Wood-Lara being postponed is a blow but two 50/50 clashes remain, writes Declan Taylor
DESPITE the postponement of the scheduled main event, Matchroom have decided to press on with their latest show at Nottingham Arena – with Kid Galahad and Maxi Hughes now taking centre stage.
This was supposed to be another big night for the city’s leading light Leigh Wood, who was set for an eagerly awaited showdown with big-punching Mexican Mauricio Lara at the top of the bill.
But, when Wood injured a bicep in sparring earlier this month, he was forced to withdraw from the fight, leaving the whole show hanging in the balance. The promoter, Eddie Hearn, however, decided not to cancel the entire thing and has given the rest of the boxers on the card the chance to steal the show on DAZN instead.
The new main event involves the returning Galahad, back for his first outing in 10 months, in an intriguing lightweight encounter with Hughes. Galahad has not been seen since he was knocked out by Kiko Martinez in the sixth round of their November clash – and he will take on Hughes two divisions heavier than he was that night.
The Sheffield man had missed the weight by just over a pound at the first time of asking in that fight and knew his days of making featherweight were over. But instead of chancing his arm at 130lbs, Galahad has jumped straight up to lightweight for this one.
Hughes, meanwhile, enjoyed the form of his career during the Covid era, chalking up five big wins since the first lockdown in 2020. The latest of those came in March, when he outpointed Ryan Walsh over 12 at the First Direct Arena, Leeds. There is no doubt who has the better momentum here.
This Yorkshire derby, between Rossington’s Hughes and Sheffield man Galahad, seems like a distance fight waiting to happen but it depends how well the latter can manage a bigger, stronger opponent than he’s used to. Hughes is far more seasoned at the weight and will be confident of using his size to wear Galahad down.
The 32-year-old also believes Galahad may be carrying some emotional scars as a result of his last outing. “He’s going to say he’s not got demons, but that sort of knockout will carry demons,” Hughes said. “He’s going to have demons regarding his chin – can he take a shot? Has that dented his confidence? We will see on the night.”
Given his education at the Ingle Gym, Galahad is well adept at handling southpaws and beat Jazza Dickens a year ago in his last fight against a lefty. His crafty, awkward style, meanwhile, will likely make it difficult for Hughes to nail him down. But, having said that, Martinez did.
There are enough intangibles to make this pick far from straightforward. How will Galahad handle a lightweight? How much will Hughes’ momentum make a difference? Will Kid ever be the same after that defeat to Martinez? Whatever the answers, this looks evenly matched and close to 50/50. Hughes in a close decision is the gun-to-head selection.
Another boxer making their debut in a new division on Saturday night is Terri Harper, who faces Hannah Rankin in her super-welterweight debut. The 25-year-old is still rebuilding following her numbing loss to Alycia Baumgardner at super-featherweight on the same card on which Galahad was downed by Martinez in November. She returned in March, at lightweight, and beat Yamila Abellaneda over 10 and she is moving up once more on Saturday night.
In contrast, Rankin has spent much of her career mixing it as high as middleweight. Indeed, during 2020, there would have been 30lbs between the pair of them. But as is common in women’s boxing, they have done their fair share of moving around. Again, it makes this one a difficult fight to pick.
Rankin has faced – albeit lost to – both Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall so has mixed at the highest level. But if her and Harper were the same dimensions, you would fancy Harper to outbox the Glaswegian.
Harper has been working tirelessly under performance coach Danny Wilson and this fight, against the biggest opponent of her career, will be the acid test of that process. With three stoppages in 12 outings, Rankin is not a noted puncher so Harper will back herself to make it through the 10-round distance unscathed. If she does, she wins on points here.
Beneath those two fights there are six undefeated Matchroom Boxing prospects hoping to continue their so-far serene progress.
The most established of those is 4-0 heavyweight Solomon Dacres who will take part in his first scheduled 10-rounder against Dominic Akinlade although chances of this going the distance seem slim. Dacres’ last two outings were eight-round points wins over Kevin Nicolas Espindola and Kamil Sokolowski so he does not have a problem going long if he has to. The question mark, however, hangs over Akinlade.
The London bus driver is a former southern area heavyweight champion but has boxed only once in the past five years – a four-round points win over Phil Williams in February 2020. Before that he had lost three times in quick succession during 2017, the last of which was a first round stoppage at the hands of Martin Bakole. That fight was so long ago, Bakole moved to 8-0 that night. He is now 18-1.
How then, can Akinlade be expected to hang with a fit and firing Dacres? It seems unlikely. A stoppage for the 28-year-old looks likely.
Elsewhere, Dacres’ former GB team-mate Cheavon Clarke will bid to go 3-0 against Marcos Nicolas Karalitzky the 7-5-2 Argentinean who has never been stopped.
Cyrus Pattinson (4-0), Rhiannon Dixon (5-0) and Nico Leivars (2-0-1) are also in action while Rotherham southpaw Junaid Bostan, who is 2-0 since turning pro in March, has his first fight since signing a promotional deal with Matchroom earlier this month.
Verdict: Shame about Wood-Lara but there is still intrigue in Nottingham.