Liverpool’s super bantamweight hope Peter McGrail was taken the 10-round distance for the first time in his career by tough Nicolas Botelli at the Echo Arena..
Tokyo Olympian McGrail, one of the most promising fighters in world boxing, won nearly every second of this clash but was unable to put a stop to his opponent despite landing freely with both hands to head and body throughout.
The decorated amateur’s last outing came on the undercard of Naoya Inoue’s victory over Paul Butler in December which capped off a solid year comprising four fights and four wins.
But he and his promoter Eddie Hearn are keen to step him up during 2023 and he was back fighting over 10 rounds here with rugged Argentinean Botelli drafted in after racking up three consecutive wins in the second half of last year.
And back on home soil, McGrail seemed set on making a statement. Considered by many to be Liverpool’s best ever amateur, the 26-year-old has so far made serene progress as a professional, racing to 6-0 (5) with four of those coming here at the Echo
He wasted no time in finding his range, crashing home a number of lead left hands from his southpaw stance. He was bamboozling Botelli with the sort of angles and footwork which once earned him the nickname the ‘Scouse Lomachenko’, and the visitor’s nose was bloodied as early as the second round.
But, with his bleach-blonde hair and white shorts both soaked in blood, Botelli stayed on his feet for the full 10 and only occasionally looked especially hurt with McGrail unable to find an extra gear to force a stoppage.
Instead he banked 10 valuable rounds and won a 100-90 shutout on the scorecards of
Steve Gray, Ron Kearney and Marcus McDonnell.
Before that undefeated lightweight pair Rhiannon Dixon and Vicky Wilkinson clashed for the vacant Commonwealth title in the first fight on the main card in Liverpool.
Southpaw Dixon, 27, who is trained by Anthony Crolla, had no amateur background and just seven white-collar fights but she dominated 39-year-old Wilkinson in the early rounds, switching attack intelligently from head to body to move into an early lead on the cards.
But Wilkinson soon began to up her intensity, bulldozing forward with her head down attempting to land with overhand rights and left hooks.
In the break between the fifth and sixth rounds, Crolla instructed Dixon to get her feet close enough to land a lead hook to the body. And, within seconds of the start of the sixth, Dixon did just that, sinking her right hook into Wilkinson\s body, dropping her to the canvas.
Wilkinson managed to clamber to her feet but Dixon was straight back on her and repeated the trick with the same shot landing to the belly which left Wilkinson floored again. Up she climbed once more but referee Kearney decided to wave it off with an official recorded time of 1:06 of the sixth to hand Dixon her first belt and secure Crolla’s first champion as a trainer.
Earlier, Campbell Hatton moved to 10-0 (3) via a six-round decision victory over Germany-based Italian Michel Gonxhe.
Hatton, the son of British legend Ricky, has been used to spots far higher up the under card but was on early in Liverpool as he continues his development away from the limelight.
And it was a useful run-out for the 22-year-old, who won 59-55 on referee Mark Lyson’s scorecard. However, there is clearly plenty to work on for the youngster, who shipped a number of big shots from Donxhe, who is now 4-3-1 as a result of this defeat.
In the first fight of the night, Essex prospect George Liddard notched his second inside-distance win as a professional by stopping Daniel Przewieslik after 2:32 of the third of this scheduled four rounder.
Liddard won his debut back in November but has had to wait nearly five months for his next taste of action but made no mistakes against the Polish visitor.