Ruiz v Joshua 2: Saudi Arabia showdown. Yay or nay?

After what’s felt like forever since the first fight and nearly 10 weeks of negotiations, the highly anticipated rematch of Andy Ruiz Jr vs Anthony Joshua for the WBA Super, WBO and IBF world heavyweight titles has been finally announced for December 7th. Since the upset at Madison Square Garden which rocked the boxing world with Ruiz dethroning Joshua as unified champion, fans and fighters alike have been talking about the rematch. What they wouldn’t have predicted, however, is that it would be held in Diriyah, a town just North West of Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh. First of all, what? It’s come as a surprise to many with weeks of confusion surrounding where the rematch would be held, Cardiff seemed to be the front runner for a while or a trip back to the States but not many would’ve predicted Saudi Arabia. I would’ve guessed Antarctica before Saudi Arabia but maybe it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise with Amir Khan recently fighting in Jeddah and the World Boxing Super Series Super Middleweight tournament final being held there also. I try to keep my posts as unbiased as possible, even if this one might be a bit trickier, and I’ll take a look at some of the pros and cons as to whether a fight this big should be held in Saudi Arabia.

First up the pros, and whilst it may seem tricky to see some there are definitely a few. Saudi Arabia is a completely new market for boxing and could become a popular place for the sport in years to come. As previously mentioned, Callum Smith beat George Groves in Jeddah to win the Super Middleweight edition of the World Boxing Super Series in September 2018 and Amir Khan recently beat Billy Dib also in Jeddah for the WBC International Welterweight title (even if it was a bit of a strange show, I honestly didn’t know Samuel Peter was still fighting until he took on Hughie Fury on the undercard). Other sporting events have also been held in Saudi Arabia in recent years such as Formula-E (with Diriyah set to be the opening race of the 2019/20 season in November this year), WWE’s Greatest Royal Rumble, Crown Jewel and Super Showdown shows and the Saudi International golf tournament. It’s no surprise that Saudi Arabia have the capability to hold big sporting events that locals and tourists will enjoy. All this is part of the Saudi Vision 2030 project where Saudi Arabia are trying to become less dependent on their oil as a mean to grow their economy and the entertainment sector has had over $2 billion invested in order to hold such events. For the points mentioned, the bout that’s being dubbed “Clash on the Dunes” could be fantastic for Saudi Arabia in terms of the future of boxing and sport (even though they’ve missed a golden opportunity by not calling it “Rowdy in Saudi” like I suggested on twitter, come on Matchroom you know it makes sense) and there’s no doubts it’ll be just as exciting as the first bout.

However there are obvious cons and some grey areas about holding a fight this big in Saudi Arabia, one of the biggest is that it’s a huge risk. Yes big fights have been held in Saudi Arabia before and there’s a potentially huge market there but is it worth the risk? A Ruiz–Joshua rematch could easily sell out any stadium or arena in the UK or the USA however with the rumours both parties wanted it on neutral ground it definitely would’ve sold out stadiums in a neutral European venue such as Italy, Germany or France, so why risk it in a place where the sports and entertainment industry is still developing? It could also make it more of a difficult sell for British fans to travel to support Joshua considering Saudi Arabia used to be an incredibly difficult country to travel to. British fans have a history of supporting British fighters abroad creating a fantastic atmosphere following the likes of Ricky Hatton, Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua himself for the first Ruiz fight. It’s much easier now to get into Saudi Arabia with tourist visas available for the first time however they come at a price. Fans would probably have to get a “Sharek” visa (visa specific for sports and entertainment events) which costs around $170 which is pretty expensive compared to the $14 it costs for Brits to get an esta to enter the US. The closest major city to Diriyah is the capital, Riyadh, which is anything but a cheap date when it comes to nice hotels, restaurants and shops. Add in the ticket price (although apparently a visa will be included with it) and flights it’ll get expensive quite quickly. Considering Christmas will only be 18 days away from fight night it’s highly possible that fans won’t want to spend big so soon to the holidays and give the trip a miss. Also just this morning, Andy Ruiz Jr said on Instagram that apparently the fight isn’t taking place in Saudi Arabia but on his terms in the United States. Great. So we will probably have the Heavyweight Champion of the World fighting in a neutral location begrudgingly in his first defence of his titles, what fun. America would be a safe bet as Ruiz never really wanted to fight in the UK and it would be a brilliant second chance for AJ to re-introduce himself to the US market, however Saudi Arabia is where it’s happening.

