Light Heavyweight Jake ‘The Blade’ Ball (8-1-0, 7 KO’s made a successful return to the ring following his shock 1st round stoppage defeat to JJ McDonagh in December 2016 with a 1st round TKO victory of his own against Olegs Fedotovs (21-30-0, 15 KO’s).
Ball, under the tutelage of renowned British boxing trainer Jim McDonnell, opened up in watchful fashion, feinting and searching for openings behind the jab. However, Ball would not have to wait for long as the first significant shot he landed – a right hook to the top of his opponent’s head – stunned Fedotovs, with the outmatched Latvian staggering back to the ropes.
Seizing the opportunity for an early finish, Ball jumped on his man with an ensuing barrage of shots, forcing the referee to call a halt to the contest after just 58 seconds of the opening round. For Ball, it is a much needed win and a well-timed confidence boost as he seeks to regain momentum in 2017.
Middleweight prospect Felix Cash (5-0-0, 3 KO’s) continued his unbeaten start to the paid ranks with a dominant 6 round decision victory over the brave, durable Irishman Jay Byrne (4-1-0, 1 KO).
Cash settled into the bout in his customary all-action style, getting down to business with a series of spiteful shots to the head and body of the game Byrne, who himself replied with a cuffing 1-2 combination towards the end of the round to keep the Wokingham-born Cash on his toes.
Another display of stinging power punching continued into the second session, with Cash landing some hurtful body shots as well as a wide right hook around the guard of the retreating Byrne, who had struggled to gain a foothold in the fight.
Cash continued to pile up the points into the third, this time choosing to box behind his jab and control the distance, after perhaps being guilty of loading up with his shots in the previous sessions. A sharp left hook from the Tony Sims trained fighter secured another clear round for Cash, with Byrne showing signs of feeling the pace.
A clean right uppercut from Cash in the fourth drew applause from the watching crowd and once again threatened to open up the teak-tough Byrne, who by now was surviving on guts and heart alone.
Going into the fifth, the fight continued its one-sided feel, with a flush right hand drawing a measure of defiance from Byrne, who dropped his hands in an act of bravado, much to the delight of the sizeable Irish support.
More quality work from Cash in the sixth and final round almost saw Byrne hit the canvas after a corking right hand bounced off of his chin. However, deservedly, the Irishman would see the final bell – his undefeated streak halted, but his pride intact – with Cash running out a deserved winner to extend his perfect record as a professional.
Undefeated Brixton Cruiserweight Isaac Chamberlain (7-0-0, 2 KO’s) made his highly-anticipated return to the ring following his 2016 ‘Fight of the Year’ candidate against Wadi Camacho, impressing with a 3rd round TKO victory against late replacement Imantas Davidaitis (5-20-1, 4 KO’s) amidst a carnival atmosphere at York Hall.
After a well-documented shoulder injury, a 6ft 8” late replacement may not have been seen as an ideal candidate for a return to the ring, however, Chamberlain showed intelligence and patience in a cagey opener as he sought to close the distance against the aptly nicknamed ‘Giant’, with a snappy left jab to the pit of Davidaitis working as a smart range fighter.
Satisfied with his opening round scouting mission, Chamberlain stepped up the pace in the second round, showing more adventure in landing a lead left hook around the guard of Davidaitis that seemed to have his man in trouble. With his opponent backed up against the ropes, Chamberlain launched a fierce body attack, appearing to hurt Davidaitis with a left hook moments before the final bell.
An almost identical shot – a savage left hook to the body – opened the third round, with Chamberlain sending the gargantuan Davidaitis crumbling to the canvas in pain. Despite bravely beating the count, Davidaitis became a sitting duck for Chamberlain, and a further body assault forced the referee to step in and call an end to proceedings – much to the delight of Chamberlain’s raucous support.
It was a thoroughly professional performance from Chamberlain as he seeks to build on his burgeoning fan base and progress towards a shot at the British Cruiserweight title. With sterner tests ahead, Chamberlain will be delighted with the stoppage win and, more importantly, coming through the routine contest unscathed.
Craig ‘Spider’ Richards (8-0-0, 3 KO’s) claimed the Southern Area Super Middleweight title with an enthralling, hard earned decision victory against the previously unbeaten Alan ‘Avalanche’ Higgins (12-1-0, 6 KO’s) after 10 pulsating rounds in a cauldron of support for both men.
Richards, boxing out of the blossoming Sims stable, utilised his superior height and reach advantages in the opening session, boxing smoothly behind a long left jab, occupying Higgins at range and booking the first round, with Higgins showing plenty of bluster but not much quality as he struggled to get to grips with his lucid opponent.
The two fighters traded jabs in the second, with Richards once again coming out on top in the battle of the lead left hands. Higgins would enjoy some success towards the end of the session, backing Richards up to the ropes – a recurring theme over the course of the fight – before unloading a volley of shots to the head and body of ‘Spider’. Richards would reply with a long right hand that momentarily rocked Higgins back on to his heels.
Amidst a feverish atmosphere in which both fighters enjoyed vociferous support, the fight warmed further in the third, with Higgins once again able to push Richards back to the ropes, having some success with his workrate in the process. Richards would continue to look firmly in control in the middle of the ring, and seemed content to cover up on the ropes, blocking Higgins’ shots, with the odd barrage getting through his guard.
