By Steven Bateson
Josh Kelly headlined the Radio Metro Arena, Newcastle on Saturday night as he outclassed Kris George, stopping him in seven to win the Commonwealth Welterweight Championship in his seventh pro fight.
Kelly was displaying his excellent footwork and punch variation from the opening bell and giving the defending champion nightmares in what to expect next. Kelly is so unorthodox and holds his hands down by side, it is almost impossible to predict where the next attack is going to come from.
George was pressing and on the front foot but often chasing shadows as Kelly showed him a multitude of angles and fired in two solid left hooks to the body in the opener. A left hook counter seemed to stun George momentarily as he was throwing a body punch but he took the blow well.
Kelly controlled the early rounds with his speed and elusiveness but he was not overawing George with his ability, the Australian growing in confidence after sampling some of Kelly’s power punching and seemingly happy to stay the course.
Kelly is an exceptional talent, it cannot be doubted, but his showboating in this fight led to lapses in concentration. He landed a terrific right uppercut at the beginning of round four but admired his own shot and ate a left hook in return. George had more success with the left hook later in the round as Kelly was hanging his chin in the air as he pulled out of exchanges but nothing that was looking likely to cause an upset.
A flashy combination to the head and body had George tucking up in the corner at the beginning of round five but still he seemed undaunted by the task at hand. It was clear that Kelly was the better boxer, that is indisputable, but credit must go to the durability of George because many predicted he would be blown away.
The champion came out throwing in six and landed some meaty body shots to Kelly, letting him know that if he wanted to take his belt then he’d have to work hard for it. Kelly was happy to oblige and hit a huge poleaxe left uppercut on the ropes before upping the pace with a more steely determination, for the first time George was looking a little ragged and Kelly was breaking him down.
George’s face was getting busted up through the seventh as Kelly put it on him and started to sink in sickening combinations to head and body whilst George was flailing back on the ropes. There may have been an injury to George’s hand, he was throwing very little back in response, and he cut a despondent figure as he went back to his corner at the end of the round. After consultation with his corner they decided their fighter had had enough and pulled him out.
Kelly (now 7-0 with 5 KO’s) seems to be on the fast track to big things and this was yet another chapter in what is becoming an increasingly impressive road to superstardom. Kelly has transitioned so well from amateur to professional that you’d be forgiven for thinking you were watching a seasoned veteran in the paid ranks. However, his flashy style will divide opinion with many preferring to seem him get his business taken care of. Bigger tests lie ahead for the Sunderland man and he will be pushed harder at the higher echelons of 147lbs, especially if his concentration lapses, but for now he is the Commonwealth Champion and it is likely even more high profile championship bouts will follow.
Ritson destroys Hyland Jnr to win Lonsdale outright
Lewis Ritson annihilated Paul Hyland Jnr in the first round in front of a raucous hometown crowd in Newcastle, winning the British Lightweight Championship outright and becoming the quickest fighter to successfully defend three times.
Ritson has stormed through all comers in the last twelve months, destroying the domestic scene, and had his man down three times in the opener as he once again displayed his tremendous power punching.
Hyland Jnr, entering undefeated, was looking for a fast start and was trying to use his movement to stay out of range and then dart in and out with fast flurries but the very first jab he felt from Ritson had him staggering backwards, it was all downhill from that point onward.
Hyland looked worried now as Ritson pressed forward, unperturbed by anything coming his way, and the two men were electing to trade blows. The left jab was causing damage from Ritson and then a short uppercut inside momentarily stiffened the Irishman’s legs. Hyland tried to clinch in close now but Ritson drew back and landed a heavy right to the temple that scrambled his opponent’s senses. Hyland, bravely or perhaps foolishly, still wanted to throw to keep Ritson off him but took three left hooks to the body and then an overhand right to the temple that sent him scrambling to the deck.
He rose but Ritson smelt the blood in the water and came looking for the kill. Hyland and Ritson met head on and threw hell for leather, Hyland in desperation mode, but a left hook right on the chin from the hometown favourite sent his challenger down once more. The referee could have waved it off there but he elected to allow Hyland one more opportunity to fight on. Hyland, knowing he needed a lottery punches, threw caution to the wind and went for broke but another heavy right to the temple took him down for a third time and referee Steve Gray spared him any more punishment.
