DAVID AVANESYAN provides a timely reminder that to be a European champion – a real one that is – you still have to be very good.
Twice this year the Russian, who trains in Newark, Nottinghamshire, has come to the SSE Arena, Wembley and left a British challenger’s hopes in tatters. In February it was Josh Kelly, who started well until Avanesyan caught up with him in the middle rounds. This time, on Saturday (October 2), Liam Taylor barely got started.
Avanesyan, 33, represents a serious test for any boxer. Incredibly strong and compact, he backs himself to bide his time and finish strong if need be. Against Taylor, he didn’t waste a punch and walked him down from the opening bell.
At the start, Taylor tried to keep the Russian off with straight shots, but when that didn’t work he was forced to trade. That looked futile as Avanesyan landed short, sharp hooks and uppercuts that went straight through Taylor’s guard and rocked his head back.
It was soon obvious that Taylor was being completely outgunned, with Avanesyan’s left hook looking particularly hurtful, but it was a right hook that had Taylor over near the end of the first round, the Lancashire boxer touching down after the shot landed on the side of his head.
He started the second as if he wanted to box, but Avanesyan was straight on to him again, landing a big left hook and a right uppercut that forced Taylor to mix it again.
All the best shots came from Avanesyan and try as he might, Taylor could not reverse the tide and struggled to keep the Russian off him. The finishing salvo was a left, right, left combination that had Taylor falling back against the ropes, prompting referee Mark Lyson to step in at 2-18 of the second round. There were protests at the stoppage, but Lyson’s intervention seemed well-timed.
The fight was elevated to the top of the bill after Chris Eubank Jnr’s clash with Anatoli Muratov was called off after the German failed his medical. That was a tough blow to BOXXER, the promoters, and Sky Sports, who had pushed the bill hard at the start of their Next Generation, after the split with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing. Still, Sky Sports claimed that they achieved their highest viewing figures for a Fight Night show in three years, so among the disappointment from a main event falling through, that will be a sign of encouragement.
The point about the real European title – the EBU one – is worth making. It is a title born out of the way other sports are organised, from national federations joining together, not that someone decided to make a belt.
The rise in broadcasters in British boxing is a great opportunity on one hand, but it could see a proliferation of titles on British shows, as rival promoters steer different paths for their boxers. No one wants a return to the days when the world titles belonging to the WBU, WBF and IBO filled many broadcasts.
It has been nearly two years since Richard Riakporhe stepped into the ring and the ring rust showed as he took time to warm to his task before beating Krzysztof Twardowski, of Poland, on points.
The result was a fairly comprehensive win for Riakporhe, the former British cruiserweight champion, 79-72 on the card of referee Coakley, but it wasn’t until the final round, when Riakporhe dropped Twardowski with an overhand right, that Riakporhe really shone.
In the main the Londoner was happy to push out the jab and Twardowski’s determination to counterpunch, which meant he hardly ever led off, seemed to make Riakporhe a bit tentative.
Germaine Brown got the better of a well-contested English middleweight title eliminator against Jamal Le Doux. Le Doux came forward throughout and put pressure on Brown, but it was Brown who generally picked the better shots and while there were moments when he stood his ground and landed some big shots, he never really looked like overwhelming Le Doux. Referee Lee Every scored it 99-92, which looked about right, but didn’t really give Le Doux justice for the effort he put in.
Whatever criticism comes trialist referee Sean McAvoy’s way for his stoppage in the Mikael Lawal-Benoit Huber fight, he can be rest assured that he did a good job. McAvoy jumped in to stop Huber, from Switzerland, midway through the third round of their cruiserweight fight after taking a huge right hand. While Huber protested long and hard, McAvoy stopped Lawal taking a free shot at him when he was defenceless.
Huber had a bad habit of dropping his hands every time he threw a punch. So, midway through the round, as Huber missed with an ambitious right he was countered with an overhand bomb from Lawal.
The shot seemed to send Huber’s eyes into the back of his head and his hands dropped by his side, leaving himself wide open to any Lawal follow up. Fortunately for Huber, McAvoy intervened at 1-36.
Middleweight Linus Udofia moved through the gears nicely to stop Albania’s Xhuljo Vrenozi in the third of their scheduled ten-rounder.
Udofia took his time against an opponent who switched sides and dived in from awkward angles. But he dropped Vrenozi with a brutal right uppercut in the third round and then put together a concerted attack, rocking Vrenozi several times, before the towel was thrown in at 2:39.
Ebonie Jones found herself thrust into the spotlight on her professional debut, as her six-twos against Lithuania’s Vaida Masiokaite was put on as the last fight before the main event.
The aggressive Jones, who brought a lot of fans up from Portsmouth, claimed a 59-55 points decision on the card of referee Coakley, although it was not the easiest of nights, as she had been inactive for three years and was giving away plenty of height and reach.
Joe Pigford is now unbeaten in 18 fights as he stopped Ghana’s Isaac Aryee in the fifth round of their super-welterweight six. Aryee was down twice, in the second round from a good punch off the ropes, and then in the fifth as he took a knee after he seemed to suffer damage around his left eye from a hard right. That prompted his corner to ask referee Every to wave off at 1-27 of the round.
Handy flyweight prospect Harvey Horn also extended his unbeaten record with a 60-54 decision, on Coakley’s card, over Adam Yahaya, of Tanzania, over six rounds. Horn was too quick for Yahaya and bounced in and out of range, catching him almost at will in the early stages, but Yahaya soon got fed up with that and backed away, inviting Horn forward, turning it into a more cautious bout.
Razor Ali remained unbeaten as he claimed a 60-54 win over Stefan Nicolae at super-bantamweight. McAvoy was the referee.
The Verdict The event was hit by the lack of Eubank Jnr but Avanesyan shows his class.