Frontline diary: Sharp shines as Catterall vs Davies fails to deliver
Danny Winterbottom with his ringside report and reflections from Saturday night's big Frank Warren promoted show in Leicester...
With Saturday morning junior football duties done it soon became time to head down to the Morningside Arena in Leicester to cover what was expected to be a 50/50 clash between defending WBO Inter-Continental super lightweight champion Jack Catterall and the divisive talent of Londoner Ohara Davies that sat atop Frank Warren’s ‘The Time is Now’ card in the East Midlands city.
In the weeks leading up to the fight I’d toyed with booking a cheap hotel on the outskirts of the city to give me time to recuperate from what was expected to be a late finish (and it was!) but a brief glance at the maps app on my iPhone told me Leicester was just a 2hrs 20mins drive from my home near Manchester. In a moment of stupidity, and penny pinching, I decided I could easily drive that distance there and back in one night.
With the dreaded 50 miles an hour speed restriction spanning what seems to be the entire length of the south-bound M6, a hold up at the toll booth whilst a driver in front apparently unprepared to pay their ‘toll’ hurriedly rummaged around for some loose change and some Sat Nav ‘miscalculations’ on my part, I arrived to a completely full Morningside Arena car park 3 hours later.
A quick recognisance of the surrounding area on my phone came up with an NCP car park not too far away and I finally made it inside the Arena as the opening fight of the night came to an end.
As I sat down next to Boxing News’ Andy Whittle the veteran ringside reporter uttered some wise words: "The car park outside gets full really quickly. You need to be here early!”
Thanks Andy! Lesson learned!
The Morningside turned out to be a nice little venue for boxing with good vantage points from the stands and a tightly packed ringside area that almost always lends itself to a good atmosphere.
As the early prelim fights came and went MC Thomas Treiber introduced the main event, a hotly anticipated clash between unbeaten Chorley fighter Jack Catterall and once beaten danger man Ohara Davies with the Lancastrian’s WBO trinket at stake but, more importantly, domestic bragging rights.
Cries of "OD, OD, OD!" from the far left of the stands disproved the notion that Davies, a resident of Hackney, doesn’t have any fans as plenty had travelled from the capital to support a fighter who has often in the past looked like a man all alone in the world. His ring entrance to the music of WWE Superstar ‘The Undertaker’ still remains one of the best in the game but for me he should go all out and wear the entire outfit, complete with oversized hat.
"Chorley, Chorley, Chorley!" came the reply of Catterall’s fans who had occupied an area directly opposite my ringside position as they watched their man, complete with his entourage, enter the ring.
Davies, sporting a green Repton ABC vest wore his shorts extremely high.
‘Why don’t opposition corners ever pull him up on that?’ noted John Evans of BoxNation fame.
Right on cue experienced referee Howard Foster was rearranging the position of Davies’ trunks and letting his corner know they were far too high. As Foster walked away, Davies returned his trunks to their original position before walking to the centre of the ring to meet Catterall face to face.
The anticipation at ringside was high, nearly as high as Davies’ trunks. Surely we would be in for a fistic treat that would determine the number two super welterweight in the country behind the precocious Josh Taylor?
Now I’ve sat through some poor fights in my time (Tete vs Navarez in Belfast springs to mind) and recently fans have been fed the abomination that was Lawrence Okolie vs Matty Askin. Well, Catterall vs Davies is right up there with those two stinkers. It was dire from start to finish.
Catterall was understandably cautious not to be caught by the right hand of Davies early but as it turned out, the Londoner hardly threw a meaningful punch in anger. Davies had success with his long spearing jab in the early exchanges but the southpaw style of Catterall and Davies’ awkward looking orthodox stance failed to gel. They spent more time standing on each others' feet than throwing punches.
David Haye was part of the BT Sport broadcasting team and at one point a quick glance to my left saw him yawning and practically asleep. A tweet from recent Catterall victim and MTK Global stablemate Tyrone McKenna who was ringside summed the fight up perfectly: "For years I didn't believe Ohara Davies when he said he was gonna put me to sleep. But last night he finally achieved it, congrats!"
Catterall was ultra-cautious too, only throwing his dangerous backhand left when he was sure it would land. He still out-landed Davies in the majority of rounds but Catterall was quick to say how disappointed he was in his performance.
He, like anyone who watched the fight unfold, will want to erase it from their memories as quickly as possible and move on although I’m not entirely sure what the outcome proved other than earning Catterall a tick in the win column.
The Chorley man emerged a unanimous decision victor on all three cards. 118-110 and 115-113 twice. Boxing Monthly scored the bout 116-112 for Catterall but some at ringside had the fight a draw. It was that kind of fight and both men are far better than what they showed in Leicester.
Earlier, Nicola Adams MBE had been drawn into a slugfest by the extremely limited but tough Mexican Isabelle Millan in a scrap for the Interim WBO female flyweight title. Adams, all in white and sporting her trademark high hairstyle, looked every inch the superstar fighter as she bounced up and down throwing fast combinations that cracked the night air as she awaited her announcement to the crowd. Millan in contrast just looked plain tough with tattoos inked up both her arms and a sneer etched permanently across her face.
