JOHN HENRY LEWIS w pts 15 LEN HARVEY
November 9, 1936
HARVEY is unlikely to register with many attending this weekend’s event but he was a genuine British great from yesteryear.
As is the case with many boxers operating back then, his record on modern day website, BoxRec, only tells part of the story. At the time of his death in 1976, Reuters reported that Harvey, who boxed in every weight class from flyweight to heavyweight during a 23-year career, had lost just 10 of his 414 bouts. BoxRec list his stats as 122-14-10 (57).
Not up for dispute is that Harvey, likely in decline and with a loss to British rival Jack Peterson in his recent past, was simply not good enough to take the outstanding champion Henry Lewis’ crown. In fact, Harvey – also acting as a promoter for the event – did well to hear the final bell inside Wembley’s Empire Pool.
Alongside his father, Henry Lewis arrived in Southampton in October after travelling to the UK on the SS President Roosevelt, an ocean liner that went out of service following WWII.
The champion injured his eye in training and it flared up again during the fight but was never really any concern. Harvey, who took quite the shellacking, ended the bout with a swollen eye, a busted nose and a wide points loser.
FREDDIE MILLS w pts 15 GUS LESNEVICH
July 26, 1948
LESNEVICH had been pushed hard by Mills in a world title defence at Haringey Arena two years earlier.
Mills, in his first fight for 15 months, had rallied from being dropped three times in the second to break the champion’s nose and leave his left eye closing before dramatically falling apart in the 10th.
The rematch went ahead in front of more than 46,000 fans at White City Stadium and the feeling was, Mills had a better chance this time.
Lesnevich – now 33 years old and the “Russian Lion” (he had Russian and American parentage – hadn’t boxed at 175lbs since the first fight with Mills and looked drained at the weigh-in. The occasion made Mills nervous in his changing room before a comedian came in to help settle him and he made a breakthrough inside the opening seconds of the fight, slicing open a cut on Lesnevich’s right eyebrow with a counter.
Mills soon opened a wound over the champion’s other eye and it became clear Lesnevich was not the fighter he was. The right hand that had repeatedly landed on Mills in the first fight came out slower and Mills was able to pick his moments to win quiet rounds.
Twice the referee asked for more from both fighters and Mills put his punches together in the 10th to drop Lesnevich twice.
He got up and possibly shaded the 13th before Mills stepped up the pace in the last two rounds to make sure of the decision.
BOB FOSTER w ko 14 CHRIS FINNEGAN
September 26, 1972
FOSTER was an outstanding champion. The 6 ft 3 ½ins tall box-puncher had become champion by flattening Dick Tiger with a left hook in May, 1968 and came to London for his 11th defence.
At the Empire Pool (now Wembley Arena), British champion Finnegan was expected to go the same way as Foster’s previous 10 challengers and there were times in the opening rounds when it seemed a matter of time before the southpaw from Iver Heath, Bucks, fell from a Foster right hand.
Finnegan kept taking the shot and firing back to get the crowd at Wembley Arena behind him and there were huge roars when he held his own with Foster in an exchange in the seventh and put him on the back foot for the first time in the next.
Foster responded with some clean rights late in the eighth and that was the punch that put Finnegan down in the 10th. As he had done throughout the fight, Finnegan punched back when he was hurt and he had his successes, though Foster’s blows had more effect.
There were boos when Foster got on his toes in the 11th and 12th and when he planted his feet in the 13th, Finnegan, cut over both eyes and his nose bloodied by then, started to land punches again.
Finnegan stayed in the fight until the 14th when he shipped a right hand and landed on the seat of his trunks.
Shattered, bloodied and hurt, Finnegan didn’t move while he was counted out.
JOHN CONTEH w pts 15 JORGE AHUMADA
October 1, 1974
HARRY CARPENTER told BBC viewers during the 14th round they were watching what was “shaping up to be the greatest night in British boxing history for over 20 years.”
By that stage, Conteh had taken charge against the Argentine, just as the colourful Liverpudlian had predicted.
The 23-year-old had been ringside in Albuquerque four months earlier to watch Ahumada challenge Foster. That fight was scored a draw after Foster’s late rally, but Conteh wasn’t alone in thinking Ahumada deserved better.
Foster clearly wasn’t pleased with his performance, announcing his retirement weeks later. Though he later reversed the decision, the WBA and WBC belts were vacant with the latter being on the line here.
Conteh fancied he could outlast the Argentine at Wembley’s Empire Pool and that was how it turned out. There were some gruelling rounds in the first half before Conteh was able to get behind his polished lead hand and score with left hooks to leave Ahumada’s left eye swelling shut from the 11th.
Conteh still shipped a few solid shots in the 14th before dominating the last.
He would later say it was his “spirit” that “dragged me through” to win by five rounds and he celebrated in style.
