THE BOXXER Series bring super-lightweights to Liverpool on Saturday (November 6) – and it looks wide open. Sky Sports televise from the M&S Bank Arena. Each contestant must weigh a maximum of 142lbs. According to popular opinion, the favourite is a 36-year-old who’s been out of the ring for two years. Sean “Masher” Dodd has a 2-0 record against his ‘Boxxer Series’ rivals. He has points wins over Lee Appleyard (17-6-1) and Tom Farrell (18-4) on his 17-5-1 record. Sky Sports viewers will be familiar with Masher after he had a great run on the channel a few years ago. Dodd went on to win the Commonwealth lightweight title in 2017, claiming the vacant belt with a points win over Appleyard. Dodd made a successful defence against 2012 Olympian Thomas Stalker before being dethroned by Welsh talent Tommy Coyle in 2018. Dodd was always fit and good fighters found him hard to figure out during that purple patch in his career.

Now 36 years old, Dodd, who always brought huge support with him from Birkenhead, had success over three rounds as well, winning a Novice title in 2011, but has been out since a technical decision over Farrell, who was cut from a head clash, in November, 2019.

Dodd insists he’s emerged from a horrible period in his life triggered by lockdown, thanks to cold therapy.

Ben Fields, the current Midlands champion at 140lbs, has a 2-2 record against rivals for the £40k prize money. He’s shared two fights with Kane Gardner (11-1), losing over six and winning over four, outpointed Liverpool’s Nathan Bennett (9-2) and was beaten over 10 by Appleyard. The 32-year-old from Birmingham is strong, tough and guaranteed to fight flat-out from the first bell until the last, but the question is whether three rounds will suit Fields? He’s been fighting over eight and 10 rounds recently and trainer Shaun Cogan admitted that he would prefer the Boxxer Series to be contested over three five-minute rounds.

He added: “If Ben can get close to them and let his hands go, he’s got a chance. I know he can throw non-stop punches for nine minutes. But they might be able to keep him off them for three rounds.”

Cogan says if Ben can get close to opponents, he can outwork them, but recognises the shorter distance may suit the likes of Sheffield’s Levi Kinsiona (8-1) and Cori Gibbs, who were good amateurs.

Gibbs will be boxing the day after his 28th birthday. As an amateur, he won Junior ABA and British Junior titles (2009) and NABC titles (2009 and 2012).

He was part of the Great Britain Development squad and of the eight, Gibbs is the only unbeaten boxer but he’s also lacking in experience with spots of inactivity throughout his career.

From the Eastside gym in Birmingham, he’s won all 13 since turning pro in 2014. It’s two years since he boxed, a routine four-round points win over Jamie Quinn (5-86-2). Gibbs has been in the gym ever since. The best win on his record is a points victory over Ahmed Mweva, a Somalian based in Glasgow who’s won all seven subsequently. Gibbs is slippery, switches and according to coach Paul Counihan, he is the only fighter in Boxxer Series who is on the way up.

Kinsiona might have something to say about that. He won back-to-back Development titles boxing out of the Steel City gym. He is now trained by Liam Walsh (not the Norwich boxer) who learned his trade in the Ingle Gym, and is managed by Dave Allen. The only loss came to Midlander Nathan Bendon, via seventh-round knockout, two years ago. The security guard, who is also juggling a degree at Sheffield Hallam Uni, has won two four-rounders since.

Nathan Bennett is coming off a heavy knockout loss to Dalton Smith last August. Bennett was willing and aggressive, but Smith had the edge in every department. The end came in the fifth when Smith felled the Liverpudlian with a right hand.

Smith looks a real talent and also has a stoppage win over Lee Appleyard on his record, a sixth-round win for the vacant English title in May. Appleyard showed heart before it became too one-sided.

The 33-year-old from Rotherham also has a points loss to Dodd and a 10-round points win over Fields. He insists, due to taking an eight-year break from the sport when he was an amateur, he is fresh.

Appleyard is a good size for 140lbs – 5ft 11ins – and possibly more heavy handed than five stoppages suggests, but has been stopped three times.

Tom Farrell is another thirty-something in the lineup looking for a way back. He’s coming off a bad loss. The Liverpudlian – a big Everton fan – was dropped three times and outpointed over six by Lithuania’s Edvinas Puplauskas (6-28) in September. Farrell scored a knockdown in the sixth.
This looks to be thrilling. All eight have a chance and without knowing the draw, we go for Gibbs, the freshest and possibly the best suited to the three-round distance, to come through. Crucially, each bout is certain to be well-matched.

Liverpool southpaw Joe Kavanagh (3-0) was the only substitute who could be confirmed at the time of going to press.

The Verdict The field for this tournament looks wide open.