Higgins would enjoy his best round of the fight so far in the fourth, landing a succession of right hands round the guard of Richards after backing his man up against the ropes. Once again, Richards appeared nonplussed with Higgins attacks, choosing to cover up on the ropes rather than turn his man, and in doing so, afforded his opponent the opportunity to secure a much needed round on the scorecard.
After fighting at a frantic pace to this point, both men showed signs of tiring in the fifth round, with the action becoming slightly messy, favouring the mauling Higgins at close quarters, while Richards’ struggled to hold the middle of the ring in the wake of his marauding opponent’s advances.
With the fight becoming closer and closer, Richards returned to his educated jab in the sixth, boxing well at range, landing a crisp lead left hook before exiting on the angle and avoiding Higgins’ return fire. A peach of a right uppercut from Richards drew cheers from his many fans, with Higgins unable to sustain the tempo of his work that had brought him success in the previous fixtures and showing further signs of fatigue.
Higgins, sensing both his title and undefeated record slipping away from him, found a much needed second wind in the seventh, bullying Richards – who was also beginning to show signs of tiring – back to the ropes, landing a trio of right hands to send sweat flying from the head of his opponent. Richards would once again find solace in the middle of the ring, with his superior boxing ability bringing an end to another close round between two game competitors.
The contest followed its familiar pattern in the eighth, with Richards producing the cleaner work in centre ring, before being hustled back to the ropes by the relentless attack of Higgins. Despite many shots being caught on the gloves, Higgins appeared to be doing enough to at least influence the crowd, with his perceived aggression drawing cheers from his many admirers.
The ninth round saw both men dig deep into their energy reserves, with something of a role reversal taking place, with a series of jabs landed by Higgins coming before Richards backed his opponent back to the ropes. Both men would trade leather until the end of the session, with Richards appearing to land the cleaner, more hurtful blows, despite Higgins exhibiting the greater output.
With the fight entering the final round, supporters of both men rallied in a bid to inspire their charge into winning a potentially pivotal round of the scorecard. What ensued was a round as exciting as the nine before it, with both men landing combinations in a desperate attempt to clinch victory. Richards threw his jab with authority, while Higgins did his utmost to impose himself on his opponent for the last time. After swapping right hands, the final bell would sound with those at ringside questioning the outcome: a tense wait for the scorecard followed, with the only guarantee being that the fight was sure to be close.
With a scorecard of 97-95, fans of both men were left in suspense awaiting the outcome. However, it would be the Richards supporters left celebrating upon the announcement, as the man known as ‘Spider’ picked up the Southern Area title in just his 8th professional bout. It was a thoroughly engaging, back-and-forth contest that was fought at a high intensity throughout. Fans of Higgins – and indeed Higgins himself – may feel hard done by with the outcome, with his perceived aggression enough to get the nod in the eyes of some observers, but it was the clean punching and ring craft of Richards that ultimately shone through for the decision. A great fight, fought in a sizzling atmosphere and a contest that will surely improve both fighter going forward.
Rob Tebbutt Scorecard: 96-94 (Richards)
In the evening’s Main Event, rising Featherweight star Reece ‘Bomber’ Bellotti produced a ruthless performance in dismantling veteran Dai Davies to become the mandatory challenger for the British Featherweight title, with a brutal 3rd round knockout enhancing his reputation as one of British boxing’s hottest properties.
Bellotti – who stopped tough veteran Ian Bailey in his previous contest – started at a typically fast pace, immediately putting the 33 year old Davies to the test with his high-pressure footwork and flashy hand speed. Boxing behind the jab, Bellotti never allowed Davies to settle into the fight, smothering his slippery opponent in the opening round with intelligent pressure fighting and whacking to the mid-section with his trademark body assault.
Davies continued to try and be elusive in the second session, but it was to no avail, with Bellotti cutting the ring off smartly, forcing him to engage and landing a series of hurtful looking left hooks to the body.
Fighting out of one of the most talent-rich gyms in British boxing – a stable that includes IBF World Super Middleweight Champion James ‘Chunky DeGale – Bellotti has shown rapid improvements in his fledgling professional career. These improvements were showcased in full form in the third round, as a rapier left hook and a crunching right hand saw the usually durable Davies dropped in devastating fashion, with the Welshman falling face first on to the canvas after a lightning quick combination that seemed to explode out of nowhere.
Despite his brave efforts to rise to his feet, Davies would be counted out by the referee and had to receive oxygen while sat on his stool in the corner, a further indication of the heavy handed punching power Bellotti possesses. It was a performance that was as impressive as it was brutal, with Bellotti machine-like in his approach, completely overwhelming his experienced opponent with speed, skill and, of course, brutish punching power.
For Bellotti, the only issue may be how quickly to move him on through his career. With esteemed trainer Jim McDonnell in his corner, the sky is the limit for the likable 26 year old, and with the British Featherweight title firmly in his sights, there may be no way of slowing the progression of the ‘Bomber’.
By Rob Tebbutt. You can follow him on Twitter on @RobTebbutt