Easily the biggest title fight in England (!) this weekend takes place at The Guild Hall, Preston with English Light-Heavyweight king Liam Conroy defending against ex amateur ace Miles Shinkwin.
Glynn Evans finds half a dozen reasons why purists might opt to put AJ on delay!
1. It’s not PPV (you just need a BoxNation subscription)
No need for your blue-collar boxing-buff to spunk up an additional score from their hard-earned weekly wage to bolster the already bulging wallets of the sport’s glitterati. BoxNation subscribers can feed their addiction for a Saturday fight fix by tuning into the Channel of Champions for no added cost.
Over the past six and a half years, the BN crew have shown a consistent commitment to highlighting the sport at grassroots level with Saturday’s English Title bill just the latest example of providing crucial exposure to the Champions of the future.
2. It’s a ‘Pick ‘em’ Affair
Whilst AJ is an overwhelming 8-1 on nap to prevail in Saturday’s World Heavyweight unifier in Cardiff, the punch-out in Preston promises to be an altogether more competitive clash. At around 6ft tall and 175lbs, the principals are similar physically, bring similar title experience and boast similar CVs. While Champion Conroy has one more win plus a draw on his card (15-3-1), both show seven stoppage wins and three losses. Both have been beaten early just once.
Twenty-five-year-old Conroy brings the edge in youth and is fighting far closer to his hometown (Barrow-in-Furness, 70 miles away), while Bushey’s Shinkwin has better pedigree and greater seasoning. The contrast of northern grit against southern swag provides added spice.
3. Witness Whether ‘Cumbrian Banger’ Conroy Can Sizzle in the Big Pan!
Born and brought up in a boxing backwater, Conroy conducted an undistinguished ‘club level’ amateur career before joining the paid fold as a teenage Middleweight in June 2012. The Johnny Roy coached starlet won just seven of his opening 11 pro fights and was blitzed in 100 seconds by Cello Renda in a February 2015 Prizefighter quarter-final.
However, since shifting to the Light-Heavy division that better fits his 6ft 1in frame and teaming with the MTK management group, cruncher Conroy has won eight straight collecting WBC Youth Silver, Northern Area and English Titles. Five of those victims failed to finish. Saturday should reveal whether he has the hardware to advance to the major belts.
4. See If Skilster Shinkwin Can Finally Fulfil his Unquestionable Potential
Part of one of British boxing’s most renowned boxing families – grandad, dad, five uncles and five cousins all boxed - stylish Miles was something of a child prodigy. Coached by Dad Danny, an ex-pro, he bagged four national amateur titles – that’s two more than AJ (!) – and was a decorated Young England rep. In 2004, he nailed a junior Olympic bronze losing in the semis by just two points to unbeaten former WBO Light-Middle boss Demetrius Andrade.
Employed as chief sparring partner for Andy Lee and George Groves ahead of World Title fights, Shinkwin skated to a dozen pro wins before faltering to Hosea Burton (rsc6) in a wild shootout for the vacant British Title two years ago. Subsequently he has lost 10-round decisions to useful Joel McIntyre and Jake Ball. A gifted all-round sportsman – single figure golf handicap – the 29-year-old has the time and ability to redeem himself. Saturday should show if he has the desire.
5. Styles Should Gel Well
It isn’t just the provincial dialects that differentiate the principals. Heating engineer Shinkwin will know that pressure bursts pipes and few in the division apply it better than Conroy. The pride of the north is aggressive and prefers to advance. Liam’s punches are laced with ‘pop’, particularly in his long right hand. However, there remains an air of vulnerability. In addition to the capitulation to Rendo, he was dropped and held to a draw on home court by 5-35-1 Mitch Mitchell.
Shinkwin, as befits an ex-amateur standout, is a speedy, highly skilled, back foot counter-puncher who is well-schooled, well-fuelled and pleasant on the eye. A classic boxer-fighter duel awaits.
6. To The Victor, The Spoils…
After a period blighted by inactivity and anonymity on domestic shores, the 175lb class is suddenly starting to fizz again. Last weekend, Lincoln’s lethal Callum Johnson lit up the division by laying out Frank Buglioni, mugging ‘The Wise Guy’ of his British Title and IBF ranking. Ex Champs Hosea Burton and Bob Ajisafe loiter menacingly in the wings.
Big, hard, Anthony Yarde has ‘beasted’ upon 15 successive foes to assume lofty world listings with both the WBO and IBF while Lightwater’s Jake Ball recently crept into the WBA ratings. With Rio Olympian Joshua Buatsi also bolting up on the railings, the division is suddenly awash with ‘wannabes’. If Conroy or Shinkwin can glisten at The Guild Hall, they’ll be perfectly placed to crash the A-list party.