THE time has come to find out how good Dennis McCann is.
In 14 previous fights – all wins, eight early – McCann has never been through what Ionut Baluta will surely put him through at the York Hall on Friday night (August 19). The super-bantamweights meet over 12 rounds in front of the TNT Sports cameras.
Never beyond eight before, McCann, a 22-year-old southpaw from Maidstone, faces a hardened pro known for his engine and knack for scoring upsets, like the points win over Liverpool puncher Andrew Cain (10-0) in Telford in March.
Down twice in the first and behind on two cards after eight, Baluta went on to edge out Cain on a disputed split points vote by dropping him in the ninth and landing some heavy shots in the final minute.
Alan Smith, McCann’s trainer, says straight after that fight he asked manager Francis Warren to make McCann-Smith.
He takes confidence from Cain almost beating Baluta despite having a hand injury – and what he’s seen when McCann and the Romanian have shared a ring at his iBox Gym in Bromley.
Smith says they have sparred many rounds and is a believer in the saying: ‘Styles make fights.’
“Every time he’s (Baluta) lost it’s been to a boxer,” Smith told BN. “You don’t stand in front of him. He beat Cain, but if Cain hadn’t hurt his hand he might have lost.”
McCann had a career-best performance last time out, breaking down Joe Ham for the vacant Commonwealth title in eight rounds last November, but still, there was possibly a fight or two between the rusty and over-the-hill Ham and Baluta.
Baluta, 16-4 (3) is still fresh, still full of fight. He has actually switched trainers since he beat Cain. The 29-year-old was based in Watford with Josh Burnham and then Arron Woodcock, but has joined Albert Ayrapetyan in Marbella.
Ayrapetyan, beaten by Sergio Martinez and David Lemieux in his 20-4 pro career, is possibly best known for working with colourful Irishman Jono Carroll.
Ayrapetyan is known for tidying up fighters and Baluta is rugged and wild and keeps coming. That style has taken Baluta to upset wins over TJ Doheny, Brad Foster and Cain and you have to question the thinking behind his switch? Perhaps Baluta realises he needs to improve after sharing the ring with McCann in sparring. Perhaps he wasn’t hugely happy with his showing against Cain.
Liam Davies, the British and European champion who beat Baluta and is touted as a future opponent for McCann, has heard sparring stories and said: “McCann was probably 10.5 stones when they sparred and Baluta was nine stone.
“McCann could outbox him, but he will be asked questions. It’s not a massive ring, it’s a hot venue and Baluta will keep coming.”
Baluta possibly clinched the Cain fight in the last 45 seconds of their 10-rounder having hauled himself back into the fight by outworking the Liverpudlian.
Baluta doesn’t do too much clean work, but he is hard to discourage. Davies must have thought he had him under control as he outboxed him and cut him, but Baluta would come back swinging.
Does McCann have the maturity and tools to deal with Baluta at this stage of his career? The way he went up and down the gears against Ham suggests he will and McCann appears well-suited to the championship distance.
Confident as ever, McCann predicts he will be the first to stop Baluta. However, we go for him to use his feet and punch picking to win on points.
In chief-support, Scottish southpaw Nathaniel Collins, a recent addition to the Queensberry stable, makes his first defence of the British featherweight title against Birmingham’s Raza Hamza (see following page).
In 10-rounders, expect 6-0 Raven Chapman (Wycombe) to go through the gears against Brazilian super-bantamweight Lila Furtado (9-0) at 126lbs to win clearly on points and Southampton box-puncher Ryan Garner (13-0) can break down Spanish featherweight champion Juan Jesus Antunez (12-1) in the second half.