Johnston Brown

Le Boxing Crunch

Le Boxing Crunch
By: Johnston Brown –

There is nothing glamorous about York Hall but it’s gritty presence is the heartbeat of the current boom in British boxing. I spent the evening in the famous boxing venue that provides young prospects with their right of passage into the sports bigger leagues.

World Series of Boxing is the perfect stepping stone for those rising stars who want to build a reputation and this old fashioned venue is the perfect place to build it.

On a lovely spring evening in east London the tie labelled “Le Boxing Crunch” saw the British Lionhearts extended their lead at the top of Group B by two points over their French opponents who remain in second place above Italia Thunder.

One of the rising stars of the British Lionhearts team Galal Yafai kick started proceedings with a unanimous victory over young Spaniard Martin Molina.
The 24 year old from Birmingham dominated from the outset, connecting with some heavy shots to the head in the first couple of rounds. Molina put on a gritty performance throughout but went down twice in the third and fourth with two spiteful body shots. Light flyweight, Yafai moves to 5-1 with a confident display while Molina loses for the first time to go 1-1. All three judges scored it 50:44

In the Middleweight Division Frenchmen Nizar Trimech improved his record to 2-0 when he defeated Zoltan Harcsa, who suffered his first loss and goes 1-1. The Hungarian boxed well behind his jab and always looked dangerous on the counter but Trimech continued to be the aggressor and take the centre of the ring.
Both fighters were hurt in an excellent fourth round but with the scores even going into the fifth it was Trimech who prevailed for the Fighting Roosters; 49:46, 47:48, 45:50

The best performance of the night went to Bantamweight Peter McGrail (3-3) who put on a real classy display against Samuel Kistohurry (1-1). The 20 year old scouser won the opening round but lost the second when he got caught too frequently. The youngster showed his World Series of Boxing experience by adjusting his style in the last three rounds. Instead of moving in straight lines he spun his opponent time and time again and picked his shots superbly to secure the victory. All three judges scored the fight 49:46

In the fourth fight Conor Loftus now 2-0, who moved down to light welterweight for the new season claimed a victory over one of the best in the weight class, Hassan Amzile (2-1) to claim victory for the British Lionhearts. Two judges scored it 48:47 and one 49:46 all in Loftus favour.

The last bout of the evening was a bloody encounter between the two teams’ Croatian draft picks. The Roosters’ Alen Babic (1-1) got the better of Josip Bepo Filipi (5-3) in the heavyweight category by unanimous decision 49:46, 49:46, 45:50.

Congratulations to the British Lionhearts, who had already been confirmed as quarter-finalist before their match up with the France Fighting Roosters on a good 3-2 victory.

Linares: Like a fine wine

Linares: Like a fine wine
By: Johnston Brown –

Jorge Linares defended his WBA Lightweight and Ring Magazine titles with a comprehensive victory over Anthony Crolla at the Manchester Arena. The Venezuelan was in full control of the fight and showed why he is considered one of the best in his Division. Like a fine wine the 31 year old just seems to get better and better with age.

The Mancunian crowd was in full voice as they sang Anthony Crolla’s name in a deafening atmosphere, after a rousing rendition of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. When the first bell rang and there was an air of expectation that revenge was on the cards and not a repeat from the first encounter. Like when Hatton beat Kostya Tszyu in the same venue and when Froch put on a vintage performance against Lucian Bute. Unfortunately for Crolla that was not the case, instead we witnessed a master class from the three weight world champion El Niño de Oro (Golden Boy).

The first round was very tentative from both fighters, Linares was trying to find his range and Crolla was working the body well. Crolla shades the first three but from the second round on, it was Linares who really started to find his groove.

Every time Crolla tried to get close Linares would come back with spiteful combinations that forced the Manchurian back. The left uppercut and over hand right were most effective in the third and fourth rounds as the champ started to establish a lead.

In rounds five and six Crolla continued to bounce around in a hungry fashion but the sharpness and devastating hand speed from the Venezuelan was just too much for valiant challenger, who now had a cut to contend with at the end of the sixth.

Then in the seventh the 30 year old was caught with a thudding uppercut that stunned Crolla and placed him on his backside. To his credit he managed survive the onslaught and make it to the end of the round.

