Tonight at York Hall, Bethnal Green, eight featherweight combatants will compete in the quarter-finals of the first Golden Contract tournament.
MTK Global have put together an exciting new concept that will see one fighter bag himself a five-fight, two-year deal with one of boxing’s leading promotors. The winner will be guaranteed a six-figure purse for each fight along the way, whilst being exposed to a wider audience which will inevitably lead to further opportunities.
The featherweights get us underway tonight, with the quarter-finals of the light heavyweight and light welterweight tournaments to follow in the coming weeks. Sky Sports have secured the TV rights for the UK, whilst US fight fans can watch live on ESPN.
The format resembles the World Boxing Super Series, with each stage of the respective tournaments taking place on different nights, allowing the fighters time to recuperate and prepare for each bout.
The quarter-final draw was made live on Sky Sports earlier this week, permitting four of the fighters to select their opponent from the other group of four, with precedence determined by a lucky draw.
With the ensuing matchups set to take place this evening, who do I think will emerge victoriously and cement their spot in the semi-finals? Let’s find out.
#1 – Tyrone McCullagh (13-0-0, 6 KO’s) vs Razaq Najib (11-3-0, 2 KO’s)
Tyrone McCullagh was originally due to face the current WBC Latino Super Featherweight Champion, Carlos Araujo. However, the Mexican was forced to withdraw yesterday due to illness.
He has since been replaced by Sheffield’s Razaq Najib, who has had little time to prepare for the opportunity of a lifetime. He has previously fought for the English and European featherweight titles, coming up short on both occasions.
The Irishman has picked up the Celtic and WBO European titles in just twelve fights, as well as completing the ten round distance on three occasions.
Najib will be tough, but I’m backing McCullagh to stop the late replacement inside the later rounds.
#2 – Jazza Dickens (27-3-0, 11 KO’s) vs Carlos Ramos (11-1-0, 7 KO’s)
Former British Super Bantamweight Champion, Jazza Dickens will firmly believe he is the favourite heading into the competition. He was one of the four men able to select their opponent, so he opted for the current European Champion, Carlos Ramos.
The Spaniard has lost just once in eleven pro outings, with that sole defeat coming against Irving Gonzalez last year. He has since picked up the Spanish and European titles, so will head into tonight’s bout full of confidence.
I expect Jazza to advance to the semi-finals with relative ease. He’s by far the more experienced of the two, and has fought stronger opposition. If he can start well, I think he’ll cruise to a unanimous decision or maybe even push for a late stoppage.
#3 – Leigh Wood (22-1-0, 12 KO’s) vs David Oliver Joyce (11-0-0, 8 KO’s)
Probably the most exciting fight in this quarter-final draw is Leigh Wood against David Oliver Joyce. Having pulled the number one ball from the bag, Wood had first choice of opponent. Despite easier options being available, he selected Joyce without hesitation.
Wood is the current Commonwealth Featherweight Champion and has steadily improved under the tutelage of Dave Coldwell, the only blemish on his record being a stoppage defeat to former world title challenger Gavin McDonnell back in 2014.
Joyce is less seasoned in the paid ranks, but was a standout amateur and reached the last 16 at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where he represented the Republic of Ireland. He’s starting to find his feet in the pros, winning the WBO European title against Stephen Tiffney in April of this year, followed by a routine points victory over Breilor Teran.
This is a complete 50/50 for me. Wood has to get a hold of Joyce early, rough him up and not allow the Irishman to settle into a rhythm. If Joyce builds an early lead, Wood could find himself chasing the fight and forced to take risks. Experience may be the deciding factor, but I feel like we could be in for an upset. Joyce via split decision.
#4 – Hairon Socarras (22-0-3, 14 KO’s) vs Ryan Walsh (24-2-2, 11 KO’s)
Ryan Walsh will be most peoples’ favourite to walk away with that big-money contract. The current British Champion won the title back in 2015 and has since become the outright holder, making six defences of the domestic crown. His only defeat during that time came at the hands of Denmark’s Dennis Ceylan for the vacant European title.
Harion Socarras is somewhat of an unknown entity. Posing a typically silky Cuban fighting style, he is currently unbeaten in twenty-five fights, with just three draws staining his record.
Out of all the quarter-final match-ups, I think this will be the least pleasing on the eye. Both have awkward styles and can be negative at times. I’m going for Walsh to edge a close, messy fight by split decision. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cuban manages to spring an early upset, though.
Tune in to Sky Sports Action from 8 pm tonight to watch this card live.