Ringside Report: Scorecards Again Dominate the Headlines at the York Hall
By Oliver McManus
Matchroom Boxing’s year in the UK came to a close on Thursday evening. A short, snappy JD NXTGEN card at York Hall was the offering and it didn’t fall short of entertainment.
Richard Riakporhe won the British cruiserweight title in a contest marred by a bad scorecard and plenty of holding. His opponent Jack Massey came out fidgeting – his hands juddering here, there and everywhere.
Riakporhe made the necessary adjustments and was firm in his jab. They didn’t stick for the second round, however, with Massey coming out fleet-footed and increasingly aggressive. At this stage it was still an exchange of the jabs but both men were looking more and more spiteful.
Into the third and Massey was proving to be a sticky wicket. Riakporhe exploded into life with an vicious right hand uncorked from well behind the shoulder. Massey took a whack – and another, and another – but he refused to budge. His legs were wobbly yet somehow he stayed standing.
A quarter of the way in and it was all out war. The middle rounds were considerably more mellowed with the referee having words repeatedly about holding. It seemed as though Riakporhe was instigating much of it and on four occasions the ref had to intervene.
Through rounds four to seven the contested reverted to being a tetchy, jabbing affair. Neither man over committed but Massey’s fans were more vocal. “There’s only one Jack Massey” rang out as the Derbyshire man remained steadfast in his approach.
Into the eighth and Riakporhe, perhaps under the cosh, roared into life once more. He rattled away with the overhand right yet still, like the Egyptian pyramids, Massey was unmoved. One Smack Jack can take a whack.
Riakporhe was rifling shots in with damaging intent. He was looking to hurt Massey but his enthusiasm rather got the better of him. Once the shots started to flow he ought to have taken a step back and be more methodical in his finish. In attempting to topple Massey in a swarming, smothering fashion he allowed his opponent to lean on his broad shoulders.
Therafter it all seemed to fizzle. The bout was entertaining but, rounds three and eight aside, a marginal encounter. In the 10th round Massey touched the canvas; ruled a knockdown it was more likely a slip. Balancing out for one of his earlier onslaughts?
Yet more holding took place – jotted in my notes after every round. Riakporhe was awfully lucky not to have a point deducted but that’s another issue. In the final two rounds he closed out the contest nicely. He reverted back to that first round approach – adapting to Massey’s style and countering with an unyielding jab.
As 12 rounds came to a close the consensus ringside was that Riakporhe had done just enough but no-one was confident. Chris Billam Smith had Massey winning by a couple rounds; I had it 114-113 to Massey.
On the scorecards it was 115-113, 115-113 – both acceptable – and 117-111 to Riakporhe. 117-111 seemed exceptionally harsh in a nip and tuck contest. Riakporhe did well to adjust to his opponent and if he reigns in that enthusiasm, once he lands, he could be havoc for anyone.
An enthralling eight rounder saw Craig Richards and Chad Sugden slug it out to a draw. 2Slick Sugden took the bout on three weeks notice whilst Richards had been pencilled in for a British title shot in the new year.
Richards began the contest with the more effective work. He popped the jab out as Sugden looked to close the distance and work on the inside. The 25 year old responded well and remained mobile but was caught by a straight right in the 2nd round.
That shot prompted both men to throw caution to the wind and get involved. Sugden, initially, wilted under heavy body shots but returned even stronger.
The Newark fighter continually hopped inside to work up close and did so incredibly well. He tagged Richards in the third and the frenetic action continued. Both boxers went at it, dipping their knees and whirling punches towards one another.
Sugden found the greater success; despite the more marked up face. He clubbed away at his opponent and completely owned the back half of the contest – Richards seemingly getting caught in every round. An absolutely pulsating war, scored a draw, but Chad Sugden extremely unlucky not to head home the victor.
Luther Clay defended his WBO Global welterweight championship with a smooth victory over Freddy Kiwitt.
The Bracknell boxer actually started slowly out of the blocks. Kiwitt, born in Liberia, settled the quickest and was eager to double up on his jab. His jab was thrown at the flick of his wrist and had Clay looking a tad uncomfortable.
Three rounds in and the champion had found his feet. As he scampered around the ring there was a youthful enthusiasm to his punches. His gameplan was clear: target the body. It worked to great effect against Dario Morello earlier in the year.
Kiwitt was crafty and Clay a little too fervent in his approach. The older man was able to step away from most attacks. Clay had to be smart; and he was. From the halfway stage he became more varied in his output and started to strengthen his advantage.
In the sixth round he caught Kiwitt clean with a right hook. Kiwitt had his hands down, defenceless, and was left dazed as a result. ‘Pretty Boy’ did well to see out the round with Clay hunting him down.
The eighth was a good showcase for both men; three minutes of ebbing action with pockets of success for either man. Over the course of the fight Kiwitt was keener to land in flurries, with Clay more patient. As the pair relaxed the shots began to flow.
Luther Clay did well to subude an awkward foe and, despite a slow start, boxed better in every round.
A classy Kieran Conway comfortably out-boxed Craig O’Brien over ten rounds. The super welterweight contender made relatively light work of the challenge despite feisty opposition.
The pair began by exchanging jabs in a tepid opening round before things started to earn up. Conway possessed good hand speed and made sure he was first to the punch each round; O’Brien looked to punch his way forward thereafter.
Conway’s bright start followed through the rounds with O’Brien on the back foot. Northampton’s Conway was keen to reset himself and not get carried away.
The contest got fruitier around the halfway mark with the Irish boxer starting to find more success. He was throwing plenty of punches – enough to make sure some of them stuck. Conway remained mature and out of danger but proceedings certainly got livelier.
The seventh round was particularly open when O’Brien taking advantage of a relaxing opponent. He planted his feet and began to grind away at the body. Conway was looking comfortable enough but O’Brien nicked some of the later rounds. 97-94 to Kieran Conway.
Shannon Courtenay and Buchra El Quaissi played their part in a pulsating contest. The Spanish opponent came out swinging in wild, gung-ho fashion. Courtenay was backed up but able to make her miss for the most part.
In countering the ambitious swings, Courtenay landed an audacious left hook to drop her opponent. A round later and the same blueprint was executed: El Quaissi’s head spinning as she hit the canvas. All over on the fifth but not without a splash of drama or two.
Super featherweight Donte Dixon moved to 2 and 0 in sharp fashion. He stopped Vladislavs Davidaitis in the second round having rifled warning shots in the first. Having dropped his man once the finish followed soon after with more crisp, fast shots securing the stoppage.
Franklin Ignatius made a positive start to professional life. The heavyweight faced Hrovje Bozinovic and boxed patiently to control the opening three rounds. Bozinovic was biting at his mouth guard and looking for a way out; heavy hooks in the fourth saw him stopped. Fourth round TKO for Franklin Ignatius who moves to 1-0.
Photo Credit: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing