By Dean Parr
As crunch time approached for Scott Lawton's clash with Leva Kirakosyan for the EBU European super-featherweight title, there was growing optimism that the Stoke man could rise to the challenge and see off a faded warrior. However, his Russian foe proved he was by no means past his best, crushing the hometown man in a lopsided three round affair.
Lawton (9st 3lbs) was floored after just forty seconds of the first, after a devastating overhand right sent him to the floor. The Potteries fighter made it to his feet at the count of eight, but a bruising left hook courtesy of Kirakosyan (9st 3lbs 6oz) rocked him to the core, making Lawton look out of his depth at this level.
The second started better for the Stoke man, with him utilising his jab more, although towards the end of the round, he ended up pinned against the ropes with the Russian throwing in relentless bursts. A left hook hurt Lawton badly, and referee Soren Saugmann gave him a standing eight count. In fairness, this was very lenient to Lawton and, in reality, a stoppage looked to be the better option.
However, out came Lawton for the third on shaky legs, but it was only a matter of time before an overhand right to the temple resulted in the referee calling a stop to the action after 21 seconds of the round.
This win was resounding for the new champ Kirakosyan, now 32-5-0 (22 early) who proved he is still the massive threat that blasted Carl Johanneson and gave Michael Gomez all kinds of trouble. Even the pro-Lawton fans in Stoke applauded him as he made his exit, showing his dominance and the impression he made.
As for Lawton, this cements his status as the 'nearly man' of British boxing. While he's beaten shrewd operators at domestic level such as Derry Matthews and Martin Gethin, he's always come unstuck against the fighters of the next tier up such as Amir Khan, John Murray, Jon Thaxton and now Kirakosyan; he decreases to 27-6-1 (6 stoppages).
Norwich's Danny McIntosh (12st 7lbs) has looked a changed man since his loss to Nathan Cleverly. Gone is the exuberant arrogance of a brash, undefeated fighter, he stuck to a gameplan and got the job done to retain his English Light Heavyweight Title against Tony Oakey (12st 5lbs 6oz).
The first was fairly tentative, although 'Big Mac' used his reach well with jabs. In the second though, Danny opened up and connected with a right hook, which staggered his foe. McIntosh jumped on him until a knockdown occurred. Oakey got up, before another right hand put him down again, and this time, the veteran failed to beat the count.
Portsmouth's Oakey now drops to 29-5-1 (8 early) and it is hard to see his WBC eliminator with Isaac Chilemba materialising now. McIntosh, now 11-1 (5 KOs) may indeed take this match, and after this mature performance, he deserves it.
Stoke's Chris Edwards (7st 12lbs 9oz) became the new Commonwealth Flyweight Champion, after claiming the belt with a unanimous decision win over Namibia's Abmerk Shindjuu (7st 11lbs 10oz).
Edwards started brightly, popping in and out with fast feet and fast hands, pushing Shindjuu back with combinations. However, as the fight progressed, the African found his rhythm, and began to land counters, which culminated in a cut over the left eye of Edwards and a generally marked up face for the Stoke man.
However, the Brit managed to maintain enough control in the fight to walk away with all three judges scoring the bout 115-114 in his favour, improving his record to 14-14-3 (4 early). Shindjuu on the other hand now holds a record of 7-3 (2 KOs).
Wales' Gary Buckland (9st 7lbs 14oz) dug deep in his 'fight of the night' show opener against Olympian Sam Rukundo (9st 9lbs) to become the mandatory challenger for Lee McAllister's Commonwealth Lightweight Title.
The Tony Borg man floored his foe with a right uppercut in the first, but Rukundo composed himself well and utilised his jab and natural strength to his effect. The Welshman's workrate and body work carried him through to an excellent win though, with the judges scoring it 117-111 twice and 116-112 to the Cardiff man.
He now moves to 18-1 (6 early), while the 2003 Swedish Amateur Champion is now 15-1-1 (6 KOs).
Bury's Scott Quigg (8st 13lbs 9oz) looked phenomenal against the previously unhalted Nikita Lukin (8st 12lbs 12oz) by stopping him in the first with a sublime left hook to the body. The fight lasted just 57 seconds, and Quigg must now be knocking on Jason Booth's door for a British Title shot. He improves to 17-0 (11 stoppages) while Lukin is now 10-18-2 (3 KOs).
Martin Murray (11st 10lbs 10oz) laboured to a points win over Shalva Jomardashvili (11st 7lbs 13oz) and will be happy to have another six rounds worth of experience under his belt.
At times, the Georgian came at Murray in bursts, and was throwing decent hooks to the body. However, as the fight went on, the Prizefighter winner took over, dictated the pace and shook his opponent with solid right hooks. Terry O'Connor scored the bout 58-56 to the St. Helens man who moves to 18-0 (6 KOs). Jomardashvili, who has now lost two on the trot, now holds a record of 26-2 (19 stoppages).
'Magic' Matthew Hatton (10st 11lbs 4oz) opened the door for a potential clash with Saul Alvarez by beating Mikheil Khutsishvili (10st 9 1/2lbs) via stoppage in round five. Hatton did the better quality work, knocking down the Georgian in round three with a right straight, until the referee called a stop to the bout after 2:35 of round five as Khutsishvili's nose was streaming blood all over the ring. Hatton improved to 38-4-2 (15 stoppages) while his foe is now 13-10-2 (4 KOs).
Barrie Jones (10st 3lbs) tried his best against Craig Watson (10st 5lbs 4oz) but ultimately, the power and skill of the Joe Pennington fighter shone through.
Initially, Wales' Jones dictated the pace with his jab, but after the first session, Watson began to get through with solid overhand lefts and good hooks to the body. A left hook rocked Jones in the fourth, and Oldham's Watson jumped on him until Shaun Messer stopped the contest after 1:53 of the round. Watson's win takes him to 16-3 (6 early) whereas Jones' loss decreases his scoresheet to 16-5 (7 KOs).
Stephen Foster Jr. (9st 8lbs) struggled to a points win over the tricky Youssef Al Hamidi (9st 8lbs 2oz). As with most Hamidi fights, neither man could really find range, and no round was cut and dry. A frustrated Foster even resorted to throwing Hamidi to the floor a few times in the last round. Shaun Messer gave it to the Salford man by a margin of 59-56, but he was unimpressive. Foster Jr. increases to 26-2-1 (16 KOs) while Al Hamidi is now 6-25-2 (1 sole stoppage).
Anthony 'Million Dollar' Crolla (9st 10 ½lbs) did all that was asked of him against Jason Nesbitt (10st 7lbs 3oz) although the 40-36 scoreline that resulted was a very predictable one. After his win over Michael Brodie, Crolla, now 16-2 (6 KOs), is now ready to be moved up a level with his classy technique; Nesbitt falls to 7-103-2 (5 early).
In the show closer, Sergey Gulyakevich (9st 7lbs 6oz) beat Nikoloz Berkatsashvili (9st 7lbs 3oz) after the Georgian retired after the second session. Sergey, now 28-2 (13 stoppages) looked fluid, working behind his solid jab; Berkatsashvili has dropped to 15-5 (6 KOs).