Alan Dawson – London
The European ruler of the lightweight division, Gavin Rees, 32, added a Lonsdale belt to his honours roll as, on Saturday, July 7 at the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield, The Rock proved too hard, too tough and too powerful when he was thrown at challenger Derry Mathews. In an even battle for a number of rounds, Rees emerged on top when he closed the show in the ninth round, punctuating a 2012 British belter of a brawl.
Official verdict: Rees by way of 9Rd TKO.
Ignoring the calls of support for Mathews (30-7-1, 16ko) from the Motorpoint masses, Rees (37-1-1, 18ko) broke out of a tentative shell in the first minute of the opening session to hound on Dirty Derry with a dog-like aggression, hooking in short-range shots with abundance and causing light bleeding from the nose. That good work, though, was negated by a strong finish to the stanza from Mathews, who rocked Rees with a strong punch moments from the bell.
In round two, Rees continually struggled to find rhythm and often was seen swinging and missing and was caught with the well-placed straight right from the Liverpudlian. Those mistakes, though, appeared rectified by the third round and, in a turn of events, it was Mathews who showed vulnerability. Rees clocked his man with right fists over the top, stalking him, punishing him with shots to the body and trapping him against one of the two neutral corners. Derry, 28, rallied and, with blood spewing from the corner of his left eyebrow due to an accidental head clash, goaded Rees onto him and roused the crowd with his machismo.
While Rees sought to establish the classic one-two of an orthodox jab introducing the straight right, his lead shot was often found wanting. This was in stark contrast to Mathews who, in the fourth, boxed well off of his own jab. However, as the fight progressed to it’s midway stage, it became apparent that Rees could handle the power of Mathews but the same could not be said if those names were swapped, particularly when Gavin tucked his punches into Derry’s ribcage.
Like the third round, the sixth had moments of pure slobberknockery as both men threw with bad intentions, almost to the sacrifice of technique. Mathews’ ability to put his punches into bunches was on display in the seventh round, as he got through with crisp straights and sneaky uppercuts. That gusto prevailed into the eighth round and the work-rate confounded Rees, whose success was built on his one and two shots to the body and to Mathews’ worsening laceration. Mathews required saving by the ring bell as Rees’ onslaught and the sheer power within, hurt and damaged Derry and thus turned the round in his favour.
Showing a good finisher’s instinct, Rees secured a convincing stoppage in the ninth and ultimately final round via hooking leather into Mathews’ jaw. The concluding shots felled Mathews and had him slumped, arched over with his seat in the air and his face in the canvas. The gallant fighter managed to – somehow – make it to his feet by the count of nine but referee Howard Forster waved the bout off, awarding victory to Rees who added Mathews’ British lightweight belt to his EBU title at 135lbs.
Alan Dawson – London
The well-publicised super bantamweight contest that pitted Rendall Munroe against Scott Quigg – two of Britain’s top fighters at the weight – ended in disappointing fashion on Saturday, June 16 as an accidental clash of heads caused Munroe to bleed profusely from the eyebrow. As the contest had only just entered into it’s third round, a technical draw was announced at the Velodrome in Manchester, however, a rematch will no doubt be booked…
Official verdict: Technical draw due to Munroe cut in round three.
“We need to do it again, it’s number one in the country against number two,” said promoter Ricky Hatton to Sky Sports Two. “Munroe needs to get the cut looked at. The minute the cut is healed up, it’s an immediate rematch.”
The Quigg – Munroe fight, in an event dubbed Road to Glory, received international interest due to the clash of styles and it’s ‘crossroads’ nature. And, while Munroe was the accomplished distance fighter, the established campaigner at the highest of levels and could brag a sterling resume and body of work, it was Quigg who entered the ring second and took command of the red corner.
This, though, was somewhat apt considering the column inches Quigg has attracted during his ascendancy thus far but, in the opening round, it was Munroe who went about his business while Quigg – in contrast – was far too tentative in the opening minute, perhaps showing signs of his relative inexperience at this stage.
