By: Oliver McManus
As part of a new feature here for Boxing Insider, this is the first edition of the European Boxing Notebook – a round-up of all the major boxing news and action from Europe over the last two weeks.
Skeete’s Spanish Slip
Bradley Skeete took a trip to Bilbao, Spain, to face the toughest test of his career to date against Kerman Lejarraga for the European Welterweight title; Lejarraga was a bit of an unknown product going into the fight with his best wins coming back in 2016 – against Laszlo Toth and Denton Vassell, respectively – but the Spanish media and, promotional company, MGZ were ringing the bell that said he was the real deal beforehand so there was every expectation that this would be a challenge.
The general expectation, however, was that Bradley Skeete’s four years of title-pedigree would see him claim the European belt and, potentially, take him even closer to a world title shot.
10,000 hostile Bilbao-residents packed into the Bilbao Arena for a packed night of action and such was the extensive schedule that Skeete didn’t get into the ring until gone midnight but, despite that, the crowd were ferociously backing their man.
A tricky opening round saw the Prince from Penge finding it difficult to land on his awkward Spaniard opponent before the Revolver burst onto the scene with the explosive power that saw 19 of his previous 25 opponents see an early bath.
The body of Skeete was struck thrice and on each occasion he crumpled to the canvas, wincing in pain, as the toll of the third knockdown rippled its way through Bradley’s body, the towel came in to scupper Skeete’s Spanish dream and send Bilbao into ecstasy.
Brilliant Bellew DOMINATES Hap-hazard Haye
May 5th saw a bitter rivalry reach a climatic ending as David Haye and Tony Bellew looked to finish off what has been brewing for well over a year – Bellew wanted to prove his victory last March wasn’t a fluke, resulting because of Haye’s freakish injury, whereas Haye was out to reinforce his heavyweight title credentials.
Coming to the ring with the old-school music and old-school shorts, there was a distinct feeling of nostalgia surrounding Haye – could we see a vintage performance? The opening two rounds saw Haye get the better with solid jabs that were much missing during the first instalment, still searching for the big shots but seemingly more patient.
Bellew lost in balance and was marked up under the eye, finished the opening two rounds respectably, however, before digging in to his heels in the third, landing power shot after power shot with real peaches sending Haye to the canvas on two occasions, a 10-8 round for the Liverpudlian.
Blood was in the water and the piranhas were circling with Bellew looking to finish, he went for, GUTS AND GLORY ON THE LINE, Haye was gone, shot, a shadow of his former figure and Bellew, even when looking like taking a breather, was impeccable in his shot timing, selection and power.
David Haye was out-worked in every aspect of the fight and so it proved in the fifth round, of this scheduled 12 rounder, when Bellew turned on the heat, reverting to a jab before countering Haye’s reaching shot… down for a third time, the fight was over for Haye.
Surely now it’s time for David to call it a day on his, once-glistening career, but for Tony Bellew? Well only he knows what’s next.
On the stacked undercard at the O2 there was a sensational super-middle encounter between John Ryder and Jamie Cox – the victor would be propelled into world title contention whilst the loser would need to rebuild themselves at a domestic level.
In a tasty tussle, both fighters looked to establish their individual gameplan, engaging in a phonebox war, but it was always Ryder who was likelier to land the big KO punch – the stoppage itself was bizarre, Cox went down seemingly an age after being hit by Ryder, himself coming off the back of a career-best victory, before waiting until the 10 count to stand up.
Strange or not, Ryder put in a scintillating performance to claim the stoppage and enhance his standing with the WBA – a shot at ‘regular’ champion Tyron Zeuge looks increasingly likely.
The other main talking point from the night was that of Joe Joyce and Lenroy Thomas’ encounter for the Commonwealth Heavyweight championship – definitively the toughest test of Joyce’s fast moving professional career, he started fast and never slowed down.
Standing stock in the middle of the ring, looking relatively fast on his feet, Joyce’s punch out-put was relentless, bashing the face of his Jamaican counterpart up, before knocking Lenroy out in the second round to secure the Commonwealth title and, with it, a plethora of all-British match-ups in the pipeline.
Le Grande, Legrand
From the continent the biggest news were victories for Vincent Legrand and Arthur Abraham – Legrand was initially supposed to fight Andrew Selby in a mouth-watering clash for the European Flyweight title before Selby withdrew due to illness, Juan Hinostroza (7-8-1) was the replacement opponent – something that says something about the quality (or lack thereof) in the European flyweight scene.
The durable Spaniard, born in Peru, didn’t really came to fight and only really threw the occasional punch as a signal that he wasn’t actually asleep rather than to display any real challenge – Legrand played to his tune and boxed within himself, not exploding into the fire-fighter that he has shown glimpses of in the past, but did enough to make sure he won every round on the scorecards.
Over in Germany on the weekend of the 28th, Arthur Arbaham returned to the ring after a nine month absence, following a unanimous decision loss to Chris Eubank Jr, in a much tougher test than the one Legrand faced.
Patrick Nielsen was the chosen opponent, 29-2, the Danish super-middle who’d established himself on the world scene prior to a spectacular knockout loss to John Ryder last October – Nielsen is talented and explosive but, nonetheless, someone who Abraham was expected to take to task.
Abraham started slowly without throwing many punches but utilising a stead-fast defence against a mobile Nielsen looking to upset the odds – targeting the body of Abraham, success was found with the German almost looking like he was stuck in mud.
The theme continued until the latter half of the bout in which Abraham began to enforce his tactical superiority, fatiguing his Danish counterpart whilst managing an astute game-plan; Abraham began to toy with Nielsen, controlling the pace nicely but, regardless, it was a nip-and-tuck encounter that saw a, fair, split-decision victory for King Arthur – 116-111, 116-111, 113-114.
