Eight big men are set to do battle at York Hall on Wednesday night.
Fight fans have had plenty of time to consider the draw and its implications for Wednesday's Prizefighter but those punting on it will be hoping for more orthodox results than Euro 2012 has provided so far. With the added spice of a heavyweight's punch thrust into the mix, one could be forgiven for fearing spectacular unpredictability but this could be an event where talent prospers. Or so it seems.
Without question, the highest profile performer in the line up is former world title challenger Kevin Johnson who went the distance with Vitali Klitschko in 2009. The American talked up a storm going into that so his timid effort was disappointing but he at least looked comfortable on the big stage and not entirely out of his depth. This is a significant drop down in levels for Johnson (current favourite at 2.4 at Betfair
) who has won four on the bounce since and must view this as relatively easy money.
In a mythical 12 round Prizefighter, Johnson would be even money or perhaps odds-on to win the event so there is definitely an element of the format figured into the price. The Klitschko loss is the only defeat on Johnson's record and the American has been taken the distance just twice in his last 10. I still worry whether his languid style is the ticket for Prizefighter but Johnson is the class act and it may be that he is simply a league above this lot.
Johnson has to overcome Swindon-based Moroccan Noureddine Meddoune (17.5) in his quarter-final and the pattern of that will tell us much about how he can adapt to the nature of this unique competition. Certainly Meddoune will have a go and the raw puncher has stopped each of his four opponents in the first round since his debut defeat. But even allowing for a charge-and-chase onslaught from the underdog, Johnson should have too much in his locker.
Waiting for Johnson in the semi-finals is the winner of the first quarter between former European Champion Albert Sosnowski (6.4) and 36-year-old American Maurice Harris. It's difficult to know what to expect from Harris who has the ability to unhinge Sosnowski but the Essex-based Pole has the aggressive style as well as the energy to progress.
Sosnowski himself is a conundrum for punters given that next to Johnson, he has the best form on offer but one wonders if he is anywhere near that sort of level these days. A draw over four rounds last November with journeyman Hastings Rasani suggests perhaps not, particularly when you consider the same Rasani was blasted in a round by Johnson's opponent Meddoune.
Sosnowski had been stopped in European and World title challenges previously including a brave effort against Vitali Klitschko in 2010 so he has been there. I think though that the wear and tear is beginning to show so I want to take Sosnowski on, though I concede he has the style to win this thing.
The other side of the draw features an all-England quarter between the giant Tom Dallas (25.0) and three fight-winning novice Tom Little (36.0). It really is 'Little & Large' in many respects and though he has been stopped in each of his last two, those have come against David price and the marauding Matt Skelton. With his relative experience, size and variety behind the jab, Dallas really ought to be controlling this and at (1.94) is appealing to reach the semis.
Should he do that, the likeable Dallas will bump into the winner between Tor Hamer (5.0) and Marcelo Luiz Nasciemento (21.0) who lost to Tyson Fury in five rounds last year. Nasciemento has nine first round stoppages to his name but those have come in Brazilian back yards and he's potentially in at the deep end here.
Hamer is the one fighter who really could launch himself with a big tournament and in a sense he has more to gain and less to lose than both Johnson and Sosnowski. With only one defeat on his record and that to an unbeaten boxer, Hamer has been fighting regularly in six rounders so he is versed in the format to an extent and he's only 29. With ten of his 15 wins coming by stoppage, Hamer has the punch to be effective here and he can upset home fans and Tom Dallas on route to an all American final.
There are a few variables for punters to consider here: Can Johnson repeat his best form over the shorter distance? How much does Sosnowski have left? Is Hamer good enough? All of that means confidence is tempered going all in and following the weight of money for 'Kingpin' Johnson but in terms of talent as well as pedigree, Johnson is the bet over Hamer.
2pt Back Johnson to win @ 2.4 at Betfair