Overall, this will change the boxing landscape forever. It’ll either establish Saudi Arabia as a serious competitor in the boxing world and could see many future huge fights over there or it’ll be a case of too much too soon. Politics and debates aside, this will be an incredible fight with everything on the line. The last one was exciting and full of drama and this one will be no different. Joshua and Ruiz will make huge statements by getting a win, however the winner won’t be able to get too carried away as a bout with WBO mandatory Oleksandr Usyk will be looming in the not too distant future.

Premier League Transfer Window: Who were the biggest winners and losers?

The transfer window slammed shut yesterday for Premier League and Championship clubs before the Premier League season kicking off tonight with Champions of Europe, Liverpool taking on newly promoted and last season’s Championship winners Norwich City. A crazy amount of money was spent in the Premier League this window and especially in the top 6 with the likes of Harry Maguire, Nicolas Pepe and Tanguy Ndombele going for huge fees. What would be more original to celebrate the upcoming season than a graded list, this time Premier League transfer window edition. I’ll have a look through the main winners and losers of this summer’s window and why they deserve to be where they are. I’m only grading teams based on their transfer activity this summer and not how good they are full stop, even though there are some big teams in the “losers” category it’s quite obvious they’ll still have good seasons because of the quality they already have. These are just my opinions and I’m sorry if I think your club have had a poor window, I’m not trying to offend anyone it’s just the way I think the window has gone.

Winners

Arsenal: £45 million budget? Do me a favour. North London won this transfer window and Arsenal really played their part. They managed to identify weak spots in the team (most notably in defence and on the wing) and answered those problems impressively. Record signing Nicolas Pepe will be an incredible signing and playing with the likes of Mesut Ӧzil, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre–Emerick Aubameyang will only get better. Arsenal have definitely one of the top 3 strongest attacks in the league. Defence needed improvement and arguably it still does. However with the additions of David Luiz and Kieran Tierney on Deadline Day and William Saliba returning from his loan from Saint Etienne next season, a young back four of Bellerin– Saliba – Holding – Tierney from next year onwards with Luiz, Sokratis, Kolasinac and Maitland-Niles in the mix is a big improvement. I predict a good season from Arsenal finishing back in the top 4 and a desperately needed Champions League place after 3 years in Europa.

Tottenham: I said North London won the transfer window and Tottenham played as big a part in that as Arsenal. Tanguy Ndombele will most definitely strengthen the team and fill the Moussa Dembele hole in midfield that’s been quite obvious since his departure. Captures of Giovanni Lo Celso on loan from Real Betis and Ryan Sessegnon for £25 million from Fulham will only improve the team. Lo Celso will bring creativity to the squad regardless but will play an even more prominent role if Christian Eriksen leaves before the European window slams shut (I personally think he’ll end up at Real Madrid). Spurs fans will probably be disappointed they didn’t get a deal done for Paulo Dybala but honestly after the problems with personal terms with Man United earlier in the window maybe it’s a blessing in disguise that it didn’t happen. New signings added with big names such as Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son should (should is the key word there, never underestimate Tottenham to make things go pear shaped.. much like Arsenal) see Spurs have a good season.

Aston Villa: Hey big spender! Where on earth did that window come from? Villa spent roughly a staggering £130 million on players and fair play to them. Tyrone Mings will bring quality and experience to the defensive line after he impressed last season for them on loan. Tom Heaton is a brilliant signing for The Villans, he’s a fantastic goalkeeper and really impressed me during his time at Burnley. I really like the captures of Matt Targett, Trezeguet and Wesley whilst signing Jota from bitter rivals Birmingham made me laugh. I enjoy signings like that, you love to see it. With their quality already there with the likes of Jack Grealish, John McGinn and Jonathan Kodjia, my prediction is a strong season for Villa and a mid-table finish.