Ritson (now 16-0 with 10KO’s) has stormed onto the scene in the last year and turned the script upside down in the 135lbs division. He has such a fan friendly style and he will deliver each and every time he steps in the ring. Time will tell just how far he can go in his career but his relentless heavy handed style will present problems for anybody who opposes him.
McDonnell outlasts Hall in gritty battle
Gavin McDonnell took a step closer to another world title shot as he defeated former world champion Stuart Hall via unanimous decision in an all British affair, defending his WBC International Championship in the process.
McDonnell looked fresher and hungrier than Hall from the outset and although the former world champion worked his way into the fight after the midway point he was unable to match the trademark endurance and punch output of McDonnell.
It was the jab that made the difference from the start, McDonnell starting every attack off of his range finder and Hall just could not pin him down. Hall was trying to wing in wide hooks in the first but they were too obvious and McDonnell was able to bob out of range before moving back in with his jab once more.
McDonnell caught Hall with a short left hook in the second and then in the third he started hammering away to the body when in close, looking to sap the energy reserves of the former Bantamweight world titleholder. A flashy body combination that finished with multiple left and right hooks to the head was the most eye catching flurry of the third stanza from McDonnell, although he did sustain a cut over the eye from a head clash.
Hall came out fighting in the fourth and had a little more success but McDonnell was still in control with his jab, his attacks packed so much more pace than his opponent and he was the one catching attention every time he threw a punch.
Hall’s legs looked a little leaden, his first foray to 122lbs, and he was forced to eat a heavy straight hand at the start of the fifth but if anything it knocked some life into him. The Darlington man was able to land two meaty hooks as McDonnell was pulling out of the exchanges, a reminder that he wasn’t just here to make up the numbers.
McDonnell was back to the raiding tactics in the sixth, scoring time and again to head and body, but Hall grabbed his attention with a right hand out of the exchange once more, Hall wasn’t winning the rounds by any stretch but being timed at close range is something that McDonnell will want to work on with his team should he come up against heavier handed opposition which he invariably will if he wishes to go back to world level.
Hall seemed to gain a little confidence from his brief successes and was happy to trade in the pocket with McDonnell in round seven, but McDonnell was quicker to the punch and crunched home a stiff left hook in the most telling shot of the round.
At range it was a one way traffic as McDonnell’s movement and better conditioning could not be matched by Hall, but in close he was allowing Hall chances that he did not warrant. Another hook in close from Hall rocked McDonnell’s head back and then a cut opened up over McDonnell’s left eye from a head clash as they started trading. McDonnell was continuously hitting the body of Hall, hoping it would pay dividends in the latter stages, and perhaps I’m being nitpicky but I felt he could have taken less punches in a fight that he was always controlling.
The championship rounds followed a similar pattern with McDonnell winning the rounds off his workrate and punches landed but each in-range combination was punctuated by a stiff comeback from Hall with left and right hooks. Hall never looked likely to turn the tide, 7 career KO’s in 21 wins letting him down, but he can be proud of the effort and courage that he showed despite always chasing the fight. By the final bell it was clear who the victor was however McDonnell’s questionable defence at short range needs to be remedied before he meets somebody who will make him pay for that chink in his armour, his trainer Dave Coldwell warned him about it on multiple occasions through the fight.
For Hall that may signal the end his career but he can look back proudly at what he has achieved, the former IBF Bantamweight Champion was stalwart and teak tough to the last. McDonnell, currently #3 with the WBC, may find himself in position for another mandatory crack against Rey Vargas (the only man to defeat him) although his team may try to target another route to the top. I think McDonnell probably needs to face another top tier contender to prove he’s ready for the elite but that may not be necessary in today’s climate.
Scorecards read: 115-113 (far too close) , 117-111 x 2
Edwards ready for Yafai?
Charlie Edwards knocked Anthony Nelson out in the third round of a scintillating performance to win the vacant WBA Continental Super Flyweight Championship.
Edwards was sublime and looked all business from the start, putting Nelson down three times in a punch perfect performance which puts him in line for another tilt at a world championship.
Nelson loves a tear up and came out looking for one but was struggling to pin Edwards down, the excellent footwork and movement of the former British Champion displaying the levels between the two fighters.
After a quick but uneventful first round the fight caught fire early in the second when Edwards lured Nelson in and then detonated a terrific right uppercut that dropped the North East fighter on his knees. Nelson showed his guts to beat the count and went straight back on the front foot but was soon undone again by a straight right to the solar plexus. Nelson, to his credit, still wanted to engage in a war after beating the second count but it was clear he couldn’t live with what was coming his way.
