By Alexey Sukachev
The TBRB #3 rated welterweight in the world, Kell Brook, successfully defended his IBF crown with an easy stoppage of overmatched compatriot Frankie Gavin, who on paper looked slightly better than he was in reality. And the reality was truly harsh for the 2007 amateur world champion and 2008 Beijing Olympian (who never competed due to weigh issues). Gavin was stopped with nine seconds remaining in the sixth round.
The only problem for 29-year-old Brook, who is half a year younger than Gavin (22-2, 13 KOs), was his opponent's southpaw stance but through thirty-four victorious fights Brook has enough experience to deal with any type of opponent.
However, the British hopeful didn't start strong or quick against IBF #4 rated Gavin. Instead, Brook chose not to rush in but to wisely take his time. He was gradually increasing his pressure in every round, trying to break Gavin down mentally and physically. Gavin was answering with some stiff jabs and lateral movement in the first few rounds. He was less active than Brook but he delivered some punches of his own, even though the champion played little attention. He was also circling to his right - not the best idea against Brook, who is equally strong with both hands.
As the rounds passed by, it became obvious that former BBBofC and Commonwealth champion didn't possess enough power to shake Brook with diminutive chances to outbox him. Brook cornered Gavin several times in the fifth round and repeated the trick in the sixth, although the bout was mostly methodical and lacked fireworks.
Finally, Gavin chose to take a risk and immediately paid a price, as he caught Brook with a good shot but was countered back with a huge right hand that rocked him baldy. He was then pinned against the ropes and hit big shots until crumpling down with the referee jumping in to wave things off. Brook improves to 35-0, 24 KOs, and defends his red belt for the second consecutive time.
ON THE UNDERCARD
A champion is defined by his deeds, not by his titles. There have been questions recently asked of Jorge Linares' WBC lightweight title - one that he won the last year against little-known and lightly-regarded Mexican contender Javier Prieto. Those questions were asked tonight - not by the experts or reporters but by his mandatory challenger Kevin Mitchell - asked at his opponent's home in a brutal way.
The answer was clear: TBRB #9 Linares is a true champion with proof coming his way with three seconds remaining in round ten in one of the best British fights of 2015.
TBRB #8 and WBC #1 Mitchell, 30, was riding a six-fight winning streak (including 5 stoppages) with wins over Ghislain Maduma and Daniel Estrada in various lightweight eliminators, following his crushing loss to Ricky Burns in September 2012, his second losing effort in a championship fight. Linares was 7-0, 5 KOs, himself since back-to-back knockout losses to Antonio DeMarco and Sergio Thompson.
The Venezuelan, still 29 but defending his third title in the third weight division, was the one to start quickly, moving well, throwing combinations and looking great against a bit plodding challenger. Linares doesn't pack a single kayo punch so he hid his best blows behind pitty-pat punches in combinations. Mitchell tried to counter but was missing in the first two rounds. Things started to move his way in the third, when he finally found timing to catch Linares, not known for his durability, on his way in.
Rounds three and four were mostly for Mitchell but the real bomb was dropped by him early into the fifth, when a left-right combination sent Linares down. Dazed but conscious, the Venezuelan got up at eight and somehow weathered the storm afterwards. It was close, however, with Mitchell hitting him with everything but a kitchen sink. Referee Victor Loughlin did a great job not to intervene in order to produce yet another so-called "British stoppage".
The problem for Mitchell was his face. He was cut over his right eye after an accidental headbutt in the third and his face was rapidly puffing since the fourth. Mitchell still was better in the sixth, but Linares began to turn back the tide and looked better than his British opponent. He took the seventh, and in the eighth he was again hitting Mitchell in combos. The latter was hurt a couple of times but still standing. His offensive outbursts became increasingly more rare in the ninth, as his face was a bloody mess. Linares was once again the leading man, despite reportedly being WAY behind on the official scorecards.
Finally, in the tenth Linares caught Mitchell with a freaky right bomb that had him groggy in the corner. Mitchell summoned one last surge to throw fire back at Linares but the Venezuelan survived the onslaught, hit back, and finally dropped Mitchell in the corner from a hard combination. The brave Brit got up but was too dazed and, more importantly, looked way too bad for the fight to continue as his left eye was cut and swollen like a baseball. The referee made the right decision by waving off the fight.
