It is definitely written in pencil at this stage, but Frank Warren has already been drafting out a plan of action should his middleweight hope Hamzah Sheeraz pass his acid test and beat Liam Williams at the Copperbox Arena on Saturday night.
Kazakhstan’s Janibek Alimkhanuly holds the WBO and IBF titles and the rest of the WBO rankings make interesting reading. British 160lb champion Nathan Heaney occupies the number four spot with Sheeraz sitting at number five and Williams neatly positioned at six.
Heaney’s fairytale shows no signs of ending and his dream of fighting at the home of his beloved Stoke City this summer suddenly seems extremely realistic. Heaney did his part by shocking Denzel Bentley to win the British title. To make the dream a reality, he now needs a viable opponent or a big enough event.
Heaney defends his title against Brad Pauls on March 16th. If he wins and Sheeraz gets past Williams this weekend, a world title final eliminator against the Slough man would tick both boxes and the prize on offer may well be big enough to tempt Sheeraz into the lion’s den.
“I do like that. I think if he comes through this fight and looks good doing it and then Heaney wins in March, that is a very good situation,” Warren told 32Red. “You think about what a problem Denzel Bentley gave the champion [Bentley lost a competitive decision to Janibek in 2022] - and he could have won that fight in my opinion if he’d started earlier - and then I think about Hamzah, I’d fancy Hamzah against him. I really would.”
Warren went on to tell BoxingScene.com his plans for Anthony Yarde who boxes Serbia’s Marko Nicolic this weekend.
In 2019, Yarde made one of the toughest journeys in world boxing, travelling deep into Russia to challenge Sergey Kovalev for the WBO light heavyweight title. An inexperienced Yarde had his moments before being stopped in the eleventh round. Last January he engaged in a firefight with WBC, IBF and WBO champion, Artur Beterbiev, before fading and being taken out in the eighth.
Yarde still retains ambitions of winning a world title but with Beterbiev and WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol set to meet in an undisputed title fight on June 1st, he has been linked to a fight with Callum Smith - who was stopped himself by Beterbiev in January.
Yarde, however, has always been clear in his desire to face Joshua Buatsi and reiterated that wish before Buatsi beat Dan Azeez for the British and Commonwealth titles last week. Warren agrees.
“The winner of Buatsi and Azeez [Buatsi beat Azeez by unanimous decision on Saturday night], that’s the one I wanna make,” he said. “From a financial point of view it makes sense for everybody concerned. Let the other two [Beterbiev and Bivol] have their fight. They aren’t getting any younger and the belts might well end up getting fragmented again.”