Substance Over Style

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The return of boxing to UK soil this year has brought with it some fantastic matchups along with controversy and upsets. Last week it was heartbreak for former IBF featherweight champion Josh Warrington when unknown Mexican banger Mauricio Lara brutally dispatched him. Warrington, who did not look himself in the ring walk, fought recklessly and out of character. The perfect storm was Lara, who came with dynamite in his gloves and the ambition of an unbeaten, 22-year-old. After a rough opening two rounds with both men taking heavy shots, Warrington found himself on the canvas and unsteady legs in the fourth. Despite battling back in the fifth, Lara would not be denied, and sadly, with a combination of brave corner work and a fighters pride, the former champion found himself on the floor again in the ninth. This time for good. Badly beaten and concussed, it remains to be seen how Josh Warrington rebuilds himself. Certainly, the lack of in house support seemed to harm the fighter who draws so much from the crowd.

The chief support brought arguably a bigger talking point than Warrington’s defeat. Spanish warhorse and former world super bantamweight champion Kiko Martinez was dragged up to super-featherweight to take on prospect Zelfa Barrett. Expected to lose, Kiko forgot to read the script, and despite his noticeably smaller stature, he bullied Barrett for the majority of the contest. Fans, pundits and the Twitter world were in admiration of the 34-year-old Spaniard and expected a close but decisive decision on the scorecards. Decisive it was but in the wrong direction. All three judges voted in favour of the man from Manchester who had clearly not earned the 118-111 verdict as told by Steve grey and Bob Williams. Howard Foster scored the contest 116-113, which was more realistic, although still against Martinez. Even promoter Eddie Hearn took to the microphone on live TV to announce his disgust at the scoring.

Last night, the boxing world’s eyes were once again upon the Wembley Arena and the potential judging disasters that may arise. 

Jordan Gill took on Cesar Juarez in the opening contest, and it looked to be another bull versus matador contest. Gill, the slickster, boxed to his strengths and was ultimately too sharp for Juarez, who lost on points despite a valiant effort. Sensing the enormous national pride that Lara had instilled the week prior, it was clear that the Mexicans were not coming over to lie down. 

Robbie Davies Jnr. found out the hard way how tough an assignment against a Mexican opponent could be when he took on Gabriel Gollaz Valenzuela. In a gruelling contest that made the Merseyside man dig deep, Valenzuela prevailed by majority decision on the scorecards, winning by 96-95 according to two judges and drawing 94-94 the other. Davies Jnr appeared caught between styles and struggled to get a rhythm. After suffering a knockdown early on, he spent the remainder of the fight in the southpaw stance and clinching often. Valenzuela, who was always dangerous, allowed his opponent back into the fight at times when he could have closed the show.

Florian Marku, the Albanian King, had his highly anticipated dust-up with pint-sized powerhouse Rylan Charlton in the chief support contest to Josh Kelly versus David Avanesyan. Marku looked slick and showed depth to his game as Charlton poured on the pressure throughout. The Albanian King was much too big and strong for the man from Norwich despite having to climb off the canvas to get the stoppage victory. Charlton’s corner saved him from his bravery in the eighth round and threw in the towel. Charlton can certainly be proud of his gutsy effort. 

The main event was a true clash of style vs substance, the pretty boy Josh Kelly taking on the relentless Russian David Avanesyan in a fight that was taking place after three times being rescheduled. Both teams had been immensely confident in the build-up, and the fight was bigger than just the two men in the ring. When the bell rang, Kelly came out on the front foot, letting shots go as Avanesyan marched forward with his hands held high. For three rounds, it looked as if Kelly’s skills were going to be the decisive factor, although, behind the scenes, the Russian was putting in the bodywork to slow down the former Olympian. Behind on the scorecards, he understood that a fight is more than just looking flashy early. Avanesyan was making this a war of attrition. A nasty cut opened up on the back of Josh Kelly’s head, and the sight of blood seemed to startle Kelly and encourage Avanesyan. 

As the rounds wore on into the fourth and fifth, it was clear than Kelly simply didn’t have the power to stem the tide and, despite his flashy style, didn’t have the angles or movement needed either. In the sixth round, things got too uncomfortable for Sunderland’s highly touted prospect, and two short right hands made him touch down on the canvas in a bid to try and get some rest bite. Victor Loughlin, the referee, waved them back together, but the writing was already on the wall. A left hook and more straight right hands buckled Kelly’s legs, and he was on his hands and knees searching for an answer. Mercifully and with excellent timing, the towel came in from his trusted coach Adam Booth. Josh Kelly was given his acid test, but sadly for him, he didn’t pass. David Avanesyan, a name that all British fight fans will now know, retained his European title.

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