Last night, York Hall staged the latest chapter of Matchroom Boxing’s NXTGEN series. With a card full of Britain’s brightest young hopes, the show proved to be a good gauge of the next breed of British champions to potentially come through the ranks, with a lot of the current pay-per-view stars reaching the twilights of their careers.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the main attractions…
1 Lawrence Okolie (5-0, 4 KOs)
Making his professional debut in March this year, Lawrence 'The Sauce' Okolie has made a perfect start to life in the squared circle. With four straight first round knockouts in his opening four bouts, last night the Hackney-born youngster came up against his toughest test in the durable Blaise Mendouo.
In an exciting six-rounder, both men rolled the dice with big swinging punches throughout looking for a quick finish, however, Mendouo showed he wasn't willing to be stopped early. The challenger got some success in the third round with a few messy hooks, but with Okolie going through the gears in the fourth, 'The Sauce' dropped his man with a straight right hand.
Mendouo made the count, however, the rest of the fight was purely survival only for the Manchester based Cameroonian as Okolie strolled to a points decision.
Okolie is a lengthy cruiserweight and has great control over his long levers. Despite looking messy in bunches on Friday night, the 24-year-old has learned quickly over his first five bouts and with natural punch-power showed levels of maturity in going the distance at the York Hall.
With a grudge match against Isaac Chamberlain being hyped for the future, the Matchroom star already has his future dance partner to build towards. The cruiserweight division is thriving abroad but with little coverage in the UK, Okolie will be focused towards the bigger domestic clashes early in his career.
Power Ranking: 7/10
2 Joshua Buatsi (2-0, 2 KOs)
Joshua Buatsi racked up his second win in the paid ranks with a fifth round knockout victory against Baptiste Castegnaro on Friday night's card.
Fighting at light heavyweight, the 24-year-old has made a seamless transaction into the professional game after winning a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games.
Finding a barrage of straight rights and left hooks during the second and third rounds, the destiny of his French opponent became clear early in the fight. Buatsi did well to end the fight with a TKO with a brutal body shot.
Speaking after the fight, Buatsi said the following in regards to the opportunity he's been given by signing to Matchroom.
“I was glad to get the rounds in. Again I felt it was a fantastic opportunity and I am eternally grateful for it and I hope I made the most of it.”
Buatsi seems level-headed and has the ability to adapt inside the ring. With the light heavyweight scene in the UK crying out for the next star, Buatsi looks ready to climb through the ranks.
Power Ranking: 8/10
3 Joe Cordina (4-0, 4 KOs)
Welsh lightweight Joe Cordina extended his unbeaten run to four with a first round stoppage of Jamie Speight in Bethnal Green.
With a barrage of punches on the ropes, Speight was visibly hurt with blood pouring from the nose within the first 180 seconds.
With an amateur bronze in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the 'Welsh Wizard' has taken like a duck to water in the pro-ranks and is yet to drag an opponent into the second round.
With Anthony Joshua expecting to announce his next fight in Cardiff on October 28, Cordina is hopeful of a spot on the undercard and a homecoming victory.
Power Ranking: 9/10
4 Conor Benn (8-0, 6 KOs)
After making his debut in April last year, 'The Destroyer" Conor Benn is forging his own path in the paid ranks. With comparisons being inevitably made towards his father, Nigel Benn, Conor has crafted out a good foundation to build upon going into 2018.
With a few questionable wins on his record, Benn looked more composed, measured and effective in his win on Friday night over Kane Baker in a second round stoppage.
After a six-month layoff due to an injury at the start of this year, Benn looks revitalised in the ring and is showing more patience in picking his shots in comparison to his first few outings.
Benn was appreciative of the crowd at the York Hall in Bethnal Green, stating on Sky Sports,
"The support I got tonight was unbelievable. I want to box here more often! I just picked my shots; before I was crash bang wallop, but tonight I took my time and picked them well."
Fighting at welterweight, there are many domestic clashes for Benn to build towards with bigger tests expected in 2018. A win over one of Dale Evans, Shayne Singleton and Tamuka Mucha would do wonders for his profile, however, he may be two or three fights off that level.
Power Ranking: 8/10
5 Ted Cheeseman (10-0, 7 KOs)
The 'Big Cheese' scored a controversial DQ win against Francesco Lezzi at York Hall after his opponent shoved the referee during a one-sided affair.
The Italian proved to be a bizarre character inside the ring, and after barely throwing a punch in the opening two rounds, he lashed out in frustration. Lezzi was claiming to have been hit several times in the back of the head however referee Kieran McCann disagreed, to which he was greeted with a push.
Cheeseman was dominating the fight throughout and was in total control at the time of the stoppage, having dropped his opponent in the second round previously.
Cheeseman is the current English champion at super-welterweight and will be looking to further his name outside the inner boxing circle. At 22-years-of-age, the Londoner is tipped by many for a big few years, and after the fight, Cheeseman told iFLTV who he is targeting at the weight.
"Sooner or later the right fight will come, I have just got to be patient.... I'm not worried about Sonny Upton, I'm looking for Asinia Byfield, Joe Pigford or JJ Metcalf."
Cheeseman seems confident that he will fight again in October before looking to grab a British title before the close of the year.
Power Ranking: 9/10
Photography Source: Joe Bartlett
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