Any nerves Quigg had in the opening session, though, appeared to have vanished by round two as Quigg boxed with confidence, landed with his acclaimed power, made Munroe miss, countered his man and was – largely – accurate. Munroe’s wide shots, such as the left hook, were blocked by Quigg’s well-placed gloves and, just as the crowd were beginning to get increasingly roused by the in-ring action, the fight was called off on account of an angry cut suffered by Munroe when the heads accidentally came together.
The laceration was a bad one and wept claret into his eye, over his nose and the 32-year-old was sporting a ghastly mask of blood within seconds, prompting the ringside doctor to advise the referee to call the contest off. As a result, both fighters shared a technical draw.
“That’s how it is, that’s the game, I thought I had his number, I was just warming up [and] I hadn’t even started,” assessed Munroe (24-2-1, 10ko) post-fight. “I’m more frustrated I didn’t get to take a new belt to take home to my kids.”
Quigg (24-0-1, 17ko) added: “We both came to brawl… he leaned in, I leaned in, that’s boxing innit. After two rounds, everything was going to plan. We had a perfect training camp but we didn’t get the perfect fight.”
Alan Dawson – London
Ricky Hatton’s stock as a trainer was enhanced on Saturday, June 16 as his junior middleweight from Minsk by way of Manchester - Sergey Rabchenko (21-0-0, 16ko) – showed a penchant for pressure, an ability to absorb a shot and an eye for a counter-punch as the undefeated 26-year-old out-powered former world title challenger Ryan Rhodes at the Velodrome in Manchester, halting the Spice Boy in round seven.
Official verdict: Rabchenko by way of 7th Rd TKO, collects EBU junior middleweight title.
“Listen, anybody… it doesn’t matter how many abs you do, if you get caught with a brilliant body shot it’s over,” said Rhodes (46-6-0, 31ko) to Sky Sports Two after the official announcement of his defeat. “I felt good, I knew he was strong, I felt like I was making him miss and pay. I wobbled him in the third round [sic: second round]. He has a good chin… I just got told I was 6-1 up on the scorecards but it was one of those things, it was the body shot. He’s got ten years on me [sic: nine years] but it’s nothing to do with age as I’ve been training with 23-year-olds in the gym.”
Nine years Rhodes’ junior, Rabchenko began the 12 round contest in positive fashion, occupying an aggressive stance, position and style while Rhodes boxed around the ropes, sending out southpaw jabs. The punches of the round, though, were all dispatched from the man from Minsk as Sergey cracked the Englishman’s jaw with a short-range uppercut at the midway point. This, punctuated with half jabs that set up the straight and flush left hands, saw Rabchenko collect the opening round.
Rhodes used his veteran experience to execute a swift turnaround and, by round three, he began to engage in what was shaping up to be a hot contest filled with heavy-handed blows. The difference between the two in the second and third sessions was that Rhodes’ punches were the cleaner while Rabchenko found the 35-year-old a frustrating opponent to pin down.
A wily counter-puncher with good punch resistance, Rabchenko was unfazed by Rhodes’ bigger shots in round five and was able to walk through them while setting up his own moves. Rhodes’ effectiveness had waned somewhat and the Russian found his ‘in’ and, in the subsequent stanza, Rab landed uppercuts, targeted the older man’s body and backed his man onto the ropes.
By the half-way point of the fight, Rhodes’ energy levels had lagged compared to what he had shown in the opener as Rabchenko’s unrelenting pressure had clearly taken effect. The pot-shotting from the home fighter was not on point as it had been and his fluidity was off.
With just moments left on the round clock and while Rhodes had landed a succession of clean shots, Rabchenko successfully countered Ryan and floored him for the first and only time in the bout. Rhodes was on his knees, grimacing in clear agony and, while he made it to a vertical position prior to the ten count, the referee refused to allow him to continue.
