MOVING ON UP
Matchroom show off their next generation of talent
Some top UK prospects make a splash at the famous old York Hall venue
MATCHROOM raised the curtain on their new season with a NXTGEN show at York Hall which suggests they will have plenty to look forward to over the next 10 months. While there are some huge events in store for their more established stars like Anthony Joshua, Tony Bellew and Kell Brook over the coming campaign, the young guns are fit and firing too.
In the nominal main event, Rio Olympian Joshua Buatsi made it two stoppages from two as he swept aside the tough yet crude Baptiste Castegnaro inside five rounds. There are high hopes for Buatsi, still just 24, but he was always going to struggle to look good against his French opponent, who insisted on using his head and fell in behind every right hand he threw. But, for the most part, it was one-way traffic, with Buatsi showing that he’s happy to have a tear-up when his boxing skills are not necessarily required.
The Ghana-born star, however, did make use of his punishing jab occasionally, and it looks like the sort of punch capable of leading him to titles. But he did get lucky at the end of the third when he clearly landed punches after the bell, for which referee Kieran Mccann gave him a ticking off.
Mccann might have actually stepped in sooner with the punishment towards the end of the fourth reaching dangerous levels for the clearly exhausted Castegnaro. In the end, after so much trauma to the head, it was a left hand to the body which closed the show after 1-06 of the fifth and penultimate round. Now Buatsi, who is working under Joshua’s AJ Boxing umbrella, is looking to keep busy. “I aim to be out in early October and then on Joshua’s undercard [on October 28]. The journey continues.”
In arguably the most significant encounter of the evening, Jake Ball got his quest for titles rolling again with a gutsy 10-round points win over the previously unbeaten Joe Sherriff.
After a tense opening round, Ball
floored his fellow southpaw with a backhand to the body in the second, but Sherriff, desperately sucking in air, composed himself to continue. He was then dropped again by Ball, who could smell an early finish, but Sherriff showed incredible heart to hold on until the end of the round as the fight well and truly ignited.
Sherriff, of Coventry, had his moments too, and caught Ball with a series of left hands from his southpaw stance, but the Surrey man swallowed them and stuck to task. Eventually, referee Jeff Hinds gave it 97-94 to Ball, who has now won three on the spin since his shock firstround stoppage loss at the hands of JJ Mcdonagh in November. In one of the more thrilling victories,
Conor Benn earned his third straight stoppage win when he tore through the previously undefeated Kane Baker, of Birmingham. The visitor made an enthusiastic start but the Ilford man had other ideas, clubbing Baker with a huge right hand which sent him stumbling back onto the ropes. Although he managed to stay on his feet, it looked as though the damage was done.
Baker had a point deducted early in the second round when Mr Hinds spotted a blatant headbutt, but it mattered little. Benn, unperturbed by the foul, connected with a left hand which dazed Baker and sent him to the canvas with a cross on the follow up. Mr Hinds waved it off after 1-08 of the second. It had been scheduled for six.
Benn said: “It’s all learning. I’m a novice and I’m getting there. I was a bit nervous before this one, to be fighting at York Hall. Now I wish I could fight here more.”
Joe Cordina also produced a dazzling stoppage in his bout against Devon’s
Jamie Speight, who was vanquished in just 148 seconds. Speight, who challenged for the Southern Area title at bantamweight just 18 months ago, could not handle the size of Cordina, who weighed in just over the lightweight limit.
As such, Mr Hinds put a stop to the sixround contest after 2-28 of the first.
Wokingham middleweight Felix Cash also enjoyed an early night, forcing Mr Hinds to step in after 2-15 of the first of a scheduled six rounds after battering Palma’s Fernando Heredia.
Ted Cheeseman’s bout also finished inside the distance, but that was only after Italian opponent Francesco Lezzi, who was dropped in the second, decided to push referee Mccann and get himself disqualified after 1-30 of the third.
One man who failed to carry on his impressive stoppage streak, however, was Cordina’s fellow Olympian Lawrence
Okolie, who was taken the six-round distance by tough Blaise Mendouo.
Stoke Newington resident Okolie had to soak up some punishment of his own, but did floor Mendouo in the fourth round, which added gloss to Mr Mccann’s 59-54 scorecard in favour of Lawrence.
Essex’s Danny Dignum registered a solid points win over Lewis “Poochi”
van Poetsch of Gloucestershire, thanks to Mr Mccann’s 40-36 score, while debutant William “666” Webber, also of Essex, kicked off his career with a 40-36 win over Rochester’s Sonny
Whiting in their middleweight four-rounder, also overseen by Mr Mccann.
Promoter Eddie Hearn, who counted Hollywood A-lister Colin Farrell among his guests for the evening, was well pleased. “I think one of these, here at York Hall was a great way to get our season going,” he said. “These lads are the future of British boxing and you got a glimpse of why tonight.”
All the house fighters win, but only a few do it in style.
HARD TO LOOK GOOD: Castegnaro [right] is an awkward opponent for the skilled Buatsi
HAVING A BALL: Jake cracks Sherriff with a right hand
SHINING STARLETS: Cordina [left, on right] deals with Speight in double-quick time, while Benn [right, on left] enjoys his first York Hall outing, against Baker