Anish Parekh is reporting live at ringside at the Saunders vs Isufi event in Stevenage on May 18.
Fight #1 – 15:30 hrs
4 X 3 Minute Rounds Middleweight Contest
CONNOR WRIGHT (8-0) V OWEN JUBBURN (5-4-2)
'Wrighty', 22 from Milton Keynes, kicked off the card with a shutourt points win over Midlands Area title contender Jubburn to move up to 8-0. Despite the away fighter's checkered record, the 29-year-old from Stoke-on-Trent hadn’t lost a fight this year, so it was a good win for Wright, who marches on unbeaten.
4 X 3 Minute Rounds Super-Middleweight Contest
GRAHAM TIRRELL (10-0) V SCOTT HILLMAN (0-42)
The heavily tattoed 'Tyson' Tirrell successfully continued the theme Connor Wright set by also scoring a shoutout points victory. The 33-year-old from Hitchin won 40-36 over the reliable Scott Hillman.
8 X 3 Minute Rounds International Super-Welterweight Contest
BALAZS BACSKAI (10-0) V DAVI ELIASQUEVICI (14-9-1)
After eight punishing rounds with both fighters breathing heavily and looking weary, it was Bacskai who came away with the well deserved decision.
They went to war in a battle of will over skill but as the fight wore on, it was the Hungarian who was able to show his superior ability. Despite Eliasquevici battling hard, 'Benji' always had the final say during exchanges. This was punctuated in the seventh round with two knockdowns and a comprehensive 80-70 scorecard awarded by the referee.
4 X 2 Minute Rounds Flyweight Contest
LISA WHITESIDE (1-0) V DANNI HODGES (4-2)
Whiteside and Hodges met in the centre of the ring to immediately throw clusters of combinations at each other in a frenetic opening round. Whiteside's work was crisper as she landed a powerful right cross mid-way through the round which wobbled Hodges’ legs.
Whiteside continued her dominance – and impressive workrate -in the second round. The highlight being a right hand that sent Hodges’ mouthpiece into the crowd at ringside.
Whilst Hodges’ proved her admirable fighting courage, she continued to defend with her face and it was no surprise when it was announced that Whiteside was the victor.
4 X 3 Minute Rounds Cruiserweight Contest
JAMES BRANCH JNR (5-0) V JAN HRAZDIRA (3-13-1)
James Branch is no body-beautiful. However, he showed superb footwork, an accurate southpaw jab and ability to consistently find gaps in his opponents defence to frequently land blows to the head and body.
The confident, swaggering Branch halted Hrazdira in the second round with a thudding body shot, as his vocal fans cheered him on in celebration.
6 X 3 Minute Rounds International Flyweight Contest
HARVEY HORN (5-0) V JOEL SANCHEZ (3-13-1)
With southpaw jab, feints and elusive footwork, Harvey Horn was reminiscent of the man whose undercard he is fighting on - Billy Joe Saunders.
Dictating the pace and pattern of the contest, he made his Nicaraguan opponent miss whilst making him pay with impressive counters.
Sanchez looked game but outclassed, brave but outboxed.
But to Sanchez' credit he threw the kitchen sink at Horn and landed more shots in the fifth than the other rounds put together. Horn still had success but despite being in cruise control for 4 rounds, by the fifth stanza he began losing some of his composure and began to look tired, with his mouth gaping, sucking in air as he sat on his seat at the end of the round.
The sixth was another challenging round for Horn, but he had done more than enough in the eyes of the referee, who scored the bout 60-55.
6 X 3 Minute Rounds Super-Welterweight Contest
HARLEY BENN (6-1) V LEE HALLETT (1-16)
Despite showing guts that his famous father would be proud of, Harley Benn had no answer to the relentless pressure applied be Lee Hallett.
He tried to dance around the ring in an effort to evade his opponent, but Hallett quickly caught up to him and unloaded with barrage’s of attacks, particularly punishing whenever he forced Benn against the ropes. Benn simply looked tense and wore a look of bewilderment on his face. Whilst Benn failed to relax, the determined Hallett ploughed forward with attack after attack and condemned Benn to a disappointing defeat, by the score of 39-37.
The 31-year-old southpaw from Canning Town had his hand raised for the first time in his 13-month-long career.
THE VACANT WBO YOUTH LIGHTWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
10 X 3 Minute Rounds @ 135 lbs
BOY JONES JNR (18-3-1) V SHAUN COOPER (9-0)
This was an interesting clash of styles. The languid Jones had his best success keeping Cooper at range, with his long jab, whilst the thicker set Cooper showed patience to cut off the ring, get close to his slick opponent and unleash carefully placed bombs to the head and body.
In the fifth round, Jones adjusted, instead of expending too much energy, moving around the ring, he fought closer to Cooper. Opting to use his upper-body to slip and dip punches, he countered intelligently with flurries that seemed to slow Cooper down. Cooper however, made his own adjustments. He abandoned the head and focused on the slender mid-riff of Jones, where he had repeated success in 6th round.
In the 9th round as a cut opened up on the eye of Cooper, he threw caution to the wind and launched himself at Jones. Although it was crude, it was effective as he backed his foe up and hurt him against the ropes at the end of another close round.
The 10th produced a fitting finale, as both competitors fought fiercely and took turns to hurl hurtful combinations at one another.
With scores of 95-95, 96-94 and 97-93, it was Shaun Cooper who came out on top, in this closely fought contest.
