All-action Williams outlasts Rutherford / Culshaw beaten

03.06.04 - By Ben Carey: Dazzo Williams retained his British featherweight title amid a crescendo of noise at an atmospheric Hereford Leisure Centre with a hard-fought, often breathtaking points victory over former champion Roy Rutherford last night. Stung by howls of derision following his controversial 115-114 championship victory over Rutherford in Belfast 6 months ago, Williams was determined to erase the doubts in critics’ minds that have maintained he was fortunate to be champion. Contesting the first ever British title fight to be staged in Hereford, the adopted home-town hero came storming out of the traps to subject Rutherford to furious two-fisted assaults throughout the first half of the fight.

A purposeful Williams stamped his authority from the off and stung the Coventry challenger with a left hook in an uncomfortable opening for Rutherford who didn’t seem to know in which direction the tidal wave of punishment was coming from. Three successive rights and a left hook for good measure cannoned off Rutherford’s jaw at the start of the second as Williams seemed intent on finishing the job early. This suddenly looked a possibility when a beautifully picked uppercut staggered the Midlands man and a follow-up right drove him to the ropes. Showing remarkable toughness however, Rutherford came roaring back and scored with a right of his own as Williams continued to throw caution to the wind. At the end of a pulsating 2nd Rutherford returned to his corner with a swelling under his right eye.

Williams was simply too busy and too sharp for Rutherford in the early going. As if he didn’t have enough problems to contend with already, Roy was also struggling to get past Dazzo’s jab who made good use of his two inch height and reach advantage throughout. Though being outboxed and conceding rounds, Rutherford was still very much in this exciting rematch. A right hand and left hook briefly stopped Williams in his tracks during the third but the champion grinded his teeth on his gumshield and immediately unleashed his own artillery upon a shell-shocked Rutherford. A big left hook and uppercut nailed Rutherford bang on the chin as the challenger really felt the weight of Williams’ blows. The pair finished the round exchanging hooks in what was becoming so typical of this see-saw battle.

Williams spent the first half of round 4 jabbing exclusively as the frenetic pace eased ever so slightly. After a “crash, bang, wallop” beginning this was much more controlled from the Hereford fighter who looks in his element as British champion. Despite being given more time to catch his breath, Rutherford’s struggle to get into range to enable him to land effectively was still apparent. A left hook and a right over the top caught Rutherford coming in during the 5th as a scintillating Williams put another round in the bank. One sensed at this moment that Rutherford was simply expanding nearly all of his energy to merely remain in the fight as the contest slipped away from him. But fears that the Coventry challenger might be about to fold were eradicated when he detonated a fine left hook to Williams’ chin in what heralded the first suggestion that we were about to witness a shift in plot.

The champion had been dominant up till now but had thrown so much leather in order to subdue Rutherford that inevitable fatigue was starting to set in. Rutherford experienced his best period of the fight in the 6th and 7th as he looked to capitalise on a tiring Williams. A right hand on the bell seemed to trouble Williams at the end of round 6 and the challenger stepped up his attacks to Dazzo’s body in the 7th. It was getting harder for Williams now and as Rutherford sank in a brace of right hooks a dramatic turn around looked on the cards in this quite magnificent tussle.

After taking and dishing out plenty of punishment the fight was developing into a battle of wills as we entered round 8. Arguably Williams did just enough to take the round as he frustrated Rutherford with pitter-patter jabs in close whilst occasionally stepping back and bringing over a straight right. Rutherford focused on the body as both warriors swung away without a clinch in sight.

Having clawed his way back into the fight the fans were braced for a final onslaught from Rutherford who was desperate to regain the British title that he believed was rightfully his. But just when Williams’ grip on the Lonsdale belt appeared to be loosening, the champion re-doubled his efforts to book the win. Rutherford looked spent as he rose from the deck after losing his footing after a tangling of feet midway through the ninth. Seizing the advantage, Williams crashed home two left hooks which left the challenger on unsteady legs. Following an uncertain period in the middle rounds Williams was back to his authoritative best with Rutherford struggling to find the gears to live with him.