Considering his inability to establish himself at world level (losing out by way of late stoppage to Saul Alvarez) and now his failure to re-capture an EBU title in his favoured division, there will no doubt be question-marks over whether the road for Ryan has come to an end but the pugilist himself remains defiant: “Absolutely I’ll go on, this ain’t the end of Ryan Rhodes.”
Petra Kirsch – Gelsenkirchen
After a slow start against experienced heavyweight Alexander Dimitrenko, undefeated professional Kubrat Pulev finished strong and scored his most significant victory to date by knocking out a previously unstopped fighter who had, prior to the opening bell, only one loss on his resume (Eddie Chambers, on points). For his win on Saturday, May 5 at Germany’s emergent boxing Mecca; the Messehalle in Erfurt, Pulev gained the EBU championship.
Official verdict: Pulev by way of KO.
Dimitrenko executed a sharp jab in the opening round and, boasting the superior technique, the Ukraine-born German’s work was in danger of getting overshadowed by Pulev’s wide overhand right in round two. Such success from Pulev proved to be sporadic, as Dimitrenko – a 29-year-old with victories over Albert Sosnowski, Ross Purrity, Timo Hoffmann and Michael Sprott on his record – began throwing his own right hand and it was a far more educated, straighter and thoughtful shot than the ones Pulev dispatched.
Pulev, 6’4 1/2, came back into the fight in the third round and marked-up Dimitrenko’s eye with some blue swelling due to a more convincing jab. That lead shot oft came at an unexpected moment as Pulev would wind-up to throw the right, which opened Alexander up and, instead, Kubrat poked an orthodox jab into Pulev’s face. Finding his range with power in the fourth, Pulev’s overhand rights – thrown in a less looping fashion than in the early rounds – connected and forced Dimitrenko into an act of kidology as he attempted to laugh off the thudding shot.
Dimitrenko had the benefit of the physical advantage as he towered over Pulev by three inches and also had a greater wingspan (reach = 83 inches). His fighting style in the fifth round, though, did not reflect this as Pulev maintained the boxing initiative. Dimitrenko rallied late in the stanza and a controlled cluster of punches ensured a share of the spoils prior to the sixth.
Fighting in black trunks, Dimitrenko – nicknamed Sascha – pressured Pulev further in the sixth round but left himself open to incoming shots and a mouse on either side of his nose became obvious to note. Pulev’s intuition was far greater than Dimitrenko’s. When Dimitrenko was about to throw a left, Pulev knew that he could jab with his opponent’s jab and beat him to the punch – something that happened repeatedly in the seventh. Dimitrenko may have been credited with the greater shot output, but it was Pulev’s precision that deserved higher points for A: the effectiveness of his aggression and B: opening up angry cuts (a peach of an uppercut at the end of round seven could have been the blow that left a lot of blood leaking from the side of Sascha’s eye).
The will, determination and desire to throw a shot had been beaten out of Dimitrenko. In round eight he threw in a lackadaisical manner while Pulev’s upper body movement ensured he could evade the shots. In return, Pulev – to put it simply – outboxed his man. Using the full space of the ring, Pulev’s conditioning was so ‘on’ that he was still able to maneuver around the periphery in round nine with the same ease in which he did in round one. His shot selection, too, was just as wise and, even though he relinquished the ten scores to Dimi in the early stages, by the decisive stanzas it was turning into a beat down.
Such was the difference in class, accuracy and power, that before round ten, British trainer Scott Welch’s attempts to gee up Dimitrenko fell on deaf ears as the pugilist gave a hint that he may have wanted an out. The more Dimitrenko’s jaw began to hang due to fatigue, the easier time Pulev had in landing as Kubrat attached chin-checking overhand right shots to his orthodox jab.
With his mouth agape and legs buckled, Dimitrenko was eventually – and inevitably – felled in round 11, by a jab no less. The knockdown was most likely scored due to exhaustion on Dimitrenko’s part rather than power on Pulev’s, but the big man was on his knees for a big count – all the way to nine – before the referee waved the fight off.
