EUROPEAN champion Jason Cunningham took the British and Commonwealth super-bantamweight titles off Brad Foster with a unanimous points verdict that puzzled many ringsiders at the Utilita Arena in Birmingham.
Most I spoke to had Foster at least a couple of rounds up after 12 gruelling rounds on this Queensberry Promotions show.
Judges John Latham (116-112), Victor Loughlin (115-114) and Ian John-Lewis (114-113) all had it for the Doncaster southpaw.
The eighth round was crucial on the scorecards. Referee Mark Lyson took a point off Foster for low blows and without that deduction, the fight would have been a majority draw.
Even with the point off and a strong final couple of rounds from Cunningham, Foster was two rounds up at the end for Boxing News. He landed more clean punches, especially on the counter, though was never able to dominate Cunningham physically and many rounds were, admittedly, hard to score. Foster, told off a few times by Mr Lyson, ended the fight with a cut under his left eyebrow that was the result of an accidental clash of heads in the eighth.
Opinion was divided after Callum Johnson was awarded a majority decision over Russian Server Emurlaev after 10 rounds between light-heavyweight veterans.
Mikael Hook (96-94) and Ian John-Lewis (99-92) had Johnson ahead, while Grzegorz Molenda had it level at 95-95.
Some at ringside had Emurlaev stealing enough of the closing rounds to nick it, but for two of the judges, Johnson put more into more rounds and he was always on the front foot. Emuralev, who had to shed a little over 2lbs to make weight, landed enough to leave Johnson marked around both eyes. The Boston fighter was also cut on his right eyebrow by a seventh-round clash of heads. There were times in the first half of the fight when it seemed Emurlaev was losing ambition or tiring. As it turned out, he was taking breathers and after absorbing Johnson’s best punch of the fight in the dying seconds of the sixth, a thunderous right hand to the jaw, without blinking, he started to let his hands go.
Best fight of a good night was Ekow Essuman’s first defence of his British and Commonwealth welterweight titles against Kingswinford’s Danny Ball. Nottingham’s Essuman had a couple of rocky moments before coming through with a sixth-round knockout.
Ball said he had suffered a broken jaw after being counted out by Mr Loughlin at the 1-13 mark. Essuman was quicker to the jab against his taller challenger and Ball was also cut over his right eye, the result of an accidental head clash.
That prompted Ball to let his hands go, but until the fourth, every bit of success he had, Essuman answered. In that fourth, Ball connected with a right that had Essuman looking to hold. Both were hurt in the final minute, Ball finishing the round on top.
It looked like a possible turning point. Ball started to land his jab in the fifth and it was Essuman who broke off the exchanges. But in the sixth Essuman found Ball’s jaw with a right that shook him up. Essuman jumped through the gears, firing off a rat-a-tat 14-punch burst to send Ball to his knees. Ball, blood gushing from his mouth, looked at his corner and shook his head as he was counted out.
In another good fight, English bantamweight champion Liam Davies took on Dixon Flores up at 122lbs and won on points over 10 rounds. Scores of 100-90 (Victor Loughlin and Bela Florian) and 99-91 (Olena Pobyvailo) didn’t reflect the Nicaraguan’s contribution to the first half of a really good fight when he fought with real fire. Taller by a couple of inches, Davies went looking for a fourth straight stoppage, but found Flores, who had to strip naked to make 122lbs, could take his best punches and fire back. Early in the third, Davies had Dixon hurt and holding, but he ended the session on the ropes after shipping several rights.
Davies enjoyed the challenge rather too much for trainer Errol Johnson’s liking and after the sixth he was told: “Don’t gamble… box your way home.” Davies did as he was told.
Liverpool’s Nick Ball, eyeing a clash with Louie Lynn at 126lbs that would excite fans, was too strong for Piotr Gudel, racing to a facile win in just 56 seconds of a scheduled eight threes. The Pole was down three times before referee Bob Williams decided he had seen enough.
Worcester crowd-pleaser Owen Cooper made a good impression again, stopping Des Newton in the fifth of a scheduled six. Mr John-Lewis decided Plymouth’s Newton, troubled by a leg injury, had taken enough after 45 seconds.
As always, Cooper was straight down to business, unloading hard combinations to body and head. From the third, Cooper slowed the pace down, dropped Newton with a left-right in the fourth and got the finish in the next.
In another six threes, York’s George Davey punished Dario Borosa from first bell to last to win 60-54 for Mr John Lewis and Dewsbury’s flashy Amaar Akbar was also dominant, Mr Williams giving him all four sessions against Melksham’s Liam Richards.
Telford southpaw Macauley Owen kept Michael Horabin under pressure until Mr Williams decided the Cheshire journeyman was taking too many and stopped the scheduled four rounder at 2-01 of the first.
Bloxwich southpaw Ryan Woolridge was taken the full four by Warminster’s willing Paul Cummings after scoring a first-round knockdown. Mr John-Lewis scored 40-35.
The Verdict Minor controversy in the engrossing main event does not taint a good bill from top to bottom.