THE old adage was that you had to knock the other guy out to get a draw when travelling to Italy to box for a title but Birmingham’s Gamal Yafai made nonsense of the statement at the Allianz Cloud in Milan. He relieved Caldogno southpaw Luca Rigoldi of his European super-bantamweight title by securing an emphatic unanimous points victory, judges Guido Cavalleri of Bergamo, Italy and Bury’s John Latham having him ahead 116-112 at the finish whilst a second Italian Giovanni Poggi saw it somewhat more clear cut and turned in a card reading 119-109 in favour of the Brit. 

Twenty-seven year-old Rigoldi had been in possession of the belt for a little over two years having won it with a decision on away soil himself, this time in France against Toulon’s Jeremy Parodi who hasn’t fought since.

Two successful distance defences against another Frenchman Anthony Settoul and then Ukraine’s Oleksandr Yegorov were banked but Yafai, in what was his first outing in thirteen months and only his second since the summer of 2018, proved an altogether different proposition.

Quickly into his stride and scoring regularly to the body Gamal took the opener and while the champion ventured more onto the front foot and scored with several snappy lefts in the much busier see-saw second stanza he was countered increasingly and had to eat a fine left hook upstairs along the way.

A pair of eye-catching lefts to the body on the back of a fine lead right mid-way through the third did Yafai’s cause no harm at all and whilst Rigoldi rallied strongly late in the session his elbows stayed tucked in tight and he was now a tad more cautious.

A gritty fourth with neither combatant wanting to be backed up saw Gamal guilty of too much loading up but things proved more relaxed in the slower paced fifth and he was back picking his shots once more.

The fifth may have been quieter but the sixth ushered in a renewal of hostilities and at quite a pace too, the highlight of which was another telling right to the body from the Birmingham man, Rigoldi recovered well though and the aggressor for long spells he kept picking away in what was barring that single body shot a particularly good one for him.

Rigoldi’s powers of recovery were tested again late in the seventh with the boxer nicknamed “The Beast” crashed home  mighty left hook and there was a telling right early in the next, too. Gamal, mixing his work up nicely and scoring with sharp, accurate punches was, for the first time, really starting to boss proceedings.

With nothing too troubling coming from the Italian in the admittedly close latter rounds the gap towards the finish widened, Yafai choosing his punches well and calling the shots in the penultimate session before taking the last during which he landed a particularly pleasing right uppercut, taken in his stride, as had been the case all night, by the resilient Italian.  

Switzerland’s Fabian Guggenheim was the man in the middle.

The Verdict Yafai ends the year on a high with a fine victory on away soil.