The remainder of the 2012 boxing schedule is filled with important, quality fights. Thanks to British promoter Frank Warren, fans and pundits should mark December 15th on their calendars as another can’t-miss card staked with champions, contenders and prospects.
According ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael, WBO lightweight champion Ricky Burns will headline a card in at the ExCel Arena in London with current Commonwealth super middleweight champion George Groves in the chief supporting bout.
While neither Burns (35-2, 10 KO) nor Groves (15-0, 12 KO) have an opponent, Rafael reports that Warren is eying a top-10 fighter for Burns, who was last seen destroying legitimate challenger Kevin Mitchell in four clinical rounds on September 22nd in Glasgow, Scotland.
In speaking with Burns, Rafael reports that after putting on a tremendous performance in front of his hometown fans, Burns has seen his support swell throughout the United Kingdom:
“Since the win over Mitchell the response I've had from the Scottish fans has been fantastic, but I've also had so many congratulation messages from the English fans saying what a great fight performance it was and when am I coming to England to fight again.”
Burns exhibited surprising power against Mitchell (33-2, 24 KO), and the precision of his sweeping left hook and overhand right, combined with his technically sound boxing skills, have him on the cusp of a mega-fight.
When examining the preeminent fighters in the lightweight division, there are several tantalizing opportunities for Burns. Of course, WBC champion Antonio DeMarco will defend his title against the brash and talented Adrien Broner in a highly anticipated fight on November 17th, and the prospect of Burns facing the winner is probably the best fight to be made at 135 pounds.
With IBF champion Miguel Vazquez also set to defend his title against Marvin Quintero on October 27th, a unification fight for Burns is likely one or two bouts away. Instead, fighting the likes of Gavin Rees would offer Burns the type of competitive bout that would further raise his stature and enhance the demand for unification in the lightweight division.
Given that Richard Abril is set to fight Sharif Bogere for the WBA strap in November, Rees (37-1-1, 18 KO)—a fellow Brit and former junior welterweight titlist—seems like a logical choice. Since dropping down to lightweight, Rees has captured and defended the European title three times (he is also the British champion).
While Burns has other options—the likes of Ji-Hoon Kim also come to mind—Rees would help bolster the London card and ensure that it will be a major domestic success. Having already disposed of the seemingly stronger Mitchell, defeating Rees would give Burns yet another chance to make a statement by flexing his latent power.
With all of the current lightweight titlists—and those battling for a vacant belt—fighting within a few months of each other, Burns and his fellow champions appear to have their schedules coinciding perfectly to negotiate unification bouts for the first quarter of 2013. Now that’s exciting.
Not to be overshadowed, Groves’ ring return will end a frustrating stretch where the Commonwealth champion has seen notable fights slip through his fingers due to injury.
Groves was at one point set to challenge—perhaps prematurely—former WBO champion Robert Stieglitz but was sidelined with a back injury; then, a rematch with rugged domestic challenger Kenny Anderson imploded when Groves was cut in his 6th round stoppage victory over Francisco Sierra.
As Groves gets set to make his ring return, fighting an opponent along the lines of Anderson—who nearly stopped Groves in their first fight—would be an ideal way to work back towards a title shot after having only fought once in 2012 thus far.
Though bitter rival James DeGale holds the more prestigious European super middleweight title, Groves is at least equal in terms of his development towards being a world-level prizefighter. Wins by both Groves and DeGale in their upcoming bouts could set the stage for a highly anticipated rematch, though it seems likely that they will each spend some time angling separately towards world title opportunities.
At this point, Groves needs to work off his ring rust and hopefully make a statement with a stoppage win. Given that he was set to challenge for a world title after only 14 fights—Groves was 14-0 when slated to fight Stieglitz—a convincing win should put him back on the fast track.
Hardcore fans will get a look at Billy Joe Saunders, who will also fight on the undercard. Saunders, a 2008 Olympian and the current Commonwealth middleweight champion, appears to be a blue chip prospect destined for the European and world-level within the next two years.
As far as quality fight cards with significant future implications go, the December 15th bill in London promises action and intrigue. And it will only become more buzz-worthy as the opponents materialize.