JJ Metcalf: What Next?

JJ Metcalf

Last Friday, James Metcalf (23-2, 14 KOs) secured the biggest win of his career to date with a unanimous decision over Kerman Lejarraga, in Bilbao, Spain.

‘Kid Shamrock’ had previously been in competitive fights against Ted Cheeseman and Kieron Conway, but his best efforts were not enough as he suffered an 11th round stoppage against the former and dropped a close decision to the latter.

Back under the tutelage of Joe McNally, Metcalf looked rejuvenated as he outboxed the Spaniard for large portions of the contest.

Victory earned the 33-year-old the WBA Continental super-welterweight title. While the strap itself holds little prestige, it will likely result in a lofty ranking with the sanctioning body.

Afterwards, promoter Eddie Hearn promised to deliver big fights for the son of Shea Neary.

However, that may be easier said that done. At present, all four world title are in the possession of Jermell Charlo, he, along with the majority of top contenders at 154lbs, fight under the Premier Boxing Champions banner. PBC tend to be reluctant to work with other promoters, as such the
calibre of match-up Metcalf craves could be out of reach for the time being.

Here are four fights which could be made next:

Johan Gonzalez (31-1, 31 KOs)

Currently ranked No. 3 with the WBA, Gonzalez is the highest ranked available fighter since the sanctioning body have ordered a rematch between Israil Madrimov and Michal Soro, the two men above him in the ratings. While the Panama-based Venezuelan does not bring much in the way of name value, his lofty ranking would present Metcalf with the opportunity to edge closer to world title. As Gonzalez’s record suggests, he can bang. However, his technique is somewhat basic. Having just defeated a vaunted puncher in Lejarraga, Metcalf would likely fancy his chances of repeating the feat against Gonzalez.

Kieron Conway (17-2-1, 3 KOs)

Conway edged their first fight by one point on two of the judges’ scorecards and by two on the other, a rematch of their fight from last year would make sense for both parties. It would present Metcalf with the chance to prove he is the better man, while Conway could gain a high ranking with
the WBA. Their previous encounter was far from a classic, so it remains to be seen whether it would make sense from a commercial standpoint, but for the fighters, there is enough at stake to make the bout worthwhile.

Mason Cartwright (17-3-1, 7 KOs)

Cartwright’s stock rose exponentially in March when he gave British champion, Troy Williamson, a hard fight, even if the scorecards didn’t reflect as such. ‘Nutty’ dropped Williamson hard in the second round with a right hand which had the champion in trouble. Cartwright was unable to find the fight-ending punch, but produced a fantastic display. With Metcalf being from Liverpool, and Cartwright hailing from nearby Ellesmere Port, the fight would be a local derby. Metcalf may have his sights set on bigger bouts, but Cartwright could be a viable opponent for a homecoming, after Metcalf’s triumphant performance in Spain.

Dennis Hogan (30-4-1, 7 KOs)

The Irishman is two-time world title challenger, who at 37-years-old appears to be declining. It is the perfect combination for an away corner fighter, from the perspective of a promoter, at least. Tim Tszyu’s five round destruction of Hogan last year, caused the hype surrounding him to grow
significantly. If the tactic worked for one son of a famous former fighter, it could work for another. Hogan is currently on a two-fight winning streak, which helps the marketability of the bout.