BRIGHTON’S Harlem Eubank aced the toughest test of his career when he dramatically stopped Germany’s Timo Schwarzkopf in the 11th round. What began as a showcase for Eubank’s dazzling skillset soon became a war of attrition as the German grew stronger and the hometown favourite inevitably slowed. But it was that fade which made the subsequent finish, via the sweetest of right hands, all the more impressive.
Clearly keen to put on a show from the get-go, and feeding off the lively crowd inside the Brighton Centre, Harlem scored with a lead left hook in the opening minute. Schwarzkopf, who once beat a fading Junior Witter and had been the full route in losing efforts against Jack Catterall, Anthony Yigit and Chris van Heerden, then made his presence felt with a right hand up close only to be bundled to the floor at the end of the session.
The difference in speed, both of hand and foot, was glaring in the second as Harlem danced around the ring before firing ones and twos with menace. But Schwarzkopf, as he dutifully followed his opponent, remained a threat with his right hand.
Eubank looked on the brink of a dramatic victory in the third. A sizzling right uppercut blasted into his rival’s chin and the German dropped heavily. Dazed upon rising, the veteran did well to survive the subsequent attack. That he was fighting back by the round’s end was even more admirable.
The fast pace continued into the fourth as Eubank thundered forward. But Schwarzkopf, even though anchored in the eye of the storm, seemed to grow stronger. The uppercut, that Eubank was perhaps guilty of looking for a little too much, was now bouncing off the underdog without much effect.
Threatening briefly to unravel, Eubank lost a point for low blows in the fifth and was warned for the second time in the seventh for using his elbow. By the eighth, both fighters were having their moments, but the pop had left Eubank’s punches. No doubt feeling that, Schwarzkopf grew ever more confident as he cut down the space and hurled punches in close.
Through the ninth and 10th, Eubank seemed resigned to having to go 12 rounds for the first time in his career. To his credit, however, he found a second wind in the 11th and the fight was suddenly over. Eubank spotted a gap in his opponent’s defence and, belying the gruelling nature of what came before, sprung into action with a right that Schwarzkopf did not see coming. He was down and though he instinctively clambered to his feet, his balance was shot and referee John Latham stopped the fight.
The last time a contest of this size graced the seaside city, Chris Eubank Snr defeated Dan Sherry in this same Brighton Centre in February 1991. It was fitting, then, that Senior – of Simply The Best fame – followed Harlem to the ring as another Tina Turner song, We Don’t Need Another Hero, blared through the hall.
With his victory, Brighton’s new hero proved Tina wrong.
On the undercard, and as expected, Sultan Zaurbek’s was a class above Argentina’s Sergio Martin Sosa in their scheduled 10. The pigtailed Kazak, a prospect of high regard, used his lead right hand effectively throughout, jabbing and hooking with purpose. He used it to drop Sosa in the fourth, a short whipcracker to the jaw doing the damage. The same hand triggered the second fall in the sixth, this time plunging it into the stomach, before he brought his left to the party to launch a sustained assault that brought Mark Bates’ intervention at 1-24. All in all, a highly impressive showing.
It’s almost two years since Carshalton’s Lerrone Richards scored what should have been a breakout victory over the highly ranked Carlos Gongora. But Richards’ slick and effective but always defensively-minded style – which is so difficult to beat – has proved as much a curse as it has a blessing. In against Blackburn’s capable Mickey Ellison, Richards – rarely feeling the need to stray beyond second gear – artfully counter-punched his way to a 79-74 (Mr Every) points success. Richards may not be the most exciting super-middleweight on the planet but, given the chance, he might turn out to be one of the best.
Argentina’s Jonathan Vergara came into the ring wearing a Lionel Messi shirt but couldn’t replicate any of his countryperson’s magic against local favourite Tommy Welch. The heavyweight, buoyed by the crowd, started quickly and dropped Vergara twice in the opener – both from right hands and subsequent shoves – before his overexuberance saw him warned for using the elbow in round two. But the visitor was full of pluck, especially after hitting the mat again the fourth from another bowling right hand, when he gestured to Welch that he wanted more. When the request was granted upon resumption, the towel, accepted by Mr Bates, came in from Vergara’s corner at 1-04.
Southpaw JP O’Meara, of Ealing, clung to his unbeaten record with a 38-37 (Mr Every) verdict over Sheffield’s Karl Sampson. The journeyman scored a knockdown within 30 seconds of the opening bell, a sharp left landing flush on O’Meara’s chin and causing his backside to hit the mat. Sampson spent too much of the remainder either on his bike or holding and spoiling, ultimately costing him victory.
Omagh’s Tiernan Bradley underlined his star appeal with a performance loaded with pizazz as he dropped Poland’s plucky Michal Bulak twice and cruised to a 60-52 points success. The Northern Irishman, as per, put his arms out wide, zigged, zagged, and played matador to Bulak’s bull, bookending his dominance with knockdowns in round one and six.
Wickford’s 19-year-old Tom Welland, making his debut against Spain’s Francisco Rodriguez, loaded up on every shot and shipped the odd one in return before Mr Every stopped it at 1-01 of the fourth and final round. A wicked right hand to the body sent Rodriguez down and barely up before the count of 10. Welland was too eager to impress but, hey, we’ve all been there.