Talking Boxing

Interviews, opinions, features and news from the greatest sport in the world!

December 11, 2016

Highlight reel

Kal Yafai

Image credit: Matchroom Boxiing

by Shaun Brown

Where to begin?

- The crimson masked Frank Buglioni digging deeper than ever to win the British light heavyweight title?
- The brilliance of Kal Yafai who proved the better the fighter, the better the performance in becoming WBA super flyweight champion.

- Scott Quigg seemingly punching out the life out of the last 10 months before tonight?

- Dillian Whyte and Dereck Chisora providing us with the kind of heavyweight fight that would’ve looked great in the 70s and 80s?

- The worrying fact that Luke Blackledge was not pulled out during his fight with Callum Smith, and then suffering the kind of KO that made us all take a deep breath?

- Or the show stealing news at the end of it all that Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko will fight each other on April 29 at Wembley Stadium.

It was quite the night at the Manchester Arena. Two fight of the year candidates, the emergence of a major player at super flyweight and a genuine super fight announced for 2017.

The main event of Anthony Joshua v Eric Molina for the IBF heavyweight title, however, was something of a non-event. Before the first bell rang, Molina looked beaten. Not to a level of say Bruce Seldon before facing his worst nightmare in Mike Tyson in 1996, but the 34-year-old American looked out of his depth before a punch was thrown.

This was merely an appetiser to what came after Joshua put Molina away inside three rounds. The first of two knockdowns coming with a right-hand blitzing through a paper mache defence, jolting Molina’s head back so hard, one wondered if it might reset itself. What followed was a quick beating that was more formality than wonder. Second defence out the way for Joshua.

The 27-year-old Brit might have used more energy speaking to Sky Sports presenter Andy Scott afterwards and then having a pleasant chat with Wladimir Klitschko who, along with his promoter Bernd Boente, was invited into the ring by Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn to formally announce their heavyweight super fight for April 29 at Wembley Stadium.

Before those pleasantries featuring respect, smiles and some salesmanship to the crowd, there was a heavyweight fight one tier below in levelss involving Dillian Whyte and Dereck Chisora.

The build-up to this fight was immature and stupid for the large part. One broken table and a pair of slapped wrists later, this pair of Londoners went into a boxing ring to settle their differences rather than the streets, where it threatened to spill out on to before each man reached fight week.

What Whyte and Chisora provided was the kind of heavyweight slugfest that would not have looked out of place in an era such as the 1970s or 1980s. The calibre of fighter may not have matched up to many back then, but the action most certainly did.

Ringside photographers won’t be struggling for action shots as Whyte and Chisora decided to let their hands go for 36 minutes of wild action that didn’t look likely on the cards beforehand. This was two men throwing bombs at one another, a test of machismo to see who could stand the longest. If one land a big hook, the other would land a big uppercut and so on. They would exchange all sorts of punches that would’ve taken chunks out of their energy bar had it been on a video game.

Just when you thought one man was taking a breather, he would take a few steps back inviting pressure from the other before exploding into life with punches that the crowd wanted more and more of. It was gladiatorial, it was a WBC world title eliminator, it was no holds barred with boxing gloves. Whyte was the winner (wrongly in my eyes), but only just. Chisora rolled back the years to when he gave Vitali Klitschko kittens in 2002.

Whyte-Chisora screams rematch as loudly as their insults to one another pre-fight. A fight, that like Hosea Burton and Frank Buglioni would have held its own as a main event in a more suitably sized venue.

It was much earlier in the evening that Burton and Buglioni put a title, reputations and bragging rights on the line from a London-Manchester rivalry that dates back to their amateur days.

Buglioni was hustle and bustle, aggression that was effective and ineffective. Burton was a master of the old fashioned one-two. He couldn’t miss with that straight right hand down the pipe. He pressed repeat and it worked for large parts of the fight. Buglioni would dip his knees, and come in low to give the champion something to think about but that old one-two always seemed to find a home.

Their ideas of the kitchen sink were different. Buglioni’s featured taps that couldn’t be turned off, switched on at full blast that wanted to drag Burton away, but Tyson Fury’s cousin came with brains and brawn throughout the fight. It was survival of the fittest in the end. Buglioni’s face come the end was a fine shade of red. More stitches for the collection.

In the end Burton couldn’t see the fight out. Down in rounds 11 and 12, the 28-year-old ‘Hammer’ wilted under the sheer volume and intensity of Buglioni. Burton succumbed after Buglioni’s constant harassment proved too much for his rival. Down went the champion, a new one rose in the shape of a ‘Wise Guy’. 2-0 to Buglioni in a rivalry that could go on to a third fight.

Kal Yafai told us two weeks ago that he expected to do a job on Luis Concepcion. Every fighter believes that they are a one-man army that could take on the world in the build-up to a fight. The belief they have can be infectious, but Concepcion, who lost his WBA super flyweight title on the scales, was meant to take Yafai to hell and back. A trip that the now confirmed world-class talent promised to go through and come back out the other side with a world title. That he did. Outmanned, outgunned, outfought… Yafai dominated a man who was by far his biggest test to date.

Concepcion didn’t like the inside game of Yafai, he didn’t like much of anything what the 27-year-old former amateur starlet delivered on the night. Yafai could do everything that Concepcion could, but a lot, lot better. The title was vacant on the night but it was Yafai who looked like a champion on the way to fights that will leave a legacy. Might be the start of something special.

Scott Quigg had a point to prove. A 2016 to forget. Carl Frampton and a jaw injury. A mixed pair of bad results that are still in the rear view mirror but are growing smaller by the mile (or round based on tonight). Was he punching February’s defining fight and the injury out of himself? His was a soul that was likely in bad shape after Frampton became top UK dog at 122lbs.

Quigg might have saw a mix of faces and items when he was punching the fight out of Jose Cayetano. Tonight in Manchester provided the broadcasters with the kind of highlight packages that they can run for a long time. Quigg’s highlight reel knockout of the Mexican will feature prominently. The featherweight party has a new guest tonight. He didn’t gatecrash proceedings but he is asking, ‘Who is going to throw me out?’

Pick a cliché; Callum Smith got rounds in the bank, he got the win that’s all that matters… Make no mistake, the British and European super middleweight champion would have wanted to get Luke Blackledge out of his way much quicker than he did.

The fight was one-sided, domination that we expected but went on for far too long. Blackledge kept fighting, but was allowed to for a period too great by his corner and referee Steve Gray. The 10th round wasn’t expected to be seen by anyone in this fight. It shouldn’t have been for other reasons once the fight was well under way.

Smith got a YouTube KO that left Blackledge on the canvas, a worrying sight. Gasps online, inside the venue, anywhere that showed the fight. The challenger eventually got back on his feet. It was a punch he should never have took. 2016 has been a painful lesson at times. Thankfully tonight will be remembered for the good and the great that boxing can provide.