Frontline diary: Butler dominates Hall, Davies demolishes Farrell
Ringside observations and analysis from the Echo Arena in Liverpool, as Butler beats Hall, Davies demolishes Farrell and our man Danny Winterbottom recalls the bizarre concept that was Kung Fu-de-Box before making a ticketing faux pas in the car park...
When Paul Butler and Stuart Hall clashed for the first time back in 2015 Butler edged a split decision to annex the Darlington man's International Boxing Federation bantamweight crown.
Two years or so later, a little older and stronger at the weight, and more refined under the guidance of new coach Joe Gallagher, Butler dominated the 2017 instalment to put himself in line to face the winner of WBA world champion Jamie McDonnell and Liborio Solis' rematch in Monte Carlo in November.
Judges Steve Gray and Grzegorz Molenda carded scores of 118-110 in favour of Ellesmere Port's 'Baby Faced Assassin' with Dave Parris seeing the bout 117-111. Boxing Monthly scored the contest 118-111 for Butler, giving a thoroughly out-skilled Hall rounds 11 and 12 and a share of round eight.
In the weeks leading up to the rematch Hall had told Boxing Monthly how much he was looking forward to getting his hands on Butler having felt aggrieved at the scorecards in their 2015 match, but he found a new and improved fighter in front of him and, at 37 years of age, Hall simply couldn't live with the younger and fresher man's movement and skill as he was countered time and time again.
Whipped into great physical shape by Max McCracken in Birmingham alongside Kal and Gamal Yafai, Hall planned to swarm all over Butler from the off, but the Ellesmere Port star showed improved technique as he slipped the often clumsy attacks of the North East man. Butler moves on but for Hall, who began his career late at 28 prior to winning British and Commonwealth titles as well as the IBF world strap, it could be time to call it a day.
Such was Butler's domination throughout this 12 rounder the fight never really caught fire and the crowd inside the Echo Arena was unusually subdued, although that could have been down to the large numbers of Sean Dodd and Tom Stalker fans leaving the Arena after their fight. One keen observer of the main event, however, was Sky Boxing Chief Adam Smith's mum who at one point admonished former heavyweight Richard Towers, who had made his way to ringside to chat with Dave Coldwell and the recently retired Leon McKenzie, for blocking her ringside view of the action with a swoosh of her right arm as if she was swatting a fly. Towers, a one time gangland enforcer, took his telling off well and quickly got out of the way!
When a fighter is too brave for their own good it requires the referee and the fighter's corner to protect them from harm. Unfortunately young Tom Farrell wasn't afforded this basic protection as he was allowed to take a brutal beating at the hands of Londoner Ohara Davies for five rounds before referee Steve Gray finally called a halt to the slaughter of a match scheduled for 12 rounds.
Farrell was defending his WBA International 10st title in his home town against the outspoken Davies but it was apparent from the early exchanges that Davies was in no mood to let the youngster inflict a second defeat on his record following a humiliating surrender to Scotland's Josh Taylor in July.
Farrell, managed by North West promoter/manager Steve Wood, had defeated the usual host of journeymen and veterans in his 13-0 ledger and Wood had mulled over letting his man face Davies before agreeing to the match. Davies was a big leap up in class for the man from Huyton and Farrell found that the Londoner, who does some things very well and others not so much, hit too hard and accurately. But, as they say, you live and learn
Farrell isn't a big puncher and, after having been dropped three times prior to the fifth round, he should probably have been pulled out by his corner, and most definitely should not have been allowed to take two brutal right hands on the ropes prior to the final knockdown. The failure to protect a defenceless Farrell brought about some angry reactions at ringside from seasoned observers. It certainly wasn't a pleasant spectacle and Farrell was taken to hospital for precautionary checks.
Sean 'Masher' Dodd's fans seated in the upper tiers of the Arena certainly won the award for loudest of the night as they roared their hero to victory as he defended his Commonwealth lightweight title against former amateur standout Tom Stalker.
All three judges scored the contest 118-111 for Dodd and Boxing Monthly, just like Adalaide Byrd did in the GGG-Canelo fiasco, saw Dodd a clear winner with a card of 118-110. Thankfully my scoring proved to be on point, unlike Mrs Byrd, as Dodd showed more of everything against Stalker who was poor from start to finish. The outcome proved that an outstanding amateur cannot always transition to become an effective professional.
