JamesMcKnight reviews the biggest boxing events to take place in February 2013.
You can follow James McKnight on Twitter: @JamesMcknight83.
"A-FORCE" SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT!
On the night of February 23, at York Hall in Bethnal Green, the 29th edition of prizefighter served up a treat, with Audley Harrison topping the night off by creating prizefighter history!
In the lead up to the International Heavyweights III prizefighter tournament, Harrison was in an extremely confident and positive frame of mind. The 41-year-old has the gift of the gab of course, and, as always, was in full flow! He had every right to be confident of his chances to win the trophy though, because he won prizefighter back in 2009 and he looked in fantastic shape as he weighed in at under 17 stones. But, coming in to the tournament, Harrison had been on the receiving end of a vicious knockout to David Price. which ended in just 1 round only 4 months earlier. Many interpreted Harrison's confidence as fear, but many interpreted it as assurance, that he would put the defeat to Price to the back of his mind and would win the trophy for a second time. Of course, there was only one way to find out, and that was to see Harrison back in the ring backing his words up!
Before Harrison's quarter-final, another ex-prizefighter winner, Martin Rogan, was due up in the first quarter-final. Rogan had won the tournament back in 2009, and was equally confident of winning the trophy for a second time. Harrison and Rogan have met in the ring once before. They fought in a non-title fight over 10 rounds in 2008, not long after Rogan had won prizefighter. If they were to win in the quarter-finals then they would face each other in the semi's, so the banter between the pair during the build up to the tournament was humorous. Harrison wanted to level things up, but the Belfast Man was determined to beat him again!
Rogan's quarter-final opponent was Poland's Albert Sosnowski. The Pole had challenged Vitali Klitschko for the WBC heavyweight title back in 2010, but was knocked out in 10 rounds. Rogan produced a powerful and impressive performance. "Rogie" didn't hold back, landing bomb after bomb and eventually stopped Sosnowski in the third round. Next up was Harrison! "A-Force" came up against Denmark's Claus Bertino. The crowd watched intently, viewers at home had their eyes well and truly fixated to their screens. 33 seconds in and it was over! Harrison waited patiently before landing a perfectly timed counter left hook. Bertino was out! A stunning way to get back to winning ways for Harrison. Next up was Rogan!
In the third quarter-final was Brixton's Ian Lewison, who I might add, has the best alias around - "Lay Em Out" - Lewison had only had 8 pro fights before the tournament and was up against the vastly experienced German, Timo Hoffmann. "Lay Em Out" lived up to his alias as he proved too strong and too much to handle for the 50-pro fight German, winning in just 1 round. In the final quarter-final, the favourite was up, Travis Walker. The American fought former IBF cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek, just 5 months earlier, even knocking Adamek down during that fight. Walker though, was stopped in 5 rounds. Derric Rossy, also from America, was Walker's opponent this time round and he caused an upset as he beat Walker on points by split decision. It wasn't a great spectacle, as both Men were caught up in a lot of clinches, but Rossy produced the more eye catching work and deserved to go through. The semi-final line-up was complete!
The fight the fans anticipated was now upon them..."A-Force" vs "Rogie"
It wasn't a great fight, but Harrison's decision to box Rogan instead of going toe-to-toe with him was the right decision. Harrison used the advantages he had in height and reach to distance himself from Rogan, aiming to counter him with left hands when he came in. This served him well for 3 rounds as he won on points. "Rogie" was unable to get at Harrison and was left a frustrated Man, but he showed fantastic sportsmanship as he congratulated Harrison after his win! Harrison was through to the final!
In the second semi-final, Rossy was awarded a split decision victory over Lewison, but it was very dubious. It was clear to see that Lewison was far more aggressive than the American. Many of Lewison's punches didn't land, but many did and he took the fight to Rossy. The American did have a better 3rd round, but in my eyes Lewison did more than enough throughout and should have gone through to the final!
