Over the years I’ve been to some of the biggest and most extravagant World Championship events both in America and Europe, I’ve also attended hundreds of small hall shows and can’t deny that I get a buzz from them all, even those with dubious over matching, but I’ve never been emotionally blown away like I was on Friday night.
Why, well for a start Mark Prince’s return was a major factor for my emotional state and I’m sure it was for many others in attendance.
Mark had returned to the fray to raise awareness of, and funds for, the Kiyan Prince foundation – www.kiyan.org – which is a charitable trust that Mark had created in memory of his murdered son Kiyan, a talented footballer.
Another factor was former Big Brother star, Angel McKenzie, finally getting to challenge for a World title here in the UK, after various attempts abroad.
Finally, seeing Women’s boxing get a foothold here in the UK again after so long, whilst I’m sure that there must have been some back in the nineties and early noughties, but for me this is the first time I have seen two female bouts on an event here and again am sure it is for a lot of boxing fans.
Whilst not at all responsible for my emotional state I have to big up the attending fans, who really made the night something special.
The atmosphere was electric, which was a hundred percent down to the various groups of fans, whose witty ditties and chants melodically enveloped the auditorium way before there was any competitive action.
Have to admit at times it felt more like a gathering of a thousand highly vociferous football fans crammed in to a small hall, which in a way I suppose it was.
There was a massive turn out of Queens Park Rangers fans, there for returning Champ Mark Prince, next biggest, but without doubt the most vocal, kicking off the football style chanting from the moment they walked through the door, were the Birmingham City fans there for debuting fellow Brummie, ex-England Amateur captain Antonio Counihan, finally there were the Arsenal contingent that turned out in force, as well as an even larger bevy of beauties, to support Marianne Marston.
OK, so now you all know that I’m just a big soppy wuss let’s get on with the fight report.
No surprise really the headline fight of the night was the return of former WBO and IBF Inter-Continental Light Heavyweight Champion Mark Prince, who faced Czech Republic’s Jindrich Velecky in a six round Cruiserweight contest.
The entire crowd at the York Hall were on their feet as Mark Prince began his ring walk, it’s strange, yes we were definitely at York Hall, but somehow it didn’t feel like it, it felt more like I was back in New York at Madison Square Gardens for a major World Championship bout, the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, it was a strange but very exciting feeling that I remember so well, just this time instead of 10-20,000 highly excitable chanting fans there were just a thousand, but the reception Mark received was equally vociferous to anything I had encountered at any major event previously.
Sensibly Prince started the bout slowly and methodically, keeping Velecky at bay with some nice sharp jabs and the occasional right hand, to easily win the first round in my book.
Prince steps up the pace in the second, taking the fight to Velecky, some seriously beautiful and effective boxing from the former champ, Prince started to dig into his well stocked arsenal of punches, landing a couple of beautiful combinations on way to securing the second round.
Prince’s championship experience really began to show in the third, throughout he was calm and controlled as he picked off Velecky, with crisp jabs and solid rights and combinations to both body and head.
More of the same in the fourth, virtually every shot Prince threw landed, with very little coming back from Velecky, as the round progressed Prince started to load up the shots, then after a particularly cracking shot to Velecky’s jaw world class referee Mickey Vann decided enough is enough and stopped the fight before Velecky gets knocked out.
Mark Prince really did role back the years on Friday, his performance from the opening bell was superb, glad to have you back Mark.
Main support fight to Prince-Velecky see former Team GB star Iain ‘The Blessed One’ Weaver make his welcome return to the York Hall, the scene of his debut victory back in April, to take on unbeaten Italian Michelino Di Mari.
What a fight, right from the off the pair went at it hammer and tongs, however saying that Weaver out-boxed and outclassed the seriously talented young Italian every single round.
It really isn’t worth me trying to write a round by round synopsis as I could never do either boxer justice describing just snippets of their sensational performance or the non-stop action, both Weaver and Di Mari were exceptional, just Weaver was more exceptional.
The fight itself was a true small hall classic. As could be expected when both fighters are unbeaten, both protagonists gave their all for every single second of every single round, whilst Di Mari may have lost his precious ‘0’ he can be proud of his performance, as well as be in the knowledge that it is without doubt a future World Champion that beat him.
Talking about World Champions, or in this case a World Championship fight, normally a World title fight would be the final bout of the night, but as British challenger Angel McKenzie had a huge contingent of youngsters in attendance it was decided that the bout would take place at 9pm.
As I said one of the challengers for the vacant GBC World Light Welterweight title is South London’s Angel ‘The Entertainer’ McKenzie, the other being IBF Light Middleweight World Champion Germany’s Jennifer Retzke.
