By Lee Collier
Last Friday, welterweight Matthew Hatton (10st 6¾lbs) retained his European belt with a wide unanimous decision over former world champion Yuriy Nuzhnenko (10st 6lbs) in a fight that was closer than the scorecards suggested. Hatton put in one of, if not his best, performance so far by climbing of the canvas in the first round to fight back and claim a successful first defence of the title he won back in March.
Early on in the fight Nuzhnenko set his stall by dominating the centre of the ring and attacking the body of the champion. A left hook followed off Nuzhnenko that caught Hatton flush on the chin and the Manchester fighter tasted the canvas for the first time in his career. Hatton rose early in the count but seemed a lit unsteady but found a reprieve when referee Massimo Barrovecchio give the champion extra time and sent the Ukraine fighter back to a neutral corner. Nuzhnenko sensing an early finish went for the stoppage using the same left hook to try and send Hatton down for the second time. Hatton managed to hold off the onslaught and managed to make it to the end of the round.
Hatton came out regrouped in the second round although the Ukraine challenger held the centre of the ring. Nuzhnenko seemed over reliant on the left hook yet still had some success with the punch.
In the third round the tide changed when the champion started to stamp some authority on the fight by landing some crisp combinations. Hatton’s double jab during the fourth round kept Nuzhnenko at bay before landing some clean punches before tying up the challenger to stop the left hook that worked in the first round.
The fifth round saw Hatton being quicker to the punch landing more frequently and a quality right hand caught Nuzhnenko flush but the Ukrainian stood firm. The sixth round saw a close round before Hatton went on the attack in the latter half of the round and landed a succession of right hands leaving Hatton looking comfortably in control.
The second half of the fight saw Hatton frequently beating Nuzhnenko to the punch landing some crisp combinations before frustrating the challenger by tying him up.
Nuzhnenko’s face was also by this stage showing some wear and tear from Hatton’s punches.
The latter rounds witnessed a lot of stoppages as the tape on both boxers gloves came loose. These brief stoppages seemed to knock Hatton who had a found a good rhythm by now.
In the eleventh round Hatton seemed to become frustrated by the stoppages and threw a wild right hand which missed and left him open to a counter punch. Luckily nothing came back from Nuzhnenko although the Ukrainian seemed to be doing just enough to steal the odd round.
Both fighters seemed to feel they needed the last round to win the fight as they both tried to do enough to take the last round. Both fighters had success during a close last round leaving both fighters with a nervous wait until the scorecards were announced.
Hatton needed not to be anxious about retaining his belt after judges Venciclav Nikolov, Robert Verwijs and Franco Ciminale scored the fight 116-111 (Nikolov and Verwijs) and 117-110 (Ciminale) to the reigning champion. Hatton, now 40-4-2 (15 KO’s), proved he belongs at European level with the victory and may now look to get a world title shot in the near future whilst Nuzhnenko drops to 30-2-1 (14 KO’s).
Chief support was a fight for the vacant Commonwealth middleweight title between St Helens unbeaten Martin Murray (11st 5lbs), who was fighting in his first title fight and Australian Peter Mitrevski Jr (11st 5lbs).
Murray as usual had a very focal following cheering him on, but had looked a little nervous in the build up to the fight. The opening round saw both fighters feeling each other out but it was Murray who landed the cleaner shots.
As the fight wore on Mitrevski seemed happy to back onto the ropes and egg the unbeaten Murray forward. Murray was always happy to oblige but Mitrevski held a tight defence but offered little back in exchange.
The two fighters started to exchange insults in the ring during the middle rounds which culminated in both fighters exchanging words at the end of the fifth round leaving referee Dave Parris to speak to both fighters.
Murray finished the sixth round strong landing a solid left hook after a four punch combination leaving himself in a comfortable position halfway through the contest.
