‘One Smack’ Jack Massey (photo: MTK Global) captured the vacant IBO world cruiserweight title and set himself up for a potential showdown for one of the ‘big four’ title belts with an impressive third round stoppage of Belgian opponent Bilal Laggoune at Bolton Whites Hotel.
IN THE BLUE CORNER – JACK MASSEY
Massey entered this fight with an 18-1 (9KO) record, the only blemish being a unanimous decision defeat to unbeaten Richard Riakporhe in 2019. Since that defeat, Massey rebounded by outpointing Mohammad Ali Bayat Farid over eight rounds and knocking out Engin Karakaplan to win the IBF European cruiserweight title.
Those victories set Massey up to now challenge for the vacant IBO world cruiserweight belt once held by greats such as Thomas Hearns, Antonio Tarver and his countryman Carl Thompson.
Englishman Massey entered this fight believing he was fully prepared on the back of what he described as “the hardest training camp of my life. We’re prepared for anything. It’s the biggest fight of my life.”
IN THE RED CORNER – BILAL LAGGOUNE
Laggoune (25-2-2, 14KO) had proven himself to be a tough opponent last time out as he went 12 rounds before losing a majority decision to Tommy McCarthy when challenging for the vacant EBU European cruiserweight title. Laggoune also went 12 rounds before dropping a split decision to former WBC world light heavyweight title challenger Doudou Ngumbu.
Belgian fighter Laggoune had challenged for the EBU European title once before back in 2015 and fought tough Ukrainian Dmytro Kucher to a draw over 12 rounds. Laggoune was aiming to come out on the right end of this fight, telling BBTV Boxing “we’re coming to win.”
Laggoune came in four ounces over the weight limit at the initial weigh in, before making weight at the second attempt the day before the fight. Opponent Massey showed little sympathy for Laggoune, telling BBTV Boxing that the Belgian had “made a fool of himself” with a lack of preparation.
A casual, smiling Laggoune made his ring walk dressed in black and gray looking full of confidence in front of a heavy pro-Massey crowd. A much more intense looking Massey strode to the ring dressed in red and black accompanied by legend Ricky Hatton, another former IBO world champion who won the junior welterweight strap against Juan Urango in 2007.
During the pre-fight face off, Massey was visibly leaner and more muscular than his opponent, an observation the crowd made with some colorful chanting in the opening minute of the fight. Laggoune returned to his corner and prayed while Massey stared ahead in anticipation of the opening bell.
The fight opened with Massey circling the ring with a high left hand that was thrust out to pierce the guard of Laggoune. The Belgian responded by aiming two punches to the body before leaning forward and being locked in a headlock by the powerful Englishman.
Massey continued to circle the ring and fire out a jab while also showing good head movement to make Laggoune miss with the counter shots that were thrown. Massey continued to paw out the left hand but could not find a major opening in what was an opening round likely edged by the hometown fighter.
Round two began with Massey firing off a one-two combination that ended with a straight right hand piercing the guard of Laggoune. Before the fight, Massey had observed that Laggoune had a kickboxing background that caused him to stand square on and leave himself vulnerable to punches down the middle, an observation that was showing some signs of truth early in the fight.
Laggoune countered with several scoring blows of his own in what was a lively start to the fight. Massey was backed onto the ropes as Laggoune threw a flurry of punches, only for Massey to display his strength by almost effortlessly pushing the Belgian back.
Massey landed a clean left-handed punch to the face and followed it up with a left to the body before making Laggoune miss with good movement in the final seconds of the round. It was likely another 10-9 round in Massey’s favor, but both men were landing shots and returned to their corner with visible facial damage for their corner men to work on.
Round three opened with Massey firing off a crisp left handed jab before opening up and landing two solid blows. Laggoune continued to attack and come forward but found himself on the ground courtesy of a swift left hook on the counter from Massey.
Laggoune rose at the count of nine, only for Massey to close in and land several heavy hooks before the Belgian dropped to his knees in the corner and referee Steve Gray called the fight to an end.
Massey celebrated wildly with his team and his sizable fan base chanted loudly along to ‘Zombie Nation’ in celebration of the newly crowned IBO world champion.
WHAT THEY SAID
Speaking to Fight Zone ringside, Massey described himself as “absolutely ecstatic” when asked about winning the belt. Massey explained he had prepared for a long 12 round fight, but that he had “seen him telegraph his right hand a couple of times” to create the opening for an early stoppage. “I just waited for it, caught it, threw the left hook and caught him for the first time. It’s nice to have an early stoppage.”
WHAT NEXT FOR THE WINNER
Massey dismissed a rematch with Riakporhe when asked about it post-fight and made clear his desire to fight for another belt. If Massey is targeting one of the big four title holders, an all-English showdown with WBO world champion Lawrence Okolie would be an enticing next step. Another potential next opponent for Massey is Englishman Chris Billam-Smith, the reigning EBU European cruiserweight champion.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE LOSER
Laggoune has faced some big-name opposition during his career but continues his search for a career defining victory. If he wishes to make a bid to enter the Ring Magazine top 10 for the cruiserweight division, a fight against fellow Belgian Ryad Merhy (30-1, 25KO), currently ranked number 10 would be worth pursuing.
Author’s Scorecard (round by round)