Ducking hell

THE new week began with some official news in the Adam Azim and Dalton Smith soap opera as the former officially vacated his European super-lightweight title as he plans to face Harlem Eubank instead of his Sheffield rival

Eddie Hearn, who promotes Smith and has been banging the drum for that all-British fight, did not hesitate to stick the boot in as soon as the news was confirmed. “You can sugarcoat what you want,” he said during an interview on Matchroom’s Youtube channel. “Adam Azim has ducked Dalton Smith.”

He added: “Nobody is calling for Azim against Eubank but everyone is calling for Azim against Smith. We could give British boxing a tremendous fight and it’s frustrating. Basically… it’s over, you ducked Dalton Smith.”

There was also an update from 57-year-old Mike Tyson, now well into training camp ahead of his fight with Jake Paul. He told Fox News: “This is an exhibition. But if you look up exhibition, you won’t see any of the laws we’re fighting under. This is a fight.”

Make of that what you will, I’m not going to argue with him.

However, he later added: “Just wait on it. Don’t be surprised when this fight happens in September.” We live in hope.

Returning fire

AS far as Thursdays go, this was a busy one in the world of boxing. First, Ben Shalom, Azim’s promoter, went on talkSPORT and fired back at Eddie Hearn amid his duck claims. “It has to be the right time for Azim,” Shalom said. “We have to create a superstar – do we choose Smith or a Eubank? Smith is the tougher fight. I think at this stage in his career it would be the wrong decision. I’m not saying he wouldn’t win, but in three to four fights’ time both fighters are earning much more and it’s a much bigger fight.”

Another man who was answering questions about a fight not happening was Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, who was doing a round of media ahead of his May 4 showdown with Jaime Munguia. Once again, David Benavidez was high on the agenda. He said: “I’ve always fought those who people say I don’t want to fight. I am in a position I have earned – where I can do whatever I want to do.

At the end of the day I won’t please them with anything. I will do what I want to do.”

Even Anthony Joshua got in on the act, during an interview with Jonathan Ross, indicating he will box on for another two years, with his next fight expected to occur in September.

Apology accepted

ON the subject of Joshua, one of two men to have beaten him, Oleksandr Usyk, surfaced during an interview with the Seconds Out YouTube channel. Joshua has recently said sorry for his outburst in the immediate aftermath of the pair’s second fight and revealed he had asked Usyk’s compatriot Wladimir Klitschko to pass on his apology.

Usyk said: “I accept the apology, definitely. I have no bad feelings about Joshua because I respect this great man. I think it was emotion and I say ‘no problem, Anthony’. I didn’t want an apology.”

Usyk was also asked if he had seen any of May 18 opponent Tyson Fury’s training footage. “I don’t see Instagram or Facebook or videos of Tyson Fury,” he said. “My only focus is my training, my family. I don’t use Instagram now, I think it’s bad for me now. It’s a waste of time. I read books and speak to my family instead. My focus is my camp, my preparation, I don’t read news, blah blah blah, I am only here. My preparation and focus is for May 18. My style is a great style, I think. Maybe people think differently but for me it doesn’t matter.”

The Week is yet to confirm or deny the rumours that Clarke might be in line to face Whittaker next.

Fabio’s big day out

GIVEN the entertainment he served up alongside Frazer Clarke at the O2 Arena last month, it is only right that British heavyweight champion Fabio Wardley should let his hair down (if he had any).

And like any good Suffolk boy, this meant sticking on his blue shirt and hopping on the train to Norwich for one of the fiercest derbies in English football, El Tractico, the Old Farm, Ipswich against Norwich.

The fight against Clarke broke Sky records for viewing figures so big Fabio is not exactly inconspicuous these days, meaning his every move was caught on a camera phone of some description throughout Saturday. This involved him on the train to Norwich, inside the Carrow Road concourse, topless, twirling his Ipswich shirt round his head, and then, later, in the away end remonstrating with members of the home crowd.

Back over in Vegas, the Fontainebleau, one of The Strip’s new hotels, staged its first ever boxing event and Richardson Hitchins won on points at the top of the bill. Hearn, the promoter, said it’s the best hotel in Vegas ‘bar none’. Sounds like someone hasn’t been to the Travelodge yet.

Wardley and Clarke go to war (James Chance/Getty Images)

Spherical curtain

SINCE her rematch victory over Chantelle Cameron in November, things have been all quiet on the Katie Taylor front. But on Sunday, a report in her native Ireland suggested that the biggest star in women’s boxing could be about to make history by taking part in the first headline boxing match at the Las Vegas Sphere. RTE claimed that the long-awaited rematch between Taylor and Amanda Serrano is set to take place at the Strip’s most eye-catching venue in June.

A trilogy fight with Cameron has been mooted, with a date of May 25 apparently in the works, but now it looks like Team Taylor have set their sights back on Serrano. The 37-year-old from Bray claimed a split decision in the pair’s epic first fight in front of nearly 20,000 people at Madison Square Garden two years ago this month.

That it could take place at the Sphere might be another huge moment for women’s boxing. So far the super venue, which opened last year, has been used mainly for acts like U2 and Bruce Springsteen and is yet to host boxing. But a clash between Taylor and Serrano would be the perfect curtain raiser, if you could hang a curtain on a sphere, which you can’t.

Tongue in cheek

Fresh from his appearance on the Jonathan Ross Show, Anthony Joshua made a splash with a video on his Instagram account.

As usual, the London 2012 Olympic gold medalist is seen in the gym but this time he’s engaging in a spot of MMA training, with kicks and elbows on the pads held by one of the coaches at the Evolve Gym in Colindale, North London, not far from his home.

Of course, Joshua will have posted the clip with his tongue lodged firmly inside his cheek but the footage sent social media into a spin about the chances of a rematch with Francis Ngannou inside the cage. I think we can file that idea firmly in the ‘not happening’ pile.

In fact, this week his promoter Eddie Hearn confirmed that Joshua will be back out at the ‘back end of the summer’. There is still a chance he fights the winner of Tyson Fury against Oleksandr Usyk, despite their contracted rematch clause, while a showdown with Filip Hrgovic for one of the four world title belts is also a possibility. It’s safe to say he won’t be kicking anyone any time soon.

BOXING NEWS caught up with Jordan Gill ahead of his crunch scrap with Zelfa Barrett on Saturday night.

And the Chatteris man had a very specific evaluation of his time preparing with Ben Davison this time around following on from his victory over Mick Conlan in December. Gill said: “This time I think I’ll be between 36 and 45 per cent better… roughly. I’ve trained well, I’ve been diligent in my preparation and it’s just time under new coaches. I had limited time before fighting Michael Conlan, now I’ve had more time I’ll get better and better.

“I’ve been training well so I think I’ll be a better version of myself that I was in December and when I get this fight won I’ll be a better version of myself in the fight after that too.”

He was also asked to assess the challenges posed by Barrett. Again, Gill was very specific in his response: “Yeah, he punches fucking hard. He’s a big dude, a lot bigger than me and he’s established as a career super-featherweight. I’m looking forward to it. It’s all bollocks isn’t it? We are just going to get in there and have a fight.”