So another prize-fighter event comes and goes, some say that this was the best line up of all the prizefighter series of events, I must say when I saw the line ups I couldn’t disagree, three former British champions and a host of young undefeated talent was on show.
Let me take you through the night as I saw it;
Firstly, when I arrived at the Olympia I wasn’t quite sure if the building was actually in use, a very old building that has been in use since the early 1900’s – to be honest it looked tired, however, once inside and the crowds arrived the atmosphere was electric! Perhaps due to the partisan crowd hoping to see “dirty” Derry Mathews win the prize, maybe also due to the Liverpool / Manchester rivalry that has obvious meaning in such an event where two of the big favourites emphasise that great rivalry.
Once settled into our seats we were well aware that the crowd had high expectations of Derry Mathews – they didn’t have long to wait, Matthews was first up against Jamie Spence, we are all aware what Mathews fights are like…..tear up doesn’t quite do them justice! We all know that Derry won this fight but spence give a really good account of himself, he hurt Mathews with some spiteful punches and a clash of heads cut derry badly, ever the warrior, Derry responded by upping the work rate and despite another cut won the fight comfortably, Cue huge applause from the Liverpool crowd.
Next up was Terry Flanagan against Liam Walsh, “turbo” made all of the running in my opinion and outclassed Walsh, to be fair to Liam he didn’t take a backward step but Terry was just too good for him, I had the “pleasure” of being very close to Terry’s fans and to say they were dedicated would be an understatement.
This was quickly followed up by Anthony “million dollar” Crolla who I felt before the tournament had the best boxing skills of all the participants, however I did have reservations on how he would adapt to the short format, regardless of that he faced local lad Stephen Jennings in the third quarter final.
Jennings started brightly and tried to rough the classy Crolla up, however Anthony’s jab was torpedo like and was knocking Jennings head back at will, seriously feel that Crolla has the best jab in this division in the UK, as the fight progressed Crolla took control and won the fight easily, Jennings was admirable for his come forward style but Crolla is a classy operator and dealt with it easily.
Quickly moving on to the last quarter final, which in my opinion was the most evenly matched of the four, Gary Sykes against Tommy “boom boom” Coyle, now I will admit that I do visit Hull boxing club from time to time so maybe a little biased towards Tommy, however I do feel he has the skills to compete at British title level at the moment and the talent and drive to go to European / world level, his coach Stevie Smith plays a big part in this obviously, any way I digress, back to the fight! Although a scrappy affair I do think Tommy had the better of the early exchanges and appeared to be stronger than Sykes, Gary did up his work rate in round 2&3 but for me Tommy was a clear winner, how one judge scored the bout 27-30 in favour of Gary I have no idea. That’s boxing though and Sykes was through.
So there we have the semi-finalists sorted out;
Matthews v Flanagan
Crolla v Sykes
First up was Matthews / Flanagan, remembering that Mathews had two bad cuts after his first fight I didn’t have much hope for him, nothing to do with his heart (the biggest in British boxing) but when the doctor would stop it, Flanagan went to work on Derry’s cuts straight away and the opened up easily, for me I was doubting whether Derry could actually see, Flanagan was catching him with some clean shots and it appeared Mathews was in danger of being stopped, however we know what Derry is like, he kept fighting until the bitter end despite being hit with some powerful punches, in the end Terry had too much for Mathews and won the fight on all three judges’ cards.
The second semi saw the lucky Sykes in with the gifted Crolla, I was certain that Crolla was going to run away with this after watching the quarters, how wrong was I, Crolla couldn’t really get is jab going as Gary was working hard trying to dictate the pace,I would say that Crolla edged the first round but in the end Crolla ended up cut and sykes won the last two rounds comfortably for me. I do still feel that the shorter format works against Crolla as he is more of a boxer and needs time to work his way into a fight.
So we have the finalists, both favourites are out and we have Flanagan v Sykes, unfortunately for Sykes he had a turnaround time of around 15 mins after his semi so that could have worked against him, from the off Flanagan looked steady, Sykes couldn’t really get to grips with his southpaw style, in the second however Sykes came back well with some cracking body shots, the final round was as close as you can get it with neither fighter making any real impression, some are saying Sykes should have got the decision but I feel that Terry “turbo” Flanagan was a worthy winner.
The boys from Manchester went home happy after all!