As the fans arrived at York Hall on Saturday night there was one hell of a storm breaking over London, but even the inclement weather couldnt prevent Johnny Eames, Baz Rahman and the TRAD TKO events team from staging what must be the #1 contender for Fight Night of the Year honours.
It wasnt just the skies opening up that threatened to dampen the proceedings, Johnny, Baz and the TRAD TKO crew had to endure so much drama and disappointment in the build up to the show, caused by a spate of illness, injury and licensing issues forcing one third of the twelve bout card to be cancelled, as if that wasnt enough to top it all off, defending Southern Area Champ Ian Bailey failed to make championship weight.
Even so, Johnny insisted the show must go on, so with eight, instead of the planned twelve bouts, the show did indeed go on and to be absolutely honest it was first class.
As previously mentioned, defending champion Ian Bailey failed to make the weight, so even if he won he would not retain his title, only Dan Naylor could be crowned Champion, but first hed have to battle ten rounds with the tenacious pitbull like Bailey.
The first couple of rounds Naylor more or less dominated the proceedings, pushing forward and using his height and reach to keep Bailey on the back foot. For virtually the full six minutes Bailey just couldnt find a way past the solid jabbing from Naylor, even when he did manage to slip the jab and drop in a shot or two to the body of his opponent, hed get picked off by a cracking left.
During the break after round two, Baileys coach Barry Smith changed the game plan and could be seen instructing the Slough man on how to take advantage of Naylors weaknesses.
The change of tactics worked right from the off, Bailey took control, forcing Naylor back on to the ropes before letting rip with fast double handed attacks, which forced Naylor to cover up and counter whenever the opportunity arose.
Round after round Bailey kept up the vicious attack, easily neutralizing Naylors height and reach advantage. Naylors corner continuously screamed at their charge to get back to boxing and dont get dragged in to mixing it with the diminutive battler.
Easier said than done, each time Naylor tried to regain centre ground he would be pushed back and forced to endure more rib cracking double handed shots to the body.
By round seven Naylor was beginning to look well beaten and in my taped notes at the end of the round I had said theres no way he was going to go the distance, boy was I wrong.
Naylor came out in round eight and went hard on the attack, but Bailey wasnt prepared to give one inch of ground and so started a toe to toe Battle Royale that continued to the final second of the final round.
After ten bruising rounds there was no doubt in anybodys mind that Bailey had won, even Naylor who went over to congratulate the former Champ the instant the final bell rang.
When referee Jeff Hines scorecards were read out, as expected it showed Bailey victorious, but by a deceptively close 97-94 points margin.
With the Southern Area Featherweight title now vacant, there were already discussions between the two camps for a rematch in the new season. If this does happen I can assure you I will be first in the queue because I wouldnt miss that for anything.
Main support for Bailey-Naylor, see Portsmouths Joel McIntyre take on Lincolns Mitch Mitchell.
As the opening bell rang both McIntyre and Mitchell went at it hammer and tongs, entertaining the crowd with a good old fashioned slug fest. Neither clearly wanted to concede a single centimeter of centre ring as they traded leather back and forth for virtually the full three minutes.
McIntyres coach, John Murray, calmly instructed his charge before sending him out for the second. What then followed was a complete change of attitude from the Pompey boy, instead of charging in like a bull in a china shop, he played of his jab to create openings for some excellent combinations.
By the end of the round Mitchell was being forced to cover up as McIntyre confidence grew.
Round three to six were all McIntyre, he just let his boxing flow, taking his opponent apart in centre ring before forcing Mitchell back onto the ropes and letting rip with solid double handed attacks, to both body and head.
After six sensational rounds there could only be one winner, McIntyre, so when referee Ritchie Davies scorecard was read out it came as no surprise to anyone that McIntyre had secured the victory by a shutout 60-54 points margin.
Prior to McIntyre-Mitchell, there was a Heavyweight battle, featuring former two time Lithuanian Amateur Heavyweight Champion Paulius Kasiulicius against Latvias Janis Ginters.
For those who dont know of Kasiulicius, this is the kid that Johnny Eames stated is going to be World Champion, this is also the kid that the esteemed Mr. Eames tested on his debut by putting him in with Frantisek Kynkal, who then held a 2-1 positive record and had stopped both his previous opponents. Kasiulicius stopped him in the first round, so no surprise Johnny chose another tough opponent for his second pro fight Ginters was coming off a first round stoppage win, over Deniss Grocevs, just three weeks previous.
Right from the opening bell Ginters went looking for another early finish, throwing bomb after bomb each time Kasiulicius came within range. However Kasiulicius is surprisingly agile for such a big man and would just move aside before returning a big right of his own.
As the round progressed Kasiulicius began to dictate the proceedings, using his superior height and reach to pick off Ginters at will. Late in the round Kasiulicius landed a peach of a shot that rocked Ginters to the core, fortunately Ginters has a rock solid chin and was able to make it to the bell.
Round two was a totally different affair, Kasiulicius just plain schooled Ginters before backing him on the ropes and letting rip with heavy hands to both body and head. The assault went on for well over a minute before referee Jeff Hinds stepped in on the one minute and forty two seconds mark to prevent Ginters receiving further unnecessary punishment.
Fifth fight of the night see St Neots teenager Tommy Martin, who was making his first outing under the expert guidance of his newly appointment coach Barry Smith, against Nuneatons Kristian Laight.
The resurgence in form from the nineteen year old was clear for all to see, Martin oozed confidence from every pore, his movement was sublime and each attack was carried out with precision more akin to that of a Swiss watch movement.
