Behind the eight brawl
As the heavyweights return Adam Smith admits he has been bitten by the Prizefighter bug!
Last Updated: 06/10/10 12:29pm
With the move to Saturday nights and the re-introduction of Ringside, we were anticipating a really lively boxing season - but I can't believe quite how interesting and exciting it's already been.
From Ricky Burns' dramatic world title triumph, to the lively Magnificent Seven night, to John Murray's enthralling battle to retain his European Lightweight title; we've started with a right bang.
You can add another great event to the mix, for last weekend's Saturday Fight Night was gripping viewing and three was most certainly the magic number.
Three good fights, three great performances, topped by a stunning three-round demolition - and we're left with three rising stars.
Stephen Foster Jnr stole the show. The Salford stylist stood right up to the dangerous Leva Kirakosyan and sensationally knocked out the French-based Armenian in just over eight minutes.
It was a fabulous triumph for the unheralded and quiet Foster, who thoroughly deserves his moment, after nine rather lost professional years. The reaction from both the old Viking, Stephen Foster Snr and the crowd, was wonderful to see; it just shows how much respect people have for the hard-working former double ABA champion.
Meanwhile Joe Gallagher's a trainer in red-hot form. The Murray brothers, John and Joe, are flying and his almost weekly celebrations are heart-felt and pure. On the Bolton show, his charge Anthony Crolla grabbed a terrific win by stopping Andy Morris in seven super rounds - to become the English super-featherweight champion. On paper, Morris-Crolla was always going to be good; in reality it was excellent.
It's always refreshing when two live fights are won against the odds; especially in real style - just as Foster and Crolla managed.
Craig Lyon continued this current North West monopoly, making his first real advance. The little St Helens fireball steamrollered through brave solider Ross Burkinshaw in five action-packed rounds to capture the English Bantamweight belt. Lyon is now unbeaten in 12; whilst Brian Hughes's bright young thing Rhys Roberts made it 11-0, with a facile but still impressive win over Manuel Sequera.
Now, from the lively little men to the big boys back for the big cash prize. Yes, Prizefighter returns for the first time this season on Saturday at the home of British Boxing, York Hall, Bethnal Green. The heavyweights are the most enticing division for this fun concept and the latest bunch are ready to rock East London.
Since Martin Rogan won the inaugural trophy back in April 2008, this high-octane, fast and furious tournament has really freshened up the scene and attracted an important new fan base, outside of 'the trade'.
The eight chosen fighters have their chance of spotlight, their 15 minutes of fame and have been thrilling us over seven fights of three three-minute rounds. What unfolds are not stylistic, tense boxing matches, but more often than noy, highly-charged, highly committed toe-to-toe brawls. A different form of pugilistic entertainment all in one blockbuster night.
I adore boxing to my soul and was a little suspicious of Prizefighter at the outset. Yet, I have thoroughly enjoyed these hectic, mad nights - and cannot wait until they roll round again.
There have been stand-out wars like the final of the middleweights battle between Martin Murray and Cello Renda - and that incredibly savage meeting at super-bantamweight between Ricky Owen and Gavin Reid. Some of the most compelling quick rounds of action you'll ever see.
We've had upsets and shocks, none more so than when the cruiserweights went into battle at Earl's Court; I couldn't believe it when Dean Francis was knocked out. Tony Oakey and Gavin Rees proved they would not be denied and what about Audley Harrison emerging from the boxing wilderness to win his first real professional prize? Look where he is now! It just goes to show what Prizefighter can springboard fighters too.
The Belfast cabbie-turned-cult-hero Martin Rogan joins Johnny Nelson and I on Ringside this week as we build up to all the excitement of Saturday night.
Old, fun, and powerful warhorses Matt Skelton and Michael Sprott lead the way and could meet in a mouth-watering final, which would be their third professional clash!
Showman Ali Adams grew up training barefoot amidst the bombs of Baghdad and will fancy his chances of rumbling through the pack. There's the one-time conqueror of Mike Tyson, American-based Irishman Kevin McBride, who has 21 knockouts in the first three rounds! Meanwhile world traveller Franklin Egobi used to spar with Lennox Lewis, so he should be well-equipped to handling the furnace of Prizefighter.
Sunderland's tough Danny Hughes is back; he has the record for the quickest Prizefighter knockout - 45 seconds was all he needed to crush Neil Perkins this time last year. Hughes went out on points to Audley, but is relishing his second crack.
To complete the mix, there's Galways's Declan Timlin who's unbeaten in seveb; while Shane McPhilbin's a great character who comes from fighting stock and can bang.
Matt Skelton's the narrow favourite, and I think this competition is made for his bull-dozing style. I've heard good reports from Declan Timlin's camp - and remember. the Irish have a decent record in this with Rogan, Willie 'Big Bang' Casey, and the surprise finalist in the last heavyweight tournament, Coleman Barrett.
I'll stick with the big bear from Bedford though, despite the fact he's rather on the ancient side - somewhere between 40 and 50! So another exciting evening in store... but then that's rather becoming the norm for us each Saturday night!
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