Both protagonists started slowly, feeling each other out gingerly. There were very few actual exchanges in the first round, Retzke throwing air shots at the constantly moving McKenzie, personally I scored the first stanza a draw.
McKenzie’s constant movement in the second was clearly frustrating Retzke, who again was throwing a lot of air punches at the phantom in front of her, McKenzie on the other hand landed a couple of countering overhand rights, which in my mind was enough for her to win the round.
More of the same in third, but this time McKenzie also lands a couple of jabs as well as overhand rights, Retzke continued to throw air shots at the elusive, ever mobile, South Londoner.
Late in the round McKenzie throws another overhand and lets out a slight yelp, I later learn that she dislocated her arm and had to be hospitalized after the bout.
Round four is more or less a repeat of the first with neither having much success, Retzke throwing air shots at the constantly weaving and ducking McKenzie, whilst the South Londoner occasionally counters, again I scored the round a draw.
Round five is McKenzie’s without a doubt, Retzke still hasn’t managed to find a way of landing any meaningful shots, whilst McKenzie manages to land a few good shots in the round.
In my book, McKenzie secures the sixth, as once again Retzke throws some beautiful shots but they either miss or land on McKenzie’s gloves, yet it seems when McKenzie actual does decide to throw a shot it always lands.
Retzke finally seems to have her sights aligned, actually lands a few shots, but to the same degree McKenzie has virtually neutralized Retzke and counters at ease when she decides to. I give this round to Retzke.
McKenzie steps up the pressure in the eighth and by late in the round actually rocks Retzke, who she had backed onto the ropes. Unfortunately McKenzie lets Retzke off, she had an opportunity to finish the German off but only threw a couple of shots. Definitely McKenzie’s round
Normal service resumes, Retzke throwing a lot of air shots at the ever ducking and weaving phantom that is Angel McKenzie, as before it is McKenzie that lands more shots, all countering overhands.
What a cracking final round, Retzke steps up the pace and really pulls out all the stops, as she tries to outbox the ever mobile South Londoner, McKenzie responds positively and lifts her own pace. There were probably more punches landed in the final stanza than all the rest of the rounds put together.
As so many of the rounds were very close it was all eyes on the judges, to see if McKenzie had done enough to finally secure her first World crown, however when the judges score cards were read out they were all in favour of Jennifer Retzke.
Whilst as you see by my report I had McKenzie ahead on points, I have to say that it wasn’t an easy fight to score, a clash of fight styles a factor but mainly due to the level of punches thrown – but not landed – by Retzke and a lot of McKenzie’s shots that landed, having slipped through the guard could easily have been missed by the judges, just I had an advantage over them, I had a very close up view through the lens of my camera.
The first of the all female bouts featured local favourite, Marianne ‘Golden Girl’ Marston, against a very late replacement in Romania’s Catalina Lazar.
It had been a stressful week in Marston’s camp, following the announcement the previous Friday, that original opponent Masa Bacanov had broken her hand in sparring.
On Sunday Melinda Zsiga was announced as the replacement opponent, then on Monday Zsiga pulled out, various attempts were made to secure a new opponent and then on Wednesday Marina Kohlgruber’s management were contacted but by Thursday morning terms still hadn’t been agreed.
With time running out Marianne’s management were left with a choice of a five time World Champion or the highly experienced Daniela David.
Naturally as it was only Marston’s second pro fight it was decided to go with David, however by 6pm there was no sign of a signed contract, David’s manager Christian Velea calling to say there was a problem and Daniela would not be able to make it after all, but then added he may have a replacement, the aforementioned Catalina Lazar, however it would be another six hours before terms were finalized and flights booked.
So back to fight night, Marston came out strong, as she did in her first fight, letting rip with solid right hand jabs, Lazar countering well initially, the pair kept up the exchanges for about twenty five seconds, when Marston dropped a peach of a hook to the body, which forced the Romanian to take to one knee.
Lazar bravely managed to make it to her feet before referee Ken Curtis finished the count.
Marston went straight back on the attack with good solid jabs, as Lazar covered up, then Marston shoots out a solid right jab followed by left cross to the stomach, which was enough to send Lazar to the deck once more, this time the gutsy Romanian couldn’t beat the count.
The first round knockout was timed at just sixty seven seconds, Marston’s record now stands at two fights, two wins, both by first round stoppage.
Prior to the first of Marston-Lazar, London based Turkish amateur teenage star Shiya Ozgul made his maiden pro outing, against Czech Republic’s Michal Vosyka.
Ozgul started well, taking the fight to Vosyka, easily controlling the first couple of the minutes of the round, but then the Czech found a way to neutralize the eighteen year olds unconventional style.
