There's more Betfair Prizefighter action at York Hall on Saturday night and after an upset last time Alex Steedman is backing hard-hitting Curtis Valentine to pull off a long odds win...
Last month's Betfair Prizefighter in Liverpool was a timely reminder that just about anything is possible in this format of boxing. The final instalment of this year's boxfest sees eight light-middleweights chasing the £32,000 prize won recently by 10/1 shot Terry Flannigan and with the introduction of a £2,000 bonus for every knockout scored fans and punters will be hoping fighters chase the carrot.
The line-up features the usual mix of comeback guys with experience alongside the new kids on-the-block but don't worry there won't be any singing or dancing, at least not until the winner's announced.
Craig McEwan is as likely as any to hear his name mentioned last and on form he's a worthy favourite at 2.64. Edinburgh-born McEwan has spent most of his boxing life in America where he's mixed with highly ranked fighters but having been stopped in two important fights, McEwan has returned to the homeland and hasn't lost a round in two routine wins since.
Rubbing shoulders with some of the best at Freddie Roach's Wild Card Gym, McEwan lost an enthralling scrap with Andy Lee (stopped in seven by Chavez Jr) and to recently crowned WBO middleweight champ Peter Quillin, so he's fought some way beyond his peers here. The niggle with McEwan is he can be dragged into a fight so the format might suck him in, but he has the skills and experience to win this good looking.
Alongside McEwan, Kris Carslaw (3.55) is the next best fighter on form and profile with both seeking to become the first Scottish winner of Prizefighter since Ryan Brawley in Glasgow three years ago. Carslaw has mixed it with the best domestic operators and took current British Champion Brian Rose the distance in June. The Paisley man is tough as well as talented and that is a formidable combination in this tournament. Carslaw and McEwan are the men to beat.
The two floating danger men are interesting novice Larry Ekundayo (5.0) and hard hitting Curtis Valentine (12.0). Ekundayo comes into this on the back of just two fights but he's looked good winning both and he featured on a recent event as one of the Prizefighter 'prospects.' Ekundayo had his man down in both those fights and is a dark horse but his price isn't quite right for a speculator.
Valentine on the other hand is simply too big at 12.0. For a guy with the style and punch to excel in this format. Watch this YouTube clip to witness his wicked right hand from the crouch and he's a rough, no-messing rambler. Valentine has four KOs from five wins and carries the power from bell to bell.
He has lost twice but that includes to English Champion Erik Ochieng on points so he's good enough and at 31 this is his cup final.
If Valentine gets a fair shake with the draw he is back-to-lay material but I'd fancy him in a one-off against anyone in the line-up.
The fans will get their money's worth if Valentine is paired with either Terry Carruthers or Peter Vaughan, both of whom are limited to an extent but all-action fighters. Carruthers (19.0) gave Chris Eubank Jr his best test recently and will have a go but he was stopped in three by Kris Carslaw previously.
Vaughan (6.0) meanwhile progressed to the semi-finals of Prizefighter last year before losing to the reserve winner Robert-Lloyd Taylor. That is his only defeat in seven and he has the style to cause trouble again.
Ryan Toms (11.0) was chugging along quite nicely winning his first nine bouts until the second defence of his English Title when he bumped into the much transformed Stephen O'Meara who stopped him in one. Toms has been hard matched since losing inside the distance to the useful pair Erik Ochieng and Joe Selkirk. The southpaw is out of the frying pan into the fire here and can't be backed on form or confidence.
Along with Ekundayo, Nav Mansouri (8.0) is the only other unbeaten fighter in the tournament with three stoppages in eight wins. The Yorkshireman has overcome some tough journeymen on the way and having beaten Nathan Graham recently is probably knocking on the door at English Title level. That makes him a player but I'm more sold on others at this stage.
The market is right to respect McEwan who might be simply too classy for this particular stage though he might be dragged into a fight too. McEwan and Carslaw remain the most likely winners but I'm taking a small punt on Curtis Valentine who has the attitude, style and punch to do well in this event. Believe me, Curtis is one Valentine the others don't want in the post.
1pt Back Curtis Valentine @ 12.0
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