Lucian Bute v Andre Dirrell (Super-middleweight)
Bute (27-0, 22 KOs) spent the last year milking his IBF title with a slew of wins over some underwhelming opposition (Jesse Brinkley anyone?) in his adopted hometown of Montreal. Dirrell, meanwhile, dropped out of the Super Six tournament in mysterious circumstances, citing a neurological injury sustained during his career best performance against the hard-hitting Armenian Arthur Abraham in March.
Many suspect Dirrell’s real reason for pulling out was to avoid fighting his good friend and Olympic teammate Andre Ward, the favourite to win the tournament. Dirrell’s camp even talked about retirement, but that was shortlived and ‘The Matrix’ is now looking to get back into the ring. The only fighter not in Showtime’s Super Six tournament who would represent a step-up in competition for Dirrell is Bute.
The Romanian faces yet another straightforward assignment when he takes on Northern Irishman Brian Magee (34-3, 24 KOs) in Montreal in March. Should he come through unscathed, it’s high time he stepped up his level of competition and gave the talented Dirrell a shot at claiming his IBF belt. It would be a chance for both fighters to redeem themselves in the eyes of boxing fans.
James DeGale v George Groves (Super-middleweight)
These two British hopefuls have more history than the Russian archives. De Gale (9-0, 7 KOs), an Olympic Gold medalist, famously lost to his nemesis Groves (11-0, 9 KOs) in the amateurs, when they boxed out of the same London gym. However, DeGale (or ‘Destined to Fail’, as Groves has taken to calling his fellow Londoner) had the last laugh, making it into the Olympic team and taking home a Gold medal in Beijing.
The ‘Saint’ is currently the Commonwealth super-middleweight champion and is coming off a disappointing performance against Kenny Anderson in which he was dropped for the first time and looked close to being stopped before rallying and earning a rather dubious sixth round TKO victory. However, Groves showed great heart to come back into the fight, and before his struggle against the experienced Anderson he had looked impressive in stopping Charles Adamu to take the commonwealth strap. Adamu is a durable customer who went the distance with Carl Froch back in 2004, but Groves dispatched of the Ghanaian with relative ease.
By contrast, DeGale is fresh from a career best performance in only his ninth paid bout, beating the seasoned Paul Smith in his hometown of Liverpool to claim the British title. Judging by their previous outings, DeGale would start as the favourite, but Groves has more experience as a professional and that win over his arch-rival in the amateurs means he won’t go into the ring short of confidence.
To add further spice, the bout would pit promotional rivals Frank Warren and Adam Booth of Hayemaker Promotions against each other, and judging by the recent back and forth in the British press, there is no love lost between the pair. Hayemaker Promotions won the purse bid, and an April date has been pencilled in if the two camps can settle their differences.
All in all, this fight has all the ingredients to be arguably the best all-British showdown since Eubank versus Benn.
Paul Williams v Kelly Pavlik (Middleweight)
Although this match up was close to being made in 2009 before Pavlik pulled out with a legitimate hand injury, two years down the line it is, at best, a long shot. After all, both fighters are at a crossroads in their respective careers, and will be looking to get back on track and regain their mojo with some confidence-boosting wins over limited opposition.
Williams (39-2, 27 KO’s) was on the wrong end of a highlight reel knockout to middleweight king Sergio Martinez last November, who coincidentally also handed Pavlik (36-2, 32 KOs) his second professional loss in April last year. ‘The Ghost’ is also facing a well-publicised battle with the bottle and is expected to return to the ring for the first time in May after more than a year of inactivity. But once they have shaken off the ring rust and regained their confidence, this much-anticipated bout would be the perfect platform for both fighters to revive their careers.
In fairness, Pavlik and Williams have never shied away from a challenge, always facing up to the best in their division. The autumn would be a good time for them to finally face each other.
David Haye v Aleksandr Povetkin (Heavyweight)
Yes, of course we want to see the Hayemaker take on Wladimir or Vitali, but we must admit that this mooted defence against former Olympic Super-heavyweight champion Aleksandr Povetkin promises to be a decent tear-up. The unbeaten Russian (21-0, 15 KOs) has hardly been in great form of late, struggling to a points win over journeyman Nicolai Firtha last December, but a chance to take the WBA strap from the loud-mouthed but exciting Londoner would surely see him raise his game.
Haye, meanwhile, would earn some much-needed kudos in the heavyweight division if he could overcome Povetkin in impressive fashion. His last fight against the undeserving Audley Harrison fooled no one, and if anything Haye’s reputation was as badly damaged on the night as ‘A-Force’ (surely a nickname in violation of the Trade Descriptions Act), as his credibility in taking the fight took a battering.
It would also be interesting to see how this fight would be marketed, given that both fighters have so far (for whatever reasons) dodged fights with the Klitchkos. In Povetkin’s case, trainer Teddy Atlas felt he wasn’t ready to take on the younger brother of the long-reigning silblings.
Mike Jones v Kell Brook (Welterweight)
This is a mouthwatering match up between two hot prospects from either side of the pond. England’s Brook (23-0, 16 KOs) has blitzed his way through domestic competition and is knocking on the door for a world title opportunity in 2011. The Sheffield stylist has the swagger and the looks to make a splash in the States, and a win against fellow up-and-comer Mike Jones (24-0, 18 KOs) would certainly make boxing fans and writers in the US sit up and take notice.
The bout has been on the cards for a while but has suffered several setbacks, notably injuries to Brook and Jones’ lacklustre performance against Mexican slugger Jesus Soto-Karass last year, when he won a debatable decision that triggered a rematch. With the rematch now out of the way after an impressive unanimous decision win by Jones’ last Saturday, the showdown is very much back on. And we can’t wait to see it happen.