By Gianluca (Rio) Di Caro
Last night boxing fans from all over the country converged on York Hall for the season finale of the highly successful, Matchroom Sports promoted, Prizefighter series and boy were they treated to a show full of intrigue, drama, controversy and most importantly plenty of world class action.
The bookies had expected former World champions, and former foes, Junior Witter and Colin Lynes to meet in the final, well they were half right as Junior Witter made it all the way and faced London based Moroccan the Showman himself – Yassine El Maachi.
So the scene was set King of the ring Junior Witter against the man many thought of as a pretender to the throne Yassine El Maachi. Before we get to final here is a quick review of how they got there.
Quarter Final 1 – Kevin McIntyre Vs. John Wayne Hibbert
The opening bout of the night see former British Champion Kevin McIntyre against unbeaten prospect John Wayne Hibbert.
It started out as quite a scrappy affair, but settled down once Hibbert slowed his pace instead of rushing in wildly. McIntyre’s southpaw stance was causing the Essex youngster all kinds of problems, which see him easily picked off by the far more experienced Scot.
McIntyre championship stature really came to the fore, whereas Hibbert would rush in lunging, McIntyre stayed calm and collected and was taking the early rounds easily with his clean, crisp and accurate punching.
A great final round for Hibbert, who plain worked his socks off in an attempt to turn the tide in his favour. At one point he forced McIntyre back on to the ropes with a flurry of straight shots, he also landed a couple of excellent head shots and a cracking short hook to the body. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t all one way traffic, anything but as McIntyre landed a series of punishing big scoring uppercuts and body shots.
The judges each scored the bout 29-28 in favour of Kevin McIntyre
Quarter Final 2 – Junior Witter Vs. Nathan Graham
Round one of the second quarter final starts with a short sharp exchange of jabs between the protagonists. As both settle down former World Champion Junior Witter starts to dictate the pace with razor sharp jabs and uppercuts, of which almost all catching the Graham as he closes in. Graham shows guts and determination but as most of the meaningful punches came from Witter I scored this round to the former World Champ.
Round two sees the patented Witter distraction strategy come into play, waving his leading hand Witter switches to southpaw briefly before lunging in with big shots to the body or double handed attacks. Witter toys with the less experienced Graham and picks him off regularly with vicious body shots. Another clear round for Witter.
Graham steps up the pressure in the third round but gets regularly caught by some powerful countering from Witter. Keeping up the pressure Graham lands some excellent straight rights, but Witter soon regains control and keeps Graham at distance and just picks him off at will. No surprise that Witter gets the nod from all three judges, by a 30-28 (twice) and 29-28 margin.
Quarter Final 3 – Colin Lynes Vs. Bobby Gladman
It was a real cagy start between the two TKO gym fighters in their quarter final meeting, most of the first round consisting of jabs with a couple of combinations thrown in for good measure. As the round progressed former World Champ Colin Lynes started to exert his authority, on his less experienced gym mate Bobby Gladman, with flurries of shots to the body and head. Gladman held his own and countered with stiff jabs and the occasional right. I see this as Lynes’ round but only by a very close margin.
A much brisker start to the second round which see Gladman in a much more fighty mode, letting rip with some neat combinations and stronger jabs. The only problem for Gladman was Lynes countered with crisper, sharper combinations. During one of the later exchanges Lynes visibly shakes the youngster with a vicious body shot and then a little later catches Gladman with a beautiful uppercut followed by a hook to the head. Easy round to call in favour of the former World Champ.
More of the same in the third round until Gladman catches Lynes on the chin with an uppercut. After a short clinch it was back to the boxing, with Lynes in full control. Gladman tried to give as good as he took but Lynes’ greater experience see him easily control the bout. The final bit of real action see Gladman on the receiving end of a punishing hook to the body followed by a hook, cross, hook to the head.
No one was surprised when the judges scorecards showed Colin Lynes the winner by a unanimous 30-27 points margin.
Quarter Final 4 – Yassine El Maachi vs. Peter McDonagh
In the build up to their match up there had been many verbal exchanges between Peter McDonagh and Yassine El Maachi, one thing was clear from this McDonagh was determined to rattle El Maachi as much as possible, so it came as no surprise that McDonagh takes the fight to El Maachi. Big mistake, El Maachi calmly picks McDonagh off each time he would charge forward.
As the round progressed El Maachi starts to take the ‘Connemara Kid’ apart with crunching upper cuts and hooks to the head. McDonagh lands a few shots but El Maachi just shakes them off and begins punishing him again. No doubt the first blood, sorry round, goes to the Moroccan.
More of the same in the second and third, about the only difference is McDonagh goes on the back foot as El Maachi chases him around the ring trying to finish the fight early. Whilst this may sound like it was all one way traffic it wasn’t McDonagh showed so much heart as he tried to wrestle control from El Maachi, just El Maachi was far too strong and savvy. Again no surprise El Maachi was declared the winner by 29-28 (twice) and 30-27 points margin.
