On Saturday evening Scotland will have the honour of hosting a World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) show for the first time.
The Hydro in Glasgow will be packed as the quarter-final stage in the light-welterweight and bantamweight tournaments concludes.
The headline bouts feature WBA “Super” 118lb belt holder Ryan Burnett (19-0-0, 9KOs) doing battle with former four weight world champion Nonito Donaire (38-5-0, 24KOs), followed by home favourite Josh Taylor (13-0-0, 11KOs) gloving up against Ryan Martin (22-0-0, 12KOs) in an intriguing 140lb matchup.
For fans seeking value for money, look no further. Increasingly, in this era, promoters make a headline bout then support it with a mediocre undercard and put the show on pay-per-view. By contrast, Saturday's show will give fans the opportunity to see four world class fighters in two high stakes bouts. No PPV in sight either, which is refreshing.
The WBSS has really been embraced by boxing followers – the tournament format is a hit as it means that no politics or sanctioning bodies can prevent the next fight from happening. Just for the record newly crowned IBF titlist Ivan Baranchyk is awaiting the Taylor-Martin winner while the victor between Burnett and Donaire will face hard hitting South African Zolani Tete in the respective semi-finals.
Time to take a closer look at the fare being served up in Glasgow this weekend.
Burnett V Donaire
Hailing from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Ryan Burnett is the number one seed in the bantamweight tournament. The 26-year-old has been a pro since 2013 and boxes in a busy and skillful manner. Rather than looking to blast his opponent out of there (Burnett's last stoppage win was in 2015) the Irishman out-maneuvers and out-lands his opponents while controlling the range. One exception to this was when he fought Zhanat Zhakiyanov last year in a unification bout. Burnett met ZZ's brawling style head on, standing on the inside and beating the Kazakh at his own game on the way to a lop-sided win. A career 118lb fighter, Burnett is expected to advance against an opponent now firmly in the veteran stage of his career, but owing to Donaire's standing in the sport this looks to be Burnett's toughest fight to date.
Nonito Donaire is now 35-years-old but is showing no signs of wanting to stop challenging himself. The Filipino legend was last seen in April of this year giving a good account of himself against Carl Frampton, albeit in a losing effort, in Belfast. That contest took place at 126lbs. Now, Donaire is moving back down two weight classes to have a go at WBSS glory. It's impossible to know how the weight cut will affect him but it is definitely worth considering. A former world title holder in four of the lighter weight classes, Donaire's pedigree is not in doubt. He last boxed in the 118lb division in 2011 – a fact that can't be ignored. Known as “The Filipino Flash” Donaire looked to still possess his speed when I watched him in the arena against Frampton. His power didn't quite translate at featherweight but if he isn't ruined from making weight Donaire may well dazzle us one more time.
Everyone tuning in will be dazzled and amazed by Donaire I feel – but only for about four rounds. I expect a fast start from the veteran as he looks to catch his less experienced opponent cold and possibly go for an early stoppage. Burnett, guided by the savvy Adam Booth will be well prepared for this though and will negotiate his way to the safer waters of the second half of the contest before taking over and advancing to the semi-final via a unanimous points victory.
Taylor V Martin
47 miles east of Glasgow lies Scotland's capital city, Edinburgh. That is where Josh “The Tartan Tornado” Taylor calls home but the journey along the M8 motorway to The Hydro is becoming a regular one for Taylor and his fans. This will be Taylor's third professional bout at the biggest indoor venue in Scotland. He also captured Commonwealth Games gold at The Hydro in 2014 as he wrapped his amateur career up in style. Now a 13 fight professional Taylor has been matched hard and tested often. So far he has come up with the answers. In his early professional outings Taylor could be seen switch-hitting however more recent bouts have seen him settle and prosper in the southpaw stance. With power coming from both wings, Josh mixes his shots to head and body well and in the last 18 months or so has developed a strong inside fighting style. Seeded second in the light-welterweight tournament Taylor is heavily fancied to win at home but, as well as he's been matched so far, the style Martin will present him with is probably one he hasn't been exposed to as yet. This will not be an easy stroll to the semi-final for “The Tartan Tornado.”
Ryan “Blue Chip” Martin hails from Tennessee in the United States and brings a quiet confidence to Scotland with him for this encounter. The fast, athletic, highly skilled boxer is a joy to watch and having stepped up to the 140lb division earlier this year is looking to show that this is his optimum weight class. When Martin gets into full flow his quick punch combinations look smooth and effortless. Also a high pedigree amateur, Martin is not making any brash predictions for fight night – he is simply remaining calm and sticking to his belief that his skill set will pose Taylor a whole set of problems he won't be able to deal with. This quiet confidence makes me think he has true belief in his game plan for Saturday night, and with Abel Sanchez in his corner “Blue Chip” is about to present Taylor with his toughest challenge to date.
A tactical opening to the fight will develop into a back and forth battle which will see plenty of close rounds and skillful boxing. If you are appreciative of clever use of angles, tactical nous and good defence then you don't want to miss this fight. I can't see either undefeated fighter getting stopped so I expect that Taylor will manage to answer enough of the questions posed by Martin well enough to edge out a narrow points decision. It may well be close enough to demand a rematch sometime down the line.
For fans not lucky enough to be attending, the tournament fights from Glasgow will be shown on the WBSS YouTube channel in the UK and on DAZN in America. Other territories should check broadcast details on the WBSS website.
A great night of boxing lies ahead in Scotland on Saturday night. After it's all over we can start looking ahead to the semi-final stage. Hopefully we will be looking back on two memorable fights. In a drinking sense there will be plenty of doubles ordered over the weekend in the bars of Glasgow, I may even indulge in one or two myself. I strongly believe I will be raising my glass to the WBSS double-header and crossing my fingers that they bring their show back to a city near me in the not too distant future.