Frontline diary: Something special
Paul Zanon with his ringside report from Saturday night's 13-fight card at Wembley Arena, topped by George Groves' impressive World Boxing Super Series stoppage of Jamie Cox...
Over the years, it’s fair to say I’ve attended hundreds of boxing shows over a wide geography, from numerous UK venues, to the balance of Europe and the US. I’ve seen some outstanding set-ups, and I have to say that the World Boxing Super Series is not far off the leader board. The lights, the music, the atmosphere - Saturday night's show at the Wembley Arena made you feel like you were genuinely part of something special.
Kicking off the 13-fight card was a scheduled four-round cruiserweight contest between Chris Billam Smith and Aleksandar Todorovic (although both weighed in at heavyweight measures). Although giving away half a stone in weigh to the Croatian, Smith imposed his ramrod jab from the get go. Shortly after the bell had announced the start of the round, it rang again to let everyone know the fight was over. A straight right to the body sealed a first-round stoppage for the Dorset favourite, bringing him to 2-0.
Next up was local Wembley resident, Youssef Khoumari, against former two weight Southern Area champion, Jamie Speight. The lightweight contest lasted the full four rounds, with Khoumari winning a points victory of 40-36. Despite a gutsy performance from Speight, including his usual do-or-die attitude, Khoumari was just too big and too slick, landing hard accurate combinations and the more eye-catching shots. This was a stiff test for Khoumari to encounter in his second pro outing and he gave a good account of himself.
The third contest of the night was between welterweights Dean Richardson and Andrej Moravek. Despite wearing Rocky Balboa coloured shorts, underdog Moravek was never going to win this contest. The taller, sharper and stronger Richardson unloaded bombs from the outset and it came as no surprise that he got a stoppage win (in the second round), to keep his 100 per cent knockout record intact. A left uppercut followed by a right hook caused the initial knockdown, but when Moravek valiantly rose to his feet, Richardson unloaded once more before the referee, inevitably, stepped in to call the contest to a halt. Five fights, five wins, five stoppages. I look forward to seeing more of Richardson, very soon.
The next two fighters to grace the ring were light heavyweights, Kirk Garvey and Josef Kolodzej. The Slovakian was wearing a pair of Tapout shorts, which perhaps explained why his stance was more reminiscent of the martial arts, square-on approach, as opposed to leading with the shoulder, more commonly seen in boxing. Constantly out of range, Garvey was able to use his boxing skills and more accurate, sharper punching, to dictate the pace and direction of the fight. Despite a very hearty effort from Kolodzej to hang in for the distance, Garvey stopped him with a barrage of punches, with only 12 seconds left in the fourth and final round.
Next up was Michael Devine against Michael Mooney, at super lightweight. From the first bell, Devine took control. Despite Mooney’s best attempts to rally with his own assaults, there was only ever going to be one winner. Devine clinched the contest 40-36.
Swiftly up into the ring next was London resident Daniel Keenan, against fellow welterweight, the Bulgarian Angel Emilov. The first round was Keenan all the way as he landed fast and accurate shots, while taking control of the centre of the ring. Moving into the second session, it looked like this was destined for a 40-36 points win for Keenan. However, a second before the bell went to end the round, Emilov landed a massive hook, which took Keenan’s legs from him.
Despite being able to get back to his corner, it was obvious his senses were scrambled. Emilov came out in the third to finish the job, landing constantly with a counter straight right hand, but not being able to follow it up with a decisive punch. Keenan wearily hung on until the final bell and the result of 39-38 to Emilov reflected the action correctly.
The seventh contest of the evening was between cruiserweights, Mikael Lawal, from Nigeria, and Tomislav Rudin, from Croatia. The first round was, in all honesty, scrappy. Rudin was spoiling the contest by holding every other punch and this in turn frustrated Lawal, which in turn frustrated everyone watching.
Round two was a different story - Lawal went out with the intention to not give Rudin the chance to hold and he achieved his goal. In the first minute, Lawal connected with a vicious right uppercut, which almost lifted Rudin off the ground, knocking him out cold. Lawal moves to 4-0 (with 3 KOs).
London-based Kian Thomas stepped in next to face Ferenc Katona from Croatia. The slicker, more accurate and certainly more confident Thomas, fired shots with a hands-down approach, landing with success from awkward angles. In the last five seconds of the opener, he landed a crunching straight right which rocked Katona badly. Without a doubt, the bell saved the Croatian. Thomas dominated the balance of the fight and just when it was looking like it would go to a points decision, he unloaded a combination which finished with a clubbing right hand, rendering Katona unfit to continue. Thomas moves to 8-0.
