The Lancastrian Suite played host (eventually) to the comeback of Jeff Saunders (13-0). In what was inevitably dubbed as the “Battle of the Saunders” Jeff was made to work hard to earn a 40-36 decision win over namesake Rhys (3-18). He understandably showed signs of ring-rust and could’ve made things a little easier on himself but he will be delighted to have another one in the W column.
It had been a frustrating, injury plagued 18 months for the Sedgefield man, so it was a welcome relief to see him step back through the ropes. The wait was made even longer by one of the most surreal series of events witnessed in boxing.
If boxing is infamous for shooting itself in the foot, Black Flash Promotions took a shotgun, rested it steadily on the metatarsal and pulled the trigger. What was left, amongst the carnage, were 3 four round contests. These things do happen, particularly in boxing. And like ring announcer Billy Hardy stated “they [the promoters] can’t help boxers being ill and pulling out.” However, the air of uncertainty that lingered around Dunston could have been stifled.
The “Black Flash” himself, Pat Barrett was delayed in his arrival as well as several of the boxers. Messages had been relayed that he was stuck in traffic. An apt metaphor for the evening’s action. This is not a personal attack. Being honest, there is nothing one man could have done to end the madness, but a sense of guidance and responsibility was sorely missing as British Board of Control members scurried about trying to piece together who was actually boxing. One by one, the fighters fell. Some rose again and regrouped but ultimately most were defeated. And this was all long before the opening bell.
Flyweight prospect Joe Maphosa (8-0) was informed upon his arrival that he wasn’t boxing. Officials informed him at 5pm what they had been made aware of a day previously. Which begs the painfully obvious question, why wasn’t the boxer informed? Why did he have to make the considerable journey from Teesside to discover he wouldn’t be plying his trade? Late pull-outs happen regularly in boxing so when we have even a day’s notice, it is vital to take advantage. Any form of communication would’ve made this sickening situation a lot more tolerable for those involved.
If the start to the evening seemed bizarre, it was nothing compared to what was to come. It was almost 7:30pm before all of the boxers arrived at the venue. Speculation ran rampant that the occupants of the red corner were “on their way” from Cardiff, Manchester, Liverpool and even Portugal. Trainers, boxers, board officials all milled around and none of them had a clear answer to what was actually happening or even how many bouts were on. Rumours circled like vultures picking at the carcass of what was once an exciting prospect of a show. Any number from 1 to 4 bounced around as those behind the scenes tried to piece together the running order. Newcastle prospect Basi Razaq (7-1-1) arrived for his pre-fight medical check. So far, so good. There were mutterings of opponents and late replacements minutes away but very little in the way of confirmed fact.
If Joe Maphosa was justified in his frustration, imagine being told that your opponent was offered a better purse en route to the venue and took a swift detour to Doncaster. That is what reportedly happened to Basi Razaq! Weight checked, medical passed, only to find out minutes before you ring-walk that your proposed opponent followed the money down the A1. I’m not sure what the board guidelines are on this type of behaviour, so it will be interesting to see what (if anything) comes of it going forward.
Initial mutterings that no-one knew the identity of Michael Watson’s latest opponent proved unfounded and the Sedgefield cruiserweight secured the second win of his fledgling pro career to move to 2-0. Smooth sailing then? In the ring, yes. He utilised a solid jab as he was taken the distance for the first time against Liverpool based Genadij Krajevskij (0-7). Not before the “Baltic Bomber” gave new meaning to the term ‘journeyman’ though by getting lost on his way to the arena! A very generous local whip successfully tracked him down and showed his team the way from McDonald’s at the world-famous Metro Centre to the Lancastrian Suite. Not a totally wasted trip then but he might wish he’d stayed at home after Watson out-boxed him over 4.
The most exciting bout of the evening saw former kickboxing champion Jamie Bates make his pro debut. The ex-Glory fighter had a tough assignment against late notice opponent Yailton Neves (4-15). The Manchester based Portuguese southpaw is a tricky customer for any young boxer cutting their teeth. Neves has been stopped 4 times but always comes with aggression and belief, rather than willingly losing on points. Notoriously, orthodox and southpaw boxers can fail to blend well and that was certainly the case. Both men hit the canvas but no knockdowns were scored and Bates did just about enough to get the win, taking it 39-38 on referee Ron Kearney’s scorecard. Despite a tougher than expected debut, Bates certainly showed some skills and has a potentially bright future in using just his fists.
How to sum up the evening’s events then?
It’s easy to laugh and make light of these situations that seemingly only boxing produces. Yet, that is only half the tale. These boxers are from the glitz and glamour of Pay per View extravaganzas. They box for modest purses which are funded from the tickets they sell. If they don’t box, they don’t get paid. If they don’t box, they can often struggle to persuade punters to part with their cash again. The British Boxing Board of Control are often quick to stamp down on individual boxers and it will be interesting to see just how closely they look into this show, as a whole. It is difficult to suggest sanctions and accurately apportion blame. Yet, it isn’t acceptable to accept this chaos as the nature of the beast.
As the old adage says, the show must go on. In this case however, it must go back to the drawing board.