By Alexey Sukachev
Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle, Tyne and Wear - You can hardly have a less satisfying first defense of a world title than a bout ending in a cut-induced technical draw. That was the case in a strange fight between IBF bantamweight champion Stuart Hall and his voluntary challenger Martin Ward, which was finished 0:35 into the second round, after Ward suffered what seemed to be just a minor gash over his right eye.
The match-up between Hall, 34, and Ward, 26, had the taste of a domestic, BBBofC-like encounter long before the opening bell. Stuey Hall, a late bloomer who kicked off his pro career at a solid age of 34, won his red belt in a classic against South African Vusi Malinga - a sorry loser of his last two title attempts. The belt had been twice vacated before that. Deducting even less credibility from the status of the bout was a choice of IBF #15 Ward as a challenger, as the latter wasn't even the best domestic fighter after all.
To his credit, Hall looked solid in a good first round, keeping Ward at bay with his jab. He was a bit more aggressive and looked to be a boss. Then - all of a sudden - the end came early into the second, when Ward was cut over his right eye after an accidental headbutt. The cut didn't look horrid, but the referee Markus McDonnell waved it off, after Ward had been taken to a ringside physician.
After this disappointing draw, Hall is 16-2-2, with 7 KOs, and Ward is now 18-2-1, 4 KOs.
Rising light welterweight Bradley Saunders (9-0, 7 KOs) showed his power once again, annihilating Scottish "Prince of Passion" Mitch Prince in four.
Saunders dropped Prince twice in the first, Mitch going out through the ropes the second time, then took some time off to showcase his boxing skills against a limited but brave opponent. Saunders got to work in the fourth, dropping Prince three more time, before a merciful stoppage was issued by the referee at 1:10 of the fourth. Prince is down to 12-3-2, 1 KO, and was stopped for the first time in his career.
Former amateur star Frankie Gavin (19-0, 12 KOs) had some rocky moments in his second defense of the Commonwealth welterweight belt but survived them and moved to an otherwise convincing unanimous decision over tough Namibian Sacky Shikukutu (18-3-2, 12 KOs) in a tactical twelve-rounder.
Shikukutu started nice and had his biggest chance in the second round, when he put Gavin down with a left hand. The British fighter got up, shrugged off and continued to do what he does the best - boxing his opponent's ears off. The latter wasn't an easy work, however. Shikukutu, physically strong and willing, forced Gavin to work outside, using his jab to prevent Shikukutu coming into the close quarters and also used his uppercut to an extent. The Namibian wasn't active enough and lacked finesse in his work.
As rounds progressed, Shikukutu got a bit worn down, decreased his already poor punch output, and WBA #4 / WBO #5 welterweight Gavin started to shine against a fading opponent. Shikukutu has never been in danger of being rocked but was clearly outboxed, and that was confirmed by the scorecards: 117-111, 118-109 and 119-109 - for Gavin. BoxingScene had it 117-110 - also for the Brit.
BBBofC British cruiserweight champion Jon-Lewis Dickinson (15-2, 4 KOs) came back to the ring after almost a year out of it and impressively stopped upset-minded challenger Neil Dawson (12-3, 5 KOs) at 2:33 of the tenth round.
Dickinson, who was making the third defense of his belt, kicked off the fight fast enough to trouble a notorious slow-starter in Dawson. The latter, while being a bigger of the two, was also much slower than his opponent. Relying much on his big punch, Dawson tried to press the champion but just couldn't find his distance and a moment to catch a quicker fighter.
The difference between the two got specifically striking in the midst of the fight, as Dawson continued to take more and more punishment. Dickinson hurt him badly with a big left haymaker at the end of the ninth. but Dawson survived. Not for long though. Midst into the next stanza, Dickinson hurt him repeatedly, pinned to the ropes and unloaded a series of barely answered punches, finally putting Dawson down. Neil has got up but looked to be in condition bad enough for referee Phil Edwards to stop it.
Comebacking former world heavyweight title challenger "Fast" Eddie Chambers (37-4, 19 KOs) got his first win in three years and made it look easy against hulking but bitterly overmatched Czech journeyman Tomas Mrazek (9-46-6, 5 KOs). Chambers, who has turned 32 tonight, stopped Mrazek with 25 seconds left in the sixth and final round.
Chambers, who lost in 2012 to Tomasz Adamek and then in 2013 to Thabiso Mchunu, has been outjabbing the plodding Czech for all six rounds, adding damaging series of power punches at will. Mrazek was repeatedly hurt, totally disoriented and unfit to give fits to Chambers. However, he lasted well into the sixth and was prematurely stopped by the referee on a questionably shut eye, despite vigorously fighting back.
The American, who is trained by Peter Fury, was approached by none other than Tyson Fury afterwards, who congratulated him on his birthday with a cake and a couple of jokes.