Five and a half bouts took place before Friday's terrible rioting scenes at the Barnsley Metrodome. The five completed fights that went the distance were all very close and difficult to score, which makes one appreciate how tough it must be for referees to have to judge a fight. Gloucester's Andy Harris went home happy after edging past Darfield southpaw Robbie Barrett in their British Masters Bronze lightweight duel.
This was definitely a case of a 'fight of two halves' because Barrett started well, boxing and moving intelligently from the southpaw stance, with excellent timing, and clever footwork which was clearly frustrating Harris. Harris seemed to get better and stronger as the contest went on and he won the later rounds thanks to his determination on the front foot as Barrett seemed to tire as the eight round fight closed out.
There was a nervous silence as the MC read out the referee Howard Foster's scorecard, and there was joy in the away corner when the Gloucester man's relentless work-rate and desire were rewarded with a razor thin 77-76 points victory, and he gratefully received his first professional belt. According to the promoters, the Masters belts serve a purpose for small hall shows, but it still seems very strange that two other fighters contested the same belt in Sheffield tonight (Sam Matkin and Lee Mould). Boxing is a funny old game at times.
In the fight of the night, home favourite Ben 'Jack The Lad' Davies kept his unbeaten record intact thanks to a close points victory over the underrated Nicky Jenman. Hove's Jenman is better than his 5-6 record suggests, and he started well on the back foot, frustrating Davies with his movement, elusiveness and general ringcraft, but middleweight Davies is like a steam train and he just kept coming forward. His style is very easy on the eye and despite not always landing cleanly, he probably nicked the closer rounds on work-rate alone. The vociferous crowd, including Ben's wife Chrissie and their 24 week old son Jacob-Jack, waited nervously for Mr Alexander's scorecard to be announced and it was the Barnsley lad who was given the verdict (39-38). Both fighters knew it was close and they showed great respect towards each other at the end.
"Bloody hell he that was a tough fight. They (my opponents) always seem to be in great shape! He wouldn't go away," said Davies.
Losing fighter Jenman would have been excused for being downbeat in defeat but he was refreshingly honest afterwards: "That was a close fight and I thought I might have done enough to nick it, but that's boxing for you," he added.
This was a great clash of styles and one that the punters will want to see again but over ten rounds instead of four. Both fighters are good ticket sellers in their own town, so the venue might be a stumbling block in any proposed rematch. For what it's worth, I'd fancy Ben to out-muscle Nick and outpoint him over a hard ten round fight.
Rounding up the action, Rawmarsh welterweight Matt Smelt won on his professional debut against the winless Bheki Moyo in their four-three's contest. Smelt will be happy to get his first fight out of the way and Moyo did little to suggest that he wanted to do anything more than survive. It wasn't all doom and gloom for Moyo though, as he managed to share a round. Mr Alexander called it 40-37.
Newark's light-welterweight Adam Kettleborough bounced back from defeat last time to outpoint Surrey's Ross Payne over four-three's. Ket, who lost his unbeaten run to Worcester's Michael Mooney in July, was the busier of the pair despite seeming to slow down in round three, probably because of a busted nose, but he stepped back on the gas in the fourth and final round after some wise words in the corner from Carl Greaves. Mr Foster had it 39-38.
In the show's opener, debutant Dean Croft of York defeated Barnsley's Jamie Zaszlos over four-three's at welterweight. Croft comes from an MMA background and he spent the first session getting his bearings and sussing out his opponent, who started with confidence. Croft stepped it up from the second onwards and he seemed to land at will, although Zaszlos proved that he had a good chin, but he wasn't busy enough to remain unbeaten. Mr Foster scored it 39-37.
In the fight that was abandoned due to the crowd trouble, Ex-ABA champion Damo Jones from Leeds started well against Simone Lucas and his timing from his awkward southpaw stance was good from the off. Simone Lucas reminded me in style, toughness and looks of former IBF light-welterweight champion Lovemore N'Dou, so I was expecting this one to go the scheduled eight rounds - but Damo nearly won it in the first when he backed Lucas up onto the ropes and fired in a sweetly placed left hook to the body which had the Nottingham man on the deck wincing in pain, and surprisingly Lucas bravely rose when referee Michael Alexander's count was at eight.
Damo knew that the body shots were hurting Lucas but that didn't stop him head-hunting. Lucas will testify that the Leeds prospect carries more power than his record would suggest, and it would have been interesting to see if he would have heard the final bell had the fight not been called off after all hell broke loose in the crowd at the end of the third. The verdict for was a no contest.
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