The second round was a much closer affair with Vosyka countering each attack, even on occasions taking the fight to the Turkish youngster, however Ozgul was getting some good success with his overhand rights.
More of the same in third, with Ozgul making most of the attacks but Vosyka countering or just plain moving out of the way, it was a very close round, so much so I couldn’t split them on my scoring.
The final round was a cracker. Ozgul slowed his pace in the fourth and began picking his shots a bit better, but still Vosyka was able to neutralize many of his attacks as well as land some very good shots of his own.
By mid way the pace raised once more and the pair went toe-to-toe more or less to the final bell.
After four all action rounds referee Mickey Vann rightfully scored the bout 39-37 in favour of eighteen year old Shiya Ozgul.
The second bout of the night see outstanding amateur star Antonio Counihan also making his pro debut, against ‘Rockin’ Robin Deakin.
Even before Counihan had started his ring walk Deakin was making mischief, winding up the huge contingent of Brummie fans that had made their way south to support their man.
The decibel levels went through the roof when the former England captain began making his way to the ring, which just encouraged ‘Rockin’ Robin to up the ante in his attempts to antagonize Counihan’s fans.
What an awesome first round, Robin Deakin may be an reinvigorated Robin Deakin, but he was no match for the young Brummie, who systematically took him apart with double handed flurries more or less from the opening bell.
It was a lively round to put it mildly, referee Ken Curtis had his hands full, after Deakin resorted to grabbing and wrestling in his attempts to contain the lively youngster, so much so that the pair crashed to the canvas not once but twice in the opening stanza.
Round two was a lively as the first, although this time neither went to the deck, Counihan kept his cool whenever Deakin would resort to ‘professional tactics’, preferring to let his boxing do the talking, and boy did he do it in style.
More mischief from Deakin late in the round, which almost see the pair go through the ropes, a side note here this particular action led to Deakin receiving a minor leg injury, leaving him to limp to the corner when the bell chimed.
Deakin initially stepped it up in the third, but it didn’t last for long as Counihan plain out boxed him, pushing him back on to the ropes before firing off a barrage of double handed exocets, Deakin was forced to cover up, but Counihan is a savvy youngster and still managed to find his way through to land some big shots.
With three clear rounds in his belt Counihan strutted his way to centre ring, on the bell that signaled the final round of his debut, and just let rip, once again forcing Deakin back on to the ropes.
With his man corralled Counihan once again began a double handed assault, Deakin manages to slip away momentarily but Counihan then backs him against the ropes again and starts letting rip again, Deakin is no longer trying to counter and suddenly drops his hands, leaving referee Ken Curtis to jump in a stop the fight on the forty one second mark.
Big hand to Deakin, proved he has the heart of a Lion, but kudos to Antonio Counihan, he is one seriously class act.
First bout of the night featured GBC World and IBO International Light Middleweight Champion Nick Klappert against former World title challenger Suleyman Dag.
Klappert started well, just about taking control of the early rounds, using solid jabs to keep the much shorter Dag at bay.
By mid second round Klappert started to mix it up a bit more, letting rip with classy combinations and double hand flurries.
The slick German really got the British fans behind him in the third, after turning on a magnificent display of controlled boxing, coming in behind a crisp jab before letting rip with scintillating combinations to body and head.
After such a good round for Klappert, Dag must have realized he needed to step things up in the fourth, which he definitely tried to do, however Klappert was in a flow and his superior reach made it hard for Dag to get in close.
Dag showed great perseverance and even had a degree of success, but at a price, a damaged hand. After the bell rang to end the round it was clear that Dag was in distress, leaving his corner no option but to retire him on the stool.
Once again promoter Dave Murphy put together a sensational night of top class International boxing, sanctioned by the German Boxing Association, the only downer on the night being that instead of the planned fourteen bout mega show, with no less than four title fights, it ended up being just seven fights with the single title fight.
None of this was the fault of the GBA, the promoter or the fighters, but was mainly down to politically motivated actions by various European Boxing Union member Countries, who refused permission for their fighters to compete on the event, as it was not British Boxing Board of Control sanctioned.
Now I’m not saying the BBBofC exerted pressure on fellow EBU members, but knowing the true facts of the vote – as well as the argument offered by the BBBofC, which are very different to the misleading statements issued by both them and the EBU – that led to Luxembourg being stripped of their EBU membership, it sure has that feel about it.
That aside, roll on the next event from Mr. Murphy, as these shows are truly a breath of fresh air, providing fans with exciting and genuinely matched bouts, something lacking on the domestic scene more and more these days.