Millan had fought for a world title as recently as 2017 when she was halted in the final round by Japan’s Naoko Fujioka but in the early exchanges it seemed as though she wouldn’t get as far this time around as Adams, seemingly shocked and somewhat amused at how crude Millan's wide arm punches were, began to almost laugh as she stung her opponent with blow after blow whilst easily avoiding anything that came her way.
One ringsider who will remain anonymous for their own safety commented about Millan: "I’d put my missus in with her after a few drinks. It’d be a win-win situation."
However, Millan proved to be tough in the best Mexican tradition. Fast forward to the middle rounds and Adams’ once immaculate hair was now plastered to her head with sweat whilst the Mexican was catching the London 2012 Olympic Gold Medallist with some clubbing blows on the inside. Millan’s corner were getting more and more animated sensing an upset victory. At the final bell they wasted no time getting into the ring to hold their fighter aloft. She hadn’t done nearly enough to win but had given Adams a good work out.
If it was throwing out time at the local pub in her home town I would give Millan the edge over Adams in a street fight, but boxing wise the pair were on different levels.
Heavyweight prospect Daniel Dubois used American veteran Kevin Johnson as a mobile heavy bag during their ten-round clash which did little to stir the imagination and saw Dubios win every round on referee Shaun Messer’s card.
These days Johnson does little but go rounds and here, apart from the occasional jab and right hand, he did nothing to disprove that theory as Dubois pounded away to head and body but found Johnson a tough nut to crack.
The fight descended into a glorified sparring session with Johnson and his trainer bizarrely having full conversations with each other as Dubois hammered away. In one amusing moment Dubois landed a heavy blow that seemed to momentarily rock the American bringing shouts of "Clinch him, baby!" from the aforementioned coach.
Johnson’s reply was quicker than any punches he threw all night: "No clinching, man!"
At another point, when Dubois hit Johnson low his coach shouted: "Take the full minute, man! No scratch that, take two!" much to the amusement of David Haye who seemed to love Johnson’s antics. Not many other people did, and I think it's about time we never saw Johnson in a British ring again.
Oldham middleweight Mark Heffron took part in a tool sharpening contest set for eight rounds but one look at his opponent told you it wasn’t going to go that far. Aryee Ayittey from Accra, Ghana, possibly a graduate of the notorious ‘Prison Canteen’ and known as ‘The Volcano’, gave away all physical advantages to Heffron and was forced to take a sustained beating that thankfully only lasted for four rounds.
Heffron, now 21-0 with 17 knockouts, took his time before finding a home for some sickening body shots that had ‘The Volcano’ wincing in pain. In round four Ayittey had had enough and he threw himself to the floor where he remained for the count of ten. ‘The Volcano’ turned out to be dormant after all.
Punch of the night went to British super-featherweight champion Sam Bowen who was making his promotional debut under the Frank Warren banner in a contest for the vacant WBO Inter-Continental title against Argentina’s Horacio Alfredo Cabral.
The 26-year-old hails from Ibstock not far from Leicester so he brought a sizeable support that cheered him to the ring and it wasn’t long before they were cheering again when Bowen, who now sports a record of 14 wins with 10 wins coming via the short route, found a peach of a left hook to the stomach of Cabral that felled the visitor with dramatic force. It was the perfect shot. As Cabral moved off the ropes Bowen stepped to his right to open up the target area and Cabral moved straight into a left hand downstairs. Good night.
If Bowen landed the punch of the night, Welling’s Archie Sharp produced the performance of the night in a thrilling battle with fellow unbeaten super-featherweight Lyon Woodstock to annex the WBO European strap to the delight of his travelling fans that seemed to outnumber Woodstock’s local support.
Woodstock entered the ring as the betting favourite but it was former decorated amateur Sharp who set about the task at hand with confidence and some beautiful back foot boxing that left Woodstock battered and bruised. The Leicester man, highly thought of by promoter Frank Warren, was game but simply outgunned in every facet. If he brawled and tried to take the play away from the smooth moving Sharp as he often tried to do at the start of a round, the Welling man would gladly trade with him on the inside and force Woodstock back to the ropes.
Woodstock is a huge fan of video games but he must have felt like he was the opponent in Nintendo’s seminal boxing title, ‘Punch Out’, as he absorbed some heavy blows from Sharp who isn’t known as a puncher but seemed to rock the home favourite several times throughout the ten-round battle. He targeted the body of Woodstock with some whipping shots reminiscent of Eusebio Pedroza against Juan LaPorte back in ’82, only minus the low blows and flying elbows!
When Sharp stood and traded with Woodstock this seemed to be the only way back into the fight for the champion and one of Sharp’s cornermen, sat just a few feet from my ringside position, held his head in his hands as though he couldn’t bear to watch. It just goes to show how much a result can mean to those not throwing the punches but who have an interest in the fighter’s well-being. After a terrific battle MC Thomas Trieber declared Sharp a unanimous victor with all three judges carding the same 96-93 score which appeared to be a touch generous to the departing champion.
The night had ended on a high and after negotiating my way back to level 2 of the Haymarket car park I fell wearily into the well bolstered seat of my car, my eyes struggling to focus and my stomach telling me I hadn’t eaten anything since 2pm, before glancing at the clock.
1am. Only 3 hours to go….