Boxing fans have plenty to keep them interested over the summer on both sides of the Atlantic with some intriguing bouts taking place this June.
Returns to the ring, pugilists stepping up in weight category and tasty title bouts ensure it’ll be another compelling month of competition between the ropes. What are the highlights to look forward to then? Here are five boxing battles to watch out for in June.
Former world heavyweight champ Tyson Fury looks to overcome two-and-a-half years out of boxing with his return to active competition on June 9. A hometown crowd for the Brit at the Manchester Arena and an unnamed opponent – who will doubtless be carefully selected by promoter Frank Warren to help shake off any ring rust from his new client – looks like a great recipe for a successful comeback.
Fury was last seen in the ring when dethroning Ukraine’s boxing legend Wladimir Klitschko for most of the major heavyweight belts in boxing back at the end of November 2015. The Gypsy King toppled Klitschko via a unanimous points decision at the ESPRIT arena in Dusseldorf, Germany.
A failed drugs test then meant Fury was forced to vacate the straps as he lost his boxing license and accepted a backdated ban. He’s turned his life around since, however, and lost weight training at ex-British boxer Ricky Hatton’s gym in Manchester. We’ll soon find out if the old magic is still there for Fury.
The long-term aim is to get back in the heavyweight title picture – a division Fury’s fellow British boxer Anthony Joshua has taken by storm in his absence. In order to get closer to an all-English encounter with AJ, Fury must show he has exorcized his personal demons and get his in-ring career back on track with a much-anticipated victory here.
The vacant WBO world super lightweight belt is up for grabs on the Fury comeback undercard in Manchester too! Another hometown fighter, Terry Flanagan steps up to the 140lbs weight class for the first time and puts his undefeated streak only the line against American opponent Maurice Hooker.
British southpaw Flanagan has won 13 of 33 victorious bouts by knockout and boasts the longest unbeaten run of any active boxer in the UK. He’s a long odds-on favorite with bookmakers to defeat Hooker, who is also yet to lose in the paid ranks.
You may remember Texan pugilist Hooker’s controversial points draw with Darleys Perez in Las Vegas back in November 2016. That’s one of three pro bouts he’s featured in that split the judges, but he has also knocked out 16 of his 26 opponents and won 23 bouts.
Despite that strong record, Hooker is a big betting outsider for the Flanagan fight on what is his first time in a professional match outside the Americas. This super lightweight (or junior/light welterweight) debut for Flanagan looks his for the taking, especially with home-field advantage.
Australia’s Jeff Horn makes his second defense of the WBO welterweight title against Terence Crawford of the USA at that most popular of boxing venues, the MGM Grand in Vegas on the night of June 9/10. Both boxers are unbeaten, so something’s got to give.
Nebraska native Crawford has been a world champion in two different weight classes already but steps up to welterweight proper after vacating his super lightweight straps. He’s taken 23 of his 32 wins via knockout.
With fast hands, a strong defense and switch-hitting also in his locker, Crawford is a hot betting favorite with Oddschecker to take the title off his opponent from Down Under. Despite a resume that includes his unanimous points win over Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao in his penultimate bout, Horn is a huge outsider to deny Bud taking the belt.
Horn has never fought outside of Australia and New Zealand as a professional, although he did box as an amateur at the London Olympics of 2012. Many other names mentioned here took this route before turning pro. Horn has one draw and 18 wins in the paid ranks, two-thirds of which have come by knockout.
Staying stateside and in the welterweight division, Errol Spence Jr also makes the second defense of his IBF strap when he travels down from his native Long Island down to Texas to tackle fellow unbeaten boxer Carlos Ocampo on June 16.
The Mexican is six years younger than The Truth but boasts similar in-ring experience in terms of pro fights. Having dethroned Kell Brook in his hometown of Sheffield last May, however, Spence Jr has certainly fought in more high-profile bouts.
Ocampo could be an unexposed talent, though has jumped the queue for an IBF title shot somewhat as he should have faced Konstantin Ponomarev at the tail end of last year in an eliminator. The Russian boxer pulled out of the fight, however, and it was called off thus elevating the youngster to number one contender and mandatory challenger.
All but three of American southpaw Spence Jr’s 23 victories have come by knockout with two opponents – including Lamont Peterson last time out – retiring. Ocampo, meanwhile, has had 22 fights with Chema landing 13 by KO. The stronger form lies with Bud going into this bout in Frisco.
British middleweight Billy Joe Saunders makes the fourth defense of the WBO belt against fellow UK fighter Martin Murray at The O2 Arena in London on June 23. Despite not boasting as much in-ring experience, BJS is a very strong betting favorite to win again.
Saunders is taking on another Brit who has fought in some very elevated company. Murray’s last three losses have come against George Groves and Arthur Abraham at super middleweight and division kingpin Gennady Golovkin.
There is no shame in any of those defeats, but a chequered pro record of 36 wins (17 by knockout), four losses and a draw from 41 fights leaves St Helens native Murray completely unfancied to win this bout. BJS has beaten the best the British Isles can offer in the 154-160lb category, meanwhile, and his 26 pro victories include decision win over Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan and Chris Eubank Jr.
With Saunders, it’s not always about knocking his opponent out as less than half (12) of his fight have ended that way. A hand injury sustained in training by the southpaw has slightly delayed this fight by several weeks – it was originally scheduled for April 14 – but that hasn’t affected the market in the slightest.