Murray as per his normal style attacked the body of his opponent throughout the fight and seemed to get stronger as the fight continued leaving the Aussie challenger to become more defensive has the fight went on. Referee Dave Parris earned his money having to speak to both fighters as the fight got scrappier towards the end with both fighters constantly almost clashing heads.
In the eleventh round Murray landed a left hand which sent Mitrevski reeling back to the ropes before the Australian fired back sensing that the fight was beyond him now. During the last round Murray was ordered by trainer Oliver Harrison not to do anything stupid and the unbeaten fighter followed the instructions and coasted the last round to earn what was surely his first professional belt.
Judges Phil Edwards and John Keene scored it 120-109 to Murray whilst Howard Foster gave every round to Murray and scored it 120-108. Murray retained his unbeaten record and moves to 20-0 (7 KO’s) whilst the brave Mitrevski slips to 23-7-1 (11 KO’s).
Another unbeaten Hatton fighter in action was Bury’s Scott Quigg (8st 8lbs) who faced Scotsman Gavin Reid (8st 9½lbs) in a British title eliminator. Quigg who was coming off two first round wins faced a tougher opponent in Reid who had previously gone 10 rounds in a Scottish super-bantamweight title fight.
Quigg’s army of fans where probably surprised when the aggressive Quigg fighting in his first 10 rounder took his time in the first round boxing off the back foot. Reid seemed to be the aggressor but Quigg showed good defence and footwork to leave the Yorkshire-based Scotsman little success whilst having some success with his own right hand.
Reid, who had taken top prospect Stephen Smith eight rounds last year, seemed intent to do the same with Quigg and really tried to force the fight but the talented Bury youngster landed some powerful right hands off the back foot throughout the rounds.
Quigg entered the seventh round of a contest for the first time in his career but any chance of Reid gaining an advantage ended when a cut opened up on the right eye of the plucky Reid. Quigg then seemed to take his foot off the gas allowing Reid to have his most successful round landing a succession of three right hands.
Any respite for Reid soon ended in the ninth when Quigg landed a series of hooks and uppercuts wobbling Reid. With the contest seemingly one sided and Quigg getting stronger referee Howard Foster decided enough was enough and stopped the contest with 1:20 gone in the ninth round.
Quigg, now 19-0 (13 KO’s) looks set to fight for the British super-bantamweight title next, but with current champion Jason Booth fighting for the IBF title against Steve Molitor in September the Bury youngster could shortly fight for the vacant title. Reid drops to 6-7-1, having now lost in a British eliminator and a Scottish title fight.
Anthony ‘Million Dollar’ Crolla (9st 3½lbs) continued to press his claim for a chance to fight for Gary Sykes British crown by comprehensively beating Middlesbrough’s Chris Riley (9st 7lbs) over six three minute rounds.
Crolla picked up where he left off against Sid Razak by taking off at a phenomenal pace. Crolla had some early success when a right hand sent Chris Riley to the canvas. Riley was up on six and seemed fine but Crolla kept the pressure on to leave the inexperienced Riley with a bloodied nose and face.
Riley realising he was in for six hard rounds tried to avoid Crolla but the on form fighter kept tracking his foe and was landing with a variety of punches on the inside. Crolla’s next major success was in the fourth round when he sent Riley crashing to the canvas with a right uppercut. Riley once again beat the count only for Crolla to keep an incredible work rate up by throwing 125 punches in the round.
Crolla finished the final round landing a series of right and left hands and showed no signs of slowing down throwing over 100 punches in the final round. Full credit should go to Riley for making it to the final bell before referee Steve Gray awarded Crolla the fight by 60-52.
Crolla’s record rises to 18-2 (6 KO’s) and must surely be due a British title fight in the near future whereas Riley slips to 2-3-2.
Recently crowned Commonwealth light-middleweight champion Craig Watson (10st 2lbs) returned to fight at his usual welterweight when he faced Ghanaian Stephen Okine (10st 7lbs) over eight rounds.
