SOMEONE’S ‘0’ had to go when MTK staged a truncated four-bout offering in the now-familiar surrounds of Production Park Studios on Sunday (October 18). Belfast southpaw Michael McKinson, having won all 18, went head to head in a 10-round welterweight clash with Dumbarton’s Celtic champion Martin Harkin, whose arm had been raised on five fewer occasions. Helped in no small part by being credited with three knockdowns, McKinson emerged a far wider winner than many might have anticipated.

Harkin had a nightmare start, being counted by third man Phil Edwards late in the opener after going down as much from a push as a punch. But there was no doubting the validity of the right hand at the top of the second that saw him reacquainted with the canvas.

Boosted by his early success, the Portsmouth-born McKinson’s commanding lead was stretched even further in the fifth when Harkin went down once more from a left, which replays proved to be low. He only just made it up from one knee to beat the count.

Spurred into action, Martin’s best work of the night came immediately afterwards, but while he kept plugging away he never did quite get the measure of his evasive opponent.

The scores of 100-88, 99-88 and 97-91, from respective judges Steve Gray, Howard Foster and John Latham, show just how clear this one was. 

Swansea flyweight Jay Harris, defeated over the distance by Julio Cesar Martinez while challenging for the WBC belt in Texas in February, had initially been slated to take on Liverpool’s Marcel Braithwaite in a defence of his Commonwealth crown. However, with the man from Merseyside failing a check weigh-in earlier in the week, this one went ahead as a non-title 10-round affair.

Every one of the tenacious Liverpudlian’s 11 previous contests had run its course, including a loss to Sunny Edwards in a clash for the vacant British super-flyweight title last time out. So the smart money was on this tussle going the distance. While Marcel eventually went down on points once more, he gave Harris more than a few things to think about, most memorably a huge left to the chin in the fourth which rocked the Welshman.

Harris, who picked up a nick by the left eye along the way, was generally the busier man, landing the cleaner shots, though Braithwaite, scoring with single punches, was never particularly troubled. He even enjoyed a period of success in the seventh and eighth.

The cards of judges Edwards, Foster and Latham at the end of a thoroughly enjoyable fight read 98-92, 97-93 and 98-92, all in favour of Harris. Mr Gray was the man in the middle.

With an eye on challenging for world honours once again, Ellesmere Port’s ex-IBF bantamweight champion Paul Butler banked eight good rounds against Newham’s Ryan Walker. Having been in with British and Commonwealth champ Lee McGregor at this same venue just a couple of months ago, Walker certainly can’t be accused of avoiding anyone.

Switching stance at times, Butler, with his jab-right hand combination working well, looked sharp from the outset. He proved a level above his game-but-outgunned opponent, increasingly beating him to the punch and scoring with crisp shots.

The closing couple of rounds proved a little closer but by that stage the contest was as good as over. Referee Latham scored 79-73 to Butler.

Belfast first-timer Paul McCullagh goes by the moniker of “Irish Drago” and in a light-heavy four-rounder against Bolton’s Ben Thomas he managed to avoid any Rocky moments prior to triumphing early.

Calm, and making the most of his long reach, Paul wasted no time on pleasantries, beating a steady tattoo on the body of Thomas, who landed precious little of note in the first. Although Ben did score with a couple of jabs at the start of the second, it wasn’t long before he was backpedalling and grabbing.

Transmission problems meant that viewers at home were denied the chance to see McCullagh finish the job but finish it he did. Referee Foster completed his count with 70 seconds of the third session having elapsed after a body shot sent Thomas to the mat.

The Verdict A couple of positive COVID tests in the week prior to the show make for a shorter evening, but an entertaining one nevertheless.