Every apprenticeship comes to an end. Eventually, a promising young fighter has to be put in with an experienced, ambitious fighter determined to upset them. For some, it is a test they aren’t quite ready for. Others thrive. The way they deal with the occasion and opponent catapulting them to a new level.
Ricky Hatton really made people sit up and take notice when he stopped Guiseppe Lauri. Joe Calzaghe became British champion by beating the previously undefeated Mark Delaney. And Naseem Hamed’s humiliation of European champion, Vincenzo Belcastro, still needs to be seen to be believed.
“He’s a great character, he’s funny. Most importantly, he can fight”
There has been hype around Dennis ‘The Menace’ McCann ever since he corkscrew uppercutted his way into the minds of boxing fans as an angel-faced 18-year-old.
McCann has ticked away in the background since, learning and growing. He is now a big, strong super bantamweight, unbeaten in 14 fights and still in possession of that elusive ‘X-Factor’. Now 22, McCann has a million miles to go before he can be mentioned in the same breath as Britain’s greatest fighters. But tonight’s fight with Ionut Baluta might just be the night when he graduates from prospect to potential star. For the latest fight odds, visit our sportsbook.
“He’s trained so well for this. Alan [Smith, his trainer] has got him in tremendous condition. He looks so fit and well. All the hard work he’s put into this he now has to translate into a great performance. And that’s what we’re hoping he does,” Frank Warren told 32Red.
“He’s a great character and he’s funny little sod. Most importantly he can fight.”
There might well be moments this weekend when McCann is forced to fight. There are no surprises from Baluta. The Romanian is a rough, tough operator who will set a fast pace and look to test McCann’s fitness and resolve.
If McCann is found wanting in any of those departments, Baluta will beat him. He has already beaten Brad Foster, Andrew Cain, David Oliver Joyce and TJ Doheny. It is the perfect fight at the perfect time but pitching a promising fighter into a tough fight does come with a little trepidation. Warren weighed up the pro’s and con’s and is certain that McCann is up to the test.
“If Dennis does it early, that’s a real statement”
“The good thing about this is that the trade and boxing public know who this guy is and know what to expect,” Warren said. “If he stops him inside a round, of course I’ll be happy with that because everybody knows the threat Baluta poses and has posed against other British fighters. If Dennis does it early, I think that’s a real statement. Also, I would like to get a few rounds out of it for Dennis. I’d like to see the guy make him think a little bit and set him a few little problems to overcome. I think he’s capable of doing it and I do think he’ll win the fight.”
If McCann does do the business, the path seems clear for a massive domestic showdown with the surging Liam Davies. Davies holds the British and European super bantamweight titles as well as a couple of international straps. He impressively passed the Baluta test last year and has taken his game to an even higher level since, culminating in a one round demolition of the respected Jason Cunningham last month. A fight between Davies and McCann seems easy to make and will elevate the winner into the hunt for world honours.
“If Dennis comes through this there are some big fights to be made domestically before we move on to the world stage but I do think he ticks all the boxes. His domestic rival [Liam Davies] had a fantastic win the other week and did really, really well so Dennis has to go out there and look good too. That fight is going to be a really big one when we make it.”
“Ryan’s a fantastic fighter to watch”
Ryan ‘The Piranha’ Garner also makes his latest appearance this weekend. Unbeaten Garner is another precociously talented fighter but although he too burst onto the scene as a teenager, his path hasn’t been as smooth as McCann’s. Garner (13-0, 7 KO’s) lost his way and has been plagued by inactivity but has found his feet and thrilled his fans by taking apart Eduardo Valverde inside two rounds in May.
Garner finally seems to have realised the potential he possesses. In full flow, he is an all-action aggressive counter puncher and a joy to watch. Garner fights Juan Antunez for his first title against this weekend and if he comes through unscathed, wants to bounce directly into a challenge for the British super featherweight title, currently held by Liam Dillon.
“He could not have had a bigger fan than me,” Warren said of Garner. “He went off the rails a little bit, losing weight at the last minute and fainted a couple of times at weigh ins so I wouldn’t let him fight. I told him that’s not how it works. The bottom line with Ryan is that he seems to have settled down. He’s matured and got a family now so he has responsibilities. Basically it’s the last chance saloon for him. Everybody deserves another chance. We’ve provided him with one and now it’s up to him to seize it with both hands.
“Sometimes you see a young kid and say they have everything but what they haven’t got is a mature brain. Sometimes things are meant to happen for a reason but he’s a fantastic fighter to watch when he’s on form. I love him.
“It’s a really good show. I think there will be a few stars of the future on show.”