When Rocky Lockridge and Eusebio Pedroza met for the first time back in 1980, Pedroza claimed to have pioneered a new boxing technique he called 'Kung Fu-de-Box', a hybrid of traditional boxing and Kung Fu striking, and he demonstrated this to a rather puzzled looking Gil Clancy and Tim Ryan during a lengthy CBS Sports Saturday feature. It was as bizarre as it sounds now even back in 1980 and proved largely ineffective during the fight.
I don't for one second imagine that Stalker has seen this fight and decided to resurrect 'Kung Fu-de-Box' for 2017 but watching him throw his hands against Dodd reminded me more of a martial artist than a pro boxer. Dodd just shrugged off the blows and marched forwards.
Stalker had questioned Dodd's technique in the build-up to the fight but the man from Birkenhead, who turned his life around by reading motivational books, showed an educated jab that zeroed in on Stalker's stationary head, and a hunger to work at pace that the former Team GB Captain just couldn't match. Dodd's rise to championship level is a heart-warming story and, at 33, the Birkenhead warrior is deserving of another shot at the British title following a loss and a controversial draw with Scott Cardle last year. As for Stalker, it is difficult to see where he can go from here.
Rocky Fielding needed just 2-18 of the opening round to add the Commonwealth title to his British super-middleweight crown as he blitzed Scotland's David Brophy in a highly anticipated trade fight.
Brophy came into the bout off the back of an upset win in Australia over 23-0 Zac Dunn when he won the Commonwealth strap but there was no threat of an upset here as Fielding hurt him multiple times with left hands and sent him crashing to the canvas before the finishing punches dashed Brophy's hopes of an upset on away soil for the second fight in a row.
World Boxing Super Series contender Jamie Cox was supposed to be the opponent for Fielding here until the Swindon man entered the financially lucrative elimination tournament and it would have been interesting to see how that fight would have played out. Fielding has shown his own vulnerabilities in the past when he was iced inside a round by Callum Smith but the likeable Scouser is showing signs of improvement and can certainly punch. A step-up in his next outing is a must.
2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Anthony Fowler continued his journey in the professional ranks with an impressive fourth round stoppage victory over the durable Irishman Jay Byrne on the second of the night's contests on the live portion of the Sky card.
Fowler was dominant throughout but found Byrne had a terrific chin, so smartly switched his attack to the body which reaped immediate results. Byrne was due to fight again in just three weeks but will now have to adhere to the British Boxing Board mandatory four-week layoff a stoppage defeat brings.
Natasha Jonas was given a warm welcome by fight fans here in Liverpool as she easily defeated Bojana Libiszewska via a fourth-round stoppage in the first of the evening's bouts shown live on Sky Sports Arena. This was Jonas' second stoppage victory in as many outings and the 33-year-old mum talked of a potential showdown with amateur rival Katie Taylor.
In the most impressive display of the evening, Preston's unbeaten Scott Fitzgerald stopped veteran former champion Bradley Pryce after 2-32 of round five in a super welterweight match scheduled for 8x3's.
Fitzgerald, the 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist in the welterweight division, brought a sizeable support down the M6 Motorway but had to overcome a cut eye that bled heavily from the opening round following a clash of heads, and Pryce's clowning to pull off the victory.
There were some light-hearted verbal exchanges between Pryce and Fitzgerald's corner which included his trainer and former Miguel Cotto opponent Michael Jennings. In one such exchange Pryce was berated by the Fitzgerald corner only for the veteran Welshman to reply swiftly, mouthing "Dickhead" through a bloodied gumshield!
Fitzgerald didn't take that verbal put down too well and he punished Pryce with some heavy blows. Shortly afterwards he also sent him crashing to the canvas with a sweeping left hand along the ropes. Fitzgerald became only the second fighter since 2009 to stop Pryce and looked impressive doing so. It will be interesting to see how far he can go as a professional.
On leaving the arena with a belly full of Maynard Wine Gums I was desperate to eat something a little bit more substantial and my thoughts turned to my usual post-fight visit to the local pizza joint. I tried to navigate the car park pay machine as quickly as possible but in my haste I left the ticket hanging out of machine and made my way to the car only then to discover my mistake as I fumbled around in my pocket for the elusive ticket with the parking attendant looking on in disgust and a queue of cars behind me wondering what I was doing.
A few apologies later and a quick dash back to the ticket machine saw me finally on my way home into the drizzly post midnight darkness and the eerily empty M6.