Gavin McDonnell gets a technical draw and Kay Prospere is found wanting, against natives Andoni Gago and Sandor Martin respectively, in Spain
It wasn’t a great night for the Brits abroad, at least towards the top of the card, on Matchroom’s show in Barcelona on April 23.
English super-lightweight champion Kay Prospere (14-2-1, 7KOs), 36 from Luton, was certainly taking a big step up in class in challenging reigning champion Sandor Martin (38-2, 13KOs) for the European belt in the main event. The local southpaw from Barcelona was nine years the younger man, but had accrued more than double the number of pro fights. This was his second defence and looked a big ask for the confident 'Special K'.
The Bedfordshire boxer looked in fantastic shape and switched to southpaw himself early on with some success. By round two though, the defending champion, who won the title on his second attempt in 2019, had found his rhythm and used the full expanse of the ring to move laterally and pop out long, sharp straight shots. He made Prospere stumble with a right hook in the third. The Englishman put pressure on with his feet but was beaten to the punch for the most part.
Into round five, Prospere, though brave and dogged, was being outclassed and outworked. Kay kept his guard high and looked to counter, but his tentative approach was problematic against a faster adversary who was hurling far more leather. Give the gap in talent, and the presumed deficit on the cards, Prosper’s best chance seemed to be to get on Martin’s chest and attempt to overwhelm him. He seemed to agree in round eight as he bullied Martin to the ropes, but unfortunately lost a point for some unspecified infraction. The referee appeared partisan throughout, not that it proved pivotal.
Prospere reverted to his earlier tactics in the ninth but was nailed by jarring jabs as he came forward. He rebounded and won the 11th for me, only the second round I gave him and in vain, but that he was still trying so hard was testament to Kay’s professionalism. Martin reasserted his authority, as casual as it was at times, in the last, to seal a unanimous decision win, 119-107, 117-109 and 117-110.
Gavin McDonnell (22-2-3, 6KOs), twice a world title challenger at super-bantam, saw his bid to become a two-weight European champion curtailed at the end of round five against aggressive but limited title-holder Andoni Gago (24-3-4, 7KOs).
The Doncaster man employed a busy jab and precise, long body blows to offset the relentless Gago and pick him off, but the Spaniard had his moments, particularly with the left hook, a textbook example of which appeared to cause a nasty gash on Gavin’s right eye in the opening round. The corner tried diligently to address the wound but, having survived a doctor’s inspection between rounds four and five, McDonnell was ruled out during the next interval, but the referee declared, somewhat contentiously, that the cut had come from a head-clash and so it went to the judges scorecards. Despite McDonnell being up 50-46 on one card, the other two tallied 48-48 for a majority draw.
Harrow’s Jez Smith (12-3-1, 5KOs), a talented and tough battler rarely in the home corner, finally got a fight at his preferred weight of 154lbs. In the opposite corner, however, was Bilbao puncher and former European king Kerman Lejarraga (32-2, 25KOs) who, despite having his aura of invincibility removed courtesy of two defeats against European king David Avanesyan, was still favoured here and had the benefit of some favourable officiating.
Smith started sharply but Lejarraga looked the heavier hitter, targeting the body especially. Jez’s trainer, Josh Burnham, encouraged more from his charge after the second stanza and Smith responded, cutting Lejarraga’s right eye, scoring a knockdown with a right uppercut and shaking the Spain native up with big shots. The same punch worked a treat to deck Kerman again in the next and he bought time by spitting out the gumshield.
Fighting predominantly off the back foot, Smith lured his opponent in and unloaded accurate blows, while Lejarraga had a strong jab but little else until halfway through their 10-rounder. Body shots made inroads for the comparative local in round six, and a left hook downstairs felled Smith towards the end of the session. It was all to play for now and Smith looked exhausted in the seventh. A right hand buzzed him, but the referee dived in prematurely. It may have brought forward the inevitable but we will never know and that is the issue.
Liverpool's Luke Willis (10-0, 1KO) changed the script to win his six-rounder with Bolivian-born Bilbao boxer Ricardo Fernandez (9-6) on points - 60-54, 60-54, 59-54.
The 29-year-old southpaw is now unbeaten in double figures and comes from a notable Liverpool fighting family that includes his uncle Tony, a one-time Olympic medallist, and former British Lightweight Champion.
Wallsend's April Hunter (3-0) won her first professional fight abroad via mixed decision - 39-37, 39-37, 38-38 - against French fighter Elsa Hemat (1-4).
Hunter's third opponent had only contested the France Female super-lightweight title in her last fight, just one month ago.