Edwards, Buatsi, Okolie and Ritson all win at the Copper Box as the next generation of UK fighters continue to make their mark.

Boxing gloves
Even these free google image ‘gloves in ring’ have given up on an AJ/Wilder fight.

Charlie Edwards defended his newly won WBC flyweight title with a dominating and unanimous points decision over Spaniard Angel Moreno on Saturday night at the Copper Box Arena. Headlining his first show ever, Edwards who came into the spotlight with an emotionally charged victory back in late December on the Whyte/Chisora 2 card, defended his WBC strap with impressive ease.

In recent months the story of Edwards’ mother, who after a long battle with cancer was also inflicted with bleeding on the brain, has come to light and in turn made an increasing amount of the public aware of the personal battle Edwards has had to wage for the past couple of years. His both heartbreaking and joyful reaction to finally winning a world championship back in December raised his profile to the point where he is now a viable option to headline Sky Sports Saturday Boxing and perhaps pay-per-view in the future. Edwards, who says he has been motivated by his mother’s suffering, will now look to unify the division and perhaps bring the flyweight division into the public eye a little more on UK shores.

Also on Saturday’s card was light heavyweight prospect Joshua Buatsi, who brutally took apart Liam Conroy in three rounds to win the British title. Stopping a brave Conroy with a flush right hand in the third, Buatsi continues to go from strength to strength and many will claim that after just ten fights he is more than ready for world level. Whoever his next opponent is it looks likely he will fight on the Joshua/Miller June 1 Madison Square Garden card, which will help raise Buatsi’s profile across the pond, where so many huge fights are being made on what seems like a weekly basis.

Many back here in the UK will hope that sooner rather than later Buatsi will face fellow light heavy UK rising star Anthony Yarde, which if promoted and built properly, would be a huge domestic showdown between two of the hottest prospects in UK boxing. Though, Yarde at present is looking further afield as he has been ordered to face Sergey Kovalev for the Russian’s WBO title, which is a huge step up for the London based fighter. If the fight is made and Yarde upsets the odds and snatches Kovalev’s title away then a Yarde/Buatsi fight in the future, again if built up properly, could easily fill a medium sized stadium at least.

Next on the bill was cruiserweight Lawrence Okolie who squashed yet another domestic beef by stopping Wadi Camacho in four rounds, unifying the British and Commonwealth titles in doing so. Though critiqued in recent fights for an uneasy on the eye style, Okolie is extremely powerful at cruiserweight and looks a level or two above domestic level even in this early stage of his career. A couple of huge right hands swiftly ended proceedings at the Copper Box and even though Okolie’s new coach Barry Robinson was unhappy with his performance in the first round, it was another job routinely done for ‘The Sauce’.

Okolie claimed after the fight that he is ‘done’ with the UK scene after just 12 bouts and much like Yarde may look to jump straight to world level as his next step. Okolie’s promoter Eddie Hearn has hinted that they may decide to take a huge risk and challenge Denis Lebedev for his world title, with Hearn claiming it’s a ‘good time’ to face the long time WBA champ as he on the decline at the age of 39. Whether that’s the case or not, skipping the tradition route of European level would be a gamble but looking at Okolie’s sheer power and dominance at the weight, it’s one that could very well pay off.

Also fighting on Saturday night was Lewis Ritson, who is looking to rebuild his career after a damaging hometown defeat to Francesco Patera back in October. The Geordie hero moved up to super lightweight for his unanimous points win over German Benitez at the Copper Box. Ritson, who is now the WBA inter-continental champion, claimed that despite being disappointed not to force a stoppage that he was happy to get some substantial rounds in at his new weight.

Ritson looked much more comfortable than he did six months ago versus Patera, where in front of a raucous home crowd his energy levels let him down badly in the second half of the fight. So moving up from lightweight to super lightweight already looks like a productive decision that should see Ritson back in big fights soon enough.

With so much money being thrown about for fights over the pond it’s good to see a healthy batch of UK fighters, across stables and TV networks, coming through. And nights like these at the Copper Box are a great demonstration of how far UK boxing has come in the past five years or so. And the four names fighting on Saturday night will very likely all be household names on the UK boxing scene in the next few years.


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