UBIII ringside report: Punching preacher Osaze wins golden robe
Photos: Jack Thomas/Getty Images
James Lupton reports from Indigo at the O2 as Derrick Osaze is crowned the winner of the Ultimate Boxxer III middleweight tournament...
In an evening that gave us six knockdowns, a few ‘let’s go champs’ and one Ultimate Boxxer we saw the punching preacher crowned the winner of the increasingly sought after golden robe.
To open proceedings Manchester prospect Sean Fennell faced off against experienced Lithuanian Simas Volosinas. With Manchester legend Anthony Crolla watching, the 19-year-old Fennell started strongly, having early success to the body of Volosinas, with the Lithuanian dropping an inch with each shot he had taken.
The middle rounds were tough for Fennell to find a way of unlocking the journeyman’s defence but business resumed as normal in the final round as it had started in the first. Success to the body was the key though as Fennell moved to 3-0 with a shutout on the referee's scorecard, 40-36.
In the first UBIII quarter-final, Kaan Hawes came up against tournament favourite Kieran Conway. Essex man Hawes put up a strong display but ultimately was outclassed as Conway showed why he was hotly fancied. His superior shot selection and counterattacks were a highlight through the three-round fight.
Unfazed by the pressure Kaan applied Conway allowed his opponent to come forward and unload whilst picking his opportunities to pounce, racking up a whitewash with all three judges scoring the bout 30-27.
The second quarter-final saw underdog Derrick Osaze face off against former Southern Area champion Tey Lynn-Jones. In an exciting, fast-paced bout the opening round saw success for Nottingham based Osaze with Jones suffering a cut above his right eye after a left hook from Osaze. The drama continued in the second as the ‘Punching Preacher’ found himself in full control after an overhand right dropped Jones to the canvas.
By the final round, with Osaze clearly ahead on the scorecards, Jones needed a knockout to progress. It was his best round of the fight however it was clear to see his vision was by that point impaired due to the cut suffered in the first round. With all judges in agreement Osaze rightly took the win 29-27.
Up next was hard-hitting Josh Groombridge, who faced off against the youngest entrant in Sean Phillips. The fight ended before it really got started after Phillips stopped Groombridge at 2:22 of the first round. The venue erupted at the first stoppage to such an extent that it felt like the whole venue had come out to support Phillips.
To conclude the quarter-finals, Grant ‘Go-Getter’ Dennis came up against Essex brawler Joe Hurn. From the very start, it was clear to see the difference in levels between these two men, however Hurn showed no lack of heart and seemed to enjoy being the bull to the matador.
The elusive Dennis danced around the aggressive Hurn, picking him off at every opportunity. The fight came alive in the third round as Hurn committed himself missing a jab, slick defence followed by an overhand right connected flush on Hurn’s jaw which saw him crumble to one knee. With 2:38 on the clock the referee waved off Hurn’s attempts to beat the ten count bringing much jubilation to the animated Grant Dennis corner, which included former fighter, Leon McKenzie.
Before the semi-finals began the fans got an opportunity to see reality TV star Idris Virgo, as he came to the ring to a megamix of the theme tunes of Game of Thrones and Power to face off against the Czech Republic's Rene Molik. The Czech came out fighting from the first bell, with Virgo hitting the canvas although the referee deemed it a slip and rightly so. However this didn’t deter Molik, who continued to have luck against Virgo.
If Molik was the Night King then it was the doctor who was Arya Stark as he put a stop to the contest after an accidental clash of heads produced a cut to Molik. A frustrating night for the away corner who they were on their way to an upset victory. The referee declared the fight a technical draw.
Back to tournament action, and the first semi-final brought us Conway vs Osaze. In what was a tough fight to score neither man seemed to want to commit themselves too much whilst conserving energy in the hope of making the final. Osaze started with high tempo pressure, not allowing the Northampton favourite to work. Unlike in his first bout, Conway couldn’t find a counter attack.
Without much landing clean throughout the three rounds but with Osaze the aggressor and Conway not producing an awful lot, the judges scored the contest 29-28, 28-29, 29-28 - a split decision in favour of Osaze.
The Peckham-born pugilist patiently waited to see who his opponent would be in the final. The second semi-final was a battle of Kent, with Dennis and fan favourite Phillips squaring off. Dennis asserted his dominance in the first round after dropping Phillips with a straight right hand down the pipe - Phillips looked down and out and did well to continue.
In the second round, Grant continued to show his class in a bout which increasingly felt like man vs boy. However in the concluding round the 22-year-old Phillips shocked the whole venue when he sent 35-year-old Dennis to the canvas. Hurt and vulnerable, Dennis had to hold out until the end of the round which he managed to do and the Chatham man took away a unanimous decision with all three judges scoring the bout 28-27.
The final undercard bout before proceeding to the final saw the winner of Ultimate Boxxer II, Shakan Pitters, fighting at cruiserweight. The 29-year-old cruised past opponent Dmitrij Kalinovski in a one-sided affair. Birmingham man Pitters is now 12-0 and within touching distance of title fights - we could even see him back out again in the next instalment of Ultimate Boxxer.
On to the last fight of the evening, the final and up for grabs was the golden robe and a rumoured £16,000 prize fund. In the opening round, it was clear to see fatigue was going to play a big role in this fight. Both men had endured two hard fights each to get this far and as a result the first stanza was scrappy.
The second round brought success for both fighters making the fight a difficult one to score - until the third round that is. The final round of the night saw Osaze find success with an uppercut which sent Dennis crashing to the canvas on all fours. The uppercut continued to give Osaze the advantage throughout the remainder of the round and it was enough to seal victory for him.
The final scorecards were 29-27, 28-28, 29-27 - winning by a split decision the power of prayer gave Derrick Osaze the crown after defeating the three tournament favourites en route.
Osaze’s jubilant fans could be heard late into the night as they celebrated their man's victories and Osaze has now put himself firmly in the mix domestically as a real player in his usual 168lbs weight class.