After the knockdown in the last round, his cut getting worse and way behind on the scorecards the Mancunian managed to produce his two best rounds in eight and nine. Weather that was because Linares wanted to reserve his energy or he was starting to feel the pace I’m not sure but credit to Crolla for continuing to make a fight if it.

Linares then restored order in rounds ten and eleven as he continued to throw spiteful shots into the body and head. Being the wrong side of 30 you could forgive the champ for taking his foot off the gas but age is just number as he continued his relentless pursuit.

It looked like Crolla’s seconds were going to pull their fighter out at the end of the eleventh, as Joe Gallagher asked ref Howard Forster to call it a night. But Crolla pleaded with his corner to let him play out the final round, which he did.

All three judges had the fight 118-109, all in favour of Jorge Linares. I had it 117-110 to ‘El Niño de Oro’

Once again Linares conquered in Britain, the first time he knocked out Kevin Mitchell at the O2 in London and now in Manchester for the second time in front of 15,000 adoring Crolla fans. This guy is the real deal and deserves his wish to fight in Vegas next against Micky Garcia in what would be a terrific fight for the Lightweight Division.

Speaking through a translator, Linares says Crolla has “big balls” for lasting the 12 rounds tonight. Plenty of thanks to the team and to the Manchester crowd.

After the fight Crolla said, “He’s a fantastic fighter, I’m just sorry I couldn’t do it for you tonight. I believe I can come again. I’m just going to go away, spend time with family, friends, then sit down and take it from there. I lost to the better man. I’m just really sorry.”

Other Results:
Middleweight Jack Arnfield 24-2(6KOs) W Brian Rose 29-5-1(8KOs) 12 Rd UD
Middleweight Jason Welborn 21-6(7KOs) W Marcus Morrison 14-1(14KOs) 10 Rd UD
Lightweight Katie Taylor 4-0(2KOs) W Mileno Koleva 9-8-1(3KOs) 8 Rd UD
Super Featherweight Martin Joseph Ward 17-0-2(8KOs) W Maxi Hughes 16-3-2(2KOs) 12 Rd UD
Light Heavyweight Karel Horejsek 8-7-2(7KOs) W Rd 1 TKO Tomi Tatham 11-2(5KOs)
Light Heavyweight Hosea Burton 19-1(9KOs) W Tamas Kozma 5-3-2(2KOs) 8 Rd PTS
Middleweight Ben Sheedy 6-0(2KOs) W Rob Brown 2-5(1KOs) 6 Rd PTS
Super Bantamweight Sean McGoldrick 1-0 W Brett Fidoe 7-36-2(5KOs) 4 Rd PTS
Cruiserweight Lawrence Okolie 1-0(1KO) W Rd 1 TKO Geoffrey Cave 0-3
*Okolie is one to look out for in the future

The ‘Mecca’ of British Boxing

The ‘Mecca’ of British Boxing
By: Johnston Brown – BillyCBoxing

Built in 1929, it was opened by the Duke of York and initially used as Turkish Baths and is now a Grade II listed building. York Hall nearly met its grim reaper in 2004 when Tower Hamlets Council planned to demolish it. After public outrage and a successful protest a 15 year deal was made with Greenwich Leisure, which brought in a multi-million pound face lift and the spiritual home of British boxing was saved. Since then the historic venue has once again become the ‘Mecca’ of British Boxing and will continue to churn out the future stars of today.

The East London venue is steeped with a colourful boxing history and was rightly voted as one of six best places in the world to watch live boxing. Recent ‘Blast from the Pasts’ on, Nigel Benn and Johnny Nelson both fought at the famous venue in 1988 and 1990 respectively. Boxing Hall of Famers Lennox Lewis and Joe Calzaghe both recorded early knock out victories right at the beginning of their glamorous careers. Other Great British fighters that have also toddled on the Hall’s canvas include MBE’s Ricky Hatton and Carl Froch plus overseas legends Edwin Rosario and Frankie Randall fought a terrific ten rounder while Tim Witherspoon and Johnny Tapia have also made cameo appearances.

