The Battles of Britain

British champion James DeGale

British champion James DeGale (right)

2011 is shaping up to be some year for British fight fans. Not only do they have David Haye’s heavyweight showdown with one of the Klitschko brothers, Carl Froch’s Super Six semi-final with Glen Johnson and Nathan Cleverly’s world title shot against Juergen Brahmer to look forward to, but two domestic dust-ups are on the horizon that could eclipse even these money-spinning bouts.

I refer, of course, to the all-British showdowns between unbeaten heavyweights Dereck Chisora and Tyson Fury and super-middleweights James DeGale and George Groves, scheduled to take place in May and  July respectively.

The story behind DeGale (10-0, 8 KOs) and Groves’ (12-0, 10 KOs) eagerly-awaited meeting on the undercard of Cleverly’s world title bill at London’s O2 Arena  on 21 May is well-documented, with the former rebounding from his defeat in their amateur days to win an Olympic gold medal in Beijing.

Groves, meanwhile, went on to claim the ABA title and chalk up a series of impressive wins in the professional ranks, including a stoppage of the tough Ghanaian Charles Adamu to pick up the commonwealth strap.

Grudge match

Sky Sports boxing pundit Jim Watt said the fight is “the kind of grudge match that we haven’t seen since Benn v Eubank,” which at this stage of their careers may sound like hyperbole, but the history between the two fighters, coupled with the animosity between Frank Warren and Hayemaker Promotions, really does make this undercard bout something to savour, however long it lasts.

There’s certainly no love lost between the pair, as a feisty interview last week with Adam Smith and Johnny Nelson on Sky’s excellent Ringside proved, and the promotion of the fight should grab the attention of the wider public outside of their native London in the coming weeks.

DeGale is a household name in Britain thanks to his Olympic exploits, while Groves has built a sizeable following after fighting on several of his stablemate David Haye’ s undercards (including the much-maligned Audley Harrison ‘fight’ in November).

DeGale will rightly start as the favourite after his classy destruction of Paul Smith (29-2, 15 KOs) in his native Liverpool to claim the British title last December, but Groves should not be written off. The Commonwealth champion’s sluggish display against Kenny Anderson (12-1, 8 KOs), in which he was sent to the canvas for the first time, has seen many pundits dismiss the chances of ‘The Saint’ repeating his victory in the amateurs, but Groves showed tremendous heart and desire to come back and stop a game opponent in the sixth round. Nevertheless, DeGale possesses the greater speed and ringcraft, and should ‘Chunky’ avoid getting drawn into a scrap in the centre of the ring, he should have enough to stop his fellow Londoner in the later rounds.

Knockoutpunch prediction ­­­- DeGale by KO

After the disappointment of seeing his surprise world heavyweight title opportunity disappear when Wladimir Klitschko pulled out of two scheduled fights citing an abdominal injury, Finchley’s Chisora (14-0, 9 KOs) must turn his attention back to the domestic scene and his forthcoming British and Commonwealth title defence against unbeaten Mancunian Tyson Fury (14-0, 10 KOs).

The 22-year-old Fury stands 6ft 9ins tall and has long been touted as the future of British heavyweight boxing. Now trained by Hall of Famer Emanuel Steward, Fury has finally started to fulfil some of that early promise after a series of unimpressive wins against journeyman opponents. A contentious points victory over John McDermott in September 2009 led many to question Fury’s credentials as the future of the heavyweight division, but a subsequent knockout win over McDermott in the rematch and a brutal KO over the hard-hitting Brazilian Marcelo Luiz Nascimento (13-1, 11 KOs) last month have gone some way to silence some of the (many) doubters.

Fury has called out Chisora numerous times in his pursuit of a British title shot and ironically spent time training in the Klitschko camp prior to Wladimir’s scheduled showdown with Chisora in April.  He was characteristically confident about his chances of claiming the British title, telling Sky Sports: “I’m going to strip the title away from him along with the zero on his record. Expect another brutal knock out delivered from this 22-year-old.”

Meanwhile, Chisora has been equally dismissive of Fury’s accomplishments and like DeGale and Groves there is a serious beef between the pair that, along with the clash in styles (and size), makes the fight even more intriguing.

Chisora’s most notable wins in his 14-fight career include a pair of wins over former commonwealth champion Sam Sexton and the shell of former Mike Tyson conquerer and world title challenger Danny Williams last May. However, he has been inactive since stopping Sexton last September, with his only action in the ring taking place during the two training camps prior to his aborted world title shot.

Fury, by contrast, has remained active, and his sheer size (Chisora stands just 6ft 1ins tall) and reach gives him a huge advantage going into the fight. The addition of Steward in Fury’s corner, one of the most revered trainers in the sport, may also give the Manchester-born fighter the edge on the night.

Although the fight has yet to be confirmed, the British Boxing Board of Control has ordered purse bids to go ahead on the 13 April, with the much-anticipated fight set to go ahead in July.

Knockoutpunch prediction – Fury by decision

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