Let me preface this review by getting any bias out of the way - I'm not a huge fan of Frank Warren promotions. Every Frank Warren show I watch I know in the back of my mind that these fights are booked in such a way that his protégés are almost guaranteed a win. That's not to say they aren't fine boxers, just that I feel other promoters (Frank Maloney for instance) put on a more balanced and thus entertaining show. I enjoyed two out of the three fights tonight, but I would not say I was entertained.
Secondly, I feel strongly that Tony Quigley should have been taking part tonight as part of a rematch against Paul Smith. I may be the only one that holds that opinion, but I hold it tightly and am more convinced than ever having viewed the fight.
Thirdly, I was very happy to see that Dave Parris was nowhere near these fights. Although he makes a decent referee, his judgement and scoring of late has been nothing short of appalling. I was seriously very excited to not hear his name read out as a judge, which I think says a lot about him.
Now that I've gotten my personal feelings out of the way (and what use is a personal blog without some strong opinions, right?), here is my report of the night's action.
British Super-Middleweight Championship
Paul Smith (champion) vs Tony Dodson (challenger)
In what was a hard-fought, yet underwhelming, battle, Dodson set the mood of the fight early in an eventful first round. Following an early clash of heads (which I personally felt was more than accidental), Paul Smith had to spend much of the first half of the fight battling through blood, which was fast forming a mask over his entire left side. Cuts were to follow, with Smith receiving two more throughout the bout and Dodson getting one himself, making this a bloody battle mostly fought by the cutmen at ringside.
To Smith's corners credit, they did an excellent job from the first round to keep his bleeding under control and to keep their fighter focussed, calm and motivated. If Dodson's headclash was part of some plan, it completely back-fired as Smith became an unrelenting force of power and speed, taking the fight to Dodson and clearly going for a knockout before the referee could stop the fight.
However, after passing an inspection after the 4th round, Smith seemed to run out of steam a little and Dodson returned fire. The fight was fairly neck and neck until the 10th where Dodson, who had been fighting ugly (grappling, 'headclashes' intentionally aiming for Smith's cuts) received a point deduction for holding. It was a deserved deduction, and from that point on it was no surprise to anyone that Smith would win by decision.
What did come as a surprise, however, was the 12th round, wherein both Dodson and Smith gave it their all - trading flurries of hard hitting, accurate hooks, the likes of which make me wish that boxing still went, on occasion, to a 15th round. Although I wouldn't like to see Smith suffer any permanent damage as a result of fighting on for a further 9 minutes, with the energy and excitement these two were displaying the fans (myself included) were eager for more. If only the rest of the fight had been this closely contested. The twelve round showed what boxing should be about, however the dirty tactics of Dodson and the bloody visual of Smith throughout the preceeding eleven showed everything boxing shouldn't be.
Smith can hold his head high, having survived some close battles as of late. He is an exciting boxer on the domestic scene and it will be interesting to see what he has to offer if Warren's promises of a World title challenge come to fruition. For Dodson, however, I think it is time for a re-evaluation of tactics. He has the power, the stamina and the conditioning to do great things, if only he can find a way to apply his natural abilities properly. The break away from the ring last year has clearly did him some good physically, but he now needs to sharpen up his mentality.
Judges Scorecards - 117-112, 116-111, 115-112.
Post-fight Records - Smith (27yr, 29(15)-1(0)-0). Dodson (29yr, 24(12)-6(4)-1).