With victory, Pulev enhanced his standing as one of Europe’s leading heavyweights, bolstered his claim to be amongst the elite at world level, added the European title to his IBF International belt and saw his record jump up to 16-0-0, 8ko. Dimitrenko stepped back to 32-2-0, 21ko.
On The Beak – Admin
Tony Bellew sent a chilling warning to current European (EBU) champion at light heavyweight Eduard Gutknecht after a stunning fifth round knockout of Danny McIntosh in his British title defence at the Echo Arena in Liverpool. The hometown star delivered an overhand right at the start of the fifth that was a fitting finish to The Big Bang billing, and there was only one winner from the start as Bellew bossed proceedings in front of his raucous army of fans.
Bellew rocked McIntosh in every round, finally flooring the Norwich fighter at the very end of the fourth round. McIntosh had a minute to recover, but it was not enough as Tony put the icing on a dominant performance with his devastating knockout blow.
McIntosh came into the fight brimful of confidence knowing he’s prospered in tough waters before after winning the European title in France against Thierry Karl. But he was unable to silence the partisan crowd this time around as Tony jumped all over the challenger from the off and is looking to face Gutknecht for the European strap after running out of patience over a rematch with Nathan Cleverly.
“I needed to make a big statement tonight and that’s exactly what I did,” said Bellew. “It was a calculated performance and my game plan was all about speed. Danny wasn’t in France tonight, he was in Scouseland and he couldn’t handle me or stop me. I’m humbled that people spend their hard earned cash on coming to see me fight. I’m no different from the fans; I just punch people in the face for a living that’s all.
“I don’t need Nathan Cleverly to make a name for myself. He’s fighting number 83 in the world, which says it all. I just want to fight someone who will challenge me. I’m not interested in anything less than that. I would fight him anywhere but he doesn’t want to know, so let’s move on.
“Who is there in this country to fight? I want to fight the best. I don’t want to train for 12 weeks and fight someone who I can blow over. To be European champion would be a dream and I would love a fight in Germany with Gutknecht, what an experience that would be.”
Petra Kirsch – Gelsenkirchen
Making his first fistic appearance in the current calendar year, a sharp James DeGale boxed like he had been out of the ring for only six weeks, rather than six months as the Londoner coasted to a straight-forward fourth round knockout victory having floored EBU super middleweight title challenger Cristian Sanavia four times. DeGale, 11 years Sanavia’s junior at 26, triumphed at the Arena Nord, Frederikshavn in Denmark on Saturday, April 21.
Official verdict: DeGale by way of fourth round KO.
Utilising his height and reach advantages, DeGale began the EBU title fight at super middleweight by triple-jabbing the shorter, stockier Sanavia from range. He relinquished control of the centre of the ring to the Italian challenger as he swanned around the ropes. When Sanavia pressured, DeGale blocked the punches with his wrists, forearms and gloves as he employed a rigid Philly-shell guard. Switch-hitting comfortably, DeGale showed stellar technical skills in the opening round and easily gained the ten, reducing Cristian to nine.
In the second round, Sanavia achieved success with a left hand that forced DeGale into a clinch. Any crude pressure Sanavia exerted was effectively negated by DeGale’s exquisite movement and the way he threw his shots… uppercuts were launched and landed with precision and, for the most part, high gloves protecting his temples provided a cushion from incoming hook punches. A sharp shooter, DeGale boasted good boxing ability and shot selection with a plethora of his subsequent shots in the third all coming after the jab and double jab – both orthodox and southpaw.
A 37-year-old veteran with 51 professional fights and 341 rounds behind him, Sanavia was breathing heavily between the third and fourth rounds; a sign he may have been uncomfortable with the tempo of the contest. Midway through the round, Sanavia suffered three successive flash knockdowns as DeGale changed into a higher gear. With 14 seconds left on the clock, DeGale finished the job early with a left hook to the side of Sanavia’s body as the Italian dropped to the canvas a fourth and final time.
