IT’S A BIG ‘UN!” – HEDGES PRIMED FOR PRO DEBUT — Takeley Super-Middleweight giant John Hedges isn’t short on confidence ahead of his keenly anticipated professional debut on the undercard of Joshua Buatsi vs. Marko Calic on Sunday October 4, shown live on Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN in the US.
The elusive 6’ 5” southpaw, recently signed to Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, meets Jan Ardon over four rounds on his introduction to the paid ranks following a glittering spell in the amateurs in which he won four National Titles and seven International Titles, amassing an impressive 40 wins from 44 fights.
Known as ‘Gentleman John’, the gifted 18-year-old prospect fights out of the Hoddesdon Boxing Academy in Hertfordshire under the guidance of his trainer Sab Leo, and now finds himself part of a Matchroom stable that boasts two undefeated 168lbs World Champions in Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders.
Essex native Hedges, also guided by Sam Jones of S-JAM Boxing, believes his flashy style is well-suited to the pro game and will help establish him as a fan favourite as he looks to become the latest traveller to make a name for themselves in the squared circle.
“It’s a big ‘un isn’t it!” said Hedges. “My first fight live on Sky Sports on a massive undercard, what more could you ask for? This is where I want to be, and I’ll start as I mean to go on. This is a big show and I hope it brings big things for me.
“I’m buzzing with everything at the moment. Seeing all of the publicity around my signing and my debut is amazing. I’ve got a great following and I’m loving every minute of it. I’ve been in the gym every day training hard so roll on October 4, we’re ready to go.
“Naturally you feel a bit of pressure. Being this young it’s all new to me. Any young fighter will say it’s natural pressure from being put on the big stage live on Sky Sports. I’m getting put in at the deep end and I think I’ll shine brighter because of it.
“Some people crumble under pressure but I believe this is the best way I could have gone about things, going straight in at the deep end and into the limelight. I want to be the best prospect in Britain. That’s my main aim for now.
“I honestly believe that I will become a World Champion one day. I will get to that level. I’m not in a rush. I’ve got to prove myself, and October 4 is the first step of my mission. I’m going to take things step-by-step. When the opportunities present themselves, I’m going to take them as quickly as I can.”
Udofia vs. Harding Jr
Linus Udofia insists that all of the pressure is on John Harding Jr ahead of their ten round battle for the English Middleweight crown on the Buatsi vs. Calic undercard this Sunday October 4, shown live on Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN in the US.
Luton’s Udofia (15-0, 7 KOs) won the English Title, his first major belt, with a majority decision against Tyler Denny at York Hall in November last year, and the 27-year-old is in a supremely confident mood ahead of what will be his first defence against Brixton’s Harding Jr.
Undefeated in 15 fights, the Steve Goodwin-managed talent, trained by Terry Steward at the J.E.T Boxing and Fitness Centre in Epping, believes his class will show against the Dillian Whyte-backed 36-year-old, who fell short in an attempt for the English Title against Jack Cullen back in August 2019.
“This is a fight where I get to showcase how good I am and why I’m a champion at this weight,” said Udofia. “I’ll show what level I’m at and then move on to bigger and better things. Right now, I’ve got to defend this Title first, and this is a massive opportunity for me. You can’t get a bigger platform than this and I’m going to grab it with both hands.
“I don’t feel any pressure. I’ve won this belt, I’ve got to defend it, and I’ve got to show everyone why I won this belt. John competed for the belt before and he wasn’t successful. All of the pressure is on him to come and get it the second time. I’m all good, I’m the champion, and I’ve got to show everyone why I’m the champion.
“I understand that everyone has got to hype themselves up in a certain way. It’s always good to see ‘Pester Superstar’ pop up and say something crazy. I look at it, have a laugh with my mates and get back to focusing on me. It’s good to see that he’s watching me all of the time.
“We had a couple of spars; he was with Leon McKenzie and I don’t really even remember what happened. He can have 2-0 in sparring if he wants, I’ll take the win in the actual fight. He can have sparring, I don’t care. By beating him I just want to show that he’s not on the same level as me. I’m a champion and he isn’t. I want to show that and move on from there.”
HARDING JR: HE AIN’T GOT HEART LIKE ME!
John Harding Jr is aiming to win the English Middleweight Title at the second time of asking when he clashes with Luton’s undefeated Linus Udofia in the opening bout of tomorrow night’s show at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, shown live on Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN in the US.
