By Terence Dooley
Liverpool’s’ Derry Matthews continued his recent run of good form by stopping city rival Stephen Jennings in the sixth round of their vacant British Masters lightweight title meeting on a packed, raucous Stephen Vaughan-promoted show at the Green Bank Sports Centre, Liverpool on Saturday night.
Both men scaled 9 8½lbs at Friday’s fiery weigh in, the opening round of their ten-threes meeting was equally as highly-charged with the two trading blows throughout. A pair of hooks to the body, left and right, sent Matthews careening into the ropes late in the round.
“I just had to concentrate on him, move the legs, move the body and switch on early because he came out all guns blazing, it worked. I felt big and strong, massive for lightweight even though I made the weight easy because I’ve a dietician and [trainer] Oliver [Harrison] in my corner,” said Matthews when recalling the early exchanges.
A solid left hook to the head in round four bloodied the nose of Jennings; the former world-class amateur was dumped to the canvas later in the session – a series of body shots forcing him to take a knee.
Jennings was not done just yet, landing a straight right hand to the chin of his rival followed by a left hook to open the fifth. Derry, though, landed a one-two, the resulting skirmish forcing Stephen to take a knee.
Another bunch of blows played havoc with the co-challenger’s tiring legs, he span wildly out of control and found himself with his back to Derry as Matthews threw a right hand. Referee Steve Gray stopped the action, deducting a point from the former British and WBU featherweight champion who promptly redressed the balance by flooring Jennings for a second time as the stanza ticked to an end.
A few had fancied Jennings for the upset prior to the fight, believing that his solid left could derails Derry’s hopes of challenging EBU 135lb boss Gavin Rees. Stephen served notice of this threat with a few big hooks at the start of the sixth. It was to no avail.
Matthews smashed home three straight right hands, forcing Gray to intervene just as the towel was thrown by the corner of Jennings. Indeed, the white cloth completely covered Grey’s head yet the hard working official managed to jump in and halt the action to hand Matthews his 29th win, 15 by stoppage against five defeats.
Jennings drops to 5-1-1 (2); the 27-year-old fought a brave, albeit reckless, fight and showed a lot of guts to come back into it after a torrid start. “People talked about Stephen as a good puncher so I think I’ve showed I’ve got a chin,” marveled Matthews, 27, as he recalled those left hooks.
“People talk about me being chinny and that but I was drained at nine stone. I feel good at lightweight so can take the shots. I think he was too eager but I take my hat off to him because he’s a good fighter. I think I showed how much bottle I’ve got. I didn’t have to take the fight but thought I could do with it. I’m delighted with the rounds under the belt.”
Adding: “I didn’t underestimate him. I knew he’d put on a good fight because he’s a battler and can come again. I’ll sit down with Oliver and prepare for the next fight. The fans are brilliant. They sold the place out and were shouting for me. We both worked hard, it showed in the performances.
“There was a lot of banter before but he’s a good friend, we had a chat afterwards. I hit him with some cracking shows tonight. I know how good Stephen. I was crapping it yesterday and Thursday because I had everything to lose.
“But I took my time, the experience showed and I can move onto bigger things. I knew he was going to throw the left hook but my boxing has changed, I hurt him with every single shot, some good body shots and even caught him by accident to the back of the head – he was tough.”
Harrison dashed away from the changing room as soon as Matthews had been checked by the doctor, the trainer keen to get home with memories of the performance fresh in his mind so he could measure his charge’s form against the recent run of European titlist Rees.
“I can concentrate on the Rees fight now. It will be in October and announced soon. Speak to Gavin and he’ll tell you the same thing, it is going to be a good fight,” smiled Matthews as he looked ahead to the mooted October 1st showdown.
Saying, “I have Oliver concentrating on the fight for now, he’s the man with the plan and I don’t have to think about anything else. Look what Oliver’s done, he’s turned my career around so I take my hat off to him and thank him a lot.”
Rees is an intimidating prospect, the Welshman is 35-1 (16 early) and a former WBA world titleholder at 140lbs. ‘The Rock’ has not tasted defeat since his twelfth-round TKO to Andriy Kotelnyk in 2008; the 31-year-old lost his world title in that one but has since racked up eight straight wins as well as the British and European crowns.
“It is an excellent fight. Gavin is a proven guy, a good, strong fighter and former world champion so I’ve got respect for him but think I can beat him. I don’t think Gavin will be as strong as Stephen was tonight. I’ve got the tools to beat him, I want to win the EBU title and move on from there,” stressed Matthews, refusing to look beyond his next assignment.
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