Frontline diary: Meltdown expected

Chris Williamson
13/12/2017 10:40am

Natalie Mayhew, Butterflyboxing

Chris Williamson reports from ringside on a memorable Saturday night at the Copper Box arena as James DeGale falls to a shock defeat, while Lee Selby, Anthony Yarde and Daniel Dubois all triumph...

“The ice age is coming, the sun is zooming in
Meltdown expected...”
- London Calling, The Clash

A shiny Bentley was parked neatly outside the rear entrance of a freezing cold Copper Box arena on Saturday afternoon. The car sported a personalised plate whose letters suggest the private security business is a very lucrative one indeed.

Also parked close by were a couple of workmanlike vans owned by Mike Goodall’s ‘Ringcraft’ equipment company as well as an ambulance, a sobering sight on the day it was confirmed that a recent, popular visitor to these shores in Sweden's Erik Skoglund had suffered a serious injury in sparring.

It’s a shame Boxnation didn’t start their broadcast earlier in the afternoon to show Peckham’s Johnny ‘the Pexican’ Garton’s (now 21-1-1) dramatic stoppage of Frenchman Mihail Orlov in the tenth round of a fantastic battle at welterweight. Orlov’s handy jab marked up Garton’s face as early as the third, a nasty welt forming under the local man’s left eye.

By the middle rounds it turned into a battle of attrition as each hurt each other to head and body. At the start of the tenth, a beautiful left hook wobbled the visitor and with blood running down his face Garton stalked Orlov relentlessly with both fists until the Frenchman was trapped and defenceless in a corner and the referee stepped in to end a terrific trade match.

Queensbury Promotions and their matchmaker Jason McClory are to be applauded for the number of competitive matches made on their recent shows, but one trend which irritates traditionalists and surely confuses the casual market is the lurch back to attaching nonsense titles to matches.

If the WBO European wasn’t bad enough - and it was - the IBF have crashed the party recently with their own bogus, unnecessary version. On this show alone we had two good matches contested for vacant IBF East/ West European titles and Anthony Yarde - as bursting with promise as he is - now holds not one but two spurious WBO regional belts.

A number of Frank Warren's prospects enjoyed useful run-outs before the holiday season in the pre-television section of the bill. Super-featherweight starlet Archie Sharp moved up in class with a useful scrap against Nicaraguan Rafael Castillo, who'd provided stablemate Ryan Garner with a decent test in Leeds earlier this year. ‘Sharpshooter’ Sharp didn’t have everything his own way but showed moments of real class in progressing to 11-0. The switch-hitting Sidcup prodigy dropped the tough visitor with a left hook to the body in the seventh and is one to keep an eye on in 2018.

Bradley Skeete was characteristically relaxed in a leather jacket at ringside, although perhaps wondering what might have been if landing a shot at WBO welterweight champion Jeff Horn this week in place of stablemate Gary Corcoran.

dubVeteran boxing journalist Colin Hart told Boxing Monthly that Daniel Dubois (now 6-0) is the hardest single-punching heavyweight he’s ever seen, while careful to temper that praise with acknowledgement that the 20-year-old remains in the incubation stages of his development. “[Mike] Tyson didn’t knock guys out with one punch [generally],” Hart pointed out. “Neither did Marciano. He knocked out [Jersey Joe] Walcott with one punch but it took until the thirteenth round.”

As it happened Welshman Dorian Darch withstood Dubois’ onslaught for longer than many of his predecessors, brave beyond the call of duty en route to a second round TKO loss.

Boxnation’s Dev Sahni was rudely interrupted photographing the ring girls by BM, ostensibly for the Boxnation website and talked about his new project hosting a Boxnation branded podcast. The first one - which featured an interview with Frank Warren - broke the top 10 for ‘sports and recreation’ on at least one platform before tailing off somewhat in the charts for the latest two episodes. Time to call on the boss man again in order to attract the downloads it seems.

yarLight-heavyweight hot prospect Anthony Yarde (now 14-0) passed easily his stiffest test so far in beating tough Montenegrin Nikola Sjekloca in just four rounds. Sjekloca had previously competed well at European level, narrowly losing an EBU challenge at this weight to Robert Stieglitz in his last bout and going twelve with Callum Smith at super middleweight three years previously.

After a typically explosive start from ‘the beast’, Sjekloca briefly regrouped in the third to force a succession of two-handed assaults of his own as Yarde experienced pressure - albeit short-lived - for the first time in his career.

Normal service was resumed by a relentless Yarde in the fourth as a brutal right uppercut-cum-hook followed by a left hook floored the Montenegrin for a second time before referee Steve Gray called an end to the fight with the visitor lurched to the ropes shortly afterwards.

The production at the Copper Box shows is generally excellent, but suffered from various winter gremlins at this event. MC Thomas Treiber could barely be heard for certain introductions and the sound over the speakers could at times be described as unrefined noise. For those of us of a certain age it wasn’t clear if Anthony Yarde’s ringwalk music was also suffering from these technical issues..

selbIBF featherweight champ Lee Selby (26-1) saw out a horrible year by handily outpointing rugged, overweight Mexican southpaw Eduardo Ramirez in an ugly but probably helpful match which sets the Welshman up for potential big fights next year against Josh Warrington and Carl Frampton.

Finally, the homecoming turned sour for defending IBF super middleweight champion James Degale (now 21-2-1) when rank American outsider Caleb Truax won a deserved majority decision. It was a strangely subdued performance from the offset from ‘Chunky’ who nevertheless narrowly took the opening two rounds on my card. Truax noticeably gained confidence in the third as DeGale missed wildly and the left side of his face began to swell.

A London crowd who’d waited a long time to cheer DeGale as champion chanted his name as he threw a hard left-right combination to the challenger’s body, but Truax continued pressing and hurt the champion towards the end of the fourth.

The defending champion was in all kinds of trouble in the fifth as a right hook then uppercut landed with DeGale trapped in a corner and left him reeling. DeGale motioned to his corner as though his nose was seriously injured.

DeGale regrouped somewhat in the middle rounds, but the uncomfortable, strange demeanour continued and Truax was pulling ahead on my card. The occasional flashy combinations which the champion did throw had a forced look and little was coming naturally.

As DeGale walked back to his corner after a listless eighth he sat looking utterly forlorn. The challenger was basic but effective, walking forward in straight lines, landing with the jab and, most punishingly, the straight right hand, the classic punch against a southpaw.

DeGale hurt Truax with a straight left in the twelfth but simply didn’t have the energy to capitalise. The visitor raised his hands with around thirty seconds left and on the bell the challenger sunk to his knees in quiet, hopeful celebration. It now looks as though the gruelling draw in his last fight against Badou Jack in Brooklyn may have done lasting damage to DeGale and it will a tough road back for a fighter who seemed lacking in motivation.

The 34-year old Truax (now 29-3-2) joins Thulani ‘Sugar Boy’ Malinga and Markus Beyer as visitors who have snatched super-middleweight world titles from British fighters on home soil and can now look forward to some lucrative defences as a champion in one of boxing’s glamour divisions.

Let’s hope the newly acquired target on Truax's back helps generate enough money to secure this genuine, class act for his life after boxing.