Monday, May 18, 2009

British Scene: Cruiserweight Prizefighters Preview

Sky has some mid-week boxing on tap Tuesday night with a strong line-up of cruiserweights set to do battle in the popular Prizefighters series.

Matt Chudley has the preview of the eight man one night elimination tournament.

Check out our recap of the show: Cruiserweight Prizefighters Recap

Tuesday May 19

The Prizefighters: Cruiserweights

By Matt Chudley

On Tuesday night, Barry Hearns’ Matchroom Sport presents the sixth installment of the prizefighter series. This tournament boasts by far the most accomplished field of competitors to date, featuring two former world title challengers and one currently world ranked fighter.

The format which consists of 8 fighters battling through elimination rounds of quarter-finals, semis and final of 3 rounders on the same night, has produced plenty of drama and excitement on each occasion.

WBO #8 Light-Heavyweight and former European super-middleweight champion, Dean Francis (30-3-1) enters as the favourite for the £25,000 winners cheque. An amateur rival of Joe Calzaghe, Francis's career has been hampered by a succession of injuries to his right shoulder which saw him temporarily retire from the sport in 2003 after losing to Matthew Barney in a fight which he fought most of one-handed.

Facing Francis in the opening round is rank outsider Neil Simpson. Though a former British and Commonwealth Champion at 175, Simpson has spent most of his career as a gatekeeper and has racked up 18 defeats in his 45 fight pro career. This will be the second time Simpson has come up against Dean Francis, their previous meeting ended in a 3rd round stoppage win for Francis over 13 years ago.

Returning to the sport after a 9 year absence with a 4 round decision win over Paul Bonson, former world title challenger Terry Dunstan (20-2) is very much the unknown quantity. After being stopped in the 12th round by Carl Thompson in 1999 while ahead on the scorecards, Dunstan then pleaded guilty to false imprisonment, blackmail and aggravated burglary and served 4 1/2 years of an 8 year sentence. Back in 1998 following a 20 second KO win over European champion Alexander Gurov, Dunstan challenged for the IBF cruiserweight title 6 weeks later, only to be stopped in the 11th round by champion Imamu Mayfield. Now at the age of 40 and with a long stretch if inactivity it’s hard to know what to expect from the once talented fighter.

Going up against Dunstan is former Commonwealth light-heavy champion, Ovill McKenzie. A late replacement for Mark Krence, McKenzie has successfully played spoiler on a number of occasions. In 2005 McKenzie relieved former British Olympian Courtney Fry of his unbeaten record, before a string of wins led to a 2 rounds stoppage of Peter Haymer in a contest for the vacant Commonwealth title. The 14-9 Jamaican has once again found himself as a gatekeeper in recent times after losing his title to fellow prizefighter Dean Francis in a one round blowout.

Also Jamaican born, former two time world title challenger Bruce Scott (27-9) returns to the ring at the age of 39, after 3 years away. After stopping prizefighter entrant Darren Corbett to claim the British and Commonwealth titles in 1998, Scott went on to compete for two different world title belts in 1999. He lost on points to Sheffield's Johnny Nelson in a bid for the WBO title and was then stopped later in the year by WBC champ Juan Carlos Gomez in Germany after 6 rounds. Scott retired in 2006 after losing to a decision to journeyman Hastings Rasani.

Taking on Scott for the third time in their careers is the well traveled John 'Buster' Keeton (26-16). Both of their previous meetings ended in stoppage wins for Scott but since Scott's retirement, Keeton has gone on to win the British title and has mixed with a high level of competition though being finished early a number of times.

The youngest and most inexperienced fighter of the group, Mickey Steeds (12-4) has been tabbed as the dark horse by many. Although he may be the only fighter of the bunch not to have lifted at least a British or Commonwealth title the 25 year old turned pro at heavyweight with no amateur fights and went on to challenge for the British title in only his 10th fight. At only 6 foot tall and carrying a great deal of unnecessary weight, Steeds made the move down to Cruiserweight where he has since notably lost a 12 round decision to current British champ Rob Norton and was stopped in 5 by classy Cuban Yoan Pablo Hernandez.

Facing Steeds in the 1st round of the tournament is Belfast's Darren Corbett (27-4-1). Returning from a four year retirement last year, Corbett was given a harder than expected nights work by journeyman Remigijus Ziausys. The 36 year old previously held the Commonwealth cruiserweight title before losing it to fellow participant Bruce Scott and holds a career best win over current British champion Rob Norton.

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