Ringside report: Davies verdict ruffles feathers

Paul Zanon
29/06/2019 7:08pm

Photos (top to bottom): Alex Burstow/Getty Images / Paul Zanon

Paul Zanon reports from York Hall's Friday night MTK show, as Ohara Davies wins amid controversy and Ryan Walsh yet again retains his British featherweight title...

With the UK on the brink of a heatwave, you might think that the York Hall would be one of the last places you would want to be in on a crowded night - however the Friday night fans weren't be be denied at last night's MTK show - and included in their ticket prices were failed ring entrances, barn-burners and even a little controversy ...

First up was Jack ‘Dempsey’ Ewbank against Michael Williams at welterweight. From the opening bell, Ewbank confidently took the centre of the ring, holding his hands low and hitting at will. Despite a gutsy second round from Williams in the second, it was Ewbank all the way, as Williams' swollen and bloodied face confirmed at the end of the fourth session. Ewbank won 40-36, moving him to 3-0.

Next up at lightweight was Bradley ‘Axeman’ Haxell against Andy Harris. It felt like Haxell had brought half of West Ham United’s fan base with him as he entered the ring to a deafeningly appreciative reception. Haxell not only brought the noise, he also brought the firepower to back it up. Landing a series of bone-breaking straight right hands while keeping a safe distance, the 24-year-old controlled the fight. Harris was game in the third round, but the result was never in doubt. 40-36 for Haxell, extending his record to 3-0.

The third contest of the evening was at welterweight between London’s Sam Gilley and Yorkshire’s Nathan Hardy, over six rounds. Walthamstow favourite Gilley started the contest very strong, almost looking like he might force the stoppage in the first four rounds. His left hooks to the body followed by overhand rights were a thing of beauty, but in the final two rounds he seemed to run out of gas – albeit, he was never in any real trouble. Gilley took a 59-55 points decision, moving him up to 9-0.

b6a09c54 4938 4fe6 9550 9a990201f6f9Siar Ozgul and Anthony ‘Dig It’ Yigit were next to take the stage, battling it out over eight, super lightweight rounds. The first thing that put a smile on my face about this contest was to see former super middle and light heavyweight contender Erik Skoglund as part of Yigit's corner. After suffering a brain injury in December 2017, Skoglund looked in great shape and was gaining healthy attention from the fans. We wish him the very best.

Back to the Ozgul versus Yigit fight. In brief – it was an absolute barn burner. Value for money at its very best. Yigit started the contest as the more dominant, edging it on work rate, but by the second session, Ozgul had put Yigit on the back foot, unleashing a heavy arsenal on the Swede. Round three saw Ozgul working the counter hooks beautifully while the fourth session was raw toe-to-toe action.

The last three rounds were close, but Yigit’s work rate and fitness edged it for me. The Stockholm favourite gained a 78-75 points victory, moving him to 24-1-1. By all counts, a cracking fight. Hats off to both men.

The first ten rounder of the evening was between Danny ‘Darko’ Egbunike (4-0) and Martin McDonagh (5-0). Both unbeaten fighters taking a risk early in their career to put a blemish on their records. Their contest acted as a Southern Area super lightweight eliminator. The support for both fighters was immense and when both men made their way to the ring, the noise was deafening.

From the outset McDonagh looked the more confident with his light footwork and snappy southpaw jab, but it was Egbunike’s longer, calculated stance, which generated him that all essential power, which would eventually win the long game.

By the fifth round, Egbunike started to slow McDonagh down a gear or two, by landing punishing body shots. From here on, the contest was pretty one sided. Many others fighters would have quit or the corners may have pulled their man out, but a gutsy McDonagh bit down on his gumshield and saw the contest out. Egbunike deservedly won a 97-93 points victory. I look forward to seeing him fight for the Southern Area strap sometime very soon.

The sixth fight was an anti-climax and left the majority in attendance with a bitter taste in their mouths. Having lost against Jack Catterall eight months ago, this was the perfect opportunity for Ohara Davies to claim a very respected scalp in the shape of former long reigning IBF lightweight champion Miguel Vazquez. His former foe, Josh Taylor had stopped Vazquez in nine rounds, so it was all there for Davies taking to make a statement.

Unfortunately, from the get go, Davies looked disinterested and flat, as if his head wasn’t in the right place. His corner kept asking him if everything was okay every time he came back to the corner and he nodded unconvincingly, ‘yes’.

Vazquez in the meantime was displaying that footwork and hand speed which had won him world honours, while working the counters beautifully. When the announcement was made that Davies had won the contest by 97-94 points, the first thing the Hackney fighter did was shake his head to acknowledge the result was unfair and walk over to Vazquez to raise the Mexican's hand.

If you are ever in need of a remedy to contrast an anti-climax, look no further than British featherweight champion Ryan Walsh and his ‘Farmy Army’. In fact, his opponent, Lewis Paulin brought a very healthy group of supporters to counter the Cromer favourite’s troop. If support wasn’t enough, Walsh added further entertainment by failing with his acrobatic rope jumping exercise into the ring…twice!

Walsh was like a pitbull from the opening bell, setting a relentless pace, working his inside game with venom and delivering crunching hooks to the body. Paulin, behind his ramrod jab, had some hurtful clubbing shots to follow and was not afraid to go toe to toe with Walsh at any stage. For me, Walsh’s pace, fitness and hit rate won it. Either way, a cracking fight.

After 12 hard fought rounds, it went to the scorecards for a split decision. 117-111, 115-114 for Walsh and 115-113 for Paulin. That’s four split decisions in Walsh’s last five fights and six defences of his British featherweight belt, moving his record to 24-2-2.

Donovan Mortlock rounded off the proceedings with a hurtful stoppage against Duane Green, moving Mortlock to 4-0.