The next fight finished with a highly debated ending. The extremely talented Louis Adolphe took a step up in opposition, by taking on 15-fight veteran, Nathan McIntosh. With only two losses to his name, McIntosh seemed to be coping with the rapid fire jabs and sharp hooks from Adolphe in a fairly evenly matched opening round.
In the last minute, the fighters were in a clinch and as they separated, Adolphe threw a right hook which knocked out McIntosh. The punch was certainly not thrown with malice, however, it’s hard to determine whether it was worthy of disqualification. McIntosh had his hands down and fighters are always told to protect themselves at all times, but in the same breath, Adolphe took a small pause after they were separated and the referee didn’t step in to instruct otherwise. I’m genuinely on the fence for this one. Either way, the official verdict saw McIntosh win via DQ.
Next up was Nathanael Wilson, watched ringside closely by biological father, Chris Eubank Sr. A spitting image of his dad, he was in against Jonny Phillips from Camberley, over four rounds at super lightweight. From the opening bell, both fighters engaged in a tear-up, but after two minutes and 42 seconds of the session, it was Phillips who sealed the fate of the contest, by landing a straight right, followed by a left hook. The 29-year-old Wilson suffered his first loss, whereas Phillips moved his record to 2-1.
The eleventh contest of the evening was at super middleweight, between teak tough John Ryder and Copenhagen’s Patrick Nielsen. Both men have campaigned for the bulk of their careers at middleweight, and Nielsen’s power looked more naturally suited to that division. Also, and more frankly, Ryder was simply a level above his Danish opponent, in all aspects.
Working off the back foot in the first round, Ryder produced some gritty and effective inside work, catching Nielsen with right hooks and uppercuts especially. At the end of the second round, Ryder caught the Dane with a right hook that floored him. Despite beating the count and being saved by the bell, Nielsen started to stumble back to Ryder’s corner. Ryder gently guided him back to the corner he needed to be in.
From hereon in it was only a matter of time before Ryder stopped him. For the next three rounds Nielsen’s face became a mess. Ryder was landing at will and the right eye socket of Nielsen was black and blue with bruising covering half his face. The ending came in round five, when Ryder landed a left hook, which knocked out Nielsen’s gumshield, followed by another left hook and right uppercut. Nielsen was out cold.
With time to kill before the main event, super lightweight floaters, Jamie Carley and Kevin McCauley took to the ring. Carley, trained by Adam Martin (who had two other charges fighting earlier in the evening, Garvey and Adolphe), engaged with the 178-fight veteran from the first bell. McCauley may have a journeyman’s record (13-154-11), but he always comes to fight and this was no exception. This was a good old-fashioned scrap where the referee was hardly needed and I thought the justifiable result was a draw as there genuinely was very little separating the two men. The judges saw it differently and awarded McCauley a points victory of 39-38.
The thirteenth and final fight of the night was going to be unlucky for one fighter, but the question was, who? With an immense amount of support, both Jamie Cox and George Groves entered the ring for the headliner.
After an initially cagey opening 30 seconds, Groves landed a peach of a straight right hand to the head, straight through the guard of Cox. Unphased by the blow, Cox rallied and it turned into super middleweight tear-up. Great opener.
Second round - Groves landed with the lead right again, but Cox reacted by unloading some heavy arsenal and getting Groves into a corner and throwing about 20 continuous punches, many of which hit the target. Groves worked his way out and started to throw his own combinations. It was obvious by now that this fight was not going the distance.
Round three. Cox landed with a belting straight left to Groves' head but, as expected, Groves fired straight back. By now, it was clear that Cox was becoming confident. Perhaps over-confident, as Groves was starting to work the counter punches a little bit more and with great success.
As the fourth round kicked off, with Chris Eubanks Jr & Sr watching closely, Groves landed a crunching straight right hand to the rib cage of Cox, which put him on the canvas. In obvious distress, Cox was unable to beat the count and a very happy George Groves celebrated, as he retained his WBA 'Super' super-middleweight world title.
A mouthwatering clash in January against Chris Eubank Jr now awaits.
Has the World Super Series delivered to date? I’d say so.