By: Oliver McManus
British and Commonwealth belts were on offer for the winner between Brad Foster, defending both belts, and his challenger Lucien Reid. Foster, a former world champion kickboxer, arrived having had two stern tests already this year with bouts against Josh Wale and Ashley Lane in which the 21 year old negated the threats with ease. Reid, meanwhile, carried a bulky amateur pedigree as a former Team GB trialist and England representative.
Reid was looking to dust away the cobwebs of inactivity having had just two fights in 24 months, the latest stopped short after an accidental head clash, and he was loose in the shoulders from the start. He kept his head moving in similar fashion as he looked to remain busy across all facets of action – the top third of his body moving more, at points, than the lower.
Foster, trained by his father Martin, was slimmer in the build but equally enthusiastic about ‘getting involved’. Reid looked to build his attacks incrementally and initiated them from a decent range before looking to whip in close with that shuffling movement – reminiscent of Tyrone McCullagh. There was a child like excitement from Reid who really rose to the occasion and each punch landing clean gave credence to his self-belief.
The champion was cut by an accidental clash in the second but remained unfazed in the face of a forced tempo from Reid as the pace began to enter ‘frenetic’ territory. Reid was a half-step ahead of Foster as circumnavigated the ring with gleeful energy. The pace was undoing the defence of the young champion who couldn’t grab a tangible foothold in the contest but, you have to say, Foster was always there or thereabouts in terms of how effective his shots were.
Indeed the business of Reid could have been to his detriment as though it always looked as though he was doing something there really wasn’t much difference between the quality of their work; Foster, evidently, using less energy in the process. Truth be told it was an ever-moving, fast-flowing contest that was good fun to watch but it was messy in parts from the challenger who tied his opponent up frequently.
Alan Smith and Jimmy Tibbs were in the corner of Reid, who sustained a cut via a head clash around the halfway stage, and they were issuing words of ‘patience’ to their charge ahead of the sixth round. Neither man allowed their respective grazes to influence the style of the fight as they continued to get stuck in and look for those smacking shots on the inside; where things were, naturally, scrappier.
The contest remained a tight affair as each round progressed though Lucien Reid did begin to land some higher quality punches from around the eighth round as the need to settle looked to click. It was a bout where rounds could easily be given to each fighter and one of those ‘which style do you prefer?’ for the judges; you’d likely lean towards Reid, just, given his greater intensity throughout the rounds but it really was a ‘squeaky bum time’ fight if ever there was one. 116-112 to Lucien Reid on one scorecard, 114-114, 114-114 a dead heat on the other two to produce a majority draw and that is one of the best decisions in a long time – neither man deserved to lose and neither quite did enough to steal the cards.
Super flyweight sensation Sunny Edwards looked to transfer his stardom to the flyweight division and did so emphatically – albeit against a limited calibre of opponent. Edwards, trained by Grant Smith, was fighting the third Mexican of his career and stylistically there was some stereotypical repetition as Rosendo Hugo Guarneros sought to fight from the frontfoot almost immediately.
Edwards opted to switch from orthodox to southpaw at a canter; interchanging the two at the flick of an elbow to highlight his flashy ootwork – arguably the most impressive attribute in his burgeoning arsenal. The ever-green youngster is always easy on the eye but he seemed to take a more measured approach to this contest as he set about controlling fight without much by way of resistance from Guarneros.
The 23 year old opted to stand during the break between rounds and he looked healthy at the weight without losing any of that fleetness of foot or sharpness of shots. As has often been the case in Edwards’ professional career, all the shots were being picked effortlessly as he illustrated the clear gulf in quality between himself and his counterpart. Unlike Hiram Gillardo, Edwards’ last opponent, Guarneros wasn’t as ‘on-top’ and ‘in-your-face’ so Edwards was able to dance around the ring with a dazzle.
Yet another well-rounded performance from Sunny Edwards who continues to showcase all the attributes of a world champion in the making but he’s going to be a nightmare to match – where do you go from here? His footwork, once more, ensured Guarneros couldn’t get close and his shots selected with precision and a clear head. If you had to pick a grip, which is really just nitpicking, then let’s see some more spite from the youngster because he’s an absolute terror with the bit between his teeth.
The long and fluid limbs of Shakan Pitters proved to be the undoing of, the defending English light heavyweight champion, Dec Spelman in the opening televised fight; both men were familiar foes having fought over three rounds in the inaugural Ultimate Boxxer tournament in November 2018. Spelman began the contest with an eager desire to soften the midriff of his challenger but it Pitters, managed by Jon Pegg, wasn’t showing any signs of distress.
Spelman edged his way towards his challenger in short, staccato steps to close the distance between himself and his counterpart and was catching Pitters on the retreat over the opening phases of the fight. Carl Greaves’ champion, despite his height and reach disadvantages, was comfortable.
Yet the tide turned just before the halfway stage with the Pitters upping the aggression and using his natural advantages – a couple of short, straight right hands bloodied Spelman’s nose as the challenger began to hit his stride. The Birmingham-man was relaxing into the contest; pushing his chin out, keeping his hands hung loose and landing swift counter-punches.
The nip-and-tuck encounter continued to ebb and flow as each fighter dug deep to ignite York Hall with a gruelling bout worthy of such a tradition-soaked venue. Spelman enticed roars from the front rows when he wobbled Pitters in the eighth with huge punches to wobble his opponent as the challenger continued to flick out his jab in an effort to restrain the assault.
An unbelievable contest that began with intrigue, a tantalising tussle of tactics and ended with pugnacious pugilistic passion – Pitters adjudged the winner by a scoreline of 97-93 on all three scorecards, a fair assessment of the thrilling bout, and become the new English light heavyweight champion.
Unbeaten Queensbury prospects Zak Chelli and Kody Davies boxed in a British title eliminator that failed to follow the drama of bout that proceeded (Spelman vs Pitters). The fight, Chelli’s first at the weight, saw the Southern Area super middleweight champion engage with confidence over the initial proceedings. Cheli remained patient in the face of Davies jagged and jolting movement, dropping his Welsh opponent in the second round with a tight jab on the inside. That shot prompted a momentary increase in the work-rate of Chelli whilst Davies remained unmoved by the development.
Davies, trained by Gavin Rees, always seemed to be the more at ease with the gameplan – never looking to force anything and sticking to the basics with rigidity. A menacing stare graced his face as he turned the screw in the middle portion of the fight, prompting Chelli to become unstuck. In Chelli’s bout against Umar Sadiq he tired significantly after the sixth round (of a scheduled eight) and that appeared to be the case in this contest, too, with Davies picking up rounds with increasing comfort. 96-94, 96-93, 97-92 to the Welsh fighter, Kody Davies.