With bouts which bounced from barnburners to the downright bizarre, Team Southpaw Jab’s Ryan Walsh rounded an MtK evening at York Hall off pleasurably- retaining his British Featherweight Title with an honest split decision win over Lewis Paulin.
Paulin had travelled south from hometown Edinburgh with impressive, rawkus support, and they battled the Farmy Army who proudly cheer on the Walsh family. The back and forth of noise closely reflected the fight, and certainly lifted the York Hall atmosphere again (more on that later). A natural switch hitter, Ryan Walsh was also noticeably shorter and more compact than Paulin. Smaller too than the ropes of the ring, which a showmanlike attempt to vault caused a stumble and that permanently beaming smile to stretch ever wider on his face.
Slipping punches nicely, Walsh whipped in shots from the angles he’d create evading Paulin’s shot. There was power in them, leverage achieved naturally and eye-catchingly. At times hitting the target eye-wateringly. Then, just as Walsh seemed to be digging in, Paulin piped up, beginning to beat him to the punch and throw with increased speed and success.
The middle rounds were perhaps the most subjective, as Ryan stood watching, waiting for Paulin to go where he wanted, though as he did so the Scot’s busier work rate may have been ticking the points over in his favour. When Lewis did step into Walsh’s web, the retribution was wicked, spiteful and flush- mainly working the torso. It was busy versus bruising, very much a case of what you like.
This continued down the championship rounds, where Walsh has by far the greater experience; all of Ryan’s fights since 2014 have been scheduled for 12 stanzas. The only early nights were wins in his favour. By comparison, Paulin was fighting his first full twelve. A clash of heads in the last round only meant a minor cut for the winner. Cards of 117-111, 115-114 for Walsh and a reverse 113-115 for Paulin mean that Ryan remains top of the pile on these Isles. Here’s to many more.
Back in the ring for the first time since October, the divisive Ohara Davies appeared in a bout where he seemed to not know how he felt about himself either. Former IBF World Lightweight Champion Miguel Vazquez was drafted in by MtK Global, presumably with the intention of displaying what Ohara is still capable of. His loss to Jack Catterall last time out was both controversial and simultaneously a snooze fest.
This fight was no different.
Vazquez was game. More than game. After rounds of Davies swiping at air despondently and being berated by his corner in the breaks, Miguel was waving him in. The Mexican wanted a fight, reasonably enough. Davies looked like he’d rather be anywhere but in that square yet still grinned, grimaced and gave what he could. It was maddening at first, but became rather sad to watch. Ohara is not the loud mouth he’s made out to be, he’s a likeable guy, and seeing him so clearly out of sorts was not fun.
At the end of the ten, muted applause rewarded the spirited effort of the away fighter; a man who’d come to York Hall and ripped a statement win away from the local boy convincingly. Referee Ian John Lewis’s card was too close, 97-94 had heads shaking. That it was in favour of Ohara would have been met with booes if it wasn’t such a flagrant insult. Silence, as eyes widened.
Blood pouring from his nose, Davies shook his head in disgust, walking to a forlorn Vazquez’s corner and lifting his opponent’s hand. That it was only a moral victory was of little consolation, as were the York Hall faithful’s sincere looks and well wishes as Miguel trudged back to the glamorous away changing room. Ian John Lewis’s card was a travesty, a horrible stain on his credibility and British Boxing’s.
Davies versus Vazquez had, in three rounds, sapped the energy from a full swing York Hall. Near to capacity and riotous, the televised card opened with an odd but inspired piece of matchmaking. Siar Ozgul had lost three of his last four and the former Southern Area Super Lightweight Champion went in over eight against former EBU European Super Lightweight Title holder Anthony Yigit.
Who was the fight for? The MtK man Ozgul, Yigit, or the fans? Well, two of three won out and the third went home with no shame attached to the loss. Ozgul is famously dogged, and usually one dimensional, but here he displayed marked improvement in movement- as well as his belligerent bulldozer attack.
A phone booth would have allowed ample space for these men as the eight rounds flew by. Both threw caution to the wind and Yigit was looking to his corner around midway. As Siar ploughed forward, he started taking three to throw one, and that started to take its toll on the Turk. Swedish/ Turkish Yigit threw in flurries, largely off the back foot because backwards was the only way to go.
At (relative) range Anthony was far superior, but Ozgul relishes those trenches and his left hook, both lead and counter, was a wonderful weapon when inside. Eventually Siar tired, and began to visibly sag. He never gave up at all, bullishly refusing to go anywhere. The venue erupted in applause at the end of the eight- Yigit took the decision 78-75. It was the kind of fight people go out hoping to see: two men needing the win and doing everything to get it.
Daniel Egbunike, better known as Danny Darko, and Martin McDonagh both risked their unbeaten status in a Southern Area Super Lightweight Title eliminator. Both brought wonderful support, though the image of McDonagh walking out to an Irish Republican song under a St George’s Cross will stick long in the mind. Perfectly juxtaposed.
Shorter, wider and more muscular Darko had eyes set to full psycho, hunting McDonagh down from first bell. Martin did occasionally score with ones and twos as Danny waded in, but as the fight went on it became and exercise in evasion and resilience for him. Darko should have turned the screw tighter and earlier, but Mcdonagh’s ability to recover and keep moving despite the shots he took was impressive.
Martin made the final bell, against all odds frankly, and had a back marked up visibly- by the ropes he’d had it pressed against. Darko was awarded a 97-93 win which was a little close for most at ringside, but not appalling. Both can improve, both will.
Sam Gilley looked certain to stop Nathan Hardy after the first round. Gilley had come in rather large for welterweight: at middleweight. Hardy stepped in on late notice, and looked set to regret taking that call. After being backed up and tasting a coppery cocktail of blood laced leather for three rounds Hardy found form, ending it unloading on Gilley in his corner.
Having taken Gilley’s best, Nathan pressed on in the ascendancy. Gilley’s pop had perished, until he was the one enjoying resurrection, ending the fight resurgent in the sixth. Spirited from both men, and Sam went home holding a 59-55 judgement in his favour.
The two four rounders first on the bill were wins for the home fighters. Welterweight Jack Ewbank displayed good reflexes and shot/ foul variety as he outscored Michael Williams 40-36. The desire for a fist inside schedule win is understandable, but Ewbank is capable of getting it legitimately.
A weird, wild night in the East End, great entertainment overall, though certainly containing highs and lows. It was upsetting to see much avoided super-flyweight prospect Kaisy Khademi have his fight called off at the eleventh hour, though Ryan Walsh again winning that beautiful Lonsdale Belt was sumptuous icing on this layered cake.
All photos courtesy of Scott Rawsthorne MtK Global/Unknown Boxers