Hamzah Sheeraz faces Liam Williams at London’s Copper Box Arena on Saturday night and our boxing expert Chris Oliver brings you his preview and tips.
1pt Hamzah Sheeraz to win in round 5-8 at 5/2 (Sky Bet)
1pt Reece Bellotti to win by stoppage at 15/8 (Coral)
Hamzah Sheeraz faces the biggest test of his promising career to date against Liam Williams in a classic crossroads fight on Saturday night.
The scenario of prospect against veteran is almost as old as boxing itself, where a younger man on the up tackles a more experienced foe deemed to be on the slide, and all the usual questions apply to this main event at London’s Copper Box Arena on TNT Sports. How much does Williams have left? Is Sheeraz stepping up too soon?
According to the bookmakers, the answer to the latter question is a definite ‘no’ as Sheeraz is a heavy 2/9 favourite to inflict a fifth career defeat on Williams, who is as big as 4/1.
One of Britain’s brightest young talents, Sheeraz has a perfect 18-fight record (14 early) and arrives on a run of 12 straight knockouts. The 24-year-old has really flourished since stepping up to middleweight, winning all four outings at 160lb before the halfway point and three of those came inside two rounds.
Williams (25-4-1) is a former world title challenger who returns to headlining on the back of two routine early stoppage victories, but the concern is the damage he received in back-to-back defeats prior to those wins.
After a pair of losses to Liam Smith at 154lb in 2017, Williams impressively rattled off seven-straight knockout wins when moving up to middleweight and earned a shot at WBO champion Demetrius Andrade in April 2021. The challenger was dropped early doors on his way to a wide points defeat that night, before suffering a similar fate when taking on Chris Eubank Jr in Cardiff 10 months later. While he did well enough in the rounds that he stayed on his feet, Williams hit the canvas in four separate sessions en route to another unanimous decision reverse and all the clues point towards his punch resistance being on the wane.
That could spell trouble against Sheeraz, who is huge for the weight and looks to be really developing his ‘man strength’ now. His 6’3” frame has really filled out since stepping up and he seems to be hitting harder with each outing as he continues to improve.
River Wilson-Bent (13-1 at the time) had never been down before but was dismantled inside a couple of rounds by Sheeraz in their Commonwealth title fight, while the previously unbeaten Dmytro Mytrofanov suffered the same outcome as the Slough native looked better than ever when last seen in August.
Boasting a long reach, Sheeraz’s ram rod jab is a serious weapon in its own right and that lead left hand is followed by heavy power shots, the kind that none of his opponents at middleweight have been able to stand up to so far. He throws everything with bad intentions from the get-go and will be looking to pick up where he left off in the summer with another fast start.
At his best, Williams is a smart boxer-puncher who does his best work on the front foot and he will need to get inside the long levers of Sheeraz to land his own power shots. However, in order to do that, he must put himself in the firing line and that could land him in trouble.
Williams’ only inside-the-distance defeat came due to a bad cut in his first tussle with Smtih and he has never been stopped in the traditional sense, but Frank Warren and his team appear to have got their timing right here and Sheeraz could be too big and fresh for the underdog.
Sheeraz is 4/7 to halt his man and that seems fair enough, but the better value may come in the round group betting and I like him to get the job done in rounds 5-8 at 5/2 with Sky Bet. Whereas Andrade and Eubank failed to sustain their attacks when they had Williams in trouble, I don’t expect a hungry and heavy-handed Sheeraz to do the same here. The favourite has a taste for destruction and looks to be getting Williams at the right time.
There is also a ‘Nxt Gen’ show from the Indigo at the O2 Arena on DAZN and the main event has a similar crossroads feel to it.
The unbeaten Liam Dillon puts his British super featherweight title on the line against Commonwealth champion Reece Bellotti, a 33-year-old who recorded a career-best victory over Aqib Fiaz last time out.
Belotti (17-5) lost five out of seven fights between 2018 and 2021, but split decision defeats to Ryan Walsh and Francesco Grandelli could have gone either way, while taking on Ray Ford (TKO3) was always going to be a big ask. However, he upset the previously unbeaten Fiaz in fine style last time out as he forced trainer Jamie Moore to rescue his highly-regarded prospect late in the eighth round.
Dillon took his record to 13-0-1 when surviving the late charge of Qais Ashfaq to win the British title via a split decision last summer and he is now given a chance to shine in front of the cameras in his biggest fight to date.
Both men like to get on with things and this has the potential to be an all-action thriller, in which Bellotti edges favouritism at 8/11 while Dillon is available at 11/8.
Cases can be made for both men and another decision victory for Dillon would come as no surprise, but he has just three knockouts to his name and may struggle to keep off the in-form veteran in the opposite corner. ‘Bomber’ Bellotti has stopped 14 of his 17 victims and I am backing him to get the job done before the final bell again at 7/4.
Posted at 1120 GMT on 09/02/24
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