Edwards looked cool and collected, bobbing and weaving out of Nelson’s way, and then a blistering right hook sent Nelson crashing down on his face midway through the third. The count was unnecessary and the referee rightly waved the bout off.
Edwards (now 13-1 with 6 KO’s) was slated for giving up the British Title to pursue world level (losing a 10 round TKO to John Riel Casimero) so early in his career but now he is starting to show his credentials. He looked sharper and more powerful than ever before, an all-British showdown with WBA boss Kal Yafai is potentially in the works for the future but a Euro level or fringe World level fight may be the best option in the short term.
Vallilly’s indiscipline costs him English
It was a tale of two halves as Arfan Iqbal kept his English Cruiserweight Championship in a draw against Middlesbrough’s Simon Vallilly.
It was a slow burning fight but Vallily was in control early with his excellent jab, looking composed as he used his superior height advantage to keep his opponent at bay. Vallily started to mix in hard body shots through rounds two and three whilst scoring well with a solid one-two combination.
Iqbal was stalking but not scoring and Vallily was clearly building up a healthy lead, the defending champion often out of range and winging in telegraphed power punches that were missing the target. After the fifth round it was conceivable that the challenger was pitching a shutout.
Vallilly, however, seemed to tire quite drastically midway through the sixth as Iqbal began to step into range and bang to the body whilst making it uncomfortable up close in the clinch. Vallilly’s breathing was noticeable, as was his frustration as the referee gave him a warning for use of his head.
In the seventh Iqbal was right into the body again and was now finding a home for his jab, despite his lack of height. Vallily was starting to unravel mentally and was deducted a point for more headbutting when in close. Iqbal was dragging the bout into the trenches, something his opponent didn’t seem happy about, and upped the ante on the body punching through round eight. Vallilly was then deducted a second point for punching around the back of the head, he was effectively eating into his own lead and costing himself on the scorecards.
Both men were tired now but Vallilly, despite looking spent, was the man who finished on the front foot. He rocked Iqbal in the ninth with a left hook as they broke from the clinch and then in the final round he landed a big right hand that looked destined to end proceedings. Iqbal’s eyes rolled and Vallilly followed up with two straight lefts and a barrage on the ropes but somehow the champion was able to roll with the attack and see it through to the end. Vallilly landed a punch after the bell, the second time he did so in the fight, and the referee was lenient not to punish him further.
A draw may have been fair in the end but it was Vallilly’s own indiscipline which cost him the bout and the English Championship. The domestic scene at Cruiserweight is excellent at the moment but neither man proved they are ready to step up to British level, expect a re-match in the near future to settle this score.
Scorecards read: 96-92 Vallilly, 95-94 Iqbal, 94-94
Ricky Burns secured routine victory in his 50th professional bout as he defeated Croatia’s Ivan Njegac via fifth round retirement. Burns worked well off the jab early and started to drive home body shots through the second and third rounds. There was a couple of in close clashes of heads and perhaps Njegac suffered some kind of injury because he retired at the beginning of the fifth, citing that he did not want to continue although perhaps he just could not match Burns’ pace and energy. It was Burns’ first outing since October last year and this was more of a rust removing exercise as he bides his time on his next career move. The three weight world champion (now 42-7-1with 15 KO’s) may have his best days behind him but he still has the belief that he can compete with the best 130lbs fighters in the world. Expect at least one more fight of note for the likeable Scotsman.
Ricky Hatton trained Jake Haigh was forced to dig deep against the extremely tough Adam Jones in a six round Super Middleweight battle, coming away with a points victory. Haigh (now 10-0 with 3 KO’s) displayed signs of some excellent combination punching and shot selection but Jones, never stopped in 34 defeats, made him work every second of every single round and Haigh will have learnt a lot from this battle. Referee scored the fight: 59-56
Newcastle’s own Lawrence Osueke took a convincing four rounder at Light Heavyweight against Remigiijus Ziausys. The bout was scored: 40:35
Darren Reay made it three wins from three professional outings with a four round Super Lightweight decision over Zambia’s Mwenya Chisanga. Referee scored the bout: 40-37
Chad Ellis, of County Durham, was forced to beat a knockdown to be crowned the victor in an exciting opening contest of the evening as he outpointed perennial journeyman Kevin McCauley in a four round 154lb fight to extend his unbeaten record to 2-0. Referee scored the bout: 39-37