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Ultimate Boxxer welcomes the big men

Nick Webb
Lawrence Lustig/Matchroom Boxing
'There’s going to be some leather traded.' Matt Bozeat previews the heavyweight Ultimate Boxxer

THERE will be a Rocky story written at Altrincham’s Planet Ice on Friday night (December 13) when Ultimate Boxxer features heavyweights for the first time. For viewers on BT Sport 1 and BoxNation, fun looks guaranteed – included in the line-up are unbeaten novices, hard journeymen and in Nick Webb, a vulnerable banger.

Of the eight, Chertsey’s Webb has the highest profile. The 32-year-old is probably best known for being chinned by Dave Allen, but since then he’s also been stopped by Devon-based Pole Kamil Sokolowksi – a possible semi-final opponent. Webb has 11 early wins on his 13-2 record – quarter-final opponent Chris Healey one of his victims – but has been out since the loss to Sokolowski 12 months ago and has since gone back to former trainer Scott Welch.

“They were hard defeats,” confessed Welch, “but those guys who beat Nick aren’t better than him. He just got caught.”

Webb and Sokolowski will meet again if both win their quarter finals, against Healey and Halifax’s Josh Sandland respectively. Webb has halted Healey before – in three in January 2017. The Stockport southpaw boxed well from the outside for a couple of rounds, before Webb started to close the gap and unload combinations. The finish was emphatic. Healey, 8-6 (2), tried to slug his way out of trouble after being caught – and Webb smashed him off his feet with a right hand.

Webb was an ABA finalist in 2013 and the following year he was stopped by Joe Joyce in the last four, while Healey, 31, was a runner-up in 2011, losing to Ben Ilyemi. In contrast, Sokolowski-Sandland is a clash between a former kickboxer and an ex-rugby player, though Sandland did have a handful of amateur bouts as a junior. Sokolowski and Sandland are granite-chinned tough nuts who do their fighting on the right-hand side of the bill and have pulled off upsets with their work rate. “There’s going to be some leather traded,” said Chris Aston, who manages and trains Sandland, upon hearing the draw.

Every time he’s fought, Sandland, fit and robust like all of Aston’s fighters, has been the opponent and his record is still 4-1-1 – the only fighter to beat him is Tom Little. Sokolowski, meanwhile, has wins over Sean Turner (10-0), Alex Dickinson (10-0) and Webb on his 8-15-2 (3) slate. Sokolowski felt he was robbed of a victory over Mark Bennett, the No. 1 seed here, and he had a case. The win over Webb was comprehensive. Sokolowski, 33, sent him crashing heavily twice in the third with left hooks. Aston accepts there’s a possibility that the 27-year-old Sandland could be caught early, but added: “If he gets through the first round, he’ll go all out in the second and third.”

Bennett, a 32-year-old from Doncaster who’s won all five (one early), is the No. 1 seed due to his wins over Healey and Sokolowski. He starts Ultimate Boxxer against the 10-4 (5) Jay Carrigan-McFarlane, a 21-year-old from Glasgow who’s won Scottish cruiserweight honours, but was a hefty 275lbs for his last fight – a six-round points loss to Sandland in September. If the tournament goes with the seedings, Bennett will beat McFarlane and go on to meet Sydenham’s Jonathan Palata, 31, in the final.

Palata has won all seven – three early – but last time out the Londoner struggled to stay with Healey over six rounds. In Silsden’s Danny Whitaker (2-0), he faces a game novice with a nothing-to-lose attitude. Whitaker, better technically than you might imagine for a former white-collar fighter, likes to let his hands go in combinations, and there’s a chance he could get his head on Palata’s chest and outwork him. There’s also a good chance Palata will knock him out. This is the appeal of Ultimate Boxxer.

Our prediction is that the Bennett-Palata final won’t happen and that at the end of an exciting night of boxing, Sokolowski will be wearing the Golden Robe.

The Verdict Expect giant-sized thrills and spills.

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