Fighter of the Week: James Metcalf

On what was perhaps the most loaded weekend of boxing all year. The week’s Fighter of the Week award winner comes from the most unusual spot. In the weekend’s first major card in Bilbao, Spain. that took place on Friday at the Bilbao Arena,33-year-old, Fringe contender, “Kid Shamrock” James Metcalf, of Liverpool, England, continues his bounce back and scores the biggest win of his career. A win that will likely get Metcalf into the world title discussion. The night was supposed to belong to the home countrymen, Kerman Lejarraga. However, the upset-minded Brit had different plans, handing in a career-best performance to move his record to 23-2 (14) picked up the WBA 154-pound continental title and takes home our Fighter of the Week award, and picks up his second straight win since the back to back loses to Cheesman and Conway in 2021. 

Walking into the ring at Bilbao Arena both fighters desperately needed a win to prolong their championship dreams. Without a doubt, it was supposed to be the hometown fighter, Kerman Lejarraga, who was supposed to get that win. Apparently, Kid Shamrock never got the memo or didn’t care. Who looked sharp early working behind a jab he began to pepper the Spaniard and take the early rounds. Lejarraga started getting it going in the fourth round and drove Metcalf back with power shots and dominated the first few minutes of the fifth round before Metcalf rallied late. By the eighth, both men had swelling around their eyes and were dealing with cuts. With the fight still very much in the balance, it was Lejarraga, who appeared fatigued and Metcalf was moving and boxing beautifully. Lejarraga tried to remain aggressive, but could not track his opponent down as Metcalf closed out the show beautifully and carried the late rounds to take a hard-fought but clear-cut decision by scores of 97-94,  and much too close scores of 96-94 and 96-95.

The 154-pound division is one of the most intriguing in the sport, fortunately, there’s no dispute on who the division’s best fighter is. Jermell Charlo settled that debate when he disposed of Brain Castano to unify all four major belts. However, if Charlo opts to go up to 160 and test his luck at the more glamorous middleweight division. It will lead to a plethora of options and intriguing fights in the division. There is a litany of very makeable fights for Metcalf that can propel the WBA Continental champ up the rankings. Souleymane Cissokho and Liam Smith are both ahead of him in the WBA rankings and fight on the same side of the street. As does Kieron Conway and that would make for an extremely interesting rematch. Conway scored a very close and competitive decision over Kid Shamrock back in 2021. Given the vast improvements, Metcalf has shown it certainly stands to reason he could overcome Conway in a rematch.  A win over any of those names would propel Metcalf in the rankings and if the belts did become vacant could put him in a position to fight for a vacant belt or in an elimination bout. 

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