Frontline diary: Skeete vs Singleton
Chris Williamson is heartened by the continued domestic boxing boom as he brings us his ringside observations from the Skeete vs Singleton card, including a cracking anecdote from referee Marcus McDonnell ...
Not so long ago, a boxing event set for Brentwood, Essex promoted by Frank Warren or his associates may have been viewed as something of a hostile act.
Of course, Brentwood is the location of rival promoter Matchroom's headquarters.
The Hearn family are very well known around these parts, with my taxi driver - the Brentwood centre is quite a schlep from the station - explaining that the whole family, with whom the cab firm have an account, are very down to earth with no airs or graces.
Andy Ayling is a long-time Warren ally and has helped facilitate the rival promotional groups doing more business together recently, in no small part through a good working relationship with Eddie Hearn.
"I invited him," reveals Ayling of Hearn. "I always invite him! He's in America on business." WAM Boxing, who promoted this card, headlined by Bradley Skeete's defence of his British welterweight title, is a partnership between Andy Ayling, Frank's son Francis and matchmaker Jason McClory. The show had a terrific old-fashioned feel to it.
Skeete has long targeted permanent ownership of the Lonsdale belt he wears and recently signed an extension of his promotional deal with Warren. Skeete also holds the the fringe WBO European belt, a title which irritates traditionalists but has obvious benefits, with Skeete currently rated number four contender in the world for Manny Pacquiao's full title.
Skeete (26-1) took a while to find his rhythm here against a worked up challenger in Shayne Singleton (23-2-1) who shaded the first couple of rounds on my card, before the champion softened the Lancashire man with a rangy jab and fast, sharp right hands.
Singleton had success when up close but when Skeete began to control the distance he looked a different class altogether. Singleton was dropped heavily in the fourth and finished at the start of the fifth. Skeete has one more defence to make before winning the Lonsdale belt outright, which must come against mandatory challenger Dale Evans, possibly as early as next month if the Penge man has his way.
Dev Sahni did a terrific job in his first televised (Boxnation) appearance as Master of Ceremonies, introducing all the fights except the two headliners, when stalwart Mark Burdis took over.
Sahni had previously done some off television introductions at a recent card in Leicester. He told BM he is quickly learning the requirement to be very precise with regards to announcing the result of a matches as a count-out, TKO etc. Apparently there are subtleties with regards to protocol and terminology which many of us wouldn't be aware of.
Further down the card Pinewood heavyweight Naylor Ball entered the ring to 'Woke Up This Morning' by Alabama 3, famous as The Sopranos TV show theme music. The former National Youth champ and British Youth Silver medallist impressed Frank Warren enough to hand him a three-year promotional deal, but nearly found himself waking up on the canvas after a huge right from Bulgarian Mladen Manev (0-3) dropped the 6' 6" Ball heavily at the end of the first round.
Ball recovered and an unexpected thriller ensured as the favourite continued taking right hands while sporadically establishing control with his strong left jab and hooks with both fists. "Go on Nay!" shouted support from an already packed hall. Referee Lee Emery deducted a point from Manev in the closing seconds of the fourth and judged Ball the winner by 38-36.
With the first three bouts over, a sweat-drenched Lee Emery told BM "I've been in there for the last three - I'm done now."
Main event ref Marcus McDonnell spent three hours making the trip from Canning Town. Referee chat can be fascinating for the boxing anoraks among us. McDonnell is registered with the IBF, WBO and IBO and advises young Emery to become EBU registered to experience the "great venues all over Europe".
McDonnell also tells a great self-depreciating story about the perils of inebriated fan reaction to being an official.
"Howard Foster, you're a shit referee," one fan told him.
"I'm not Howard Foster. I'm Marcus McDonnell!" insisted the referee.
"Argh, you're even worse!"
McDonnell cracks up while recounting the tale.
Young southpaw debutant Jake Pettitt had an eventful first professional outing against Anwar Alfadli, almost stopped by a deep cut on his forehead before scoring a knockdown in a wild fourth and final round. "He looks like Ben Kingsley in 'Sexy Beast'," said one spectator of Alfadli to laughter. Pettitt, who also scored a knockdown in the first, could easily have been stopped with one BBBofC official telling BM: "He [Pettitt] was winning the fight; we give him every chance."
Charlie Duffield rebounded from a first loss a year ago and didn't waste any time dispatching a much smaller Matty Parr (1-2-2) in the first with a series of left and right hooks. Duffield (now 4-1) is from nearby Rainham and brought plenty of loud support.
Since the Board don't allow name doubles and with veteran Dan Carr already 85 fights into his career, Sidcup's Danny Carr had his suggestion of 'Danny The Cannon' rejected and reluctantly adopted the moniker DP Carr.
Carr was given a useful workout over six rounds by the tough Michael Mooney. Carr was most impressive when focused on Mooney's flabby body, hurting the Worcester 'Mad Man' several times with liver shots. The referee scored a good scrap 60-54 which although fair doesn't tell the story of Mooney's impressive resistance.
While brother Conor enjoys a lucrative Reebok sponsorship and growing profile, Harley Benn (now 2-0) advertises the modest 'Texo Scaffolding' on his shorts. Benn didn't have any amateur career to speak of so mustn't be rushed and opponent Paul Cummings was suitably poor, having lost his eight bout without a win. Cummings sports an extraordinarily long neck which makes his chin an easy target. Benn couldn't miss with his right hand but has plenty to learn and was judged the 38-37 winner.
Lewis Pettitt (20-2) had a useful if straightforward six-round workout against sturdy Lithuanian Simas Volosinas (7-60). Volosinas was hurt by Pettitt's left uppercut in particular but has been losing in Britain for more than five years now and usually goes the distance, unless in with talents like Ohara Davies or Kid Galahad, who both stopped him.
Boy Jones Jr (13-1-1) - real name Ben - reckons he'll get to British title level one day but will have learned nothing from a complete walkover against Latvian Andis Didzus (3-5) who he wiped out with ease in the very first round.
The best was saved for last as Brentwood's own Smokin' Joe Mullender (10-2) gained revenge on Lee Markham (17-4-1) over ten top quality rounds from both men to win the English middleweight title.
All three judges gave Mullender, seven rounds which I consider harsh on the former champ. A trilogy would be most welcome.
With the dust settled on this show might we see Matchroom host a 'NXTGEN' show in rural Hertfordshire?
Perhaps not, but in the midst of the latest British boxing renaissance, it's wonderful to witness a thriving, boisterous scene at domestic level.