THE GENERATION GAME
Ball, Buatsi and co. prepare for another showcase, writes George Gigney
EARLIER this year, promoter Eddie Hearn promised more of Matchroom’s NXTGEN shows, in which some of the stable’s brightest prospects take centre-stage.
Though they don’t typically have the most competitive fights, the cards serve as a decent platform for up-and-coming talent to be exposed to a wider audience, while also allowing them to further their apprenticeships as professionals.
On Friday night (September 1), the latest in the embryonic initiative rolls into London at York Hall, in Bethnal Green. Three Olympians – light-heavyweight Joshua Buatsi [below], cruiserweight Lawrence Okolie and superfeatherweight Joe Cordina – feature on the show, which will be aired on Sky Sports Action and on the Sky Sports Facebook page.
Croydon’s Buatsi, who won bronze in Rio last year, will bring plenty of support with him as he faces Argentinian Pablo Sosa over six rounds in what will be his second professional fight.
The 24-year-old debuted at the O2 Arena in Greenwich in July, stopping Carlos Mena in two rounds.
An excellent amateur who wowed fans by producing two emphatic stoppages at the Olympics, Buatsi is backed by Anthony Joshua’s management group and plenty are expecting him to achieve big things in the paid ranks.
Another promising light-heavyweight, Jake Ball, fights Joe Sherriff over 10 rounds in an English title eliminator. The English strap is currently held by Joel Mcintyre, who will defend it against Liam Conroy next week.
Ball last fought in July, when he stopped Jamie Ambler in four rounds, having also halted Olegs Fedotovs
earlier in the year. Those victories, while against limited opposition, served as bounce-back wins for Ball, who was beaten inside a round by JJ Mcdonagh
Southpaw Ball, who was also a top amateur, wants a rematch with Mcdonagh, but as things stand is heading in a different direction and is expected to see off Sherriff.
Wales’ Cordina, trained by Tony Sims, who has several other fighters on the bill, will meet Jamie Speight in the first six-rounder of his fledgling career. The 25-year-old debuted back in April and has beaten Jose Aguilar, Sergej Vib and Josh Thorne all inside the distance since then.
Welterweight Conor Benn – son of Nigel, if you didn’t know – continues his return to form after a lengthy spell out of the ring due to injury. The exciting Essex man spent the first half of 2017 on the sidelines while he recovered, and stopped Mike Cole back in July.
With little amateur experience behind him, Benn is very much learning on the job, but has steadily improved with each outing. He fights Birmingham’s Kane Baker over six sessions.
Okolie, who upset the odds to qualify for Rio given his relatively short amateur career – the Londoner only turned to boxing when he saw Anthony Joshua win Olympic gold in 2012 – will have his fifth pro bout on this show.
He’s had a couple of frustrating nights where he’s served as a float fight and not been given a chance to box on certain cards, but he has not yet been taken past the first round by an opponent. At the time of writing he does not yet have an opponent.
Newly crowned English superwelterweight champion Ted Cheeseman
appears on the bill, though it is not yet clear if he will be defending his title, as his opposition has not yet been confirmed.
Back in July, Cheeseman stopped Matthew Ryan in three one-sided rounds to win his first professional title in what was his ninth paid fight.
Also on the bill are middleweight Felix Cash, super-middleweight Danny Dignum and middleweight William Webber, who makes his professional debut.
‘BUATSI WAS AN EXCELLENT AMATEUR WHO WOWED FANS BY PRODUCING TWO EMPHATIC STOPPAGES AT THE OLYMPICS’