By Steven Bateson
Amir Khan had to climb off the canvass to secure a unanimous decision over Samuel Vargas at the Arena Birmingham on Saturday night., a performance that is unlikely to have sent shockwaves through the Welterweight division.
Khan is supposed to be on the comeback trail to the top of the Welterweight division but this performance may have raised more questions than provided answers, the speed and skills are still there but his energy levels and punch resistance look a far cry away from anyone who is going to unseat any of the current champions at 147lbs.
Khan was quick from the opening bell with his trademark handspeed but Vargas merely shrugged his shoulders, unperturbed, and beckoned his man on. Khan scored eye-catching combinations but then ate a left hook from his opponent, just a warning sign that his defense is still and always will be fairly suspect.
The second round was the perfect encapsulation of Khan’s career so far. He started in a flash and buzzed Vargas with a quick combination that drew Vargas out of his shell and allowed the former world champion to fell his man with a left jab and right hand on the side of the head. Vargas seemed a little dazed as he got to his feet but just a minute later he bypassed a pawing jab and unloaded a huge right hand of his own that detonated on Khan’s chin and dropped him heavily. Fortunately for the Bolton man it was at the end of the round and he wasn’t forced to take any more punishment.
Vargas came out swinging, wildly in the third, and he missed a big hook that allowed Khan to counter with a shot that seemed to land around the back of the head and put Vargas down, but the referee called it a knockdown much to the chagrin of the visitor. Khan was starting to put his punches together again but Vargas’ legs were strong and he didn’t seem fazed by the punch power of the former Olympic star.
In the fifth Khan trapped his man on the ropes and exploded with ten-fifteen unanswered shots that bust up the nose of Vargas but still nothing that truly hurt the Canadian. Khan was clearly winning the rounds, that was without question, but he was struggling to break the resistance and heart of the teak tough Colombian born.
Vargas had more success in the sixth with a sustained attack in the corner to the body but Khan was able to work his way out and box behind his excellent jab once more. Vargas was continuing to press forward, however, and kept the pace high as Khan showed a few signs of fatigue by the end of the round.
Two heavy rights stunned Khan briefly in the seventh but instead of holding he chose to stand and trade with Vargas, another downfall of his career, but fortunately for him he wasn’t caught by anything concussive or overly damaging. Khan answered back with two lightning hooks but he was slowing down, on the backfoot, and allowing the confidence of Vargas to manifest.
Vargas was putting work in to the body, contributing to the slowing legs of Khan, and then in the eighth he scored another overhand right, albeit glancing, in yet another warning sign. The energy levels of Vargas were beginning to wane too, he’d pushed the pace well to this point, and walked into a few more well-timed counter combinations from Khan to close out the eighth. Khan was clearly in front but it was from impressive compared to what was expected from him.
Vargas, nose leaking from a gash on the bridge of his nose, continued to come marching forward looking to land that overhand bomb but it seemed further away than ever before. Khan wasn’t dominating proceedings either but he was scoring enough and more frequently. A fast flurry started the tenth for Khan but then he was soon pressed back on the ropes and roughed up to head and body by Vargas, for the first time Khan looked a little uncomfortable with his surroundings. A right hook then took Khan’s legs away from him as he tried to move off the ropes, leaving his hands down by his side, but once again he was saved by the bell.
Vargas was unable to capitalise in the eleventh as Khan got back on his bike and boxed from a safer distance, saving up enough to energy to canter his way through the twelfth without encountering any more danger from the durable Vargas.
Khan entertains, it is what he does and has done throughout his career, and perhaps there is one big fight left for him out there (Kell Brook in December has to be the aim) but that defense is going to land him in a whole lot of hot water once more when he’s in there with an elite level fighter. He has the skills and speed to trouble anyone but his punch resistance is extremely questionable, he can’t take shots like that against anyone with heavier hands than Samuel Vargas, who isn’t even a renowned puncher.
Scorecards read: 119-108, 119-109, 118-110
Sam Eggington’s career may be left in tatters after he was demolished inside two rounds by Hassan Mwakinyo.
All the pre-fight talk was that Eggington was fighting Brandon Rios on the Joshua-Povetkin undercard but either that talk went to his head or he just wasn’t prepared because he looked as poor as ever seen before, almost akin to a human punching bag for the unknown African puncher.
The first round was slow, a feeling out process, but the danger signs were there at the end of the stanza when a left to the body from Mwakinyo was followed by a left hook to the chin that momentarily staggered Eggington. The Birmingham man staggered onto the ropes and almost to prove his machismo he allowed his opponent to tee off a couple of more times to prove he wasn’t hurt.
