THE top-of-the-bill clash in Sheffield on Friday night (June 25) should reveal a new contender for domestic honours at 135lbs. Rotherham’s Hamed Ghaz (16-0) meets Liam Shinkwin in an eliminator for the English championship.

Derby’s Myron Mills ground out a points win over the spirited Lucas Ballingall to keep his St George’s belt five weeks ago on the opening night of the new Fightzone app.

Fightzone, who have been churning out the content, also screen Friday night’s show from the Sheffield Arena car park, topped by a 10-rounder that Kevin Maree, Ghaz’s manager, describes as being between “two inactive lads who are at the crossroads.”

Ghaz has taken six-and-a-half years to compile 16 wins, while Shinkwin is 11-1-1 – after turning pro way back in 2008. Now 35 – he turns 36 in September – Shinkwin, whose cousin Miles, father Ronnie and uncle Danny were all pros, had a six-year break between 2013 and 2019.
Shinkwin says he lost motivation after his career-best win, an upset 10-round points verdict over Matchroom hope Ryan ‘Crash Bang’ Taylor (7-0-1) that brought him the vacant Southern Area lightweight title in March, 2013, and an early exit from ‘Prizefighter’ up at 140lbs when Eren Arif (3-0) was able to outhustle him.

“The Southern Area title was like my world title,” he said, “and then I went in Prizefighter at a heavier weight when I wasn’t really ready. I lost a bit of motivation. I had been boxing all my life – I had my first fight at 11 – and felt I was missing out on life.

“I’ve got married, had a baby (five-year-old Teddy), got divorced and decided I didn’t want to get to my forties and have regrets. I have my boy from Thursday to Sunday evenings, so I haven’t been going out, I’ve been living the life and I feel like I’m 25 again.”

A pro at 18, Ghaz, who was born in Afghanistan, really is 25 years old and has made changes since his last fight, in September, 2019.

He is now trained by former kickboxing champion Al Osta and managed by Maree who says Osta has been getting Ghaz to “slow down because he’s very aggressive.” The nickname is ‘Hurricane’ and Ghaz sometimes neglects to use a jab that sets up his best attacks.

Maree says that every time he’s seen Ghaz spar over the last few months, he’s been impressed, but in fights, he is yet to be tested. Of his 16 opponents, only Hungarian novice Pal Olah had a winning record. He went into their four rounder at Leeds United FC’s Elland Road 1-0, is now 9-34-3.

Best performance is possibly the eighth-round stoppage of Taka Bembere, a good journeyman based in Oldham who knows how to do just enough to lose and in fairness usually campaigns at around 130lbs.

Ghaz had been boxing up at 145lbs and proved to be too strong, getting on top as the fight went on and forcing the stoppage with a burst of unanswered punches in the last.

“I could have boxed another journeyman last year,” said Ghaz, “but I want fights that will get me noticed.”

Ghaz won’t be held back by a lack of confidence. “I had a look at him (Shinkwin) on You Tube and he shouldn’t be a problem,” he said. “This is the perfect fight for me to take me up the rankings. I look at the top 10 lightweights in Britain and I wouldn’t shy away from fighting any of them. I think I’m levels above them. I believe I’m levels above what my record shows.”

What makes it even harder to pick a winner is that we don’t know how much Shinkwin has left. The Shinkwin who outpointed Taylor looked to have an English title in him. Shaken up early by a fighter who had knocked him out in sparring, Shinkwin toughed it out, won rounds with his in-and-out boxing and then held off Taylor’s late surge to win a cracking fight by a three-point margin.

But that was eight years ago. We go for youth to come out on top on Friday night. Ghaz looks strong at 135lbs, showed a good engine against Bembere and can win a good fight on points.

The Verdict Age and experience again looks like it could succumb to youth.