Scintillating Selby Thrills Capital
Michael Ward reporting from ringside.
The legendary Hall of famer Barry Mcguigan has always admitted a soft spot for Welsh boxing fans and Cyclone Promotions once again put on a thrilling bill of boxing at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena.
We saw mixed results for our Welsh fighters but everyone in attendance acknowledged they had witnessed something special and went home eagerly awaiting the next professional boxing show our Welsh prospects have been kept very busy of late and it was Cardiffs Nathan “Thunder” Thorley who kicked things off. Standing in the way of Thunders quest to take his record to a perfect 7-0 was Czech visitor Stanislav Eschner. What Thorley does particularly well is using his height and reach advantage to dominate opponents from the outside. Round 1 started exactly in this way as Thorley peppered the on rushing Eschner with his jab and combined it with slick footwork to clearly take the opening session. Eschner was coming in low with his head and was looking marked up as Thorley mixed his shots up well A right hook towards the end of the round had the Czech in big trouble but as Thorley looked to end matters the bell rang. Thorley quite rightly looked for the finish and his added aggression payed off as lefts and rights caused Referee Martin Williams to call a halt to the contest at 1.19 of the third round. Eschner finished with a badly swollen eye and a delighted Thorley remains unbeaten and will be definitely looking to land himself a title fight in the very near future.
Next up was Barry’s Jonathan O’Kelly ,who had waited longer then he had planned to follow up his win on his debut. O’Kelly also faced Czech opposition in the form of Jan Hrazdira. The bout was scheduled for 4×3 minute rounds in the cruiserweight division. O’Kelly started very well indeed showing his underrated boxing skills to dominate ring centre with his jab. Hrazdira initially offered very little as he just walked forward onto O’Kellys jabs and hard follow up hooks. Hrazdira after a Stern telling off from his corner came out more purposeful in the second round and from out of nowhere dropped the welshman with a flush left hook. O’Kelly was visibly hurt but beat Mr Carters count and showed Grit and determination to survive his opponents follow up attacks.O’Kelly had neglected his jab and movement but had recovered by now and began to assert himself again as he caught the onrushing visitor with an eye catching right uppercut.The bout had become very lively by now with both fighters looking for the fight ending shot. O’Kelly began to show excellent conditioning as not only had he recovered from a heavy knockdown in round 4 the Barry man began to dominate once again with his boxing skills and took the session by landing the cleaner shots. Referee Rhys Carters 38-37 decision in favour of Johnathan O’Kelley who is now 2-0 was spot on and The Barry Cruiserweight was sure to have learnt plenty from such a tough contest.
The tv portion of the show began with the emergence of the ultra talented WBC International Bantamweight champion Ashley Brace. Even though this was a stay busy fight while she waits for further title opportunities,Brace wasn’t given an easy opponent. Croatian Nevenka Mikulic has learnt her trade all over Europe and definitely came to make things hard for the Ebbw Vale superstar. As the bell sounded Brace started much more patiently then in her last fight, beating Mikulic to the punch with clean straight punches. The croat was trying her best but was lunging in with a crude right hand which Brace was easily countering. Round 2 didn’t get any better for the visitor as Brace stepped up the pressure landing heavy looking shots from both hands. Mikulic was showing admirable toughness but Brace forced her tiring opponent on the ropes. Mikulic landed a right hand but the contest was one sided by now. Brace showed good temperament to not take any unnecessary risks and was content to take a well deserved 60-54 points verdict from Mr Williams over a game but outgunned opponent. Next for Brace could be a defence of her WBC international title which will take her a step closer to her ultimate goal of winning a world title.
Those in attendance had arrived early to see the Eagerly awaited pro debut of one of Wales’s finest amateurs. Fred Evans who won a silver medal at the 2012 olympics was delighted to finally get in the ring, as he came to contest a 6×3 min super Welterweight contest against Belgiums Najim Fennane. There is always a question mark regarding how an amateur boxer even one with Evans pedigree adapt to the much different style of professional boxing. Evans didn’t seem at all troubled as he controlled ring centre Trying to find his range with a pawing southpaw jab. Fennane was understandably very cautious sharing the ring with a boxer of Evans calibre. A nice selection of left hands and hooks put the first 2 rounds in the bag for Evans. Fennanes best chance of getting back into the contest was a right hand over the top but Evans used his reflexes and footwork to avoid trouble.The Welshman’s work rate dipped slightly in the third as he prepared himself to go the longer distance of six rounds. Round 4 was a good one for Evans who rocked his opponent with a big right hook. Fenannanes knee didn’t touch down so Mr Carter rightly called no knockdown.Evans followed up but the Belgian survived the round. As he did the next two rounds despite nursing cuts around both eyes. Mr Carter scored 60-54 in favour of Evans. Fennane was unlucky not to get a share of a round but deserves credit for hanging tough with an opponent quite a few levels above him in terms of skill. Expect Evans to be moved very quickly through the pro ranks, he’s definitely expected to go very far.
