IN JUNE OF last year the Telford International Arena marked the return of fans to our promotions when Daniel Dubois made a typically emphatic comeback following his setback against Joe Joyce.
Only a thousand fans were allowed inside the venue at the time, most of them in support of Nathan Heaney, so it felt like a full house anyway. With the bleak days of no or limited crowds now hopefully behind us for good, we make a return to Telford on Saturday and this time there is no cap on Nathan’s City of Stoke choir.
I will come back to Nathan shortly because in headline action is Jason Cunningham, the European super bantamweight champion, making a second defence of his belt against the unbeaten Frenchman Terry Le Couviour, who holds a record of 16-0.
I am thrilled that Jason is finally getting the rewards his endeavors throughout his career deserve on our watch. Remarkably, Jason is a three-weight Commonwealth champion but key to his recent success has been, not only experience, but campaigning at his optimum weight at super bantam.
We discovered to our cost just how effective he is at 122lbs when we were successful in the purse bids for his first defence against our man Brad Foster, who was British and Commonwealth champion at the time.
It was a close run thing but Jason’s experience, along with his late-blooming belief and confidence, counted in the end and he was on the right end of a tight decision. Young Brad, just 24, can take inspiration from Jason who illustrates perfectly that taking a loss – or six – doesn’t mean it is the end of the road. Far from it.
Jason then teamed up with us at Queensberry because, not only will we do our utmost to put him in position for world title contention, but there is also a thriving domestic scene that he can be a part of if he chooses.
Around his weight there is not only Brad, but also Chris Bourke, Andrew Cain, Liam Davies, Brad Strand, Dennis McCann, along with the new British champion Marc Leach, who will be ready to accept challengers before too long.
But for the time being I am so happy to deliver Jason due rewards for his accomplishments, with him now headlining a show live on BT Sport and fighting out of the home corner with everything tailored around him.
Jason is a smashing fella and it really couldn’t happen to a nicer person. He was never ready to accept the role of opponent, which ironically he was on our big Manchester show back in December 2018 on the Warrington-Frampton undercard.
Top Rank were looking for a test for their then 9-0 prospect Michael Conlan and they plumped for Jason, with the match made at featherweight. Conlan was expected to win and he did via a points decision and Jason has subsequently described the fight as a big turning point in his fighting fortunes.
He realized that he was comfortable at the higher level and has not tasted defeat since. He is actually unbeaten as a super bantamweight.
This story I am sure has a few chapters to run and I am looking forward to being part of what will hopefully be a thrilling conclusion.
Sticking with the super bantams for now, Andrew Cain gets the chance on Saturday to prove that he can have a big say in the division – or the one below – over the next few years.
Andrew is only 8-0 but he has already shown himself to be ready to take it to the next level. He is rough, raw and very real, a big talent who says what he feels and making a success of his boxing career means the world to him.
People who have witnessed some of his early fights might think he is a bit of a bull in a china shop when the first bell goes and his seven KOs from eight fights does point to this. But Andrew was also a skilled amateur who won something like six National titles and this boy can box too, make no mistake.
In Telford he will fight for the vacant WBC International Silver title that will really get him off and running if he overcomes a tough Argentinean in Pablo Ariel Gomez. Gomez is no mug and is on a four-fight winning streak, while taking only a single loss in his last 12.
This fight is about Andrew though and him really showing us and everyone else that he is the one ready to push forward, to take the big fights and climb up the rankings. It is about seizing the moment and I am confident Andrew will do just that.
Back to our popular middleweight Nathan and he is in a tricky fight against another Argentinean in Diego Ramirez. Ramirez is a difficult one to read if you simply look at his record. He has 24 wins against six defeats, with one of his losses coming via a split in an early four rounder.
If I look at the other five defeats, they have come against opponents with a combined record of 46-4, with the last three being undefeated. Only one of these came via stoppage.
We also have some personal experience of his threat from when he last came over and flattened Bradley Skeete in the second round at the end of 2018.
Nathan, however, is a growing force whose confidence is increasing with every fight. He has stopped his last three and has done it by chipping away at his opponents and wearing them down.
Yes we all know he has the added entertainment value of his followers belting out Delilah, but Nathan is a genuine work in progress who we are giving the required experience to see him move towards major title contention.
This is what we are determined to see happen for him and, in the meantime, us and his merry band of men and women can enjoy the ride.
Jason, Andrew and Nathan are the ones in title action on Saturday, but there are others in action well worth looking out for. The highly-skilled super lightweight Eithan James will have to deal with the more agricultural approach of the rugged Ben Fields in what should be a fascinating clash of styles.
Stylish welterweight George Davey will have his sixth pro fight, as will fellow welters Owen Cooper and George Bance, with all three of them having impressed to date. The above-mentioned Brad Strand will have his seventh fight at super bantam, with super lightweight Macaulay Owen fighting in front of a home crowd in his third fight.
It promises to be an entertaining night, so don’t miss a punch and tune into BT Sport 1 from 7pm on Saturday.