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MTK London Hosts First Show in the Capital with Seize the City

In an uncharacteristically cool York Hall, MTK London held their first show at the iconic London venue and it didn’t disappoint. The temperature may have been cool but the atmosphere bubbled in anticipation for what, on paper looked to be a quality show. There was many familiar faces in attendance to watch the show with Lawrence Okolie, Ohara Davies, Lucien Reid and MTK’s new signing Josh Adewale to name just a few taking their seats to enjoy the action

Main Event: Larry Ekundayo vs John Thain – 12 x 3 mins IBF European Welterweight Title

by George Storr

It was Scotland versus Nigeria last night for the IBF European Title. Edinburgh’s John Thain travelled to London’s York Hall to take on Larry Ekundayo, who was born in Nigeria but lives and trains in the English capital.

Both boxers are backed by MTK Global and the fight represented a fantastic opportunity for both across the board. Neither fighter was unbeaten, neither was inexperienced, but in many ways both were still looking to make their mark. The opening round was closely contested with sharp work from both combatants, but as they moved into the second Ekundayo began to look the more assured. The Nigerian worked on establishing his jab in the second, despite a height disadvantage, and Thain finished the round with a bloodied nose.

Larry Ekundayo remained the more settled and confident fighter throughout the bout and that ultimately seemed decisive. Thain on the other hand, arguably needed to be a little more decisive himself. Too often the Scot waited on Ekundayo to take action or engage, rather than forcing the pace himself. The fight settled into a rhythm and it always seemed to be a rhythm that suited the home fighter.

Larry Ekundayo remained the more settled and confident fighter throughout the bout and that ultimately seemed decisive. Thain on the other hand, arguably needed to be a little more decisive himself. Too often the Scot waited on Ekundayo to take action or engage, rather than forcing the pace himself. The fight settled into a rhythm and it always seemed to be a rhythm that suited the home fighter.

This was reflected in the end result. Ekundayo won a unanimous decision: 111-117, 113-115 and 112-116 on the judges’ cards. In all fairness it seems they could easily have been wider in the Nigerian’s favour.

Thain definitely showed glimpses of his quality though and while it was hard to score too many rounds in his favour, most were close. It has to be noted too that, other than a tune up fight against Chris Jenkinson in June, Thain had not fought since 2016 when he lost to Bradley Skeete. That inactivity made this fight a tough piece of match-making for the Scot. Taking on a fighter as able as Ekundayo with no real momentum was a big ask.

Credit to John Thain though, the early stages of the fourth round saw him bamboozle Ekundayo while working behind his jab. Had this tactic been employed more consistently the fight could perhaps have been a closer one. Other moments saw Thain forcing his way forward and suggestions that, had he been more active, he may have fared better in this title challenge.

Fitness could also have been an issue and Ekundayo looked the more comfortable fighter in the later rounds despite being six years Thain’s senior, at 36. That’s not to discredit Thain, but rather to suggest that a few consecutive camps, and more consistent activity, may be needed for us to see him back at his very best. Hopefully that will be delivered by MTK. There are plenty of exciting domestic fights for the Edinburgh man at welterweight currently.

Larry Ekundayo is said to be, somewhat ambitiously, targeting a world title shot in his native Nigeria by the end of the year. In a star studded division this seems a big ask, but never say never.

Overall the fight was an interesting showcase of both fighters. The in-ring confidence of Ekundayo was a standout feature and some of his work was impressive. Great head movement left Thain punching air at times but viewers were left wondering how he would have coped had Thain upped the pace. Thain himself still has plenty to give and will be one to watch as he re-builds some momentum in the division.

Co-Main Event: Siar Ozgul vs Mikey Sakyi – 10 x 3mins Southern Area Super-Lightweight Title

by Chris Waddams

This was Ozgul’s first defence of a title he won way back in January 2017, but the long wait for a defence wasn’t all his fault. Promotional/ Managerial issues coupled with injuries and opponents pulling out have resulted in what should have been a springboard for his career turning into the only highlight to date in a career that had promised so much. When Ozgul won the title his opponent Mikey Sakyi had only graced a paid ring twice.