Fight #9 – 19:35 hrs
4 X 3 Minute Rounds International Bantamweight Contest
DENNIS McCANN (1-0) V KAMIL JAWOREK (5-13)
Dennis McCann swatted his opponent in the first round of his professional debut.
Don’t let his boyish looks fool you, McCann looked every bit the ‘Menace' that he is advertised as.
His young, innocent looking face, suddenly transformed into a ferocious snarl as he immediately went on the offensive. He landed with a well-placed body-shot that put Jaworek down. Although Jaworek rose, the grimace on his face was a sign that the end would come swiftly, which it did, when a blow to the head sent him to the canvas once more and the bout halted by the referee.
THE BRITISH AND COMMONWEALTH SUPER-BANTAMWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
12 X 3 Minute Rounds @ 122 lbs
BRAD FOSTER (11-0-1) V ASHLEY LANE (13-9-2)
Where Lane came out hesitant, Foster began confidently and found a rhythm quickly. Landing precisely and dipping punches that came hid way, managed to make his superiority count by knocking down his unsure foe with a well-timed big-shot late in the opening round.
Lane somehow withstood a shuddering straight right hand, despite his legs dipping into a full squat position from the jolting blow. Foster went for the kill but couldn’t quite find the telling blow to end matters.
Foster continued to look comfortable but to Lane's credit , he kept making an effort to turn the fight, finally in the 6th round gained some sustained success by back Foster up and landing numerous blows with his opponent against the ropes.
Lane attempted to maintain his momentum in the 7th but was suddenly caught with a tremendous straight right hand that stunned him to a standstill.
The pace set was impressive as the two combatants continued to battle on. Although Foster looked like the boss, Lane had shook off the doubt he had early on and made the bout competitive as the action went on.
Foster closed the contest in the final round after a short break where Lane was afforded time to recover, following a low blow. They met in the middle of the ring and exchanged violent shots, but a terrific right hand by Foster heavily downed Lane. He followed this up with another flurry leading the referee to step in and end the bout.
Foster clearly won the entertaining battle and with it demonstrated superb hand-speed, power and reflexes. However, Lane too can go home proudly after exhibiting a courageous fighting spirit, particularly after enduring a disastrous opening two rounds.
6 X 3 Minute Rounds Super-Middleweight Contest
WILLY HUTCHINSON (8-0) V ONDREJ BUDERA (9-11-1)
Willy Hutchinson impressively stopped his durable journeyman opponent in the third stanza. Budera attempted to show some ambition and connected with some decent shots of his own but was ultimately outclassed as Hutchinson broke him down.
Hutchinson displayed a piercing jab, fine lateral movement and a killer instinct to finally put away Budera after heavily knocking him down earlier in the bout.
10 X 3 Minute Rounds International Heavyweight Contest
JOE JOYCE (9-0) V ALEXANDER USTINOV (34-4)
The accusation aimed at Joyce following his victory over Bermane Stiverne was that he was a boxer that was all brawn and no brain. However, against Ustinov, Joyce showed some maturity. He jabbed to the flabby body of his opponent and switched to the head when Ustinov anticipated another body shot. He also did well to keep his concentration and elude Ustinov's infrequent attacks by slipping punches or catching them on his gloves.
Once he wore down Ustinov, he began to pile on the pressure and overwhelm him.
Joyce closed the show by landing a fantastic left hook to the head of Ustinov, which sent him sprawling to the canvas and out for the count in the third round.
Joyce is still the exciting ‘Juggernaut’ but tonight showed that he has learnt some lessons and has become a more intelligent boxer, which will serve him well as he matches himself against greater challenges.
THE VACANT WBO WORLD SUPER-MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
12 X 3 Minute Rounds @ 168 lbs
BILLY JOE SAUNDERS (28-0) V SHEFAT ISUFI (27-4-2)
Billy Joe starts the fight brilliantly. Flicking out his jab, following up with flurries and connecting with bad intentions. He feints, spins and finds more angles to attack Isufi from. Isufi can only land on fresh air, as he offers the occasional wild swipe that miss the target dreadfully.
The 2nd round gives more of the same, the most noticeable factor is how much bigger Saunders looks compared to his opponent. Isufi looks confused and his face is already marking up.
Saunders looked as though he really enjoyed himself in the 4th round as he pushed Isufi against the ropes and landed with repeated right hooks to the body that made Isufi and the groan.
Round 5 threatened to dramatically sway the momentum of the contest as Isufi landed with his first major piece of success that stunned Saunders and forced him to circle the ring and evade the marauding Isufi until he regained the spring in his legs again.
In the 6th , it was business as usual, as Saunder dominated from distance and then closed the round by claiming the centre of the ring and finding success with numerous combinations that staggered Isufi.
The action slowed in the 7th. With Saunders in control, he circled the ring, frustrated Isufi who followed him in straight lines and occasionally landed with the jab, choosing not to take any risks.
As they fought into the later rounds, Saunders boxed in second gear, fighting in spurts and knowing that it wasnt necessary to press the action overly aggressively as he only needed to remain on his feet to claim a second world title, in a second weight division.
And so it proved as Saunders won a clear unanimous decision on the judges scorecards.
Saunders has a chequered past, but his skill and achievements surely mark him as one of the best pure boxer’s thaat Britain has ever produced. Now at his peak, it would be a great shame not to see him test himself against fellow elite talents around his weight.