On Saturday night the Queensbury Boxing League opened its doors for the very first time in 2012 to promote its first event of the new season at the East Grinstead Sports Club. With shows popularity rocketing in recent weeks and the buzz surrounding the UK's premier boxing league sweeping through the British boxing scene with the multiple broadcasts on Eurosport of the league's last blockbuster event Fearless, the highly anticipated return to action with its new fight night concept Challenger Fight Night did not disappoint with twelve very entertaining bouts of boxing on the card.
The first fight of the evening was supposed to feature East Grinstead debutant Simon Astill in a light heavyweight contest against the visiting Clarke Jones JR from London. Unfortunately it seemed Jones lost his appetite for battle somewhere between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning as he failed to arrive for the scheduled weigh in for the fight leaving Astill high and dry after months of preparation for the contest. But with just hours to go before the scheduled start to the bout in stepped Woodcote's Paulie Stevens to fill the void left by the wayward Jones and save the opener. Stevens an experienced coach and trainer of Queensbury Welterweight Tom Knight who was headlining the bill agreed to face Astill in an exhibition bout that still provided three very entertaining rounds of boxing for the crowd to enjoy. Throughout the rounds Astill gave a good account of himself against the very experienced Stevens and definitely was given a far harder test than Jones would ever have provided if he had bothered to show up, and as the final Bell rang out both men embraced in the centre of the ring much to the appreciation of the crowd.
Up next in fight number two on the card Welterweight Haydon Ali from the Sparta Gym in Norfolk was pitted against Redhill's Chris Cook in a contest that really set the tone for the evening's action. Cook was making only his second appearance in the Queensbury ring after beating Stuart Goodwin back in June and looked in terrific shape as he scaled in at 10st 5lbs at the weigh in whilst Ali who also looked in peak condition weighed in a pound heavier. From the opening bell the pattern of the fight emerged quickly with Ali looking to box finding success with his probing jab and some beautifully straight rights that found the target. Cook however looked content to flick the jab out and then move in behind some hurtful looking body shots that clattered into the mid section of Ali's body that was noticeably reddening after a couple of exchanges.
In round two the tide tilted in Ali's favour when a right hand connected with the advancing Cook forcing the Redhill man to momentarily touch down which resulted in referee Seamus Dunne issuing Cook with a mandatory standing eight count. But as the action resumed Cook again was finding success with the body shots but it was a close round with some furious action. In the final stanza both men's punch output slowed visibly but it was Cook that suddenly appeared to sense his opponent was fading and stepped on the gas forcing Ali onto the back foot to absorb some hurtful looking shots on the ropes. As the final bell rang out for a memorable encounter MC Geoff Hopcraft annonced the judges decision awarding it to Cook by majority decision by scores of 30/28 29/27 and 28/28.
With the crowd still catching its breath from the previous bout they may have been well advised to take on some extra oxygen with what was about to happen inside the ring as in stepped light heavyweight debutants Jason Pile Gray and Stephen Hamilton to provide the show with one of the most memorable encounters between two first time competitors the league has ever seen. Pile Gray had made the trip up from Margate with an army of support, and Hamilton who had made the short journey from Redhill put on an exhibition of guts and determination over three epic rounds of action.
From the opener both men found little trouble in finding the target as they both became acquainted with the taste of leather very quickly as they were forced to eat numerous shots whilst trying to land their own bombs. Hamilton worked well behind his jab and showed good defensive skills as his limbo style movement aided him in evading numerous attacks, but Pile Gray also made his own breakthroughs and the opener descended into a fistic hurricane of punches as both looked to land the finishing shot. The frenetic exchanges seemed to suit the Margate man better and Hamilton was forced to take a standing eight count by the referee in the closing stages of the opener, but as the bell sounded out to conclude the round it was clear with the standing eight that Pile Gray had edged it.
During the second round the action was again relentless but Hamilton settled down more and started to use his boxing to land some crisp jabs and right hand follow ups and although the action was again close it was maybe Hamilton that fractionally edged it with the cleaner work. As the fighters entered the home stretch it was visible both were suffering from the blistering pace set in the previous two rounds of action and with both warriors running on empty they forced themselves to continue to throw their shots right to the bitter end. In a contest that didn't disappoint the judges were unable to separate the valiant pair declaring the contest a draw and leaving open the possibility of a rematch somewhere down the line.
The action continued in the league's busy Light Heavyweight division when Norfolk's experienced Josh Lamb took on Albanian Alex Lesi in a bout that promised much. Lamb was originally scheduled to face Jason Chay from the O'Neils gym but Chay was forced to withdraw after suffering facial damage in sparring during his preparations. In stepped Lesi who was making his first appearance in the league but brought with him a decent record of five wins from six outings and it looked like the contest could yet again serve up some exciting action.
