Venue: The Alexandra Pavilion, North London, England
Date: April 9th, 2010
The Look Back…
In a fight that was a case of repeat or revenge, one thing was certain going into this a rematch between Audley Harrison and Michael Sprott, for this the vacant European Heavyweight Championship over twelve rounds at the plush “Ally Pally”, that Sprott had the ability to measure Harrison chin wise as he had done in disposing of Audley inside of three rounds down the road at Wembley back in 2007, though Audley himself had Sprott over before the untimely finish, this was a case of who landed first but then again were we going to be treat to a laborious twelve rounds.
Meanwhile also on the bill was local man Darren Barker bidding for also a European title against the teak tough Frenchman.
Audley Harrison (Wembley) vs. Michael Sprott (Reading)
Coming to the ring to a chorus of boos from a majority who were possibly on the booze. Harrison began his love-hate relationship with Britain, and as he entered the ring, the boos could be heard clearly. It seems poor old Audley seems to be the villain of the piece each and time he steps through the ropes.
In the first few rounds it seemed Harrison (250 pounds) and Sprott were seemingly taking turns to impose their will on the other as each backed the other up.
Despite Sprott threatening with his vaunted left hook, that last time these two met, it stretched Harrison for the count, Michael couldn’t seem to make an impression when it did land, though Audley was rattled now and again it looked as though he was in more control of his senses this time around.
As the fight progressed, it was at times a fairly well paced encounter, but not exactly a fight of the year candidate, though Harrison was possibly doing enough to pull in front.
From here on, it was Sprott in the middle rounds who was outworking his man as he (233 pounds) started to fight back with good combinations that, at times, rattled Audley. Sprott was, by the tenth, taking a lead as he pulled it back on the scorecards and was clearly taking the contest by the scruff of the neck and possibly the European title by the strap.
Going into the twelve and final round Harrison trailing behind on points (Sprott on the judges cards was leading by seven rounds) needed to do something and quick. Harrison asserted himself more so but he needed to do, then he backed Michael into a corner where he landed a slashing left hook. It wasn’t thrown correctly…it was the type that a novice would throw, but it had enough behind it to send Sprott to the canvas where it looked as though there was little chance of him beating the count, let alone Harrison. Referee Dave Parris dispensed with the count and rightfully so. Sprott was given medical treatment and thankfully got to his feet gladly.
Harrison has rejuvenated his career again, and despite injuring his pectoral early in the fight, will be out now until September where there is a possible defense of his newly won crown.
Darren Barker (Barnet) vs. Affif Belghecham (France)
North London’s own Darren Barker from nearby Barnet, just a short left hook down the road from this venue, took a well deserved points verdict over the immensely tough, strong Belghecham.
In Barker’s corner was Tony Sim’s a useful pro himself back in the 80’s alongside Britain’s most famous second, Lennie Lee, who lives not far from Darren himself. So Barker was in good company corner wise as he was with the tough Frenchman.
As early as the opener it was noticeable that Darren was far the more skilled protagonist of the two as Belghecham just plodded forwards throwing some hefty hooks in the form of 10 oz leather, missing Darren by the proverbial mile.
Darren built up an early lead and seemed to take the first five rounds with relative ease as he out-boxed Affif with fast bursts of combinations as he circled the ring continuously.
It reminded me of Alan Minter when he outpointed Vito Antuofermo for the World version of this the European title back in March 1980, the aforementioned Lennie Lee, Darren’s corner man was there back in 1980.
However this was a classic boxer-fighter confrontation, still five rounds behind Belghcham wasn’t to be denied as he took everything plus the kitchen sink from the handsome looking North Londoner. It was visible that Affif was beginning to close the gap, not mathematically but strategically, as he was catching Darren now and again and making a somewhat one sided fight a bit more interesting.
I gave a couple of the middle rounds to the Frenchman (160 pounds), but Darren cheered on by his sister at the ringside who made herself heard almost every round in support of her brother, was finding his range again despite a couple of shaky rounds, as he landed straight counters, it was a little like a man trying to chip away at a mountain with a rock as the rock like chinned Affif was becoming the immovable object.
Darren in the last four rounds countered and though he took a couple for his troubles, never seemed in trouble himself as such, myself having to calm his sister’s fears with “his winning, in nine minutes time when his hand’s raised I’ll tell you I told you so!”.
In the final session Darren (159 pounds) boxed sensibly, but couldn’t budge the Frenchman, who kept up the pressure in the hope of repeating Audley Harrison’s come from behind stoppage earlier, but Barker kept boxing his man at range.
As for Darren Barker’s sister I had one thing to say to her after the fight “I told you so!” as Darren was awarded a unanimous decision, I had Darren a winner by a clear ten rounds, despite Jim Watt former WBC Lightweight Champ from 79-81 had the fight much closer in his commentary position for Sky sports who televised.
Scores were in favor of Barker 116-112, 116-114 and a more accurate 119-110 which I felt reflected the nature of the last thirty six minutes championship boxing.
Darren moves officially into World class and will encounter more tough customers as he scales the ladder to the next level in his career.
Bobby Ward (Romford) vs. Ibrar Riyaz (Reading)
Bobby Ward failed to impress as he was comprehensively stopped after three rounds on a corner retirement, by game Riyaz.
Ward who was having his fifth fight, looked terrible as he was tagged easily by the crude but strong Riyaz who made a fight of it throughout.
