By: Oliver McManus
It’s been a busy week here in the United Kingdom with four shows broadcast on major platforms and lots to sink our teeth into.
Ultimate Boxxer was the first out of the gate with a reduced tournament of four fighters in the super middleweight division. For this version – their seventh edition in total – the pool of fighters was cut in half from their original eight. The branding also removed the ‘ultimate’ aspect and perhaps that was reflected in the quality of competition.
Three of the original line-up had to withdraw, for varying reasons, and two undercards fights were also called off. That left Zak Chelli as a heavy betting favourite and his superior pedigree showed in abundance. The former Southern Area super-middleweight champion was back at 168lbs having had a short, and ill-fated, love affair at light-heavyweight. He got the ball rolling against Vladimir Georgiev in a performance that was a little one-dimensional but still streets ahead of his late replacement opponent.
In the other semi-final, Mike McGoldrick defeated Harry Woods in a close-run contest that saw both men box well. McGoldrick edged it on the scorecards and advanced to the final. The effort exerted in his first bout seemed evident against Chelli with the fresher establishing his game-plan early on. Beautiful body shots from Chelli really sapped the energy out of McGoldrick who looked in agony as he dropped to the canvas on three occasions. It was all over in the second round with Chelli living up to his status as betting favourite and taking the victory.
In truth, he always was a class above.
MTK Global was next out of the promotional stable with a six-fight show topped by Kazakh sensation Tursynbay Kulakhmet against Macaulay McGowan for the vacant WBC International title at super welterweight. Kulakhmet lives up to the fearsome reputation that came with his bronze medal at the 2019 AIBA World Championships. He held nothing back for ten rounds and was going at McGowan with the full rack of seasonings.
McGowan simply wouldn’t budge. He stood toe-to-toe with Kulakhmet: in his face and soaking up everything being thrown at him. There was no doubt who was in charge but McGowan was earning his stripes and, with that, surely another opportunity at a big-name fight. The real shot of success the lovely flowing left hand, thrown slightly from behind, that just cracked the nut every single time.
Irish starlet Paddy Donovan put another lightning performance that saw him receive critical acclaim. The welterweight fought long, lanky and awkward Jumaane Camero – who truly is one of the most awkward fighters for a prospect to face – and commanded the six rounds with a supreme maturity that belied his 21 years. His breeziness with which he handled the contest was even more impressive and, as plenty of observers are already saying, he’s going to be something special.
We’ll skip over Friday’s British title fight for now and take a look at Saturday evening’s offering from Matchroom Boxing. Some hearty fights including three women’s world titles but arguably the best action came in the undercard fight between John Docherty and Jack Cullen: more on that later.
Katie Taylor headlined and put her undisputed lightweight title on the line against someone who, in reality, was swamped. Miriam Gutierrez (13-0) stood in the opposite corner having made the short trip from Spain – where all of her previous contests took place – and Taylor made her look like an amateur. And a poor amateur, at that. Gutierrez was off-balance and hapless but that was perhaps largely down to the sheer quality of Katie Taylor’s work – take nothing away from that. The Spaniard was down in the fourth but lasted the distance only to get drubbed on all three scorecards.
The WBC and IBO super featherweight titles were being defended by Terri Harper with, interim WBC champ, Katharina Thanderz her mandatory challenger. This looked, on paper, the closest contest but Thanderz came off a very unconvincing win against Danila Ramos last November and continued in that patch of form. Harper piled on the pressure, sticking to her guns, making the most of the ring and stiffening her opponent with some vicious body shots in the ninth. Repeated shots to the liver practically stopped Thanderz dead in her tracks and she was a wincing target thereafter. Victor Loughlin called it off in the ninth round.
Weight issues have beset the build-up to Rachel Ball’s fight with Jorgelina Guanini: Guanini, a champion at 115lbs could only hit the scales at just over 125lbs. After all the shenanigans it was the interim WBC super bantamweight title that was on the line. Ball essentially began where she left off against Shannon Courtenay in August: coming forward, taking to the centre of the ring and making the most of her heights against an opponent looking to be aggressive. That’s her style and it worked but you suspected she could have made the job easier for herself if she just took a step back instead of trading with Guanini. Her Argentinian opponent clipped her on a few occasions to show glimpses of class and the scorecards (99-91, 99-91, 99-92) were a little wide but Rachell Ball was a worthy winner.
John Docherty and Jamie Cullen starred on the undercard having initially both signed for different fights: against Jack Arnfield and Jamie Cox, respectively. The bout was scheduled for ten and styles really did gel to make the contest entertaining throughout. They were both looking to be aggressive and landing good shots but the cleaner was probably coming from Cullen who was able to reset himself nicely between bursts. Docherty started really strong and dropped Cullen in the first before Little Lever’s Meat Cleaver grew into the fight and nailed his colours to the mast with a dominant eighth round. Up until that eighth Docherty, probably, was edging it on the scorecard: that torrid round, though, was something the younger Scot seemed not to recover from. Cullen ran with the momentum and edged it 96-94, 96-94 and 95-94 on the cards. Both men can be very proud of their showing, though.
The night before, at the BT Sport Studio, Queensbury Promotions put on a show beset by coronavirus cancellations. Two title fights – Quaise Khademi vs Ijaz Ahemd and Michael Ramabeletsa vs Chris Bourke – had to be called off leaving quite a thin card.
Denzel Bentley and Mark Heffron returned negative Covid tests and settled the score – for now – with a ferocious rematch for the British middleweight title. The two met in September with the contest adjudged to be a unanimous draw: pundits were expecting more of the same when they met on Saturday night.
That prediction couldn’t be much further from the truth with Denzel Bentley who was a combination of concentration, confidence and commitment. He was on the ball from the first bell and wasn’t letting Heffron getting a punch away unmatched. Bentley was picking his punches exceptionally having a developed maturity and patience over the past three years. He is, of course, a man used to finishing the job early but has looked increasingly comfortable in doing the rounds as of late.
A cracking, whacking, right hand plastered the left eye of Heffron having been set up by a slightly slower jab. Immediately the area underneath his eye began ballooning – and I mean ballooning – it was a nasty injury and Bentley exploited that with no mercy. From that moment on it was pretty much the Londoner all the way before the contest was called off in the corner at the end of the fourth round and rightfully so.
On the undercard, Caoimhin Agyarko boxed well against Robbie Chapman to sense the lull and lapse in concentration from his opponent before stopping him in the seventh. Agyarko ran Chapman ragged around the ring in that last round having been comfortably ahead beforehand. A good performance from Agyarko with bigger fights surely to come in 2021.
Tommy Fury was also on the undercard in a contest which gave us little new to talk about. He defeated Genadij Krajevskij in less than two rounds. Fury can punch hard: we know that from the fact he’s stopping guys who don’t get stopped often and stopping them quickly. Fighting four times in two years against opponents with a combined record of 12-165-3 is not a long-term plan for development.
This week Conor Benn headlines a Matchroom card against an opponent as yet to be named after Sebastian Formella was forced to withdraw; Fabio Wardley takes on Richard Lartey over ten rounds after Lucas Browne pulled out of their scheduled contest; Alen Babic looks to defeat Tom Little; the vacant English bantamweight title is on the line for Liam Davies vs Sean Cairns, and; Ivan ‘Hopey’ Price will look to go 4-0 against an opponent as yet to be confirmed.