“Boxing Tonight” is Yo‘s weekly look ahead to the Saturday night action in the UK and beyond, with the details on how to watch and what to look out for. yesign up for our weekly newsletter in the box below
Ortiz Jr vs. McKinson
An unbeaten fighter going across the Atlantic to risk his record against another man without a defeat to his name in the pro ranks can rarely have gone under the radar quite as much as this one.
Maybe that is because Michael McKinson is as big as a 9-1 underdog in places to upset Vergil Ortiz in what is a big step-up in class.
The 28-year-old made worked his way up the welterweight ranks winning 10-rounders in places like the Liquid & Envy in Portsmouth and the Oasis Leisure Center in Swindon before graduating to York Hall and then, for the biggest win of his career to date, Gibraltar, where I have outpointed Chris Kongo.
That pales compared to Vergil Ortiz Jr’s record of 18 wins and 18 knockouts, ranked the No 1 challenger in the world by the WBA, WBC and the WBO, and having beaten the likes of Antonio Orozco, Maruice Hooker and Egidijus Kavaliauskas.
“I’m obsessed with proving people wrong,” says McKinson, who admits he is a “huge” underdog in the fight and confesses he struggled to make a name for himself in the early days despite winning fights and representing Portsmouth around the UK.
Now, he takes his Pompey shirt to Texas, the backyard of Ortiz Jr. If he wins, his is a name you will have to start remembering.
Ortiz Jr vs. McKinson
- Date: Saturday 6 August
- venue: Dickies Arena, Fort Worth, TX
- fighting time: Expected around 4am UK time
- TV/live stream: Online on DAZN, with subscriptions from £7.99 a month
- Undercard highlights: Esparza vs Guzman is a fight for two world titles while Hooker vs Cobbs features a former world title challenger against one who believes he soon could be
- Yo predicts: Ortiz by knockout in round four
- Marlen Esparza vs. Eva Guzman (WBC and WBA women’s flyweight titles)
- Maurice Hooker vs. Blair Cobbs, welterweight
- Bektemir Melikuziev vs. Sladan Janjanin, super-middleweight
- Alex Martin vs. Hank Lundy, super-lightweight
Back on this side of the Atlantic, Michael Conlan will play to a home crowd at the SSE Arena in Belfast. The 16-1 featherweight fighter is looking to bounce back from a knockout defeat to Leigh Wood in March by beating Miguel Marriaga (expected around 10pm UK time; Fite.TV)a three-time world title challenger but never a champion and now 35 years old and with five total defeats to his name.
In Sheffield, Dalton-Smith will be another home favourite. Born and bred in the Yorkshire city, he was a national amateur champion before turning over in 2019, since when he has picked up 11 professional wins, including the English title. Now he will look to become British champion against Sam O’Maison (expected around 10pm UK time; DAZN) who is another local lad, making this a potentially spicy local derby.
In boxing, a woman’s work is never done
By Katherine Lucas
In the 10 years that have passed since the London Olympics, most of the talk has been about legacy – and in many sports, it’s not entirely clear what that looks like. In boxing, however, it looks like a beaming woman of just 5ft 4 who has just become the first female gold medalist in history.
It looks like Nicola Adams, who is still the face of women’s boxing a decade on, even as Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano are selling out Madison Square Garden and Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall are preparing for one of the biggest grudge matches in history. In short, women’s boxing is in a very different place to where it was when Adams first became a household name.
“When I started I was the only girl in my gym and that’s totally changed,” she tells Yo. “I can’t believe it’s been a decade now. I was over the moon when Lauren Price won gold [at Tokyo 2020]. Ella she’s brilliant and it was amazing to see another British woman take home a medal at the Olympics. I hope these wins continue to serve as an inspiration for young girls thinking about getting into boxing.”
Meanwhile, the UK’s youngest promoter Ben Shalom, who founded Boxxer and now puts on Sky Sports’ cards in the wake of Eddie Hearn’s departure, is doing his best to push the top end of the sport.
That has not been achieved through manufactured rivalries either. In fact, Shalom accepts that female boxers are typically less likely to call one another out or make derogatory comments.
“The reason women boxers are so nice to each other is they’re part of something bigger,” he tells Yo. “They’re on the same journey, to try and have more respect for the sport. They’ve all dedicated themselves to a sport with a lack of opportunity.”
There is one obvious exception to this rule. In September, the UK will host one of the biggest fights in female boxing history when Claressa Shields – the self-proclaimed “Greatest Woman of All Time” – takes on Savannah Marshall at the top of a historic all-female card.
The animosity between the two is palpable, very real, and is above all healthy for the sport. Finally, Shalom says, “great rivalries can now take place” in women’s boxing.
“Whether it’s Nadal and Federer, Man Utd and Liverpool, Verstappen and Hamilton, you need big rivalries to grow a sport. That’s what the men’s sport has been built on, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, Froch and Groves, Eubank-Benn. Without those rivalries, the sport wouldn’t be what it is today.”
Even in the men’s game, Shalom knew he had to change preconceptions about a sport that was being marginalized and struggling to attract big audiences more than twice a year.
“The attention on myself is one thing, but it’s the pressure of putting on fights every week,” the Boxxer founder, who is now responsible for Sky’s boxing cards,” he adds.
“Competing against promoters who know every trick in the book and have been running for 30 to 40 years, the [Eddie] Hearns and the [Frank] warrens in this country, [Al] Haymon and Bob Arum in the US. It’s an extremely difficult sport to break into.”
The first year has not always been plain sailing. When Josh Taylor retained his WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF belts against Jack Catterall, Shalom was open in his embarrassment as fans lambasted one of the most controversial decisions in recent memory.
“A million people watched that fight, and it wasn’t a good advert,” he says. “We saw the reaction. It was almost outrage and disgust. It’s not like tennis where it’s in or out, it can be subjective – but it was clear that night boxing needs to be improved.”
Read our full interview with promoter Ben Shalom here and with former boxer Nicola Adams here