Johnston Brown -
The ‘Mecca’ of British Boxing
By: Johnston Brown - March 22, 2017
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 BillyCBoxing.com, 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.
Belfast Boys – Conlan, Barnes & Tennyson Record Victories
By: Johnston Brown - March 13, 2017
The Waterfront Hall in Belfast produced a great show of boxing on Friday night. Jamie Conlan against Yader Cardoza was the main event of the evening with Paddy Barnes making, what he called his second debut was the co-main feature. But it was the Belfast boy James Tennyson who defeated Declan Geraghty from Dublin for the vacant Irish Super Featherweight title that really kicked off the night’s action.
The Dubliner won the first round with his quick hands and fast footwork but in the second he got caught with a straight right hand that sent him down to the canvas. The next three rounds were dominated by Geraghty who used his boxing skills well but Tenneyson continued to stalk his opponent around the ring. Then in the sixth and final round James Tennyson finally closed the gap and connected with an excellent left hook that sent Geraghty down for the second time in the fight. Tennyson finished off the job with some big shots to get the stoppage now goes 18-2 (14 KOs).
In the co-main event Bantamweight Paddy Barnes beat Argentinian Adrian Dimas Garzon in his second professional outing. The triple Olympic champion who boasts two Commonwealth golds, targets a world title shot in his first ten fights.
The six rounder was dominated by The Leprechaun’ as Barnes is now known in the ring, from start to finish. His classy work, fast hands and decent gas tank won him every round (60-54). There is no doubt that Paddy Barnes 29, is a great addition to the Bantamweight division but he will need to find stop moving in straight lines if he is going to take his successful amateur career into pros.
Jamie Conlan, brother of Michael Conlan recently signed by Top Rank and who makes his debut in Madison Square Garden next Friday night, had a hard nights work against Nicaraguan Yader Cardoza for the WBC Silver Super flyweight title.
'The Mexican', as Conlan likes to be referred to just shaded the opening three rounds but Cardoza came back strongly in the fourth. Conlan continued to resist a toe to toe war, in which he is known for, to take the next three rounds by using his boxing skills. But in round eight Cardoza connected with an uppercut that stunned the Irishman which eventually forced him down.
Cardoza surrendered the ninth round maybe to reserve his energy for the last three, as he swamped his opponent with some right-left combinations that eventually opened up a bad cut above the Irishman’s left eye in the tenth. Conlan showed true grit and why he is also known as the Irish Gatti, with his face covered with claret he managed to withstand the constant pressure from the Nicaraguan in the eleventh and twelfth rounds to record the narrow victory.
In a close tussle the three judges gave Conlan a split decision 114-113, 115-113, 112-115. I agreed with one of the judges 114-113 in favour of ‘The Mexican’ who improves to 19-0 (11 KOs).
"He caught me high on the head, I had to ride the storm," Conlan told Box Nation. "I could do this all week, although I don't want to do it all week. The crowd was brilliant.”
Rising star Galal Yafai shines bright in World Series of Boxing
By: Johnston Brown - March 10, 2017
On Wednesday night the British Lionhearts defeated the Morocco Atlas Lions 5-0 in York Hall, Bethnal Green to record their second win of the season. Their victory puts them top of group B ahead of Italia Thunder who lost for the first time this season to the France Fighting Roosters 3-2 on Thursday night.
Galal Yafai the bother of WBA super-flyweight champion Khalid Yafai and Commonwealth super bantamweight champion Gamal Yafai won the first bout of the evening. Yassine Zaher was disqualified for repeatedly spitting out his gum shield in the first round.
The 24 year old looked world class in his destruction of the Moroccan who looked out of his depth against the promising youngster from Birmingham, England. His left jab consistently hit the target with right hooks to the body that caused Zaher constant trouble. His excellent foot work and wonderful change of angles had the Moroccan rocked onto his heels on two occasions. The referee spared Zaher by disqualify him as Yafai would have eventually won by knockout which is something that is rare in the WSB.
Galal is definitely one for the future and underlines his status as one of the world’s emerging light flyweights.
“I felt strong in there and while he’s not the best in the world, I did what I had to,” said Yafai, who reached the last 16 on his Olympic debut in Rio.
"It was quick but I just was looking to stay composed because in my last fight I got a bit drawn into it.
"I would have liked more than a round but it looks good on television. I feel really strong in there and very relaxed and composed.
"When I went to the Olympics I’d had 29 fights and I was up against guys with 100 bouts guys under their belt. I’m still a novice but I’m learning really quickly. People are certainly starting to notice me.”
The second bout saw Zoltan Harcsa box his way to a fine debut WSB win, the tactical Hungarian looked comfortable and adjusted during the fight by switching to southpaw in his comprehensive win at Middleweight against Youness Gharroumi.
Peter McGrail also produced an impressive victory as the bantamweight secured a point’s win over Redouane Khachfen. McGrail, 20, now heads to next week’s under-22 European Championships in Romania full of confidence, while light-welterweight Conor Loftus also won his WSB debut against Youness Baati.
Croatian Draft Pick Josip-Bepo Filipi came in to complete the whitewash against the tall figure of Abdeljalil Abouhamda at Heavyweight.
The 5-0 score line didn’t tell the full story of an engrossing match in which the Moroccans battled resiliently and ran the hosts all the way.
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
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
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.