By Gianluca (Rio) Di Caro
On Saturday night Steve Goodwin undertook his first big event outside of London with his superb Essex Eruption, sponsored by Revolver Entertainment’s new to DVD action drama Fists of Rage, at the Goresbrook Leisure Centre in Dagenham.
The event was due to be quadruple headlined, but due to an injury to Yassine El Maachi and the BBBofC realising at the last minute that Leon ‘Solid’ Williams’ suspension, due to his being stopped on the 5th February, didn’t expire until the day after the event, it became a double header instead.
It wasn’t just the loss of two of the headline bouts, there were various other last minute injuries that reduced the event to eight bouts instead of the proposed fourteen. Either way those that were lucky enough to attend the off-TV show were treated to a fantastic evening of top class boxing.
With El Maachi and Williams out Romford’s unbeaten Tony ‘The Conqueror’ Conquest bout against current Ghanaian Cruiserweight Champion Prince George Akrong was elevated to main feature.
Right from the opening bell Conquest hunted down Akrong, whose ringname is the Hungry Lion, with a clear intention to get the African challenger out of there early. About two minutes in Conquest let rip with a huge right which missed Akrong’s chin but caught him on the shoulder and send him crashing unceremoniously onto his backside.
Throughout the second round Conquest pushed forward utilising every punch in his packed arsenal, but Akrong’s strength, and determination to shine in front of the British crowd, see him weather the constant onslaught as well as occasionally test the taller and bigger Conquest ‘s chin with massive overhand rights.
Much of the same in the third, that was until mid way through the last minute of the round when Conquest shook the big African to the core with a massive right. In a flash Conquest let rip with heavy lefts and rights as Akrong, with his back against the ropes, covered up in an effort to survive until the end of the round, which he did.
The fourth was all action, with Conquest determined to start of where he finished in the previous round. However Akrong showed his mettle by going forward and taking the fight to Conquest, at times going toe-to-toe exchanging bomb after bomb.
The fifth was almost a replay of the third, with Conquest pushing hard. Eventually the pressure paid off, Conquest backed Akrong onto the ropes and let rip with huge left to the body followed with a big right to the head. Akrong wobbled badly, but even though his legs had clearly gone he managed to stay on his feet. Conquest, who had stepped back expecting the African to drop, went back on the attack letting big lefts and rights go until the final bell.
Round six see Conquest step things up and hurt Akrong with a big right hand within seconds of the start. Conquest followed the African warrior around the ring letting off bomb after bomb. After about thirty seconds Conquest landed a peach of right to send Akrong to the deck again. The African got to his feet but looked severely shaken. The referee accepted Akrong’s pleas to allow him to continue but in an instant Conquest was on him letting rip with more big lefts and rights, Akrong didn’t respond or even seem to have any defense and the referee jumped in to call a halt to the proceedings after just one minute of the round.
Co-headline to the Conquest-Akrong bout see the welcome return of Newmarket Light Middleweight prospect ‘Phat’ Pat McAleese, against Spain’s Fran Gonzalez.
There was no feeling out period, both protagonists went to work right from the opening bell. The action was nonstop and produced some of the best pure boxing of the show. For the full three minutes they matched each other punch for punch, it was that close throughout.
Round two see McAleese step things up to try and wrestle control of the round from the gutsy Spaniard. However Gonzalez had no intention to allow him to do so and countered every attack.
Round three see more of the same at first, but the tide was beginning to turn in McAleese’s favour around the two minute mark. McAleese added more venom to his attacks, in doing so forcing Gonzalez to go on the defensive.
Round four see McAleese continue in the same vein, often backing Gonzalez onto the ropes before letting rip with heavy flurries of left and rights to body and head. During one of the later attacks McAleese caught the Spaniard with a heavy left to the ribs, Gonzalez was clearly hurting and covered up. This encouraged McAleese to turn the pressure up another notch. McAleese was relentless playing Gonzalez’s ribs like a xylophone with wickedly fast ten-twelve punch salvos.
