Over the last week both in the US and in Germany we had fights that will keep us on our collective twittering toes for a few weeks as they provided spectacle and talking points aplenty.
In the USA and in Las Vegas, Nevada, we got Andre Ward winning against Sergey Kovalev with an 8th round stoppage that has sent the internet into overdrive. Kovalev looks like he was hit with more than a few low blows before finding himself up against the ropes and no longer defending himself. In walks the referee and as Kovalev is no longer defending himself, calls it off.
With the WBA/IBF/WBO light heavyweight titles now wrapped round the best pound for pound fighter on the planet’s waist the arguments started with many in Kovalev’s camp claiming foul for the second time and an appeal, which shall no doubt fail, has been lodged. Will there be a third fight; if there is a demand for it we can expect it.
It was not however the only piece of controversy in Las Vegas that night as the one time boring super bantamweight, Guillermo Rigondeaux knocked out Moises Flores to defend his WBA belt at the tail end of the first round. The problem was that he landed his crushing blow AFTER the bell. There was much debate amongst the officials before Rigondeaux was declared the winner but with Flores’ team likely, like Kovalev’s, to protest officially this could end up being a rematch and a no contest declared from last Saturday.
In Hessen, Germany the last chance saloon was a stop too far for veteran British puncher, Paul Smith. He had seen his brother, super featherweight, Stephen Smith destroy Karoly Gallovich in the first round and on the undercard but then had the indignity of his 3rd and likely final shot at world glory against Tyron Zuege for the WBA regular crown end in a very wide points win for the home based guy.
Smith was second all night and all the talk of going for a knockout was empty rhetoric as he never looked likely to be landing any shots that would achieve it. Smith has gone back to think again with retirement the likely best option, after a stellar career about which there is much to be proud.
Also on the undercard was British based super middleweight Patrick Mendy, who lost on points to unbeaten Stefan Maertel.
Whilst we may have been dazzled by the bright lights of foreign fields we also had the second battle of Belfast thanks to a great card from Queensberry Promotions and Frank Warren.
The evening began with super featherweight Jono Carroll up against John Quigley for the IBF East/West European crown. Carroll left the building with the belt on a split decision which included the highly significant two knockdowns he inflicted on Quigley. It was a massively entertaining scrap and there are really decent calls for a rematch.
Then we saw super lightweight Tyrone McKenna up against Ferenc Katona and McKenna got a 4th round stoppage, thanks to the brutality of his head shots and a final uppercut, that has marked the cards for the future.
Welsh lightweight Craig Evans then faced Dublin’s own Stephen Ormond for the WBO European belt. Evans put Ormond down twice in the last round and the scorecards gave it to him – widely on two of them – at the end of a fight that was anything but classic but had enough to entertain.
The night though belonged to a man who had to dig deep. Flyweight Paddy Barnes found himself in only his 3rd professional appearance in deep, deep waters against Silvio Olteanu for the WBO European title. Barnes got a majority decision in the end which he recognised was a tad fortunate though nobody was taking away from him the win. People in the know have handed a lot of praise to the Romanian challenger. It also served as a reminder that this pro game is still all new to Mr Barnes.
Finally, in Manchester lightweight Joe Murray got an 8 round points win against Henry Janes.
Last night, Friday the 23rd June, Newcastle a Matchroom and Sky promised a few cracking fights and they certainly delivered. This may have been a bill without any titles up for grabs but we saw the future of British boxing and it looked pretty, damn healthy.
Super welterweight Anthony Fowler got a 4th round stoppage win against Nikoloz Gvajava and made, in only his 2nd professional fight, another massive statement in this weight division. Fowler has a great future ahead of him and now we are beginning to see the Rio champions making their way professionally, it is clear we can imagine great times ahead.
Bantamweight Stuart Hall was certainly NOT the youngest to fight last night but he made as big a statement as any other boxer on the bill, with a professional performance and a points win against Jose Aguilar. Hall is on the lookout for a world title fight and on this performance, may be ready for one in the next few months. Hall controversially lost out to Lee Haskins last year and I do not think he has the wherewithal to take on and beat Ryan Burnett but another avenue?
After surgery on BOTH hands super lightweight Bradley Saunders was delighted with a stoppage win against Casey Blair in the 1st round. Saunders is the last of the Beijing Olympians to be quoted in the mix for titles and given his troubles with his hands is targeting domestic honours. On this showing that should be not a problem for him and it was great to see him back doing what he does best.
The latest female Olympian to turn Pro – Natasha Jonas blew away the cobwebs after giving birth with a massive statement as he won by TKO in the first round against Monika Antonik. Everyone wants a rematch with her against the other Matchroom superstar of female boxing – Katie Taylor – but we can see how special Jonas will be so this could be well down the line and should be.
Top of the bill was super welterweight action between Josh Kelly and Tom Whitfield where both local fighters had their supporters in the crowd and an adoring public ready at home. Whitfield was a decent boxer and came in with hopes that were obliterated in a flurry of left hooks that sent him to the canvass and he was never going to get back up. It left Josh Pretty Boy Kelly with a stoppage in his 3rd professional fight after only 79 seconds! They are talking of him moving quickly up the ranks – this could be meteoric very, very quickly!