The UK boxing year got off to an excellent start with a star studded event at the Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff on Saturday (5th) promoted by BOXXER and shown live on Sky Sports.
Top of the bill in front of a partisan Welsh crowd, complete with a rendition of Tom Jones’ Delilah, was the middleweight contest between Chris Eubank Jr. and hometown favourite Liam Williams. The 32 year old Englishman dominated the contest scoring four knockdowns en-route to a convincing points victory (116-109, 116-108, 117-109).
Williams showed great heart and bravery repeatedly picking himself off the canvas and trying to take the fight to Eubank. The 29 year old Welshman had boasted of his better boxing IQ in the build up to the fight, but on the night was out thought and out fought.
After dominating the fight through the first five rounds, Eubank then frustratingly chose to coast and showboat his way to victory, losing a number of rounds over the second half of the fight but ended the clear winner. Williams bothered by a nasty bruising under his right eye simply couldn’t evade Eubank’s advances or make any lasting impact on his opponent.
It was a contest deemed as ‘must win’ for both boxers going in and Eubank (32-2, 23 KO’s) now sits on the cusp of marquee fights, either domestically against former conqueror Billy Joe Saunders, or on the world stage against one of the 11st,6lb (160lb) champions or main contenders. His immediate desire is to fight Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin but that will depend on the want of the 40 year old champion.
There’s also website gossip of a ‘catchweight’ contest between the Brighton man and top welterweight Conor Benn which would be a throwback to the epic 1990’s contests between their respective fathers. That may be some way off as Benn has immediate business at 10st,7lbs (147lbs) but it’s a mouthwatering prospect.
Williams dropped to 23-4-1, 18 KO’s and will re-build domestically before possibly competing at world level again.
Much of the hype and attention Saturday night was focussed on the appearance and excellent performance of double Olympic champion and multiple world professional champion Claressa Shields. The GWOAT – Greatest Woman of All Time acronym she promotes gained some friction with another dominant performance. Shields (12-0, 2 KO’s) defended her middleweight titles with an emphatic and at times bludgeoning of brave Slovenian Ema Kozin. Scores of 100-90 on all three judges cards confirmed her dominance.
Post fight there was a heated exchange between Shields and former amateur conqueror Savannah Marshall (11-0, 9 KO’s) which was both entertaining and fuels interest for an intended match up later in the year. This is a genuine grudge match and could sell out a number of large indoor arenas in the UK when it happens. The only potential obstacle to this will be Marshall ensuring she successfully defends her WBO ‘world’ middleweight title against Femke Hermans in Newcastle next month.
Women’s boxing is on an unprecedented high with news of a groundbreaking contest at Madison Square Garden, New York to be held on April 30 between Ring magazine #1 pound-for-pounder Katie Taylor (20-0, 6 KO’s) and multiple champion Amanda Serrano (42-1-1, 30 KO’s). A stateside announcement was made last week and the contest for the undisputed lightweight title will be officially launched in the UK by Matchroom Boxing today.
The successful debut of 21 year old British Olympian Caroline Dubois over eight rounds against Vaida Masiokaite in Cardiff on Saturday further showed the current and increasing strength of women’s boxing in the UK and worldwide. A bright future is planned and expected of the London lightweight and it will be interesting to see her develop. She has charisma, a boxing pedigree and undoubted ability.
Main stateside news over the weekend was the upset victory by late substitute Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez (15-0, 10 KO’s) to win the WBC junior bantamweight (8st,3lbs/115lbs) title from Mexico’s Carlos Cuadras (39-5-1, 27 KO’s). Rodriguez became the youngest ‘world’ title holder in boxing at age 22 and another bright future is expected from the Texan southpaw.