Semi Final 1 – Junior Witter Vs. Kevin McIntyre
Witter starts strongly, using swift fluid motion culminating in some neat combinations and ‘Witter’ style jabbing until McIntyre catches him with a wicked cross. Witter does what Witter does, great movement and distraction tactics until the opportunity arrives for him to attack, fast and with punishing combustion lands a vicious hook to the body, McIntyre sinks to his knees and takes the count. For the rest of the round Witter targets the body, dishing as much punishment as possible. Each punch landed clearly hurts the tough Scot but doesn’t put him down for a second time. Easy round to call – Witter.
Starting off the second where the first finished Witter goes for the body without too much success so changes tack and starts letting rip with uppercuts and hooks to the head and body whenever the opportunity presents itself. It wasn’t all one way traffic, McIntyre catches Witter with a cracking left that drives the former champ back to the the ropes, before McIntyre can take full advantage Witter amazingly finds a little space, counters and moves out of harms way.
More of the same in the third, other than a change of stance and plenty of showboating it was business as usual for the former WBC champion. I personally see it as three clear rounds for Witter, one of the judges felt the same and scored it 30-27, whilst the other two see it 29-27 for Witter.
Semi Final 2 – Colin Lynes Vs. Yassine El Maachi
El Maachi starts the round aggressively and takes Lynes back to the ropes, but fails to capitalise. Lynes keeps his head and boxes in a neat and tidy way, picking off the rushing El Maachi with ease at times. As the round progress El Maachi starts to get a bit ragged and messy, between the clinching lets rip with wild rangy shots, of which very few actually make any contact. Lynes remains calm throughout . It was a hard round to call so I called it even, the judges could easily see it in favour of either of them.
Lynes changes tactics for the second instead of trying to box the highly unorthodox switch hitting El Maachi he turns the pressure up, forcing the Moroccan onto the back foot with flurries of punches and then grabbing hold before El Maachi can counter. Whilst this was the main feature of the round there were some excellent exchanges. The best of these was when Lynes landed a solid hook to the head of El Maachi and then followed up with a cracking body shot.
Round three see more of the same flurry-clinch tactics from Lynes dominate the round. Again there were some excellent exchanges , the best of these see El Maachi and Lynes simultaneously throw hooks. In another El Maachi powers to the body and in another Lynes forces El Maachi back onto the ropes with crunching combination to the body.
At the end of the bout my instant reaction was that Colin Lynes had won two rounds clear, with the first round so close it could go to either of them. I thought the tactics employed by Lynes’ coach Jimmy Tibbs were sublime and had surely earned Colin his second Prizefighter final place and a date with old foe Junior Witter. One judge agreed and scored the bout 30-28 to Lynes but the other two scored it 29-28 in favour of Yassine El Maachi.
Final – Junior Witter Vs. Yassine El Maachi
Due to Witter and El Maachi both having a similar style those in the know had predicted that the final would be horrible to watch, and to a degree they were right, but there was plenty of action and drama to make up for some of the messier and plain boring times.
First round was an untidy affair, plenty of posturing and wrestling interspersed with a little boxing. Most of the good work and meaningful punches came from El Maachi, including a flurry of punches that culminated in a shot to the head that sent Witter to the canvas, only to be waved off by the referee as a slip. Not to be deterred El Maachi just got back to business and again catches Witter with a solid hook to the temple as the Bradford man rushes in.
The best way to describe the second round is an untidy brawl, it was a mess. Both fighters spent the majority of the round holding and shoving. It was a hard round to score as neither had done anything worth scoring!
El Maachi get his shots under control again in the third and catches Witter with a sharp cross hook. During one of the increasingly frequent wrestling sessions Witter receives a cut over the right eye and then shortly after during yet another wrestling session Witter flips the Moroccan over his hip and to the canvas. El Maachi’s responds with some wild and erratic shots that fail to make any contact, but soon calms down and attempts to take some control of the round by gesturing to Witter to come in.
The next bit of real action causes huge concern to many present, during a rushed attack El Maachi sidesteps and Witter is sent of balance and through the ropes, where he crashes into a Sky cameraman before hitting the floor. Witter is straight up and back into the ring to everyone’s relief.
Normal service resumes with minimal action between the ubiquitous wrestling, during one exchange El Maachi catches Witter flush on the chin and in another Witter is sent to the canvas, again it was a punch that sent him down, albeit on the back of the head this time so quite rightly waved off. Both resumed where they left off until the final bell.
After a short delay MC John McDonald reads the scorecards out, one judge sees the bout as a 29-29 draw and both the other judges called it 29-28 in favour of Yassine El Maachi.
So there we have it, it may not have been a classic encounter but either way former ring King Junior Witter is deposed and a new King has been crowned – Long live King Yassine El Maachi.