On Friday, January 22, Ian ‘Dappa’ Napa is due to meet Jamie McDonnell at the Brentwood Centre in Essex, England for the defence of his British bantamweight title.
Napa, whose record currently stands at 19-7 (1), has a great deal resting on his shoulders going into this fight as recently the EBU has nominated Napa as mandatory to fight for the vacant European title against Frenchman Jerome Arnould.
Should Napa lose against McDonnell, it will cost him his European title shot, scuppering his chances of securing the belt he held so briefly, before losing it to Malik Bouziane. That has to play on his mind!
However, over-looking McDonnell would be a dangerous game to play as he is on a four fight win streak, with three of those victories coming by stoppage.
Napa has always been an interesting fighter, terrifically skilled and gifted in counterpunching and movement, with great fundamental boxing skills and a relatively solid chin.
Although he has been stopped once earlier on in his career, his heart has been questionable at times as he can becomes dormant in the later rounds, as he did in his first defence of the European title against Bouziane.
Napa has mastered his art to a high degree because he has had to, for he has no pop in his punch. He has scored the only stoppage over Lee Haskins, but that was due to an injured right arm. Therefore, he really does not have loads of power but does make up for it with his skill set, when he chooses to use said set. He also makes himself an elusive target with clever footwork.
McDonnell has had far less experience than Napa, but then he carries power in his punches, well, more than Napa anyway. His record stand at 12-2-1 (5), and is the former English Bantamweight champion. He’s never been stopped but one of those losses was to Haskins .
Napa’s career has been up and down, to say the least. As mentioned, he is a very capable boxer but in his ninth fight after winning his first eight, he stepped up in class, quite a vast step, going in against Jason Booth for the Commonwealth flyweight title. Booth, very smooth and slick in style like Napa, but who can also bang, won nearly every round on the way to victory.
Napa then had a crack at the WBU flyweight title against Peter Culshaw, getting stopped in the eighth round. Napa then lost his next four fights, all on points, to Marc Callaghan, Martin Power, Damaen Kelly and Simone Maludrottu.
Whether it was from becoming disillusioned with the sport, losing his self-belief or the determination to do it anymore, we did not see Ian Napa in a boxing ring for a while.
He did return however, with apparently a spring in his step, to face the man who gave him his first defeat…Jason Booth, beating Booth over 12 rounds to take the vacant British Bantamweight title. He then defended the title a further three times, retiring Haskins, avenging the Martin Power defeat and beating Colin Moffett.
Napa's third defence enabling him to keep the very much sought after Lonsdale belt.
It was at this point that Napa decided he could take European glory, and he did just that against Carmelo Ballone, coming on strong in the second half of the fight and even putting Ballone down in the tenth to win the European title.
This fight against McDonnell will probably be the last chance saloon for Napa .
In reality, Napa, should he come with his A game, ready to go the distance, and keep his to his game plan, should not have too many problems with McDonnell as he just has better movement and boxing skills plus the experience to not get caught and dragged into a slugfest. McDonnell has only gone the distance once in his career, losing to Chris Edwards in 2007.
Having only looked at the negative side of what looking past the current opponent can do, on the flip side, having heard the news that he could have the opportunity to reclaim the belt that he lost and wants back so badly could just add fuel to the fire and get Napa in the right frame of mind to glide past McDonnell, as we all know he can, sharpshooting and coming in off the counter to claim a UD over 12.
Should he lose to McDonnell, it will be a long very hard road back to European title contention again…if at all.
On the undercard of Napa vs. McDonnell, acting as chief support bout, Ashley ‘Flash Ash’ Sexton takes on Usman ‘Uzzy’ Ahmed for the vacant English Flyweight title. Sexton's record stands at 8-0 (4) and Ahmed’s is 6-2-1 (0).
Sexton is a well-schooled boxer/puncher, who has been making a lot of noise on his way up the ranks and has been touted as a hot prospect. He has managed to get some experience under his belt with a few journeymen.
The only real notable scalp on his record is Darli Goncalves Pires, who Sexton stopped in the first, thus negating any experience that could have been obtained, of course, he went in there to do the job…and the job is what he did! The record itself shows he carries power in his punch with his 50% KO ratio.
Ahmed is an irregular type of boxer who perhaps does not carry the punch that Sexton does but instead relies on speed and angles. An awkward fighter with a big heart and a good chin, Ahmed can give any fighter in this division trouble as seen when he took on Chris Edwards, the Commonwealth and British Flyweight champion, last year, he lost over twelve rounds but showed grit and determination in doing so.
On paper, this looks to be a bit of a war with Sexton having the better record, and being undefeated…probably more confidence. Whilst Ahmed will be looking for redemption after his loss to Edwards, which can be a good motivator, and a style that so many fighters find very hard to crack. Keep your eyes peeled for this one.