Watson who has stopped his last three opponents looked like he wanted to make short work of his opponent having had to wait until after the main event to box. Watson unleashed his left hand frequently in the early rounds which left Okine wanting to hold on to a strong opponent.
Watson got his reward in the third round when a left hand dropped the Ghanaian who was on his feet on the count of five. The Joe Pennington trained fighter then seemed to load up on his shots looking for the knock out before settling back down in the fifth round to floor Okine for the second time. Okine beat the count only for referee Phil Edwards to make the right call and stop the fight as Okine seemed to want to only hold onto Watson rather than box.
Watson, now 18-3-1 (8 KO’s) can now look to getting his name back in the mix in the welterweight division after decided that light-welterweight was a step too far for him. Okine’s record drops to 11-10-1.
Blackpool’s Matty Askin, (13st 10lbs), continued his unbeaten start to pro boxing when the Brian Hughes trained fighter stopped Lee Kellett (14st 3lbs) in the opening round.
Askin came out feeling out his opponent with a stiff jab before unleashing a series of left and right hands which sent Kellett almost through the ropes before hitting the canvas. Kellett rose on eight but seemed unsteady before being allowed to continue by triallist referee John Latham. Askin then followed this up with a single left hook which floored Kellett, this time Latham dispensed with the count giving Askin the KO win with an official time of 2:56 in the first round.
Kellett, now 4-4-1, received oxygen before making what seemed to be a full recovery. The promising Askin now stands at 7-0 (4 KO’s) and looks to have a promising future.
Another Brian Hughes fighter who impressed was Rhys Roberts (9st 5lbs) who faced Mansfield based Latvian Pavel Senkovs (9st 4lbs) for the second consecutive fight. The outcome was the same second time round, with Roberts winning on referee Phil Edwards scorecard by 40-36.
Roberts looked at ease throughout opening up a cut on Senkovs left eye in the second round before reopening the cut with a solid right hand in the final round.
Roberts remains unbeaten in the pro game with a record of 10-0 but still only has one stoppage. Senkovs, trained by Matt Scriven now boxes off a 2-20-2 record.
Oliver Harrison trained Craig Lyon (8st 9lbs) impressed again with an all action display in beating Anwar Alfadli (8st 4lbs) for the second time. The St Helens based fighter won every round on Phil Edwards scorecard by 40-35, Edwards was scoring for triallist John Latham.
The wider margin was caused by a knock down in the opening round with some well-timed body and head shots. Lyon is now 11-0 (3 KO’s) whilst Alfadli is looking for his first win after nine contests (0-7-2).
Chris Keane (13st 8lbs) who was partaking in only his second fight comfortably beat former Commonwealth title challenger Hastings Rasani (14st 2½lbs) over four rounds. Keane was giving away almost half a stone to his more experienced opponent but constantly beat a gun shy Rasani to the punch.
Keane was forced to trade twice with Rasani but did enough to win all the rounds bar one which referee Steve Gray scored even giving Keane a comfortable 40-37 winning margin. Keane now stands at 2-0 (1 KO) whilst Rasani slips to 23-51-4 (16 KO’s).
Opening the show was Navid Iran (12st) in only his second fight. The Ronnie Davis trained newcomer faced Jamie Ambler (12st 12lbs) giving away 12lbs in weight.
Iran found the weight disadvantage no problems as he forced the pace against a defensive Ambler who seemed intent to survive. Iran threw constant left and right hooks but could not land a shot flush enough to floor Ambler forcing the fight to go to referee Steve Gray’s scorecard. Gray scored the fight to Iran 40-36, whose record now stands at 2-0 (1 KO) whereas Ambler is now 8-41-2.
Finishing the show was the well supported Tasif Khan (8st 7lbs). Khan who came out at almost midnight brought a large following with him form Bradford and faced the winless Francis Croes over four rounds.
Khan boxed comfortably throughout and put in an impressive performance winning 40-36 on John Latham’s scorecard to close the show off. Khan is now 3-1-2 with Croes still searching for his first win after nine contests.