By Alexey Sukachev
Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle, Tyne and Wear, United Kingdom - In a battle of domestic rivals, Paul Butler (16-0, 8KOs) shocked Stuart Hall (16-3-2, 7KOs) with a twelve round split decision to capture the IBF bantamweight title. The scores were 115-113, 117-111 for Butler and 113-115 for Hall.
It was a risk vs. reward virtual match-up, as BBBofC British, Commonwealth, WBA and WBO I/C super flyweight multi-titlist Butler risked his high ranks in a lower weight class for a chance to fight for the major title. Hall failed to prove the legitimacy of his title victory. The title had previously been worn by another Brit Jamie McDonnell, to whom Hall had lost to in the past. Hall's battle with Malinga, however, was a refresher for the fans, which couldn't be said of his cut-induced technical draw with the incapable Martin Ward.
Butler, meanwhile, enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2013, scoring five wins (three by way of kayo) and putting his name into ranks of the 115lb division. He was rated #7 by the WBC at the super flyweight limit and #11 by the IBF in the bantamweight division.
The fight itself started well for a smaller man. Hall, a notorious slow starter, failed to adjust to Butler's style early on. The younger fighter (Hall is 34, while Butler is just 25) was circling around his opponent, relying more on his jab and specifically on hard right hands. His punches penetrated Hall's defense often but he was unable to seriously hurt him. However, he created some other problems, cutting Stuey over his left eye in round five.
Hall sensed the fight was going out for him midst into the contest. He got more aggressive and also more precise. His offensive outbursts were solid and put Butler on the brink of being seriously hurt several times during the second half of the fight. Butler responded with constant moving and sticking his jab into Hall's face. However, it looked like the older fighter landed his share of meaningful blows as well as putting Butler in a not so comfortable position.
At the end, judge Dave Parris had it 115-113 - for Butler, Berit Andreasen scored the fight 115-113 - for Hall. Finally, Phil Edwards awarded the win to Butler with a more blatant score: 117-111. BoxingScene had it 114-114 - a draw.
Former amateur star Bradley Saunders (10-0, 8 KOs) performed a devastating arrival onto the world scene with a sensational first-round demolition of usually durable Finn Ville Piispanen (18-5-3, 6 KOs) for a vacant WBO I/C light welterweight title.
It took Saunders exactly 81 seconds to get the rid of ex-EBU title challenger. He did it with a horrific left hook to the ribs, which had Piispanen down and out for the count. The Finn was stopped just once before that by veteran Guiseppe Lauri and that was due to a cut. Saunders, 28, acquired his first professional title with this win.
Light welterweight Josh Leather improved his record to 5-0, with 1 KO, after a points victory over once-defeated Tommy Carus (6-2) over six rounds. Referee, who was a sole judge of the contest, had it 58-56 - for Leather.
With his legendary father now in his corner, with both Eubanks' trademark swagger and bravado, Chris Jr. extended his knockout streak to eight in a row with a powerful stoppage of Czech Stepan Horvath (12-4, 4 KOs) in round six. As always, Eubank Jr. made a knockdown fiesta out of his performance, this time limiting their number to four.
Eubank was in full control of the fight from the opening bell. Horvath, a good all-around fighter with limited abilities was trying various tricks against an elegant bad boy from Sussex but to no success whatsoever. The next generation of the Eubanks wasted several rounds for showboating, and then got to work in round four.
Horvath was hurt badly with the right uppercut by Eubank late in the fourth but managed to survive the round. His first two visits to the floor occurred in the next stanza after head shots by Eubank. He scored one more decking in the sixth, and then got the job done with a major left hand to the body of Horvath at 2:08 of round six. Eubank is now 16-0, with 11 KOs.
And the dream for a world title shot continues to live in Jamaica native Ovill McKenzie (23-12, 12 KOs), as he went on with his "Upsetter" monicker to knock out reigning BBBofC British cruiserweight champion Jon-Lewis Dickinson (15-3, 4 KOs) in two rounds with his powerful shots to the head of the beltholder, who was making his fourth defense of the belt.
McKenzie, 34, was was coming in as the Commonwealth cruiserweight champion - a title he took from Tony Conquest this April following a long stay at the light heavyweight limit as a domestic contender (his reign being ended by Enzo Maccarinelli in a rematch). Dickinson, 28, was in good shape, riding a seven-fight winning streak with both of his losses coming prematurely because of injuries.
McKenzie took the first round for a search of weak spots in Dickinson's defense. He has seemingly found something, still the end came as a major surprise. The veteran fighter has thrown a left hook coupled with the right hand that sent Dickinson crashing down. Jon-Lewis has beat the count but stumbled prompting referee Victor Loughlin to wave it off at 3:09 of the second round.