AFTER four consecutive outings in America, Irish icon Katie Taylor, 14-0 (6), competes closer to home this Saturday (November 2) when she makes an appearance at the Manchester Arena, live on Sky Sports Action/Main Event (UK) and DAZN (US). Opposing the unbeaten Bray boxer over 10-twos on this Matchroom Boxing promotion is well-travelled Dominican-Greek 31-year-old Christina Linardatou, 12-1 (6).
Last time out in June, Taylor, 33, became only the seventh person in the sport’s history to hold the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO belts concurrently. The former amateur sensation achieved this feat by outpointing the tenacious Delfine Persoon on an extremely hard-fought majority decision. After becoming the undisputed lightweight champion, Taylor’s next target is to secure a world title at a second weight, hence her decision to challenge WBO super-lightweight ruler Linardatou, whose only loss to date came via wide unanimous verdict against Persoon in June 2016 on away turf in Belgium.
Linardatou, who performed on a non-BBBofC-licensed show in Leeds just under four years ago, picked up the vacant WBO crown in March by stopping the previously undefeated Kandi Wyatt in six rounds. The Athens resident notched a successful first defence three months later when she unanimously outscored another adversary who had a perfect record – Deanha Hobbs. In fact, the ex-kickboxer has taken three ‘0’s in her last three bouts. Taylor, though, can prevent her from increasing that number to four. With her sharp jab, intelligent movement, rapid flurries and crisp counters, expect the Emerald Isle native to succeed on the scorecards.
The locals will be out in force to witness the final contest in the career of Manchester’s own Anthony Crolla, 34-7-3 (13). The affable lightweight, soon to turn 33, held the WBA strap from November 2015 until September 2016. “Million Dollar” has shared the ring with some of the best around, including Jorge Linares (twice) and, most recently in April, pound-for-pound supremo Vasyl Lomachenko, who KO’d him in four.
Crolla’s opponent for his farewell fight is Peruvian-Spaniard Frank Urquiaga, 13-1-1 (1). The Barcelona-based 32-year-old is a previous European championship challenger but is coming off a disappointing draw at Spanish title level in February. Having made his pro debut at the Manchester Arena over 13 years ago, the supremely conditioned Crolla will be hoping to bow out with a victory in his 14th showing at the famous venue. He can do just that by taking the spoils over 10.
Wokingham’s fast-starting Felix Cash, 11-0 (7), defends his Commonwealth middleweight prize for the first time against Little Lever’s rangy Jack Cullen, 17-1 (8). Cash has shown that he can dig, but Cullen should make it to the final bell before losing on points.
In a 10-round rematch of their 2014 Commonwealth Games quarter-final, Leeds left-hander and 2016 Olympian Qais Ashfaq, 7-0 (3), clashes with the Gorbals’ gritty Joe Ham, 16-1 (6). Just as he did at the Commonwealths, skilful super-bantamweight Ashfaq can triumph over the distance. Brazilian super-featherweight Viviane Obenauf, 14-5 (7), who lives in Birsfelden, Switzerland, is set for her fourth fight in the UK. The Natasha Jonas conqueror vied for IBF honours less than a year ago, but she is likely in for a tough night against Denaby’s talented Terri Harper, 8-0 (5). The popular youngster won’t need the full 10-twos to defeat Obenauf.
The Verdict Taylor aims to add another layer to her legacy.