Time of stoppage was 2:57. Mitchell is now 39-3, with 29 KOs, while Linares has almost identical record of 39-3, with 26 KOs. Their career directions are now opposite, however, with the British fighter losing quite possibly his last chance at a title. Linares is now the man to beat at 135lb.
There are some deeds, achievements that are purely symbolical rather than valuable. One of those - when talking about the heavyweight division - is stopping Kevin "The Kingpin" Johnson, who is now nothing more than an aging, spent fighter. "The Deed" was accomplished by rising British heavyweight star Anthony Joshua, who blitzed Johnson in two and is still to go past three with any of his opponents.
Johnson, 35, is one of those fighters known for their defeats more than their wins. Not that Johnson's losses were all that close - they weren't - but he has shown tremendous durability and ability to avoid clear punishment in those losses. The most sound example was his first loss, when he withstood offensive pressure from one of the sport's biggest punchers in history - Vitali Klitschko in his prime - and went the distance. However, his last winning effort is dated back to April 2013, and he was 0-3 going in against the 2012 London Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist.
The fight was very easy for Joshua, as Johnson immediately got into his defensive shell, firing one jab in a minute. Joshua, 25, was immediately all over him and punched at will. Finally, Johnson was forced to go down after a right hand. He was taking punishment, and simultaneously with the bell Joshua landed the last in series of hard right hands to send Johnson through the ropes. He was helped to get on his stool by his cornermen but referee Ian John-Lewis allowed it to go on.
It didn't last much longer. In round two Joshua was in grind mode, and he finally forced the stoppage at 1:22 when he punished Johnson until the referee waved it off. His record now is 13-0, with 13 KOs. Johnson, suffering his first loss, is now 29-7-1, 14 KOs.
Evgeny Gradovich's IBF championship reign came to an end minutes ago, as mandatory challenger Lee Selby of Wales showed character, class and skills, winning a technical decision over eight rounds. A question, however, was raised whether it was enough to get a major victory under somewhat controversial fight-ending circumstances. It was answered positively by a panel of judges, who scored it 80-72 and 79-73 (twice) in favor of the once-defeated Selby. BoxingScene disagrees with the outcome, scoring the fight dead even at 76-76.
IBF #1 and TBRB #8 Selby (21-1, 8 KOs) walked the entire road to a world title shot, getting titles at every stage possible and winning an IBF final eliminator against Joel Brunker with a TKO. Gradovich, aged 28 equally to Selby, was making the fifth defense of the title he won in April 2013 with an upset decision over Billy Dib.
Selby started fast, utilizing lateral movement against the slugging Mexican Russian, doing his best to avoid hooks of Gradovich. He did a finer job in the first round with his right counters, though he was also hit by left hooks of Evgeny a couple of times. Gradovich improved his game in the second to arguably get an edge in that round. Round three was close but one, who weighs in all the options, is obliged to award it to the Welshman, who was also enjoying hometown advantage. In the fourth, however, Gradovich finally tagged Selby several times and tagged him around the ring.
Round five was clearly Gradovich's, who hurt his opponent several times with his punches, both single and in combos. Oppositely, Selby upped his game tremendously in the sixth taking a clear lead and rocking Gradovich several times, specifically with uppercuts and hooks. It was the best round for either boxer in the fight, adding to that impression was a cut at the side of Gradovich's cheek, right near his right eye - as a result of accidental headbutt.
Evgeny, however, valiantly fought back and possibly took the seventh. However, Sky Sports TV crew had it 59-55, coming into the seventh, which was way off the mark but (as was later discovered closer to the judges' scorecards).
In the eighth, Selby looked better during the first minute when referee Dwayne Duarte asked ringside physician for an examination when a second cut opened up around the left eye of Gradovich. The doctor stopped the fight and sent it to the cards. Gradovich's cut didn't look that bad but it didn't matter. Time of stoppage was exactly 1:00 of the eighth round. Gradovich's record worsens to 19-1-1, 9 KOs.