But he was hurt and Mwakinyo knew it. The Tanzanian came out swinging in the second and Eggington was once again on the receiving end. The former British Welterweight Champion’s defense has never been the best but this was alarming as Mwakinyo just could not miss. Eggington elected to trade with his foe but his shots had no effect whilst Mwakinyo was quite frankly punching him senseless. It was difficult to watch as he was hammered by a dozen plus hooks whilst just standing with his hands down in the centre of the ring. The referee had no choice but to step in and preserve whatever is left of Eggington.
The future will now be unclear despite Eggington only being 24 because he was on the cusp of a career-defining fight with former world champion Brandon Rios but he’s showed a lot of unprofessionalism and lack of dedication, completely underestimating and overlooking Mwakinyo
Jason Welborn edged out Tommy Langford to retain the British Middleweight Championshi via split decision in a fantastic twelve round affair.
Back in May these two shared a tremendous twelve round split decision and in almost a carbon copy of that fight the two Midlands warriors produced a stellar performance, Langford displaying real heart and guts to get up from two early knockdowns to push the champion all the way.
Langford started the fight on the front foot and used his superior reach to pepper Welborn with the jab whilst looping right hands around the guard. Welborn was just stalking forward but his opening came at the end of the round when he missed with a left cross but then drove a right to the chin, decking the challenger and hurting him.
Langford survived the knockdown and then started the second round the same way as the first, moving in and out of range with the more decorated boxing skills. Welborn was trying to time that one big shot but Langford was proving more elusive and scored a terrific right uppercut to end the stanza.
But then in the third Langford walked onto a huge right hand counter after dominating the early stages. He was rattling off one-two combinations but stayed in the pocket for too long and ate the shot from Welborn that had him down again. This time Langford’s legs were all over the place and it seemed only a matter of time before Welborn stopped him, every shot shaking Langford to his boots, but the champion could not manage to find the killer punch to end proceedings as Langford was able to negotiate his way to the end of the ring.
Langford’s boxing was standing him in great stead, when at range he controlled the fight, but again in the fifth it seemed every time he was forced to take a shot from the champion it had catastrophic effects. Langford’s left eye was bloodied now, his legs wobbly, and it seemed one big punch would find him off but Welborn just could not find what he was looking for.
The challenger took control through the middle of the fight, his excellent jab and combination punching leaving Welborn trailing in his wake. Welborn was beginning to look flat and a seven-eight punch combo to head and body in the seventh reiterated the desire of Langford to take back the Lonsdale strap that he lost earlier this year.
Welborn was read the riot act by his corner and in the ninth he looked a little rejuvenated. Langford was still controlling the pace and constantly pushing Welborn back with the jab and body shots but he was holding his feet too long and ate another punishing right hand that had the challenger’s legs all at seas. Welborn was throwing more, despite looking tired, but Langford was able to box out of range to keep safe.
Langford boxed his way back onto the front foot through the championship rounds and couldn’t miss Welborn with the jab and long range combinations, Welborn’s face swollen with welts under both eyes. Welborn was looking devoid of ideas, unable to pull the trigger or find the definitive punch to swing the pendulum back in his favour.
It looked like Langford had weathered the storm and was heading toward reclaiming his Lonsdale belt but then in the twelfth the fragility of Langford was back in the limelight as Welborn roared out with a storming combination that had the challenger holding on desperately. Langford answered back with flurries of his own, the crowd roaring them both on, but then another right hook had him in jeopardy for the countless time in the fight. The bout was in the balance heading into this round and Welborn probably just did enough to retain his title.
Scorecards read: 114-113 - Langford, 114-113 - Welborn, 115-114 - Welborn
Lewis Ritson took a stay busy fight and worked through the gears on the way to a third round stoppage over Oscar Amador.
Ritson, the current British Lightweight Champ, is scheduled to fight for the European title on October 13th in Newcastle but instead of biding his time he decided to take a warm up here in order to keep sharp for the biggest fight of his career thus far.
Ritson’s jab was deadly from the outset and although Amador was trying to rough him up, using the head in close and plenty of low punches, he was absolutely no match for the "Sandman". Ritson wasn’t at full throttle, he had no need to be, and he worked through the gears in a much more reserved fashion than we’ve become accustomed to seeing from him in the last year.
Ritson was hammering away with uppercuts, one-twos down the barrel and then a right to the top of the head and a left to the body at the beginning of the third round put Amador down on one knee and the referee counted him out. Amador wasn’t on the same level as Ritson, he’d been beaten around the ring for nearly seven minutes, and although the British Champion was far from 100% it was still too much for his Nicaraguan opponent.
For Ritson now it’s on to October 13th and the European Title. He is the breakthrough star of British boxing right now and there’s sure to be plenty of buzz around his career as he continues to progress toward world level.
Scott Fitzgerald was forced to work extremely hard for his ten round knockout win over the game Craig Morris.
Early doors it looked as though Fitzgerald’s size and superior power would force an easy night’s work, a left hook around the guard in round one stunning Morris, but the man from Ludlow made Fitzgerald earn his victory.
