The biggest bill in British Boxing this year takes place this evening at London’s massive 20,000 seat O2 Arena as three world title bouts are on tap.
Headlining the event is the UK’s top boxer, IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook, who makes a title defense against domestic rival, ex-British and Commonwealth king Frankie Gavin.
Gavin, a tricky counter-punching southpaw, will have a height advantage over Brook but that’s about it as the champion will have the edge in every other department.
Brook, 34-0 (23), holds victories over Shawn Porter, Jo Jo Dan and Vyacheslav Senchenko in bouts in which he has proven to present the formidable combination of skill, quickness, punch power and durability.
Gavin, 22-1 (13), in contrast, failed in his only appearance at world class when he was unable to unseat European champion Leonard Bundu, despite holding the home advantage.
The Birmingham lefty is a good fighter, however, and Sheffield’s Brook could be overlooking his seemingly overmatched challenger given the higher profile contests that “The Special One” could be headed for against the likes of Amir Khan, Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Look for Brook to keep hold of his IBF belt either by unanimous decision or by late round stoppage.
In the chief support contest, local hero Kevin Mitchell, 39-2 (29), steps up to challenge WBC lightweight boss Jorge Linares, 38-3 (25), in what should be a slugfest.
Venezuelan born Tokyo resident Linares has held world titles in three weight divisions and is the best fighter that Mitchell has faced but Linares has also been stopped in each of his three losses.
This fact makes it almost a certainty that Mitchell, who, in his sole world title opportunity was halted by Ricky Burns, will come out swinging for the fences in an attempt to crack the shaky chin of the champion.
If Linares can box and move, avoiding Mitchell’s big bombs, his greater skill level should prove to be the difference, especially if the challenger runs into stamina issues after a big early energy expenditure.
Mitchell will have a highly partisan crowd on his side and that could be the contributing factor if he is to pull off the upset of the night.
At featherweight, IBF champion Evgeny Gradovich, 19-0-1 (9), of Russia will bring his bull-like approach to the UK as he meets the challenge posed by “The Welsh Mayweather”, Lee Selby, 20-1 (8).
This one should be a very competitive clash. Ex-European, British and Commonwealth ruler Selby brings an excellent stick and move style to the table that should be very effective, at least in the early going, against pressure artist Gradovich.
Gradovich wins fights by wearing down opponents with a high activity rate, often focused on the body, and Selby will have to be very careful in this one, conserving energy by fighting in spots and avoiding all-out trench warfare.
Gradovich has four title defenses to his credit but Selby is probably the best fighter he’ll have faced so far and the Welshman has home field advantage, making this a 50-50 fight.
There is also an interesting clash on the bill at heavyweight as British phenom Anthony Joshua, 12-0 (12), has his first real test against American journeyman Kevin Johnson, 29-6-1 (14).
Joshua has obliterated everyone put before him without ever having to leave second gear but now meets a former world title challenger who has gone the distance against Vitali Klitschko, Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora.
Johnson has vowed to expose the former Olympic hero but the Georgia man has always talked far better than he can fight and has lost four of his last five appearances in the ring.
The question here isn’t whether or not Joshua will win but can he stop a fighter who has proven to be extremely durable?
Johnson doesn’t throw many punches as he mainly concentrates on surviving and with that zero ambition approach, could finish the bout on his feet and is likley to at least extend Joshua past the fourth round for the first time in his career.