Graham Earl; The New King of Britain

21.06.05 - By Curtis McCormick -- Watch the British Fight of the Year on -- In the sweltering heat of London's York Hall on Sunday night, Graham Earl put on a tremendous performance to not only defend his British title but to take the Commonwealth crown as well, climbing off the canvas to dramatically stop Kevin Bennett and win the "Lightweight Bragging Rights" of Britain. The venue's capacity crowd had been pushed to the breaking point by a full undercard of the type of competitive matchups Maloney Promotions are known for. A savage give and take English Light Heavyweight title struggle between Peter Haymer and Tony Oakey immediately preceded the main event and if you missed Setanta Sports' live coverage of both fights, you can still see the epic Earl - Bennett tear-up as well as the brutal Haymer - Oakey war for just 3 ($5.50 US dollar equivalent) on Maloney Promotion's website

The headlining matchup began amid roars of encouragement and thunderous foot stamping from the devoted fans of both camps that shook York Hall to it's very foundation. The temperature inside the non-air conditioned historic structure was crippling due to the rare English heat wave gripping London. With none of the usual first round feeling out period, Graham Earl was put on his heels early by the patient attack of Commonwealth champion Kevin Bennett, getting caught with crisp right hands as he sought to establish the jab.

A tight, hard to score contest developed as the two men found their rhythm and hard shots to both the head and body were swapped with great gusto. No one had established a firm control yet but neither man would give an inch, a testament to the toughness, heart and will of both, but the best was yet to come.

During the middle rounds, as Earl began to find a home for the right hand and was defining the pace of the bout, near disaster struck in the sixth. As Earl landed and was launching the follow up-shot, Bennett put together a perfect right hand counter to the jaw that spun the British Champion's head over his shoulder and threw him hard to the canvas. The pro Earl crowd let out a collective gasp as the Bennett faithful, who had traveled down from the North East of the country, went berserk.

Amazingly, the Luton man got right back on his feet. Earl was well known for his chin
but it's a rare occurrence when a fighter can get up from a pure knockout blow as this.
"I though I had been outboxing Bennett and winning the rounds before he caught me with a big shot," recalled Earl in the dressing room after the bout. "He caught me on the chin coming in and it was the first time in my career that I've ever been down. But I got straight back up because I wasn't really hurt."

As Earl shakily moved around the ring, Bennett tried like mad to put his adversary out and claim the British title, but the twenty six year old two time domestic champion simply would not go down again. The former British soldier from Hartlepool tagged his opponent with his best shots, including the exact same right hand as put Earl on the canvas. Amazingly, Earl continued to punch back while doing his best to avoid getting knocked out and somehow got through the rest of the round. It was an incredible display of will and courage that got Earl through and had ringsiders shaking their heads in disbelief.

The next round started the same as the last ended with Bennett stalking a retreating Earl but the tide was beginning to change. Earl found his legs under him again and began to catch his foe coming in. Bennett looked as shocked as everyone else in attendance that he soon found himself on the defensive, bobbing and weaving but unable to avoid much of the offense that began to flow from a resurgent Earl.

By the ninth Bennett was in a state of near collapse. The all out effort he put into the sixth and seventh rounds wore on him and Earl simply would not allow a moments rest, assaulting his drained foe with a two fisted fury that had Bennett reeling around the ring.
Pure heart and courage kept the northerner upright but the end could not be far off if things kept going like this.

As the Commonwealth kingpin tried to grab on and hold, Earl landed two crunching uppercuts that had Bennett out on his feet. Amazingly, Bennett was still able to throw a shot in return but the referee had seen enough and stepped in to rescue the thirty one year old before Earl could apply another sequence of punishment.

York Hall absolutely erupted with Earl's supporters screaming in pure joy and chanting his name. Manager and cornerman Frank Maloney ran in the ring and hugged his fighter, leading the victorious Earl around the ring in a victory walk. Eugene Maloney ecstatically hugged everyone he could get ahold of as the crowd cheered the passionate, larger than life brother of Frank.

In the other corner, much concern was evident as Bennett was on his stool being given oxygen. As Earl and team went over to check on the fallen former Commonwealth titlist, he regained his feet and received a round of applause from an appreciative audience. No one in attendance sat as they had just witnessed the best all British fight in several years.

"After he knocked me down I let Bennett wear himself out," exclaimed Earl. "I went back out there and began to step it up another couple of gears and just broke his heart. I got some shots on him and he was hurt so I got him out of there. When I hurt him it took the wind out of him and he got very tired and just couldn't do it anymore.

"Kevin Bennett is a nice bloke and there were no nasty words from either of us. He came in to fight and do a job and no disrespect to him, but tonight I showed that I am a better fighter. I've been on a better level and beaten better fighters than he has, including two of the best lightweights in Britain, Bobby Vanzie and Steve Murray. I showed what a true champion I am, the best lightweight in Britain, but I need to move on."

Earl's well-seasoned trainer Johnny Eames was impressed by his charge's performance and summed up just where the now combined British and Commonwealth Champion stood. " Graham got a lot of bad press for the Ricky Burns fight and rightly so but I think he put that to rest with this performance because tonight Graham showed what a real champion's heart he has," said Eames. "If he had been one hundred percent fit tonight when he got hit with that punch, he would have kept on his feet, but we lost a few weeks in the gym due to a bad injury.

"I think that Graham showed that he's the best lightweight in Britain and no one deserves this more than he does. He's really turned his life around and has become the ultimate pro. Since he's been with us he has really become a boxer in the truest sense of the word. I wouldn't be frightened to put him in with a world champion right now but we're going to take a break and then talk with Frank Maloney to see what our options are."

Graham Earl was elated on becoming a double champion but is looking for bigger and better things. "It's time for me to move on as I've been left in the same place too long," he said. "At the very minimum I want a European title shot or a chance at the WBO. The better fighter you get me in with and the more exciting they are, the better I'll be, I guarantee that. I can't get up for the six and eight rounders anymore and I told my manager Frank Maloney, don't give me those anymore. I just want title fights now and I want every fight to be a meaningful."

Article posted on 21.06.2005

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