Nathan Heaney 18-0 (6) v Brad Pauls 18-1 (10) 

British Middleweight Title

ONE of British boxing’s stories of 2023 was Nathan Heaney upsetting Denzel Bentley to take away his British title in Manchester last November.

Richie Woodhall told TNT Sport viewers afterwards: “Nobody expected him (Heaney) to get to the last round, never mind win the contest.”

Heaney won a deserved majority points vote and makes his first defence against Brad Pauls, a 30-year-old nicknamed ‘The Newquay Bomb’.

Pauls can punch and was too strong for Mitchell Frearson when they fought for the vacant English title last September, getting on top of him after some competitive early rounds to stop him in eight.

In a previous bid for the St George’s belt, Pauls had been outpointed by Black Country southpaw Tyler Denny, now the European champion.

He fought hard until the final bell against Denny at Wembley Arena last February and expect the same from him this weekend.

Pauls left his Cornish home for Essex to pursue his boxing career, saying: “I have moved away from my family and missed family birthdays to chase this dream.”

In Heaney, he faces a new British champion who is improving and three inches taller at 6ft 1ins.

Heaney outpointed Bentley by boxing around him and picking his punches and can do the same to Pauls.

Liam Davies 15-0 (7) v Erik Robles 15-1 (9)

Super-bantamweights, 12 rounds

DAVIES sees this as “the toughest fight out there,” apart from Naoya Inoue, the undisputed champion at 122lbs.

British audiences remember Robles outpointing Lee McGregor in Edinburgh last July, beating the Scot with a strong start and finish to win unanimously on the cards.

The 23-year-old Mexican has fought only once since, a points win over Cesar Vaca Espinoza last December. Espinoza was the sixth fighter to sacrifice his unbeaten record to Robles.

Robles, who has eight first-round wins, is a handful. The southpaw stance shouldn’t trouble Davies given he’s dealt with Marc Leach and Jason Cunningham recently and the way Robles comes forward swinging in a similar way to Ionut Baluta, who Davies outboxed over 12 rounds in hometown Telford in November 2022.

McGregor was able to outbox Robles for spells and Davies will doubtless think he can do so for the full 12 rounds.

Davies, down for the first time as a pro when Italian Vincenzo La Femina scored a flash knockdown in Manchester last November, says the plan is to “box and pick my moments and if I catch him, I want to take him out.”

Davies can win on points.

Zach Parker 23-1 (17) v Tyron Zeuge 27-1-1 (15)

Super-middleweights, 10 rounds

REWIND to the summer of 2017 and the 12-0 Parker went to Germany to spar the WBA super-middleweight belt-holder.

Parker was pencilled in to spar six rounds with Tyron Zuege on the first day followed by two more eight-round sessions. After six rounds, Parker was told he wouldn’t be needed anymore. He said at the time the spar was “easy” and he enjoyed a “holiday” after being given the rest of the week off.

They meet again in Birmingham in a crossroads fight.

Parker will look to fight Billy Joe Saunders and Anthony Yarde up at 175lbs, provided he beats the 31-year-old from Berlin. The German, who lost his world title to Rocky Fielding in his fourth defence, was out between June 2019 and February 2023, and has had three wins since returning.

Parker was out for 301 days after a fractured metacarpal bone in his right hand ruled him out of his fight with John Ryder after four rounds, a loss that cost him a shot at Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.

Parker returned last September and the rangy, spiteful switch hitter from Woodville, Derbyshire, scored a seven-round retirement win over Frenchman Khalid Graidia.

He can walk Zeuge onto punches as well and stop him by the middle rounds.

Dennis McCann 14-0-1 (8) v Brad Strand 11-0 (3)

British and Commonwealth super-bantamweight titles

PROMOTER Frank Warren says this fight is his “personal favourite.”

It was Strand’s idea!

Asked after beating Joshua John in December who he wanted to fight next, Strand called for McCann or Liam Davies. McCann replied on social media with, ‘LOL,’ but they meet for the British tile vacated by Davies. McCann also defends his Commonwealth belt.

McCann has made a change since his technical draw with Ionut Baluta  at a steaming York Hall last August, leaving trainer Alan Smith for Joe McNally in Liverpool.

