There’s three good fight cards taking pace this evening with two in merry old England and one in the American state of California.
We start off in the UK at the Arena in Sheffield, where local hero Kell Brook, 35-0 (24), looks to continue his destructive reign as IBF welterweight champion aganst the challenge posed by Canadian hardman Kevin Bizier, 25-2 (17).
Brook clambered onto the world stage during the summer of 2014 by going to America and dethroning IBF king Shawn Porter in a rough and tumble clash that hardly anyone expected him to win.
Since that time Brook has retained his crown twice with dominant stoppages of Jo Jo Dan and Frankie Gavin in 2015 but the 29 year old “Special One” will have to shake off 10 months of ring rust after a planned October pairing with Diego Chaves was scuppered due to injury.
The durable Bizier is hardly the ideal opponent for Brook at this juncture as the 31 year old Quebec man is known to immediately jump on rivals from the first bell and dig in.
Bizier earned the opportunity to challenge Brook by upsetting highly touted and previously unbeaten prospect Joseph Lawson in an IBF Elimination bout in November, stopping the Ghana born slugger after nine grinding rounds of combat.
Brook and Bizier share a common opponent, Jo Jo Dan, against whom Bizier lost two split decision to while Brook toyed with Dan before knocking him out in the fifth round.
That result could suggest that Brook will do the same with Bizier but the visitor has something that Dan lacked and that is an iron chin.
Bizier has never been down in his professional career and if he is successful in forcing a close quarters brawl with Brook, the champion could have his work cut out for him.
Brook had a similar issue during his title challenge against Porter, having difficulties on the inside until he gained some distance and started landing right hand bombs during the second half of the fight.
If “Special K” can keep Bizier off and at the end of his punches, the challenger’s chin might not take him the distance. However, if Brook chooses to follow the dangerous path of entertaining his hometown fans with a phone booth slugfest, the Canadian is adept at throwing unusual punch sequences that can catch opponents off guard.
The undercard in Sheffield features the comeback of 2012 Olympic gold medallist Luke Campbell, 12-1 (10), who bit off more than he could chew in his previous appearance as he was dropped on the way to losing a split decision against French veteran Yvan Mendy in December.
Facing Campbell at lightweight is former British super feather champ Gary Sykes, 28-4 (6), who is several years away from his best form but should provide the slightly tarnished golden boy of British boxing a good test.
Mendy defeated Campbell by exploiting the Hull man’s questionable defense but Sykes, lacking the Frenchman’s experience against high level opposition, is unlikely to force consecutive defeats upon Campbell.
Down in London, there’s a mouthwatering clash for the British middleweight title between champion Nick Blackwell,19-3-1 (8), and challenger Chris Eubank Jr, 21-1 (16), at Wembley Arena.
There’s been a lot of bad blood between these two fighters and that could play into the hands of the more limited Blackwell, who’s best hope to win is if he goads the highly skilled Eubank to fight on the inside rather than box on the outside.
Both men have come up short against current WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders with Eubank doing a better job against the crafty southpaw.
If Eubank fights smart and avoids a punch-up with Blackwell, he should walk out of Wembley wearing the British middleweight title belt around his waist.
On the undercard, promising heavyweight Hughie Fury, 18-0 (10), meets late replacement opponent Dominick Guinn, 35-10-1 (24), who has been out of the ring for a year.
At 21, and standing 6’6, Fury will probably be too young, too big and fast for the 40 year old visitor to handle but the American has faced far better competition, has never been stopped and could provide problems for the Manchester man.
Hopping across the Atlantic and the North American continent, we next land at Oracle Arena in Oakland where former WBC/WBA super middleweight king Andre Ward, 28-0 (15), continues his campaign as a light heavyweight.
In the other corner is Cuban slugger Sullivan Barrera, 17-0 (12), who has finished off his previous six opponents but has never faced world class opposition.
This could be a fairly boring contest during the first half of the bout as both fighters like to stand off from the outside and work behind the jab with occasional follow-up right hands.
Things should heat up in the later rounds as Barrera will probably be aware of the difficulty in winning a points verdict in Ward’s hometown and the Cuban will have to take chances.
In trying to KO Ward, Barrera could leave himself wide against one of the more precise punchers in the sport, who also has remarkable defensive skills.
Chief support in Oakland will feature a battle for the NABF featherweight strap between champ Joseph Diaz, 19-0 (11), and former IBF title challenger Jayson Velez, 23-1-1 (16).