What a night for British boxing and Anthony Joshua as he knocked out world champion Charles Martin in just the second round to win his first world title at the O2 Arena on Saturday night. On what was a busy night for British boxing with a packed undercard in East London, I’ll look back at the big fights of the night including Lee Selby’s and Jamie McDonnell’s title defences.
JAMIE MCDONNELL V FERNANDO VARGAS
WBA world bantamweight champion Jamie McDonnell stopped challenger Fernando Vargas by TKO in the 9th round to retain his world title.
It must be hard for 30-year-old Jamie McDonnell not getting much recognition as a British world champion due to the lack of quality in the division he is in, but after all he is still a world champion and he got the job done against the challenger to his title late in the fight. Vargas was a late-notice challenger to his WBA title but was very much thought to be unlikely to cause much drama as many expected McDonnell to easily despatch the Mexican. This wasn’t the case however as the challenger put up a worthy fight with his conditioning and footwork proving useful in his attempt to dethrone the Brit. However, McDonnell stayed focussed and continued to pile on the pressure in the hope that Vargas would begin to leave himself open in the later rounds, which he did. With Vargas beginning to tire, McDonnell worked both the body and head and in the 9th round the referee stopped the fight with McDonnell claiming a TKO victory. Where does McDonnell go from here though? Does he attempt to unify the bantamweight division or move up in weight to super-bantamweight, with the potential for big domestic clashes against Scott Quigg or Carl Frampton.
LEE SELBY V ERIC HUNTER
IBF world featherweight champion Lee Selby beat American Eric Hunter by unanimous decision after 12 rounds.
The man known as ‘The Welsh Mayweather’, who won the IBF title in the same arena a year ago started the fight poorly being knocked down by challenger Eric Hunter for the first time in his career early on in the fight. Selby had to recover quickly with Hunter moving in to try to knock out the champion but Selby managed to hold on until the end of round 2 to receive some much-needed advice from his corner. The Welshman is compared to Mayweather due to his quality defensive skills, timing and the fact that he doesn’t knock many of is opponents out – only 8 out of 23. However, Selby had to adapt his style and show everyone why he is the champion, going on the attack in order to win some rounds and record a points win as he usually does. Hunter didn’t help his cause, losing a point for low-blows which was disappointing after the quality start he made to the fight and just made the points total even wider. It ended up being comfortable for Selby with a wide points win but hopefully he can learn from the knockdown and adapt his skills in future fights against opponents who will try to follow what Hunter did.
GEORGE GROVES V DAVID BROPHY
‘Saint’ George Groves beat unbeaten Scot David Brophy by KO early in the 4th round in his second fight since his 3rd world title fight defeat.
Despite a promising start to his career, he has lost in all 3 of his world title fights, twice by knock out to Carl Froch and once by split decision against Badou Jack. Despite these damaging defeats, he still comes back even though there are some people suggesting that maybe he should hang up his gloves as he would never be able to win a world title. Saturday night was one of those come back fights, against unbeaten David Brophy. Many people predicted that Groves would knock out Brophy and that’s exactly how the fight went with Groves knocking him out early in the 4th round. His jab was relentless, his best quality which caused Froch many problems in their huge domestic fights and Brophy just wasn’t able to contain it. He showed how good he can be, he certainly has the skills to compete at the top of the super-middleweight division but there is always that question as to whether he can put his stamp on the division and finally win a world title.
CONOR BENN V IVALIO BOYANOV
Conor Benn, son of former world champion Nigel Benn, knocked out Ivalio Boyanov on his debut at the O2 Arena.
Fighting at light-welterweight, Conor Benn had a lot of pressure on his shoulders entering the ring under the watchful eyes of his former world champion father and fighting above 2 world title fights on the undercard at a sold out O2 Arena. ‘The Destroyer’ dealt with all this pressure and looked very quick and powerful, knocking out his opponent inside the first round. Despite Boyanov not putting up much of a fight, throwing little more than 2 punches, Benn stalked his man aggressively putting on a show and hopefully starting off a promising career.
ANTHONY JOSHUA V CHARLES MARTIN
Anthony Joshua knocked out world champion Charles Martin inside 2 rounds to become the new IBF world heavyweight champion.
To cap off what was already a hugely entertaining night the main event, despite being under 6 minutes long, topped off a successful night for British boxing with AJ becoming IBF world heavyweight champion in emphatic fashion, stopping Martin inside 2 rounds and knocking him down on 2 occasions.
Joshua entered the ring wearing a white rope as a tribute to childhood hero Muhammad Ali with Martin entering after the Brit as the current IBF world champion. The fight started cagey, with both fighters looking to maintain their defensive solidarity but Joshua was the man looking to attack, catching Martin with a good jab near the end of the first round. The second round began in similar fashion but decisively, AJ stepped up a gear hunting down Martin and catching him with some good shots. It wasn’t long before Joshua knocked down Martin and the champion took the full 10 seconds to make his was back up. Almost immediately after, Joshua again looked to end the fight explosively and did just that, knocking Martin down a second time and with the champion taking just a fraction longer than the 10 seconds to get up, the referee signalled the end of the fight crowing Joshua the champion.
Martin never even looked like he was fit to tie Joshua’s boots despite himself and his team being very confident before the fight of stopping AJ. World heavyweight champion Tyson Fury even bet £1,000 on Martin stopping Joshua, he seemed to be that confident the American was going to win but it wasn’t to be and AJ showed his class and amazing knock out power much to the annoyance of Fury. Martin may have not been the best world champions, in fact he was probably one of the worst, but lets not take anything away from the performance of Joshua, after all he can only fight whats put in front of him.
This is a very big stepping stone for AJ, winning the IBF belt. It opens up opportunities to fight anyone in the division, with unification fights against Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury being mentioned as well as fights against heavyweights such as David Haye and Joseph Parker. Eddie Hearn cheekily suggested a July 9th fight at Wembley (same night as Fury v Klitschko 2) against an unnamed opponent as Joshua’s first defence and hopefully he can continue to showcase his power by beating whoever he’s put up against. Providing he can get through his defence and Fury can defeat Klitschko a second time, it would set up a huge domestic unification clash between the two rivals which would really prove who is king in the heavyweight division. The next two years are going to be huge for heavyweight boxing, a division that not long ago looked old and uninspiring but now looks fresh and has the potential to explode any minute.