By Oliver McManus @OliverGMcManus
Ultimate Boxxer III takes place on May 10th, at the O2 Indigo, live on BT Sport. It’s middleweight time and there’s an exciting field of contenders bidding for their share of £50,000… and a brand new golden dressing gown! Let’s get into it – short and snappy style.
It’s Game Time!
Hurn is the second oldest competitor in this tournament at 33 years old and the Clacton-man has been a professional since 2015. Having initially made a flying start with five fights in his opening year – at super welterweight – his career has been stop-start since with just two fights in the last 18 months. The former of those two, against Sonny Whiting, was his first adventure up at middleweight and he secured a fourth round knockout. Six of his ten wins have come via knockout and he’s had one draw, as a professional. In the first round he’ll face Grant Dennis – the most experienced boxer in the bracket.
If he was a board game, he’d be – ‘Shh, don’t wake dad’, fast-paced and explosive action but one wrong move puts you back to square one!
Hailing from Chatham, Kent, Dennis wins the award for being based closest to me and the former Southern Area champion will look to prove he can still mix it with the younger guns in the game. His sole loss, in thirteen bouts, was a close decision reverse to Elliot Matthews in Decembre 2017. Two subsequent contests have seen him shake off the ring rust with a four round points win and first round KO, over Miguel Aguilar and Harry Matthews.The 35 year old has been dropped once, a flash knockdown from Jan Balog, in his career but has built a reputation on out-working his opponents.
Board game – ‘Balderdash’, a classic family favourite that always seems to hiding on the top shelf somewhere. Underappreciated and, perhaps, not as successful as deserved.
Guided by Carl Greaves, the boxing brains behind Ultimate Boxxer, Groombridge has been making a name for himself up in Stoke since turning professional in 2016. This will be his first fight outside of the Potteries but the 26 year old is confident he’ll be one step ahead of his fellow fighters. Going heavy on the research about his potential opponents, Groombridge should have a couple of strategies in his back pocket to nullify their threats but, if it comes to it, he can whack as well. Last April he was dropped twice by Emmanuel Moussinga, getting stopped in the seventh, so perhaps there are some frailties. I imagine Josh will be looking to hit before he gets hit – if that makes sense.
Board game – ‘Risk’, marketed as “the game of strategic conquest” and Groombridge is certainly arriving with a strategy or two.
Groombridge’s opponent in the first round, Sean Phillips enters the tournament having flown completely under the radar. The 22 year old has been developing on the small hall scene of London, taking part on shows promoted by Mo Prior, Mickey Helliet and Andy Ayling, since July 2017. Six fights as a professional have seen him record five victories, being held to a draw by Anthony Fox. Joint tallest in the field, he stands at 6’1” and is a fighter who looks to control the rounds. I’ve seen him twice and he’s always looked comfortably in cruise control but we’ve yet to see how he fares with a fighter throwing back at him. A very talented fighter with potential to upset the odds but perhaps not the right format for him.
Board game – ‘Guess Who?’, felt bad picking this one but Phillips is the least known and, actually, Guess Who is a game that takes time to appreciate the nuances of – much like Phillips!
A firm friend of us here at Big Write Hook, Osaze has been pushing for a big fight ever since he turned professional – initially targeting the Midlands title within 12 months of turning over. The 25 year old pulled of a ‘surprise’ win last year when he fought away in Bristol against Liam Hunt and didn’t drop a round. Training with Barrington Brown and Ekow Essuman, the team around him are known for their ferocious work ethic and Osaze is convinced his natural game will do the talking. I spoke to him a little while ago and he’s “not just got A, B, C covered but D, E and F’.
Board game – ‘Cluedo’, different every time and keeps everyone guessing… and if he wins he’s agreed to a game with myself and Ekow (exclusively for BWH).
Seen by some as the pre-tournament favourite, Tey has garnered the most recent success in the form of the Southern Area title. An injury forced him to push back a contest with Linus Udofia before he vacated the title earlier this year. The 24 year old bounced back well from the only loss of his career, against Nicky Jenman, and looked more mature in subsequent bouts with a desire not to rush anything. Regressing in rounds may feel odd given his last two were scheduled for ten so it’ll be interesting to see what approach he takes. He’ll fight Osaze in the first round.
Board game – ‘Snakes and Ladders’, rolling the dice and hoping he’ll climb the ladder but there’ll be a lot of slippery snakes to be wary of.
32 years old, started boxing when he was 25 after hurting his knee playing football. A late bloomer but determined to get ahead of the game with a win at Ultimate Boxxer. Six professional fights since making his debut in 2017 have seen him record five wins, one draw, all of them on points. A couple of contests have been a little closer than he’d have liked but he’s continually gone away and tweaked at things in the gym. Stepping up to middleweight, having campaigned around 155lbs previously, he’ll face Kieron Conway in the opening round. A tricky, tricky challenge.
Board game – ‘Jenga’, has the potential to send the big-names tumbling down.
The man to beat and the man to put Northampton on the map of the boxing world, no pressure then. Conway has looked impressive since debuting in 2017 and has been granted slots on Matchroom shows, such is his promise. Only time he looked average was against Gino Kanters, but no-one canters to a win against him. Could argue he’s suited to longer rounds but he’s shown he’s got power to finish fights at the turn of a screw and looks to have all the attributes to go a very long way in the sport. Tough to see many beating him at a domestic level, for now, Ultimate Boxxer or not.
Board game – ‘Lord of the Rings’, because that’s what his dad predicts Kieron will be.