Wasting no time between bouts. Pontypridd’s Jermaine Asare and Malik Zinad were quickly into the ring to contest a 6×3 light heavyweight bout. Asare was mightily impressive in beating Chris Nixon last time out and was favoured to win here, although Zinad based in Malta was a bit of an unknown quality which can prove dangerous. Both fighters looked confident as the bout started, it was the man from Libya who with his hands low looked very menacing, unfortunately Asare payed for his low lead hand as he was dropped from a deadly accurate right hand from Zinad. Asare was on unsteady legs and chose to exchange rather then to hold and ride out the storm. A sickening right hand from Zinad eventually put Asare down again and quite rightly Mr Williams dispensed with his count to end the contest at 2-18 of the first round. Thankfully after a few minutes and exemplary work from the paramedics Asare was able to leave the ring of his own accord.Trainer Darren Wilson thnkfully letting everyone know the welshman had no lasting damage. Zinad will be hoping for further big opportunities now while the undoubtedly talented Asare will have to talk with his team to see where he goes from here.
Barry Mcguigan soon made his way to ringside to watch one of his brightest prospects Chantelle Cameron make her professional debut against experienced Pole Karina Kapinska at Lightweight. Cameron despite just missing out on the rio olympic games lit up the amateur scene and is also a former world kickboxing champion Her team think so highly of her that an easy opponent was not brought in.Polands Karina Kopinska a veteran of 29 bouts was also the debut opponent for Irelands Katy Taylor. IF there was any pressure on Cameron it certainly didn’t show as she was straight on the front foot throwing accurate punches the best of which was a right uppercut that had Kapinska struggling at the bell.Round 2 was another excellent round for the debutant as she began to mix her work to head and body. Kapinskas body language at the end of the round suggested a stoppage could quite well be on the cards.The tough Polish lady relied on her heart and experience to see her through the next few rounds as Cameron impressed throughout displaying skills and shot selection that a professional of many more fights would be happy with. Cyclone Events have high hopes for the lady from Northampton who picked up a 60-54 points Victory from Mr Carter. Kopinska did very well to hang on and go the distance.
Going for refreshments was not an option as the atmosphere picked up to welcome hometown hero Craig Kennedy who entered the ring with Welsh Legend Steve Robinson. The vacant British Cruiserweight championship was on the line. Kennedy had often declared it was his dream to win the Lonsdale belt, However also equally determined to win the iconic title was Blackpool’s Tough and dangerous Matty Askin. It was the Kid v The Assassin and most in attendance plus the viewers at home were glued to the ring as both men were noted punchers yet possessed a certain degree of vulnerability. Round one began with both fighters attempting to find their range.Kennedy was dangerously carrying his left hand low and paid the price as Askin detonated a heavy right hand that landed flush on the Welshman’s jaw and sent him down to the canvas.Kennedy had shown tremendous heart to climb of the canvas to win in his previous bout but was in big trouble here.The kid wobbled back to his corner after taking a huge left hook from a fired up Askin. Chris Sanigar and Steve Robinson had a big task to help their fighter recover from a disastrous opening round. In the second round it initially appeared Kennedy had his legs back under him but monstrous right hands from Askins again had Kennedy on the verge of defeat. Round 3 saw Kennedy show his impressive powers of recovery as his movement returned and he managed to keep Askin at Bay with his Jab. The electric pace had definitely slowed down and rounds four and five could have gone either way as both men paced themselves Kennedy certainly looked less vulnerable and may have actually won the 5th round as Askin struggled to get back into range for his right hand. Sadly the dream for Craig”the kid” Kennedy(who fell to 16-1) evaporated as Askin(now 23-2-1) once again found his exposed chin with a right hand. Referee Mr Bob Williams reached the count of 10 which crowned Blackpool’s Matty Askin the new cruiserweight champion of Great Britain. Kennedy was brutally honest in his assessment afterwards and vowed his big fanbase that he would be back and would not give up on his dream.
The atmosphere had certainly quietened due to the hometown hero being beaten but Swanseas Kristian Touze could not let that effect him as he came to the ring for his 4 round lightweight bout with Spains Victor Villanueva. Touze was unlucky to only draw in his last fight so was eager to get back to winning ways so soon after. Touze is known for his excellent footwork but disaster struck straightaway as he walked onto a sharp right hand counter from the spaniard. Kristian didn’t look too hurt and finished the round strongly making Villanueva look very clumsy as he lunged in. Round 2 saw Touze put the flash knockdown behind him to show good movement combined with impressive hand speed. Villanueva was definitely the puncher in the fight but his wild swings found little success as Touze scored with sharp counters as the Spanish visitor struggled to cut the ring off. By the final round Touze had regained control and although very game and fit Villabuena had definitely come off second best. Reece Carters 38-37 scorecard was spot on and touze is now 3-0-1 in these early stages of his professional career.