Whilst DeGale does not possess pure one punch knockout power, what he does have is an undeniable ability to string punches together with ease and put seats on the canvas via accumulative punch power – which is exactly what happened to Sanavia. With the victory, DeGale saw his record jump up to 12-1-0, 9ko and make a successful first defence of the EBU super middleweight championship title he won when he majority decisioned Piotr Wilczewski in a tough 12 rounder.
Sanavia dropped down to 45-6-1, 13ko.
On The Beak – Admin
Burgeoning super middleweight James DeGale, 26, makes the first defence of his coveted EBU championship this evening – Saturday, April 21 – as he takes on experienced challenger Cristian Sanavia, a 37-year-old southpaw who briefly held the WBC world title eight years ago. DeGale weighed in on the dot (168lbs) while Sanavia came in half a pound lighter. The two swap shots at the Arena Nord, Frederikshavn in Denmark as part of the Nordic Fight Night series.
On The Beak – Admin
Gavin Rees, 31, produced a fantastic performance in Anthony Mezaache’s backyard in France, forcing a seventh round stoppage to retain his European lightweight title in style last weekend. The Welshman traveled over to Paris for his second defence and was the aggressor from the opening bell. Rees was classy, powerful and was controlled enough to dismiss the Frenchman’s challenge and move a step closer to his dream of becoming a two-weight world champion.
“I keep telling people I can punch at lightweight and giving the chance I think I can win another world title,” said Rees. “I had a great training camp, it was boiling in [Paris] but I still felt fresh. I worked well on the jab and I was catching him with the right often and I think I did a great job.”
Rees connected early with his right hand and mixed his work up well, controlling things with his jab. A clash of heads in the second round caused a nasty gash to the Frenchman’s forehead and threatened to bring the fight to a premature end, but thankfully Mezaache’s corner stemmed the flow of blood, the fight continued and Rees moved through the gears seamlessly.
The champion really put his foot down in the sixth round, rocking the hometown favourite at will and relentlessly pouring the pressure on with unerring accuracy.
Some great work to the body led to another big right hand in the opening half of the seventh round that floored the Frenchman and with so much time left in the round, Rees saw his chance to end things and pounced brilliantly. Again, the jackhammer right landed to rock Mezaache and he pinned him on the ropes with some stinging blows, and a combination of Mezaache’s corner and the referee ended the contest with 45 seconds of the seventh round left.
Alan Dawson – London
Grzegorz Proksa‘s tenure as EBU middleweight champion lasted just one fight as unfancied challenger Kerry Hope out-hustled the previously undefeated Pole at the Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield on Saturday, March 17. Proksa established an early lead but suffered a ghastly cut that changed the nature of the bout, allowed Hope to stamp an authority on the contest and cruise to victory in a closely-competitive, highly-entertaining war.
Official verdict: 114-114, 112-115, 113-114 to Hope.
An England-based Polish southpaw of diminutive height but great sporting stature, Grzegorz Proksa elevated himself to the pinnacle of the European middleweight charts by retiring world-ranked Sebastian Sylvester in October and, versus Kerry Hope in Yorkshire, he once again displayed his aesthetically-pleasing boxing style. He showed good upper body movement, exquisite foot placement and generally confounded the Welsh challenger with his shoulder shimmy, his gun-slinging nature by shooting from the hip and, when he loaded up on his punches, the only hope Kerry had was by surname only.
By round three, Proksa had established an authority with his body-punching, however, a worrying cut had opened up on the 27-year-old’s brow following what the referee had deemed an accidental head-clash with Hope. The cut was so angry that it perturbed Proksa and Hope began peppering the wound with jabs thrown from portside. Any ascendancy Hope had from his third round advantage was beaten back down in the fourth as Proksa approached him from all angles and rattled Hope’s frame with a barrage of mighty blows.