Round five was a cracking round for McAleese, who constantly backed up the tiring Gonzalez before letting rip with ten punch plus flurries. As the round progressed Gonzalez occasionally responded with the odd counter attack, but was often thwarted by the fast hands of the Newmarket man.
A sure fire stoppage finish looked on the cards in the final round, as again McAleese caught Gonzalez with a massive left to the ribs. However the durable Gonzalez survived the follow up salvos and went defensive to see out the final couple of minutes. The referee scored the bout 60-54 in favour of a delighted McAleese.
The sixth bout of the evening see unbeaten in four Light Middleweight Michael ‘The Zambezi Hitman’ Norgrove against the super tough Jan Balog from the Czech Republic.
Right from the off Balog went on the attack, forcing Norgrove to go defensive. Throughout the round Balog pressured and Norgrove could only respond with a good stiff jab.
Round two see Norgrove initially readjust his fight plan, choosing instead to go toe to toe with Balog. The only problem is the gutsy Czech only had one form of defense – attack. Norgrove was taking some big punches and by about midway through the round had a noticeable swelling over his left eye. Saying that Norgrove had responded really well and was out boxing his Czech opponent.
Balog pushed hard in the third, but had started to get a bit wild in his attacks, allowing Norgrove to pick him off with some good stiff jabs.
Round four was a lively affair. Norgrove was boxing beautifully and seemed to have neutralised Balog, that is until the second minute when Balog caught Norgrove with a heavy overhand right. Norgrove’s legs buckled and was on his way to the canvas. However thinking quickly Norgrove threw his arms around Balog but instead of it keeping him on his feet he just pulled Balog down with him. For some strange reason the referee decided not to give the count even though Norgrove had clearly been floored by a punch.
The tide turned in the fifth Norgrove used his superior boxing skills to dominate the round. Balog occasionally responded with a wild counter but there was little he could do to stop the constant hard and fast attacks.
Any chance of Balog causing an upset evaporated in the final round. Norgove stepped up the pressure against the rapidly tiring Czech and was controlling things beautifully. Norgrove had been using his jab and straight rights to good effect, however this changed early in the sixth when Norgrove started to go for the body. After the third attack to the ribs Balog took to one knee for an eight count.
When the bout resumed Norgrove went back on the attack in search of his first stoppage finish. It looked like he may just get it, following another cracking shot to the body that forced Balog to one knee for a second time. However Balog did get to his feet to see out the final seconds of the round.
After six scintillating rounds Michael Norgrove was declared victorious by a 60-54 points margin.
I have to add that I’ve watched every one of Michael Norgrove’s fights and I have had my doubts about him, I felt that he would come up short if actually tested. Well on Saturday night he was tested, and tested hard, but came through with flying colours and boxed the best I have seen to date. Also he showed resilience and an ability to mix it up when needed.
Next up was Carshalton Lightweight ‘Pretty’ Ricky Boylan against tall, tough and awkward southpaw Kristian Laight. Fireworks had been predicted and sure enough that’s just what we got.
Right from the opening bell both fighters made it clear they wanted centre ring, yet neither were willing to concede ground. Some great boxing from both protagonists ensued. It was a very close fought round but Boylan probably edged tit with the cleaner more meaningful shots.
Round two was more of the same, except the tide was flowing Boylan’s way more. Boylan had settled the fastest and concentrated on pure boxing to counter Laight’s attempts to force things by brute force.
Round three continued in the same vein, with Boylan out boxing his older opponent. About midway through the round Boylan landed a beautiful right to the body, Laight instantly winced and grabbed hold of Boylan to get his breath back. As the referee broke them apart Boylan went on the attack letting some cracking left and rights go in quick succession. Laight went on the back foot to try and see out the round, which he did.
Round four was all Boylan, he boxed superbly throughout to earn a tidy 39-37 points victory.
Less than a month after winning on his debut Kris Agyei-Dua was back in action on Saturday against Louis Byrne.
