Matt Tansini, Ringside

Small hall boxing fans were given a treat last Saturday, as Goodwin Boxing’s Boxmania 2 delivered a 10-fight bill that included no less than three Southern Area Title fights. And these weren’t phone-’em-in affairs: spectators could hardly catch their breath as the evening saw four stoppages, and a fight-of-the-year contender between Jack Hughes and Paul Roberts for the Southern Area Super Flyweight Title. 

Although Hughes vs. Roberts was the stand-out fight of the evening, Super Middleweights Jack Owen and Jordan Grannum almost stole the show with an enthralling six-round follow-up to their first meeting in November last year. Owen showcased good footwork and a solid work-rate, landing good straight shots, uppercuts, and flurries to ensure the rounds largely went his way, but Grannum landed a few eye-catching bodyshots of his own.

The fight steadily increased in tempo, leading to an all-out war in the final round. Grannum looked very game, weaving between shots and letting his hands go, while Owen fired his quickfire combos and piston right. The crowd showed their appreciation to both fighters as Owen took a deserved 58-56 decision, and both men were all smiles as they embraced at the final bell. 

But if those at ringside were given a treat by Owens and Grannum, they were about to be spoiled rotten, as soon afterward Jack Hughes and Paul Roberts entered the ring for their own rematch. The atmosphere had built to boiling point, with both sets of fans in fine voice, and the fighters let it rip from the first bell. Though it was tight, Roberts seemed to win the first few rounds, landing more punches and dictating the action. Round 4 marked a turning of the tide, however, as Hughes started to land some big shots, and used his movement to greater effect. 

Round 6 was an all-out brawl, with Hughes catching his opponent cleanly on several occasions. Roberts was still very game, coming forward and meeting the London fighter head-on. Despite a nasty cut from an apparent clash of heads, Hughes’ accuracy continued to tell in round 7, and in the later rounds he was timing his stiff jab beautifully, following it up with punishing flurries to the body and head. Roberts wasn’t going to let him off that easily, however, and gave back with interest in round 9, at one point spinning Hughes and catching him flush.

picture courtesy Matt Tansini

After the fight, Hughes told Southpaw Jab that he was essentially blind for the last three rounds, such was the intensity. Round 10 was a climatic round that any boxing fan would be lucky to see; both men gave it everything, and Hughes seemed to find another gear entirely. Despite his war wounds, he caught Roberts multiple times with both his jab and power shots, backing the Somerset man up.

The action continued up to the final bell, soon followed by wild celebration by Hughes and his corner as a 96-94 win in his favour was announced. I think I speak for all those present when I say that a third installment of this contest would be highly anticipated, although Hughes may now have his eye on bigger prizes.

The other two title contests were rather shorter affairs.

Denis Denikajev took on Idris ‘ID’ Hill for the Super Lightweight Title, and served up the night’s most explosive finish. The opening rounds were solid but tentative, as both fighters looked to find their range with their jabs, while Denikajev showcased some good movement and footwork as he searched for an opening. The man from Lithuania started to grow in success and confidence, landing his right uppercut and cross with increasing accuracy. Hill for his part continued to plug away, landing his jab with regularity.

With around 40 seconds to go in round 4, a smart left-right combo from Denikajev saw Hill stagger and drop for the first knockdown of the evening. While he didn’t look to be seriously hurt, Round 5 saw Denikajev’s quality finally tell, as a whipping left hook caught Hill cold, dropping him to the canvas and ending the fight in emphatic fashion.

picture courtesy Matt Tansini

The final fight of the evening saw Jamie Smith win the Southern Area Cruiserweight Title from Daniel Mendes, in an even shorter bout than Denikajev - Hill. Smith can certainly bang. Despite his challenger status, round 1 saw Smith going hunting for Mendes, and while the champion showcased some slick movement, he didn’t land too much himself.

In round 2, however, Smith decided to step things up, and, after cornering Mendes, unleashed his frightening power, almost blasting his opponent out of the ring. Mendes gamely tried to cover up and fire back, but Smith’s ferocity was too much, and after a long look the referee was forced to intervene. Smith certainly looks an exciting fighter, and it will be interesting to see where he goes from here.

The buzzsaw that is English Super Featherweight champion Liam Dillon, put on a frightening performance. Initially due to headline with a mouth-watering commonwealth title eliminator against Joshua Wahab, the postponement of this fight saw Marcus Hodgson step in with only a few days notice. What followed was a brutal, one-sided beatdown from Dillon, who looked in a no-nonsense mood from the start. Showcasing blinding speed and power, he landed vicious combinations on Hodgson, forcing his corner to throw in the towel with 2.45 gone in the first round. 

At lightweight, debutant Sher Khan defeated Michael Mooney 40-34. Khan’s supporters were in fine voice, while Mooney looked relaxed in the ring, chatting and joking with the officials. A regulation contest was given some spice in round 3 as Mooney suffered a bad cut, while Khan received a few warnings from the referee. Mooney was covered in blood by the time round 4 rolled around, although ‘the mad man’ lived up to his moniker by merely grinning at Khan, daring him to hit him harder. 

Welterweight Oliver Duffy defeated Nicaraguan Alexander Zeledon 60-54 in an intriguing contest. This was only Duffy’s second professional outing, but he had his work cut out for him in trying to work out a tough, unorthodox opponent. Duffy didn’t blink, however, landing hard shots with increasing frequency marking up his opponent’s face, though the Central American hardly seemed to care, jutting out his chin right up until the final bell.

With some of the most vocal supporters of the night, Joshua Gustave defeated Justin Menzie 40-35. Gustave certainly looked the business, towering above his opponent, who turned his back on several occasions as he focused on surviving rather than boxing. Gustave was looking to land a big right hand throughout the contest, and succeeded in detonating it several times. The contest grew increasingly ill-tempered, with the referee docking a point from Menzies for excessive holding in round 4, and the fighters exchanged a few choice words along with their punches.

Andrei Dascalu followed up his debut earlier this year with a solid TKO victory over Elvis Dube, snapping out his jab and landing upstairs and down, before stopping Dube in the last round of their 4-round contest.

Shocki Khan increased his record to 3-0 with a 40-34 win over Luke Middleton, landing some strong shots throughout the fight and looking dangerous, although Middleton to his credit was certainly fearless, firing back his own speculative swings and keeping his opponent honest.

All in all, a great evening of entertainment, with real quality shown by fighters at all levels, with some looking to go onto regional and national bouts, and others building their records for the future. If all small hall shows had this much action, we would all be scrabbling for tickets each weekend.




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