Another barn burner of a night at York Hall to warm the cockles in chilly February. The fights we had all come to see were the four MTK Golden Contract semi finals contested over ten rounds and they delivered in spades with no little controversy along the way.
First up were the light-welterweight contests (super lightweight isn’t a thing and I will die on this hill). Reformed rent-a-gob Ohara Davies was a strong favourite against the surprise package of the quarter finals Jeff Ofori and he justified that status. Now that Davies has embarked on a policy of letting his fists do the talking, he’s going OK. He looked huge compared to Ofori and Davies’ strength and power eventually told. Ofori did have his successes and put it on Davies a few times but was down in the 3rd before rallying, to the delight of the crowd, at the end of the 5th and backing Ohara to the ropes with a big flurry. At the start of the 6th I remarked to the lad next to me that Ofori was probably looking good to hear the final bell now so of course Davies stopped him on his feet about 20 seconds later with a two fisted, unanswered barrage.
The other semi final featured Tyrone McKenna vs Mohamed Mimoune. Both rangey and awkward, I said to the same poor bloke next to me that this was probably going to be a bit of a rubbish fight. Spectacularly wrong again. It was a compelling tear up with both fighters putting it all on the line and McKenna sustaining a nasty cut in the 6th. McKenna was always in the fight and always firing back but Mimoune was the aggressor and landed the more telling blows for the majority of the contest. Sadly, my prediction that the fight would be a snoozefest was not the worst take of the night. The three judges topped me with scores of 96-94 (twice) and 97-93 in favour of McKenna which did not sit well with pretty much anybody at ringside. The referee Victor Loughlin even double checked with the MC that he’d read the scores out correctly. Still, we’ve now got the final that “Everybody wanted”. Ohara Davies and Tyrone McKenna can renew the hostilities that began in the car park at the quarter finals.
Down to featherweight and an intriguing match up between Ryan Walsh and Tyrone McCullagh. McCullagh fought off the back foot, pot shotting at Walsh and was doing very well with it for the first few rounds with Walsh getting frustrated and barely landing an anything. However, Walsh was biding his time, cutting off the ring and eventually started to catch up with and wear down the tiring McCullagh. Walsh wobbled McCullagh and knocked him down twice but was unable to stop him (I believe a 12 grand bonus was on offer for doing so) and had to settle for cards of 96-92 and 97-91 twice.
The final fight of the night was probably the best. Favourite Leigh Wood started strongly but was unable to land too much cleanly on Jazza Dickens even though the punches were scoring. Into the mid rounds and Dickens used his considerable experience to “Old Man” Wood and slowly but surely started to boss the fight. Wood was still strong and busy but Dickens was getting the last word in the exchanges and landed the much cleaner shots. Dickens had Wood in all sorts of trouble in the 9th but was unable to find the finish and Wood showed a big heart to see out the ten rounds on his feet. Scores of 95-95, 96-94 and 95-94 in Dickens’ favour were perhaps a little generous to Wood but at least we got the right result this time.
Davies v McKenna and Walsh v Dickens are both fights to get excited about. I hope they’re back at York Hall
The atmosphere was great throughout the night will all the fighters having sold a significant number of tickets (the event was sold out a couple of weeks ago). What worked well was that rather than York Hall being jammed to the rafters all night, some fans only turned up to watch “their guy”. This meant that every fight had a good noise level and the venue was always busy but not uncomfortably packed.
The show being on Friday meant that my pub review attempts were always going to be a bit rushed. Hostelry du jour was the Harrild & Sons on Farringdon Rd. It’s a short walk to St Pauls which is only three stops to Bethnal Green and, more importantly, right by my office. There’s music on a Friday night but not so loud that you can’t chat to your mates and a decent selection of beers (Camden Pale for a session or the stronger Gamma Ray if you’re trying to choke down two pints in 40 minutes in order to make it to York Hall before the first semi final.) Despite being in the Square Mile, this pub is not full of obnoxious, coked up bankers, it’s normal punters having a few drinks after work, and while I can never bring myself to celebrate paying 5 quid for a pint, that’s actually not that expensive given the post code. Recommended.