Billed as “Up Close And Personal,” this promises to be a fascinating contest. Most pundits and fight fans (on this side of the Atlantic at least) give Johnson little hope, but I’m feeling more generous.
Johnson has God in his corner (no, I’m not referring to Jackie Callen!) while Naz praises Allah - remember Tyson - Holyfield? A look at the records of both men proves more telling however: Manuel Medina being a common foe. Hamed struggled with the Mexican last August before forcing an eleventh round stoppage in what was best described as “an impressive result but an unimpressive performance.”
Johnson has outpointed a younger Medina twice, although he did lose to Manuel via a technical decision in their first encounter. Another interesting point of reference is Johnson’s win over hard - hitting Ever Beleno last March. Johnson survived an early onslaught (which Naz is sure to produce) and a first round knockdown to struggle back gallantly and stop the Columbian in the last. He also survived three knockdowns in his previous defence to this - against Jose Badillo - before dominating and ultimately outpointing the challenger.
So Johnson is known to go over when hit, but like Felix Trinidad can recover quickly and bounce back to win. He is no stranger to away crowds either - his last four defences have been in Germany, England, France and Ireland. We know what Naz will bring to the ring, but Johnson has the heart, experience and skill to win here - or at least give the Sheffield upstart a tough argument. This is a fight both men need to raise their respective profiles, and we the public never complain when world champions meet to combine titles.
If Naz is, as reported, in the best shape of his career (seemingly he has never done roadwork before his preparations for this match) he will be too fast and powerful for the Texan. I will be mildly surprised if “Boom Boom” wins, but I will be amazed if he doesn’t battle to the bitter end.
Steve Collins has earned the respect of the public (myself included) the hard way. When he beat Chris Eubank in March 1995 we applauded his achievement, but laughed when he laid down a challenge to Roy Jones Jr.
Since then he has turned away the challenges of Eubank (in a rematch), Cornellius Carr, Neville Brown and Nigel Benn twice - one can but take one’s hat off to his spirited determination. While he wouldn’t beat Jones, he would test him more than any other fighter at this weight. He has also done more to earn the much - sought - after match with Jones than his fellow seekers.
So now that I’ve finished my Collins - Jones preview, on to Collins - Sellier. The French challenger won the European title (since relinquished) in July by outpointing Mauro Galvano. He didn’t stop Galvano. Benn stopped Galvano. Collins stopped Benn. Collins will stop Sellier. Thank you, goodnight.
This is Robin Reid’s first defence of the title he won from Vincenzo Nardiello last October. Little is known of the South African challenger, but I believe Pretorius is a limited but exciting fight - with - your - face type.
He is a perfect opponent for Reid at this stage. The Runcorn man has won a World title too early in his career - Nardiello being his first World class opponent (and a weak one at that) - and a couple of easy challenges are ideal as confidence builders.
Reid should win comfortably here and soon enter a lucrative unification match with either Collins or Frankie Liles.
Veteran 35 year - old champion Baby Jake (44 - 10 - 2) makes a safe defence of his light flyweight crown here in what is verging on a mismatch.
Jake is making a habit of boxing in Britain - his last two defences (both stoppages against Paul Weir) have also taken place here. He is an experienced member of the “small but ageless” club alongside Azumah Nelson and Daniel Zaragoza, and has only tasted defeat twice in six years: Irishman Dave Mc Auley beat him in 1991 and Alberto Jiminez also stopped Jake in February 1995.
Mickey Cantwell won the vacant British title by outpointing Keith Knox in March, but it was the most hotly disputed domestic decision of the year. I felt Knox beat Cantwell, and Keith’s style is similar to Jake’s if one allows for the South African’s superior boxing skill and punching power. Jake has also held the WBO flyweight crown during his 16 year professional career and is one of the World’s most underrated champions. I expect him to blow Cantwell away in six rounds or less.
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