Saturday, 23 January 2010

Friday Fight Night - Essex Review - Ian Napa vs Jamie McDonnel

Tonight's action comes courtesy of Frank Maloney's promotions.

The main event starred Maloney lynchpin Ian "Dappa" Napa vs Jamie McDonnel, fighting for Napa's British Bantamweight (112-118lb) title, as well as the vacant Commonwealth Bantamweight crown.

This was supposed to be a mere stepping stone in Napa's career as he finally made his way back up to European and then World rankings, however a sub-par performance led to one of the closest and most controversial calls I have seen in a long time.

To sum it up briefly - for the first half of the fight, Napa relied purely on ducking, dodging and weaving, however McDonnel kept plugging away, landing a few good, accurate shots. But it was clearly Napa who was delivering the scoring goods - landing counterpunches and generally avoiding McDonnnel's jab.

A lot has been said of Napa's lack of explosive punch power, and certainly I got the feeling that if he were a more offensively powerful fighter, he could have stolen the show in the middle rounds of this bout.

As it stood, towards the final few rounds Napa seemed to be in a fairly comfortable, if boring, lead, when McDonnel suddenly woke up and dominated the tenth and eleventh round easily, with Napa showing some final resistance in the twelfth.

At this point, I felt I was being generous to McDonnel for his work ethic (Napa seemed to be phoning it in more, in my opinion), but even with that biased slant I still had Napa scoring with one point ahead. Then the judge's scorecards were announced, and the shock-bomb dropped.

- Judge 1 scores it 115-114 to Napa. (Fair enough call, and probably the consensus decision.)
- Judge 2 scores it 115-114 to McDonnel. (Again, a close decision and you could understand, even if you disagreed with, this scoring.)
- Judge 3, Dave Parris, scores it 117-112 to.... McDonnel!! You could have heard the crowd's jaws hitting the floor, if it weren't for the deafening sound of booing and jeering filling the room.

Fair play to McDonnel for the win - Napa definitely was not on his peak performance that night. But the real focus of this result has to be on judge Dave Parris. I challenge anyone to explain his rationale. What was he thinking? I don't believe anyone else could have watched this fight and scored it to McDonnel with such a wide margin, and some serious questions need to be asked.

But that is a discussion for another night. Kudos must certainly go to the unnamed Boxing News journalist, who accurately predicted in the magazine's 22nd January issue that Ian Napa, concentrating on his promise of a March European title fight, would become shortsighted in this fight.

Maloney has always had Napa in line as a future World champion and, with that European fight already on the horizon, Napa clearly did not take this domestic fight as seriously as he should have done, and it may have lead to his downfall.

McDonnel, on the other hand, had been priding himself on becoming British champion and had declared himself as such for weeks leading up to the fight. Although his performance was also not the greatest ever seen, he was clearly proud and had achieved a personal milestone in his boxing career. Ian Napa, now 19(1)-8(1)-0 and 31 years of age, needs to take a serious look at his career and make the right moves and stay honest in every future fight to reclaim any of his past glory at European levels. In the post-fight interview, a clearly very stunned Napa struggled to grasp the fact that the European title had now slipped from his grasp yet again.

With Jamie McDonnel, now 13(5)-2(0)-1 and only 23 years of age, being too injured to take up Napa's March fight with Jerome Arnould for the European title, it may be a while until he gets his shot. Whether the willing McDonnel or the more deserving Napa is the eventual victor on the European/World stages remains to be seen, but for now we are left with a relatively uneventful Bantamweight battle, and a judge that needs a serious looking at.

Ashley Sexton - the new Amir Khan?

Thankfully for us all, the night was saved by 3 electrifying fights in the undercard. Undeniable highlight of the night was seeing Ashley Sexton (22yr, 9(5)-0-0) utterly demolish Usman Ahmed (28yr, 6(0)-3(1)-1) to claim the vacant English Flyweight (112lb) title.

In a weight division that normally favours speed over power, these two competitors were trading vicious punches from the very first ring of the bell. Literally as I was musing how evenly skilled this pair are, and pondering just how the fight would end being scored at the final bell, Sexton woke up the crowd by delivering one of the finest punches I have ever seen.

Throwing a right hook, Sexton saw Ahmed drop his guard ever so slightly and, with almost superhuman skill and precision, Sexton adjusted himself mid-swing, putting all his limited weight and dynamite power into that sole punch, sending Ahmed's head snapping first over his right shoulder (his nose practically touching his shoulder blade), then immediately whipping back over his left, before crashing out face flat on the mat.

Sexton, a consummate professional, held off celebrating until Ahmed had recovered. Thankfully, Ahmed was on his feet a few minutes later, looking dazed but otherwise undamaged, and Sexton let loose and able to celebrate a raw and incredible victory.

In the post-fight interview, Sexton was clear about what had happened. "I have dynamite in my gloves" I believe he was quoted as exclaiming during the initial interview on Sky Sports. This is a man that knows exactly what his strengths are and what he needs to produce to win.

Check out the highlights here -

It is my personal opinion that Sexton could grow up to be one of the most entertaining and dynamic British boxing personalities in the future. Although his weight class doesn't tend to garner much in the way of publicity, this man is as charismatic and explosive as Amir Khan, only a lot more personable on camera and has already proven he can take a punch. Hopefully some good opponents and title shots find their way to Sextons doorstep in the near future. Definitely one to watch.

Up next we had a chance to see another young unbeaten British boxer in action in the shape of Super Middleweight George Groves taking on Bulgarian Grigor Sarohanian. Groves (21yr, 7(5)-0(0)-0, pre-fight) is a man touted for big things in the future, and he certainly has a lot of movement for a man of his size. This fight featured some great punching and, certainly in the early stages, Sarohanian (23yr, 2(0)-2(0)-0, pre-fight) seemed to be giving Groves a lot of trouble. However, by the third, Groves finally hit his stride and put an end to the fight with a terrific and powerful bodyshot. With Adam Booth (most famous for training current WBA Heavyweight Champion, and fellow Brit, David Haye) in his corner, George Groves may indeed be destined for great things in the future - he certainly has the mobility and power for it.

Finally, in a fight that felt more like watching two bears hunt each other than two fellow men box, British Heavyweights Scott Belshaw (currently 10(7)-4(3)-0, 24yr) and Larry Olubamiwo (now 7(6)-1(0)-0, 31yr) faced off against each other.

It took Olubamiwo a mere 25 seconds, and around 4 punches, to floor Belshaw. 45 seconds later, he managed to knock Belshaw to the ground once again, after catching him with an uppercut. 5 seconds later, Olubamiwo caught him with a jab square in the face and sent him to the mat for the third time, and I honestly felt that the referee should have stopped the bout there. Although Belshaw didn't seem too damaged, he was clearly not in this fight. Olubamiwo continued to dominate, knocking Belshaw back to the canvas a further 35 seconds later. 2 minutes in and already Belshaw had experienced 4 knockdowns!

Despite being back on his feet, seemingly coherent and telling the referee that he wished to continue, the ref waved Belshaw off and called a halt to this sluggish, one-sided affair. Nothing particularly exciting, but still a thrilling end to a thrilling night.

If Frank Maloney can continue to put out fairly big named British boxers in title fights, and support them with these well matched undercards, I think he can rightfully lay claim to being the supremo British boxing promoter of 2010.

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