TOP OF the bill at York Hall on Friday (March 22) features Streatham southpaw Chris Bourke facing Ashley Lane (Northampton) for the British bantamweight title vacated by Sean McGoldrick.

Lane, bidding to become the first from Northampton to wear the Lonsdale Belt, gets his chance at 33 years old after upsetting in-form Jordan Purkiss for the English title last June, forcing him to retire after seven one-sided rounds.

That was Lane’s first stoppage win for a decade and possibly the best performance of a career that includes a spell as Commonwealth champion up at 122lbs. His reign was ended by Lichfield’s Brad Foster in 12 rounds in Stevenage in May 2019.

Foster defended the British title that night and Bourke also makes his second bid for the domestic championship having missed out on a previous bid at super-bantamweight. Bourke broke his left hand in the third round of his clash with Salford southpaw Marc Leach two years ago, an injury that ruled him out for 11 months.

Bourke has had three competitive fights since returning.

Darwing Martinez came out swinging and bloodied Bourke’s nose before being stopped in three, then Bourke got his feet moving in the second half of a six-rounder against the willing Kevin Trana to win on points and took out Tanzania’s Adam Mbega with a well-placed left hook to the body.

Lane has picked up on the fact that Bourke weighed 120 ½lbs (twice) and 121lbs for those three fights, so has yet to make the 118lbs bantamweight limit.

From the Peacock gym, Bourke says this will be the first time he has had more than four weeks’ notice to make 118lbs.

The last southpaw Lane faced was Qais Ashfaq who stopped him in four in December 2022. He’s won all three since. Lane thought about campaigning at 115lbs before he got the chance to challenge Purkiss and looked strong at 118lbs.

Lane plans a similar performance on Friday night, saying: “I’m going to start fast, be in his face, like a bulldog. I think his corner will pull him out after seven or eight rounds.”

The rather more laid-back Bourke isn’t one for predictions. He just said: “There are no easy fights for the British title” and added it would be “massive” to add his name to a list of bantamweight champions that includes Teddy Baldock and Lee Haskins.

Haskins used to spar Lane and is now his trainer. Lane left Northampton for Bristol around a decade ago after impressing the Sanigars when he sparred Haskins. Haskins was a flashy pot-shotter while Lane is a rather more straightforward fighter.

Bourke-Lane is a good fight. There are more questions about Bourke given he’s yet to make 118lbs, but his three-inch height advantage and southpaw stance are definite advantages.

Bourke has grown into his last three fights and we fancy he can use his skills to win a competitive fight on points

There will be a new coach in Moses Itauma’s corner when the teenage heavyweight looks to move to 8-0. The 19-year-old southpaw from Chatham has left the Woledges – father and son Dan and Dan Jnr – for Alan Smith at the iBox Gym.

Itauma had been with Woledge Snr since he first followed brother Karol to the gym when he was nine years old and obviously felt he needed new surroundings.

Smith has a part to play in Itauma’s story, telling Boxing News: “I had him in our gym when he was 13 years old, sparring Lerrone Richards. I rang Frank and Francis (Warren) afterwards and told them: ‘I’ve seen the future heavyweight champion of the world.’”

As an amateur, Itauma won World Youth gold in Spain in November 2022, and Queensberry Promotions have guided him to seven wins (five early) since making his pro debut last January, only 30 days after his 18th birthday.

Smith says his arrangement with Itauma is on a “fight by fight basis,” but clearly, he wants to keep working with a fighter he described as “a future heavyweight superstar.”

Smith says it’s hard to find sparring for Itauma and he’s been difficult to match as well.

The show also features Scottish light-heavyweight Willy Hutchinson, 315 days after his four-round knockout win over Argentine veteran Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna.

Maderna had shocked Karol Itauma four months earlier and Hutchinson showed world-class hand speed and a leaky defence in a four-round KO.

Niggling injuries have kept Hutchinson out since and he returns to face Martin Houben, a 30-year-old German who is a shade taller than the Scot at 6ft 1 ¼ins and knows his way around a ring.

Houben boxed at the 2011 European Youth Championships during his 87-bout amateur career, but as a pro, he’s lost a couple.

Limited Georgian Iago Kiziria was able to get on top of him and knock him out and once Hutchinson puts his combinations together, Houben will be in trouble. Hutchinson can win inside the distance.

The Verdict: We expect another excellent advert for the British title.