Bit of a Breaze for Joshua
Simply entitled, ‘Joshua v Breazeale,’ Matchroom provided a very worthy 10 fight pay-per-view.
The proceedings started with a welterweight contest between Ted Cheeseman and Danny Little, scheduled for six rounds. Despite a game performance from Little, Cheeseman’s accuracy, variety and work-rate didn’t allow his opponent to get into any kind of rhythm, and by round five the referee had seen enough to confidently bring the fight to a halt.
Next up was Britain’s top super-flyweight, Kal Yafai, against a rather unequipped and tiny Jozsef Ajtai. After putting Ajtai down with a crunching left hook to the body, Yafai followed up with a second knockdown barely past the halfway mark of the first round, to win the fight. It was a one-sided match which did Yafai no credit. He is a top 10 ranked world level boxer who needs to be tested with that exact calibre of opponent. At domestic level, a match with Andrew Selby could make for great viewing, as long as the British flyweight champion is willing to move up three pounds in weight.
The third offering of the evening was 2012 Olympic Bronze medallist Anthony Ogogo, versus the Croatian middleweight champion, Frane Radnic. Having lost his previous two fights, Radnic completed the hat-trick by swallowing a left hook to the chin in the dying seconds of the first round, bringing the proceedings to a halt. Despite a rather emphatic victory celebration from Ogogo on realising he’d won, as with Yafai, it was a side step instead of a progressive bout in terms of his career.
With a fantastic compliment of fans, and an endearing character to boot, John Wayne Hibbert entered the ring against Andrea Scarpa confident and ready to take home the WBC silver super-lightweight title. Unfortunately, things didn’t go his way. Hibbert seemed to take away the Italian’s reach advantage in the opening round by pumping out his jab, followed by a straight left-right combination. However, by round two, Scarpa started displaying calculated and calm counter punching, whist working the jab off the back foot. Hibbert suffered a nasty cut over his right eye in the third which had him walking back to his corner a bloody mess. As the cut started to cover both opponents in blood, by round five, Hibbert was floored with a straight right, ending up on the canvas face down. Always the gutsy performer, Hibbert rose to beat the count of 10 and saw the round out. And in fact, fired some good shots of his own back at Scarpa. The cut had now became a concern to the referee by the end of the sixth round. And when the doctor confirmed his fears, the bout came to an end, with just five seconds to go. Hibbert, the consummate professional, walked over and raised Scarpa’s hand to congratulate him.
After six months out with injury Dillian Whtye returned to the ring against Ivica Bacurin. With a four stone difference, Bacurin a natural cruiserweight who had lost against Tony Bellew last year, pretty much pedalled backwards from Whyte for six rounds. Come round six, Whyte, under the careful guidance of new trainer Mark Tibbs, was able to unleash a heavy right hand which brought the fight to a tiring end. A frustrating fight for Whyte to be in. Hopefully sterner tests lie in wait.
In his third pro putting Conor Benn took on Lukas Radeic over four rounds at super-lightweight. Using the ethos of not needing to get paid overtime, Benn brought the contest to an early end in the opening round with a right hook. A much better performance than his last outing, Benn certainly has the British boxing public’s attention back into focus again as he extended his record to (3-0, 2 KOs).
Before the night’s main attractions, Felix Cash debuted against Yailton Neves from Manchester, in a four round middleweight contest. With a good amateur record, Cash came to the ring in incredible shape and made a very fast and painful impression on Neves, sending him down to the canvas with a big right hand. Neves weathered the storm and in fact lasted the full distance, catching Cash with a number of shots on the way. Cash was a little over eager to impress the packed crowd, and while on live television. If he’s able to work behind the fundamentals, and unleash his power as and when the opportunities come as opposed to a machine gun approach, he may well turn into a good prospect. Cash walked away with a 40-36 points win.
Intent on defending his British middleweight title three times to take home the coveted Lonsdale belt, Eubank, who received a pantomime villain’s reception, performed exactly as the boxing community expected against Tom Doran. Despite dominating the contest, Doran was able to land with some whipping shots in the opening two rounds, exposing a vulnerability in Eubank’s defence. However, come round three, the game Doran hit the canvas. The Welshman’s defence and chin managed to withstand an onslaught from Eubank for the rest of the round and in fact, by the closing seconds, the man from Brighton was breathing heavily. Eubank had turbo-charged his batteries and floored Doran a further three times in the fourth round. After the second knockdown Doran was blinking heavily and on unsteady legs. Eventually the fight was waved off in the fourth round.
Eubank continues to impress, but his defence needs substantially tightening if he’s going to step into the ring with Golovkin. However, with the destructive power he’s has displayed to date, Eubank is a threat to any middleweight out there.
The penultimate bout of the evening between George Groves and Martin Murray was the one everyone believed would catch fire from the opening bell. However, it took nine rounds to reach that stage.
The first two rounds Groves edged on work rate and accuracy, whereas the next two Murray connected well with some thudding body shots and also handed out a cut to Groves right eye. In the meantime, about half a dozen mass brawls were taking place amongst the 17,000 fans of the 02 Arena. Not even the tones of Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’ in between each session could diffuse the situation.
Groves really took off between rounds five and nine. On two occasions he connected with shots just before the bell, which had Murray dipping and seemingly in trouble. At one point the media started to discuss whether his trainer Oliver Harrison would pull him out before the 10th round. Instead, Harrison gave his charge a stern talking to and a slap round the face. It certainly worked, because Murray jumped on Groves and at one point unleashed about 10 punches non-stop. Groves fired back and that became the pattern for the rest of the fight. whole fight to be like.
Groves ran out a comfortable winner in the end, and both fighters received an immense round of applause even before the unanimous 118-110 decision was announced by the maestro Michael Buffer. They left everything in the ring and nobody could have asked for more. Where do they go from here? Groves will have a crack at the WBA world super middleweight title, in his fourth bid to become champion. Murray, the pride of St Helens, will take some time to consider his future. He mentioned a possible move back down to 160lbs.
The not so eagerly anticipated heavyweight showdown between current IBF world champion, Anthony Joshua, and challenger Dominic Breazeale, turned out to be better value for money than anyone had anticipated. Yes, Joshua won by destructive stoppage again, and yes, his opponent was not world class, but it was the composed manner which Joshua displayed leading up to the impressive seventh round knockout.
The bookies and media believed Breazeale was going to be another Charles Martin. Someone who would walk in, get hit and walk home with a larger than previous bank balance. But that was not the case. It looked like Joshua was going to be in for an early shower in the first two rounds as he had Breazeale is all kinds of trouble with anything he connected with. Breazeale held in there and even managed to fire a few back in the next two sessions. Joshua slowed down the tempo in the fifth, due to throwing punches non-stop for the previous 12 minutes, but then after picking up a bloody nose from a brief assault from Breazeale in the sixth, Joshua came out in the seventh with venom. Serious venom.
Joshua fired a relentless number of accurate headshots at Breazeale, and just over a minute into the round, he hit the canvas bleeding heavily from his nose and mouth. Too brave for his own good, Breazeale made the eight count, only to be destructively returned to the canvas for the full 10 count. A game performance from Breazeale and a predicted powerhouse finish from Joshua.
Rumours have it that Joshua may be fighting unbeaten top 10 ranked fighter and mandatory challenger, Joseph Parker, next time out. Seems like a sensible progression before looking to face the balance of the alphabet soup holders.
Photo credit: Lawrence Lustig