Last weekend there was plenty to write about, think about and debate. British boxing has seen a number of very decent fighters manage to blast opponents away and then come unstuck on the next stage of their career. It suggests caution should be the key word in anyone’s career but ought not to be the cornerstone for every fighter in the UK, surely, who has managed a marquee victory. Caution is all very well but shall it bring the crowds back? It was a subject we continued to debate after the big bill in the UK on last Saturday, the 10th of April
Such a debate was not just limited to these isles as in Connecticut, the IBF super flyweight action between Jerwin Ancajas and Jonathan Javier Rodriguez saw Ancajas make yet another successful defence of his IBF title. Ancajas floored Rodriguez in the 8th round but Rodriguez also held his own in the other 11 rounds. Could a unification battle be Ancajas’s 10th defence?
On the same bill, former world champion Sergey Lipinets objected to being seen as the underdog in his fight with Jaron Ennis, but we saw just exactly why he was in a 6th round stoppage that was as brutal as it was impressive. Ennis has shown his credentials, and his post-match comments about being patient in his assault on a world title was music to the ears. There is little doubt though he is on the right pathway.
On the same evening in Tulsa, the WBO light heavyweight title fight between Joe Smith Jr and Maxim Vlasov ended with amajority 12 round decision in favour of the home fighter – Vlasov was furious. It was a fight that had it all – tight scoring up until the 10th, the home fighter winning it through the championship rounds, controversial scoring and plenty to complain about – if you lost.
But the main event for UK fans, last Saturday, was thanks to Matchroom/Sky in The Copper Box Arena. We had the return of bantamweight Ukashir Farooq, taking Alexander Espinoza to 12 rounds with yet another classy display ending in a very decent points win. That rematch with Lee MacGregor looks increasingly tasty but there is every possibility that those behind both fighters are going to let it simmer and develop until there are belts and titles on the line.
The WBO middleweight title fight between Savannah Marshall and Maria Lindberg, showed just how classy and beautiful the work of Marshall is as she took out her veteran opponent. Lindberg had never previously been stopped but Marshall put on an outstanding display which ended in the 3rd when Lindberg hit the canvass and the fight was over. Next for Marshall must be the Claressa Shields contest. Eddie Hearn has got Saunders, Canelo, Joshua, Fury, can he get Marshall in against Shields? If anyone can…
We then had the WBA bantamweight title between Shannon Courtney and Ebanie Bridges. It may have lit up the sports pages and the bubble for all the wrong reasons, but the fight ignited for all the right reasons. This was a war of attrition. Bridges was too come forward to win, Courtney was cute and better at boxing and won deservedly in what was possibly the best women’s boxing fight seen. It showed that even with two of the middle range fighters – neither can claim with so few fights between them professionally that they have proved much in the ring as yet – that this was a masterclass, but it was yet another shot in the arm for women’s boxing. In fact, it was a huge shot in the arm for boxing!
Finally, the main event was the welterweight contest for the WBA continental title between Connor Benn and Samuel Vargas. It lasted 80 seconds. Benn came forward spitefully and demolished Vargas. Probably Benn is the most improved fighter in the UK, if not the world, and he was unbelievable in this fight. He wants Amir Khan, Kell Brook, all the Americans who are names… after a display like that it is hard not to get carried away. All of them are far too early for him but his hunger is delightful. Will he be persuaded to go for David Avanesyan? Josh Kelly? Eddie Hearn knows what he has in Benn. He needs to avoid what happened to others who managed to blast their way through the ranks like Ted Cheeseman and Lewis Ritson and build Benn so that when we have crowds back, this is one fighter who headlines a huge show with a world title on the line after he has gone through the gears, been in the 12 round fights that have tested his resolve and not catapulted him towards super stardom that hss failure written all over it… Let the debate start now… Oh, it’s already well underway…