Everton: Wow okay, I didn’t see Everton having a window as strong as they did. Signing Andre Gomes from Barcelona after his loan last season was impressive enough but the Toffees weren’t finished there. They rocked the football world by signing Juventus youngster Moise Kean on a permanent deal for an undisclosed fee, rumoured to be around the £27 million mark. And if that wasn’t enough, Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi joined after a last minute bid of around £35 million was accepted on Deadline Day. A young front 3 of Iwobi, Kean and Richarlison can cause havoc to any Premier League defences with a barrage of quality midfielders behind them. With these signings and an already quality team, this could be the year Everton break back into the top 6 and get a European spot.

Losers

Chelsea: If North London is where the Transfer Window was won then South West London is where it was lost. Yes they had a transfer ban and it’s harsh to rag on Chelsea too much when they couldn’t do anything about it but it’s not as if they really helped themselves with outgoings. Granted, they signed Mateo Kovacic making his loan deal from Real Madrid permanent (it was part of the original agreement) and Christian Pulisic is coming back from his loan at Borussia Dortmund, but outgoings made it a poor window for Chelsea. Selling star man Eden Hazard paired with the ban means they couldn’t bring in anyone of his quality as a replacement and they’ll miss him big time. The loss of Alvaro Morata to Atletico Madrid and David Luiz to Arsenal means they’re a striker and defender down to no response. Whilst some Chelsea fans will be happy to see the back of Morata, it’s far from ideal to lose a big name whilst serving a transfer ban. Don’t get me wrong, Olivier Giroud, Michy Batshuayi and Tammy Abraham are all good strikers but they’re not quite in the category of the League’s best attackers. I still think Chelsea will have a decent season but they’ve had a less than decent transfer window.

Man United: The blue side of Manchester won big in the window, the red side not so much. It seems a bit strange putting United here after signing two certain first team starters in Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka and a possible starter in Dan James, but the general consensus surrounding United is just it was a bit of a meh window. I personally don’t think it was anywhere near as bad as some have made out though. You can’t spend roughly £145 million and have a bad window, it just can’t happen, however key areas were left out and it’s making some United fans feel a bit deflated. They really needed another midfielder, especially if Pogba end up moving abroad, and Bruno Fernandes or Milinkovic–Savic (if not both) would’ve been ideal. Romelu Lukaku leaving for Inter isn’t great but a lot of United fans seem happy enough that he’s gone, but not replacing him with a big name will hurt them in my opinion. I think they’ll have an ok season, fairly similar to last year, but feeling like they could’ve done a lot more. Much like their business in the transfer window.

Norwich: Norwich were talk of the town in the championship for most of last season and rightly so. They played some great football on their way to becoming champions and winning promotion. However it doesn’t take away from the fact that in my opinion they’ve had a fairly poor window. Getting Schalke keeper Ralf Fahrmann on loan and Josip Drmic on a free from Borussia Monchengladbach are great bits of business but they’ve not done too much else. I feel as if they’re just a bit underprepared in terms of incomings and aren’t quite ready for a Premier League season. I could be completely wrong and their stars of last season could be incredible in the Premier League too but I just don’t see it happening. Their fairly poor performance in the window could begin to show with a difficult season. I hope I’m wrong because I don’t mind Norwich and I’m a big fan of Teemu Pukki and admire what Daniel Farke has done at the club, I just don’t see them doing too much this year and haven’t done enough in the window.

Burnley: All things considered, Burnley have had a poor window. Danny Drinkwater and Jay Rodriguez stand out as their best signings and they’re not bad additions. Drinkwater is a Premier League and FA Cup winner and Jay Rodriguez is a great striker who I’m a fan of but that’s the only positions where they’ve really strengthened. The problem is they’ve not added much at all to a side that struggled a bit last season. Losing Tom Heaton really won’t help as they lack depth in the goalkeeping position. Sure they’ve got Joe Hart as backup to Nick Pope but it starts to thin out a bit past Hart. For a team that struggled last season I would’ve thought they would’ve got more players in to ensure they could not only finish mid table but possibly push for a top 8 finish. Maybe they’ll perform better this season without a confidence knock from a Europa League third round qualifying exit but I see them having a similar season this year to last, staying up because there are teams worse than them but finishing in the bottom half of the table.

Is America’s Game about to get a bit more British?

