AFTER failing a Covid test, Conor Benn will not be able to box Adrian Granados. That fight was set to headline Saturday’s Fight Camp event, which kicks off Matchroom’s new UK deal with DAZN. But the show will go on with Can Xu versus Leigh Wood moved up to the main event. Declan Taylor previews:
A curve ball directly out of left field will land as China’s volume-punching featherweight Can Xu takes on Leigh Wood. The visitor from Beijing has mostly been linked with Josh Warrington over the past 18 months but when the latter was stunned by Mauricio Lara earlier this year those plans fell by the wayside. The plan presumably is to finally put them together should Xu beat Wood and Warrington win his rematch at Headingley on September 4.
However, Wood is coming off the back of a career-best win when he emphatically stopped the previously undefeated Reece Mould on the undercard of Warrington-Lara. It was the perfect start to his new alliance with trainer Ben Davison and it means the young coach has still not taken a loss since 2016. But it will take a monumental effort from Wood for Davison to maintain that streak. Xu is 18-2 but has not lost a fight since 2014. Just three of those victories have come inside the distance, with Xu more adept at overwhelming his opponents with volume. Wood, therefore, might spend much of his time on the back foot but will fancy his chances of boxing his way to a victory that will catapult him towards world level, a position which looked unlikely after his 2020 defeat to Jazza Dickens. He got just six weeks’ notice for this fight but knows that victory could transform his earnings overnight. However, a fit and firing Xu should be able to outwork Wood over the 12-round distance and take a decision on the cards.
In the nominal chief support, the British, Commonwealth and European cruiserweight titles are on the line in a mouth-watering clash between Belfast’s Tommy McCarthy and ‘The Gentleman’ Chris Billam-Smith.
The pair have been on a collision course for some time and, with both men winning on separate Matchroom cards earlier this year, it was natural to put them together at Fight Camp.
Billam-Smith had to dig deep to beat Vasil Ducar over 10 rounds at Wembley back in March while McCarthy stopped Alexandru Jur two months later in Manchester. After the respective wins, both men called out the other and they will now finally clash in Essex.
As well as the three belts on the line, the 30-year-old duo know that any hope of breaking through to world level rests on a victory on their promoter’s lawn. The stakes could not be higher but neither could their confidence levels.
Billam-Smith starts as a reasonably firm favourite. Although the clash could steal the show it also has the potential to be a cagey affair with so much on the line but 12 rounds is a long time. Both have the power to end the fight within the distance and this is a contest where any mistake could be punished quickly. However, they seem evenly matched and a tight decision either way looks likely.
Another interesting fight taking place early on the card is Jack Cullen’s clash with Avni Yildirim. The Turk has not been seen since he was swept aside by Saul Alvarez in three rounds in one of the biggest super-middleweight world title mismatches in many years, back in February. Cullen, meanwhile, is coming off the back of a terrific victory over John Docherty in November, when he was dropped in the first round but came back to win a unanimous decision. The styles of the long, rangy Cullen and the his much shorter, more compact opponent could gel for a barnburner. Despite stoppage defeats to Canelo and Chris Eubank Jnr, Yildirim is still a force at a certain level and he has the power to stop this one inside the distance.
Liverpool’s Anthony Fowler, who became a dad last week, is also back in action. He was originally due to box the ageing Roberto Garcia. But a bicep injury has ruled the latter out. Fowler will meet a short-notice replacement instead as Germany’s Rico Mueller is brought in. The 33-year-old German’s record is 28-3-1 (19). Interestingly in 2019 Mueller went 12 rounds with Jeremias Ponce, the man who hammered Lewis Ritson in June.
Elsewhere on the card, Campbell Hatton is back in action while Derby’s former Great Britain and England amateur star Sandy Ryan makes her long-awaited professional debut.