Next up and co- headlining the show was Andre Selby a man that needs little introduction to welsh boxing fans. Despite having only 8 fights(all wins) as a professional Selby has been declared a dead cert for a world champion since his early days.The high expectations seem to have had little effect on the down to earth Selby who goes about his day to day business with absolutely no airs or graces. The Flyweight from Barry was attempting to take a step further to joining brother Lee as a world champion as he faced Nicaraguas Victor Rosales.The winner of this final eliminator bout would earn a shot at The fearsome Japanese Champion Daigo Higa. Selby has been gifted with superb reflexes and skills but shockingly paid the price for his high chin as Rosales found his range and dropped the Welshman with a right hand. The crowd were stunned into silence as Selby got back up looking more embarrassed then hurt.
Clearly Rosales had also come to Wales to earn himself a world title opportunity and it was clear how 15 of his 25 opponents had failed to hear the final bell. Selby began round 2 as if the previous round had never even happened ,getting into his groove effortlessly switching stance and catching the advancing Rosales with hooks from both hands. Rosales was still advancing and round 3 saw him momentarily staggered by a Selby right hook. Selby was always at risk with his unorthodox style often exposing his chin, However the Barry man found his rhythm and timing in the next few rounds, bewildering the brave Nicraguan with lightning fast combination punches from extraordinary angles. A lesser opponent would have lost heart by now, facing such an effective unorthodox style, but not Rosales, He had his success in round 6 as Selby began to rely on his reflexes to avoid incoming shots and got tagged maybe a little too often for comfort. Despite Rosales poker face and granite Jaw, Selby was in control of the bout and kept his concentration throughout round 7 has he scored with quality shots from the outside. Rounds 8 and 9 were very clearly all Selby has the Welshman began to enjoy his work and showcased his immense talent.Rosales game plan was clearly to pressure Selby but its much easier said then done when you are often hitting fresh air. Selby pulled out a few showboating tactics which a lot of purists frown upon but it was more a sign of the Barry fighter enjoying himself then mocking his opponent.
Rosales’s corner urged their man for one final effort but the Nicaraguans desperation played into the hands Of Selby who showed why boxing is called the sweet science by making his opponent miss and then making him pay. The crowd rose to their feet to acknowledge such a superb display of boxing from Andrew Selby, the brave Rosales was fighting to the end but had to concede a wide unanimous points loss(118-109,117-110.117-110) to a man in Andrew Selby who could well contest the fight of the year against the dangerous Higa of Japan.
A sizeable crowd stayed after the main event to watch one of Wales’s rising young starts Gavin”GG”Gwynn . Being the swing bout and having had numerous opponent changes it would have been understandable for Gwynn to start very tense. Facing Gwynne was teak tough Reading centurion Ibrar Riyaz. Not ideal for Gwynne but he began on the front foot working behind his educated left jab he has perfected working out in the famed St Josephs gym in Newport.Double G dominated the opening session and stuck to his game plan, easily avoiding Riyaz’s wild lunges. Gwynn increased his punch output in round 2 landing nice four punch combinations, splitting the Reading journeyman guard with uppercuts and hooks. Riyaz doesn’t win many but his not a man you can take liberties with so Gwynn wisely stuck to his superior boxing now reddening his opponents midsection with hooks to the body. Gwynne continued his dominance and rightly was awarded a shutout 40-36 victory to take his record to 6-0. Iron man Riyaz left the ring with a smile on his face having earn his purse and im’ sure hell be giving another prospect a valuable learning experience very soon. As for Gavin Gwynne he has high ambitions to challenge for titles in the near future and the way he’s going it will take a very good fighter indeed to stop the Treharris resident from accomplishing this.
All in all a fantastic night of boxing with mixed fortunes for welsh fighters. Back to the drawing board for Jermaine Asare and Craig Kennedy who both have the character to bounce back from Ko defeats. Wins for prospects Nathan Thorley, Johnathan O’Kelly, Kristian Touze and Gavin Gwynn, A showcase of welsh olympian Fred Evans and Women’s boxing continues its rapid rise in popularity after Ashley Brace and debutant Chantelle Cameron register solid wins. The star of the show was undoubtedly Andrew Selby who put a masterclass of boxing on, despite a late scare. to earn a shot at the WBC flyweight championship.Fingers crossed it will be in Wales
Before the Selby v Rosales fight Everyone in attendance acknowledged a ten bell toll in remembrance of those that sadly lost their lives in the recent Manchester bombing. Boxingmediauk would like to pass on our sincere condolences to those that lost their lives and their families in this terrible tragedy.
Photo credit Jon Scriven