In recent times, current IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua fought his third professional fight against Croat Hrboje Kisicek with Michael Watson and Larry Holmes ringside. I remember the former heavyweight champion giving young AJ advice after his fight, as the star struck champ took in every word. Former featherweight champion Carl Frampton also laced up in the legendary hall in his twelfth professional fight and second appearance when he defended his Commonwealth Super-Bantamweight title.

On Friday night York Hall hosted the first instalment of Matchroom Boxing’s Nextgen series that was broadcast live on Sky Sports and Facebook. The new format will showcase their young prospects and give them the opportunity to headline events, like the aforementioned fighters once did before them. The 1,200 capacity venue were in full voice with the overlooking balconies looming over the fighters as they produced some excellent fights for those in attendance and watching at home. James DeGale was among those watching in the crowd, another current champ that graced the Hall’s ring when he outpointed Shawn Porter in the England v USA international tournament in 2007.
British Boxing rival Boxnation aired for the first time at York Hall in 2011 when Liam Walsh, who takes on Gervonta Davis on May 20 at London’s Copper Box Arena, beat Paul Appleby for the Commonwealth Super-Featherweight title, which got voted the British Fight of the Year. Boxnation is a major supporter of World Series Boxing and show all the live action on their channel which in effect gives their young stars a chance of exposer to the public. This year the East London venue is the rightful home to the British Lionhearts and I will be in attendance for their second encounter with the France Fighting Roosters on April 6.

This venue is already legendary but with these young prospects continuing to shine bright, the shady old lady will continue to enhance its unique reputation. Thankfully, York Hall survived the scare of closure 14 years ago, it managed to beat the count and live to fight another day.

World Boxing Entertainment – David Haye Gets KO’d

World Boxing Entertainment – David Haye Gets KO’d

By: Johnston Brown – March 5, 2017

On Saturday night at the o2 Arena in London, Greenwich we were treated to an entertaining night of action. Ohara Davies set the tone nicely when he entered the ring against Derry Matthews to The Undertakers theme music. Not that his performance was anything WWE like but the main event of the evening not only lived up to the wrestling entertainment value but it gave us even more.

For some reason this fight caught the imagination of the British public from the moment Tony Bellew called out David Haye, after knocking out BJ Flores in his first defence of the WBC Cruiserweight title. With Haye the number one contender for the WBO Heavyweight crown at the time, I did not think he would accept. But I should have known better when it comes to David ‘my little toe’ Haye as he jumped at the chance to fight the smaller guy.

The week long build up to the fight was painful to watch and listen to but credit where credit is due, Sky Sports, Eddie Hearn, David Haye and Tony Bellew sold the fight out in minutes.

On the Wednesday before the fight the press leaked that David Haye had been spotted in Munich with a suspected Achilles tendon injury. Haye rubbished the rumours stating that he was fully fit and the fight would still go ahead.

In the first round Bellew connected with the better shots and slipped some wild Haye punches that threw him off balance. In rounds two and three Haye used his jab and tried to throw some big right hands that Bellew took and avoided well. But Haye had his best round in the fourth when he landed a hurtful right-left combination.

Into the fifth and it seemed like Bellew was starting to open up as Haye continued to land his jab to the body and looked dangerous with Bellew on the ropes.

Then in the sixth round the drama unfolded, as Haye seemed to slip after a Bellew right hand. You could see that he was having problems with what looked like his knee? Bellew jumped on Haye for the knock out and eventually he put the 36 year down but he rose to his feet and survived the Evertonian’s onslaught.

Shane McGuigan advised Haye to stay on the ropes for round seven and try to counter the inevitable Bellew pressure. The round ended completely one sided as left and rights continued to connect throughout with hardly any punches coming back from Haye.

With Haye unable to stand up straight and walking around like he’s had far too many cocktails at his Miami training camp, the scouser looked for the defining blow in round eight. Haye had his hands down by his side while the cruiserweight tried to capitalise but he looked slow and tiered probably due to the extra weight he was carrying.

The ninth was surprisingly easier for the Londoner as Bellew threw little more than a jab as he seemed to reserve his energy for the last two rounds. The most eventful moment of the round was a cheap shot to the crown jewels of Tony Bellew.

