THE finals of the 2021 England Boxing National Amateur Championships were held at the SportsDock on the University of East London campus, and light-heavyweight produced the bout of the day. Victory for Aaron Bowen earned him the Mickey May trophy for Boxer Of The Tournament and also saw him retain the title he won in April 2019, the last time these championships were held to a conclusion. (The COVID pandemic caused the 2020 event to be scrapped during the early rounds).
Yet Bowen (pictured above) was pushed all the way by Earlsfield’s Omar Augustine, who had beaten him twice and wasn’t far off making it three times. Instead, after nine minutes of non-stop action, Bowen won a 4-0 split decision (meaning one of the five judges had them level).
At times, especially in round two, it seemed Augustine’s aggression and strength on the inside would tip things his way. But Bowen stood off and boxed more than normal – and that proved the difference as he let his hands go to good effect in both the first and the last.
Bowen’s previous NAC title came with Triumph, after which he moved to another Coventry club in Christ The King. He is now with Walsall outfit Box Smart Elite.
Classiest male performer of the day was middleweight Ramtin Musah (below) from the Beartown club in Congleton, Cheshire. Beaten in the 2019 final by Mark Dickinson (now pro), Musah unanimously outpointed Billy Le Poullain of Guernsey’s Amalgamated outfit in a contest that was clear-cut yet entertaining.
The bigger-looking Musah used his long arms to control things at range, and Le Poullain struggled to get in close without being tagged. Yet Billy never stopped trying, not even when a right cross brought him a standing eight count in round two, or when a right uppercut nailed him in the last.
Musah was one of 10 first-time senior NAC winners on a day that underlined how the senior amateur ranks have been depleted by COVID and the pro sport.
The day started well with a bright light-flyweight contest that saw southpaw Ellis Trowbridge unanimously outpoint Ibrahim Kola of Metro (Manchester).
Trowbridge, formerly with Guildford but now with Hoddesdon, was the sharper throughout, moving in and out to score while Kola couldn’t get untracked. Kola did land some good rights in the last, but Trowbridge hit back in exchanges and used his superior footwork to stay ahead.
The next weight, up, 52 kgs, was one of several tight finals that could conceivably have gone the other way without serious complaint. Fenland Sparta switch-hitter Eryk Ciureja proved just a little bit too nimble for Haringey’s taller Yusuf Thahmin, taking a 4-1 split decision in a good battle.
A cagey opener went the way of Ciureja, who stood off and used fast hands to beat Thahmin to the punch, with a left flooring the Haringey boxer for a count. Thahmin came into things in round two, forcing Ciureja to exchange, and Yusuf kept attacking in the last, looking the stronger in the closing stages.
It was probably the cleaner punching of Ciureja that enabled him to take the title back to Chatteris.
Dagenham southpaw Billy Adams once again showed his promise as he tamed the rushes of Josh Babb (Ward Degnans, Darlington) to win their 56kgs final unanimously.
Babb ploughed in throughout but the taller, long-armed Adams used his better skills to land most of the quality shots – especially the left, to both head and body. Babb’s cause wasn’t helped by a public warning for low head late in round two and in the last Adams stayed on top to become his club’s first senior national male champion since Johnny Maloney (67kgs) in 1951.
Best display among the heavier weights came from Moss Side Fire’s Patrick Brown, who unanimously defeated Thomas Pogson (Skegness) at 91kgs.
Pogson lasted the distance – in the 2019 final he was stopped by Natty Ngwenya. A repeat early ending never looked on the cards, although Brown, after edging the first, grew in confidence in round two when he banged home solid left hooks and hard right crosses.
By the last it was proving one of the day’s better finals, with Pogson fighting back to land useful rights but Brown doing enough to secure a victory that pleased son/father coaching team of Nigel and Kelvyn Travis.
There was a real clash of physiques and style at 69kgs, where long-limbed Patrick Hewitt (Leigh) met Birtley’s compact Owen Rees.
Hewitt jabbed and moved while Rees chased, with both having their successes. A cut on Rees’ right eye survived a doctor’s inspection in the first but things seemed to be going his way when a left hook brought Hewitt a standing eight count late in round two.
But when Rees’ injury was looked at again in the last, it was ruled bad enough to stop the bout. As it was caused by an accidental clash of heads, we went to the scorecards – which had Leigh winning unanimously, presumably thanks to his frequent left-jabbing.
Owen thus fell short in his bid to emulate older brother Ben Rees, who won the national light-heavyweight title in 2018.
