Dom. May 26th, 2024


It took years for rival promoters Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn to even speak to each other, but now they are working together to create boxing events, and on June 1 hey will go head-to-head in a five versus five matchup.

Hearn has selected five fighters from his Matchroom stable to face five boxers from Warren’s Queensberry Promotions, and the best out of five wins. The five fights make up the undercard of the undisputed light heavyweight championship clash between Russians Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

It’s a brilliant main event, with just as an impressive undercard with world title opportunities and world title belts up for grabs.

Hearn is boldly predicting a 5-0 «whitewash» for his team, but how do you see it? ESPN gives you the lowdown on the Hearn vs Warren 5 vs. 5.

Zhilei Zhang (Queensberry) vs. Deontay Wilder (Matchroom)

What’s it all about?: Both fighters need to revive their careers after decision losses to the same man, Joseph Parker. Deontay Wilder is fighting to remain a serious contender after a dismal showing in his last fight in December. The Alabama native is fortunate to get such a high-profile, significant fight after he failed to threaten or inconvenience Parker in a wide, unanimous-decision loss. Zhang also needs a win after losing a majority decision to Parker in March, but he was better in his last outing than Wilder.

How does it play out?: Wilder (43-3-1, 42 KOs), the WBC champion from 2015 to 2020, has a mighty right hand, but Zhang (26-2-1, 21 KOs), a southpaw who tipped the scales at 291 pounds for Parker, has never been stopped and has deceptive power. He surprised many by stopping Joe Joyce in back-to-back fights last year and dropped Parker twice before losing a decision. That power could ruin Wilder if he is careless in the first half of the fight, but Zhang’s lack of activity and slow movement will present Wilder with an inviting target to unload his big shots and win by KO. Wilder should be motivated too. He cannot afford another defeat, after two stoppage losses to Tyson Fury and a bad setback to Parker. He has only won once in his last four fights, a first-round KO of Robert Helenius in October 2022.

What’s on the line?: Another lucrative fight back in Saudi Arabia beckons for the winner, while the loser will be pushed closer to retirement or lower profile fights. For Zhang, victory could set up a homecoming bout in China, but a title shot seems out of the question for the winner. Others are ahead of Zhang and Wilder in the queue for a title shot, should the belts become available after the undisputed title clash between heavyweight champions Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury on May 18.

Why should you watch?: Zhang will be 41 on fight night, and Wilder is 38, but you should not dismiss this as a sideshow between two has-beens. Both could still feature in world title fights and both have produced exciting moments recently, especially Zhang. Wilder still has his neutralizing punch — his opponents know all about that — and everything indicates one of them will end this fight laid out on the canvas.

«Come the night of the fight, we will see if I’ve got it or not,» Wilder said at Monday’s news conference in London. «I am quoting this fight as my last dance, my last chance.»

Filip Hrgovic (Matchroom) vs. Daniel Dubois (Queensberry)

What’s it all about?: Hrgovic and Dubois will fight it out to see who goes on to content for the IBF heavyweight world title later this year, whether that is against current champion Usyk or former champion Anthony Joshua. Hrgovic (17-0, 14 KOs), 31, from Zagreb, Croatia, is unbeaten and the No. 1 challenger for the IBF belt, but his recent wins need to be put into context. His best victory came over Zhang in August 2022, when he survived a knockdown in the opening round to prevail via controversial unanimous decision. Hrgovic stopped Demsey McKean in the last round last year after a poor fight and then comfortably dealt with 41-year-old Mark De Mori in a first-round mismatch in December. On the same night in Saudi, Dubois (20-2, 19 KOs) scored a 10th-round TKO victory over Jarrell «Big Baby» Miller for his biggest win yet. It was his first win since a ninth-round KO loss to Usyk in a bid for the unified heavyweight championship in Poland last August.

How does it play out?: Dubois, 26, from London, is the heavier handed but he has also shown vulnerability. Joyce dominated him with his jab in a stoppage win in 2020, and Dubois went down three times in the first round against Kevin Lerena before recovering to win via third-round stoppage in 2022. Dubois felt he landed a legitimate body shot that dropped Usyk in the fifth round last year, but it was ruled a low blow and Usyk was allowed time to recover before the fight resumed. It makes Dubois great to watch but hard to predict, and Hrgovic’s smart boxing could keep him out of trouble.

What’s on the line?: The reward for the winner seems likely to be a big-money fight versus Joshua at Wembley Stadium in London in September or October, with perhaps the IBF world title on the line. The IBF title is one of three belts Usyk holds, but the Ukrainian may have to give up the belt if he cannot fulfill a mandatory defense following his fight with Fury.

