The NXTGEN series has its critics, but what might look like a damp squib at the Ice Arena has an array of talent and several credibly competitive match-ups on the bill. Champions, prospects and fighters all worthy – in some cases needy – of the exposure the format provides.
As the season draws to a close, lightweight prospect Joe Cordina, 7-0 (6 KO’s), headlines the card in his home city of Cardiff as he seeks to capture the Commonwealth title. Charged with pumping yet more excitement into the bustling, booming British boxing scene, this could be an ideal setting for the amiable and exciting Welshman. He has been hurried along at pace, such is the faith in him: such is the pace of the boxing business.
Having halted the skilful-but-feather-fisted Hakim Ben Ali for the WBA International strap last time out at the Principality Stadium; Cordina now has the bright Commonwealth blur before him. Seven fights so far, seven wins, six ending early.
Cordina’s opponent for the title is Sean Dodd. The Liverpudlian, 15-3-1 (3 KO’s), is a likeable character always willing to put on a show – and undoubtedly more experienced at title level than his foe. He proved his boxing acumen with a victory over former Team GB captain Thomas Stalker for the Commonwealth crown last September. Despite Cordina’s inexperience, at this level there are no longer any ‘gimmes’.
‘Masher’ Dodd is a game, well chosen opponent. Having just lost to Tommy Coyle for the belt he now looks to win back against Cordina: he’ll be more fired up than ever.
Desire and passion are what fans want – and are both traits that Dodd brings to the ring on fight night. The crab-like Cordina is rarely square on, keeping himself a hard target while keeping his lead left confidently low, fully aware he has reflexes and timing on his side. These attributes should carry him through the fight and well into the later years of a successful career.
Cordina is not headlining in his home city for the Commonwealth title in his eighth fight for nothing: this is a calculated risk on behalf of promoter Eddie Hearn which, all being well, will pay off for Cordina at this early stage of his career.
Natasha Jonas 6-0 (5 KO’s) continues her drive into what will soon be a hugely exciting crop of female British stars in the lighter weight-classes as she defends her WBA International super featherweight title against former Katie Taylor opponent Viviane Obenauf 12-4 (6 KO’s). The Brazilian was blown away by IBO World champion Chantelle Cameron up at lightweight last December, and Jonas will want to make a statement with a convincing display.
Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallist Daniyar Yeleussinov, 2-0 (1 KO), is a man Sky Sports have high hopes as being the heir apparent to fellow Kazakh star Gennady Golovkin. While it is far too early to say such a thing about the former amateur standout, Gabor Gorbics 24-11 (14 KO’s) is a bold choice for anyone’s third pro outing.
Gorbics is a former Slovakian champion and fought Liam Williams for the WBO European super welterweight title in 2016 – though since that loss his form has declined dramatically. He will, however come to win, and should prove to be a decent test for most of the eight round distance.
After featherweight prospect Jordan Gill 20-0 (4 KO’s) defeated Jason Cunningham in a dramatic back-and-forth affair in February, many observers suggested that he would soon to be ready for a shot at some sort of title. Gill’s opponent on Saturday, David Berna 16-4 (15 KO’s), has an impressive knockout ratio, but the Hungarian has been stopped every time he has stepped up in competition – most notably in March against Michael Conlan.
Unbeaten Gill will enter the bout as an overwhelming favourite and will see Berna as an opportunity to bolster his own knockout percentage.
Elsewhere on the card, Akeem Ennis Brown is only twenty-two-years-old, 11-0 (1 KO), and the tricky Gloucester-based super lightweight known as ‘Riiddy’ has already won English and WBC youth titles. Particularly impressive was his travelling to Sunderland to spoil devout Mackem Glenn Foot’s homecoming party for the English strap. This is his first appearance on a televised show and he is one to keep an eye on.
Two of the more established names on the card look to rebuild after losses when super bantamweight Gamal Yafai and former British lightweight champion Scott Cardle return to action. Yafai, 14-1 (7 KO’s), is fresh off a defeat to Gavin McDonnell and the former Commonwealth champion will no doubt be given a modest comeback opponent.
Cardle, 22-2-1 (7 KO’s), ran into a Lewis Ritson shaped wrecking ball in March, in an unsuccessful challenge for his old Lonsdale belt. ‘Mad Man’ Michael Mooney, 8-51-1 (3 KO’s), might be on the road but – as his name suggests – he does love a scrap and should prove to be exciting as long as he is in the ring. As admirable as that is, he will likely find Cardle far too much and is unlikely to hear the final bell.
Unbeaten Hayemaker Boxing light heavyweight Kody Davies, 5-0 (2 KO’s) is another, like Cordina, who will be keen to make an impression on his native Welsh audience. Davies comes across as driven, ambitious and will be expected to win in good fashion against 5-11-4 (0 KO’s) Anthony Fox. Although, despite his record, Fox is a tough and resilient customer; having not been stopped since his second fight and winning four of his last five outings. Understandably Davies will want to shine, but will do well to halt Fox.
The busy card has twelve fights listed, hence predicting how many of them will make the televised show is difficult, though presumably there will be a Facebook feed prior to Sky going live. An interesting inclusion is Anthony Sims Jr., an unbeaten light heavyweight prospect with an impressive 14-0 (13 KO’s) record. Hailing from Plainfield, Indiana, Sims Jr. will seek to make a splash in his first appearance on British soil. With no opponent listed yet, how much hype is put into him come broadcast should be telling.
Newport bantamweight Sean McGoldrick 6-0 (2 KO’s) is another combatant appearing close to home, as he faces another unbeaten fighter in Dylan McDonagh 3-0 (1 KO). With both fighters undoubtedly keen to preserve their 0’s, the bout could provide some interesting moments. Though, you would expect 2010 Commonwealth gold medal winner McGoldrick to be the last man standing at the final bell.
Nathan Thorley is a tall, unbeaten light heavyweight, and for the 10-0 (5 KO’s) prospect to be fighting Darryl Sharp, 5-36 (0), is nothing short of cynical matchmaking. Sharp is tough and a former area champion: but at middleweight. He is officially almost a foot shorter and this one stinks as a “contest”. However stubborn Sharp is, his only hope is that four rounds might be short enough to see out.
If you’re a home promoter, Yailton Neves might not appeal as an opponent for your star in the making. The best journeymen fight back, and Neves brutally stopped unbeaten Ryan Maycock, outpointed former Midlands champion Matthew Mallin and took Jimmy Smith’s 0, showing that despite his 3-13 (1 KO) record, he is very much a live opponent. Daniel Barton, 2-0-1 (1 KO), has a draw to the aforementioned Anthony Fox on his record, and it is worrying that Neves is a test so soon in his career. However, Barton should please his home fans with a win and should he come through victorious, will no doubt reap the benefits from such a test so early in his professional ledger.
Article by: Adam Thorn
Follow Adam on Twitter at: @LaudusHimself