THE vacant Commonwealth featherweight championship is on the line at New Douglas Park in South Lanarkshire on Saturday night (July 31). The locals will be getting behind Bearsden’s Nathaniel Collins when he meets fellow southpaw Felix Williams for the title in an open-air show at the home ground of Hamilton Academicals FC. Sam Kynoch promotes a show screened on the Fightzone app.

The 24-year-old is looking to emulate John Simpson, Scott Harrison and Johnny McGrory as Scots who have won the belt. Collins makes his bid to join them in the record books in only his eighth fight.

In the 113-year history of the belt, only Eddie Ndukwu has won this title in fewer fights. The Nigerian captured the vacant title in only his seventh fight in June, 1977 with a 12th-round stoppage of Yorkshire’s Alan Richardson in Lagos.

Collins could well have his hands full this weekend. Williams is a long left hander – probably a couple of inches taller than the 5ft 6ins tall Scot – who comes from Ghana with a 29-2 record (22 wins inside the distance). One of the two losses was inflicted by Josh Wale, the former British bantamweight champion, in Sheffield in November, 2019.

Wale, whose best days were at 118lbs, was a majority points winner over 10 rounds for a meaningless 126lbs belt. Two of the judges had him up by eight and four rounds, the other had them level.

Wale, now a manager and planning to box again before the end of the year, told Boxing News of the 31-year-old: “He’s long, strong, big at the weight and he gives it a go. You look at his record and think: ‘Has he been knocking over stiffs ?’ but he’s not bad. If you let him get leverage into his punches he can be a handful because he has got power. I got close to him and pushed him back.”

Williams has boxed once since that loss, stopping Mettle Ayitey (10-11) inside a couple of rounds last March, a few weeks after Collins’ last outing, a six-round points win over Jordan Ellison (11-27-2) in Glasgow. From County Durham, Ellison is a game journeyman who’s as dangerous as he’s allowed to be and Collins beat him 60-55. The opening two rounds were competitive before Collins got on top from the third when he started to push Ellison, six pounds heavier at 143lbs, back with straight punches.

Collins looked strong down at 126lbs when recording his best win, a fifth-round stoppage of Monty Ogilvie (9-0) in an all-Scottish scrap for the vacant Celtic strap in Paisley in October, 2019. Collins had Ogilvie over twice in the second round with body shots and four times in total. Every time Collins connected, Ogilvie had to regroup. Ogilvie wasn’t badly hurt at the time of the referee’s stoppage, but by then it was clear that he was outgunned and was unlikely to hear the final bell. Ogilvie had started the fifth positively, but his punches had no effect on Collins and when Collins landed his crisp shots, Monty felt it all the way down to the soles of his boots.

Ogilvie has since been mauled inside a couple of rounds by the Peacock Gym’s punching machine Louie Lynn (6-0) in front of the BT Sport cameras.

Collins has yet to go past six rounds and is short of competitive rounds, but he’s keen to test himself and Kynoch believes that the Joe Ham Snr-trained fighter has the amateur pedigree to be fast tracked in the pros. He reached the last eight of the 2018 Commonwealth Games, losing on points to eventual gold medalist Harvey Garside, and boxed around Europe for Scotland before turning over in October, 2019. Collins has the sharp skills you would expect of a former good quality amateur, but the lead hand is low and he gives his opponents chances to catch him.
From what Wale tells us, and the clips of him on YouTube, Williams looks to launch long sweeping punches and Collins doesn’t want to be on the end of one of them when he’s either standing off the Ghanaian or moving out because there’s weight behind his swings.

Of his early wins, Williams has five inside three rounds and five after six. He has been 10 rounds three times and 12 once, when losing to Fatiou Fassinou (20-3-1) on a majority vote for a 122lbs belt in June, 2014. Only Wale has beaten him since.

Wale told us that “technically, Williams isn’t the best,” but with his size and punch he looks hard to beat at this level. The two losses on his record were on majority votes, though Wale reportedly won clearly enough.

We go for Collins to outpoint Williams as well, possibly after a scare or two.

Also on the bill watch out for two 10-0 Scottish unbeaten prospects on the undercard. Dean Sutherland of Aberdeen takes on unproven Mexican Jose Velazquez, 10-1, over 10 welterweight rounds while Macduff’s super-bantamweight Billy Stuart also steps up to 10 rounds against another Mexican, Alejandro Gonzalez (9-2-2).

The Verdict Intriguing title fight atop the bill looks likely to go the full route.