RYAN WALSH is still British featherweight champion – courtesy of a split decision win over game challenger Lewis Paulin at York Hall.

At the end of 12 rounds I was sure Paulin had won. When judge Ian John-Lewis’s 117-111 scoreline was read out, my immediate thought was “That wide?” – and when I heard “Walsh” I couldn’t believe it. Marcus McDonnell scored for Paulin, 115-113 – so it came down to Mark Lyson, who had a narrow 115-114 for the champion.

There were parallels with the Ted Cheeseman-Kieron Conway super-welterweight bout a week earlier (which ended in a split draw). There, too, Marcus McDonnell was the one voting for the challenger – and there, too, the champion needed a late rally to cling onto his title.

Southpaw Paulin (Edinburgh) used the right tactics, keeping on the move and pumping out jabs – and landing useful left crosses when Walsh got close. By the fifth there was a graze under Walsh’s left eye, and Paulin was beating him to the punch.

Walsh (Cromer) made a big effort in the seventh, really letting his hands go, but Paulin hit back. Walsh landed some solid body-shots in the ninth, and started to up the workrate in the 10th.

With his corner yelling at him to do more work (one cornerman had to be spoken to by a Board of Control inspector) Walsh stormed out for the 11th. Paulin countered but was caught by body punches – and one right uppercut definitely shook him. But Paulin moved, and countered when he could – and held his own in a hard-fought 12th, cutting Walsh on the right eyebrow and hitting back as Walsh tried to walk him down.

At the end one of Paulin’s cornermen lifted him up – prompting a headshake from one of Walsh’s. The latter proved to be right – but I felt he shouldn’t have been. Paulin, who lost for the first time after 12 straight wins, keeps his Scottish title – and has shown he belongs at British championship level. He deserves another chance.

Robert Williams refereed.

Hackney’s Ohara Davies put an excellent name on his CV, taking a 10-round verdict over Mexico’s former IBF lightweight champion Miguel Vazquez. Referee John-Lewis scored it 97-94.

Each showed the other respect, Vazquez applauding the verdict and Davies raising his opponent’s hand. Some took Davies’ gesture to mean he didn’t feel he deserved the verdict, but I thought he did. It was Davies’ first bout since a points defeat against Jack Catterall last October, in an Intercontinental bout.

After a tentative start, with Davies seemingly wary of his opponent’s reputation, the Londoner gradually came into it more, and by the sixth he was beating Vazquez to the punch. Vazquez came forward, but didn’t throw enough.

Both finished with damage under both eyes.

Ohara Davies
Some thought Davies did not deserve his win over Vazquez Action Images/Peter Cziborra

Daniel Egbunike (Chessington) put himself in line for a crack at Mikey Sakyi’s Southern Area super-lightweight title, clearly outscoring Martin McDonagh (Isle of Sheppey) in their official eliminator. Referee John-Lewis scored the 10-rounder 97-93.

Egbunike pressed forward while southpaw McDonagh moved and countered – and Egbunike really upped the pace over the last four, denying his opponent time to think or room to get set. At the bell both raised their arms – but there was only one winner.

Anthony Yigit, Sweden’s former undefeated European super-lightweight champion, knew too much for Hackney-based Turk Siar Ozgul, and took referee Chas Coakley’s 78-75 verdict after eight interesting rounds.

It was Ozgul’s fourth loss in five outings (including losing the Southern Area title to Sakyi) – but he shouldn’t be disheartened. This was a good learning fight, and he acquitted himself well. On previous visits to Britain Yigit knew too much for Lenny Daws and Joe Hughes in European title battles – and his sole loss in 25 previous outings came against Ivan Baranchyk, in a bid for the vacant IBF 10st belt.

Ozgul landed a decent right in the second, that had Yigit unsteady, and more than once the Londoner had Yigit covering up on the ropes. But Yigit boxed coolly, scored well with the southpaw jab, and generally stayed in control. Yigit had swellings under both eyes by the finish.

The remaining bouts on this MTK Global promotion saw house fighters extend their 100 per cent records.

Londoner Donovan Mortlock floored and halted Duane Green (Norwich) in the second of a scheduled four.

Mortlock began by stalking patiently, then opened up with both hands, Green finally going down from the non-stop assault. When the action resumed Green was quickly under more pressure, and the round ended with Green bleeding heavily from the nose and taking stick on the ropes.

Mortlock carried on in the second, and referee Coakley called it off after one minute 15 seconds with Green on the ropes and shipping more punishment.

Sam Gilley (Walthamstow) made it nine in a row by well outpointing Sheffield’s Nathan Hardy over six, referee Coakley scoring 59-55.

Hardy seemed taken by surprise by Gilley’s opening attack, and the Londoner dominated the first session, landing solidly to head and body. Hardy gradually came into things more but was caught as he came in.

Jack Ewbank (Ashford) beat Wigston’s Michael Williams over four, referee Coakley scoring 40-36.

Ewbank put shots together effectively from the outset – and when Williams came forward in the second, and landed two fair rights, Ewbank quickly regained control. Williams was thrown down in the third, and finished with a swelling under the left eye.

Bradley Hazell (Maidstone) outscored Gloucester’s Andy Harris over four, referee Coakley scoring 40-36.

The Verdict Paulin deserves a return – good wins for Davies and Egbunike.

Ryan Walsh (126lbs), 24-2-2 (11), w pts 12 Lewis Paulin (125 1/4lbs), 12-1 (3); Ohara Davies (141lbs 3oz), 19-2 (14), w pts 10 Miguel Vazquez (141lbs 6oz), 41-8 (15); Daniel Egbunike (139lbs 6oz), 5-0 (3), w pts 10 Martin McDonagh (138lbs 6oz), 5-1; Anthony Yigit (142lbs 2oz), 24-1-1 (8), w pts 8 Siar Ozgul (142lbs), 15-4 (3); Sam Gilley (160lbs 10oz), 9-0 (4), w pts 6Nathan Hardy (160lbs 6lb), 9-26-4 (3); Jack Ewbank (142lbs 2oz), 3-0), w pts 4 Michael Williams (147lbs 7oz), 2-15; Bradley Haxell (134lbs 2oz), 3-0, w pts 4 Andy Harris (134lbs 9oz), 3-71-1; Donovan Mortlock (163 3/4lbs), 4-0 (1), w rsf 2 Duane Green (160lbs), 6-43-7.