EVEN with three years having passed since Brendan Ingle’s death, his unmistakeable influence could be detected throughout the masterclass Kid Galahad produced to so impressively defeat Jazza Dickens. A further generation removed from that that established Ingle as one of Britain’s greatest trainers, and at 31 at his peak, Galahad convincingly captured so much of what it was that brought Naseem Hamed, Johnny Nelson, Herol Graham and ultimately Ingle such success.
At Matchroom’s latest Fight Camp in Brentwood, Essex, he encountered a Dickens who had both physically and technically matured since the fight in September 2013 that ended in a 10th-round stoppage victory, and yet what unfolded was considerably more one-sided, perhaps largely owing to Galahad’s knowledge of what it is Dickens brings to the ring. The 30-year-old from Liverpool, regardless a worthy contender, struggled to maintain the educated pressure that represented his finest chance of victory once Sheffield’s Galahad recognised he could read and therefore fight him as he pleased.
It was that educated pressure that earned Dickens the first round, and contributed to the two strong left hands he landed, but he took shots to the body while Galahad remained patient throughout what quickly proved significant exchanges. Dickens, while having every reason to be encouraged, had typically sought to fight with intensity, and ultimately to build an early lead and sense of momentum that his opponent might struggle to recover from. Instead, after six of the 12 scheduled rounds, it was Galahad who had built both momentum and a convincing lead, and the tiring Dickens who was already struggling to survive.
Galahad somewhat increased his intensity from the second, and was rewarded when landing a similarly strong left and when a clash of heads opened a deep cut over Dickens’ left eye. Even when Dickens responded to take a share of the third when he landed a short right and a straight left, there was little question Galahad was ready to take control, and so it proved. The relative comfort with which he was picking his shots, and his increased success in timing his opponent and influencing the range at which they fought, forced Dickens to fight at a pace that was continuing to tire him out, and at a time when his bleeding face was suffering increasing damage. When in the fifth he wildly swung for and missed Galahad, further confirmation was provided for what was to unfold.
His pace slowed significantly during the sixth; even when, while also bleeding from the nose, he won the seventh when a burst of activity that meant him landing a straight left and further uppercuts, when Galahad restored a sense of parity by that round’s conclusion it was clear Dickens, who spat blood as he returned to his corner, had little left to give.
For all of his admirable heart, the ninth round perhaps should even have been his last. Galahad was regularly landing hurtful punches with ease, worsening the state of Dickens’ swollen, bloody face, and forcing him back on to the ropes where, under assault, only Dickens’ toughness ensured he survived. When during the 10th Galahad was deducted a point by referee Michael Alexander for stepping on Dickens’ foot it mattered little; against so struggling an opponent he had built an unassailable lead, and it was a powerful left to Dickens’ body that left the greater impression. After a similarly one-sided 11th, Alexander, responsibly given the blood pouring down Dickens’ face, intervened again to tell his trainer Derry Mathews there wouldn’t be a 12th. Galahad confirmed his place in the world top five with victory and claimed the vacant IBF belt.
“Brendan said I would win everything from [junior featherweight] to lightweight,” Galahad said afterwards. “If it wasn’t for Brendan I’d probably be locked up or in jail. I’ve been waiting 19 years for this, and I’ve finally got it.”
The promising Fabio Wardley had earlier defended his English heavyweight title when resisting Nick Webb’s pressure to stop his opponent after only two minutes and 37 seconds of the first of the 10 three-minute rounds that had been scheduled. Webb, disregarding the extent to which Wardley, 26 and from Ipswich, can be dangerous when hurt, landed some encouraging right hands and forced his opponent to retreat until he instead got trapped into a corner and found himself under assault. Taking both powerful lefts and rights and struggling to defend himself, Chertsey’s Webb, 33, was dropped heavily, forcing referee Kieran McCann to wisely rescue him.
Another heavyweight, Mark Bennett, also 33 and of Dunsville, was also at risk of being stopped in the first round of his scheduled eight threes with Croatian cult hero Alen Babic but admirably survived significant punishment until referee Lee Every intervened at the end of the fifth round. The 30-year-old Babic, who in seven previous fights had never been taken beyond three, continued to fight with the recklessness of a fighter who doesn’t know he can be hurt, and shrugged off a right hand in the first round to land a more powerful straight right. Bennett was hurt as they continued to trade wild punches; once he appeared to turn his back, and twice he lost his mouthguard, presenting Babic, a natural showman, with the opportunity to play to the waiting crowd.
Bennett just as admirably attempted to walk Babic down with his hands low in the second but instead moved into range as both fighters remained flat-footed and continued to trade, albeit at a slower pace. A left from Zagreb’s Babic caught the eye at the end of the third – it would have helped his pursuit of the stoppage if he’d targeted his opponent’s body, and not least because of Bennett’s 62.5lbs advantage in weight. It was towards the end of the fifth when Babic essentially forced Every to act; uppercuts were followed by him freely landing with lefts and rights amid the wider total of the 438 punches he threw from the opening bell. Every simply saved him from the inevitability of further punishment.
In the first of the evening’s three heavyweight contests, Johnny Fisher beat Danny Whitaker in the second of a scheduled four-threes. After a competitive opening round, Fisher, 22 and of Romford, threw a well-timed right hand that sent Silsden’s Whitaker, 33, to his knees. Such was his eagerness he just as quickly threw another right and then apologised before Whitaker returned to his feet. Another right and another knockdown followed before, under assault, Every rescued Whitaker on his feet after one minute and eight seconds.
There was also a stoppage victory for Ebanie Bridges, in the third of eight two-minute rounds scheduled at bantamweight, against Bec Connolly. Two unremarkable rounds had unfolded under McCann’s supervision when the Australian, 34 and from New South Wales, started to prioritise landing the overhand right. Several succeeded before a barrage forced Swindon’s Connolly, 37, to the canvas. A further right and then a left hurt Connolly, but if McCann rescuing her after one minute and 22 seconds appeared premature, it was telling Connolly didn’t object. Bridges had increasingly been succeeding; perhaps it was only a sense of respect for her opponent that made her resist performing the Ali Shuffle.
McCann also oversaw the only fight that went the distance – Oldham’s Aqib Fiaz outpointing Kevin Baldospino 77-76 over eight three-minute rounds at super-featherweight. The latter, 27 and from Miranda de Ebro, Spain, showed reasonable punch resistance, but Boxing News believed his 21-year-old opponent deserved to win by a wider margin.
The Verdict: Galahad confirms his place among the leading featherweights on the planet.