By Nick Halling
The news that IBF lightweight champion Miguel Vazquez has signed with all-powerful manager/advisor Al Haymon is potentially bad news for Dagenham hopeful Kevin Mitchell.
Mitchell won an eliminator last month against Ghislaine Maduma for the right to face Vazquez, and plans were well down the line to bring the Mexican to London’s O2 Arena to defend his belt on 11 October. But it isn’t going to be as simple as that. In fact, right now, you can mark this one down as something of a long shot.
Last week, in a statement largely overlooked by the British boxing media, Vazquez said how delighted he was to be working with Haymon, and how he is looking forward to his next fight either in the last week of August or the first week in September. If he gets his wishes, that would rule out coming to the UK in October. Significantly, the Mexican also added his preferred destinations for his immediate future – Vegas and Los Angeles. London doesn’t appear to come into his geographical perspective.
And, frankly, if Vazquez is insistent that he doesn’t want to come to England, there’s not a whole lot Mitchell’s connections can do about it, other than hurl a lot of money at the problem. And even that might not work if Haymon has other ideas for his man – and Haymon certainly wont have just signed him up on a whim.
Mitchell’s fight with Maduma was a final eliminator, giving the winner the mandatory position. However, Mitchell jeopardised that at the check weigh on the morning of the fight. Both boxers made weight at the weighin the day before, and then, under IBF regulations, had to put on no more than 10 pounds ahead of the morning check weigh. Mitchell missed the target by nearly two pounds.
Those few ounces may have invalidated the mandatory spot: Vazquez could argue, with some legitimacy, that he is not required to face Mitchell as the mandatory – although he could still make a voluntary defence should he wish to. The choice, though, appears now to be his. Or rather, the choice is now Haymon’s.
If it’s going to happen, Vazquez is not going to come cheap. One way or another, it looks like those extra two pounds Mitchell put on overnight could prove a little costly. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Mitchell have to put himself through another eliminator in October before a path to a road title becomes a little clearer.
And that path might even include a diversion into WBC territory. This time last week, the plan was for Ricky Burns to be guided in that direction to meet champion Omar Figueroa. But the Scot’s surprise defeat to Dejan Zlaticanin last week has derailed that notion, with Burns currently completely out of the championship picture and facing an uncertain future. If Vazquez is a no-go, perhaps Mitchell could jump into the spot sadly vacated by Burns.
But while the Vazquez development places Mitchell potentially in another frustrating holding pattern, at least in the short term, the situation looks like being good news for rising featherweight prospect Lee Selby.
The Welshman’s IBF final eliminator against Australian Joel Brunker has been in the developmental stage for a few weeks now, with all parties seemingly keen to get a deal done. It’s highly likely that this could now find a home at the O2 in October. This one promises to be a terrific test for Selby, who has occasionally been guilty of cruising his way through fights in the past when he has found an opponent too easy.
Selby has untapped potential, and the busy, aggressive, tough Brunker wont make life easy for him. This is one opponent Selby will be unable to cruise past – although expectations are high that he’s ready for the next level.
In more positive news on the lightweight front, hopes remain high that popular and fast-improving Manchester boxer Anthony Crolla will get his shot at WBA boss Richar Abril in his home city in September. Negotiations are continuing, with good progress reportedly being made. It’s looking increasingly possible that the night could feature two WBA title fights, with Crolla’s stablemate, Scott Quigg, defending his super bantamweight belt.
Some good news on the horizon at long last for former British welterweight champion Lee Purdy, who has suffered a hellish few months with eye damage.
The latest operation on his troublesome right eye looks to have been successful. This follows four previous operations to repair a detached retina suffered in his European title tilt against Leonard Bundu in December.
Each of the previous operations saw the retina pull away from the eye following surgery, leaving Purdy’s entire career in limbo. However, after a check visit to the Moorfields eye hospital in London late last month, specialists confirm that the retina has stayed in place this time. They are cautiously optimistic that further surgery will not be necessary.
It’s not all plain sailing for Purdy, however. He still has protective gel in his right eye, and will not be given an all-clear until late August at the earliest. That’s when the specialists will take another look, and sign off on the damaged eye.
Until then, Purdy has to continue staying out of the gym, avoiding strenuous exercise or sudden movements, and let nature take its course. If everything happens as it should, there’s a good chance the Colchester man might be back in the gym, ready to resume his career, by September. Heaven help his first opponent.
It looks as if fast-rising super middleweight star Callum Smith will be fighting southpaw Vladine Biosse in Liverpool next weekend after all.
Last week, reports from New England suggested that Biosse had sustained an injured hand, and as a result, wasn’t making the trip. This resulted in a brief search to find a suitable short-notice opponent – a search which produced an unsurprising shortage of suitable volunteers.
However, it seems likely now that Biosse will be on the plane. It’s not entirely clear whether his damaged hand has responded well to medical attention, or whether his return to health has coincided with an improved contract offer. Whatever the reason, it seems Smith will face the capable and tough southpaw next week after all.
It’s good that the fight is happening. Smith needs a decent test, and at his best, the durable Biosse is more than capable of giving him exactly that.
Matchmaking the ridiculously gifted Liverpool prospect isn’t easy – and unlikely to get any easier in the short term. Another potential opponent, Peter Manfredo Jr, has just announced his retirement. The former world title challenger’s name had been kicked around as a possible future Smith opponent in what would have been a terrific matchup, but Manfredo is said to be done with the game.
Nick Halling is a commentator for Sky Sports.