Fighting futures: a show with a difference
Paul Zanon reports from an amateur show with a difference promoted by private bookmakers Fitzdares at one of London's most exclusive hotels...
The Ned. Ever heard of it? No? Located in the heart of Bank, London, it’s one of the capital’s most exclusive hotels and dineries. On a similar note, you may have never heard of Fitzdares….
As Chaz Lee - Head of Trading for Fitzdares - commented, “We are a private bookmakers aimed at individuals who value sportsmanship, discretion and incredible customer service.”
I can honestly say that the first boxing show they put on at The Ned, on 17 November, ticked all those boxes.
Surrounded by an abundance of crystal chandeliers and well-dressed folk, there was almost a sense of having been transported back in time to those days when individuals would sit ringside with a cigar, sipping champagne, throwing nobbins (coins) into the ring.
Minus the cigars and coin throwing (on the grounds of health and safety), the evening had everything else to keep your attention and make you feel immersed in the pugilistic art. Of the inspiration behind the show, Lee added, “The ABAs in London has always been an honour to be a part of and something the boxer could talk about for years to come. It gives talented boxers the chance to display their talents and that’s what we were aiming to do on [this] evening.”
Around 80 per cent of the 220 or so in attendance on the sixth floor of The Ned had never been to a boxing show before. However, from the first to the fourth bout, their attention was undivided and the atmosphere was as good as any small hall show I’ve attended (and that had nothing to do with the complimentary bar!)
After a warm welcome from none other than legendary fight scribe and Boxing Monthly columnist Steve Bunce and Fitzdares CEO, Balthazar Fabricius the proceedings for the evening commenced.
The format for the four bouts were three, three-minute rounds and the matchmaking was impeccable, with pedigree fighters hailing from Greater London’s finest amateur stables. First up was unbeaten Joey Epshon (6-0) from Fitzroy Lodge against Jack Johnstone (6-4) from Finchley ABC, both weighing in at 75kg. Johnstone had Anthony Joshua’s former amateur coach, Sean Murphy, in his corner.
Johnstone came out of the traps the more aggressive and powerful fighter, which suited southpaw Epshon’s style as he worked his counters to good effect. The second round was similar to the first, but by now Epshon was starting to look a little gassed, while Johnstone continued to apply the pressure. I had the close bout as a win for Epshon, but the judges scored it for Johnstone via a split decision.
The second contest was between Charlie Wincott (10-6) from Lynn Boxing and Jonathan Kumuteo (16-9) from Finchley ABC. With Wincott being a two-time national novice champion and Kumuteo a novice ABA finalist, we were expecting a good scrap. And that’s exactly what we got.
From the first bell the exchanges were ferocious, with neither man willing to back down or give ground away. Southpaw Kumuteo, despite weighing four kilos lighter, had success with some beautiful hooks to the body and his inside work was as good as many professionals, causing Wincott to suffer a nasty swelling under his left eye and a bloodied nose by the end of the first round.
However, Wincott’s will to win overcame his injuries. He continued to plough forward relentlessly and at the end of what can only be described as a cracking bout, Wincott was awarded a unanimous decision on the judges' scorecards. Hats off to both boxers. I would love to see a rematch.
The next two teak tough fighters to enter the ring were Tosin Olalekan (18-4) from Fitzroy Lodge and Shafqat Khan (13-6) from Lewsey Boxing Club, weighing in at 71 and 72kg respectively. Both fighters had totally opposing physiques and boxing styles, which made for a great bout.
Olalekan had biceps like grenades and had the power to back up the comparison, whereas Khan’s slick, rapid accurate fire and foot movement would provide any amateur with problems. In all honesty, I scored it a draw. When two individuals share a ring for nine minutes and leave it all in the ring with a belting performance, it’s sometimes simply not justified to have a winner.
However, if forced to name a winner I'd have given it to Olalekan, marginally on work rate. The judges evidently also found it difficult to separate the duo, as Olalekan was awarded a split decision. Both fighters can hold their heads up high after their performances.
The fourth and final bout of the evening was at 60kg, between Kyran O’Neill (24-12) from Dale Youth and Francis Storey (26-4) from Finchley ABC. From the outset, Storey was swarming O’Neill with flurries and shooting punches from awkward angles from his southpaw stance.
O’Neill started to fire back his own arsenal towards the end of the opening session, but unfortunately fell victim to a nasty cut over his eye brow. The injury was deemed too serious to allow him to continue and based on the judges' cards from the first round, the bout was ceased in the second and Storey was declared the winner.
The fighter of the night was awarded to the 2015 Haringey Box Cup winner, Tosin Olalekan.
The evening was a great success and Fitzdares intends to make it, at minimum, an annual event. Lee concluded: “The format worked well. Perhaps we’ll have another couple of fights next time, but it was nice to not have to rush through the fights and allow the audience and those involved with the boxing to have 10 or 15 minutes between each bout to catch a breath. There’s always ways to improve, but I can say, without a doubt, we’d like to do it all again next year.”