2022: A YEAR IN THE SMALL HALL
Being based in London, two promotional outfits that have stood out in southern England to me have been Goodwin Promotions and Neilson Boxing. Both companies produced shows with fight of the year contentions that most likely have gone under the radar compared to big time boxing
FIGHT OF THE YEAR
Joe: In July, Jack Hughes at York Hall promoted by Goodwin not only won the vacant Southern Area Super Flyweight title, but in doing so against Paul Roberts, the fight was awarded ‘Southern Area Fight of the Year’ by the British Boxing Board of Control. The brutality of the fight has left Jack Hughes going down in history, deservedly.
In the same month, Joel McIntyre won the vacant English Light Heavyweight Title against Chad Sudgen in Newark, Nottinghamshire, and then fearlessly took on Lyndon Arthur in Newcastle, the true definition of a road warrior.
It must be a summer season thing, as my personal small hall fight of the year came in April on a Neilson Boxing show between Reece Bellotti and Dean Dodge for the vacant Southern Area Super Featherweight title. Watching Bellotti in previous years on big time Sky shows has always been fun, but to be ringside took it to another level. I was astounded at the power he possessed in the back and forth contest until finally Bellotti became too much for Dodge resulting in a TKO win.
Special mention for Team Southpaw Jab’s Fabio Wardley providing three rounds of back and forth brutality and halting Nathan Gorman for the British Heavyweight Title.
KNOCKOUT OF THE YEAR
Adam: Could easily go to Denzel Bentley brilliantly battering Marcus Morrison into submission, or on the same card, Brayan Mairena leaving Frank Arnold out cold for several minutes, but more on that worrying finish later.
Winner for me is Denis Denikajev leaving ID Hill flat on his back with a leaping left hook in the fifth and going home the new Southern Area Super Lightweight champion. Beautiful shot.
Joe: My two to watch in years to come is firstly Jack McGann. He stopped two of his opponents this year by TKO announcing himself in the domestic Super-welterweight scene with a bang, and is probably the most supported small hall fighter attracting huge crowds to his fights. Secondly is 22 year-old Johanna Wonyou after fighting and winning four times this year, establishing herself as one of the top women’s prospects.
The breakout of the year has to go to Nick Ball. He’s gone from fighting on the circuit in Liverpool halls and hotels to Wembley stadium against Isaac Lowe, emerging himself as a new star after winning by brutal TKO and then going on to another two stoppage victories fighting three times in 2022.
Adam: Team Southpaw Jab's Ashley Williams and Tommy Murphy both made winning starts to their pro careers, looking good in doing so, so obviously them!
LOW POINT OF THE YEAR
Adam: Not an award I really want to do but I get more and more irate at referees protecting home fighters with dodgy scoring. When it tipped over into Chas-fucking-Coakley letting Frank Arnold get pasted around the ring unnecessarily by Brayan Mairena until receiving a sickening and far too late, but nonetheless excellent, ironing out left me spitting feathers. It was horrible to watch, Arnold could have been saved two or three times but wasn’t, and you just know Mairena wouldn’t have been given the same, stupid, “protection”.
Joe: Hannah Rankin successfully fulfilled her dream, defending her world titles in Glasgow for the first time against Alejandra Ayala resulting in a TKO finish in the tenth round. Rankin later went on to fight Terri Harper on a Matchroom show which after a cut eye proved too big of an ask, but what a moment for her headlining her home town.
Adam: Hugely subjective this, and it could be any of Hannah's history making defence, Matt McCallum winning the Northern Area, Denzel Bentley graduating to world level, Jack’s Area Title win… Winner though is Lewis van Poetsch, aka Poochi, doing what everyone knew he is capable of and racking up four wins (two inside distance) and two draws. As his career draws to a close in 2023, Poochi is the most dangerous road warrior in Britain, as well as the most entertaining.
PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR
Joe: In an overseas venture, I got in touch with American Raheem Davies from Rhode Island who, after turning his life around, won his debut in Lowell Auditorium by knockout.
Adam: I’ve interviewed many fighters and sometimes I’m wondering what the hell I can build an interesting article with (sorry but it’s the truth). Not the case with Jamie Speight. The former champion turned professional opponent was a hilarious; a fascinating subject and I had trouble leaving much of what he said out of the piece. Watching him snap an arrow on his neck was pretty funny, too.
Joe: While politics and shenanigans outside of the ring often dominate headlines with negative connotations, a great cause did come from outside of the ring this year after Ringside Charitable Trust ‘’Stood tall and raised thousands’’ after fundraising events proved successful. In 2023, I would love to see higher profile fighters and promoters recognise the charity allowing it to flourish even more so.
Adam: Seconded. It was an honour to join the fighters, writers and just all round decent people for the fundraising fire-walk in Portsmouth in the summer. Southpaw Jab will continue to do what we can for the charity, but big names need to speak up and help out- it’s embarrassing for the sport how they’re shunned by promoters.
Team Southpaw Jab wish everyone a happy, healthy and hey if you can get it, wealthy, 2023!