In round ten Shane McGuigan taped up the Londoners ankle not that it helped as he continued to stumble around the ring. Bellews reserved energy helped him sustain the pressure a little more then the previous round but he was unable to end the fight. Haye landed a dangerous left hand that reminded the scouser that he can still win with one leg.

Into the eleventh round Haye attempted to hit Bellew with a left jab but ended up on the floor. Soon after getting back to his feet Bellew finally connected with a shot to the top of the head that sent Haye through the ropes. He valiantly beat the count and got back to his feet but his corner had seen enough and threw in the towel. Tony Bellew wins with an 11th round TKO.

This has to be one of the biggest upsets in British Boxing history and surely ends David Haye’s career. Even if he does make a return for the rematch, I’m sure the £4m he made from the £7m pot will go a long way to soothing his massive ego.

A lot of the press and social media have portrayed this fight as a massive Heavyweight match up and a lot of the British fans have bought into it. I on the other hand have to disagree.

David Haye will get plaudits for managing to fight on with only one leg but I can’t help but be sceptical of his injury. It was his little toe for the Klitschko fight, his shoulder for the fight that never happened against Tyson Fury and now the Achilles tendon? Yes it may have been as it seemed but for me he’s like the little boy that cried wolf.

Tony Bellew should now concentrate on defending his WBC cruiserweight title before he’s stripped. Instead of even thinking about fighting anyone like Deontay Wilder, not that I think the heavyweight isn’t beatable but his big right hand would flatten Bellew.

I just want to make an honourable mention to Derry Mathews who announced his retirement after his loss to Ohara Davies. He really has been a great servant to British boxing and I wish him all the best for the future.

On the undercards
Cruiserweight Jake Bonallie (1-0) bt Craig Glover (2-1-0) on Pts
Super Welterweight Ted Cheeseman (8-0) bt Jack Sellars (5-1-1) on Pts
Heavyweight Dave Allen (11-2-1) bt David Howe (12-5-0) by KO in Rd 2
Featherweight Lee Selby (24-1-0) bt Andoni Gago (16-3-2) by TKO in Rd 9
WBC Silver Super Lightweight Ohara Davies (15-0) bt Derry Mathews (38-12-2) by TKO in Rd 2
Welterweight Sam Eggington (20-3-0) bt Paulie Malignaggi (38-8-0) by KO in Rd 9

My two penny’s worth

My two penny’s worth

By: Johnston Brown – March 3, 2017

I have been a boxing fan since the early nineties and was lucky enough to have witnessed some epic battles. Most notably the two Chris Eubank vs Neil Benn fights. In fact it was the first encounter between these two on November 18, 1990 that sticks in the memory the most. My late brother was so excited about the fight and the possibility of Eubank losing his ‘O’ that he filled me in with all the details beforehand. It was a week before my eighth Birthday so I remember trying to retain as much info as I possibly could. As I watched the fight, I remember going through all the emotions that you can only get when watching boxing while my brother and I cheered on Benn to beat the cocky but classy Eubank. When Benn was stopped in the ninth round I remember having that awful gut wrenching feeling of disappointment. Like the one I had, when I saw England lose their World Cup Semi-Final to Germany on penalties in the summer of that year. It didn’t matter that Benn lost because the fight was great entertainment and the public demanded a rematch albeit three years later. I learned as an eight year old that you can lose in sport and still come away a hero, like Benn and England in 1990.

Somewhere along the line boxing has lost the losing hero. A guy that loses today loses more than just a fight; he loses his creditability and is deemed a failure. He can no longer be considered better than the other guy who is undefeated. Therefore the modern fighter does not want to put their undefeated records on the line so they fight weaker opposition.
The trouble is a lot of the younger generation are buying into it which causes confusion. I feel sorry for the young fan that is watching boxing, as I did all those years ago and never experiencing or understanding defeat. If you think of all the Mayweather fans that grew up watching him through their childhood and into adulthood, they will think he is the best fighter that ever lived because he remained undefeated. Irrespective of whom he fought towards the back end of his career and how carefully he cherry picked his opponents. He is the sweet science in their eyes and nothing will change that.

