By Alexey Sukachev
Olympia, Liverpool, Merseyside - Four fighters, four undefeated records, including 23-0 WBO #4 Bethel Ushona and 11-0 young gun Ronnie Heffron. All of them were on the ledger of also-undefeated Commonwealth welterweight champion Denton Vassell, coming into his fourth defense of the title. The fifth time was no charm for the Manchester native as he was convincingly defeated with the seventh-round injury-induced TKO by a better man - still-unbeated former amateur star and 2008 Beijing Olympian Frankie Gavin (16-0, 12 KOs).
WBO #9 and the BBBofC champion Gavin (16-0, 12 KOs) fought Vassell in an all-British welterweight unification, seeking arguments to be considered the best 147lber in the United Kingdom - a tough task, when such names as Kell Brook or Amir Khan are included in the mix. There was no Khan or Brook in the ring, and it helped the Birmingham southpaw.
The 2007 world champion chose to fight defensively, relying mostly on his jab. Stockier but more powerful Vassell tried to break in, searching a spot for his digging right hand to the body. In the first two rounds he got no success, Gavin feeding him with jabs and catching him off-balance. Vassell engaged more in the third, and the next couple of rounds was relatively even, Vassell having success with his activity, and Gavin looking a superior technician with his skills.
Vassell had a very big round in the fifth, rocking Gavin with a straight right hand at the end of the stanza. In the sixth and in the seventh, however, Gavin came back brilliantly, fooling Vassell, forcing him to be outjabbed and outbalanced. Denton had just a couple of adequate answers - not enough to prevent Gavin from winning these rounds confidently. After the end of the seventh, the ringside doctor examined Vassell's presumably broken jaw and implored referee Howard John Foster to wave the fight off. Vassell is now 20-1, with 10 KOs... And the new British and Commonwealth welterweight champion - Frankie Gavin!
Too early to tell at this point, but it looks like Liverpool has a little gem to yell about in BBBofC and the Commonwealth super flyweight beltholder Pul Butler. Moments ago the "Baby-faced Assassin" scored a dominating fourth-round TKO over the Wales-based Iraq import Najah Ali (5-4-1, 1 KOs), a late but willy sub, to retain his rainbow belt for the first time.
Butler, 24, dropped shorter Ali with one of his first punches - a left counter on Ali's way in - just ten seconds into the fight. Ali got up and fought valiantly, trying to connect to the Butler's body, and even had some success in rounds two and three. It was just a blurred vision, however, a mirage, which was scattered promptly in the fourth. Butler landed a beautiful combination of three left hooks - two to the head and one, the most damaging, to the rib cage. Ali went down in pain and was counted out at 2:03 of the fourth round. Butler is said to be back less than a month after this win - on the undercard of Chisora vs. Scott showdown in a quest for a vacant WBO I/C 115lb title.
Former amateur standout and Paul Smith's younger brother Stephen made a very short work over super featherweight Eddie Nesbitt (3-3, 2 KOs), blowing him out with a combination of punches at 2:54 of the very first round. Smith, whose only loss, came off the hands of capable world-rated Lee Selby, is now 16-1, 9 KOs, with three of his last four rounds ending in the first round.
Light middleweight, Liam Smith (14-0-1, 5 KOs), another of the fighting Smith brothers, scored a convincing decision over rugged former national contender Max Maxwell (16-20-3, 3 KOs) over six with a single scorecard reading as 60-54 - in his favour.
Hindered by injuries and related surgeries local middleweight Joe Selkirk (11-0, 5 KOs), 27, came back to the ring for the first time in 2013 and pounded out an uneventful six-round decision over professional loser Kieron Gray (5-18-1, 1 KO). The sole score by Phil Edwards was 60-54.
Joe Murray (14-0, 5 KOs), a former amateur star from Liverpool and the younger brother of perennial lightweight contender John Murray, barely overcame resistance of the ultra tough and very determined journeyman Dan Naylor to score a close decision over eight hard-fought super featherweight rounds. Naylor, whose pitiful record 4-17-2, with no KOs, tells little of his toughness and underestimated ability, forced 2007 Chicago silver medalist to work at his full potential and looked better in the closing rounds. Referee, the sole judge of the fight had it 78-75 - for Murray, while BoxingScene had it 77-75 - also for Murray, who is in bad need to improve his game if he wants to succeed at a higher level.