Ringside Report: MTK Global Contract Review
By Oliver McManus
York Hall, Bethnal Green hosted a night of high-drama with MTK Global’s Golden Contract semi-finals serving up a real treat, and the odd trick, for those in attendance.
Four featherweights and four super-lightweights battled it out for a space in the summer finals.
It was Tyrone McKenna’s clash with Mohamed Mimoune that stole the headlines with ten rounds of pulsating action. The Irishman kicked off the contest in peerless form as he looked to have gained the measure of his man from the first bell. McKenna was cool and confident: immediately firing in a triple jab as a statement of his intent.
The 29 year old judged the range of the fight perfectly over the first couple of rounds with Mimoune looking stuck in his shell. There was a good counter hook from the Frenchman in the second round to remind us of his class but things didn’t click into gear until the third round.
And in that third round things really did start to flow for the former IBO champion. Mimoune unloaded heavy shots on his younger opponent who blustered under the pressure. McKenna was getting hot and bothered but responded well to prompt an open exchange of shots. From there neither man took a backwards step and the contest ignited.
Mimoune was brash but effective with his workrate and again caught McKenna with a whack in the fourth round. He took a good few shots but kept swinging and fired in some of his own for good measure. The two men simply wouldn’t budge but with each round you could see Mimoune’s growing foothold.
The seventh round was particularly nasty for McKenna with Mimoune snapping his head back on a number of occasions at the ropes. Pete Taylor’s charge just wasn’t mobile enough and kept on getting penned in by Mimoune’s fervent body of work. From that point on there were spells of real worry in each round for the Irishman who struggled to adapt to his opponent’s ominous presence. In the tenth he responded courageously and put it all on the line in a thrilling swing-fest: it really was an incredible fight but the consensus was Mohamed Mimoune had more than enough to win.
Most around me at ringside seemed to have the French fighter winning by 97-93. Outrageously the scorecards gave the decision to McKenna by 96-94, 96-94 and 97-93: Mimoune was incensed and, referee, Victor Loughlin, bamboozled by the decision.
The second super lightweight semi-final had Ohara Davies up against Jeff Ofori: Davies having picked the Tottenham fighter with the golden ball. In the first round Davies was quite flinchy but throwing a lot of jabs in the face of a quiet, stalking opponent. Ofori was cautious and reactive in his work and took a couple of jabs as he walked in.
Ofori gradually looked to move to the inside as he looked to tie up Davies’ long, loose limbs and was doing better. Davies was still able to muscle his way out of trouble, though, and free himself up. There was a good exchange of shots in the second round but things quickly reverted to type for the third.
Ofori’s increased confidence perhaps proved to be a sticking point as he opened up and was caught by his more experienced opponent. Ofori was dropped in the third but regained his composure. With that first tangible sign of success, Davies looked to up his work-rate and the former Matchroom fighter was buoyant and timing his shots well. Ofori stuck to his guns and tucked up under the shoulder but Davies was landing clean.
A ferocious fifth saw the Tottenham boxer with a fire in his belly and Davies was forced to think. He went after the finish in the following round and swiftly got it: having pressured Ofori onto the ropes he clubbed away at his man with stinging shots and the referee, quite rightly, stepped in.
Tyrone McCullagh and Ryan Walsh got the featherweight semi-finals underway in what was best described as a tactical affair. It was typical from both men who are naturally defensive: McCullagh was shuffling on the balls of his feet whilst Walsh was fidgety with his hands.
The contest was evenly matched but not as fire-filled as the two previous lightweight contests. McCullagh started off the fight looking class and has his nose ahead: increasingly so as he grew in confidence. It was a tough fight to score but the Irishman was making Walsh miss with dazzling footwork. Having said that it was Walsh who pushed forward on the front foot and tried to create openings.
And the British champion showed the championship class and experience with a meticulous focus and concentration throughout the contest. Despite being frustrated at points he stuck to McCullagh like a slice of American cheese. The sixth round saw him come on strong and pursuing his man: McCullagh stumbled to the ropes like a slinky and hit the canvas.
Walsh had the bit between his teeth and McCullagh looked tired. The Norfolk boxer worked through the gears and was grinding away at his gutsy opponent: again dropping McCullagh in the ninth. A good performance from Ryan Walsh who overcame a tricky start to take the fight by scorecards of 96-92, 96-92 and 97-91.
The evening was closed out in electric style with Leigh Wood and Jazza Dickens trading punches for ten rounds. Wood looked in great shape as he entered the ring but it was his Liverpudlian opponent who came out hustling and looking to roll punches into the body. Wood was boxing smart and getting out of the pocket well.
Both men were fighting with confidence and Wood looked comfortable but was definitely on the receiving end of the pressure. Dickens was chipping forward and just nagging away at his man who landed a good right hook in the second round as a reminder he was still there or thereabouts.
It was a positive fight with neither man shying away from the questions posed of them: every punch landing from Wood had his noisy fans off their seats but the greater class looked to be coming from Dickens. There was a real ebb and flow to the contest and whilst it might not have been as righteously violent as previous fights it was a barnstormer of its own nature.
Each round had swings and shifts of momentum: you could see Tony Bellew getting animated at ringside everytime Wood found success. The Commonwealth champion was staying in the fight and looking composed despite being on the backfoot. The ninth round was particularly brutal for the Nottinghamshire man with Dickens hellaciously attacking his man. Wood’s eyes looked glazed and his head was spinning but he stayed in the contest. Similarly to Tyrone McKenna he left his heart in the ring with a manic final round.
Jazza Dickens advanced to the final with a, closer than expected, majority decision with cards of 95-95, 95-94 and 96-94.
The untelevised portion of the show saw four young prospects all pick up the win.
Light heavyweight Burim Ahmeti looked a little loose in technique but found his stride against Ryan Hibbert to get a debut win by 40 points to 36. Elliot Whale advanced to 2-0 with a win over, late replacement, Lee Hallett and with the Sidcup man looking lively to take it 40-36.
Inder Bassi looked eager to please and did just that with his long limbs controlling the fight against poor Zygimantas Butkevicius who took a pasting and dropped the decision 40-36. William Hamilton kicked off life as a professional by dropping, fellow debutant, John Shearer, twice inside two rounds to move 1-0 in the cruiserweight division.
Photo Credit: MTK Global