THOUGH none of the eight fighters in Coventry on Saturday were well known, they each played their part in an engrossing card that proved how much better small hall boxing would be if more fights were well-matched. It’s not rocket science, surely.
In front of the Sky Sports cameras on Saturday, while rival UK broadcasters showcased glorified mismatches atop their bills, the latest Boxxer Series produced seven crowd-pleasing affairs that culminated in Dylan Cheema – a 25-year-old former world kickboxing champion – walking away with the £40,000 star prize. Cheema fulfilled his pre-fight promise to wow his home city fans as he beat Otis Lookham in a firefight, Scott Melvin in a nip-and-tuck boxing match and the always entertaining Rylan Charlton in a rousing Kevin Parker-officiated final.
Charlton, from Norwich, hurled the proverbial kitchen sink at all three of his opponents but it was Cheema who in the end proved too clever and sturdy, winning by three scores of 29-28 (the same as Boxing News). Cheema is far from the finished article but he oozes charisma and flashy skills. Though his kickboxing background was clear to see in his at times wide open approach play, there is enough natural ability to suggest he can go on to achieve plenty, at least at domestic level.
Charlton, to both his credit and detriment, doggedly refused to alter his free-swinging style and enough looping right hands caught Cheema to leave the final poised going into the last round. But Cheema – who trained for this while juggling a full time job as a cash and carry department manager and helping out with the family business – countered with authority to take the glory.
It was a worthy final between the only contestants to register inside-schedule victories on the night (and earn stoppage bonuses). Cheema’s came in the first quarter final, and in the opening round, when a wild affair with hard-hitting Nottingham novice Lookham was stopped by Ron Kearney after just 77 seconds. Cheeney exhibited his strong chin by standing up to a clumping right to then punish his over-eager opponent. Though Lookham objected to the stoppage he was in no state to continue.
Charlton’s KO came in his semi-final bout with the experienced Shaun Cooper. The Willenhall man had boxed smartly to reach the last four when he deservedly claimed a unanimous (all 29-28, refereed by Kenny Pringle) points win over Rainham’s lively Brooklyn Tilley but he could not contain the majestically muscled Charlton. The end came with Cooper unable to beat Shaun Messer’s count at 1-42 of the third after taking a meaty left to the body and trailing right upstairs.
Cheema’s penultimate bout, overseen by Mr Kearney, was not as spectacular but was nonetheless exciting. He did just enough to pip the talented Scott Melvin of Castle Bromwich, as Cheema’s fast hands and countering ability saw him win a split decision (via two scores of 29-28 in his favour and one by the same margin to Melvin). If that one was close, Melvin’s quarter final success over his Birmingham gym stablemate, Tion Gibbs, was even more so. Gibbs boxed very well while Melvin landed just enough eye-catching blows to win a bout that could have been decided with the toss of a coin. The pair have sparred countless times in the past and it showed; mutual respect prevented either from establishing control while Mr Messer refereed. Gibbs was visibly upset upon hearing the split verdict go against him.
Beeston’s Joe Underwood Hughes, unbeaten in seven coming in, is another fighter who felt he’d done enough to win his Mr Parker officiated quarter final, when he was beaten by Charlton as all three judges scored 29-28 in his favour. Hughes, who recently changed his stance from orthodox to southpaw, was effective at times as the onrushing Charlton let the punches fly with varying degrees of success. Some feared that Charlton’s rousing approach, scurrying around the ring, chasing his rival and bowling over full-bloodied blows, would see him tire. There was of course no need for the concern; even in the final seconds of his battle with Cheema, Rylan was hurling power punches like his life depended on it.
In another bout, no doubt added to aid ticket sales, Coventry’s River Wilson Bent coasted to victory over Senegal-born Frenchman, Ismael Seck over six rounds. The 60-54 scorecard handed in by referee Parker far more in keeping with the standard small hall fare we’ve become accustomed to.
Thankfully, however, the rest of the action was substantially superior.
The Verdict A terrific format that guarantees well-matched fights and thus nearly always entertains.