As the first round got under way it was Lamb that took the centre of the ring, as he seemed content to walk his opponent down behind a high held guard but once in range seemed reluctant to let his shots go. Lesi spent the majority of the round back peddling around the ring firing off simple straight counters that caught the eye, but it was Lambs lack of punches that made the judge’s decision easy when awarding the opener to the Albanian. Again as the second got underway Lamb still seemed content to try and back his opponent up as if there was some master plan to tire him out and then come on strong in the later rounds, but with the bout only scheduled for three rounds his tactics seemed worryingly flawed as he just didn't seem interested in throwing anything of real merit.
Lamb did find some success with his body attacks and caught Lesi with a thunderous left hook to the body that forced Leis to let out a cry of pain and turn away, but what looked like a scoring punch and should have merited a standing count was dismissed by the referee. By the third it was clear Lamb was well behind on points and looked desperate as he chased Lesi around the ring looking for the big money punch to end the argument, but it never came and Lesi ran out a clear winner on all the judges scorecards. It was a lackluster performance from Lamb which could have been completely different if he'd been far busier and thrown more of his powerful body shots, but it wasn't to be and Lesi can look forward to tougher tests down the line from some of the more established in the division.
Returning to the league after nearly a two year absence Light Heavyweight Scott Charlton produced the finish of the night when he detonated a thunderous right hand on the chin of London's Mark Porter that nearly sent the Londoner back to the capital without his feet touching the floor. As the first round started both men looked cautious as they sent out probing jabs with little commitment behind them, and the bout looked like it was shaping up to be a cagey affair. Porter looked content to move from his natural orthodox stance into southpaw but rarely threatened to land anything of merit.
Then from out of nowhere Charlton launched a straight right hand that landed with power robbing Porter of everything but his shorts as he toppled to the canvas. It was instantly clear that Porter would not be getting up from this anytime time soon, and referee Mark Fairman acted quickly putting the stricken Porter into the recovery position as the ringside doctor and paramedics rushed to help. Thankfully Porter was able to make it out of the ring on his own leaving Charlton to celebrate his first league win.
Next to take centre stage was the battle between Filipe Abelha from Redhill and Crawley's Tobiano Mancuso. Abelha representing the Like2Fight gym was making his competitive debut at the show whilst Mancuso had only previously tasted one bout of competitive action in the league on the big September show in Epsom when he had won his debut on points against David Evans from Wales.
The contest got off to a fast start with Mancuso claiming the centre of the ring showing fast hands as Abelha looked comfortable working off the back foot. The pace set in the opening minutes looked difficult to maintain and both boys found equal success in the exchanges and it was hard to separate the little rockets as they made their way back to their respective corners after an tense opener.
The action continued in the second as it had finished in the first with both pushing forward in search of some semblance of dominance, and it was almost as if the pair had agreed before the fight to take turns at punishing each other as they both worked hard to establish a lead. As the round wore on it was Mancuso who seemed to be landing the greater volume of shots but that said it was a difficult task to try and separate the warriors as the round came to a close.
As the final round commenced it was clear the previous two stanzas of action had sapped some of the energy of each man, but both still continued to throw leather as the seconds ticked away on the clock to signal the end of the contest. As the final seconds trickled away it was hard to hear the bell that ended proceeding over the roar of the appreciative crowd, and as both boxers embraced in the centre of the ring it was hard for many to pick a winner. But as the verdict was read out giving Mancuso his second straight victory in the league it was clear Abelha felt disappointed after giving so much, but it was a contest that certainly delivered plenty of excitement and one that could happen again at some point.
It was youth versus experience next in Welterweight action when Ulysses Woods stepped up to face the peter pan of the league Dave Bell. For Bell a natural Light Welterweight this would be his forth outing in the league, and he was hoping to improve his record after losing last time out to future Queensbury Welterweight champion Patrick Fielder in an epic battle. Woods however had never competed before but had been around the gyms for a while so on paper it was Bell who brought the greater experience whilst Woods the youthful ambition.
From the opener Woods got off to a flying start working well behind his jab and showed a nice variety of shots as he backed Bell up with fast shots finishing his combinations with well placed body shots into the ribs of Bell. As the round played out Bell began to establish his distance and although he was the naturally lighter man it was his shots that looked to be registering with more power as he started to come back into the contest after Woods fast start.
The next two rounds looked like a carbon copy of the first with Woods showing the technical superiority with his shots, but again it was the older man who just seemed to shade the exchanges with the superior power that must have caught the judges eye as when the conclusion came it was Bell that hand his arm raised via a majority decision. Although not victorious Woods can take heart from his performance and with more training could become a great addition to the bulging Welterweight ranks in the league
Returning from his solitary loss back in September Oxted's Roo Abbott brought with him an army of support keen to see their man get his league campaign back on track after a disappointing display against London's Steve Dixon. For his return Abbott was matched against the undefeated Karl "The Truth" Williams who himself was looking to build on his last performance back in November when he extended his record to 3 and 0 with his win over Curtis Blake so it would not be an easy nights work for the local southpaw.
