Frontline diary: Back in black
Chris Williamson brings us his ringside reflections from the Whyte vs Browne card at the O2, as 'Big Daddy' comes a cropper, while 'The Body Snatcher' now looks to target Deontay Wilder...
It’s easily forgotten, but when Dillian Whyte fought Anthony Joshua at this venue two years ago, the latter had yet to pick up a single version of the ‘world’ title (he now holds two world belts and is aiming to add another to his collection this Saturday in Cardiff). The domestic rivals contested the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles, both of which, of course, possess a long and distinguished lineage. For Whyte’s contest with fellow contender Lucas Browne, there was a dubious title on the line, the WBC Silver belt, for whatever that is worth.
While passing through security shortly before the opening contest at 5pm I noticed Robert Smith, General Secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) going through the same process. Security staff took a keen interest in the contents of Mr Smith’s silver case, which led him to reveal a belt which really is worth something, the beautiful Lord Lonsdale Challenge belt. Each costs £15,500 according to Smith, who told BM that those etched with a particularly celebrated boxer can command the most money in what is, perhaps sadly, a vibrant market.
London cruiserweight Richard Riakporhe learned a valuable lesson early on in the card, wobbled and dropped heavily by a right hand in the opener against Adam Williams in his first bout outside Bethnal Green. It happens to many prospects on the way up - Andre Ward just one example - and the character shown in recovering to hurt Williams with the jab, straight right and short left hook before finishing the Mancunian, shows Riakporhe is a fighter willing to dig deep to be successful. The south Londoner trains at Miguel’s gym in Brixton, where he regularly spars with Dillian Whyte among others.
Jamie Cox bounced back from his first thrilling defeat in a ‘world’ title challenge against George Groves with a second-round KO over Yorkshireman Harry Matthews. The Swindon southpaw landed a beautiful short right hook to end matters and is now scheduled to fight John Ryder in May on the Bellew vs Haye II bill.
Whyte's arch-rival Dereck Chisora made his first appearance since a flat performance against Agit Kaybabel for the EBU title in Monaco, registering a second-round KO over Frenchman Zakaria Azzouzi. Azzouzi has a good record, but was a cruiserweight until he returned to the sport after a four-year break last year. The pantomime after the fight with David Haye and Joe Joyce suggests a match with the latter is unlikely and Chisora - always open to the road less travelled - reveals he’s been in negotiations with Joshua’s most recent challenger, Carlos Takam.
Scouse super-welterweight Anthony Fowler had his first outing in the capital with a fifth-round stoppage over previously unbeaten Frenchman Kalilou Dembele (now 6-1-2). Fowler dropped the Frenchman with a short left hook in the second and hammered Dembele to the body with crunching rib shots. Several times the brave visitor blew a stream of blood from his nose, before the finish at the start of the fifth when Fowler landed a lovely right uppercut. It was Dembele’s first bout outside French soil, while the busy Fowler is scheduled to be out again next month on home soil on the bill headlined by Amir Khan.
British champion Lewis ‘Sandman' Ritson underlined his dominance of the domestic lightweight division with a thrilling second-round stoppage win over former champ Scott Cardle. Cardle set a ferocious pace in winning the first round, landing with several jarring hooks and uppercuts before the champion steadied himself and landed a terrific left hook to register a knockdown in the second. Ritson is cold and clinical when he smells blood and a series of follow-up hooks had Cardle wobbling and prompted trainer Joe Gallagher to throw in the towel as the referee signalled the end of a breathtaking shootout.
When boxers are without boxing a tension builds up inside them. The O2 crowd had barely drawn breath from Ritson vs Cardle when Callum Johnson released 18 months of tension as he ripped the British light-heavyweight title from Frank Buglioni while also successfully defending his own Commonwealth championship with a first-round stoppage win. Johnson hurt the ‘Wise Guy’ from the outset and a short right hook then had Buglioni staggering across the ring to prompt referee Victor Loughlin to end the contest. Buglioni complained bitterly initially before reacting with his usual class once he’d watched a replay.
The main event delivered an exciting if one-sided heavyweight brawl as Whyte knocked out the Australian Lucas Browne in the sixth of what was a title eliminator in all but name. Whyte controlled the opener with a strong jab and hurt Browne with a brace of sharp straight right hands. As early as the bell to end the second, Browne was bloodied, swollen and looking disillusioned as he trudged back to his corner, with the Brixton fighter faster, sharper and hungrier.
Whyte was doubling up the jab as Browne cut an increasingly forlorn figure, though still there was danger from the heavy right hand and Browne wouldn’t give up. In the fourth Whyte doubled the left hook beautifully to the body and head and to start the fifth a vicious left hook-come-uppercut caused blood to stream from the Australian’s nose.
Just seconds into the sixth a superb left hook pole-axed Browne, who received mercifully quick medical attention while the crowd held its breath. Thankfully the loser appeared to have recovered shortly after the bout, as the crowd applauded. "Let’s go Deontay,” demanded Whyte of the WBC champ Wilder in an emotional outburst following the victory and it appears that Whyte is now in pole position to challenge for a version of the world title for the first time.
As for ‘Big Daddy’, he lost for the first time in 26 professional fights and at the age of 38 and with a tainted win two years ago in Russia over Ruslan Chagaev to briefly claim the WBA ‘regular’ title before testing positive for Performance Enhancing Drugs it’s hard to see where the Australian goes from here.