IT’S fair to say that the fortunes of Karim Guerfi, whenever fighting in Great Britain, have so far been mixed. A visitor to these shores on three occasions, he currently stands at 1-2, with a stunning third-round knockout of Ryan Farrag in 2016 overshadowed by stoppage losses to Russia’s Zhanat Zhakiyanov and Scotland’s Lee McGregor, who stunned the Frenchman inside a round last year. Up and down, in keeping with the rest of his career, Guerfi, 30-5 (9), returns to the UK on February 27 when, as European featherweight champion, he meets mandatory challenger Jordan Gill, 26-1 (7).
“I’ve been mandatory since June, so I’ve known it was coming,” Gill told Boxing News. “The champion before Guerfi was [Andoni] Gago and I was also his mandatory, but they obviously snuck in a voluntary so I had to wait even longer. It’s here at last.”
Adding to this wait was the postponement of the pair’s original December 11 date. That never materialised due to Guerfi falling ill and then, to further delay the fight, Gill suffered a cut in a three-round technical draw against Alan Castillo, Guerfi’s replacement opponent, on that December 11 date.
Now, having had plenty of time to prepare, Gill, 27, knows all there is to know about his next opponent. He knows that Guerfi, 34, has been a pro since 2006 and has been a consistent presence at European title level since 2013, when he outpointed Belgium’s Stephane Jamoye in Belgium to lift the EBU bantamweight crown. He will have seen Guerfi’s varying degrees of success on British soil and will be aware that Guerfi’s quick loss to McGregor in 2021 was followed by an impressive 12-round decision win over Gago in Gago’s home country of Spain just five months later.
“I remember watching him against Zhanat Zhakiyanov in Sheffield and he was doing very well in that fight [before being stopped in the fifth round],” said Gill. “Zhakiyanov was a very good fighter and world champion. But Guerfi has also had a very good career. He’s a four-time European champion and he has a way of following a loss with a great win. He’s up at featherweight now and looks a lot better there. He looks stronger and more resilient. He made bantamweight for a long time and it showed in his performances. I’m expecting the best version of Guerfi on the night.”
In terms of what Guerfi does well, sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint anything specific. Much of his magic comes from his ability to stick around and disrupt the rhythm and flow of those expecting a straightforward night. He is, it seems, a champion easy to overlook and underestimate but one who is just as capable of winning fights he is supposed to lose as he is of losing fights he is supposed to win.
“He’s a good boxer, a good mover, and he has power,” assessed Gill. “I’m not sure how much power he has at featherweight but I still have to respect it. His movement and boxing IQ is probably the thing you have to watch out for. You’ve got to always expect to have him fire back after you throw shots.
“But I feel like I do everything better than him. He’s a good boxer, but I haven’t shown the level of boxing I can produce yet. I’m still young in my career and I’ve still got the big nights ahead of me. I’m looking forward to outboxing him, outpunching him, being stronger inside, being smarter, and just having an answer for whatever he does and nullifying him.”
Should Gill have his way with Guerfi on February 27, as planned, he will become the latest British nine-stone fighter to claim European featherweight honours. Already on that list are the following: Ted ‘Kid’ Lewis, Howard Winstone, Pat Cowdell, Jim McDonnell, Paul Hodgkinson, Billy Hardy, Paul Ingle, Steve Robinson, Nicky Cook, Lee Selby and Josh Warrington. In other words, win next month and Jordan ‘The Thrill’ Gill finds himself in esteemed company.
“It’s a massive fight,” he said. “The European title is really prestigious and getting a good win would prove to myself and everyone else that I belong at this level and can go even further. It’s a great opportunity for me to show that and I’ll grab it with both hands. You see the fighters who have won the European featherweight title in the past and they’re top-quality fighters who go on to fight for and win world titles. I want to be in that group as well.”