Round one started well for the local favorite as he bounced around the ring unloading fast combinations that seemed to unsettle the visiting Williams and take him out of his normally relaxed style. Abbott looked comfortable as he applied pressure in bursts and backed Williams up on several occasions as he found his range catching his man with his trademark long left hands. Williams did have his own success swinging in looping left and right hooks, but the majority were caught on the gloves by Abbott.
As round two got under way Abbott again looked in control but Williams was able to maneuver his man around the ring at times and tried to unleash some of his heavy bombs that had seen him punish his previous opponents, but again Abbott showed impress defensive qualities as he bobbed and weaved his way off the ropes and out of danger leaving Williams to chase after him.
As the contest entered it's concluding round Abbott was clearly feeling the pace and his efforts in the previous two rounds had clearly taken their toll, but Abbott was able to hold on and fend off the advancing Williams who was obviously under instruction from his corner that he required the knockout if we was to salvage his unbeaten record. But it was still Abbotts round as the bell rang out by way of the classier work and the more meaningful shots. As the judges read out the unanimous decision in favour of Abbott, his entourage of supporters erupted with excitement as he exited the ring to congratulations, and for Williams his chance will come again but maybe in the division below.
Looking to record his first victory in the league at the third attempt, Redhill's popular Ben Davies was hoping the evening would offer him the chance of redemption after suffering back to back defeats in his previous two league starts. After coming to terms with a number of opponent changes the man final secured to tackle Davies was Colchester's Steven Farress who himself was hoping for victory after losing his only two previous outings outside of the league's ranks. At first the bout looked in jeopardy as Farress scaled in 3 lbs over the agreed weight limit but managed to sweat off the excess weight in time allowing him to continue with the proposed match later on that night.
From the opener it was clear both men were understandably cautious given their previous history, but it was Davies that tried to stamp his authority on proceedings as he bulldozed his way forward looking to land on the retreating Farress. Mid way through the first it was Farress who made the first real breakthrough catching Davies with a couple of shots that seemed to momentarily stun him, but if the shots had done any damage Davies recovered well and continued. As the fight moved into the second there was a lot of clinching and holding and it was hard to see any meaningful shots land by either man and as the pair made their way back to their stools it looked like it all rested on the final round as to which would emerge with their first win.
As the final round got under way it was Davies that looked the fresher of the pair but during one of the exchanges Farress was caught with by an accidental clash of heads which momentarily forced a stop to the action with Farress in noticeable pain. As the action restarted Davies must has sensed his opponent was unsettled as he launched a spirited attack with everything he had left in the tank to finish the bout the stronger and take the victory via unanimous decision
In the first of the scheduled Cruiserweight clashes on the Challenger card, Margate’s Benji Smith was paired with Dartford's Jeff Samson in a battle of the debutants. Samson fighting out of Team Punchout under the guidance of head coach Simon Gildea was hoping to be the first fighter from the gym to win in the league's ranks, and Smith who had the formidable John O'Neil in his corner was looking to continue the gyms success in the league after watching his stable mates go 3 and 0 at the previous event.
As the action got under way it was Smith that made a bee line to claim the centre of the ring walking forward menacingly in search of his prey. But the confident Samson displayed an air of confidence about his work as he circled around the ring on the back foot picking his shots with composure as he threw out his jab. Smith had obviously come into the contest with the plan of walking his man down and then working his way into range where he could unload his sledgehammer body shots, and it was on the inside that he found his success when he managed to maneuver Samson into a position where he could unload his vicious looking body attacks that were clearly audible at ringside. But again Samson looked calm and collected under the aggression and managed to find away out before taking too much damage.
As the fight progressed into the second and third round it was clear that Samson's best work was coming from range and displayed his best work when allowed space to work, and for Smith it was his inside work that caught the eye with his body attacks and shots up through the middle. As the final bell rang out it was down to the judges to separate the pair in what had been a fantastic display by both men, and with the scores in it was Samson that took the victory on a count back with Samson winning it by 30-27 on one card Smith edging it 29-28 on another and the third official unable to split the pair with a score of 29-29. With the league's Cruiserweight division building nicely there will be plenty of great fights out there for both men over the coming season.
Again in Cruiserweight action Polish import Woject Wieczorek stepped in at late notice to face Margate's Marc Beresford after Beresford original opponent Danny Edwards a gym mate of Wieczorek had to withdraw after suffering a painful back injury in training. Weighing in a pound over 14st Wieczorek looked physically much bigger than his opponent who had himself scaled 14st 4lbs at the official weight in, and as the pair came together to get their final instructions from referee Mark Fairman who was taking charge of the contest the difference in size was noticeable.
