That’s why when I’m walking out, people always stop and shout…
It was that rarest of things – a boxing card that looked beforehand to have a lot of fights of interest, rather than just one or two. Even more amazingly, it came from the stable of celebrated promotional turd-polisher Frizank Warren. Would it live up to expectations, though? I headed down to the NIA on Saturday the 28th of Feb to find out.
Thomas Costello opened things up in a four-rounder against Matt Scriven. Last time around at the NIA (the first time I’d seen him box live) I didn’t think he looked as amazing as some have made out to be, but I liked the cut of his jib here: nice crisp combos, mixing up different punches well. I could imagine a lot of journeymen going down from what he threw, but in this case he earned a 40-36 points win.
Darren “Macca” “The Black Country Bodysnatcher” “The Fighting Pride Of Dudley“ McDermott bossed his fight against Cov’s Steve Bendall. I was expecting it to be a lot closer than it was (and I certainly didn’t think he’d win six rounds straight off). Macca was better at range and in close (some especially good work with uppercuts), and quite often Bendall was resorting to little but spoiling. He did get back into it a bit more in the later rounds, but to no avail. I had it 98-93 and the ref said 97-94, which is fine by me. McDermott is now the English middleweight champ and surely back in the mix for British title contention and/or a re-match with Elcock. BLACK COUNTRY LA LA LA, BLACK COUNTRY LA LA LA.
Dah-dadah-dadah-dah Donnie Broadhurst defended his commonwealth super-flyweight decisively against Isaac Owusu, who was knocked down in the first round and initially looked like he’d be going over early but showed a lot of toughness in sticking it out until the stoppage in the eleventh. Don won every round en-route, but Isaac remained aggressive throughout. The Ghanaian went down face-first with a mighty splat in the eleventh, and although I was very surprised that the ref let it carry on after that he stopped it not long after.
Onto the televised portion, then, featuring the three debuting big-name amateurs (often elsewhere referred to as the Olympians, even though only two of them actually competed in the Olympics). All three of them were up against familiar “…and his East European opponent” types that Cockney pub-gangster-come-barrow-boy-made-good Frizank Warren seems to have an endless supply of, but nobody was expecting anything else. All three of them also looked to have a massive weight advantage, but (sadly) I don’t suppose anybody was expecting anything else there, either.
Billy Joe Saunders looked like the best of the three, albeit against the weakest opponent (Attila Molnár threw, what, ten punches in the round-and-a-half he was in there?). Billy Joe (I love it, so “The Waltons”) displayed a good variation of shots in his combos and got rid of the Hungarian in two. Many predicted beforehand that he looked the most suited for professional boxing, and the evidence of these fights would seem to support that.
Was Frankie Gavin’s fight meant to be at light welter/ten stone? I won’t mention that he weighed in at 10st 3lbs then, that’d seem like I was taking the mickey after his Olympic misfortune (I still suspect there’s a lot more to that than we’re being told). Funtime Frankie had more opportunity to show grit than the others – Georgian George Kadaria was by far the most up for a scrap out of the three opponents, and an accidental clash of heads led to a cut. Gavin nevertheless dug in and got his man (who hadn’t been stopped before) out of there in the last round, doing most of the damage with some wicked-looking hooks to the body. He did look like he was in a bit of a rush to finish at times, which isn’t bad as a mentality but can be as a tactic (’m reluctant to overstate that, though: I’d much rather see fighters try to end a fight decisively), but that could easily be put down to needing to impress his home crowd. It goes without saying that the already-lively audience went absolutely radio rental for the new Brummie hero.
James DeGale was the only one of the three to go the distance, and didn’t look amazing. He still seemed very amateur-boxing in style, flicking out one shot at a time and not putting his weight into anything. Vepkhia Tchilaia was very negative for three rounds, but decided to fight back in the last. DeGale’s vaunted counterpunching game still failed to make much impression. Our gold-medal-winning Olympic supahstaaarrr (and doesn’t he want you to know it) was unsurprisingly very well-received on entrance, but it isn’t entirely surprising that a lot of the cheers turned to boos after a couple of rounds of faff from him. I don’t ever boo anyone myself, but it was funny to see this unheralded Georgian cheered against the Olympic champ. Come on the underdogs.
With all of that said it’s very important to note that you cannot judge how a boxer’s entire career will go from their first 4×3 fight, but if we put aside all of the fuss and amateur achievements and try to pretend that we’d never heard of them before I think we’d say that Gavin and Saunders had potential. I’m not sure we’d say that DeGale’s debut was particularly auspicious if it came from anybody. Plenty of time yet, though.
Finally, we had latest stage in the surprising but deserved and completely loveable rise to prominence of Martin Rogan. Things over-running meant that I had to leave before it finished, but I have since watched the Sky broadcast. I backed Rogan against Fraudley and won money, but thought Skelton would take him here. Wrong. Rogan is always a tiny bit more technical than you’d give him credit for (don’t go mad, not I’m not saying he’s Pernell Whittaker or anything, but I thought his head movement around the taller man’s jab here was good) and he looked to actually be stronger than the much bigger Skelton. Most of all, though, he has the heart of a lion. I hope he continues to prove everyone wrong, myself included if needs be.
Reluctant as I am to admit it, funny-eyed litigious guncrime victim Frizank Warren really gave us a cracker to pull here. If he deigns to move the Olympians onto sensible opposition before they’ve had fifty fights I may even stop calling him silly names.