In just less than 5 weeks’ time the NFL will kick off its centurion season with all 32 teams hoping their roads will lead to Miami for Super Bowl LVI. The current favourites with the bookies are reigning champions the New England Patriots with Belichick’s men hoping to win a record breaking 7th Lombardi Trophy beating their current tied record of 6 (shared with the Pittsburgh Steelers). Other strong contenders consist of last year’s runners up the Los Angeles Rams, the Kansas City Chiefs and the New Orleans Saints but there are plenty of teams who fancy themselves as dark horses and can cause trouble for anybody in the NFL such as the Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears or the Philadelphia Eagles (Go Birds!!). Football is undoubtably America’s game but could it be about to get a bit more British within the next few years? By that I don’t mean half time tea and scone breaks or saluting a picture of Hugh Grant before every game but there have been strong rumours of a potential London franchise and the rumours have only been getting stronger recently. I’m personally dead against a London franchise but I’m going to try and keep this as unbiased as possible. This post will take a look at potential strengths of a London team whilst also acknowledging the obvious problems that would come with it.

First off the good aspects of a London franchise and although I’m against it, there are fairly strong and obvious arguments. More than anything, a London team will bring more British eyes to the sport and get more people interested. Support for the NFL has skyrocketed in recent years and that’s obvious with the annual London Games. A clear example shows in 2016 when over 84,000 fans were in attendance at Wembley to see the Washington Redskins draw 27–27 with the Cincinnati Bengals. To put that in comparison to football for non-NFL fans, that’s probably the equivalent of 84,000 American Premier League fans turning up to see Burnley vs Brighton (statement’s fully open to argument, just my take). The numbers don’t lie, the NFL has a strong British fanbase and a team on their doorstep would only grow support from current non-NFL fans. It could also give UK fans who don’t support a specific team a reason to follow one. With a team closer to home it could make them feel more connected than they would following a team that plays stateside. It could also lead to a surge in British youngsters deciding they’d like to take up the sport and with the opening of an NFL academy in London could lead to more talented British players in the NFL. There are arguments for a London franchise, however it doesn’t mean that there are still a few problems that could arise with it and strong arguments against.

One of the strongest arguments against a London Franchise is just simply, why? Yes there’s a huge following for the NFL in the UK and that’s shown with annual London Games but does that really warrant a franchise to be born? To put it into comparison, let’s take the Barclays Premier League. According to Nielsen (used in a December 2018 Forbes article), 39.3 million Americans followed the Premier League in the 2017/18 season. That is a huge amount of support but would the Premier League ever agree to relocate a team Stateside or even start a new one because of the market? Of course not. Granted it would be a lot more difficult as the NFL has no relegation rule like in English football but you catch my drift. A branch out so ambitious would never happen in another sport despite a strong following from abroad so why treat the NFL any different. Also, I doubt highly any British fans would stop supporting their own adopted teams to start following a London team instead. As previously mentioned, I’m an Eagles fan and despite the fact most seasons are frustrating to say the very least (apart from the masterclass in the 2017 season which won us Super Bowl LII, forever in debt to that squad) there’s no chance I’d ever stop following them for a side closer to home because they’re my team. There would also probably be a bit of confusion surrounding the future of the London games. It’s possible that they would come to an end full stop which would be a big shame but with a London team playing in the capital regularly arguments would rise as to would there really be need for them with an existing UK franchise.

There’s also some tricky logistics surrounding a London team, most notably the cost of it all. The cost to send the rosters over for the London games can cost upwards of $200,000 without shipping equipment and other items. Costs would be huge for teams playing on the road to ship everything to the London and for a UK team to play Stateside. Training facilities could be an issue as there are no NFL level training facilities as of yet in the UK which could be used for an entire regular season meaning a large amount of money would have to be invested in order to build a new training ground. Costs would also be high for travelling fans to follow their team if they ended up playing on the road in London. Whilst a trip to London could be part of the novelty and a pull factor for American fans to see their team play on the road, it would be far from cheap which could put people off. The same is true about fans of a London franchise following them when they’re playing in the States meaning attendance for road games could be quite poor. One of the main questions surrounding a UK team is who would likely end up getting relocated for it to happen. The strongest rumour is that the Jacksonville Jaguars would move in order for the London franchise to happen. Jacksonville’s attendance has been slightly less on average than the TIAA Bank Field’s capacity with a 66,674 average for a 67,164 seater stadium for the 2018 season. Whilst that’s still a good attendance for the stadium’s size, it doesn’t really compare to the record 85,870 fans at Wembley who saw the Jaguars lose to the Eagles in October 2018. Whilst the rumour at the moment is the Jags don’t be surprised if it’s their central Floridian counterparts the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who end up getting relocated. Their average attendance last season was only over 54,000 which is pretty naff for a stadium with the capacity of over 65,000. The owners of the Bucs and the Jags having a pretty strong knowledge of the UK sport market with their other investments (the Jaguars being owned by Fulham owner Shahid Khan and the Glazer family owning the Buccaneers and Manchester United) and with three franchises currently in Florida, don’t be too surprised if the Jaguars or Buccaneers get relocated. Whilst relocation is all too familiar for some fanbases such as the Chargers, Rams and soon the Raiders, it’s unfortunately part of the game making it even more of a kick in the teeth.