Why should you watch?: We get to see how much of a threat Joshua will be under when he is expected to attempt to become a three-time world heavyweight champion later this year. If Dubois wins, it’s a big fight for the UK, with Dubois from south London versus north London resident Joshua. It also pits rival promoter Warren (Dubois) versus Hearn (AJ) again. Hrgovic, like Dubois, has shown he can finish opponents and this is another heavyweight fight that has a strong potential of ending early. And they have sparred against each other in the past.

«We sparred a while back and he keeps talking about that but people change,» Dubois said during the news conference. «I am a different animal now.»

Hamzah Sheeraz (Queensberry) vs. Austin Williams (Matchroom)

What’s it all about?: The middleweight division is asleep at the moment, but Sheeraz (19-0, 15 KOs) could be the one to shake into life. You might not have even heard of him, but Sheeraz, 24, from east London, is an exciting fighter and this could be his moment to step forward into wider recognition beyond the UK scene. Sheeraz is No. 1 in the WBO rankings and in prime position to face WBO and IBF world champion Janibek Alimkhanuly. Williams (16-0, 11 KOs), 27, from Houston, Texas, knocked out Armel Mbumba-Yassa in February and is ranked in the top five by three out of four world governing bodies.

How does it play out?: Sheeraz. 6-foot-3, is in impressive form — he stopped Dmytro Mytrofanov in two rounds in August and demolished former world title challenger Liam Williams in one round in February. Sheeraz is not all about power and has a commanding, long jab, but his recent performances suggest he will win by stoppage.

What’s on the line?: A world title shot will be within reach for the winner, given that both are well-placed in the rankings. Alimkhanuly is currently ESPN’s No. 1 in the division and Sheeraz’s team is pushing for a title shot.

Why should you watch?: Sheeraz has recorded 13 consecutive stoppage victories and could be the next standout star in the middleweight division, if he can come through his toughest test yet. We get to see how good he is against another contender looking for his first world title shot.

Raymond Ford (Matchroom) vs. Nick Ball (Queensberry)

What’s it all about?: Both have been in good fights recently but Ford, the WBA featherweight champion, perhaps starts as a slight favorite. Ford (15-0-1, 8 KOs), 25, from New Jersey, was trailing on the judges’ scorecards when he stopped Otabek Kholmatov with just seven seconds remaining in the final round to win his first world title last month. Ball (19-0-1, 11 KOs), 27, is coming off a great performance too, but a frustrating result for him. The Liverpool, England-based boxer missed out on winning his first world title after his fight with WBC champion Rey Vargas ended in a controversial draw in Saudi Arabia, also last month. Ball had dropped Vargas twice in a strong second half of the fight.

How does it play out?: After winning the world title, Ford said he would be stepping up a division without defending the featherweight belt. If he is struggling at the weight, it may impact his performance. Ball overcame an 8 1/2-inch height disadvantage to drop Vargas in Rounds 8 and 11, but it was not enough to win. Ball showed he can compete at world title level, but he will have to be better earlier on against Ford than he was against Vargas.

What’s on the line?: Ford’s WBA title, and future world title unification fights against the likes of Vargas and Luis Alberto Lopez.

Why should you watch?: Both Ball and Ford produced drama in their last fights and are great value. This is a great matchup and promises to be a close fight which is hard to call.

Craig Richards (Matchroom) vs. Willy Hutchinson (Queensberry)

What’s it all about?: It is perhaps the least appealing of the five fights for a wider audience, but in the UK this is one of a few interesting match-ups to be made at light heavyweight. Richards (18-3-1, 11 KOs), 33, from south London, recently ended 21 months out of action, and is fighting to prove he is still relevant. He lost unanimous decisions to Bivol (for the WBA world title) and Joshua Buatsi in 2021 and 2022 respectively, before the layoff due to a hand ligament injury. While Richards was away, Hutchinson (17-1, 13 KOs), 25, from Scotland, has won four in a row inside the distance since stepping up from super middleweight.

How does it play out?: Richards, now working with trainer Shane McGuigan, had some success when he faced Bivol, even though the Russian won a unanimous decision, and his experience is likely to be too much for Hutchinson.

What’s on the line?: The winner can progress to a potential all-British matchup against Callum Smith, Lyndon Arthur, Buatsi, Anthony Yarde and Dan Azeez. With Bivol and Beterbiev holding all the belts, Richards and Hutchinson will be more concerned with continuing progress up the list of contenders and perhaps setting up a future bout against another British rival.

Why should you watch?: Richards could emerge as a future world title challenger with an impressive display. He needs a big win to climb the rankings.


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