Ringside report: The Matrix reloaded
Photos (top to bottom): Richard Heathcote/Getty Images; James Chance / Getty Images; Richard Heathcote/Getty Images; Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
James Lupton reports from ringside at the O2 as P4P and lightweight king Vasiliy Lomachenko overcomes a robust challenge from Luke Campbell, Charlie Edwards retains his WBC flyweight title via a no contest and much more action besides...
A title fight at 17:00, a sold out O2 arena in full attendance by 20:00 and a true great headlining. On the evening of Saturday 31 August Matchroom Boxing and Top Rank pulled off an event so special it’ll go down in British boxing folklore.
In what was a special night for British boxing fans it was a boy from Hull who opened the show and a man from Hull who closed it. Connor Coghill was first inside the ropes as he faced off against tough Dean Jones in a super-featherweight contest. Coghill, previously managed by main event star Luke Campbell, started the bout well boxing to instructions.
Growing in confidence as the rounds started to flow so too did the combinations from the Hull fighter as he put his punches together well in twos and threes. Telford’s Jones hammered his chest, indicating to Coghill that he was not hurt and demanded his young opponent came forward once more. Jones also boxed well to the instructions bellowed to him from his team, albeit to no avail as Coghill didn't need to step out of second gear. In the fourth and final round Coghill started leaping into hooks in Mike Tyson-esque fashion as he new he had the result in the bag. The final bell sounded and the referee scored the fight 40-36 in favour of Coghill, a very pleasant fighter to observe, possibly one to watch in the future.
Much to David Diamante’s joy next inside the ring was ‘Wardy’ aka Martin J. Ward. After recent outings on a Matchroom Italy show and a World Boxing Super Series show Ward was back in London as he looked to gather momentum towards a title shot.
Crossing his path was Nicaraguan, Josue Bendana. Early in the bout it was clear to see the difference in ability between the two men as Ward scored an early knockdown in the second round. Bendana grew frustrated throughout the super-featherweight bout as the pair threw punches to the back of each other’s heads. Like a petulant child stamping their feet, Bendana repeatedly hit the back of his own head pleading to the referee to issue ‘Wardy’ a telling off.
Into round number five and frustration had beaten the Nicaraguan before Ward could, but not long before. The fifth round was a one-sided, overpowering performance from Ward forcing the stoppage at 2:46 of the stanza when the referee felt there was no way out for Bendana.
The clock hit 17:00 and that meant it was time for the first title fight of the night. The Sky cameras were filming by now and the Facebook live streaming had begun as the hard-hitting lightweight James Tennyson faced off against Atif Shafiq. The Northern Irishman flew out of the blocks from the opening bell as if he was Usain Bolt upon hearing a gun shot. In response Shafiq boxed to his strengths, punching and moving.
The issues for the Rotherham man came in the second round, when he did get hit. Backed up onto the ropes Shafiq evaded an early collection of punches thrown his way however a Tennyson right hook then switched the lights out. Referee Howard Foster was a foot too far away from the action as Tennyson landed three more blows and a limp Shafiq crumbled to the canvas, landing on his knees just as Bermane Stiverne once did against Deontay Wilder. A devastating knockout victory for Tennyson as he now eyes up a potential Joe Cordina fight in the future.
Next up former world amateur champion Savannah Marshall and her trainer Peter Fury made their way to the ring. 'The Silent Assassin' was taking on a former amateur foe, Daniele Bastieri. Marshall knew there was no room for any slip-ups here as she will be facing a world ranked opponent on 19 October in Newcastle.
Marshall started proceedings well, looking very relaxed and fluid as she shot out the jab from a low guard and followed up regularly with a straight right hand. Into the fourth round and a blooded Bastieri was no longer hopping around the ring on her toes, she was now staggering around tiredly, a worrying sign for the Brazilian.
In the dying seconds of round number five Bastieri crumbled to the ground as the bell sounded for the end of the round. The referee continued to administer the ten count before waving the fight off. The official time of the stoppage was 2:00 of round five.
Up for grabs next were the British and Commonwealth lightweight titles as two Welshmen went to war. Familiar foes Joe Cordina and Gavin Gwynne kicked off the pay-per-view section of the night. Cordina started the stronger as he dazzled Gwynne with his hand speed and footwork.
As early as the third round the fight had the feel of two mates going toe-to-toe for bragging rights trying to decide who’s bigger, stronger and better. Cordina had weighed in the heavier at the day before weigh-in, perhaps in a bid to match the strength of his six-foot opponent.
The two sets of Welsh fans were split across the arena - Gwynne's to the left of me, Cordina's to the right (and here I am stuck in the middle with you). Gwynne, with his cheeks soon puffed out, realised the tough task set out for him.
Into round seven and Cordina was enjoying himself, like a matador evading the oncoming raging bull however, a shot below the belt line of Gwynne saw a point deducted from Cordina. The underdog going into the fight, Gwynne had done well throughout the fight having success in parts. Although well behind on the cards he could not be written off at this stage.
