Report by: Gianluca (Rio) Di Caro
Let’s face it, with the amount of column inches dedicated to Mayweather-Pacquiao over the past few weeks, you could easily be forgiven thinking that there were no other boxing events that took place on May 2nd.
Well, there was another fight card, and I’m pleased to say that I was at that event – the Mark Lyons and Billy James-Elliott promoted Lords of the Ring event at the iconic York Hall in London.
OK, admittedly York Hall in Bethnal Green doesn’t have anywhere near the cachet of being at such a mega fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, but when it comes to drama and excitement, sorry you just can’t beat small hall boxing, especially when it’s at York Hall.
When the event was announced it was due to feature fourteen bouts, but immediately after May-Pac was announced a significant number of the bouts were cancelled, as the fighters wanted to be ringside in Vegas, then in the final build up further fights were off the card, due to injuries, leaving a seven card fight show on the night, or was it.
The card was further reduced on the day, after one of the fights was cancelled on safety grounds – due to a 5kg difference in the weight between the two debuting fighters – and if that wasn’t bad enough Manny Muhammad’s opponent, Rafael Snow failed to turn up, leaving just five fights on the night.
First up was a six rounder between Liverpool based Russian hot prospect David Agadzhanyan, against Czech Republic’s Josef Redlich, who stepped in at the last minute to save the bout, following Ghana’s Isaac Owusu being forced to pull out due to illness.
It took Agadzhanyan just forty five seconds to send Redlich to the canvas for the first time and about the same again to put him down a second time.
Redlich was plain outclassed so no surprise that when he went down for the third time that referee Ken Curtis decided to call a halt to proceedings on the two minute and twenty five seconds mark.
I’ve seen Agadzhanyan in action a couple of times, including the excellent win over then unbeaten Daniel Bazo back in March, so was really looking forward to seeing him in action against Owusu, a tough uncompromising former Ghanaian Champion and Commonwealth title eliminator challenger, but that’ll have to wait until later this month when the rescheduled bout takes place in Liverpool.
Next up was WBF Inter-Continental Champion Paul Economides, in a non-championship six rounder, against another late replacement, Czech Republic’s Petr Gyna, following former British Champ Andy Bell pulling out the week prior and then the original replacement pulling out just two days before the show.
Economides is another class act, so no surprise that Gyna was on the canvas within just thirty seconds, on the restart Gyna decided that attack is the best form of defense, however in taking the fight to Economides he played straight into his hands, literally as Economides punished him with a big right, that sent the Czech down to the canvas for a second and final time, on the one minute and twenty five second mark.
With both the opening fights finishing early and the live TV broadcast not due to start until 9pm, the promoters had no option but to have quite long interval before the next bout, a six round Light Heavyweight contest between Champions TKO’s unbeaten Hackney based Turkish prospect Onder Ozgul and the entertainer himself Jody Meikle.
Throughout the first four rounds Ozgul just walked Meikle down, letting rip with massive right hands at every conceivable opportunity, Meikle is as tough as they come and seemed content to absorb the punishment dished out by the man dubbed ‘Little Mike’ by the Turkish fans.
Ever the joker, Meikle played down the punishment he was taking, happily playing to the crowd, as well as infuriating his opponent, by pulling faces and insinuating that there was no power in the Turkish lads shots, however by the fact that Meikle had toned down his antics, clearly showed that Ozgul shots were indeed having the desired effect.
Meikle toned down the playfulness of his tactics even further in the fifth, as Ozgul stepped up his attacks, putting even more power into his shots.
Right from the start of the sixth it was clear that Ozgul was intent on punishing Meikle even further, backing the Scunthorpe man onto the ropes before letting rip with big double handed flurries, one of which, a cracking body shot, literally knocking the wind out of Meikle and forcing him to take to one knee.
On the restart Ozgul went in for the finish, this time Meikle went defensive, no further playing to the crowd, to see it through to the final bell.