The owner of a nearby nightclub sent champagne to the new champion’s dressing room and he remembered: “We drank the champagne and used the ice to ease the swellings on my face.”
JEFF HARDING w pts 12 DENNIS ANDRIES
September 11, 1991
HARDING won the first fight in Atlantic City, Andries levelled the score in Melbourne and the decider went ahead at the Hammersmith Odeon – eventually.
The layout had to be rearranged before health and safety officials said the fight could go ahead and on the night, a Wednesday, Andries took the wrong turning out of his changing room, delaying his entrance. Andries and Harding had no trouble finding each other once the opening bell rang.
Harding tried to box – but had to fight just to keep Andries off him.
“Every round was a war,” said promoter Mickey Duff afterwards and the back-and-forth action in the 11th round had BBC commentator Harry Carpenter gasping: “Have you ever seen anything like it?”
The 12th round would decide their trilogy on the scorecards and Harding won it to take a majority decision. There were those who thought Andries was hard done by and Harding didn’t look like a winner afterwards.
He was cut around both eyes and around an hour after the fight, he had trouble remembering what had happened.
“Yeah I did take a few punches,” he said, “but that’s okay. It’s not table tennis.”
Many years later, in conversation with Boxing News, Harding reflected on his rivalry with Andries: “He was like your worst nightmare,” he said, “like some demonic Duracell bunny. He just kept coming for you.”
CLINTON WOODS w pts 12 GLEN JOHNSON
September 2, 2006
WOODS was thinking over a career change after Johnson gave him “a bit of a pasting” in their rematch. He had been considered fortunate to get away with a draw in their first fight as well.
But after a few weeks spent decorating his house, Woods had a rethink and ended up beating Rico Hoye for the IBF title vacated by Johnson, who took a more lucrative fight against Antonio Tarver instead.
He shared two fights with Tarver and back-to-back wins following defeat in the rematch gave 38-year-old Johnson a shot at Woods for the belt.
“Our styles collided,” was how Woods remembered the fight. “It was brutal.”
The ninth round was especially brutal for the champion from Sheffield. He went back to his stool praying Johnson didn’t have another similar three minutes left in him.
He didn’t, and as was the case in many of his fights, Woods finished the stronger. So desperately tired was Johnson at the final bell he didn’t even have the energy to raise his arms and his work in the championship rounds saw Woods home via split decision.
SERGEY KOVALEV w rsf 4 NATHAN CLEVERLY
August 17, 2013
CLEVERLY said he had been “very impressed” by what he had seen of Kovalev before they fought.
He was even more impressed once the fight got underway.
“I could feel it [Kovalev’s power] on my shoulders and arms and I said to myself: ‘Whatever you do, don’t get caught cleanly…’”
Cleverly did get hit cleanly – and the WBO strap changed hands.
That had been the expectation of US broadcasters HBO when they headed to Cardiff, while Frank Warren hoped he would see a repeat of the Joe Calzaghe-Jeff Lacy masterclass when an overhyped challenger was put in his place.
There was an ice-cool confidence about the smirking Kovalev during the referee’s instructions before the fight and once the bell rang, the Russian was straight down to business.
He took the centre of the ring and let his punches flow in threes and fours.
Cleverly stood his ground and tried to get his jab working, but the weight and volume of the challenger’s punches put him on the back foot.
Cleverly opened a nick under Kovalev’s right eyebrow in the second, but the Russian still won the round and buckled the champion’s legs with a smooth combination in the third.
Cleverly bravely waved him forwards and Kovalev blasted him to his knees with a pair of rights. Never previously off his feet, Cleverly was up quickly and was soon punched to his knees again.
Kovalev had him on rubbery legs again before the bell and dropped him for a third time before it was waved off in the fourth.
DMITRY BIVOL w pts 12 CRAIG RICHARDS
May 1, 2021
TO SEE where Bivol is today – the conqueror of Canelo Alvarez, the only rival to Beterbiev’s claim to be the world’s leading light-heavyweight and one of the best fighters in any weight class – it feels peculiar that he fought inside an empty corner of the Manchester Arena as recently as 19 months ago.
The Russian’s talent was known to the hardcore and Richards was rightly deemed a huge outsider to nab Bivol’s WBA strap, as the pandemic kept fans at bay. Bivol did not greatly impress on this night, however.
Whether fighting below himself as a consequence of the pin-drop atmosphere or – more likely – content he was doing enough to win, Richards turned in a spirited effort to leave his corner convinced he’d done enough to win.
Far from a memorable or exciting fight, Richards took his time to find the belief that he really belonged as Bivol, right arm cocked and ready to fire when required, boxed his way to an early lead. The Londoner unquestionably improved during the second half of the bout but most members of the media felt that the 118-110 tally from judge Giuseppe Quartarone in Bivol’s favour was a more accurate reflection of what transpired than the much closer scores of 115-114 and 115-113 from Steve Gray and Yury Kopstev respectively.