The ninth round was one of mixed emotions for Gavin as he landed the shot of the fight, thudding Cordina with a right uppercut, but he then Cordina on the naughty step by having a point of his own deducted for shots to the back of the head. Down the final stretch both men stood toe-to-toe and slugged it out during the final round. Both men ended the fight strongly but for Gwynne it wasn’t enough as Cordina scored a unanimous decision points win (116-110 x 2, 116-111 x 1).
Next up was one of the biggest prospects in British boxing, light heavyweight Joshua Buatsi, facing his toughest opponent to date in Canadian Ryan Ford. The opening round was the usual feeling out process between the two men with Ford landing a solid right hand late in the round.
Ford soon revisited that right hand and once more it brought him success, the Canadian went on to land four more single right handed shots in the second round alone. With the cogs almost visibly turning in his brain to work out a solution to the puzzle in the shape of the tattooed, bearded Ford, Buatsi started throwing his fists with intent.
Midway through the contest Buatsi and Ford both had success on the inside, the fight having progressed into a good, tidy fight. It was in round seven when the Croydon man had success, Buatsi felt his opponent was hurt and like a shark to the scent of blood rushed Ford, dropping the Canadian with what looked like a low blow.
As the referee counted to ten, Ford - clearly in pain - was on the floor screaming “low blow” repeatedly even after the referee's count had passed ten. The replays were shown from just a single angle from which it was hard to decipher just how low the shot had strayed.
The excitement didn't stop there as local favourite Charlie Edwards defended his WBC flyweight title against big punching Mexican Julio Cesar Martinez, who won his shot at the title after stopping Welshman Andrew Selby. Edwards started the first round well, landing with some promising shots which continued through the second stanza.
It was the third round when the tables turned; Martinez found success with a sequence of shots ending with a right hand which dropped the champion to his knees. Cue the hysteria. Whilst Edwards was on all fours the Mexican sunk a respiration-robbing shot into the side of Edwards, forcing Charlie into a yelp and leaving him unable to beat the referee's count.
We had a new world champion - momentarily.
As the replays unfolded, the thousands in attendance booed, Eddie Hearn demanded an immediate rematch and WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman who stole the show. El Presidente declared the result a no contest. Edwards’ tears of pain had soon turned to those of joy as he walked away with his title around his waist once more. A move up to super-flyweight could be the next move for Edwards.
Time ticked on, as the arena knew it was close to the spectacle we all had come to see but before Lomachenko and Campbell could take centre stage new Matchroom signing Hughie Fury featured in the co-main event as he faced a tough heavyweight test in the form of Russia's Alexander Povetkin.
We were told we would see a new, improved Fury - a more attacking minded version of the slick heavyweight. It wasn’t long before we saw the leaping hooks from Povetkin begin as he tested Fury inside the opening round but Hughie displayed his good footwork to dance around the ring.
It wasn’t until the fourth round when the Russian veteran had a breakthrough round as he repeatedly landed hooks.
This success continued during the fifth, Fury displaying a solid chin to take some thunderous shots. Fury took the sixth round as he boxed well, frustrating his adversary.
Swelling around Fury’s left eye began to appear towards the end of the eighth round and in the ninth Fury was haunted by yet another cut to that left eye. Povetkin continued to do what he did for the majority of the fight and that was win the rounds. As the final bell sounded all three judges were in unison as the identical scorecards all read 117-111 to Povetkin.
It was time. Time for goosebumps. Time for the greatest British amateur fighter ever. Time for the greatest boxer in the world rtght now?
The anticipation in the air built as Michael Buffer swayed his snake hips around the ring to 'Sweet Caroline'. Time froze as 18,000 patrons of prizefighting felt the hairs on the back of their necks stand on end awaiting the entrance of one man who was about to give each and every one a once in a lifetime experience, Vasiliy Lomachenko.
First to make his way to the ring was challenger Luke Campbell who entered the arena to a rapturous reception. Then it was the turn of the main man, ‘Loma’ who was cheered in by the same fans who cheered Luke Campbell along side the large Ukrainian turn out.
The national anthems were sung and then it was down to business. The Englishman, who had a clear size advantage, started the fight well, nicking the first round with a solid right hand to end the round. Lomachenko spent the first few rounds assessing his opponent before gauging his range and with small adjustments he started to make Campbell miss in round four.
Lomachenko started to step through the gears once he felt he had figured Campbell out, ending the fifth round with a soul-stealing body shot. A grimace flashed across Campbell's face as the bell sounded to end the round.
In round seven Campbell caught Lomachenko and the blow seemed to bother the Ukrainian, the crowd were ignited and chants of ‘Campbell, Campbell, Campbell’ rung around the O2. In response Lomachenko launched yet another onslaught against the torso of Campbell, a tactic which became a trend from rounds eight to eleven when eventually the Brit had to take a knee to gain a few moments to breathe.
Into the final round and Campbell had already surpassed many people's expectations. Unfortunately for the Hull man the Ukrainian continued to attack the body. A desperate Campbell took Lomachenko down with a rugby tackle and the bell rang for the final time of the evening.
The lucky fans and media in attendance undoubtedly witnessed greatness. The unanimous decision in Lomachenko's favour saw him add the WBC lightweight title to his WBA and WBO crowns and once again the Ukrainian maestro had shown why he is widely considered the best boxer in the business.
The Matrix is reloaded and the revolution continues.