It’s fair to say that there won’t be a British franchise in the NFL within the next couple of years. However I personally think it will happen in the not too distant future. It’ll give UK fans a chance to see more live football and would result in more money for the relocated franchise with higher attendances (if it is the Jags or Bucks, I don’t see too much in the Bills rumours). If it does happen it will undoubtably be the most ambitious move in professional top level sport and will change the game forever.

The Popularity of American Sports in the UK and its Future

Christ it’s been a long time since the last post, sorry about that. I’ve been on holiday twice since I last posted and it’s been a pretty mental few weeks but we’re back. So, what’s happened in the meantime? Boris Johnson has been chosen as the new Prime Minister (eugh) and Europe are in the middle of a massive heatwave (less scary way of saying that the world is slowly dying). In the world of sport, England won the cricket world cup on the same day Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer in an unbelievable game of tennis for the Wimbledon crown. Irish golfer Shane Lowry won his first major, The Open Championship, held at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, many congrats Shane (I mean he’ll never read this but still, well done champ). Dubois vs Gorman lived up to expectation with Daniel Dubois making one hell of a statement with his knockout win, I’d personally love to see him fight Joe Joyce next. Another exciting fight has since been announced where #1 pound for pound king and current WBA super, WBO and Ring lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko takes on 2012 gold medal British Olympian Luke Campbell for the previously mentioned titles and the vacant WBC crown at the O2  in London (that is definitely getting its own post soon). And last (but not least), the USA women’s national team won their fourth world cup after beating the Netherlands 2-0 in the final.

And that sort of brings me to today’s topic, American sport. Whilst the USWNT winning the World Cup is an unbelievable achievement, football (or soccer) still isn’t too big of a game in the States with gridiron football (NFL), basketball and baseball being their most popular. And with this popularity has seen a rise in interest in these sports in the UK recently with many Brits supporting teams from those three sports I’ve mentioned (I only really follow the NFL and the Philly Eagles are my team. Go Birds!). Today I’m going to take a look at how popular the NFL, NBA and the MLB are in the UK and what it could mean for the future for the sport.

First off, football. British fans have been following the game for years and it’s popularity is only increasing. Since the London Games have started in 2007 more Brits have been drawn towards the sport and that popularity has shown with the increase of games held in the capital. This year, 4 games will be held in London (2 at Wembley and 2 at Tottenham Hotspur’s new ground) which is a joint record of games played in London tied with 2017. The attendance has been incredible over the years with on average a record 85,000 fans attending each game in 2018 according to statistics from Wembley Stadium. There are a number of British born players currently playing in the NFL including Superbowl 52 winner Jay Ajayi, Jack Crawford, Jermaine Eluemunor and Graham Gano. There are also some former British rugby players at NFL teams including former Worcester Warriors lock Christian Scotland–Williamson who’s now contracted to the Pittsburgh Steelers and former Wasps winger Christian Wade who recently signed with the Buffalo Bills. Whilst either are yet to play, they will most definitely bring more eyes from Britain onto the sport as people will have known them from their rugby careers. The future of the NFL will only be a positive one in the UK. With the popularity of the London games I can see possibly more games being held over here and possibly even in other parts of the country. World class stadiums like Old Trafford in Manchester or even the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff have held huge sporting events and would see huge attendances. The announcement of the NFL London Academy in May 2019 means more British born players will be seen in the league in years to come and that the interest here is huge. There have even been rumours of a London franchise being created, but those are just rumours as of yet, let’s see what happens there (my views on this fairly meh idea will be saved for another post). Gridiron football is already huge in the UK and with the points mentioned it will only get bigger.

