In a busy boxing weekend Britain’s Sunny Edwards topped the bill with a fantastic shutout victory over South African IBF world flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane in Bethnal Green, London.
It was widely considered going in that ‘Showtime’ Sunny was in deep against a champion who’d been undefeated in 12 years and possessed the concussive power to take the Croydon slickster out. Edwards was expected to box the night entirely on the backfoot to gain any semblance of success. This he did, but also showed respectable power when holding his ground and exchanging shots.
The first eight rounds were almost a complete shutout as Edwards literally boxed the South African’s head off. Mthalane gained a little success in the later rounds as Edwards clearly tired, but the ex-champion also appeared to feel all of his 38 years and was unable to sustain any pressure with a noticeable lessening of his punch power as the rounds progressed.
In a what promoter Frank Warren later described as a “masterclass” and “one of the best performances by a British boxer for years” Edwards gained a 118-111, 120-108, 115-113 unanimous points decision. Although maybe a tad generous, there was little argument with the middle card. It was a performance reminiscent of Joe Calzaghe’s famous victory in March 2006 against Jeff Lacy, flawless.
Edwards (16-0, 4 KO’s) had defeated an elite champion who The Ring magazine had elevated to #1 status prior to the bout. The new champion explained “I knew it would be hard. I thought I deserved to win. I hit him hard enough to keep him off me, but my God he made me work hard”. The Englishman can now look forward to lucrative defences and possible unification fights in the 8st/112lb division. Mthalane drops to 39-3 (26 KO’s) and we’ve now seen the best of him.
The Edwards-Mthalane bout was excellently supported on the Queensberry Promotion by a highly competitive international super-bantamweight contest between Irish star Michael Conlan and Spanish based Romanian Ionut Baluta.
In what was expected to be a fight to showcase Conlan’s skills the Belfastman had difficult moments throughout from the highly competitive Baluta and eeked out a majority decision 114-114, 115-114, 117-112. The latter card was far too generous, but in many ways it was an perfect workout as Conlan now seeks a championship shot. Conlan now has 15-0 (8 KO’s) as he looks to cash in on his undoubted box office quality.
On Saturday in Manchester a card that received some criticism as being on pay per view served up a women’s contest for the ages and several highly competitive fights of world significance. Top of the log was the Katie Taylor – Samantha Jonas war for the undisputed lightweight crown. Jonas the Liverpudlian southpaw and former 2012 Olympian gave The Ring magazine pound-for-pound champion all the trouble she could get.
Taylor had eliminated Jonas from the London Games prior to capturing gold and Jonas tried her heart out to level the score. In a toe to toe contest where both fighters were shaken at times it was a humdinger of a bout. All rounds were close and the Irish legend Taylor just about edged it by securing a 96-94, 96-95, 96-95 close but unanimous decision. Taylor remains undefeated after 18 bouts with 6 knockouts and Jonas drops to 9-2-1 (7 KO’s). A rematch would be a big draw and seems inevitable.
In a stacked card, top of the bill was Londoner Dereck Chisora against Irish-based New Zealander Joseph Parker. Both fighters are now perennial contenders in the heavyweight division, Parker having briefly held the WBO world title, but now just below the elite level. This was a must win fight for both going in.
In another highly competitive bout the younger Parker was dropped in first round after being caught by a big overhand right behind the ear. Quickly recovering from this, and coming through some difficult moments, he steadily boxed his way to victory over the duration of the fight. His victory was though ultimately a hotly disputed split decision, with cards returned 115-113 for Chisora and 116-111, 115-113 in favour of the 29 year old Kiwi.
Parker rises to 29-2 (21 KO’s) and will look to secure another world title shot, whilst Chisora (32-10, 23 KO’s) must gain a victory soon to remain at the top table. Never in a bad fight and a box office staple the Zimbabwe born Chisora will always be competitive until he calls it a day.
Elsewhere on the card were victories for Chris Eubank Jr against Marcus Morrison and WBA world light-heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol retaining his title by unanimous decision against Britain’s Craig Richards.
The Russian Bivol is 18-0 (11 KO’s) and thirsts for a marquee unification fight at 12st 7lbs (175lbs) with compatriot Artur Beterbiev or is prepared to drop down to 12st (168lbs) to fight the winner of Alvarez v Saunders happening this weekend in Texas. At 29, Bivol needs to move fast to cash in on his title and undoubted quality.
Other news outside of the UK was the successful comeback in California of former unified world heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz defeating respectable heavyweight contender Chris Arreola by unanimous decision. It was his first bout since losing to Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia in December 2019 and he came in over 40 pounds lighter so may now mean business.
Elsewhere in the heavyweight division is the ongoing tennis match between promoters of Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury over the much anticipated unification fight. Last week saw claims and counterclaims by promoters Bob Arum and Eddie Hearn over whether a deal had, or was near being struck. The latter being more optimistic and hinting an announcement of date and venue might be forthcoming this week. The boxing and world sporting public will hold their breath for yet another week.
One message from The Undisputed … stop p***ing about guys and get it done.
Catch up later in the week for the big Alvarez-Saunders showdown.