By Anthony Cocks
The undercard of Jeff “The Hornet” Horn’s maiden WBO welterweight world title defence against Britain’s Gary “Hellraiser” Corcoran at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre on 13 December is taking shape with some of Australia’s top talent getting the opportunity to showcase their skills to a worldwide audience on ESPN in the United States and BoxNation in the UK.
While the little-known Corcoran 17-1 (7) is the WBO Intercontinental titleholder and holds the WBO number 10 position at welterweight, few people outside of Britain have seen him fight. The 27-year-old traveler’s only loss came outside his natural weight class at 154-pounds against Liam Williams in the 11th round.
Against the 17-0-1 (11) Horn, Corcoran will be more evenly matched in a physical sense and has the chance to change the course of his life if he can secure the win at The Battle of Brisbane 2. More importantly for the fans, he has a come-forward style that will mesh well with Horn’s own aggressive style of power boxing.
“This one has crowd pleaser written all over it,” said Stuart Duncan, matchmaker for Duco Events. “Corcoran has an engaging style and the Hornet won’t have to go looking for him. When we were scanning the world top 15 rankings we most definitely weren’t looking for the easiest opponent – we were looking for someone who could present an exciting challenge. Remember our first choice was Jessie Vargas who couldn’t take the fight as he was in promotional dispute. Sure, Bradley Skeete wanted the fight but as a matchmaker Skeete’s unorthodox style isn’t exactly fan friendly and with Jeff coming off a career best performance against Manny Pacquiao we want to keep the fans enthralled and build on the momentum – thus Corcoran it was.
“I mean have a look at his record – he has faced four undefeated opponents in his last six outings, registering wins against three of them. One of those undefeated opponents was 21-0 and in his last outing he had an impressive win over the highly regarded Larry Ekundayo in a fight many pundits were tipping he would lose. Both boxers have similar vital statistics in similar height, fights and rounds boxed in total. Both are relatively young in boxing terms and this one for mine is the perfect storm and a fight that may well go down to the wire.”
Featherweight Nathaniel “Cheeky” May 18-1 (10) from Bunbury in Western Australia is one of Australia’s hidden talents. The 22-year-old with the silky-smooth moves has quietly climbed the IBF rankings to number seven and has the opportunity to steal the show when he takes on undefeated Brazilian Aelio “Biro” Mesquita 16-0 (14).
“Nathaniel May is stepping up for the most important fight in his career to date as he prepares to face the undefeated rugged Brazilian puncher in Aelio Mesquita who has stopped all but two of his opponents to date inside the distance,” said Duncan. “Nathaniel is now rated number seven in the world with the IBF and this fight is for the IBF International title – so with a win he could be one fight away from a world title shot.
“Nathaniel knows everything is on the line with this one and I believe he has the boxing skills to outbox Mesquita and his coach Peter Stokes has been working on how to counter Mesquita’s style while polishing up Nathaniel’s defensive skills. Again this one will have the fans on the edges of their seats for as long as it lasts.”
Super middleweight Rohan “No Mercy” Murdock 20-1 (15) got his career back on track with a third-round stoppage of Tanzanian Said Mbelwa on the undercard of Dennis Hogan’s WBO Oriental 154-pound title defence against Yuki Nonaka last October. Murdock, who was once ranked as high as number six in the world, had been out of action for a year due to injuries sustained in a road accident followed by a hand injury suffered in the gym. His next fight will be against the capable Apti Ustarkhanov 15-2-3 (5) of Russia.
“Rohan Murdock has his work cut out for him as he prepares for Russian Apti Ustarkhanov who hasn’t been stopped in his 20 fights to date,” said Duncan. “You have to go back to 2015 to find his last loss which was to world title contender Dmitry Sukhotsky who he lost to on a split points decision. He is coming off a first-round knockout win in May and will be full of confidence.
“Rohan on the other hand has had a period of inactivity (12 months) resulting from a vehicle accident and will need to rely on his height and reach advantage and overall skills if he is to get the better of Apti. Like May, Rohan knows there is plenty on the line with this one as it is for a WBO regional title which will result in the winner entering the WBO’s top 15 world rankings.
“American promoter Bob Arum, President at Top Rank, has already mooted that Murdock could be in line for a world title shot against Gilberto Ramirez in Australia next year if he is successful. Top Rank have a close affiliation with Duco and are co-promoters of this event.”
Super featherweight Paul “Showtime” Fleming 24-0 (16) takes on seasoned campaigner Vergil Puton 17-8 (8) from the Philippines. The 29-year-old Sydney southpaw, originally from Tully in Far North Queensland, will be looking to make a statement against the Filipino “Strongman” who has never been stopped.
“Paul Fleming has been relatively inactive having only boxed four rounds over the last 18 months and is set to face the Filipino they call the Strongman in Vergil Puton,” said Duncan. “While Puton has lost a few fights – you have to look a bit deeper into his record and you will see that he has already faced five undefeated fighters in his 25 fight career – yet he has NEVER been stopped, while Paul has never faced one [an undefeated boxer] in his 24 fight career.
“This speaks in volumes for Puton who enters this fight the distinct underdog – however it wouldn’t surprise me if this one went the distance in an engaging battle. Paul had a stellar amateur career and is undefeated as a professional in 24 outings. He is coming of two KO wins and will need to use this power if he is to keep the Strongman at bay.”
Another boxer who made his comeback on the Hogan-Nonaka card, former heavyweight world title challenger Alex “The Lionheart” Leapai 31-7-3 (25), will square up against Perth’s Roger Izonritei 12-6 (11).
“Alex Leapai is on the comeback trail and looking to get back into the mix but has a tough fight against Roger Izonritei who in his last fight took the undefeated Patrick Eneanya seven rounds and is a bit of a surprise package,” said Duncan. “He has a massive 5-inch height and reach advantage and knows how to make the best use of it. Alex is going to have to try to get on the inside if he is to control the flow of this one. This one will be exciting as the two big fellas go at it for as long as it lasts. Both are going to be lunging with bombs in an entertaining fight.”
Rounding out the card will be undefeated junior welterweight “Merciless” Jose Benavidez 25-0 (16) of the USA up against Zsigmond Vass 14-6 (3) of Hungary. The talented Benavidez was last in action in July last year when he defeated Francisco Santana on points over 10 rounds on the Terrence Crawford versus Viktor Postol undercard at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV.
“Top Rank have former WBA Interim super lightweight champion Jose Benavidez appearing on the card against Hungarian Zsigmond Vass,” said Duncan. “Benavidez has been out of the ring for 15 months and will be looking to shake of the rust against the game Hungarian. The 22-year-old Vass has fought seven times in 2017 including contesting for the WBC World Youth title. He will need to put in a career best performance if he is to stand a chance against Benavidez, though the lengthy period of inactivity won’t work in his favour.”
Other boxers likely to appear on the card include former female world champion “Shotgun” Shannon O’Connell 15-6-1 (7) and the always entertaining Leonardo Zappavigna 36-3 (26)