Like football, basketball also has a following in the UK. The NBA also have regular season games held in London with the first held back 2011. However, differently to the NFL the London games are not a series per se as games in the regular season are held “globally” rather than England exclusively. However the “global games” in the regular season most recently have only been held in the UK and Mexico. What differs Basketball from American Football is that a British Basketball League exists with 12 teams competing. Whilst the league is not watched as much as the NBA (nor is it anywhere as big) it still shows that there is a market for basketball in the UK and that it’s a sport that’s supported. Some British fans worry for the future of the sport in the UK as the NBA announced they’d only be holding one global game in Europe in the 2020 season and that’ll be held in Paris. Rightly fans are anxious about what the future holds however I personally believe that the NBA can have a bright future in the UK. The opening of an academy would give young British basketball players the chance to develop further at a high level and to follow in the footsteps of past British born stars such as Ben Gordon and Luol Deng and present players such as OG Anunoby who plays for current NBA champions the Toronto Raptors. The NBA is followed strongly in the UK and there is no doubt in my mind it can get even bigger, however it would mean taking the same steps as the NFL in securing big success in the UK.

Lastly, baseball. A sport which has seen little interest in the UK but it looks as if that could all be about to change. A baseball league system does exist in the UK however it’s not too popular with cricket being the main batting sport (Ben Stokes for Prime Minister after his display in the World Cup final, Jofra Archer as his deputy). In June 2019, the first ever London games were held where the Boston Red Sox hosted the New York Yankees at West Ham’s London Stadium with the Yankees winning both. An agreement was signed to host four regular season games across two years with the previously mentioned Red Sox–Yankees fixtures and the St. Louis Cardinals hosting the Chicago Cubs over two days next year. Personally I think this will be incredible for the sport and its growth within the UK. It’ll put more eyes from Brits on the sport and will gain new support and more fans as time goes on. My prediction is that another deal will be signed so that more regular season games will be held in London beyond 2020 and the popularity will grow. Like the NFL, an annual London Series will probably be born attracting bigger crowds as time goes on.

Whilst traditionally American sports may not overtake British favourites such as association football or rugby in popularity it’s still exciting to see how much they are growing in the UK. It seems that it will only increase in terms of fans watching and participation in the sports across the country. These are exciting times for British football and baseball fans and whilst the future for the NBA-UK relationship is unknown at best its popularity and support will ever die down completely. As Yazz once famously said: “The only way is up”.

Heavy Duty: One of the non-PPV Shows of the Year

In less than two weeks’ time heavyweight boxing is coming to the O2 arena with arguably the two most promising young British heavyweights, Daniel Dubois and Nathan Gorman, squaring off for the British Heavyweight Championship. The card dubbed “Heavy Duty” is packed with talent from top to bottom featuring young promising fighters and some more experienced all headed by Daniel Dubois against Nathan Gorman having it out in the squared circle. It’s exciting to see two undefeated stars on a non-PPV card, especially in an age where fights between big undefeated stars are somewhat of a rarity. In this post I’ll be running through the big fights on the card and how this is one of the best non-PPV cards of the year.

A good place to start is the main event which when it was announced got me very excited. After the British Boxing Board of Control ordered Dubois–Gorman last November my instant thought was whilst this was big news ultimately not to get too excited as it may come to nothing, something us boxing fans are unfortunately all too familiar with. Countless times have fights been ordered, I get excited and it eventually comes to nothing. Will I ever learn? Of course not, I’ll continue to get my hopes up for things I want only for it all to come crashing down, oh the joys of being a sports fan. However I’m glad that I’m wrong in the instance of Dubois–Gorman as it’s a fantastic fight. Nathan Gorman is a fast, skilful and intelligent fighter with a great ring iq. As well as this he’s a heavy hitter and fights out of the orthodox stance, a perfect all-rounder. Daniel Dubois also fights with an orthodox stance but is strong, heavy hitter with devastating knockout power. Although, in my opinion, Dubois has an underrated boxing skill that makes him dangerous for any fighter. Both have been the distance before but I doubt that either will want this one to go  12 rounds, a knockout win for either man would be a massive statement in their early careers. The winner will be seen in a whole new light with this being the biggest win of their careers so far, however it will be far from the end for the loser. Dubois is only 21 and Gorman is 23 meaning they have plenty of time to re-build coming off an early loss (also meaning both are only a few years older than I am and are headlining the O2 while I’m sat at home eating rice crispies while writing this, way to put things in a harsh perspective). I doubt this will be the last time both men fight with them being so young and talented. They’ll only get better with experience and age and will become bigger names in the heavyweight division as they improve, this would definitely be another huge fight in a few years’ time which no doubt in my mind people will want to see.