But there is hope in 2017! We have already been treated to two cracking unification fights this year with another one this Saturday night between Danny ‘Swift’ Garcia and Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman. Then we have Golovkin vs Jacobs at the end of the month and Joshua vs Klitchsko in April. Plus, Brook vs Spence and Khan vs Pacquiao coming up before the summer. That would be six super fights within only five months which is completely unheard of in modern day boxing.

Maybe the retirement of Mayweather has improved the sport and opened a new chapter in boxing. I hope that in 8 years’ time from now I can get my son as excited about a big fight as I my brother did in 1990.

In memory of my late brother Jason Brown: 08/10/1974 – 25/11/2015 RIP

Results From England

Results From England

By: Johnston Brown – February 25, 2017


Gavin McDonnell vs Rey Vargas
On Saturday night at the Ice Arena in Hull, Gavin McDonnell who was trying to make British Boxing history when he challenged Rey Vargas for the vacant WBC Super-Bantamweight title. Gavin in his first World title fight was hoping to join twin brother and WBA Bantamweight champion Jamie as a World champion, which would make them the first British twins to achieve such a remarkable feat.

In his way was a young Mexican fighter that had only ever fought away from home twice, on both occasions in California. So on a cold and dreary night in the Ice Arena in Hull, England maybe Gavin McDonnell could upset the odds by taking Vargas out of his comfort zone.

Gavin is a pressure fighter that shows pure grit in every fight and has an incredible gas tank but it was the classy Vargas that started the better. As expected Gavin tried to take the fight to the 26 year old Mexican but his clever movement and slick combinations made it difficult for the Yorkshireman to get in close and upset the Vargas rhythm.

The first half of the fight was dominated by Vargas who slipped out of trouble with his quick footwork and landed heavy blows continuously to the head and body using his hand speed. Although McDonnell stood his ground better in rounds two and three with some good punches he could not stop Vargas from taking a substantial lead in the opening rounds.

In the fifth round of the fight McDonnell upped the pressure and tried to get inside and ruff up Vargas. But frustration and over eagerness started to creep in, as he grabbed Vargas by the back of the head and pushed him down to the canvas. Fortunately for McDonnell the referee was in a lenient mood and instead gave Vargas a warning for a low blow.

Vargas threw a terrific uppercut in the seventh which bloodied McDonnell’s nose and was probably the most one sided round by the Mexican. McDonnell struck back in the eighth but by this point he needed a small miracle.

McDonnell’s seconds called for one last push when they told him he needed the knock out if he was to win the title. It definitely made a difference as he fought the closing stages of the fight like his life depended on it. The looping right hand connected a few times on Vargas’s chin to the delight of the home fans but none of them put Vargas in any significant danger.

So it went to the judges scorecards which read 114-114, 117-111, 116-112 in favour of the excellent Vargas. I think the crowd must have effected Ian John-Lewis decision to score the fight a draw, as Vargas was the deserved victor.

I also scored the fight 116-112 and was very impressed with Rey Vargas. To travel overseas and take on an undefeated fighter on his home turf and perform the way he did shows real character. I’m disappointed for Gavin McDonnell who is a great guy that wears his heart on his sleeve but just came up short against a better fighter.

Also on the card was Luke Campbell who looked in good shape and produced wonderful knockout with a left hand uppercut. Campbell now goes 16-1 and is now eyeing a rematch with Yvan Mendy in an attempt to avenge the only defeat on his record. Tommy Coyle who is always great to watch won by a third round knockout against Rakeem Noble in an eventful fight from start to finish and goes 23-4

Jay Harris vs Thomas Essomba – York Hall
On Friday night, Jay Harris made it a perfect 10 as he won the Commonwealth flyweight title by beating Thomas Essomba at York Hall in Bethnal Green.
The Swansea campaigner took a unanimous points decision to end the reign of the former African Games gold medallist. It took Harris’s unbeaten record as a professional into double figures, but it was the manner of his victory that was most impressive against Essomba.
The Cameroonian who now lives in Sunderland had world-title aspirations last year and was seen as a dangerous customer who could trouble the best.
But Harris boxed superbly throughout, showing durability and enough class to impress the judges. It was never easy and Essomba did unleash a number of stinging punches, but Harris replied with every shot and there was no doubt about the winner of a fight of serious quality. The scores were 117-112, 116-113, 115-114 in the Welsh fighter’s favour.

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