England’s Martin Murray continued his march towards a world title shot with a dramatic seventh-round technical decision win over rugged Domenico Spada of Italy in the main bout on the Golden Gloves “Title Tornado” card in Monaco on Saturday night.
The fight was called off due to an accidental head butt, leading to a premature calling of the judges’ scorecards.
Esa Lehtosaari (Finland) had it 68-63, Jurgen Langos (Germany) 67-66 and Gerald Ritter (USA) 69-67 as Murray made a successful first defence of his WBC Silver title.
With the “Barmy Army” roaring him on, Murray outworked the Italian, although not before dealing with his roughhouse tactics. Seeking a tear-up, Spada kept the action close with his head dangerously pitched forward.
Ironically Murray was docked a point in the third for a butt that opened a cut over Spada’s right eye. The doctor inspected it intermittently until the dramatic ending, foreshadowed by the inevitable clash of heads.
WBA and IBO champion Gennady Golovkin was ringside to run the rule over Murray, who, it was later announced, he next fights on February 21 in Monaco.
In a cracking undercard fight, South Africa’s Hekkie Budler overcame a rocky start against Xiong Zhao Zhong to successfully defend his WBA and IBO minimumweight titles over 12 rounds.
A booming left hook from the Chinese sent Budler to the canvas in the second round for the first time in his career, but he then took evasive action to see out the round. Better still, he got his own back in the third when a straight right sent the former WBC champion sprawling for an eight-count.
That signalled the turning point as Budler’s greater workrate overcame Zhong’s dwindling power. With both fighters cut through the middle rounds, they never let up in an engaging battle.
Zhong was a perpetual danger with his powerful left hand, but Budler’s grit and experience pulled him though.
Juan Manuel Garcia Reyes (Spain) scored it 114-112, Lahcen Oumghar (Netherlands) had it 118-108 and Jean Toupin (France) 114-112.
Precocious Randy Caballero of the US captured the vacant IBF bantamweight belt with a thrilling 12-round defeat of former champion Stuart Hall over 12 rounds.
The scores seemed a little wide of the mark with England’s Steve Gray turning in a 118-110 card. Both Holger Wiemann (Germany) and Eugene Grant (USA) had it 116-111.
It was a close-quarter affair for most of the fight with Caballero offering angles and Hall proving relentless on attack. Hall was on the receiving end of a short, sharp right hand in the second that sent him to the deck for the only knockdown of the fight.
The American was forced to take a timeout after a brutal low blow in the fifth, but that was the only time the 22-year-old appeared unduly troubled against the proud Brit.
The two waged a fierce toe-to-toe battle in the last two rounds that had the crowd, chiefly the “Barmy Army”, shouting for more.
Earlier, Ryno Liebenberg of South Africa surrendered his unbeaten record and the WBC Silver middleweight belt to impressive Eleider Alvarez of Colombia.
With Liebenberg battered and badly cut around the left eye – he later received 20 stitches – the ringside doctor called matters off in the seventh round.
Liebenberg was brave and relentless, but had no response to the unbeaten Alvarez’s speed and savage uppercuts. The Colombian dominated the first four rounds via his slicker boxing, only to confirm his authority with a shuddering uppercut that sent Liebenberg reeling in the sixth.
Opperman gamely fought on, but the ending was only a matter of time, cornerman Colin Nathan confirming that he was close to calling it off anyway.
In the show opener, Sergey Komitsky pulled off an unlikely six-round draw against the UK’s Nick Blackwell.