The co-feature bout sees another big heavyweight contest with undefeated silver medal Olympian Joe Joyce squaring off against former world title contender Bryant Jennings with his only losses coming against Wladimir Klitschko, Luis Ortiz and in his last outing against Oscar Rivas. Without shadow of a doubt this is the biggest test of Joyce’s career so far. Joyce already has impressive stoppage wins over Alexander Ustinov (former competitor for the WBA Regular Title against Manuel Charr) and former WBC Heavyweight Champion Bermane Stiverne (the first man to take current WBC champ Deontay Wilder 12 rounds). This fight is a great test for Joyce to see how far he can make it in the heavyweight division. Some say at 33 years old time isn’t necessarily on Joyce’s side (personally disagree but that’s another argument) however he has been making serious moves in the division in his young professional career. After the Bryant fight, Joyce would have fought two former world title challengers and a former world champion in only 10 fights. A win against Jennings would push Joyce to another level and with rumours in the past of a bout with Luis Ortiz, maybe a win against Jennings would be enough to get the Ortiz fight next. This is a great fight and an incredible co-feature bout for the card. Having a fight this size on the undercard makes the main event feel even bigger and a win for either man would be massive for them. As stated Jennings is a former world title contender but will Joyce’s ruthless style be too much for the American? Obviously I don’t have the answers as I can’t see into the future but nonetheless it will make for an interesting and entertaining fight.

The rest of the card is stacked with talent and great bouts, most notably are local hero Liam Williams, Sunny Edwards and Archie Sharp. British middleweight champion Liam Williams takes on French middleweight Karim Achour for the vacant WBC Silver Middleweight Championship. Williams comes into the fight off the back of two impressive knockout wins in his last two outings against Mark Heffron and Joe Mullender. A world title shot doesn’t seem too unlikely for Williams in the not so distant future and a win against Achour would definitely shoot him in the right direction for a huge world title bout. Elsewhere, Sunny Edwards looks to extend his 11-0 unbeaten record taking on Hiram Gallardo for the vacant IBF International Super Flyweight Title to add to his WBO European and International Super Flyweight championships. Sunny is one half of “the Croydon Klitschko’s” with his brother (and WBC Flyweight Champion) Charlie Edwards and in my opinion will follow him in one day becoming world champion. Sunny has bags of talent and potential definitely having what it takes to become Super Flyweight Champion of the world when his time comes. Also on the card Archie Sharp looks to defend his WBO European Super Featherweight Championship against Jordan McCorry. Sharp won the title against Lyon Woodstock last October in a war over 10 rounds. This should be an entertaining fight (like the rest on the card that I’ve mentioned) and should Sharp get through there are exciting domestic fights to be made against the likes of Sam Bowen and Zelfa Barrett.

Overall, the 13th of July will be an entertaining night of boxing and one of the non-PPV shows of the year. Having two big domestic names like Gorman and Dubois fighting each other at the O2 for the British Championship not only makes them bigger names but makes the British Championship feel more important which is good to see. A great main event on an already fantastic night of boxing makes Heavy Duty one to certainly look forward to.

How Cardiff City’s relegation this time is different

One thing about championship teams is that they’re resilient. No matter what is thrown at them, no matter how deep the hole, they find a way to bounce back and overcome adversity.

