LEEK boxer Andy Keates will take a big step up into the ring when he fights Ludlow’s Craig Morris for the IBO Welterwight title at the Genting Arena, Birmingham on Friday, February 23.
It will be an emotional night for Keates, who explained: “The fight is going to be dedicated in loving memory of two friends of mine, a brother and sister who were loved by so many, Melissa Shenton and Jack Shenton.”
Keates, who produced one of the best performances of his fighting career in October, by outpointing Ryan Fields to land the Midlands welterweight title at Derby Rollerworld, acknowledges he will need to produce a similar display of courage in order to take the IBO crown.
“It’s a huge step up against a great opponent – and a massive opportunity,” he said.
Southpaw Morris, 25, fought his way to a unanimous points verdict over Swindon’s Ryan Martin to claim the IBO welterweight belt in front of the Channel 5 cameras at the Leicester Arena at the beginning of December.
Morris, pictured below, has much less experience as a pro fighter than Keates, with 10 bouts under his belt compared to his opponent’s 20.
But the Shropshire puncher’s short career record makes impressive reading, with nine wins to his credit from those 10 ring appearances. His only defeat came at the hands of Ryan Fields in a crack at the Midlands welterweight title at Fenton Manor twelve months ago.
A battered and bruised Keates then relieved Fields of the coveted crown in Derby some 10 months later.
Keates could not have found better sparring partner in his preparation for the Morris fight: None other than Frankie Gavin, British and Commonwealth welterweight champion between 2012 and 2015, who also once challenged for the IBF Welterweight crown.
Gavin, 32, will be taking on Nambibian Bethuel Ushona for the vacant IBO World Welterweight title on the same bill as Keates at the Genting Arena.
Pictured top right: Andy Keates (left) with Frankie Gavin.