THE MTK Global Golden Contract Tournament got off to a cracking start at York Hall, each of the featherweight quarter-finals producing action and stirring up plenty of interest in the semis (set for March). Gedling’s Leigh Wood showed good countering skills and sharp punching, flooring David Oliver Joyce twice and finally halting him in the ninth round. A right to the head had Joyce staggering back, and referee Marcus McDonnell promptly waved it off after 2-23.

Joyce (Mullingar) was down in the second and seventh rounds, and suffered damage under the right eye in the fourth that quickly spread. But the Irishman never gave up, and there were times, especially in the sixth and seventh, when I thought Wood’s tank might run dry.

Wood (the reigning Commonwealth champion) used his height and reach advantages from the start, circling and scoring with long southpaw jabs. Joyce kept up the pressure but was shoved over in the second – and then a right counter put him down. He was up quickly and forced against the ropes, where he fought back grimly.

Wood had to take stick on the ropes in the third, though he drew blood from Joyce’s nose.  Wood had a bump under the left eye in the fourth.

The fifth was exciting, with the advantage shifting from one to the other, but Joyce’s strength seemed to be starting to tell, and Wood held on in the sixth and seventh. But he found a right counter to drop Joyce for four at the end of the seventh.

The eighth saw good action, but Joyce finished with a cut in the corner of the left eye – and then came the abrupt finish in the ninth, Wood pulling out that single right.

All the quarter-finals were scheduled for 10 rounds.

British champion Ryan Walsh also won in the ninth. Opponent Hairon Socarras, a Cuban based in Miami, was taking stick on the ropes without reply, and referee Robert Williams made a well-judged stoppage after 2-39. Judges for both this and the Wood-Joyce bout were Michael Alexander, Steve Gray and Howard Foster.

Scott Rawsthorne / MTK Global

The first four rounds were competitive, but a right had Socarras holding on in the fifth – and another right sent him careering back into the ropes, and referee Williams correctly took up the count. Socarras rallied but was warned for a low blow – and again in the sixth.

By the eighth Walsh looked well in control, switching stance and picking his shots effectively. A burst to the body had Socarras holding on – he came out strongly for the ninth, and both scored with solid rights to the head, but a final right knocked Socarras into the ropes and Walsh was on him at once. With Walsh working away with both hands, and nothing coming back, Mr Williams signalled the end.

Southpaw Tyrone McCullagh (Derry) took a unanimous decision over Sheffield’s Razaq Najib, with scores of 97-93 (Howard Foster), 98-92 (Marcus McDonnell) and 96-94 (Robert Williams). Mike Alexander refereed.

After six rounds there looked little in it. Najib pressed forward, McCullagh looked to counter – and both had their successes. McCullagh had a bump under the left eye in the second, and by the end of the sixth both had bumps under the right eye.

From the seventh McCullagh started to pull away, as Najib’s work got a little ragged. Najib kept pressing but McCullagh moved well from side to side and scored as Najib came in. McCullagh was wrestled down in the seventh and shoved over in the ninth – but he kept his composure, drew blood from Najib’s nose in the eighth, and gave a polished display of countering in the last. 

James “Jazza” Dickens unanimously outscored fellow-southpaw Carlos Ramos (Spain), with two scores of 97-92 (McDonnell and Alexander) and one of 99-91 (Gray). Howard Foster refereed.

Scott Rawsthorne / MTK Global

It was Dickens’ sixth straight win since losing his British super-bantamweight belt to Thomas Patrick Ward. The Spaniard was down in the fourth.

Ramos made a fight of it, despite the scores, and by the end of the first there was a bump under Dickens’ left eye. But Dickens was consistently landing more, coming inside Ramos’ jabs to work in close. By the start of the fourth Ramos was looking lumpy under the right eye, and late in the round a right to the head dropped him for two.

Ramos kept trying but was outworked, and a solid-looking left cross in the ninth had no effect. He tried to get the jab working in the last as Dickens moved, but by then Dickens had the bout well won.

The other weights being contested in this tournament are super-light and light-heavy. Let’s hope their quarter-finals are this good.

Quickest winner of the night was Walthamstow’s Sam Gilley, who despatched Spain-based Nicaraguan Arnoldo Soldano in 2-49 of a scheduled six.

The taller Gilley landed a burst, but Soldano came back – but then a left counter dropped Soldano on his back. Referee Chas Coakley counted to five and then waved it off, leaving Gilley winner by technical count-out – and Soldano needed medical attention before regaining his feet and sportingly embracing his conqueror.

Southpaw Jacob Robinson (Cardiff) outscored Birmingham’s Sean Davis over eight, referee Jeff Hinds scoring 80-72. Davis pressed forward throughout but was outworked.

Mitchell Frearson (Hornchurch) and Bow’s Rod Douglas Jr had a crowd-pleasing four-rounder that saw both sustain facial damage and Frearson take referee Hinds’ verdict by 39-37 (though all the sessions looked close).

Randal Barlow (Crawley) won his debut with a clear four-round win over Lithuanian Zygimantas Butkevicius, referee Coakley scoring 40-36. Barlow was cut in the corner of the right eye in the opener, while Butkevicius had a bump under the left.

The Verdict Look forward to the semis in March – and the bouts at the other weights.

Jacob Robinson (130 1/4lbs), 7-0 (2), w pts 8 Sean Davis (136lbs 2oz), 14-7; Sam Gilley (150lbs), 10-0 (5), w tco 1 Arnoldo Solano (155lbs), 14-21; Mitchell Frearson (160lbs), 4-0-1, w pts 4 Rod Douglas Jr (158lbs), 2-4; Randall Barlow (158 1/2lbs), 1-0, w pts 4 Zygimantas Butkevicius (157 1/2lbs), 2-25; Tyrone McCullagh (125 1/2lbs), 14-0 (6), w pts 10 Razaq Najib (125lbs 6oz), 11-4 (2); James “Jazza” Dickens (125lbs 6oz), 28-3 (11), w pts 10 Carlos Ramos (125lbs 1oz), 11-2 (7); Ryan Walsh (126lbs), 25-2-2 (12), w rsf 9 Hairon Socarras (125lbs 3oz), 22-1-3 (14); Leigh Wood (125 1/2lbs), 23-1 (13), w rsf 9 David Oliver Joyce (125lbs 6oz), 11-1 (8).