After six highly entertaining rounds Referee Ken Curtis scored the bout 60-53 in favour of Ozgul.
I thoroughly enjoyed the fight, I know it wasn’t a classic, but boy oh boy it was very entertaining.
The fourth bout of the night see Bradford’s Tasif Khan in Championship action for the first time, against Georgia’s Mikheil Soloninkini, for the International Masters Silver bantamweight title.
Khan started fast, boxing beautifully behind his jab the Bradford man kept his slightly more experienced foe on the back foot for the majority of the bout.
By midway point Khan slowed the pace slightly, at the same time keeping the pressure on Soloninkini, however about midway through the sixth, during a routine exchange Khan was a little slow bringing up his gloves, leaving an opening for the Georgian to let rip with a big right, which sent Khan to the canvas.
On the restart Soloninkini went full out in attack, Khan remained calm and got behind his jab again, the Georgian was well hyped and continued to come forward at pace before throwing huge bombs.
During these skirmishes Khan sensibly grabbed hold until referee Lee Murtagh issued the order break. This tactic worked and Khan was able to clear his head enough to turn control back round to himself.
Khan had his hands full for the final three rounds though, as Soloninkini had the bit between his teeth and was pushing hard, however Khan is a cool character and seemed content to box of the back foot each time the Georgian made a forceful foray.
After ten rounds of excellent boxing, the judges scorecards read – Ken Curtis 99-94, Obie Garnett 98-90 and Matt Hamilton 98-91, all in favour of Tasif Khan.
Jennifer Burton, the Northern Region Secretary of the Malta Boxing Commission, presented the familiar blue International Masters belt to the victorious Tasif Khan.
Have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the fight, even though it was quite one sided for a lot of the time, let’s face it that’s not a statement on the quality of Soloninkini, as his pedigree is well known, this kid’s a tough nut to break, as proved by having taken Jamie Williams the distance, when they fought for the Bronze Masters back in March, as well as fought the sensational Charlie Edwards a couple of weeks later, but to my mind the one-sidedness of the fight as well as the result shows just how good Tasif Khan fought.
The headline fight of the night see a rematch between Champions TKO’s unbeaten Hackney based Turkish prospect Siar Ozgul, yep brother to the aforementioned Onder, against Nottingham’s Matt Scriven and this time there was a Championship on the line – The MBC International Welterweight title.
When these two first fought, back in October last year, it was an out and out war, Ozgul won but the rounds were so close it could have been a very different result.
The bout started in a very similar manner to their October showdown, neither man wanting to concede any ground, however just before the end of the first round Ozgul let rip with a massive right to Scriven’s body, which forced the Nottingham man to cover up to see the round to it’s conclusion.
The shot to the body must have really hurt Scriven as he seemed more intent on defense, rather than full on attack, from the start of the second, a pattern that remained for the rest of the bout.
Ozgul made most of the running throughout, however Scriven more than held his own during the many skirmishes that ensued, although have to admit he was a little more cautious than during the opening round.
After ten rounds of superb boxing the judges scorecards were read out – Lee Murtagh and Matt Hamilton scored the bout 100-90 and Obie Garnett 100-88 all in favour of Siar Ozgul.
This was followed by the presentation of the MBC International belt to Siar Ozgul by his fellow Champions TKO gym mate and the current MBC International Super Bantamweight Champion Marianne Marston.
All in all I thoroughly enjoyed the event, especially the final three bouts, however I was a bit disappointed that some of the planned fights, such as those featuring Iain Weaver, Antonio Counihan, Mark Prince, George Hillyard and the aforementioned Marianne Marston, failed to materialize, because to my mind if they had taken place I feel this almost certainly would have been one of the best shows at York Hall this year, as it was it still was a highly enjoyable and entertaining evening of pugilistic action and a fitting prelude to the May-Pac fight, which promoters Mark Lyons and Billy James-Elliott arranged for the boxers, their teams and attendees of the event to watch live via satellite at a private function room.