By: Oliver McManus
Tyson Fury’s much-awaited return saw The Gypsy King back doing his thing, Sefer Seferi’s soul was soundly shellacked as he made his first foray into fighting in the United Kingdom – probably his last, too – the raucous atmosphere of near 20,000 fans exploded into life and Frank Warren stood proudly in the ring like an old school teacher witnessing his pupil achieve the greatest of successes.
Having lost 8st 2lbs since getting back in the gym, Fury was still unbelievably 4st heavier than Seferi but, by gosh, was he by far the physically imposing figure and within 12 seconds he had already set about taunting his Albanian opponent.
Seferi looked reminiscent of Brian Sutherland – remember him? – but Tyson Fury did little to impress in the opening round just looking far too relaxed, almost mocking his opponent and appearing to treat this as an exhibition contest.
Farcical, almost, there were flashbacks to David Haye vs Audley Harrison except 10x worse but Fury began to actually throw punches in the second round with fast, fleeting hands finding the target but having very little impact.
Phil Edwards, the referee, had to have words worth Fury and there began to be a genuine thought that Fury could be disqualified but before any noticeable action happened within the ring, a fight erupted outside of it.
The state of this fight is perhaps best summed up by the fact my 53 year old father, who I was watching with, fell asleep before the end of the third round and, god, it was becoming a real snooze-fest.
Fury looked bored and for all the hype surrounding his comeback this was, make no mistake about it, a borderline disgraceful performance. Aside from the fact his opponent offered nothing in return, Fury knew he could do anything and still win every single round.
Four rounds in and he produced some serious stuff, showing the class that made him world champion with good shot selection and but in even more farcical scenes, Sefer Seferi stayed on his stool at the end of the fourth round having come to Britain, pocketed 30 grand and done nothing!
The less said about this fight the better but Tyson Fury got the win to kick-start his career yet again.
Terry Flanagan was moving up in weight class having made six defences of his WBO Lightweight title and faced Maurice ‘Mighty Mo’ Hooker for the same organization’s super-lightweight belt; Hooker was first into the ring and remained convinced throughout that he would be the man to take Flanagan’s unbeaten record and planned to “punch Flanagan straight in the f***ing mouth”.
Hooker was one a half inch taller than Flanagan and came into the bout with a nine inch reach advantage over the, technically outstanding, southpaw.
Flanagan, in the bright blue shorts, was looking to become the 10th British multi-weight champion and the first to do so in the light and super-light divisions. Fast and nippy on his feet, Flanagan bounced in and out with ease to keep Hooker’s brain ticking over and whilst Hooker looked aesthetically the bigger man – no surprise given his larger stature – the opening round was awkwardly cautious with the American underdog failing to settle into a rhythm and Flanagan utilising his footwork as opposed to his hands.
Hooker failed to connect with anything meaningful but threw some overhand rights to signify his intent whilst Flanagan stayed busy, kept the higher work-rate, to establish his tag as the favourite.
A scamperous, enthusiastic Flanagan looked incredible in terms of movement as he bounced around the ring to stay out of range from Hooker resulting in technical opening third to the fight with neither boxer willing to commit 100% to their game-plan but both staying in contention with tough-to-call rounds.
Fourth round saw fire aplenty with both men starting to gain confidence and throwing shots more regularly, Hooker often followed through with secondary punches to double-up on Terry Flanagan before some nasty head-action followed by dirty punches from Hooker left Flanagan feeling uncomfortable.
Into the fifth round and Hooker enacted that game-plan of his, landing square to the face of Flanagan with the Manchester man getting visibly angered, leading with his head – there was danger of this fight all going to waste for Terry with him showing little interest in the bout.
Perhaps this would be an all too familiar tale of an unknown American coming over to Britain and catching us, maybe arrogant, Brits unaware – Caleb Truax, anyone? A huge cut from Flanagan opened up in the seventh after Flanagan fired sensational shots into Hooker, battering up his opponent like a jumbo sausage with the pressure being piled on from a fighter aware that time was not his friend.
Hooker acting like an amateur-dramatics teacher began to fall victim to the open irritation of Flanagan who tried to step up the pressure on a fatiguing Hooker with the pride of Manchester showing guts of his own to inspire the crowd, landing at will on the American as the fight began to hot-up, Flanagan finding rhythm.
Replays showed that a concussive crack of heads between the two fighters resulted in the gaping clash of heads and with Frank Hopkins in Flanagan’s corner there could be no better man to ensure Flanagan had every fighting chance possible to come out with his second weight world title.
ON THE ROPES was Hooker towards the final third of the eight with Flanagan teeing off on his American opponent with the cut ever worsening but the heart of an absolute lion the only thing carrying Terry into war-like territory.
Claret flowing into the eyes of Turbo surely put paid to criticism, beforehand, that Flanagan was a boring fighter because this was shaping up into a real fire-fight – intentional or not, that’s a different question.
The British fighter came into the fight with far more experience and expectation was that the championship rounds would see him home and Hooker’s corner seemed to be increasingly nervy as the final three rounds got underway but, without doubt, the scorecards were far closer than either corner could imagine.