So, Audley Harrison was through to the final. Not many people predicted this, and I'll be honest, neither did I! "A-Force" completely dismantled Rossy in 2 rounds! That left hand, eh...that left hand! Harrison could not miss him with it. Time after time Harrison caught Rossy clean and hard. The American hit the canvas hard in the first round and was sent crashing to it again in round 2. His face was covered in blood and he looked exhausted and in pain. Referee Marcus McDonnell had seen enough. Harrison, was now, a 2-time prizefighter Heavyweight champion!
What next for Harrison? I bet some of his domestic rivals are itching to get a fight with him now. Ian Lewison perhaps? What about Dereck Chisora? Why not?
"SUGAR SHAY" CREATES HISTORY!
Ishe Smith, created history in Detroit. Michigan, on February 23, by becoming the first Las Vegas born fighter to win a World boxing title.
Smith, 34, defeated Cornelius "K9" Bundrage to claim the IBF light-middleweight title for the first time in his career. He took the title from Bundrage and shortly after the fight he broke down in tears. Smith had contemplated committing suicide around 5 years ago and it was obvious to see that winning the title meant a lot to him.
Both fighters started the fight off slowly, with Bundrage the aggressor and Smith the counter-puncher, but there was not much in the way of action until the second half of the fight arrived. A clash of styles was a main cause for this. In the 9th round, Smith landed some telling blows which seemed to unsettle the champion, even slightly hurting him. Bundrage also suffered a cut above his right eye in the 9th.
The home crowd were getting behind Bundrage as the fight approached the latter rounds. This caused Bundrage to up his work rate, but it was Smith who looked as if he wanted it more, as he showed the better work. Smith finished the fight the stronger.
The final bell sounded and Smith was awarded a split decision on the cards - 116-111, 116-111, 113-114. Smith's record improved to 25(11)-5-0, as Bundrage moved to 32(19)-5-0.
What next for Smith? Defending his IBF title should be his main concern for starters. There are of course some good fighters who will be aiming to take the title from him. For Bundrage? Well, at 39, he hasn't many years left in the sport and after that defeat he's one step closer to retirement.
Carl Frampton produced the most impressive performance of his career to stop Kiko Martinez in Belfast on February 9.
Frampton (16-0-0, 11 KO's), claimed the European title from Martinez after landing a short straight right hand in the 9th round of the contest which sent Martinez to the canvas. Martinez got to his feet but his legs were like jelly and referee Anssi Perajoki had no alternative but to stop the fight. "The Jackal" boxed effectively on the back foot when it was required and was not afraid to trade with the hard hitting Spaniard. Martinez, of course, applied constant pressure throughout the fight and was getting through Frampton's defense a fair bit, but the Belfast Man showed that he has a chin and took them all well. The finish was that more impressive because it was the first time that Martinez had lost a fight inside the distance. The 26-year-old also kept his IBF Inter-Continental belt after the win.
Frampton could very well take on Jonathan Romero next, who beat Alejandro Lopez for the vacant IBF super-bantamweight title this month. Also on Frampton's radar is domestic rival Scott Quigg, who holds the interim WBA World super-bantamweight belt. After that win over Martinez, the future looks bright for Frampton! For Martinez, well he already has a fight lined up against Damian Marchiano in April. Martinez is still only 26 remember and is certainly a match for many fighters at super-bantamweight.
REES FAILS IN BID TO SOLVE "THE PROBLEM"
Adrien "The Problem" Broner made a first successful defense of the WBC lightweight title in Atlantic City on February 16, as he dismantled a brave Gavin Rees.
Broner (26-0-0, 22 KO's), was simply too big and too strong for the Welshman, but Rees can certainly be proud of his efforts on the night. In many people's eyes, Rees took the 1st round as he started brightly, working behind his jab and landing hooks. Despite Rees' continued pressure and work rate, it was Broner who was catching him with solid shots, timing the Welshman as he got close. The American's superior skill and hand speed was very evident to see and he was catching Rees with more hurtful power shots. In the 3rd round, the Welshman was caught up against the ropes which forced Broner to let his hands go, landing many big shots. In the 4th, "The problem" landed a perfectly timed, powerful right hand uppercut which sent Rees flying backwards on to the canvas. Rees got up and traded with Broner, but the American was too slick and was timing his shots so well. Luckily for Rees, the bell came to his rescue. The Welshman's luck ran out during the 5th round though as a body shot sent him to his knees. He beat the count, but soon after, with only a second of round 5 remaining, the fight was stopped. "He was tougher than a steak well-done" said Broner about Rees after the fight.
