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NXTGEN REPORT: BIG BENN CHIMES AGAIN

Conor Benn blasts Jussi Koivula, Ted Cheeseman And Conway fight To A Draw

London was treated to a high standard night of boxing as the UK’s biggest players in Matchroom Promotions took a break from arena shows and delivered the goods in a small-hall venue. Bethnal Green’s York Hall, usually decorated rather modestly during a standard boxing event, looked splendid under the lights and behind the cameras, appearing every inch a venue worthy of its history and reputation.

Members of the East End boxing faithful took every opportunity to engage with the sport’s relative royalty – Spencer Oliver, Eddie Hearn, Joshua Buatsi, Adam Booth, Anthony Yarde and Mathew Macklin to name a few were regularly requested for photos on a night when high profile title fights provided quality to an audience accustomed to less salubrious boxing.

Main Events

Conor Benn produced a typical gunslinging performance to stop Jussi Koivula in the 2nd round of a scheduled 10 for the WBA Continental welterweight title. The action began immediately as Koivula looked to connect with big, swinging shots. Benn matched fire with even greater fire. After a difficult 1st round Benn stormed into Koivula in the 2nd and connected with a left hook that took the Finn’s legs from under him. A follow up assault sent him to the canvas a second time – he rose, but became trapped on the ropes, and an unanswered volley of shots prompted a fair stoppage from referee Bob Williams.

In two rounds, the complete nature of Conor Benn was on display. He is at his most dangerous, his most vulnerable, his most effective, his most erratic and his most exciting when he is going forward. Koivula, an experienced but unrefined operator, proved once again that Benn can be caught as he advances, but if you can’t catch him convincingly then Benn will repay the punishment with significant interest.

There are talks of a potential clash with Josh Kelly in the not too distant future, where Benn’s ability to get hit, stay composed and respond in kind will be put to its greatest test so far.

Ted Cheeseman kept his British Super Welterweight Title after a fierce encounter with Kieron Conway ended in a draw. Cheeseman needed a big performance after losing to Sergio Garcia last time out, and started quickly, walking through Conway’s punches to land shots of his own. The challenger was starting to mark up by the 3rd but, to his credit, rode out the storm admirably – responding well in the 4th and matching Cheeseman for pace in the 5th, boxing off the ropes and picking shots superbly.

The middle rounds were tough. Conway found his range and began to time his punches as Cheeseman the champion marched forward; bleeding from the nose but undeterred by the incoming shots. Unable to outbox the Northampton man, Ted elected to outfight him, and dragged Conway into a high work rate, a close quarters shoot out which suited him better. Scoring rounds became a matter of preference between relentless front foot pressure and slick boxing skills; both were in plentiful supply.

The championship rounds saw the Londoner, with the greater pedigree over 12, muscle his way in front on my card. The better work came from Conway but he couldn’t produce enough of it to keep Cheeseman at bay- he spent an increasing amount of time on the ropes and absorbed some spiteful looking body shots whilst there.

Kieron fought gamely until the final bell when both boxers received a standing ovation from the York Hall crowd. The official scorecards, however, were disappointing. Everyone at ringside had Cheeseman as the winner, yet surprising cards of 114-114 and a bizarre 116-113 verdict in favour of Conway saw each man take a share of the spoils. A blemish on an otherwise excellent fight.

Undercard

In a London grudge match, Craig Richards defeated Andre Sterling by scores of 117-111, 116-111 and 115-112. Both are familiar with York Hall, having competed here numerous times previously and brought vociferous support with them. Sterling made the better start, using feints and jabs to the head and body to take the opening sessions. Richards took a little while to get going, but he found his mark in the 4th after a scrappy beginning and by the 6th was using his reach to good effect. A long jab connected well, followed by big right hand that sagged Sterling’s knees. The right hand that followed dropped him heavily, and an early finish looked to be on the cards until the bell intervened.

Sterling rallied in the 7th, but was feeling the pace of the fight by the 9th, and he faded over the championship rounds (of which Richards has previous experience). Richards will go back to fighting in arenas, while Sterling will likely have a couple more fights at York Hall ahead of him before he appears under the bright lights again.

Eddie Hearn and Matchroom are clearly excited by Ohio native Otha Jones III, who produced a stunning performance to knock out Michael Horabin after 1 min 40 secs of the 1st round of a scheduled 6. Jones picked him apart mercilessly, starting behind a lighting jab before swinging some vicious hooks to the body, one of which dropped Horabin early. He rose, but was now fully aware of the gulf in class between them. The American moved forward, with every punch drawing breath from a captivated audience.

A combination floored Horabin again, at which point his corner threw in the towel, referee Kieron McCann called off the contest, and Jones back-flipped in celebration. Keep an eye on Otha Jones III; you will certainly see more of him in the future.

Charlie Frankham also gave himself an early night by stopping the inexperienced Ilgvars Krauklis in the 1st. Frankham, composed behind a sharp jab, suddenly unleashed a one-two that connected right on Krauklis’ temple, dropping him. He remained down, rising just after Kieran McCann completed the 10 count in a statement of intent that didn’t convince many at ringside. A tougher opponent is needed next for the former amateur star Frankham.

Shannon Courtenay stopped Valerija Sepetovska in the 2nd round of their scheduled 6. Shannon started quickly, and connected with a left hook that floored Sepetovska in the opener. The Latvian, out-gunned and out-matched, retreated to the ropes where another salvo of punching troubled her as the bell sounded. She tried to make the 2nd session competitive, but was caught again by a big right hand, snapping her head backwards.

Courtenay moved in, and after several big shots went unanswered referee Mark Bates called the contest off. The future is bright for the Watford prospect, although matching her meaningfully will be tricky.

Anthony Fox pulled off an upset by outpointing the previously undefeated Duane Sinclair over 8. Fox, with seven victories in his previous nine contests, pressured Sinclair from the start, who struggled to get into gear and couldn’t provide answers to Fox’s rugged inside work. He shared the spoils of the 3rd on my card, only to prompt an increased work rate from Fox, who pushed him to the back foot in the 4th where he remained for much of the rest of the fight. Sinclair was wobbled on occasion thanks to heavy overhand rights, and left it far too late to up his efforts in the final round. A 79-73 verdict from referee Kieran McCann was fair.

Reece Bellotti returned to winning ways with a TKO win over Josue Bendana, scheduled for 6 rounds. The Watford man made a fast start, with jabs and left hooks to the ribs dictating matters early on. As the fight progressed, Bellotti’s right hand – in any form – couldn’t miss, and he threw it to the head and body with equal success. Bendana stayed competitive but was fading by the half-way mark. A huge, echoing hook to the body slumped him to the canvas in the 4th, where he stayed for the duration of the count. Bellotti, who needed to impress, did so.

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