As things got under way the visiting Wieczorek who now bases himself out of the RAMS boxing gym in Oxford worked well behind his jab and made good use of his reach and size advantage to make life difficult for his shorter opponent as Beresford tried to come to terms with the ramrod jab being thrown in his general direction. It was apparent that Beresford was going to have to get under this potent weapon if he was going to make any impression on the opener and as he walked forward he attempted to make his way in close enough to unload his power shots. As the round came to a close it was clear that Wieczorek had made good use of his long straight shots to nick the first.
The second again followed the same pattern as the first but the Margate man did seem to be finding a little more success as the round progressed and did start landing more of his power shots as he closed down the range, but it was the volume of shots or the lack of it from Beresford that still seemed to allow Wieczorek to look the busier of the two, but things could have been very different if Beresford hand been able to let his shots go more.
The concluding round of action was clearly Beresfords best as Wieczorek looked tired and sloppy and as Beresford upped the work rate he started to make a major impression on proceedings catching the tall pole with some hurtful looking shots to the head that forced him onto the ropes where he had to endure a torrid final minute. If the Margate man had been able to get to his man sooner then the crowd would have witnessed a totally different encounter, but it was Wieczoreks early work that counted for more giving him the victory.
FIGHT 12 Queensbury Novice Welterweight Title
Returning to action after claiming the title back in November with a tough points victory over Stuart Goodwin to claim the vacant title, Warlingham's Tom Knight was making the first defence of his crown in the featured main event. In the opposing corner the challenger Gary Doocey from Eastbourne was looking to relieve the champion of his title credentials at the first time of asking and had promised to deliver an exciting performance when the pair collided.
Weighing in comfortably inside the championship limit, Doocey scaled in at 10st 5lbs whilst the champion Knight did not have it so easy as he came in over the 10st 7lbs limit by just over a pound. After a couple of trips to the scales Knight managed to reach the contracted fight weight and the stage was set for the highly anticipated battle.
As the pair came to the centre of the ring the physical advantages held by the champion Knight were clear to see even by those standing at the back of the arena. The champions tall slender frame was in stark contrast to the shorter, stockier challenger and if the belt was to be changing ownership that evening then Doocey would need to come to terms with the distance and find a way of closing down the gap to get inside his man.
As the opening bell sounded to signal the start of proceedings it was as if the ringing noise had somehow subconsciously triggered the attack message for Doocey to react to as he leap across the ring like a punching machine straight towards the champion like a man possessed. Doocey's trainer had boasted that his man was in the best shape of his life prior to the contest, and with the blistering pace Doocey was setting from the outset he would need to be as he went after the champion unloading a combination of clubbing shots that backed the champion up. It was clear Doocey had worked on a game plan of staying on top of the champion and not allowing him any opportunity to create enough space to unleash his trademark long rangy shots, and at the end of the first round the formulae had succeeded as it was Doocey who had bossed the action.
The second round saw Doocey again employ the same marauding tactics as he backed the champion up, but Knight was starting to find the occasional counter that did get the attention of the challenger momentarily, but not enough to discourage him from calling off his relentless aggression. As Doocey marched forward with his hands down by his chest he seemed to have little respect or care for what was likely to by coming back his way and he continued to pressure the champion. By the third round it was clear Knight was going to need to dramatically up his punch output if he was going to have any hope of clawing his way back into the argument, and to his credit he did start to get his arms going and found his greatest success catching Doocey on a number of occasions with some sharp combinations that did seem to register on the challengers radar, but it was apparent that even when Knight was connecting cleanly with his best work there was not enough power in the shots to truly hurt or stop Doocey.
As the round came to a close it was Knight who looked like snatching the round but again it was a close affair. With the final stanza underway it was clear if the champion had any hope of continuing his reign he would either need to stop the challenger or win the round by a very wide margin, but it was clear early on that Doocey was in no mood to throw away his advantage and kept on pressing the action. There was a momentary break in the action when Knight turned away from another Doocey assault from what appeared to be a low blow and the champion was given time to recover, but to the champions credit it didn't look like sportsmanship of any kind as he was keen to get back into the mix and try to salvage his title. But in the end it was not to be and as the two warriors stood side by side waiting for the judges to pass down their verdict, it was Doocey who was awarded the decision unanimously and crowned the new Queensbury Boxing League novice Welterweight champion.
Once again the show was another resounding success and produced one of the most exciting evenings of boxing entertainment the league has ever seen. With a succession of future Challenger shows planned to allow a new breed of novice boxers there first experience in the UK's premier boxing league, it is certain there will be many more evenings to look forward to over the coming season.