It is hard to think that Agyei-Dua has only had the single bout, he fought like a seasoned pro. From start to finish Agyei-Dua dominated the proceedings with some beautiful boxing. He never put a foot wrong, he jabbed with confidence and was happy to stand and trade when needed.
Byrne is a tough opponent at the best of times but didn’t seem to trouble Agyei-Dua at any time. Unsurprisingly Agyei-Dua secured his second win by a shutout 40-36 points margin.
The third bout of the night see the very welcome return of Luton’s Michael ‘The Real Chunky’ Devine, after a long layoff following a bad stoppage against Mark Alexander last year, against Sid Razak.
Devine was divine, he plain out boxed the resilient Razak throughout. Razak is no walk over at the best of times but Devine outclassed him from start to finish to earn a shutout 40-36 points victory.
Belvedere’s unbeaten Featherweight ‘Saint’ George Jupp was next up against Raffi Khan from Harrow.
Right from the opening bell Khan went on the attack, Jupp kept his cool and kept the aggressive Khan at bay with some solid jabs. Whenever Khan came rushing forward Jupp would use superior footwork, to move out of range, or solid jabbing to stop him in his tracks. Khan was getting some success but usually his shots were wide of the mark.
Whilst it was hard to call the first round, the second and third were clearly young Jupp’s, who had used his Jab to good effect throughout the two rounds. It wasn’t just his jabbing though, in the middle rounds Jupp showed that he is willing to mix it up when needs be.
Khan began to rush his attacks, backing Jupp towards the ropes, and letting rip with wild shots. Most times Jupp would just step around, leaving Khan punching at fresh air, but on a couple occasions Jupp countered with both hands and about mid way through the round Jupp landed a peach of a right which opened up a cut above Khan’s eye.
Clearly aware he was behind on points Khan became even more forceful with his attacks in the final round, often letting rip with multi-punch flurries. Jupp would counter with solid jabs as before but instead of backing off Khan kept coming forward. Khan kept the pressure up to the final bell.
When the referee’s score card was read out – 39-38 in favour of Khan – the crowd jeered, Jupp’s manager/coach Johnny Eames remonstrated with the referee and the assembled photo corps, of which I was one, all agreed that Jupp had won clearly won the middle rounds and probably had done enough to claim the first also.
I feel I should comment at this point that on Friday at York Hall Erick Ochieng suffered the same fate as Jupp, he clearly won two rounds and probably did enough to get a third but the decision went against him.
I bring this up because it seems that some referees and judges are often judging by aggression level mainly.
A prime example of this was Ian ‘Dappa’ Napa’s British and Commonwealth title loss to Jamie McDonnell last year. Napa clearly won the bout, having landed the most meaningful shots, as was proved when Sky televised highlights.
Sky were unable to find a single bit of footage where McDonnell had even landed a punch. McDonnell had been the more aggressive but had failed to make any impact due to Napa’s superior defense and countering.
The same goes for both Ochieng and Jupp in their bouts. in both cases they had exceptional defenses. In almost every attack their opponents made they failed to land a single punch and were easily caught by controlled counter punching.
I know that part of judging process includes aggression but surely ineffective aggression shouldn’t count for more than actual punches landed.
Anyway enough of my griping, the opening bout of the night see Danny Brown take on Iain Jackson in a Middleweight bout.
This was a cracking opening bout and really set the tone for the rest of the show. Both went to war from the opening bell, trading toe-to-toe for virtually the whole bout. Brown landed the most meaningful punches and rightly earned the victory by a 39-37 points margin.
As usual Steve Goodwin put on an exceptional show, one that deserved a much wider audience. It’s about time Sky started looking at some of the excellent small hall promoters, like Steve Goodwin, who constantly put on top class shows, instead of concentrating on the big three who parade out the same old names show after show.
Steve Goodwin’s next event will be at the York Hall on June 4th, miss it and you’ll miss one helluva show featuring some of the Capital’s most talented rising stars.