UK Insider: Scott Quigg, James DeGale, Sam Eggington
By Nick Halling
Nehomar Cermeno has blown his opportunity to box for a world title because he failed to keep up with his paperwork. The Venezuelan was scheduled to challenge Scott Quigg for the latter’s WBA super bantamweight title in Manchester next weekend, but has been forced to withdraw because he would not be able to legally enter the UK.
The 34-year-old mandatory challenger requires a visa to get into Britain because he is a Venezuelan national. Although he is based in Panama City these days, he could still have initiated proceedings locally, but his failure to do so meant that he has simply run out of time, despite having been given plenty of notice.
Cermeno’s absence is not necessarily good news for Quigg, whose preparations have subsequently been disrupted. With commitments to be fulfilled there has been a late search to come up with an adequate replacement. South Africa’s Tshifhiwa Munyai seems to be the man who might fit the bill.
Munyai spends much of his time in the UK, and is still in the country having sparred with Martin Ward in the latter’s ill-starred challenge for the IBF bantamweight belt against Stuart Hall. Munyai has also boxed in the UK before, making six appearances in 2007 and 2008, which included upset wins over Martin Power and Lee Haskins.
His only two defeats have come against Ghana’s Osumana Akaba (whose main claim to fame is a losing effort against Ricky Burns for the Commonwealth super featherweight title in 2008), and the Mexican Christian Esquivel , who once boxed for the WBC bantamweight belt.
The South African is tough, seasoned, well-travelled and reportedly in good shape. He has also spent most of his career at bantamweight, and has yet to beat anyone in world class. There are concerns in the champion’s camp about a capable opponent coming in at short notice, though not from Quigg himself, who has a longstanding and refreshing “I’ll fight anyone” attitude.
With the clock ticking and the need for an opponent in the other corner pressing, expect Munyai’s candidacy to be rubber stamped over the next few days. And expect Quigg to come through without much drama once he has taken a few rounds to work the useful South African out.
There was a bounce in the step of a smiling James DeGale as he announced himself as Matchroom’s latest big name signing at a London press conference on Thursday. He admitted to being excited at the prospect of boxing at Wembley stadium next month as chief support to the Carl Froch/George Groves megafight, and that, more than anything, may help explain why DeGale has decided to switch promoters.
Three of his last six fights have been staged at a shopping centre in Kent. Another was at a sports centre in Bristol. There was also a routine eight rounder in a backwater somewhere in Quebec. To say that DeGale was operating on the edge of boxing’s international radar would be an understatement. Now, he’s chief support at the most prestigious venue in the UK, in front of what promises to be the biggest audience in the history of British boxing.
There are two other important factors behind DeGale’s switch. One is the Londoner’s frustration with the WBC. DeGale has been stuck with the silver belt for a long time, winning it in December 2012 and defending it three times. Yet despite fulfilling his obligations he has been unable to secure a shot at the big prize.
Sakio Bika is the incumbent, and seemingly in no hurry to take on the Londoner.
Although DeGale is the mandatory, the number one ranked super middle with the WBC is Julio Cesar Chavez. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of the relationship between Chavez and the WBC knows where this one is going. DeGale, silver champion for nearly 18 months, is still nowhere near the head of the queue.
The other factor behind the move is the personal regard DeGale and his handlers have for Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn, whom they perceive as the most dynamic figure in British boxing. They like Hearn’s energy, and the fact that he is seen as someone who can get things done.
There is also plenty of history there too. DeGale’s business advisor, Ambrose Mendy, goes back a long way with Eddie’s father Barry, to the days when Hearn Sr promoted Mendy’s fighter, Nigel Benn. The same with DeGale’s trainer, Jim McDonnell, who used to be one of Barry Hearn’s better fighters and a member of his inner circle in the early 1990s. Mendy and McDonnell have literally known Eddie Hearn since he was a kid.
And already, the younger Hearn has delivered. DeGale’s first outing will be against the unbeaten, but highly beatable American Brandon Gonzales in a final eliminator for the IBF super middle title. In plain terms, if DeGale gets past Gonzales, he gets the winner of Froch and Groves next.
There may be one or two legal clouds on the horizon as various interested parties ponder their legal options, but DeGale himself can leave such issues to the experts. As he said himself at Thursday’s official unveiling: “I’m back, and the future is looking extremely bright.” That could be the understatement of the year.
Sam Eggington may have lost a razor-tight decision in last weekend’s Prizefighter semi-final to eventual winner Johnny Coyle, but the 20 year old welterweight from Stourbridge once again impressed and could be worth keeping an eye on for the future.
Some reports suggested that promoter Eddie Hearn was so impressed that he was poised to sign the Midlander right there and then. Not true. However, Eggington has floated his way onto the edge of Hearn’s radar, and that’s no bad place to be.
The promoter has established himself in London, Scotland and the North, but the Midlands remains an area of limited coverage for him. The hope is that former Olympic star Kal Yafai, from Birmingham, might start to make some significant progress soon. If Hearn can build a couple of shows around Yafai, expect Eggington to be booked for any Midlands area undercards.
For a 20-year old, he has remarkable maturity. While most young men of that age are out having fun, Eggington is settled in a relationship which has already produced two youngsters. He’s very much a family fan, but the maturity he shows outside the ring is reflected in it too.
He’s a quick learner. From being a raw prospect looking for little more than a tear-up, he has developed swiftly under the guidance of trainer Jon Pegg. He’s won the Midland area title, and backed that up by winning an eliminator for the English title, beating Dave Ryan, who went on to defeat former European champion Paul McCloskey.
Physically big at the weight, but also comfortable at it, Eggington already has the experience of three 10-rounders under his belt, and is getting better with every fight. There’s a potential British champion lurking in there, and with the right guidance (and the backing of a powerful promoter) it will be interesting to follow the youngster’s career.
Nick Halling is a commentator for Sky Sports