Bobby was easily tagged time and again and despite landing nicely to begin with, took on a ragged look about his work, however after the third session, Ward’s corner pulled there man out with just a round to go!
Both weighed 137 pounds.
Troy James (Coventry) vs. Fouid El Bahji (France)
In a hard fought encounter Frenchman El Bahji proved a stubborn test for former WBA Featherweight king Barry McGuigan protégé Troy James.
El Bahji a boyishly handsome type showed lovely movement and had plenty of polish on his shots, I must remark how he reminded me a little of Julio Cesar Chavez a little the way he was planting his shots, other than showing a great offence, he certainly showed little in defense that reminded me of the great man himself.
El Bahji got on the move in the opener as James showed good variation, but it wasn’t long before the Frenchman showed as good if not a better array of shots has he switched his attack from body to head effectively, in a closely fought opener, in the next round El Bahji (133 pounds) scored nicely with a long left hook to James chin in a round that was back and forth.
El Bahji showed again lovely work to head and body to begin with, but it was James (131 pounds) who dug his heels in and started to battle his French counterpart in there own little battle of the Somme, as they went into the trenches, a place where many a fight is won or lost.
James seemed to like it here as he was beginning to take the fight away from Fouid, who was shipping quite a few solid shots much to his dismay, where he seemed trapped though he did try and fight back, he seemed to take too many right hands and holding his left hand too low couldn’t evade James rights, as ref Green jumped in with a second remaining in the third.
Terry Dunstan (Vauxhall) vs. Hastings Rasani (Birmingham)
Dunstan was looking to impress against the Birmingham journey man, who’s fought everyone who’s anyone in the cruiser and light heavy divisions domestically.
Dunstan (204 pounds) asserted himself from the start as he doubled up his left jab that was backing up Hastings, and what with the battle in the trenches in the fight preceding this one, that reminded one of possibly a battle of the Somme. This one sure wasn’t going to be the battle of Hastings, as Rasani seemed to offer very little back as he took a burst of leather from the Vauxhall man, that had Rasani in the ropes some more. A further burst of shots, if you could call twenty unanswered punches a burst, that was more like a fusillade than anything had Rasani (192 pounds) all at sea as he was backed into a corner, where on taking a further series of leather in 10 oz form prompted the third man, Richie Davies, to dive in and stop the one sided affair after just sixty seconds of action.
Michael Lomax (Chingford) vs. Dave Ryan (Derby)
In a fairly grueling affair over six rounds at welter, part time male model Lomax had it all to do in his six rounder against Clifton Mitchell trained Dave Ryan.
Lomax (147 pounds) pressured his man in the opening two sessions and took the aforementioned rounds. Ryan held the ring’s center and did his better work from there and did more than enough to nick a round back, in the fourth back came Lomax who started to get off better with the better accuracy.
In the final session Ryan (149 pounds) came forward’s pushing back Lomax and had the last word.
Score wise I didn’t agree with the charitable mathematics of referee Mark Green who scored in favor of Lomax by 60-55. I had it closer myself.
Gavin Rees (Wales) vs. Abdoulaye Soukona (France)
Former WBA Light Welterweight Champ Rees, who was coming off of an emphatic series of points decisions to lift the prizefighter trophy last December was looking for a solid work out and got exactly what he was looking for.
From the opener to the closing round, Rees pressured and some more as he seemed that bit too strong for the athletic looking Frenchman.
Every time when in close Rees (136 pounds) unleashed his trademark bursts to the Frenchman’s midsection, as Gavin maintained a good solid pace through out, despite taking a few for his troubles, Rees wasn’t troubled.
Although it was at times workman like, Rees was getting the job done as he was mounting up the points.
Soukona (139 pounds) began to showboat in the final session, however it’s punches that win fights not fancy movements, and Rees continued to pile up the points and on the pressure, to take a well earned 59-55 decision on Davies, card.
Chris Evangelou (Enfield) vs. Marius Jasutis (Lithuania)
In front of a good sized contingent of fellow Greek’s, it was Evangelou who gave a short but explosive display to his adoring faithful who made themselves vocal in the nicest possible way.
Evangelou a British born Greek came out looking confident from the opening gong, as he backed up the feeble looking Lithuanian (141 pounds) based out of Peterborough to the ropes, before Evangelou (144 pounds) unleashed a right hand to Jasutis chin that dumped him to the canvas where he was counted out after just 49 seconds of the opener
Danny Hughes (Sunderland) vs. Paul Morris
At heavy, Hughes who had appeared last October in prizefighter and in doing so gave a great account of himself, even almost beating the eventual winner on the night, Audley Harrison, before going down from a Harrison left hand and a points decision, took on the smaller and by some sixty five pounds much lighter Paul Morris. Hughes scaled 265 pounds to Morris 200 pounds, shades of Jack Dempsey vs. Jess Willard? Yes, there the similarities ended.
Hughes naturally the much bigger guy seemed to land all manner of heavy shots that made Morris look like a combination of Tex Cobb and George Chuvalo rolled into one.
Morris stood up despite taking some hefty whacks, though he gamely fought back it seemed a losing battle though he did manage to bloody Hughes nose, who himself started to back off a little and score from long range.
As the fight progressed Morris came back into it but things progressively got sloppy, and despite winning a few rounds later on, seemed headed for defeat only for ref Mark Green to score it a draw at 58-58. I thought Hughes did more than enough to take the decision.