Ringside report: Copper Box Heat

Paul Zanon
10/07/2017 9:21pm

Paul Zanon was ringside for all the action - in and out of the ring - at the Copper Box Arena on Saturday night with Anthony Yarde, Bradley Skeete and Daniel Dubois among those in action...

Saturday 8 July 2017. To sum up the external temperature; roasting. Internal temperature at the Copper Box? Warm, rising to palpably hot.

That’s an accurate description of both the physical temperature and the progression of excitement of the 13 fight card which lay ahead.

First up was debutant middleweight J.D Smith, claiming a 39-38 points victory over Christian Hoskin Gomez, swiftly followed by Hornchurch’s Sanjeev Sahota against Croatian, Luka Leskovic. Sahota dominated the super lightweight contest with a calculated performance, exercising caution and a precision jab. The score of 40-36 in his favour did not come as a big surprise as Sahota moved his record to 8-0.

Third on the fistic menu was Kent debutant middleweight Sean Phillips versus Westbury’s, Anthony Fox. An unjustified knockdown in the first round dictated the result of the fight. In brief, Phillips got tangled up with Fox, and fell over. It was deemed a knockdown, even though the media at ringside shook their heads trying to work out how.

Looking to pull back a two-point deficit from the 10-8 opener, Phillips boxed very well for the next three rounds, landing some punishing uppercuts. However, by the final bell, despite the very game Fox sporting a bloody nose and a badly swollen left eye, the result of 39-39, a draw, was not appropriate. Even a (badly judged) first-round knockdown, Phillips in my eyes was the victor.

If you’re looking to mix up the evening’s proceedings, there’s nothing better than putting on an exhibition bout with world heavyweight title challenger, Hughie Fury, especially while the WBO world heavyweight champion, Joseph Parker, is watching from ringside. (The two are scheduled to meet on 23 September in Manchester for the WBO heavyweight title).

The Manchester giant glided around Kamil Sokolowski with ease for six rounds, showing how comfortable he was with Sokolowski’s similar build and height to Parker. However, the real class touch came about 20 minutes later, when both the Fury and Parker camps embraced, shared a few photos and acted like total gentlemen. It was almost a throwback to the 1950s - such behaviour is something which modern day boxing lacks at times.

Back to the action. Next up was a super-featherweight contest between the very popular Archie Sharp from Welling and Juan Ocura from Mexico. From the opening seconds, it was obvious that the switch-hitting Sharp, aptly nicknamed ‘Sharpshooter,’ did not intend the fight to extend to the full four-round limit.

Within the first minute, Ocura hit the canvas from a well travelled straight left, generating the first eight count. Very shortly after Ocura was on the canvas again from a slashing body shot. The second the referee stepped away, Sharp walked in with a barrage of punches, confirming to the referee that it was time to end the proceedings. The first round TKO for Sharp extended his record to 9-0.

The sixth fight of the night was a well-matched contest between Wembley’s Gary Corcoran and Stoke Newington, by way of Nigeria’s, Larry Ekundayo. They were fighting for the vacant WBO Intercontinental welterweight championship.

Corcoran, the naturally bigger and harder hitter, brought the fight to Ekundayo for the first eight rounds. In the early rounds, Corcoran was out-hustling and out-muscling Ekundayo but, as the fight progressed, it was obvious that Ekundayo’s strategy of countering and working on the inside was starting to pay off. A cut just below the eyebrow of Corcoran (later needing four stitches), was tribute to Ekundayo’s crafty hooking.

When the bell rang for the ninth round, the fight really caught fire. Ekundayo’s corner must have sensed that they were behind on the scorecards and decided to take the initiative. Throwing and landing some big overhand rights and clubbing hooks, Ekundayo turned the tide and started to rock Corcoran.

Towards the end of the tenth, Corcoran looked gassed and from ringside it was doubtful whether he would finish the round. However, if there is one thing Corcoran is renowned for, it’s his heart and stamina, both of which kicked back into play for the remaining two sessions, despite Ekundayo forcing the action. What a cracking fight. The scorecards, unsurprisingly, were closely split - 115-113 and 114-113 for Corcoran, with 113-114 for Ekundayo. Both fighters – take a bow.

From one belting contest, to another great bit of matchmaking, namely a rematch between Leicester fighters Darryll Williams and Jahmaine Smyle. The last time these two met was in April, with Williams winning a split decision, to lift the English super middleweight title.

With no love lost in the build-up to this fight, it was bombs away from the opening bell. Williams had promised to stop Smyle at the presser a few days earlier and almost achieved that goal by flooring his rival with a big right hand. Dazed, but not lacking his senses, Smyle bounced back with some bombs of his own, which had the crowd off their seats screaming for their respective fighters…..and that was only two rounds in.

The more aggressive Nigel Benn-esque work came from Williams, while Smyle was picking his counter power shots nicely, having particular success with the uppercut. In round seven, Symle rocked Williams with a looping right hand which momentarily rocked Williams, the fight then ignited into a toe-to-toe battle.