— Nick Saban

Relegation really is a kick in the teeth. To be sent packing from the Premier League to the Championship is never fun, for lack of a better term, it sucks. This is the fate my team, Cardiff City, face after relegation from the Premier League with a battle that went right down to the wire and as a result get to enjoy a season in the Championship, oh what fun I cannot wait *holds back the tears*. The Championship however is far from a walk in the park with many quality teams competing in a packed fixture schedule with 46 games in a season with the ever exciting race for automatic promotion, the playoffs and relegation battles full of drama. The difficulty of the league is obvious with only 16 different teams managing to bounce straight back the season after relegation. The last time Cardiff were relegated we weren’t so lucky finishing 11th in our first season after relegation, 28 points behind champions, Bournemouth. However this time it feels a lot different, there’s optimism among fans and players that we can give the league a serious go this upcoming season gaining promotion again first time of asking. The odds are in our favour too with oddschecker currently having us third favourites overall to go up as champions. This post will outline some key differences to relegation last time around and how City fans can look forward to the upcoming season.

One of the key differences is the better quality of players we have. Players all over the pitch such as Neil Etheridge, Josh Murphy, Junior Hoilett, Bobby Decordova–Reid, Sean Morrison, Nathaniel Mendez–Laing and so on have already performed at a high level in the Championship (as well as last season) and no doubt in my mind they will do so again. Obviously the main thing will be keeping everyone at the club. Last time around saw a mass exodus of players such as captain Steven Caulker, Gary Medel and Craig Noone which damaged us badly. However if we manage to keep the majority of our stars then next season everything could be coming up Milhouse. Arguably one of our weaker areas on the pitch is midfield following some key exits at the end of last season however that’s being attended to. Signing Will Vaulks from Rotherham to bolster our midfield after the loans of Harry Arter and Victor Camarasa ended and Aron Gunnarsson joining Qatari team Al-Arabi (still not completely over that one 😞) it is an area that needs depth and improvement. Another midfielder or two through the door to go with the likes of Joe Ralls, Leandro Bacuna and Callum Paterson (who can play just about anywhere mind, don’t be too surprised if he plays a few games in goal before the end of the season) to partner a strong attack, a sturdy defence and quality keeper in Etheridge then we’ve got all we need for a promotion push.

Another key difference is the man in charge, Neil Warnock. Warnock is a veteran of the English Football League and is far more experienced than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who was in charge last time around with relegation. Ole was trusted with the job following the sacking of Malky Mackay starting the punderful #RevOLEution. Less than nine months, a relegation and some very questionable signings later, Solskjaer left City and the supposed revolution was over. Magnus Wolff Eikrem anyone? How about Jo Inge Berget? What about everybody’s favourite Federico Macheda? Jokes aside Solskjaer was there at completely the wrong time. He was hugely inexperienced and was his first time managing in the English Football League where he was given a seriously difficult task of trying to keep Cardiff up then the job of kick starting a promotion push, it just wasn’t meant to be. Neil Warnock however is the polar opposite. He has experience of the championship and English football overall, knows how it feels to be relegated and certainly knows how to push for promotion. Warnock holds the record of most promotions in English football with eight. Warnock has hinted that Cardiff could be his last job in football management and with this being the last year on his contract at City this could well be his retirement year. If so then he’ll want to go out with a bang, and no bang would be bigger than a ninth promotion.

Lastly, and arguably most importantly, there’s much more of a feeling of unity within the club compared to 5 years ago. There’s a closer fans/players relationship and a strong bond between fans and the manager. Fans are optimistic for the upcoming season and there is a belief among many that we can have a positive season and the players will believe it too. Last time there was divide between some of the board and fans as we were rebranded and playing in a red instead of the famous city blue. I still wake up in cold sweats at night thinking of the 0-2 loss at home to Brighton in the first promotion year when red scarves were given out to fans for free, dark times. However that is all in the past with the board and fans now on the same side looking forward to what the new season brings. There’s a strong feeling of togetherness and spirit at the club and it will show on the pitch. There’s a saying in boxing that ‘a happy fighter is a dangerous fighter’ meaning that a young fighter who’s happy and their morale is high is more proficient and dangerous in the ring, and Cardiff are definitely a happy fighter. Keeping morale and spirits high from the team and the fans will make City a force to be reckoned with in the Championship.

How the season will pan out nobody actually has a clue, unsurprisingly I can’t see into the future. I could read this back in six months’ time and cringe at how wrong I’ve got this or surprise myself of how accurate my predictions have been. Regardless it will be an exciting season filled with hopefully many ups, probably some downs and definitely a lot of questionable refereeing.

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