BOXXER Series goes to Coventry on Saturday night (April 16) for a lightweight tournament – and the record books show there’s every chance the £40k prize will be heading back to Birmingham.
The Eastside gym has two fighters in the line-up at the Skydome and trainers Jon Pegg and Paul Counihan have an impressive record in the eight-man tournament.
Drew Brown won the inaugural Boxxer Series at 147lbs in April, 2018, after gym mate Kaisee Benjamin made an early exit, and his success was repeated by Shakan Pitters (light-heavyweight) and Cori Gibbs (super-lightweight).
This weekend, Tion Gibbs and Scott Melvin (4-0) represent Eastside in front of the Sky Sports cameras in a tournament made at 137lbs.
The stylish and well-schooled Gibbs, who’s 8-0 in the pros after a 65-9 amateur career, is the Midlands Area champion, winning the belt with a 96-95 points win over Jack O’Keeffe (10-0) last September.
Gibbs scored a first-round knockdown and that was the difference between them on the referee’s scorecard at the final bell. For Gibbs, it was his first fight since June, 2019.
Melvin made an impression on his debut, stopping Dylan Draper (1-44) inside a round and though the 21-year-old has won his last three on points, the journeymen he’s faced have all felt his body punches.
Melvin and Gibbs both represented England as amateurs – and both usually have Counihan in their corner.
Counihan says a toss of the coin will decide which corner he goes in alongside Marcus Daniel, with Pegg and son Louie Counihan in the other.
“We are hoping for an all-Eastside final,” said Counihan, “and hoping they don’t draw each other in the quarters! We are confident. They know how to handle three-threes.”
Of the eight, Rylan Charlton and Shaun Cooper are the best known.
Willenhall’s Cooper upset Boy Jones Jnr (18-2-1) over 10 rounds on the Billy Joe Saunders-Shefat Isufi undercard at Stevenage Borough FC in May, 2019 and has since given rounds to Queensberry prospects Mark Chamberlain and Sam Noakes on BT Sport.
He took Chamberlain the full eight and lasted into the ninth with Noakes.
Cooper had his moments against both. He’s a tidy boxer – had 40 amateurs – but not the biggest puncher and has been vulnerable to the body.
Charlton (7-2-1) definitely is a puncher who can go all the way here.
The 29-year-old from Norwich caused an upset against former amateur star Joe Laws (9-0) in three rounds in October, 2020. Laws was hurt by a body shot and dropped three times.
Charlton has lost two of three since. Florian Marku proved to be too strong, getting off the floor to stop him in eight, and down at 135lbs, Charlton lost a tight majority to Liverpool’s Luke Willis (10-0) after conceding too many early rounds.
The question is whether Charlton can get the job done inside three rounds. He can be outboxed and there’s a chance the Boxxer Series format may be more to the liking of lofty switcher Dylan Cheema (2-0).
The Skydome is a home venue for Cheema, and the 25-year-old is sure to enjoy the support of the crowd.
Cheema started kickboxing at 10 and won world honours before making a switch to boxing that was always likely.
As a kickboxer, he worked behind a long jab and got stoppages with his fists.
Otis “Lights Out” Lookham is a one-fight novice with a puncher’s chance.
Tall for the weight, he made his pro debut at 29 last month after building a puncher’s reputation on the unlicensed circuit in home-town Nottingham and let his hands go from the opening bell before dropping Paul Scaife (1-11) with a right in the second.
Scaife, seven pounds heavier and only stopped once previously, was on shaky legs after getting up and it was waved off.
“I know he’s only had one,” said manager Carl Greaves, “but Otis has got nothing to lose and he can punch.
“He’s got long levers, heavy hands, he switches and he’s full of confidence.”
Joe Underwood Hughes (7-0) is another from Nottingham who’s come to the pros from the unlicensed circuit.
Manager and trainer Scott Calow says Hughes has done a lot of quality sparring to bring him on, he’s now changed his stance to southpaw and punches harder than one stoppage suggests. He could prove to be a surprise package.
Brooklyn Tetley is another looking to cause a shock. The 22-year-old from Rainham hasn’t had things all his own way in his 3-0 career, including a 39-37 win over Jamie Quinn (8-134-2) in March, his first fight for two years.
There isn’t a clear favourite and without knowing the draw it’s even harder to pick a winner. For now, we will go for Gibbs to come out on top.
Mace Ruegg, 6-0, is the sub.
The Verdict In terms of well-matched fights, this might be Saturday night’s best card.