Bellew, Brook, Mitchell see action in Liverpool

Bellew, Brook, Mitchell see action in Liverpool

Talk Boxing with fight fans at the KO Boxing Forum.

The city of Liverpool hosts a major boxing show for the second week running this Saturday, on this occasion promoted by Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Promotions and televised in the U.K. by Sky Sports.  Unlike Matchroom's opening two shows of the year this one is highly unlikely to provide us with a fight of the year candidate.  Most of the fights on the card are at best keep-busy outings for some of Matchroom's top stars.

The main event features hometown hero Tony Bellew, 20-2-1 (12), in his debut at cruiserweight against faded Russian veteran Valery Brudov, 41-4 (28).  The fight brings with it the WBO International title and an almost guaranteed top-15 ranking with that organisation for the winner.  Brudov is now 37-years-old but used to be a big name in the division, winning a WBA world title eliminator as long ago as 2003.  He eventually got his shot at that title in January 2006 against old warhorse Virgil Hill, when he was widely outpointed in Atlantic City.  Brudov subsequently won and lost fights for the interim version of that title.  His last major go at championship honours came in October 2010 when he travelled to Panama to take on that country's Guillermo Jones for his WBA title.  Brudov was badly busted up and stopped on injury in the eleventh round.  The truth is though that he had been totally dominated by the clever boxing Jones and was generally outclassed.

Since that defeat Brudov has faded into obscurity, with his three victories over nobodies counting for nothing.  His lone defeat during that time was a thrashing at the hands of Ola Afolabi in Germany in March 2012 on the undercard to Klitschko-Mormeck.  Brudov took a terrible beating in that fight, being floored in the third round and once again having his face heavily marked at the end when the referee finally put him out of his misery in the fifth.  So this is the Brudov that comes to the U.K., not having scored a significant victory since December 2006 when winning the WBA interim title against Luis Pineda.

Obviously, the fight is meant as a toe-in-the-water appearance for Bellew.  His move up to cruiserweight being suggested for a few years, seeing as he boxed the majority of his amateur career in the heavyweight division.  Although he always insisted he never had any problems making light-heavyweight, it came as no surprise when he announced his move upwards.  Bellew was genuinely world class at light-heavyweight, failing in two championship fights against Nathan Cleverly and, more recently, Adonis Stevenson.  That division is now dominated by two of the most fearsome punchers in the sport, the aforementioned Stevenson and Russian rival Sergey Kovalev.  Bellew's move up to cruiserweight could therefore be a timely one.

Before Bellew plots his attack on the new division though he has to get past Brudov.  He will, comfortably.  Afolabi is an extremely hard punching cruiserweight and it is likely that Bellew will have to labour longer than Ola did in despatching Brudov, who is still very tough if nothing else.  Bellew should be able to force a stoppage in one of the later rounds.

Surprisingly, we have yet another warm-up fight for Kell Brook, 31-0 (21), tucked away on the undercard.  It feels as though Brook has been the mandatory challenger for the IBF welterweight title forever.  Around this time last year he was to challenge then-champion Devon Alexander but first one, and then the other, got injured.  Alexander has since lost that title to Shawn Porter who it seems is now making a voluntary defence in April against Paulie Malignaggi.  The edict from the IBF is that the winner of that fight has to defend against Kell by 19 July.  I will believe it only when Brook is stepping into the ring on the night.

This sounds harsh towards Brook, but his career has come to a grinding halt, seemingly since his first fight with Carson Jones when the doubts first started creeping in.  It is now almost six years since followers of the sport started raving about Kell when he won the British title against Barrie Jones.  He was already being looked upon as a world-beater at that early stage.  To say he has so far underachieved is stating the obvious.  The announcement of his latest opponent, Alvaro Robles from Mexico, brought more sighs and shaking of heads aplenty.  It also brought a spate of mockery from Twitter rival Amir Khan incidentally.

Robles, 17-2 (15), is ranked no.34 in the world by  Believe me, he is nowhere near as good as that.  His best victory was scored over Pablo Munguia for the Mexican welterweight title in March of last year.  Robles won on a facial injury whilst one point up on the cards - and the fight was in his hometown of Mexicali.  Impressed - no, I did not think so.  This is purely a marking-time exercise for Brook and considering that Robles has been genuinely stopped on both occasions for his two losses, Brook should be looking to win inside six rounds.