The 23-year-old southpaw from Maidstone has tried to push Strand’s buttons in the build up by claiming he has a bigger fan base in Strand’s home city.

Strand didn’t bite. The 27-year-old from Kirkby is more straight talking than the chatty and cheeky McCann. He had a career-best win last time out, dominating John over 10. For round after round, Strand kept the Welshman quiet with his jab.

Strand looks to box positively behind his jab, while McCann likes to slow it down, wait and pick his moments. McCann did that well enough to lead on the cards against Baluta before heads clashed in the seventh and he can edge out Strand.

Joe Joyce 15-2 (14) v Kash Ali 21-2 (12)

Heavyweights, 10 rounds

JOE JOYCE says the plan is to: “Get a good win and get people asking, who does he fight next?’

This is more than a PR exercise. Joyce needs to rebuild his confidence after those two losses to giant Chinese southpaw Zhilei Zhang.

The rematch defeat was hard to swallow, the rock-chinned Joyce sent crashing for the full count in the third.

Ali is thinking he could be in the right place at the right time and the 32-year-old has some idea of what he faces having sparred Joyce ahead of his fight with Bryant Jennings in 2019.

Joyce was with Adam Booth at the time and has appointed Steve Broughton – a longtime member of Team Joyce – as head coach, replacing Ismail Salas.

What scars has Zhang left on the 38-year-old from Putney?

He now knows he can be knocked out and so does Ali, trained in Rotherham by ex-heavyweight Richard Towers.

Ali was beaten himself in his last fight, Ukrainian mover Bohdan Myronets outpointing him over six last July. Further back, Ali, who was born in Birmingham, was thrown out for biting David Price and if there are cracks in his mental make-up, Joyce will find them.

Joyce wins by the midway stage.

Pierce O’Leary 13-0 (7) v Hovhannes Martirosyan 16-0 (10)

Super-lightweights, 10 rounds

THIS looks like the toughest test so far for O’Leary, the quality box-puncher from Dublin who’s switched gyms since his points win over Kane Gardner last September.

O’Leary has left Alan Smith at the iBox Gym in Bromley for Joe McNally in Liverpool, explaining that it was too costly in Kent and too far from his young family.

As O’Leary was leaving iBox, Martirosyan was arriving, to spar Sam Noakes ahead of his British title fight with Lewis Sylvester,

The Belgian made a good impression. Those who saw the sparring say he was well schooled and tough enough to give Noakes rounds, no easy task.

Martirosyan boxed only six weeks ago, an eight-round stoppage of Tony Rashid, but he lost rounds to Nicaraguan southpaw Robin Zamora, taken out in two by an O’Leary right hand three months earlier.

O’Leary also had an easier night with another common opponent, Jan Marsalek. He flattened the Czech with a left hook in the second and it took Marirosyan six rounds 20 months later.

O’Leary, who was cut against Gardner, is devastating with short punches and good at creating the openings for them.

The Irishman is always a polished boxer with a good jab and can box his way to a points win.

Eithan James 12-0 v Owen Cooper 9-0 (3)

Vacant English welterweight Title

JAMES and Cooper were born a day apart and have grown up in boxing together.

They were roommates when representing England, made their pro debuts a day apart and their only message to each other at the press conference was: “All the best, mate.”

This is a fight that doesn’t require needle. The 23-year-olds are unbeaten, fresh and styles will gel.

Cooper says: “Staying on the inside, getting close and trading, that’s my game,” while James (Northampton) said: “My game is not to stand and trade.”

Though Cooper says “10 rounds is a long time to keep moving,” James did it in his last fight. He looked very sharp when outpointing Wigan’s James Moorcroft over 10 last July, his first test at 147lbs after moving up.

James, 2016 European Junior silver medallist during his 70-6 amateur career, had the first and last say. Cooper (Worcester) looks harder to hit than Moorcroft and heavier handed.

The lead hand is strong, the punches come in combinations and the shot selection is good.

James was down in the first round against Sheffield southpaw Keanen Wainwright, a lightweight who took the fight at 24 hours’ notice, but Cooper struggled pinning down Robin Zamora last time out.

James on points is the pick.