It's certainly not the end of the road for Rees, who's record now moves to 37-2-1, based on that performance. It wouldn't surprise me if Rees' team aimed to get their Man another shot at a World title, perhaps at super-featherweight. If Rees does stay at lightweight, then he could possibly get a shot at the winner of Ricky Burns-Miguel Vazquez who fight in a unification bout for the WBO and IBF lightweight titles in March. If none of the above comes to fruition for Rees, then he's got more than enough left in the tank to take on the best the domestic scene has to offer.
For Broner, well, the World's his oyster. A possible unification bout between himself and Ricky Burns is much anticipated, but that looks increasingly unlikely now to be honest. Perhaps Broner may face Vazquez if he beats Burns. Perhaps Broner will have one or two more fights at lightweight against other fighters in the top 10 before stepping up to light-welterweight. It's inevitable that Broner will step up to 140lbs, because that's where he will truly be tested.
PETERSON STOPS HOLT!
Lamont Peterson retained his IBF light-welterweight title after stopping Kendall Holt in Washington D.C on February 22.
Peterson (31-1-1, 16 KO's), was back in the ring after a 14-month layoff after testing positive for a banned substance and looked very rusty at the start of the contest. Holt, on the other hand, looked sharp and strong and dominated the first 3 rounds taking the fight to Peterson. Peterson finally warmed into the fight in the 4th and started to back Holt up, landing power shots. Holt then hit the canvas in the 4th after Peterson landed a right hand. Holt got up which forced Peterson to go after him some more and landed a solid left-right combo as the end of the round neared. Luckily for Holt, the bell sounded. Peterson continued to apply pressure in the 5th and was landing more power shots. Holt was now finding it very difficult to find an answer to the attacks. Peterson had his best round yet in the 6th. He bombarded Holt with more power shots with Holt backing up against the ropes. Peterson was not missing the target at all, as every shot seemed to land. All that Holt could do was cover up. Peterson landed several clean and hard shots to the head and it was looking as if Peterson would knock Holt out with him still on his feet. More of the same followed in the 7th, but with Peterson going to the body of Holt. Finally, it was over. Holt was defenseless as Peterson unloaded more power shots. The ref had seen enough.
It was a mightily impressive performance from Peterson after such a slow start.
It's looking more and more likely that Peterson will face big-hitting Argentinian Lucas Matthysse next, in what would be a fantastic matchup. Hopefully that is signed and sealed soon. Next for Holt? It's tough to say. That was a heavy defeat to Peterson and it may take some time for him to recover from it.
THOMPSON STOPS PRICE!
Tony Thompson stunned the vast majority of the British public by stopping David Price in 2 rounds at the Echo arena, in Liverpool, on February 23.
Thompson (37-3-0, 25 KO's), landed a right hook behind Price's left ear which sent the 6'8" Liverpudlian heavyweight crashing to the canvas during the second round of their International bout. Price managed to get to his feet, but he was clearly not on steady legs and referee Steve Gray called a stop to the contest.
For Thompson, this has boosted his credentials. He has had two World title fights in the past, but lost them both, but a third shot isn't out of the question. Perhaps a fight between Thompson and Price's domestic rival Tyson Fury may take place in the near future. You never know.
For Price though, this is a major setback. Now 15(13)-1-0, many expected him to beat Thompson, who was seen as a stepping stone to bigger things. Big domestic fights against Dereck Chisora and Tyson Fury were in the pipeline for Price if he had got past Thompson. Price was dreaming of getting a World title shot in the near future, but that dream has not been dealt a massive blow. It's back to the drawing board for Price now. A chance to work on his defense. His chin was called into question before the Thompson fight. It's been called into question even more so now. Of course, this is a set back for Price, but as seen in the past, a defeat can lead to bigger and better things, and most importantly, that first loss can improve you as a fighter.