‘Pester Superstar’ (8-1-1, 2 KOs) turned his life around after being released from prison for a third time in 2015 – and he says his journey is only just beginning with Heavyweight contender Dillian Whyte in his corner.
The Brixton fighter fell short in his first attempt at winning the English Title in August 2019 when he was stopped in eight rounds by Little Lever’s Jack Cullen at the Exhibition Centre in Liverpool after taking the fight at short notice.
Harding Jr has been training alongside his manager Whyte in Portugal as ‘The Body Snatcher’ prepares for his huge rematch with Alexander Povetkin on Saturday November 21, and with a longer camp behind him, the 36-year-old is predicting he will become the first man to defeat Udofia.
“My heart separates us,” said Harding Jr. “He ain’t got heart like me. He ain’t fearsome like me. He hasn’t been through what I’ve been through. He might have more experience than me in the ring, but there’s things that have happened outside of the ring that have given me so much experience.
“My heart is too big. I’m not going to back down. I’m a real champion. I know there’s going to be an opportunity for me to land, and when I do land cleanly, he’ll go down. I visualise myself stopping him and the ref waving it off.
“I go into this fight with no fear in me, I know what I have to do to win and I will. I am going to stop him, maximum violence! Linus Udofia is tailor-made for me. He has a bag of tricks but nothing that concerns me, he has cherry-picked his opponents on his way to winning the title which is also why he is still unbeaten. This time he has picked the wrong opponent.
“With Linus we know he’s going to come and box. He’s going to be tight on the back foot, move and do his little fake Lomachenko thing. I know what to expect from him, but he doesn’t know what to expect from me. I’m expecting war because I’m bringing the war. Hopefully he expects that because I’m going to leave it all in the ring. This is going to be fight of the night.”
Baker vs Fiaz
Kane Baker has dispelled rumours that he is emotionally attached to Aqib Fiaz as the Super-Featherweight rivals prepare to collide in a spicy grudge match on the Joshua Buatsi vs. Marko Calic undercard on Sunday October 4, live on Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN in the US.
Baker (13-6) was left bitterly disappointed after his golden opportunity on the big stage was ripped away from him at the last moment when Matchroom new boy Fiaz was pulled from their eight-round contest on the eve of the fight, with the 21-year-old’s team deeming him unfit to box.
“It was an emotional week for me really,” said Baker. “My older brothers were on the phone to me while I was in the bubble. I had to say my goodbyes to their dad before he had his life support machine turned off which was weird, hard and very upsetting for me. He was looking forward to watching my fight.
“There’s been a lot going around about me being emotional and emotionally attached to Fiaz. I was more emotionally attached to fighting in Eddie’s garden. I also had emotions in my personal life. I had a little rant after the fight was pulled and I don’t know how that came across because I was a bit emotional.
“I thought to myself, ‘shit, I hope I haven’t let myself down by being a bit emotional, upset and angry’. I had a bit of a rant at him which was all just in the heat of the moment. When Jamie Moore said I was emotionally attached to the Aqib Fiaz fight, he was wrong, it was 100% was nothing to do with Fiaz.
“Fiaz has got the chance to come again, but I’ll tell you now, if I wasn’t well and I pulled out of the fight, I wouldn’t be sat here today getting my chance again. That’s a fact. I’ve had a lot of people message me, there’s more support for me out there now after what happened.
“I’ve heard that he did a lot of that kind of thing in the amateurs, missing weight. He had things his own way in the amateurs and if he wasn’t ready to fight then the fights got pulled. He’s known for it. This is what I’ve been told. I know in my heart of hearts what I believe.”
Former Midlands Area Lightweight Champion Baker, trained by Paul Mann at the BCB Gym, is even more fired up following his Fight Camp heartache, and the 30-year-old is promising to inflict a first career defeat on Oldham prospect Fiaz.
“I’m absolutely buzzing it’s back on. Matchroom and Eddie Hearn stuck to their word. It was a hard wait waiting for the new date but they stuck to their word and I’m back out again. I’m in the same position, but there’s much more interest in the fight this time.
“I’m ready to go straight away. We know the tactics and the plan. It could all go out of the window, and I could just go back to all I know which is having a good tear up! Either way, this fight is going to get 110% of me.
