BN Preview: Losing’s not an option for Zelfa Barrett and Jordan Gill

BN Preview: Losing’s not an option for Zelfa Barrett and Jordan Gill


QUALITY super-featherweights Zelfa Barrett and Jordan Gill meet at the Manchester Arena on Saturday night. Matchroom promote what is a huge fight for both and an enticing matchup for the fans.

Barrett, 30, says it is the goal of every Manchester boxer to fight at the venue. He tops the bill there insisting he’s the fighter his home city is “screaming out for.” The crowd won’t bother Gill after he upset Michael Conlan in Belfast last December.

Ahead of that, Barrett asked manager Steve Wood to get him a match with the winner but few were expecting the arms being raised to belong to Gill. The seven-round stoppage win for the Chatteris man was a surprise given the way he had his lost his previous fight to Spanish veteran Kiko Martinez, who was contentiously outpointed by Barrett 20 months earlier. Martinez mugged him in four, taking sway Gill’s European featherweight title.

Conlan was also coming off a KO loss at 126lbs, against Luis Alberto Lopez, and the move up to 130lbs suited Gill rather better than it suited Conlan. He looked much more robust and every time he connected Conlan was hurt. Conlan was down in the second and rescued in the seventh after giving Gill some tough moments in the sixth.

This was a very different Gill, reunited with best friend Leigh Wood at Ben Davison’s gym in Harlow. That fight also left questions over how effective Conlan will be at 130lbs and his punch resistance. Barrett, we fancy, will be tougher.

He has spent his career at 130lbs and only rugged southpaws Ronnie Clark – more than six years ago – and Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov have beaten him in 32 fights. The latter was for the IBF title stripped from Joe Cordina.

Barrett had only three weeks’ notice for that and dropped the Tajikistani before unravelling in the ninth, being dropped twice. The Mancunian was unable to keep Rakhimov off him after appearing to suffer a leg injury just before the finish. Tiredness was also a factor after his efforts to finish Rakhimov once he’d dropped him.

Barrett, 30-2 (16), has come through two good tests since then. Jason Sanchez, a hardened American with a 16-3 record who had lost two of his previous three and spent most of his career at 126lbs, stepped in after Alex Dilmaghani was taken ill and Barrett had him down on the way to a clear 12-round points win. Costin Ion was no pushover either, the 10-4-2 Romanian taking a couple of rounds off an undermotivated Barrett in Dublin last November.

Barrett, who described his boxing early in his near 10-year pro career as “hit and move,” is comfortable on the back foot and there’s weight behind his fast, whipping punches, especially the right uppercut and left hook.

Back in August 2020, he was struggling with the slick Irish southpaw Eric Donovan before he found a left hook in round eight.

Gill, whose dramatic come-from-behind knockout of Karim Guerfi is the best night so far in his 28-2-1 (9) career, does get hit and every time he’s faced a featherweight who’s moved up, Barrett has dealt with them. We suspect Barrett wins on Saturday night as well, possibly by a stoppage in the second half.

The Manchester Arena is where Anthony Crolla was crowned WBA titlist with a knockout of Darleys Perez in November 2015, and he can create another memory there on Saturday night when Rhiannon Dixon meets Karen Elizabeth Carabajal, 22-1 (3), for the WBO lightweight title vacated by Katie Taylor. Crolla trains Dixon, a 29-year-old southpaw from Warrington who’s won all nine after making the switch from white collar boxing. For Dixon, it’s the next step after winning Commonwealth and European honours in her last two.

She broke down 39-year-old Vicky Wilkinson with body shots in six and was too mobile and busy for the disappointing Spaniard Katharina Thanderz respectively.

Next is Carabajal, a 33 year-old from Argentina who has had three wins since going 10 with Taylor in a world-title challenge in October 2022. That is her only fight outside Argentina. Carabajal had her moments when they exchanged and kept slinging punches until the final bell.

She looks taller than Dixon, has long levers, but Dixon appears to have quicker hands and feet. Growing up, Dixon was a dancer. Some have suggested this has come too soon for Dixon, but the thinking in her camp is that she has the momentum and is at home. If she stays switched on, she can win on points.

IBF super-bantamweight belt-holder Ellie Scotney looks to add Segolene Lefebvre’s WBO belt.

The 18-0 (1) Lefebvre fights outside France for the first time. Last time out, Luton’s Tysie Gallagher pushed her to a majority in her fourth title defence.

Scotney, from Catford, really shone in her last fight, outclassing Argentina’s willing Laura Soledad Griffa in every department in her first defence of the title she took from Cherneka Johnson.

The 5ft 4ins Scotney looks a couple of inches shorter than Lefebvre, who’s completed 10 rounds in each of her last 10 fights. The Frenchwoman is slower and more one dimensional and Scotney, a real talent, can beat her on points.

The grudge match between feuding super-featherweights Cameron Vuong (Blyth) and Jordan Flynn (Oxford) fell through after Vuong was taken ill. Flynn, 9-0-1 (1), is still set to box in his first outing since his rematch with Kane Baker ended in a 10-round draw.

Baker, beaten on points over eight by Flynn in their first fight, is on the bill in Manchester against Michael Gomez Jnr in a 10-rounder.

Gomez, who has the same maniacal glint in his eye as his father, defends his English super-featherweight title. Baker is an honest competitor from Birmingham with a 19-10-2 (1) record who’s something of a cult figure among hardcore fans.

The 33-year-old is well liked by Eddie Hearn as well. He has given Baker plenty of work.

Baker, stopped only three times, lost a majority to Derby’s Myron Mills for the St George’s belt at 135lbs in November  2019, but has always said 130lbs is his weight. He is sure to make the 20-1 (5) Gomez work, but the Mancunian is the pick to retain his English title.

The Verdict – Excellent and hard to call main event between two boxers on the fringes of world class.


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