Other notable results from the European scene include Leon Bunn’s unanimous decision victory over eight rounds against Tomas Adamek; former WBSS participant Nieky Holzken’s 3rd round come-back TKO Bernard Donfack; Erkan Teper made it three wins in a row thanks to a 2nd round TKO over Davit Gorgiladze (16-10).
Frank Warren – Homecoming, BT Sport and MAJOR fights
Frank Warren announced a new five year broadcast deal with subscription channel BT Sport having first joined partners in April of last year – the move sees Warren’s cards shown exclusively live on BT from September, moving away from his BoxNation channel – and on the back of that we saw a healthy number of quality fights announced for the next couple of months.
Added to the under-card of Billy Joe Saunders vs Martin Murray, at the O2 on June 23rd, were two cracking domestic clashes; the first being Josh Leather vs Ohara Davies (or Ohara Davie vs Josh Leather, depending on what camp you’re in), a fight that goes to show the unending number of super-lightweights promoted by Warren with credible claims to being elite level – Leather and Davies join Terry Flanagan and Jack Catterall in the stable.
Questions were raised as to why Leather avoided a potential rematch with Glenn Foot for the Commonwealth and British titles but, either way, this fight is just as good.
Daniel Dubois and Tom Little will square off for the vacant English Heavyweight Championship with Dubois taking a much-needed step-up in quality of opponent for his 8th fight with Little, 10-5, representing a live target who’ll throw as much as he does talk.
Also announced by Warren was the homecoming of Michael Conlan, making his professional UK debut, who’ll face Adeilson Dos Santos, a former WBO World title challenger, on Saturday 30th June in Belfast; also on the card is Jono Carroll vs Declan Geraghty, in a postponed clash, for the IBF Inter-Continental Super Feather title, Gary Corcoran and Paddy Gallagher will meet, so too will Tyrone McKenna and Philip Sutcliffe Jnr whilst Joe Ham and Tyrone McCullagh clash for the Celtic Super-Bantam belt AND Lewis Benson meets Johnny Coyle to round up a sensational card of PURE 50-50 fight.
Eddie Hearn – North East boxing & York Hall return, IBF title tilt
Matchroom Boxing and Eddie Hearn announced their intention to bring big-time boxing back to the North East and did so in style with Josh Kelly and Lewis Ritson co-headlining a stellar card; Ritson will be fighting to keep the Lonsdale belt following two quick-fire wins this year, already, and he’ll face Paul Hyland Jnr, the mandatory challenger, boasting an 18 and 0 record.
Josh Kelly, in only his 7th fight, will battle the, Australian, Commonwealth Welterweight champion, Kris George who comes off the back of three very convincing wins – namely against Cameron Hammond, Jack Brubaker and Maximiliano Leonel Scalzone – in his own backyard but Toowoomba-resident will be making his first trip to fight overseas and, against Kelly, he may just have to head home empty handed.
Also on the card will be a tasty all-British match-up between Charlie Edwards and Anthony Nelson, both 12-1, for the vacant WBA Continental Super-Fly title; Gavin McDonnell and Stuart Hall look to regain world-title challenging credentials as they look to claim the WBC International Super-Bantam title; Arfan Iqbal and Simon Vallily will meet, finally, to settle their grudge match for the BBBofC English Cruiserweight title.
The other major announcement from Matchroom revolved around a cruiserweight duel between Luke Watkins (Commonwealth champion) and Lawrence Okolie (WBA Continental champion) – a clash that’s seen respect aplenty from both sides and promises a thrilling encounter when they take to the ring on June 6th at York Hall, Bethnal Green.
Daniyar Yeleussinov, the Kazakh national hero, will make his UK debut having had his first professional fight last month, in Brooklyn, he’ll be looking for an expedited track to title contention and, indeed, a potential professional rematch between himself and Josh Kelly.
Commonwealth Champion Reece Bellotti will defend his belt, in his 13th fight, against Lancashire-man Ryan Doyle (16-2-1) whilst Felix Cash and Ted Cheeseman have also been confirmed for the Wednesday night bill.
In closing news from Eddie Hearn’s corner is an IBF title shot for, new, British light-heavyweight champion Callum Johnson who sensationally knocked out Frank Buglioni within one round back in March; the IBF have mandated Johnson to face world champion Artur Beterbiev after last month’s top 10 all refused the opportunity to fight the Russian.
Propsect Watch – Ryan Charles
As profiled in our feature last month, Ryan Charles made his professional debut on the Mickey Helliet card at York Hall on the 28th April in a heavyweight match-up against Ferenc Zsalek – Charles will drop back to cruiserweight for his 2nd pro bout on the 30th June.
Distinguished as an amateur, the former World Championship and Commonwealth competitor, spoke to me after the fight and said;
“I think it went really well, my first pro fight, I was a bit nervous but I think I boxed really well, I used my jab well and landed quite a few good right hands. Let off a few combinations on him and didn’t get hit very often, which is a good thing, I’m not in this game to take punishment.
One thing I was a bit disappointed is that I think that if I were to press him a bit more, I probably could have got the stoppage but it’s all learning experience, all good to get the rounds and go the four rounds.
It was a good bout, kept it long, rocked him but the guy was solid, he wouldn’t go down. I won it clearly, 40-36, the last bout of the evening so I had to sit and wait and watch everyone else. I was just waiting and waiting, I wanted to get in the ring.
It was a good experience, I really enjoyed it”
That then just about rounds up the best of the European action from the last two weeks – a truly thrilling couple of weeks but it’s only going to get better – we’ve got purse bids, heavyweight title showdowns, debut makers looking to impress and an all-British world title clash between Lee Selby and Josh Warrington over the next fortnight; check back with the next European notebook for the lowdown on everything you could possibly need to know.