The previous men’s final, at 64kgs, was also a slippery vs aggressive style contrast – and also went the way of the elusive type as Eastside’s Ibrahim Sulaimaan won a 4-1 split decision over Owen Durnan (Manor, Sheffield).
In an all-southpaw encounter – although Sulaimaan constantly switched – the Birmingham boxer spent a lot of time boxing off the ropes, using left uppercuts, while Durnan piled in and thumped the body relentlessly.
There was a lot of action in close, with many punches being blocked, so one always had the feeling the judges would have different interpretations. Perhaps the closing stages of the last, when Sulaimaan changed tactics to move and pot-shot, tipped the balance for the judges who crowned him.
Revenge was sweet for Ike Ogbo (Border City, Carlisle) as he unanimously beat southpaw Harvey Dykes to lift the super-heavyweight crown in the last bout of the day.
In October 2019 Dykes, then with Moulsecoomb, beat Ogbo in the final of the Class B Developments. Now with Newhaven club Hillcrest, Dykes did his usual thing of moving, prodding and clutching – but Ogbo forced persistently, cut his right eye in round two and made him trade more than he wanted to.
Ogbo’s celebration upon the announcement of his victory was something to behold.
Closest decision among the men’s finals was at 86 kgs, where the Army’s Carnell Brown edged a 3-2 split verdict over Sheffield City southpaw Joel Aminu in a bout marred by far too many tangles.
When Brown received a public warning for holding in the last, his chances must have been hanging by a thread – but presumably his constant attacking must have counted with the judges who sided with him. And he was also hampered by a cut right eye in round two (it survived a doctor’s inspection), so one cannot doubt his fighting spirit.
Aminu, far less experienced at this level, could never break free from the clinches long enough to make tell any port-sided awkwardness.
Lightweight was decided without any action when Joe McGuinness (Jimmy Egans) tested positive for COVID the day before the final. That left Patris Mughalzai (Powerday Hooks) to win the title by walkover.
Pick of the seven women’s contests was the 57 kgs affair that saw Sameenah Toussaint take a 4-1 split decision over Roni Dean from Thetford.
Toussaint, from the new Kings (formerly Northolt) club, was taller and had longer arms, which meant she needed room to get her punches off. Dean tried her hardest to deny her that space, marching in and forcing her into corners and onto the ropes.
The action continued unabated for the whole nine minutes, but in the end cleaner punching won it for the Londoner.
Remarkably, three 2019 champions won again, but at the weight below this time.
Islington’s Jem Campbell, winner at 69kgs last time, triumphed at 64 here courtesy of a 3-2 split decision over Sarah Dunne (Metro). Taller Campbell tried to keep things at range with her jab, while Dunne was slower on her feet but did connect with some solid right crosses.
Southpaw Jodie Wilkinson (Tigers), the 2019 champ at 75kgs, dropped down to 69 kgs and unanimously beat Army’s Lucy Kisielewska in a one-sided contest. Kieiselewksa couldn’t make tell her height advantage, allowing Wilkinson to pile up points with her left cross.
The third winning weight-dropper was Cindy Ngamba (Halliwell), a stoppage victor at 81 two years ago – and also an inside the distance success here, halting Jerry-Lee Palmer (West Warks) in round three at 75 kgs.
The gap in class was evident from the off, with Ngamba’s greater speed and power proving too much. Palmer was game but took a count in round two and another early in the last before yet another big right prompted referee Ray Morley to call a halt.
At 51 kgs Savannah Stubley from Empire School of Boxing proved too good for Tayla Rushton (Box Smart Elite), taking a unanimous decision.
More complete and more enterprising, Stubley mixed in good body shots with rights to the head against an opponent who was willing but just couldn’t get anything going. Rushton was counted on in the last after absorbing a combination.
There was never much between two neat-boxing finalists at 54 kgs, with Olivia Holmes (Rotunda) edging a 4-1 split over Hall Green’s Holly Heffron. Both moved and picked their shots well before things became a bit scrappy in the last as they tired.
By contrast, there was a clear-cut victory at 60 kgs for Hannah Robinson of PS Boxing (Darlington), who unanimously beat Jessica Barry from Christ The King.
Poised Robinson looked a level above an opponent who proved too easy to hit, as evidenced by a bloody nose suffered in the last. Oddly, Robinson had received a count earlier in the session when she appeared to slip down and copped a left as Barry followed through. No harm done, though.