By Sina Latif @_sina93
On Saturday June 15, former super-welterweight world title challenger and British middleweight champion Jason Welborn (24-7, 7 KOs) will face James ‘JJ’ Metcalf (19-0, 11 KOs) for the vacant Commonwealth super-welterweight championship at the First Direct Arena in Leeds.
This interesting 12 rounder will be taking place on the undercard of the IBF world featherweight championship fight between champion Josh Warrington and mandatory challenger, Kid Galahad. It will be Welborn’s first outing since his brave world title loss to former IBF and WBA world super-welterweight champion Jarrett Hurd on December 1 on the Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury pay-per-view undercard.
Welborn put up a great performance against Hurd, constantly backing the champion up to the ropes with power shots, before being hammered with a big body shot by the bigger man, and Welborn struggled to beat the count.
Welborn had five successive victories prior to that loss to Hurd, an established fighter who despite his recent loss to new unified 154lbs champion Julian ‘J-Rock’ Williams, boasts wins over the likes of Erislandy Lara, Tony Harrison and Austin Trout. Sharing a ring with a fighter of that calibre is unparalleled experience for Welborn in comparison to Metcalf.
Welborn beat Tommy Langford in May 2018 to become British middleweight champion and then defended successfully in a rematch in September. Metcalf, nicknamed “Kid Shamrock”, is a 30 year old from Liverpool who is still waiting to fight somebody noteworthy and have his breakthrough. However, both men share one desire… to prove themselves on the big stage.
On the occasions when Welborn has been in big fights, he has fallen short. Aside from the Hurd fight, he lost to Frankie Gavin when challenging for the british welterweight title in 2013, was unsuccessful against Liam Smith when challenging for the same title at super-welterweight in 2014, and lost to Matthew Macklin in a game effort in 2015.
Though neither fighter, Welborn or Metcalf, provide the other with the chance to shine on the world stage, they do give each other a springboard in order to do so in the near future.
This is definitely Welborn’s aim ahead of this clash. The 32-year-old said: “I felt I belonged at world level when I boxed Hurd and that is where I want to get back to in the next 12 months. JJ is a good prospect, a strong fighter and the kind of style I like to face so I won’t have to go looking for him. It is a great fight for me after the world title challenge, there is something to gain and it is on one of Frank Warren’s big cards of the year.”
Likewise, Metcalf shares these aspirations. He stated: “I’ve not reached my peak yet, but these are the sort of tests I need at this stage of my career. I have been a prospect for too long, but now is the time to start winning big titles and getting to world level.”
Metcalf has never tasted defeat and has the advantage of momentum on his side. In his last outing, he KO’d Santos Medrano in the 8th round. The issue is that Medrano’s record going into the bout was W10-L63-D5. Metcalf has stopped his last five opponents, and three of them five opponents have significantly more defeats than victories on their records.
This is not necessarily discredit aimed at Metcalf. Perhaps the Liverpool fighter has been waiting for the perfect opportunity to follow in the footsteps of his father, Shea Neary, a former world-class super-lightweight.
In contrast, Welborn put up a good fight against a fighter who was considered a pound-for-pound contender. Although Metcalf is the man yet to taste defeat, perhaps he is the fighter entering new territory. Many fighters and fans live for the big fights. The fights involving the stars of the sport in world title fights. Unifications. The fights for undisputed supremacy.
Fights like this which go under the radar, are perhaps the most pivotal. The journey of a fighter who reaches the big stage is always the most intriguing element surrounding them. How their story has resulted in their success. Whatever happens, it’s fights like this, which largely go unnoticed, that have monumental importance on the careers and lives of both men.
Win and you are on track to reach them nights that a lot of fighters and fans live for. Lose, and them dreams may be gone forever.