attentions turned briefly towards the next two editions; with the draw for the light-welterweight and bantamweight tournaments due to begin in September. There are high hopes for British and Irish success with Josh Taylor, Terry Flanagan and Ryan Burnett all signed up.
Of those three, Flanagan faces the toughest test on paper, with a shot at light-welterweight #1 seed Regis Prograis. Although the Mancunian was disappointing in losing a split decision for the WBO title against Maurice Hooker, he carries with him a lot of pedigree from his lightweight days. Prograis has impressed in recent fights, blowing away his last 7 opponents with his relentless swarming style, though is lacking experience at world level in terms of rounds. Prograis goes in as a clear favourite, though Flanagan’s reach and awkwardness could prove frustrating, and he should at least prove more durable than some of Prograis’ recent opponents.
The winner of that fight faces either Belarusian Kirill Relikh or Russian Eduard Troyanovsky. After ending up on the wrong end of decisions in his first two forays to world class, Belarusian Relikh finally got his big win earlier this year as he beat Rances Barthelemy in a rematch for the WBA title. ‘Mad Bee’ is a difficult fight for anyone at this level with his prodigious workrate, though this could open the door for mandatory challenger Troyanovsky to land one of his big blows. The question is, at 38, does Troyanovsky still have it in him against the elite of the 140lb division?
Edinburgh man Josh Taylor has had a brilliant last 12 months; wins over Miguel Vazquez and Viktor Postol really announcing himself at world level. The former amateur standout has proved himself to be very versatile, being proficient at range and up close, as well as being comfortable as an orthodox or southpaw fighter. He goes in as a big favourite against American prospect Ryan Martin. ‘Blue Chip’ has talent, and is a physical presence at light-welterweight, though is far from the finished article.
Taylor or Martin are due to fight for the IBF title in the semi-final, which will be contested by Belarus’ Ivan Baranchyk and Swedish Olympian Anthony Yigit. This should be a very even contest between two decent prospects with time on their side. Baranchyk struggled against tough gatekeeper Abel Ramos last year, yet put in a career-best performance against former Terry Flanagan opponent Petr Petrov. While Baranchyk did go in with a size advantage that night, he dispatched Petrov in far more ruthless fashion than Flanagan did. Yigit is similarly talented, and is known in Britain, having won European title fights on these shores against Lenny Daws and Joe Hughes.
Having confirmed his place in the tournament earlier this week, Belfast’s Ryan Burnett has been installed as the #1 seed at bantamweight. In his opening contest, he elected to face veteran Nonito Donaire, who is fighting back at 118lbs for the first time since 2011. In his previous visit to Belfast, the ‘Filipino Flash’ dropped a wide decision to Carl Frampton, and for much of the fight looked a shadow of his former self. Burnett should have enough to beat this version of Donaire, though Donaire did show in the later rounds against Frampton that he still carries power. If he can make the bantamweight limit without any problems, Burnett needs to be switched on at all times as Donaire still has a puncher’s chance.
WBO titleholder Zolani Tete, no stranger to fighting in the Emerald Isle, could set up a long-anticipated fight with Burnett if he progresses from his last 8 tie. Standing in his way is former double World Amateur champion Mikhail Aloyan. The Russian only turned professional last year after being stripped of his silver medal from the Rio Olympics, and has since racked up a 4-0 ledger against decent Nicaraguan opposition. His last two fights have been close, though he is relatively new to the 10-12 round distance. If he can sort out his pacing, he could be a very tricky opponent for the southpaw stylist from South Africa.
On the other side of the draw, Naoya Inoue lies in wait. The Japanese sensation sealed his place in the tournament off the back of a 1-round destruction of Jamie McDonnell, and in doing so, picked up the WBA ‘Regular’ title to add to the titles he won at light-flyweight and super-flyweight. Juan Carlos Payano is the opponent for ‘Monster’, and although the Dominican comes in with pedigree as a former WBA champion himself, he is surely up against it as he faces one of the best fighters on the planet
Emmanuel Rodriguez, known in Britain for systematically outboxing Paul Butler on the undercard to Haye-Bellew 2, will defend the IBF title he won in that fight against mandatory challenger Jason Moloney. The Aussie passed his biggest test earlier this year when he defeated Japanese veteran Kohei Kono after 6 rounds. Rodriguez will be favourite to progress and fight Inoue/Payano, but should expect a stiffer test this time around as he opens his WBSS account.