Round by round Martin schooled the highly experienced Laight like someone with many more years boxing under his belt, picking his shots like a Shogun picks his weapon, Martin wasted nothing as he systematically tore apart Laight.
Dont get me wrong Laight put up a great fight, just Martin was in a class of his own and was cruising to a shutout points victory in my eyes.
After four superb all action rounds referee Ritchie Davies obviously see it the same way as myself, by declaring Martin victorious by a 40-36 points margin.
Prior to the excellent Martin-Laight bout, Canning Towns Freddie Turner was in action against seriously tough opposition, in the form of the classy and super tough former British title challenger Max Maxwell, in a six rounder.
The respect between the pair was obvious as they traded leather in earnest for the first minute or so of the bout, I cant deny it was beautiful boxing, but as neither was gaining, or come to that losing, any significant ground it was clear that that if this wasnt going to turn into a technical game of chess one of them would need to change their game plan.
Which is just what Turner did in the opening seconds of the second round, by working the angles and picking his shots with such finesse. Maxwell didnt seem too fazed by the change in tactics and looked to turn the heat up, however Turner neutralized each attack with superior movement, which in turn presented the East London southpaw further opportunities to open up with solid jabs and slick combinations, have to say to describe Turners boxing as poetry in motion would be an understatement, it was exquisite in its execution.
At the end of the round Turners coach, Jimmy Tibbs, could barely hide the smile that had broken out on his face as he congratulated his charge on his excellent performance.
Boosted by the words of encouragement from his legendary coach, Turner continued in the same vein, his measured approach was reaping benefits throughout, in fact his forceful, yet measured, approach almost paid off big time late in the fourth, when Turner landed a powerful left that rocked Maxwell, in a flash Turner jumped in to try and finish off his illustrious opponent, throwing a barrage of double handed shots, albeit just to late as the bell rang to end the round.
More of the same in the final couple of rounds, Turner showcased his fully loaded arsenal of punches, whilst Maxwell tried in vein to contain the rampaging southpaw.
After six scintillating rounds referee Ritchie Davies rightly hailed Turner victorious, by a superb 60-55 points margin.
The third bout of the night signaled the professional debut of the highly decorated Irish amateur star Paul Upton, against Birminghams Dee Mitchell.
The heavily partisan crowd went wild as Paulie, the eldest of the fighting Upton Clan, entered the arena.
Right from the off Upton showcased his undoubted skills to the appreciative audience, as he kept his more experienced opponent at bay with some superb jabbing and slick combinations.
As the rounds progressed Upton gradually turned up the heat, at the same time the highly vocal crowd sent the decibel reading off the dial each time the slick youngster landed shots to body and head of the Brummie battler.
Just before the youngster came out for the final round his coach, former Commonwealth Champ Mo Hussein, gave his charge instructions to just go out there and enjoy himself.
From start to finish, with the fans vocal encouragement reverberating around the hallowed York Hall, Upton did as instructed, keeping centre ring and toying with Mitchell, picking him off with crisp jabs and the occasional double handed flurry until the final bell rang.
After four sensational rounds of sublime boxing it came as no surprise that referee Ritchie Davies scorecard read 40-37 in favour of Paul Upton.
The second bout of the night featured former Irish MMA star Joe Duffy, against a late change of opponent in renowned hard man Jay Isle of Wight Assassin Morris.
From the off it was clear that Duffy wasnt going to have an easy night, Morris was all over him like a rash, saying that Duffy didnt seem to concerned and tried to concentrate on his boxing.
For the first couple of rounds Duffy managed to control the proceedings pretty much, but as the fight progressed Morris started to get the upper hand, with Duffy boxing off the back foot Morris didnt need too much encouragement to come in and plain bully the Irishman.
Referee Jeff Hinds had his hands full in the fourth stanza, as the battle became a close quarters affair, whilst Duffy tried to hold station, Morris could smell blood and began attacking with renewed vigor, trouble was both fighters stance meant that accidental head clashes became order of the day.
Duffys corner concern that a cut could become a deciding factor in the fight see them instruct their man to get behind his jab to keep the marauding Morris at bay, unfortunately that wasnt enough.
Morris more or less dominated the final couple of rounds, although most of his shots were against gloves or the arm of Duffy, who closed his guard right up.
Whilst it had become quite a scrappy affair, the final couple of rounds also produced some of the best boxing from both combatants.
After six extremely hard fought rounds referee Jeff Hinds scored the bout 58-57, in favour of Joe Duffy, I personally had the same score, but in favour of Jay Morris, but have to admit some of the rounds were that close it could have gone either way so no complaints.
Getting the whole show on the road was the most welcome return of former English Super Featherweight Champion Ryan Barrett after a fifteen month forced sabbatical from the sport.
Now competing in the Welterweight division, Barretts opponent for his first fight back was Atherton, Lancashires William Warburton.
The opening round was a bit of a technical affair, as both combatants tested the water, however the second and third were non-stop action and see both digging deep into their respective arsenals as they battled for supremacy of centre ring.
As the final round unfolded Barrett appeared to be struggling slightly, which hadnt gone unnoticed by Warburton, who started to apply serious pressure on the Londoner.
Barrett managed to hang on to the final bell and earn a close 38-37 points victory on his return to fray.
It really was a great night of fights, each bout was closely matched and in all honesty in many cases the victory could have gone either way.
We need more shows like this, you know properly matched and not heavily tilted towards the house fighter, as seems to be order of the day with far too many shows these day.
Have to say it, at the end of the day messieurs Eames and Rahman did more than enough to keep the fans, lucky enough to have attended, buzzing as we head into the summer break roll on next season, I for one cant wait.