The evening started with a bang in as boxing came back to Darlington. Local luminaries such as Stuart Hall and Francis Jones were in attendance. The aptly named “Homecoming” show from Wraith Promotions featured four Darlington boxers on the bill and the local fans lapped it up, providing vocal support for every boxer. There had been rumours of a late venue change but fortunately those in charge saw sense and allowed the show to go on.
The first of the Darlington four opened the show in spectacular style. Richard O’Neill squared off against Ricky Alan in a scheduled four rounder. The opening 3 minutes saw O’Neill look to box behind the jab but it got a little scrappy as it went on. Not many in attendance would’ve expected what was to come next. 55 seconds into Round 2, Alan threw and landed a left hand but O’Neill took it and landed a stunning right over the top to floor Alan and leave him facing the canvas. That looked like the end but Ricky Alan deserves a huge amount of credit for making it to his feet. Despite standing by the count of 7, the referee correctly waved off the contest before Alan staggered back to his corner on wobbly legs. O’Neill moved to 2(1)-0 with the win.
Grzegorz Semik came out sporting some rather jazzy shorts with gold and black gladiator style flaps but that was as flashy as his performance would be. Hometown man Ste Cooper started confidently holding centre of ring early on. He appeared relaxed, tapping his opponent with his lead left hand before looking to land hooks, particularly to the body. This pattern continued through rounds 2 and 3 before Semik seemed to throw caution to the wind in the last round.
Semik looked to start brightly but Cooper continued to jab well and back him up with the right. Sensing their man needed a stoppage, Semik’s corner encouraged him to make Cooper miss but that was easier said than done. Cooper continued to apply smart pressure and finally looked to have hurt his opponent but time was not on his side. All in all, a good win for Cooper who moves to 4-2 and came very close to a finish at the death.
Darlington’s Neil Hepper doesn’t seem to do dull fights. In his return to the ring at St James’ Park, he was cut early on to add a bit of drama to the clash. It was a similar fast paced start for Hepper in his hometown who never looked like losing but allowed Michael Mooney to land some shots of his own. Mooney has some good wins on his ledger so we believed he would provide a good test for Hepper and so it proved. Hepper’s all action style definitely won him the rounds but it also left him open for Mooney to counter which resulted in a bloody nose and a scorecard of 40-37.
Another Darlington boxer who scored a comprehensive points victory was former Team GB representative, Troy Williamson (2-0). We were present for his professional debut last month in Edinburgh, which resulted in a vicious stoppage courtesy of a bodyshot. Saturday evening would see MGM Scotland’s Williamson taken the distance for the first time but he was firmly in charge and boxed well to win every round.
Despite his losing record, it is difficult to call Neves a typical journeyman. He came to win and looked to throw as much as he received but Williamson’s accuracy was the deciding factor and as the bout went on the Darlington native looked more in control.
Fonz Alexander is a tough, tough man. This is a man who knows how to go the distance. He took some hard shots, particularly in the last round but rode out the storm to see the final bell, as he has done so many times before. That is not to say that this was a complete whitewash. Despite the 60-54 scorecard, which was entirely fair, it was a composed performance from Jeff Saunders who refused to get drawn into a fist fight.
Even when he landed heavy looking shots, he appeared content to keep the space between him and his opponent. It can be a bit of a cliché but Jeff Saunders is the very definition of a boxer who will benefit from going rounds. As he continues his run (now 9-0 with 5 early) title bouts will certainly be on the horizon. Without ever being troubled, he will learn more from 6 rounds than blasting out an overmatched Latvian for example. Another good win for the gem in Steve Wraith’s promotional stable.