WBO Inter-Continental Welterweight Championship
Krzysztof Bienias (champion) vs Kell Brook (challenger)
In what was a completely one-sided and, in essence, boring match-up, Bienias (a boxer with an pretty decent paper record) played punchbag for Brook, allowing him to take his time and throw punches at Bienias all night. By the 6th round, the fight was called to a halt as Brook barely grazed Bienias with an unconvincing uppercut, then subjected him to the same few punches he had been throwing all night. Why the referee chose to end it in the 6th and not the 1st or 2nd (all the rounds were pretty much the same thing), I don't know. Why Bienias offered almost no opposition in defence of his record and his belt, I don't know. Why people are touting Brook as a possible opponent of Khan and Pacquiao, I don't know. (Well, I can guess that it is because Frank Warren is still hurting from Khan having left him to find bigger, better and proper opponents - if he had stayed, perhaps he would still be getting lined up to face the likes of Bienias). From what I can gather, Brook has far more to offer than what was on display tonight, which I can believe - there are few that can make such a one-sided affair look good (Amir Khan being one of them). Needless to say, I was left completely bored and uninterested by this bout - yet another 'unbeaten' Frank Warren fighter facing yet another defenceless opponent, only this time Bienias really should have been able to bring more to the table.
Post-fight Records: Brook (23yr, 21(14)-0(0)-0). Bienias (30yr, 39(16)-4(2)-0).
vacant Commonwealth Light-Heavyweight Championship
Tony Bellew vs Atolie Moore
By far the most exciting fight of the evening was also the shortest, lasting only 150 seconds. Bellew, keeping to his promise of showing Moore exactly what kind of boxer he is, unleashed fury upon Moore, knocking the man down after a flurry of brutal punches. The referee ruled it as a shove, but it hardly mattered - Moore had practically been knocked out by the display and, less than 10 seconds and several unanswered punches later, the ref had to call a halt to the fight and give it to Bellew.
Obviously still feeling the effects of his adrenaline rush, Bellew then addressed the crowd - standing in the middle of the ring and screaming such rants as "I'm the best", "Look at me", "Totally pwned that fool" etc. While this brash cockiness normally rubs me completely the wrong way, in this case it was completely called for. Bellew may be the least prominent of the three Liverpudlian Tonys (Quigley, Dodson), he matches them both for charisma, confidence and power. His momentum may take him far.
A quick thought for Moore - being utterly dominated in your fifth fight, and for a title no less, is something that could derail a career for good. Chin up, accept you were up against a complete monster who you shouldn't have even been in the same country as, let alone the same ring, and get back on the right path.
Post-fight Records: Bellew (27yr, 13(9)-0(0)-0). Moore (27yr, 4(2)-1(1)-0).
The rest of the night featured performances from Smith's brothers - Liam Smith (21yr, 5(1)-0-0) defeated non-relative Billy Smith (31yr, 12(0)-77(6)-1), while Stephen Smith (24yr, 10(6)-0-0) made short work of Jason Thomas (33yr, 7(2)-27(9)-3) in a first round stoppage. Youngest brother Callum is currently working his way up the amateurs and hopes to join his elder brothers in the pros when the time is right.
Other highlights included former WBO Cruiseweight champion Enzo Maccarinelli (29yr, 31(24)-4(4)-0) defeating Zoltan Czekus (34yr, 8(4)-3(2)-1). Enzo has had real trouble of late in winning title fights, but his non-title fights continue to hand him wins. It remains to be seen if he has what it takes to become a champion again, but certainly a first round stoppage like this one will do him no harm. (The same can't be said of his opponent, however).
Edinburgh's John Thain (1-0-0) made his debut defeating Kevin McCauley (4-16(2)-2) on points. Young Ronnie Heffron (19yr, 2(2)-0-0) keeps his perfect record defeating Karl Taylor (44yr, 16(4)-135(34)-7). It amazes me to see these old boxers continue to put in the appearances and plump up young boxer's scorecards. (It also amazes me that so far both of Ronnie's fights have ended the same way - with his opponent retiring after the 2nd. I wonder how long that will last?). Finally, Tobias Webb (21yr, 3(0)-0-1) technically clings to his unbeaten record in a points draw with Lee Duncan (21yr, 2(0)-4(1)-2). That little '1' at the end of his rating might be enough to preclude him from the Frank Warren club, where everyone is an undefeated future World champion. Which might not necessarily be a bad thing.