Ringside Report: ‘Fists of Fury’
By Oliver McManus
Goodwin Boxing rounded off their season with a blockbuster of night of boxing suitably titled ‘Fists of Fury’. The two main events didn’t fail to deliver on entertainment with Nick Parpa sumptuous in his out-classing of, defending Southern Area champion, Daniel Mendes whilst Curtis Felix Jr and Conor Vian refused to take a backwards step right from the off.
Parpa entered the ring looking like a Spartan warrior that had been hand-carved by Michaelangelo to make the, still distinctly imposing and impressive, figure of Daniel Mendes look rather average. Though, it must be said, Mendes continues to defy cruiserweight logic with his unique muscular aesthetics and ludicrously languid limbs.
The challenger had been honest in the build-up in saying he expected to have to follow Mendes, a famously agile cruiserweight, so it came as a surprise that Parpa was able to dictate the distance of the fight from the outset. The 27 year old immediately invoked imagery of Mike Tyson, which he says is deliberate, with those gargantuan shoulders and constant sideways bobbing. Mendes sat comfortably in the strike zone, patient at the ropes, but Parpa was never more than a jab away as he circumnavigated the ring at will.
Mendes, who won the title against Danny Couzens in March, just couldn’t settle into the same scampering rhythm of the night and Parpa refused to allow him any moments of contemplation. The champion did snap in the early stages with little bursts of aggression as he sent swiping uppercuts towards his man but his assaults only ever lasted a couple of punches. Mendes continued to try and force a mistake from Parpa, who looked increasingly pumped up between rounds, by constantly moving his head and changing levels but Parpa was tuned in and offloaded punches at a comfortable rate.
Having said he’d felt earmarked as merely a brawler, pre-fight, this was anything but; a confident, competent boxing display from Josh Burnham’s charge.
An increase in Mendes’ mobility in the middle rounds prompted slightly more erroneous strikes from his opponent but nothing to suggest the Champion was clawing his way back into the contest. Parpa was doing more than enough to ensure Mendes didn’t make much of a dent in each round, limiting the 34 year old to conciliatory combinations at best.
Mendes did well to take the sting out of many shots and minimise the damage he took because Parpa was hooks with increasingly heavy hands as the rounds went on. Most of the time he would land on the gloves, having set the shot up with a stern jab, but when he switched it up and targeted the body he was able to find success – more digging shots as opposed to any firm wallops. The champion seemed content in taking his challenger on at his own game.
In doing so he ensured the winner was never in doubt with Parpa sticking to the game plan: dodging shots with lateral head movement whilst trudging forwards and keeping the fight within a jab’s length. A repetitive nature to Parpa’s performance, whose eye was checked twice by the doctor, but it was paying off. Tap-tapping away and interspersing more menacing shots semi-regularly with a determination to seize the moment.
From ringside it became clear around the halfway mark that NIck Parpa was doing to Daniel Mendes exactly what Mendes had done to Danny Couzens merely four months prior, refusing to allow his opponent to even think about turning the screw through a sheer determination to stick to the game plan. I think it’s safe to say Parpa proved himself to be more than just a brawler and he deservingly became the new Southern Area cruiserweight champion by a scorecard of 99-91.
The co-main event was an English welterweight title eliminator between Curtis Felix Jr and Conor Vian. Felix was a healthy home favourite but Vian had brought with him a plentiful crowd so York Hall was lively for this one, to say the least. Vian has found himself boxing to the level of his opponent in previous contests so it was expected that Felix would really bring the best out of the Norfolk-man.
The travelling fighter started off twitchily, looking to bait Felix in as he tapped away with the jab around forehead height – Felix was happy to follow suit and began to turn the contest into a shoot-out. Neither man is a stranger to a scrap and from around a minute in a scrap is what we got. Standing strong at the centre of the ring they were swinging with gay abandon; Vian from a slightly lower starting mark but he was commited to throwing from dipped knees and hyper-extending his body into the shots.
At times Felix would look set to pull the trigger on a thunderous right hand only to have to pull back slightly with Vian having stepped out of range – the Norfolk fighter using his back foot wisely to increase the gap and bide time. That was few and far between, however, and perhaps should have been utilised more effectively. Both men were generous in their workload but momentum seemed to be with Felix who teased his counterpart by holding his hands behind his back.
In a wild fight with gallant shots being thrown ten-a-penny you’d have to give the nod to Barry O’Connell’s fighter, Felix, over the opening half with the crisper work coming from him. Indeed Vian, at one stage, found himself on wobbly legs with a huge hook catching him flush; he lunged back towards the ropes and a vicious set of shots forced him to twist and tilt for protection. The sweet sound of the bell brought temporary refuge before the Lance Corporal, part of the Parachute Regiment, responded with a like for like bombardment as both fighters fought hammer and tong – willing to absorb the punishment in sponge-like fashion to apply their own pressure.
The second half proved mildly more timid but still with the temperature set to sizzling, this was an all-out barn-burner and the hay bales were alight. Felix’s shuffled movement at time dazzled and prompted confused caution from Vian who was still eager to come forward. Vian was more likely to initiate the clinch, however, and a handful of shots forced him to do so instead of taking a knee to recuperate.
How both men managed to stay upright for the full ten rounds is beyond me with their punch-output simply audacious. Felix continued to produce the more accurate work with Vian a little more erratic in their consistency but this was a true brawl with not a single backwards step taken. It was billed as ‘all action’ and it didn’t disappoint; the only slight on the fight was that it had to stop but they could have gone on all night – 12, 15 rounds, you name it. Conor Vian fought with the heart of a lion but Curtis Felix Jr was able to keep a cooler head and was more methodical in his work. Curtis Felix took it by 97-93 but talking to those around Vian after the fight, they want another slice of the pie!