Sakyi, a last minute replacement after Ozgul’s original opponent pulled out, only had a week to prepare for this bout but had been in camp for a fight on a different bill. If you wondered how this fight was going to play out, you only had to watch the opening exchange to get your answer. Known for his ferocious style, Ozgul came out of the block like a bull in a China shop, trying to sit on Sakyi’s chest and rain hooks in on his opponent. In a case of polar opposites Sakyi started by working behind his Jab, picking his shots and taking the openings that Ozgul’s all action style provided.

The fight ebbed and flowed along the same narrative for much of the fight, with Sakyi working brilliantly behind his high defence to catch Ozgul with some stinging shots between the latter’s seemingly nonstop attacks. Both men looked tired at points and both found second, third and even forth winds to get themselves back into the fight. Towards the end of the fight Ozgul started to look like he was feeling the pace more than his calculated opponent, who for the first time looked to be the physically stronger man.

Sakyi also started to take the centre of the ring, disregarded his defensive approach meeting fire with fire. A man that’s not known to take a backwards step, Ozgul was forced to retreat a fair few times in the last quarter of the bout. The end came when both men were going for broke in the final round. Neither knowing whether they had a strong lead to relax for the final three minutes and both throwing caution to the wind. Sakyi caught Ozgul with a short left hook after Ozgul had missed with his own. Ozgul’s legs betrayed him and he went sprawling to the ropes. Buoyed on by his corner who were screaming for him to take advantage, Sakyi took a leaf out of Ozgul’s book and went on a wild hunt.

Ozgul called his opponent on hoping his false bravado would put the relentless Sakyi off. It didn’t, and the ref called an end to the action with a minute to go in the 10th and a new Southern Area Champion was crowned.

Highlights on the undercard featured a near punch perfect win for Hamzah Sherraz, who could have got Miguel Aguilar out of there early if he had only gone through the gears more. The exciting nineteen year old will be hoping for a sterner test next time out, but going on his form from last night he may not get one until he steps up to title level. Danny Dignum is another who will be crying out for better opposition after he beat Konstantin Alekandrov in two of a scheduled four stanzas. Alekandrov was told to participate more in the fight on more than one occasion and the ref called it off after a sustained attack from Dignum and not surprisingly there were no protests from Alekandrov. A fighter of Dignum’s pedigree needs sterner tests than the one he got from Alekandrov in his fledgling professional career and will hopefully get that soon.

Dan Azeez continued his unbeaten start to the paid ranks with a win over the durable Adam Jones. Jones, a last minute replacement opponent for Azeez has never been stopped in his 34 previous losses and kept that record intact. The very likeable Azeez will no doubt be looking at title fights in the near future. Also on the undercard was the heavily supported Sammy McNess. The raucous crowd bellowed West Ham’s “Bubbles” in anticipation for McNess’ entrance but they were reduced to the occasional “Irons” chant by the forth, no doubt wishing they were back at the London Stadium watching their beloved West Ham.

McNess flattered to deceive with this performance, taking far too many shots from his opponent Petar Alexandrov, who in the third didn’t seem to be bothered by McNess’ attacks and won the round in my opinion. A fighter of McNess’ calibre and pedigree should have done much better against this kind of opposition but maybe he needs a big fight to get those juices flowing again. McNess will no doubt be looking to get back into title contention soon, maybe a fight against his MTK stablemate Matt McCarthy for an eliminator of some kind would get both men back knocking of the door of titles.

There were further wins over the distance for Boy Jones Jr, Harley Benn, Kieron Conway, Emran Hussain, Stephen Mallon Jnr, Zuhayr Al Qahtani and Mitchell Frearson who all sent their fans and family home happy after solid displays

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