Yet showing tremendous courage Rutherford showed he was far from finished by catching Williams with a right hook in the 10th which definitely registered. Both men were going for broke now in this pulsating battle royal in what will surely go down as the domestic scrap of the year. Now reckless and open, Williams was taking unnecessary gambles as the passionate local crowd cheered him on. Rutherford landed effectively to the body in the 11th too as Williams’ composure seemed to have disappeared about of one of Hereford Leisure Centre’s windows. The pair went punch for punch with neither man prepared to take a backward step. Williams, abandoning most forms of defence, was wide open but fortunately for him Rutherford isn’t a banger.

Following 11 phenomenal rounds of action Rutherford needed a huge last 3 minutes to have any hope of ripping the British title away from Williams. But incredibly the champion looked revitalised and piled on the pressure as if his future depended on it. Williams’ extraordinary level of fitness allowed him to have the edge in the 12th as Rutherford failed to land the jackpot punch he required to turn this fight on its head. Wild applause greeted the bell to signal the end of a cracking fight and referee Richie Davies, whose 117-112 scorecard looked about right, rightfully held aloft Williams’ arm.

It’s an old cliché in Boxing but rarely do rematches surpass the inaugural meeting but this titanic struggle was a definite exception to the rule. MC John McDonald insisted that the crowd show their appreciation for what they had just witnessed in what was a heart-warming advert for the domestic game. After dominating Birkenhead’s Jamie McKeever in his first defence in February, Williams delivered another assured display against Rutherford to prove, once and for all, what a worthy British champion he is.

Now mandatory contender for Nicky Cook’s European title, it will be interesting to see whether Williams’ manager Tommy Gilmour steers his charge towards possible Euro glory or sets up another domestic defence to enable Williams to secure the Lonsdale belt outright.

Layoff Kosts Culshaw dear

There was a major shock earlier in the evening when former WBU flyweight champion Peter Culshaw slipped to a disappointing 78-76 points reverse to the unheralded Andrey Kostin. Referee Grant Wallace obviously favoured the greater workrate of the Estonian who frequently troubled the lethargic Culshaw with his swooping attacks.

This was Culshaw’s first outing since last March and it showed. Ring-rusty and looking fleshy at 8st 8lbs, 8lbs above the flyweight limit, the Liverpudlian failed to capitalise after rocking Kostin with a left hook inside the opening 30 seconds. An additional right hook knocked the visitor sideways as Culshaw looked to match the performance of domestic rival Damaen Kelly who wiped away Kostin inside a round.

But the scouser failed to build on his early success in his first appearance under new manager Tommy Gilmour. With little to discourage him barring a lazy jab, Kostin grew in confidence and darted in registering with solitary hooks to the body and an occasional right hand. The action was becoming repetitive but Culshaw desperately needed to step it up having dropped rounds 3,4 and 5 on my card.

Devoid of snap and seemingly lacking in ambition, Culshaw was unable to rally himself for what should have been a routine assignment. It was hard to believe we were watching the same fighter who once travelled to South Africa and outboxed “Baby” Jake Matlala in Carnival City and who previously held a no.2 rating with the IBF. “Make sure you win this round big,” was the message from an anxious Colin Moorcroft but the trainer’s words had little impact as Culshaw coasted through the 8th and final round. Arguably the Liverpool fighter had done enough to squeak a draw, but no one could begrudge Kostin his surprise victory on British soil.

Culshaw slipped to only his second defeat in 27 fights (24-2-1), a devastating blow at this stage in the 31-year-old’s career. With it, one would imagine that plans to pair him in domestic duels with Damaen Kelly, Jason Booth and Dale Robinson have been shelved, for now at least.

Article posted on 03.06.2004

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