SANDY RYAN gets the chance to complete her fairytale rise to the top of the welterweight division in Orlando, Florida but the toughest test of her career lies in wait a few miles down the road from Disneyland.
On Saturday, the 30-year-old from Derby takes on Jessica McCaskill to determine the premier 147lb fighter on the planet at the end of what has been a rollercoaster 18 months for both women.
It was February of last year that Ryan suffered the first defeat of her career, dropping a split decision to Erica Farias in Nottingham but she bounced back in the rematch five months later.
Another two victories since then have propelled Ryan into this clash with McCaskill who is rebuilding herself after suffering the third defeat of her career in her last bout against a different Brit.
That November night in Abu Dhabi, Chantelle Cameron did a number on her to win a reasonably comfortable unanimous decision and all the hardware at light-welterweight.
After that, the Chicago puncher has decided to make her move back to welterweight and is a narrow favourite to regain the form that saw her win all the belts in the weight class.
However, Ryan, still only 6-1(2), will be heartened by the manner of McCaskill’s defeat to Cameron, when the former investment banker failed to make use of her noted power and spent large portions of the fight chasing shadows.
Now the question is how ‘Caskilla’ will bounce back from a humbling defeat against a fighter who is improving with every fight. It looks like a case of McCaskill stoppage or Ryan points, and the latter is the pick here.
“I have a lot of respect for her and what she has achieved,” Ryan said. “But this is my time now.”
Top of the bill at the Caribe Royal is a classic case of a touted prospect undergoing his acid test with 25-year-old Richardson Hitchins, 16-0 (7), stepping into his first 12-rounder against the wily and capable Jose Zepeda.
New Yorker Hitchins has not put a foot wrong since he turned professional in the wake of his last-32 exit at the 2016 Olympics, where he was beaten by Gary Antuanne Russell. Matchroom see Hitchins as a certified star of the future and victory against Zepeda in the headliner on DAZN would be a clear signal of intent.
But the California southpaw has been there, seen it and done it across a 40-fight resume which includes names like Regis Prograis, Ivan Baranchyk and Jose Carlos Ramirez. The 34-year-old is rarely in a dull fight and he will know another war here will play into his hands.
“Zepeda has competed on the world stage,” Hitchins said. “It’s a level up from my previous opponents but if I am who I believe I am, I should win this fight and possibly get him out of there.
“There’s a lot on the line right now but I’m not focused on the belts. My job is to go out there and dominate Zepeda and show who I am, then we can look at the landscape of the division.”
Hitchins, a tidy and talented boxer, will look to control the fight and keep things calm but if Zepeda can upset his rhythm early on, he will win this on points or even secure a late stoppage.
On the undercard, there is a solid 10-rounder at middleweight as Austin ‘Ammo’ Williams faces Steve Rolls. The 14-0 (10) Williams has been one of the faces of Matchroom USA since its very inception and he stopped Coventry’s River Wilson-Bent in his last outing in April.
He seemed to be on a collision course with Felix Cash and the pair have been thrust together on camera to talk up a fight a number of times. But, as it has still not materialised, Williams has moved on for now and faces twice-beaten Rolls in the Canadian’s first fight for over a year.
That lack of activity might be Rolls’ undoing against a good all-round boxer-puncher in Williams, who should win a decision here.
There is also a 10-threes contest between undefeated Cuban Orestes Velazquez, 7-0(6), and ‘The Black Buffalo’ Mohamed Soumaoro, who has taken two Os in his last two outings.
There are also eight-round outings for Matchroom’s unbeaten duo Khalil Coe and Jeovanny Estela, who face Kenmon Evans and Luis Caraballo Ramos respectively. In the first women’s fight of the night, the 10-0-1 (5) super-flyweight hope Jasmine Artiga takes on Haley Pasion over eight twos.
THE VERDICT – Yet more gutsy matchmaking from Team Ryan.