Fighters making comebacks are always shrouded in doubt. Questions about ring rust, mental stability, weight and general decline usually prompt a cautious re-entry into the active ranks, which is why they are so often underwhelming affairs. Amir Khan’s return was one such underwhelming affair. Admittedly, the 23 month layoff between getting flattened by Saul Alvarez and returning to the ring last weekend has been an eventful time for the Bolton man; celebrity TV shows, a potential divorce, a marriage saved, a hand injury, a split from his unwell trainer Virgil Hunter – Khan’s return fight was never going to be for a world title, or even against a top 10 contender.
But Phil Lo Greco’s performance on Saturday night proved the critics of this matchup correct; after just 39 seconds of the first round, he had been down twice, shaken badly by two blitzkrieg overhand rights, prompting referee Victor Loughlin to stop proceedings after a shaken Lo Greco sagged to the ropes in a disappointing finish. This was always a possibility, of course; a quick glance at their records showed Khan had considerably greater advantages in experience, success rate, skill set and quality of opponent, but nevertheless one hoped for Lo Greco to compete for a round or two before Khan kicked into gear.
The result needs no great analysis – this can be quickly filed alongside David Haye’s return against Mark de Mori in the ‘Non-Event’ category and immediately moved on from. True, Khan’s speed is still very much with him, a point of debate in the pre-fight build up, but beyond that it’s hard to see how beneficial this performance will be to anyone looking to gain an insight into what the future holds. Kell Brook stood ringside, rekindling talks of a superfight between the two. But with Brook’s rapid KO of Siarhei Rabchenko in his own ring return last month and Khan’s cameo in Liverpool, Eddie Hearn will likely want another warm up fight for the pair of them before this match can be built into something meaningful.
As for Lo Greco, he talks the talk, but has been found wanting when walking with the few talented welterweights he has shared the ring with. Firstly, Shawn Porter outpointed him in 2013 (and knocked him down for good measure), then Errol Spence stopped him in 3 rounds two years later, and Joseph Elegele inflicted his third loss in his last 6 fights in 2016. At the fourth time of asking against Khan, it was established beyond doubt that the Canadian doesn’t quite have the skill set to mix with the elite. There’s no shame in that – precious few boxers operate at the highest level – but even so, the manner of this defeat won’t have done his reputation any good. He returns home with some things to think about.
Tommy Coyle produced a superb performance to halt Sean Dodd halfway through a scheduled 12 to take the Commonwealth lightweight belt back to Hull. Both men started warily, but as the fight warmed up, it was Coyle’s mobility that proved the difference as he moved in and out of range. His less-that-perfect defences still saw him tagged with shots as he came forward, but he capitalised on other small advantages to take the initiative; his feet were a little faster, his punches a little sharper, and his work rate a little higher than those of Dodd, who’s heart and determination finally succumbed to a counter-right hand that sent him to the canvas. A barrage of punches ended the contest with 47 seconds of the sixth round remaining.
Conor Benn once again took the all-action approach in dismissing Chris Truman in the fourth round of a scheduled six. Benn was superior in nearly every department, although this is no discredit to Truman’s efforts, who made Benn work for his win. By the third, however, his defences had begun to leak as sharp hooks on the inside snuck around his guard. A left hook-uppercut combination eventually floored him; Truman beat the count but expressed no desire to continue. Benn now moves to 12-0 and is moving at an excellent pace; those 12 fights have all taken place in two years, experience that will prove invaluable later down the line.
Natasha Jonas moved closer to a world title shot with a win over awkward Taoussy L’Hadji. The opening rounds were close affairs, with Jonas landing the more powerful shots but occasionally walking onto angled jabs and hooks from the visitor. Just as it looked like L’Hadji was starting to cause problems by the sixth round (during which Jonas’ face was noticeably marked up) the Brit upped her intensity in the following session, catching L’Hadji with a sharp hook that took her legs from her. She rose, but couldn’t regain enough balance to satisfy referee Michael Alexander, who waved the contest off. A great bout, and a great advert for British boxing.
Anthony Fowler made light work of rugged veteran Ryan Toms, who is better than his half-win, half-loss record suggests. Recently, notable wins over prospects Lloyd Ellett and Arthur Hermann established Toms as a worthy test, but he was outgunned from the start as good body work from Fowler checked his advances. A right hand to the sternum put Toms down heavily in the second, where he remained for the count. Fowler, whose patience and shot selection is improving with each outing, could be a real force at super-welterweight.
Sam Eggington returned to winning ways with KO over unwilling Hungarian Achilles Szabo. The Birmingham man’s power was evident early on, making the visitor cover up when stinging body punches found their way home. One of these put Szabo down in the second, and a barrage of punches on the ropes forced the stoppage soon after. Eggington looks rejuvenated at light-middleweight, and some great domestic fights await him later in the year if he continues to rebuild.
There were also points wins for the promising Scott Fitzgerald, as well as Bilal Rehman, Osman Aslam and Qais Ashfaq, while Tom Farrell and Craig Glover earned themselves stoppage victories as each of them continued their boxing educations.