The final round was a cracker, but I’d also say was the one which clinched the victory for Williams. As the bell rang for the start of the tenth, it was obvious he wanted the stoppage win. Ricky Hatton was shouting from the corner, "He’s gone, he’s gone," referring to Smyle, however, despite not winning the round and bleeding from his mouth, Smyle bit down on his gumshield and saw the round out – deservedly so.

The judges scored it 95-95, 96-94, 96-94, with the majority decision in favour of Williams. You don’t get better value for money than that. Both fighters should be very proud of their performance. Perhaps one more time to complete the trilogy?

Penge’s Bradley Skeete was up next against Dale Evans. The Londoner was looking to achieve his childhood dream of defending his British title for the third time and winning a coveted Lonsdale belt outright. And that’s exactly what he did.

Skeete’s fights tend to follow a pattern: take a back seat for the first round while getting to grips with the range and skill base of his opponent, then compute that data to break down his opponent over the balance of the contest. This was no different.

Despite a game attempt from Evans to take the fight to the champion with a number of swinging power punches, Skeete kept the Welshman at bay with his jab and accurate counter punching. The unanimous and wide scoring read: 119-109, 120-109, 119-109, all in favour of Skeete.

Despite losing the fight, it’s worth mentioning that Evans had the words, ‘IRON MIKE,’ embroidered onto the front of his shorts, with the Scottish Flag running through them, in memory of Mike Towell. A class touch and a harsh reminder of how tough the sport of boxing is at this level.

The ninth fight of the night was the highly anticipated return of heavyweight sensation, Daniel Dubois. At the ripe age of 19 years old and in only his fourth contest, Dubois was fighting for the vacant WBC Youth World heavyweight title, against Uruguayan, Mauricio Barragan.

The fight was, in all honesty, a bit of a mismatch, in so much as Barragan is a natural cruiserweight, but that’s not Dubois’ fault as he can only fight who he has in front of him. A succession of opponents had dropped out in the lead-up to this fight and understandably so! Had they perhaps decided to watch the fate of Dubois' last three opponents on YouTube and decided the contest was simply not for them? Anyway, props to Barragan for stepping up to the plate and taking the challenge ... even if the result complimented Dubois' previous three victims.

In brief, and it was brief, Dubois landed a one-two in the first round, pretty much the first punches he landed, and Barragan hit the deck. Dazed, but not out on his feet, he somehow saw the round through.

With Dubois having just about broken a sweat, he caught Barragan with a punishing hook to the body and the fight was all over in 1.41 of the second of a scheduled ten-round contest. No doubt about it - Dubois is one to look out for. His intention is to become world heavyweight champion by 2020 and, although it’s early days, based on his performances to date, you wouldn’t bet against him.

The next contest will unfortunately be remembered more for the events outside the ring, than the battling inside. Hornchurch’s Sam McNess was challenging Asinia Byfield for his Southern Area super-welterweight crown, with both fighters having several hundred fans to support them respectively.

After a competitive opener, Byfield soon started to impose his awkward presence, landing punches at will on a very game McNess. The fight could have merited the referee’s intervention at the end of the fourth round as McNess was taking a great deal of punishment. Thankfully, trainer Mark Tibbs took control in the fifth by throwing in the towel and allowing his charge to fight another day.

My verdict? This fight was too early for McNess. He has genuine talent and could win this title at a later stage, but for now, it was a step too far. Full credit to Byfield. He boxed beautifully and showed an encouraging repertoire which evidenced that he’s worthy of stepping up the rankings. A fight with English title holder Ted Cheeseman could be a cracker...

Despite the bad blood before the fight, Byfield and McNess embraced and, when was said and done, respected each other as boxers. Unfortunately, some fans outside the ring could not comprehend the discipline and respect that comes with boxing and initiated a mass brawl in the crowd, completely disregarding the welfare of women and children, who were within spitting distance of the action.

Despite the attempts of Mark Tibbs, who grabbed the microphone and shouted at those involved to stop, the mindless individuals continued to fight for a number of minutes. There’s simply no place in boxing for this sort of behaviuour. It totally goes against the ethos that comes with lacing up the gloves.

Thankfully, the final fight took away the bad taste from the riotous actions. Take an initial look at Anthony Yarde and you could be misguided into thinking that he’s just another muscular athlete who shows a degree of potential.

Not so with the Ilford resident, as in my opinion, Yarde is a world champion in the making. He’s so much more than muscle. A lot more. In a mere two minutes and 28 seconds of the first round, Yarde decimated Hungary’s Richard Baranyi, to claim the WBO light heavyweight European title.

Speed, power, precision, movement and lightning reflexes. What’s not to like about Yarde? The win has now propelled him into the WBO’s top ten rankings. Like Dubois, I wouldn’t bet against this man becoming world champion and adding to an already outstanding boxing boom in Britain.