Frontline diary: Juggernaut runs over opponent

Paul Zanon
19/03/2018 9:00am

Paul Zanon reports from snow-swept east London as Joe Joyce makes 'em wait and then finishes proceedings in the blink of an eye...

Let’s get straight into the action. The headliner. The one we were all waiting for. ‘Waiting,’ being the operative word. After a healthy 12-fight undercard, due to a number of stoppages, there was a 45-minute gap before heavyweights, Joe ‘The Juggernaut’ Joyce and Donnie Palmer took to the ring.

Many spectators had left the building due to train and transport issues caused by the snow which was now coming down outside like Lapland at Christmas. Those remaining were urged to fill the floor seats, which they gladly did, taking advantage of the free upgrade.

However, after a three-quarters-of-an-hour wait, Joyce polished off proceedings in just 38 seconds – less than three-quarters-of a-minute. It’s hard to say much about the fight, apart from that fact that Joyce has dynamite in his fists. He finished the 6' 10", 21 stone, 7lbs American with a straight one-two. When Joyce’s right hand connected, Palmer’s senses disconnected.

What does this win tell us about Joyce? It tells us that he dealt with a stiffer test in stunning fashion and in just his third fight, and he embraced the challenge with gusto. Unfortunately, it tells us little about his tank, his chin or how he fares against the rest of the professional British heavyweight contingent.

But let’s slow down for a moment. There’s time. The affable Joyce has only had three fights. If by his seventh or eighth he’s not fought for a title of some kind, then we can make some noise. For the moment, his progression of opponents in relation to his fights have been good. 'Del Boy' Chisora next? Let’s see….

Reversing the clocks back, I missed the first three fights due to train issues, but here’s the results from those three:

Fight 1: Daniel Mendes beat Grigor Karastoyanov via points decision after climbing off the canvas.

Fight 2: Ricky Heavens beat Jordan Grannum via points decision.

Fight 3: Darrell Church secured a stoppage win over Rikke Askew - round one.

I was able to catch up with the action from the fourth contest onwars, which was fortuitous, as it was a cracker. Decked out in West Ham colours, Romford’s Mark Little took on Croatia’s, Tomislav Rudan, over four rounds at cruiserweight. As always with Little, he was heavy handed and relentless with unleashing his arsenal.

In the first round, after a sustained barrage of punches, Rudan went down. With a record of 7-21-1, it may have seemed that the Croatian was in for an early shower, but by the third round, he was a totally different fighter. Despite boasting a bloodied nose, Rudan rallied and in the dying seconds of the round caught Little with a combo, which had the Romford favourite down and dazed for an eight count. Another 20 seconds and the Croatian could well have finished the job.

In the fourth round, both fighters went hell for leather, which was a tribute to their heart and desire. It was one of the best last rounds I’ve seen in a long time. Little won via a 38-37 points decision, which was fair and extended his unbeaten record to 7-0. Cracking fight.

Next up was Luton’s Linus Udofia against Neath’s Geraint Goodridge, over a scheduled four rounds at middleweight. After an uneventful first round, Udofia started to put together some silky smooth combinations, which Goodridge responded to, but with little effect on Udofia.

What Udofia lacked in strength, he made up in for in punch volume. After a series of chopping hooks to the body in the third round, the man from Neath was unable to make the count and the contest was called to a halt. Udofia moved to 8-0.

The sixth contest of the evening was between Wembley’s touted prospect Youssef Khoumari and last-minute stand-in Kristian Laight. One of Britain’s most prolific journeymen, Laight had only been stopped five times in his previous 287 contests and tonight was not going to be number six.

Khoumari was extremely slick behind his jab and incredibly accurate with his body shots. Despite some nice trading between the two, the Londoner was in total control, winning40-36, with the referee hardly needed as the two men just knuckled down to business.

Next up was Adi Burden against Callum Ide over four, light-heavyweight rounds. From the first round, Buckinghamshire’s Burden put the pressure on his Sussex opponent, forcing Ide on to the back-foot. Apart from a sustained flurry of punches from Ide in the third session, it was one-way traffic. Burden extended his record to 6-0 with a 40-37 points victory, whilst Ide is now 0-12-2.

The eighth fight of the night was a four-round contest at super welterweight between Hammersmith favourite Daniel ‘Dan Dan’ Keenan, and a very game Bulgarian, Ilian Markov. Keenan’s support, like his jab in the opening round, was very impressive. However, Markov came to fight and was undeterred by his popular opponent, despite getting tagged with the jab and straight left on a number of occasions.

In round three, Keenan started to unload heavily, but earned a bloody nose in doing so. His assaults were in straight lines and, by this stage, Markov had worked out his counter straight right was doing the trick in terms of nullifying Keenan’s attack. Come round four, the Bulgarian went for the kill and, despite not stopping Keenan, earned himself a big round. Keenan picked up a narrow 39-38 victory. I think a draw would have been a fairer result.

The Southern Area cruiserweight title was on the line next, as Danny Couzens [10-10-2], took on the belt holder, Wadi Camacho [19-7-0]. Camacho, an obvious favourite with the ladies, had a rather large following, and despite a cagey opening session, kept Couzens on the end of his jab throughout the fight.

Despite some very brave rallies from Couzens in the fourth round, Camacho managed to break his opponent down and in the tenth put Couzens down twice from a barrage of punches. The referee rightly jumped in after the second knockdown and the contest was called to a halt.

The tenth contest was between Ruqsana Begum [from Belgium, by way of Ilford] and Ivanka Ivanova, from Bulgaria. After a delay, due to Ivanova not wearing a groin guard, the contest commenced and both fighters started at a very face pace for the next four, two-minute rounds.

Begum, a former Muay Thai champion, was obviously very fit, tough and willing, but it seems she needs to work on technique. The square-on approach as she moves up the ranks will not be to her advantage and constantly changing from southpaw to orthodox left her open to the overhand right...which Ivanka gladly obliged with.

The judge's verdict was a draw, which was fair. With strict guidance, a disciplined use of the jab and hooks to the body, Begum could be one to watch.

Next up was Matty Askin against Stephen Simmons for the British cruiserweight title. Askin, making his first defence of the belt, landed the cleaner shots from the outset. Come the second round, Askin caught Simmons with a chopping left hook to the body, which he repeated a few seconds later. The moment the second hook landed, Simmons dropped in agony and was unable to make the count.

Capping off the undercard was Tunji Ogunniya against Konstantin Alexandro at super welterweight. The most entertaining part of this contest were the songs and banter from Ogunniya’s fan club, who were nonstop from the second he started his ring entrance. The fight itself was, well, not really a fight. Ogunniya landed some lovely uppercuts and body shots from the get go, but by the second half of the opening round, it was obvious Alexandro simply didn’t want to know.

So much so, that when he went back to his corner, he declared ‘No Mas.’ Ogunniya extended his record to 5-0.

Overall it was a shame that the crowd abandoned the York Hall in advance of the Joyce fight, but thankfully the action beforehand balanced out that void.