In the fifth, Hope stepped up a gear and forced Proksa into a corner. The reigning European king, though, was punched precisely and, while Hope appeared the greater jabber, it was Proksa’s shots that were doing the greater damage. In a contest that was proving to be filled with see-saw action, the pendulum swung back into Hope’s favour as, despite taking shots flush, he pressed forth and put Proksa under unaccustomed pressure, making the Pole wilt through a dedicated headhunting tactic which exploited the champion’s non-existent guard.
With blood splattered over his brow and cheek at the end of the seventh, Proksa had relinquished control and momentum to Hope. All too often Proksa was failing to land with his left hand which allowed Hope to find his own way through with clubbing right hooks. In round eight, the uppercut – which had been a reliable weapon for the title-holder in the preceding rounds – remained a useful punch when Proksa was backed into the ropes, yet Hope roused the crowd and will have attracted admiring glances from ringside with his left hand and his work-rate.
It was testament to Hope’s chin that he was able to withstand Proksa’s power, particularly the left straight coupled with the right hook yet Kerry was, at the beginning of the ninth, docked a point by Phil Edwards; the third man in the ring, for rubbing his sweaty head into Proksa’s laceration.
Proksa’s work-rate had lagged significantly by the championship rounds and the one thing that had kept Grzegorz in the contest was the ninth round sanction. The end of the 11th, though, in keeping with the power struggle, saw Proksa finish well, yet it was not enough to convince his corner who implored the Polish pugilist to secure a last gasp knockout.
In the final round, Proksa tagged Hope with one-two combinations, slugs thrown with bad intentions and tortuous uppercuts launched from knee level. With half his face caked in blood, Proksa dipped and ducked under what Hope fired back, yet the champion secured what could be a crucial final round.
Hope landed close to 800 punches, showing he was a far busier fighter than Proksa, however, it was Grzegorz who outlanded the Welshman. The judges at ringside favoured the work-rate of the challenger, who entered the bout as a huge underdog yet left the Motorpoint Arena with the EBU belt wrapped around his waist.
With the win, Hope moved to 17-3-0, 1ko while Proksa suffered his first defeat and fell to 26-1-0, 19ko.
Tommy Barber – London
A champion of three bantamweight belts – British, Commonwealth and European – Jamie McDonnell defended the latter against Ivan Pozo at the Hillsborough Leisure Centre in Sheffield on Saturday, March 3. McDonnell broke down and stopped a former world title challenger at flyweight as Pozo suffered a brutal second round knockout as he was unable to beat the count following a body shot.
Official verdict: McDonnell wins second round knockout.
A fast-rising 118lber, English 25-year-old McDonnell boxed in a cerebral fashion with great precision as early as round one. He took control of the centre of the ring and fired a variety of one-two combinations toward the Spaniard. All movements began with the jab, yet it was a matter on what was open whether the straight right hand or a hooking punch or a body-blow was attached to the lead orthodox left.
Pozo, a prizefighter who had commanded respect whilst campaigning as a flyweight, moved tentatively around the periphery of the ring in round two. He was loathe to actually let his fists go whilst McDonnell, in a converse manner, took the fight to his opponent, landed with ease, pushed Pozo back with straight shots and uppercuts before the 32-year-old was canvassed by a debilitating left hook to the side of the body.
“I’m stepping it up now, I took my time and hit my shots,” McDonnell said with composure to Sky Sports. “I would have taken my time but it was a sweet one underneath. I felt it catch him bang on and I didn’t expect him to get up. I’d like to have a good ten or 12 rounds but he’s boxed for world titles and I just got rid of him. I’ve had four defences [of the EBU title], I’ve got to raise my game [for a world title shot]. I didn’t get out of first gear but I really enjoyed it.”
Promoter Frank Maloney claimed that by the year’s end he could envisage a world title shot for McDonnell who he stated has clearly separated himself from the domestic pack at 118lbs: “I still think he’s two fights away. He needs a good test by a good international bantamweight.
“Jamie was perfect [tonight] he dominated with the jab and took him apart. This kid is the future of bantamweights in this country.”
McDonnell rises to 19-2-1, 9ko with the victory while Pozo slumps to 32-7-1, 20ko.