Morris was back in the mixer in the second with a left to the body and then swapping jabs with his more renowned opponent until a flashing left uppercut seemed to bother him for a moment or two, a shot he was able to brush off by the end of the stanza. He continued his bodywork in the third and although both men were having success during exchanges it was the more accurate work from Morris that was leaving the last impression, a straight left hand in the fourth snapped Fitzgerald’s head back, and it was obvious he was growing in confidence.
In the fifth, Fitzgerald (now 11-0 with 8 KO’s) worked back into it with a straight right finding its target and then a left hook to the jaw and a body shot switched the round in his favour. A big right hand rocked Morris’ head back again in the sixth but then Fitzgerald started to tire, quite visibly, and Morris took his opportunity to pour it on and increase the pace. Morris wasn’t hurting Fitzgerald but he was scoring much more consistently through the seventh and eighth, Fitzgerald breathing heavy and struggling to keep Morris off him.
The ninth began with the pair swapping jabs and then Fitzgerald, breathing heavy through his bloodied noise, was able to land a little more successfully to head and body as Morris pushed forward with little thought for defense. A right uppercut/left hook combination the pick of the round for the Preston man followed by a hurtful straight right hand to the body.
The fight looked in the balance heading into the tenth, fatigue was clear to see on both men’s faces, and they both found a home for their crunching bodyshots as they fell back onto the ropes. Fitzgerald’s punches still had a little more snap on them and he was able to land two or three hooks around the guard before a gigantic left hand followed by a right straight sent Morris falling into the ropes, his legs abandoning him, before the Ludlow man dropped to one knee. The referee, perhaps prematurely, waved the fight off.
It was a real learning curve kind of fight for the Commonwealth gold medallist, he was nowhere near the level expected from him, and it will be interesting to see where he goes from here, a big domestic showdown with Anthony Fowler is being mooted for December time. The domestic 154lbs division is currently brimming with talent and there should be some excellent fights in the next 12-18 months.
Kieran Conway is still undefeated but he can consider himself somewhat fortunate to receive the four round decision over Holland’s Gino Kanters. Kanters came out like a bull in the first and he was swinging in big right hands and trying to time a left hand counter whilst Conway looked like a deer in the headlights. In the second he found a home for the left hand and Conway’s legs buckled momentarily although he was able to survive and hold the relentless Kanters at bay for the time being. It was very scrappy at times but Kanters was the one forcing the pace and making it incredibly difficult for Conway to find a foothold. When Conway (now 9-0 with 3 KO’s) was able to use the distance and get his combinations off he looked the flashier and better boxer, in the third and fourth he was able to adapt with his jab and score in flurries whilst also holding his smaller foe up close to prevent any more damaging shots. A draw would have been a fair result however the referee saw the contest: 40-37
Ryan Kelly ripped up the script as he tore a whirlwind through Kelcie Ball, stopping him in the very first round to successfully defend the Midlands Area Super Welterweight Championship. On paper, it was billed as 50-50 but nobody told Kelly who stormed out from the corner looking to make a statement and did exactly did within 89 seconds of the opening bell. There will be fingers pointed at the referee because his reaction time was poor and Ball was forced to absorb more damage than was necessary or acceptable, he was completely out on his feet from when Kelly first unloaded.
Gamal Yafai continued his climb back to title contention with a monstrous left hand knockout of Brayan Mairena in the seventh round of a scheduled eight. Yafai, who wasn’t overly impressive before the big finish, is two from two since losing his WBC International belt to Gavin McDonnell back in March and the former Commonwealth Super Bantamweight champion could very find himself in the mix for British honours by the end of the year.
Birmingham’s own Shakan Pitters delighted his supporters with a second round KO of Lithuania’s Imantas Davidaitis. Pitters (now 7-0 with 2 KO’s) is part of a very competitive domestic Cruiserweight division and could find himself head to head with some of his fellow contenders in the near future, pushing himself into Area and English contention.
Qaid Ashfaq is another Super Bantam making waves and wasted no time with a first round demolition of Gary Austin. Ashfaq (now 3-0 with 1 KO) is looking to move quickly in the pros after winning silver at the 2014 Commonwealth games.
Osman Aslam took care of Jack Summers with a fierce third round body shot during their six round Super Bantamweight bout. Aslam (now 13-0 with 5 KO’s) dropped his man prior to the stoppage and is climbing the domestic 122lb ladder rapidly. There could be an Area title in the offing.
Sean McComb made it two stoppage wins from two as he dispatched Nicaragua’s Lesther Cantillano in the second round of a scheduled four. McComb, a European Bronze medallist, has settled well in the pro ranks and looks like he could be one to watch as his career progresses.
Northern Ireland’s Steven Donnelly opened up the show with a four round shutout decision over the seasoned Miguel Aguilar. It’s Donnelly’s second pro outing and second successive points victory at 154lbs. Scorecard read: 40-36