Flanagan started the 10th with yet another burst of energy, springing into the face of Hooker and firing off with some delightful left hands but Hooker retained in close contact with the former Champion and it was anyone’s guess who was leading on the scorecards with two rounds to go.
Truth be told this was disappointing from Flanagan, vastly disappointing, and it’s hard to say he deserved the win but, then again, the same could be said for Hooker – it was just a fight that failed to really showcase either of their skills; Hooker was more flashy but you’d make an argument that Flanagan was the more gritty, technical boxer.
Flanagan raided into the 12th round, a man on a mission, and came blasting into the round sending fire and fury cascading into the face of Hooker – this was the crescendo hoped for and with Flanagan fighting to the tempo of the crowd it looked as though he was getting the better of an awkward, lanky American who was fighting to elevate his career into unknown potential.
Terry coped well with the pressure, Hooker dealt with the occasion well and the cleaner work was carried off by the British fighter, the more experienced professional whereas Hooker fought dirty but hard – it’s hard to take a warming to his style and many of the fans didn’t.
The bell sounded and there was a warm, nervous applause from the crowd at the Manchester Arena, no-one really knowing which way the fight was going to go.
A split decision, 115-113, 111-117, 117-111, in favour of Maurice Hooker seemed to tell a different tale to the fight that unfolded at the Manchester Arena. It’s unjust but it’s not a rematch you want to see.
Ricky Hatton’s heavyweight protégé Nathan Gorman was the opening bout of the television broadcast up against Sean ‘Big Sexy’ Turner who promised to wipe the grin off the rapidly rising 21 year old, Frank Warren fighter.
The fight opened tentatively with Gorman throwing repeated double jabs and when the Sean worked his way up close – into phonebox territory – Gorman launched flurry after flurry of ferocious uppercuts with menace packed behind them.
Turned – who went the distance with Filip Hrgovic earlier this year – was undoubtedly the most durable of opponents to have stepped in the ring with Gorman but appeared to be lazy in his head movement, becoming an almost static target for the relaxed fighter to pick off at will.
A right hand uppercut in the 2nd round dropped Turned in his own corner, a heavy shot that emphasised the gulf in quality between the two combatants but Turner rose on the bell and lived to face the third round.
Gorman started that third round, of a scheduled ten, with a sustained barrage lasting about 30 seconds in attempt to blast Turner out of the ring and whilst Big Sexy stayed mobile, Gorman hit back after a fifteen second breather with two successive uppercuts to rock the Irishman followed be a flurry on the ropes to stop Sean Turner on the ropes and move the talented heavyweight talent to 13 victories without defeat.
A statement made, no doubt.
On the undercard JJ Metcalf fought Aitor Nieto – who’d never been stopped – for the WBC International Super Welterweight title and took to the centre of the ring right from the off, establishing his superiority from the off to keep a sustained pressure despite the attempted high temp from his Spanish appointment.
A controlled performance from Metcalf, who always looked like the better technical fighter, looked to be going the distance but in the 12th round, Kid Shamrock unleashed a thunderous blind-side left hook to drop Nieto to the floor and with the Spaniard’s legs betraying him, ever-stiffening, Metcalf went in for the kill with Nieto looking to cling on.
With 90 seconds to go the fight was halted momentarily to let Metcalf re-bind his gloves, allowing Nieto precious time to recover but, if anything, Metcalf emerged the more invigorated of the two, stalking his opponent patiently throughout the ring before a HUGE punch sent his opponent scampering across the full diameter of the ring – Victor Loughlin came in with the merciful stop but, boy, did Metcalf show some stamina.
Mark Heffron was sin the shape and fight of his life against Andrew Robinson for the vacant WBC International Middleweight Championship. Heffron was the favourite but Robinson had never been stopped and both had their eyes on this as the fight in which to take a substantial step up.
Neither fighter shied away in the opening rounds with both standing in the middle of the ring – a little tentative in the timing of their punches but both showing conviction and intent a plenty. Heffron was hammering in shots to the body in order to fatigue the body of Robinson, at one point landing a substantially low blow, and the better work rate was enough to win the first three rounds over his more experienced counterpart.
An enjoyable fight to watch, the sixth round ignited with a continued body attack to the iron-will of Robinson but, consequently, in the barrage of punches there was a variety of low punches that saw energy sap from Robinson and Ian John Lewis giving a final warning.
A great shot in the immediate restart rattled the brain of Robinson as he began to duck and weave, bent over near the ropes, Heffron swinging wildly, connecting with some and missing with others but they all counted to the downfall of Andrew Robinson who fell victim to a sixth round knockout from the Oldham favourite who, yet again for this card, MADE A STATEMENT!
Also on the bill – Lyndon Arthur out-pointed, experienced and tough, Charles Adamu by 60-54, Jordan Thompson secured a 4th round stoppage as did Alex Dickinson to move 5 and 0 with the win against David Howe, Jack Massey got a 2nd round victory and Zac Burton successfully completed his debut with a 40-36 victory.