Danny Dignum suffered the first blot on his record as his fight with Andrey Sirotkin on Saturday night’s MTK Global show in Bolton was declared a draw.
Dignum, 29, the WBO’s No 5 middleweight, did well in the early rounds, but he could not subdue the Russian, who hurt him repeatedly in the last three rounds of a hard fight.
“He was tricky, he switches, he throws punches wild,” Dignum said.
“I thought I nicked the fight, but that’s boxing. It’s not the end of the world, I’ll be back, better, stronger fitter. But it’s all part of my learning.”
Sirotkin’s only defeat had come in the UK – to John Ryder in 2-18 at super-middleweight - but he had a No 11 ranking with the WBC. He came out swinging at the first bell, although Dignum worked well under pressure and started throwing shots to the body.
The Essex boxer gained more control behind his southpaw jab in the second, but Sirotkin came roaring back late in the third round, landing a big left hook.
That seemed to settle Dignum down, though, as he used his height advantage to stick behind the jab. Sirotkin was still throwing plenty of punches, but he was starting to look more ragged and, in the sixth round, Dignum started to make him back up.
As the Russian charged forward in the seventh round, Dignum moved and jabbed. But Sirotkin had a big eighth round, as he caught Dignum repeatedly with some big hooks and was forced to hold. The onslaught continued in the ninth as Dignum seemed to run out of ideas and began to tire.
The final round went better for Dignum, though, as he kept his distance and stayed out of trouble, although he had to endure a bad cut over his left eye as well.
Howard Foster scored it 96-94 to Sirotkin, Steve Gray went 96-95 for Dignum. Terry O’Connor had it level, 95-95. Michael Alexander was the referee. The WBO “European” belt was on the line.
Dan Azeez made a successful first defence of the English light-heavyweight title with a grueling ten-round split decision over Ricky Summers.
It was a close fight throughout. For most of the ten rounds, the pair battled for supremacy with the jab and looked for openings. In the last two rounds that stood and battled.
With so many close rounds, it was no surprise the scores were close. Michael Alexander gave it to Summers by 97-95, while Steve Gray and Terry O’Connor went for Azeez by 96-94 and 97-93 respectively.
“Ricky was a good operator, he was tough, I hit him with some good shots,” said Azeez, who is now unbeaten in 13 fights. “These are the kind of fights I need. Personally, I think I am ready to step it up now.”
Azeez, 31, was giving away height to Summers, but did well with a heavy left jab in the opening rounds as both struggled to get on top. Summers tried to get his jab working, but Azeez picked his shots the better in the early stages.
Summers, who had lost a decision to Frank Buglioni for the British title in 2017, had a bit more success in the fourth as he put a bit more distance between them and forced Azeez to jump into range, while picking him off with the jab.
Things turned again in the sixth round, as Azeez got busier, but the seventh and eighth settled back into a battle of jabs, with both looking to land counters.
With the fight seemingly in the balance and both tiring, the pair tiring, the two stood toe to toe in the ninth, Summers hurting Azeez with a solid right before Azeez came back late in the round. Azeez finished the stronger too, as both battled to the final bell.
Jack Bateson recorded the best win of his career to date as he set a fierce pace and earned a hard-fought points win over Joe Ham in a super-bantamweight eight-rounder.
This was a clash of former good-class amateurs – Bateson was a mainstay of the GB squad, while Ham was a member of the Scotland team at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, alongside Josh Taylor.
Switch-hitter Bateson set the pace and boxed well, but Ham walked him down throughout. In the second round, he got close and caught Bateson repeatedly. There were times also in the fifth and sixth rounds when Ham threatened to get on top. But Bateson stepped up a gear in the last two rounds to deserve referee Steve Gray’s 78-75 decision.
“Sometimes I get a bit comfy in there, I need to be a lot stricter with myself,” Bateson said. “That was the first fight I started as a southpaw and it gave me a good platform. I probably learnt a lot tonight, but in my next fight I’ll try not to make those mistakes.
“I’ve been out of the ring for such a long time, but I have been in the gym every day. When I’m not in the gym, I’m thinking about the gym. It’s a shame that was not for a title, I am after one of those.”
Lewie Edmondson, a super-middleweight managed by Billy Joe Saunders, got his first big name on his record as former Commonwealth champion Luke Blackledge was pulled out by his corner after the second round of a scheduled six.
Back in 2016 Blackledge was viciously knocked out by a savage Callum Smith left hook in a British title fight, on a night he showed bravery beyond the call of duty. The 30-year-old has not been in contention for titles since and this was his first fight since 2019.
Edmondson, who is now 5-0, pretty much had things his own way as he boxed well behind the left jab, switching shots to head and body. Blackledge could not put any pressure on him and retired at the end of the second round, indicating he had suffered either an arm or shoulder injury. Howard Foster was the referee.
Classy southpaw super-welterweight Carl Fail moved to 2-0 as he knocked out UK-based Latvian Kristaps Zulgis in the second round.
Zulgis could not cope with Fail’s accuracy. Fail found his range in the first round and dropped Zulgis twice in the second round, the first time with a left cross, the second with a right hook, referee Steve Gray completing the count at 2:55.
Dublin southpaw Paul Ryan made a successful professional debut with a points win over Kyle Hughes in a middleweight four-rounder. Hughes worked hard but could not match Ryan’s handspeed or neater punching, but he switched off in the middle rounds and needed a decent last round to guarantee the win. Referee Howard Foster scored it 39-38.
Paul McCullagh, 21, won every round on referee Steve Gray’s card as he moved to 2-0 as a professional with a 40-36 win over Antony Woolery in a light-heavyweight four-rounder.
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.