Knockouts, noise and Spongebob
The Echo Arena in Liverpool is one of those venues that makes you feel you are at home, even if you live hundreds of miles from its front door. The staff are always polite, the fans are well behaved and strangers will even say hello to you when passing.
However, when inside the ring, friendships dissolve in a heartbeat and the crowd soon make it obvious who they are behind – as the former Olympic gold medallist, Luke Campbell MBE, found out.
After a roaring welcome into the ring for local hero Derry Mathews, Campbell was greeted with a chorus of booing. As he would say after, "I’ve never had that before!"
The first two rounds were as expected. Both fighters trying to work out the other's strategy, with Mathews the more aggressive of the two and Campbell picking up nicely on any opportunities to counter. The dying seconds of the third round saw the first knockdown of the fight, as Campbell connected with what seemed to be an unintentional forearm strike.
Any doubts as to whether Campbell had struck it lucky were soon answered in the next session, as he connected with a crunching left hook to the body, which forced Mathews to the canvas for the full eight count. Guts, determination and pure heart propelled Mathews back into a fight when many would have stayed down.
With the wounded animal mentality obviously in display, Mathews came back with a torrid attack, engaging Campbell into a Hagler versus Hearns style encounter. Aware of the dangers of a full scale shoot-out, Campbell replied cautiously, until he saw the opportunity to repeat the hook again.
This time, there was no getting up for Mathews. A cracking round by all counts and if this is Mathews' last fight, let it be known that his stock went up with this performance and the reception he received on walking out of the ring genuinely displayed that his services to boxing have not gone unnoticed.
The two Ryans (Burnett and Farrag) put on a good show, but Burnett was simply too good for his foe. Despite a game start from Farrag, Burnett quickly adapted to anything Farrag had to offer and showed he could box on the inside and damage with either volume or single shots, as and when he wished.
A wide points decision correctly represented what was a near punch-perfect performance, as Burnett successfully defended his British bantamweight crown. Exciting tests lay ahead of Burnett, with the likes of Stuart Hall, Lee Haskins and Jamie McDonnell all in his sights.
The main event of the evening didn’t fail to impress, albeit, the action post-fight was as eye-catching as what transpired in the ring.
The first round certainly gave no indication that this fight was a given for Tony Bellew. The hometown favourite absorbed a number of very solid shots from BJ Flores, letting him know from the get go that this fight, either way, was most likely not going to go the distance.
Bellew had said to Flores at the weigh-in that he was going to get knocked down and knocked out, but there was also a possibility that he himself may also get knocked down. In brief, Bellew was pencilling a script which didn’t foresee the judges' scorecards - and he was accurate with his prediction.
Down three times in the second round, Flores was quickly dispatched in the third. It’s worth noting, that in a 35-fight career, this was the first time Flores has ever been stopped.
If the fight itself didn’t provide enough entertainment, what Bellew did next certainly did. Intent on expressing his joy to David Haye, who had tipped Flores to win, Bellew flew through the ropes to confront the former cruiserweight and heavyweight champion, unleashing a tirade of expletives.
After being coaxed back into the ring by security and his trainer Dave Coldwell, Bellew was able to express his intentions with Haye, as he was handed the microphone from Sky Sports.
“I’ll put you and that pathetic haircut to sleep, Spongebob Sqaurepants. I’ll deal with you in a boxing ring ... I smashed your buddy, your playmate, your playboy and I will smash you the exact same way.”
The dialogue continued the day after on social media and certainly grabbed the attention of the public. The potential Bellew-Haye fight has catch-weight written all over it. The prospect of Haye dropping to 200lbs is remote and although Bellew would be willing to step in the ring with King Kong, it would be sensible to perhaps consider a fight with a 210lbs limit, which in essence is heavyweight, with Bellew still able to retain his WBC world cruiserweight title.
Bellew and Eddie Hearn claim it would make for a worthy Pay Per View event. Whether that is true remains to be seen, but the dialogue from Bellew has certainly generated the interest of the national and international media. March 2017 was mentioned at the post fight presser. Let’s see ...
Other fights of note, included a destructive second round knockout from super middleweight Rocky Fielding, over Istvan Zeller. As an anxious father to be, with the imminent arrival of his child, Fielding did not stay in the ring or arena any longer than need be. I look forward to seeing the 29-year-old, who is now 23-1, back in a title fight of some kind in the not too distant future.
Sean ‘Masher’ Dodd almost came unstuck in a very close split decision victory against Belgium’s Francesco Patera. After a strong start from Dodd, Patera soon started to dictate the pace and style of the fight. Happy to box off the back foot or the centre of the ring, Patera struck and moved off at unpredictable angles, which seemed to disrupt Dodd’s rhythm.
The majority of press ringside seemed to score the bout 96-94 to the ring crafty Patera, but a late onslaught in the final two rounds from Dodd, was able to influence the judges otherwise, with the Birkenhead lightweight clinching a close split decision victory. Either way, a good learning curve for Dodd and a fight which will prepare him for the trickiest of future opponents.
Middleweight Scott Fitzgerald won a close 58-56 decision over Adam Jones. The correct result was probably a draw as Jones knocked down Fitzgerald in the third round and seemed to dominate the fourth.
What could have been a banana skin in the early stage of Fitzgerald's career has most likely turned out to be a good part of his learning curve. With good power, technique and fitness, 'Fitzy' has the capacity to climb the British rankings over the next 12 months.