Another all-action contest saw Kris Pilkington take the fight to Angelo Bevilaqua by leveraging several right hands with the full momentum of his body. Bevilaqua was on nervous ground in the first round and referee, Mark Bates was paying close attention. The onslaught from Pilkington was gutsy and he clearly knew his strengths. Unfortunately for the Northerner they were also Bevilaqua’s strengths who was giving as good as he got. Both men were seriously committed to slugging it out with scant regard for defensive fundamentals and it was an enthralling fight from start to finish. Bevilaqua just pipping it, 58-56.
Also over six was Umar Sadiq who boxed well from range with a certain Martin Theobald debuting in his corner as second. Sadiq made the most of his height and reach advantages in order to continually keep Daryl Sharp at bay. The super middleweight looked agile as he switched the levels of his attack and shifted through the gears with each passing round. A cool man with an ice cool performance. 60-54.
Slickster Youssef Khoumari boxed patiently in the third six rounder of the night, against Des Newton, with the lightweight looking particularly vicious in his attack of the body. Khoumari slipped shots into the ribcage Newton looked to extend a jab. The second round saw Newton withstand significant pressure with Khoumari pasting him at the ropes; Newton responded gamely in the third but largely found the gloves of his adversary. Khoumari was able to tee-off at the ropes for a sustained period within each and every round as he began to batter the body of his opponent but he’d always have the presence of mind to slip back into basics and not get carried away. The classy Khoumari moved to 9-0 with a 60-54 victory.
The night began with a shock as Kieran Leinster looked to advance to 3-0 against, serial loser, Victor Edagha. Edagha usually cuts a disinterested figure and he was typical in dallying around the perimeter of the ring for much of the contest. His stopped gait proved difficult for Leinster to come to grips with and he found marginal success. Leinster looked comfortable and arguably was the better fighter but the decision went against him, 38-39, to a chorus of boos. No-one looked more surprised than the visiting fighter, it has to be said.
There was no such danger for Ricky Heavens, however, who boxed clinically against his replacement opponent Tedoro Nikolov. The Bulgarian threw occasional wild shots but it was the diligence of Heavens that was rewarded, the super welterweight sticking to Nikolov like a fridge magnet to win, 40-36.
Ryan Copland was braver than most in tackling Kevin Macauley in only his second professional outing and the contest started off a tepid one. Both men loosened up in the second round and Copland found success to the body to settle any nerves. In doing so he prompted tit-for-tat aggression from Macauley, who he described post fight as “fucking tough as anything”, but the middleweight always looked confident in his own work. Copland took the decision 40-37 but boy will he have taken some invaluable lessons from it.
Dominic Felix came to the ring possessing a palindromic record of 1-1-1 and in the opposite corner stood Lewis van Poetsch in his 116th fight. Felix, now 39, fought well against the seasoned journeyman and dealt his punches in quantity. Willing to fight in the back foot for much of the contest, he was able to produce measured out shots for the most part before accentuating it with fully loaded punched that would whistle past his man. Heavy artillery in the final round put the icing on a comfortable return – 40-36.
In a contest between two unbeaten super middleweights, Bradley Spencer took on Robbie Chapman (Chapman registering his latest victory just seven days prior) and the fight was cagey. Chapman bobbed and feinted his way across the ring as he looked to remain elusive whilst Spencer opted for a more restrained approach at first. Chapman found his jab countered by a squanderous reply with neither man prepared to break their bluff but, as rounds went on, Spencer found himself the principle aggressor with more consistency and quality. Realistically the better man in a fight where not much happened, Spencer took it 40-37.
William Webber found himself in the sternest test of his career as he took on Michal Gazdik (4-3). The super middleweight dealt comfortably with the increased calibre as he stuck to the basic principles of boxing. Gazdik looked to make a fist of it, where possible, but Webber nullified any optimism with straight, alternating punches to Michal’s midriff. Webber was finding his man from the perfect distance, too, as he was able to roll his shoulders into shots for added venom. Mature from the 20 year old to win 40-36.
Following a spirited defeated out in Spain for the European lightweight title in May, Sam Smith was hoping for a quieter night this time around. Her opponent Vaida Masiokaite hadn’t read the script and was lively from the first round, though her liveliness and accuracy aren’t directly correlated. Smith was having none of it and stuck to business well, clipping her Lithuanian counterpart with some brusque right hands. Whilst I felt she had probably done enough for the decision, it was scored 38-38.
Despite the rapturous support afforded to Neon Samuels, he looked to be frozen at the occasion of his professional debut as he failed to adapt to the lunging limbs of Zygimantis Butkevicius. Butkevicius led with the head low and landed frequent overhand shots. The crowd cheered every punch, miss and clinch from Samuels – literally – but the away fighter peppered away with the better work. It was Samuels who was given a generous decision, 39-38, but he’ll need to do some thinking.
Tony Bange started well in the first but looked sluggish thereafter as Edvinas Puplauskas capitalised on his under-par opponent. Puplauskas grew in confidence and was the better man, as simple as that, to upset the apple cart and claim the victory 40-36.
Trusted with the daunting task of being sandwiched between the main events, Terry Conroy ensured Ladislav Nemeth never got a look in. Conroy, by now gaining a reputation, was relentless in his work rate and delivered an absolute pasting – the towel coming in after Nemeth took a punch in the fourth round that left him stumbling.
And with all that Goodwin Boxing were out, taking a well-deserved rest until they reboot in September but, my god, what a scintillating night of boxing that had everything – knockouts, upset defeats, tactical boxing, all-out wars, I’ll happily have whatever is in the Goodwin water because, quite frankly, I need a lie down and I was only watching!