Frank Warren: Yarde, Maxwell and Woodstock careers on the line this weekend

Frank Warren will be Stateside this weekend to watch two of his young talents at Queensberry Promotions make their American debuts.

Daniel Dubois and Tommy Fury are in Cleveland ready to make a splash and a statement before Jake Paul continues his efforts as a prizefighter by taking on another former Mixed Martial Artist. The blood, sweat and circus take place on Showtime on Sunday, but 24 hours beforehand Warren has, on paper, an excellent looking British title event in Birmingham live on BT Sport.

Akeem Ennis Brown and Anthony Cacace will defend their British super-lightweight and super-featherweight titles against Sam Maxwell and Lyon Woodstock, respectively. Meanwhile, the vacant super-flyweight Lonsdale strap pits Ijaz Ahmed and Quaise Khademi together once again after Ahmed triumphed in their first fight six months ago. Queensberry prospects Ethan James, George Bance, Ezra Taylor and the anticipated debut of Willo Hayden continue their development while there are spots on the card for Nathan Heaney, Liam Davies and Anthony Yarde, too. For Yarde, Saturday night kicks off a period of pressure in his career as he faces Alex Theran in a fight he is expected to win handily.

“He needs to make a statement,” Warren told Boxing Social, emphasising that it’s make or break time for the former WBO light-heavyweight title challenger.

“He can’t afford to slip up [against Theran] and on October 9 it is going to be him and Lyndon Arthur in Birmingham.”

Arthur and Yarde fought in December with the former prevailing in a bout which he controlled with his jab as his rival struggled to get going in the fight. The result was a split decision win for Arthur which Yarde and his team reacted furiously to. In six weeks, Arthur puts his WBO light-heavyweight No.1 contender spot and world title aspirations on the line against the Londoner. It’s high stakes for both but particularly for Yarde who could find his career in tatters should he not come through successfully against Theran and Arthur.

“It’s a coin job,” says Warren who sees the rematch as 50-50. 

On Tuesday, it had been exactly two years since Yarde lost to Sergey Kovalev in Russia. The Brit’s world title challenge was a tough ask but in round eight he produced a Herculean attack which had the once formidable champion rocked and staggered. It was a tale of close but no cigar, Yarde had punched himself out, the tank was empty and went on to be stopped in round eleven. Boxing Social asked Warren if he thought the fight and Yarde’s efforts had taken a bit out of him, perhaps something was left in the ring that night in Chelyabinsk which he will never get back.

“First of all, he’s not a shot, worn fighter,” Warren responded. “He only had 12 fights as an amateur and most of his pro fights have gone short because he’s got tremendous punching power so it’s not like he’s been in massive tear ups. Even the fight against Lyndon Arthur, [it] wasn’t like it was a tear up, he didn’t get hurt any stage in that fight, but the Kovalev fight… it was quite a devastating finish from Kovalev. Having said that, a lot of fatigue was also a problem for him [Yarde]. He threw everything into that round eight before he got stopped even though he was ahead on the scorecards. He just put too much into it and it was what it was, but look, if he’s got any ambition at world title level, which I know he has, then he’s got to fight the number one in the WBO which is Lyndon Arthur. So, he’s got to get this guy [Theran] out the way, which I know he’s focused on and straight on to that Arthur fight, that’s where we need to be.”

A pivotal period for Yarde then, something similar can be said for Lyon Woodstock and Sam Maxwell, according to Warren. The pair have been involved in heated build-ups to their two British title fights on Saturday night and it’s looking like sink or swim for them both. Simply put, if they beat Cacace and Ennis-Brown then their career elevates and leads to title defences and bigger fights. Defeat puts them near the back of the queue. Woodstock has already lost to domestic rivals Archie Sharp and Zelfa Barrett, while Maxwell turns 33 in October, and this is his first British title fight.

“For Lyon, who’s a really nice kid, nice boxer he’s had a bit of time out, so he’s got to regroup and, for him, it’s a shit or bust fight,” Warren said. “Simple as that. If he wants to rise above the level, he’s at he’s got to win this fight otherwise I think his options become very limited. They’re all aware of that and, because of that, I think it’s such an intriguing fight, I think styles will make it into a really good fight to watch. Cacace has had injuries, he won the [British] title well against Sam Bowen but having said that he’s not been able to capitalise on that, so that’s what he’ll be trying to do on Saturday.

“As far as Sam [Maxwell] is concerned, it’s such a key moment for him,” Warren continued. “He’s 32 now. This fight is his career. Every fight he has now has got to be a winning fight. What I want him to do is try and relax a bit. He’s keyed up for it. I think we’re going to get a keenly fought, tough fight. They are all good quality fights including Ahmed against Khademi. It was keenly fought last time and this time round I think it will be the same again. Quaise thought he was going to win the fight easily and it wasn’t the case and now he’s got a lot to prove.”

Nathan Heaney’s popularity continues to grow as does the relationship he has with the boxing public. During this fight week, the unbeaten middleweight from Stoke shared the tragic story of his father’s passing during a video interview with Queensberry Promotions which was shared on their social media channels. Viewers praised Heaney for his openness and added their support which Heaney has plenty of already, particularly on fight night.

“He’s a really nice guy,” Warren said of Heaney. “He’s well liked because what you see is what you get. He’s a very genuine guy, the public have taken to him certainly up where he lives. He’s done £85,000 worth of tickets! That’s a substantial amount of tickets for what he’s doing. It’s not like it’s a world title fight or anything. He’s sold more tickets at this stage of his career than Ricky Hatton had at his, and that’s a fact. He’s talked about his dad, and I’d love to help him get really big fight, a world title fight at Stoke. Can you imagine?”

It’s no secret that an outdoor fight at Stoke City FC’s Bet365 Stadium is a dream of Heaney’s and one that Warren is more than willing to try and accommodate. The 32-year-old still doesn’t have an opponent yet, at the time of writing, for this Saturday but the thought process moving forward appears to be to continue building his popularity, some careful matchmaking before that bucket list moment for Heaney and his fans at Stoke’s ground. Warren is rightly confident it would be a sell-out on the night should it happen.

“Oh yeah. I’m so sure of that. The funny thing is I’ve noticed when he fights the crowd… they pull you up afterwards and they’re so appreciative. ‘Well done, thanks for getting him on’ and it’s quite nice. He’s got a really good fanbase there and the atmosphere is fabulous.”

Warren says that some of the undercard fighters involved with Saturday’s show in Birmingham should take note of Heaney and realise that the unexpected can happen.

“Nathan came out of the blue and now all of a sudden he’s selling all of these tickets. Over the last four years, the highest rated programme for subscription TV has been with BT boxing. Four years running. The numbers are there and for these kids it’s a great opportunity for them to go and show what they’ve got. You get that opportunity, and it can turn to gold.”

Main image: Queensberry Promotions.