Rocky Fielding, 17-0 (10), defends his Commonwealth super-middleweight title against old-timer, Ghanaian Charles Adamu.  Adamu, 21-5 (15), seems to have been around forever although his record indicates that he is still only 36-years-old.  He fights a lot older than that.  Veteran Adamu first came to the notice of British fans as long ago as 2003 when he came to these shores and won the same belt he is challenging for here, beating Matthew Barney on points at York Hall.  He was back here seven months later, losing that title to Carl Froch.  Adamu performed well that night, taking Froch to a close points decision.

Since that time Adamu, due to his toughness, has become a stop-gap opponent when promoters want somebody who is not dangerous but is tough and will take their boy a good few rounds.  His only significant victory throughout his career should have been a loss.  He once again came to Britain to fight for the Commonwealth title against Carl Dilks in December 2009 and got gifted a very bad decision.  Dilks looked flabbergasted when the scores were announced and rightly so.  Adamu has had five fights in the past four years and four of those have been in his native Ghana. 

Rocky was to have fought Scouse rival Tony Dodson on the card, but Dodson pulled out injured.  He can take his frustrations out on the African and although Adamu has only been stopped once, by George Groves four years ago, he is very worn now.  Rocky is punching very hard these days and should be able to get the stoppage in about eight rounds.

What can only be described as a keep busy fight looks on the cards for London lightweight Kevin Mitchell, 36-2 (26), as he faces hopeless Georgian import Mikheil Avakyan, 21-11-4 (8).  It has to be said that this is a shockingly bad mismatch and displays everything that is bad in the sport today.  It is a certainty that virtually all of Avakyan's "victories" have come in gym fights in his native Georgia.  He is merely a travelling loser, a body to put in the opposite corner.  These opponents are normally brought in when a promoter is trying to build up a prospect's record, say when he has had under 10 fights.  Mitchell is supposed to be world-class.  Indeed, Hearn is trying to tempt over IBF champion Miguel Vazquez to defend against him on the undercard to Froch-Groves II. 

It beggars belief that such a "contest" is being put forward to the fight public of Liverpool, let alone the television viewers on Sky.  There are dozens of British fighters who could have filled that opposing corner, got themselves a payday and a bit of exposure, with little chance of upsetting Mitchell.  Or does bringing in somebody from abroad, with a supposed winning record, who nobody here knows, make it easier to hide the truth?  Followers of the sport understand the dynamics.  We cannot have 50/50 fights right down the card - but this is 100/0 and wholly unacceptable.

After searching long and hard we find a little cracker buried on the undercard.  Former amateur star Neil Perkins, 5-0 (1), from Liverpool, takes on former English light-middleweight champion Erick Ochieng, 14-3 (4), in an 8-rounder.  Southpaw Perkins won a bronze medal in the amateur world championships of 2005, long before our amateur boxers received the fantastic state funding support they do today.  This was a major achievement for the excellent Scouser.  Unfortunately, several setbacks both inside and outside of the ring caused Neil to fall out of love with the game and he drifted away.  However, having noted the success of some of his contemporaries in the pro ranks, "Perko" recovered his enthusiasm and turned professional in October 2012. 

Neil is already 34-years-old and has no time to waste, hence his decision to make a big step up in opposition on Saturday to take on another excellently skilled boxer in Ochieng.  Kenyan-born Ochieng is at crisis point in his career, having lost his last two fights.  The first defeat was no surprise and indeed he represented himself well in losing a vacant British title fight to Liam Smith.  He was well in that fight for long periods before the bigger and stronger Smith got the better of him over 12 rounds.  Last time out Ochieng made the move down to welterweight, probably due to the disparity in size between himself and Smith.  However, he again came unstuck against relative novice Dale Evans, once again going down on points.

He obviously decided the move down in weight was a bad idea and goes back up to light-middle for this risky encounter.  Surely a third successive defeat for Ochieng could put him at risk of losing his contract with Matchroom.  He will be fired up, but so will Perkins who can catapult himself bang into the middle of the British title mix if he is triumphant.  Both are nice boxers and non-punchers so the fight is almost guaranteed to go the full eight rounds.  Ochieng's confidence must have taken a dent with his two recent losses and this could just be the deciding factor as the speedy, skilful Perkins takes a close points victory.



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