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Chantelle Cameron headlines at the O2

Chantelle Cameron
Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing
The Dillian Whyte fight is off, but the show does go on. John Dennen previews Chantelle Cameron vs Mary McGee

AN intriguing heavyweight bout was due to take place at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday (October 30), with Dillian Whyte taking on Otto Wallin. After it was announced, the WBC declared the holder of their Interim belt, i.e. Dillian Whyte, would become the mandatory challenger for Tyson Fury’s WBC belt and Dillian pulled out with a shoulder injury a fortnight before the Wallin fight. Promoters Matchroom insist these occurrences are unrelated. “Dillian carried this injury for the last couple of weeks but it worsened in sparring on Monday night and it was impossible for him to continue,” Eddie Hearn said. “It’s a huge shame because Dillian had a great camp before the injury and was ready to go. The show will continue on October 30 without Dillian and we wish him a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing him back in the ring very soon.”

That fight, for the time being, is cancelled. But it means Chantelle Cameron’s contest with Indiana’s Mary McGee is elevated to main event status. This is a unification of Cameron’s WBC super-lightweight belt and McGee’s IBF. Part of a ‘Road to Undisputed’ tournament, the victor of this bout will be on course for the winner of Kali Reis vs Jessica Camara and the chance to bring together all four of the major belts at 140lbs. Cameron-McGee alone is a good fight, and it will take the winner somewhere.

“In women’s boxing, because there’s not a lot of us in one weight class, it’s nice that the champions are willing to get together and face each other to bring all the belts together. I never thought I would be on this type of stage. I was used to doing a lot of club fights,” McGee said. “I come from when we were making $100 a round to be fighters. So to be on a stage like this and get significant pay to fight means a lot.”

McGee is the more experienced professional. 35 years old, she turned pro in 2005, amassing a 27-3 (15) record. She lost to both Holly Holm, in the latter’s last boxing bout before she converted to MMA and joined the UFC, and Erica Anabella Farias in 2013. But McGee’s been on a seven-bout unbeaten run since, winning her IBF belt against Ana Laura Esteche in 2019 and making one defence pre-pandemic in February of last year.

While McGee has been inactive, Cameron has been busy. In the period the American wasn’t boxing, Cameron has competed twice, winning her WBC belt with a 10-round points win over Adriana dos Santos Araújo and then stopping Melissa Hernández in Las Vegas in May. At that level Cameron has looked good. Araújo came in over the weight limit and only delivered a lacklustre effort. Cameron could tee off on her, her footwork far sharper, impressing even though it was against an opponent who gave Chantelle every opportunity to dominate. Hernández was a step up for Cameron, but she still stamped her authority on that contest in the first round. The Puerto Rican slipped the odd punch through and worked to get herself out of trouble, but the referee deemed she’d taken enough punishment before the end of the fifth. But Hernández is 41 years old and winding down towards the end of her career. McGee is the meaningful contest Cameron needs.

“It’s exciting, I didn’t think this was going to come around, especially so quick. I only won this [belt] last year. But it’s happening and I’m grateful. I just can’t wait to get started,” Chantelle said. “It’s a level up but I’m levelling up in the gym. When I get these tough challenges in front of me I think the best version of me will come out and I don’t think I’ve shown that yet.”

McGee throws her right hand well and wings in a hurtful left hook. But Cameron is more versatile. With skills honed over a successful amateur career with the Great Britain team, she can apply rapid fire combinations but also move off to vary her work. Cameron should take a points decision win here.

But McGee claims, “She’s an undefeated world champion and she has the WBC title. I’ve seen her fights and I’ve noticed her style. She has a very unique style but I feel I have what it takes to beat her.”

Crystal Palace’s Craig Richards enhanced his reputation earlier this year with a 12-round points loss to Dmitry Bivol, the number one ranked light-heavyweight in the world. He comes back on the undercard at the O2, taking on 20-2-2 Pole Marek Matyja.

Fun Croatian heavyweight Alen Babić has become something of a fixture on Matchroom’s UK shows. Always ready to rumble, he’s moved up in class and is matched with Éric Molina. The Texan has boxed both Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua, failing a drug test after his bout with the latter. Both Filip Hrgovic and Fabio Wardley have stopped him in recent years too. Babic will be gunning to do the same.

Prospects Youssef Khoumari, Johnny Fisher, Ellie Scotney, Jordan Thompson and John Hedges are all set for bouts on the bill. Irish heavyweight Thomas Carty is the least experienced of them but the southpaw is well regarded. He goes into his second pro bout on this show.

The Verdict The Whyte fight is off, but the show must go on.

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