“I’m going to leave everything in that ring. I know the job at hand. I’m not going to lose sleep over it. I know what I’ve got to do. I know my strengths, and I’m going to show them on Sunday. That should be enough. Aqib, please turn up mate!”
Fiaz vs. Baker is part of a big night of action that sees Croydon’s rising Light-Heavyweight star Joshua Buatsi (12-0, 10 KOs) defend his WBA International Title against undefeated Croat Marko Calic (11-0, 6 KOs), Chantelle Cameron (12-0, 7 KOs) lands a World Title shot in her very first bout as a Matchroom fighter as she takes on Brazil’s Adriana Dos Santos Araujo (6-0, 1 KO) for the vacant WBC Super-Lightweight crown, ‘The Savage’ Alen Babic (4-0, 4 KOs) returns to the UK looking to impress again as he locks horns with Irishman Niall Kennedy (13-1-1, 8 KOs) in an eight round Heavyweight contest, Luton’s Linus Udofia (15-0, 7 KOs) puts his English Middleweight Title on the line for the first time against Dillian Whyte-backed Brixton man John Harding Jr (8-1-1, 2 KOs) and recent Matchroom signing John Hedges make his pro debut at Super-Middleweight.
Aqib Fiaz has signed a multi-fight promotional deal with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing
Trained by renowned coach Jamie Moore at the VIP Gym in Astley alongside two-weight World Champion Carl Frampton and former WBA Super-Middleweight ruler Rocky Fielding, Oldham’s Fiaz is rapidly improving with every fight and has already amassed an impressive following in his hometown.
He made the decision to turn professional in March 2019 following a successful stint in the amateur code in which he represented his country at the Senior level twice. In 75 amateur bouts, Fiaz won nine Area Titles and a National Youth Title at 60kg in 2017.
Fiaz fulfilled a life-long dream when he fought at Manchester Arena last month on the undercard of Jono Carroll vs. Scott Quigg, earning a shutout points with over Dean Jones to move to 5-0, and the 20-year-old is hoping for more big nights in the North West following his link-up with Matchroom.
“I’ve worked my whole life for a deal like this,” said Fiaz. “I’d like to thank Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing. I can’t thank them enough for giving me this opportunity. I’m only 20-years-old and I’m already being trained by one of the best trainers in the country in Jamie Moore. Now on top of that, I’ve been signed to the best boxing promoters in the world.
“I’m really excited and I can’t wait to get back out there and cracking on with the next chapter of my career. I feel like a caged animal with this isolation and I’m ready to go now. I’m still training in my garage at home, keeping fit and ready to make my big Matchroom debut later this year.
“I’m a come-forward pressure fighter and I’ve always studied the likes of Michael Gomez, Ricky Hatton, and Jamie Moore. I can also box as well because I boxed for England, I’ve boxed at a high level as an amateur and there’s a lot of sides to my game that I haven’t shown in the ring yet.
“I started boxing around the age of eleven which was when I had my first fight. I was very overweight as a kid. At first, it was all about losing weight, but I ended up falling in love with the sport. I lost my first amateur fight but I enjoyed the competition, being punched in the face and punching someone back.
“I was first invited to the VIP Gym as a sparring partner for Carl Frampton when he boxed Josh Warrington. From there I asked Jamie if he’d like to train me and he said yes. I’ve been there since the beginning of 2019 and I’m constantly improving. I’m learning loads from Carl, Jack, and Rocky and soaking it all up.
“Dillian Whyte vs. Alexander Povetkin is the next show in Manchester, so I’d love to get on that one for my first fight with Eddie. It’s absolutely massive and one of the shows that I’d be at as a fan if I wasn’t boxing. You’ve got Katie Taylor vs. Amanda Serrano and Callum Johnson in a European Title fight. If I’m on that then it will be the icing on the cake.”
“I’m delighted to add exciting Super-Featherweight prospect Aqib Fiaz to our growing stable of talent,” said Eddie Hearn. “I was very impressed with his performance on the Jono Carroll vs. Scott Quigg undercard last month and Jamie Moore has been raving about his talents for a while. It always helps to be a big-ticket seller in this game and Aqib has already got a huge following in Oldham. I’m looking forward to watching his career develop over the next few years.”
You can follow Aqib’s journey on Twitter: @AqibFiazBoxing and Instagram: aqib_fiaz