Ringside Report: Gianluca Di Caro
Photographs Courtesy of Mirek Marcinski
On Friday, whilst most boxing fans were preparing for the World Super Series final between George Groves and Callum Smith to be beamed over from Saudi Arabia, I made the trek up from my London home to Derby for the weigh-in at the Stein Strasse Bar in the City for an event at Pride Park the following day.
Have to say I’ve been to quite a few weigh-ins, but can’t recall any here in the UK that could be termed an event in themselves. The only one even remotely similar I can recall attending was at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York back in 2007.
With so much effort put into the presentation of the weigh-in, I have to admit I was feeling right up for the event itself the next day, as I made my way to Pride Park, and as it turns out quite rightly so.
The headlining fight, that featured Derby’s very own Ross Doherty and Latvia’s Gvido Seilis, was for both the World Boxing League (WBL) and European Boxing League (EBL) European Super Welterweight Championships.
As the opening bell both combatants strode to centre ring and entered into the battle more akin to mortal combat of Roman Gladiators than modern day Pugilists, such was the sheer eruption of violent combat that ensued.
As like Warriors from the past Doherty and Seilis positioned themselves face to face across the battleground, neither willing to concede a single inch in the battle for superiority of the first stanza. Wow, fantastic all action first round.
Doherty’s power and precision earned him the first couple of rounds in my eyes, but in the third it was Seilis that caught the eye, he stepped up the pace and began to dominate much of the round, backing up the Derby man with big solid straight rights.
Initially early in the fourth it was again Seilis in the ascendency, however around the minute mark Doherty got behind his jab to open up opportunities for him to let rip with some big rights of his own and soon wrestled back control of the round, as well as the next two or three.
Seilis came out hard and fast in the seventh and went to work on the body and head of Doherty, forcing the Derby man to be a little more defensive than he had in the previous rounds.
The next couple of rounds were really close, one or two way too close to call in my view, as both protagonists went toe-to-toe from start to finish of each round.
The tenth and final round was sensational it was an incredible Battle Royale, have to admit didn’t expect the round to reach it’s natural conclusion as both Warriors dug deep into their arsenal, as well as both threw caution to the wind and began hurling and landing power shot after power shot. What a sensational round.
After ten magnificent rounds of boxing it was to the scorecards. Judge Adrian Thorne 98-95 – Judge Mark Wakefield 99-94 and Judge James Ancliff 99-92, all in favour of Ross Doherty, the new WBL & EBL European Super Welterweight Champion.
The penultimate contest of the night see Wolverhampton’s Emily Pugh (1-0-0) making her second professional outing, against Latvian débutée Veronika Sirajeva.
Right from the off Sirajeva shot across the ring and began firing massive power shots that not only forced Pugh to cover up but also initially silence the Wolverhampton girl’s highly vocal fans.
After the initial shock of seeing their adored heroine taking such an onslaught from the newcomer, they soon became highly vocal again calling for Pugh to counter with equal force (sounds far better than ‘smash her head in’, which was the gist of the shouts), Pugh responded forcefully to gain a semblance of control.
What ensued then was a full on war, with neither conceding an inch of ground to the other.
Phew what a round, seriously couldn’t split them – points wise, neither could Referee Rob Jones who scored it a draw.
Again in the second Sirajeva started hard and fast, however this time after an initial covering-up, Pugh responded with equal venom before getting behind her supremely strong jab to keep the hard charging Latvian at bay, well to a degree.
Similar in the third, however in the fourth it was Pugh that forcefully secured centre ring early on. Utilising her excellent jab Pugh began to control the proceedings.
As the round progressed Pugh forced her way through the Latvian’s guard, landing solid shots on Sirajeva’s chin and nose.
Prior to the start of the fifth Sirajeva’s coach summoned Referee Rob Jones and informed him that the talented young Latvian was unable to continue due to injury.
To describe the roar of joy from Pugh’s fans that echoed around the rammed to the hilt Pedigree Suite at Pride Park when Rob Jones waived off the contest, as loudly ecstatic would be like describing the Derby County fans reaction to the Rams’ victory over Manchester United just a few days earlier as just plain chuffed, seriously it was intense.
For the record after four rounds Referee Rob Jones’ scorecard read 40-37 in favour of Emily Pugh.
Prior to the Pugh-Sirajeva contest, was the second Championship contest of the evening, an all Merseyside Derby between Paul Peers and unbeaten Craig Kennerdale.
As if the fact it was an all Merseyside Derby wasn’t enough to add that extra element of spice to the contest, Peers is an avid Everton fan, whilst Kennerdale a fanatical supporter of Jürgen Klopp’s high flying Liverpool and more importantly there was a title on the line, the vacant Professional Boxing Council (PBC) Silver English Welterweight Championship.
Right from the opening bell it was a full on war, both lads going toe-to-toe letting rip with power punch after power punch.
By round three it was clear that it would be impossible to tip a winner, first round you couldn’t split them, neither could the judges, the second going to Kennerdale and the red side of the City and the third to Peers and the blues.
The fourth was a bloody affair, with both Kennerdale and Peers bleeding from the nose, have to say what a round though, it was pugilistic heaven to watch as both protagonists went full on for the full three minutes.
The fifth was very much in the same vein, as was the sixth, and once again control was switching back and forth.
Kennerdale gained the upper hand, just, in the sixth after stepping up the already scintillating pace. Not to be outdone Peers stepped it up further and took control of the seventh.
To describe the eighth and final round as sensational would have to be deemed the understatement of the year, it wasn’t a war it was Pugilistic Armageddon, so much so there wasn’t a single person seated, the entire audience on their feet screaming their support for one or t’other, even the neutrals in the house bellowed, so enthralling was the round.
The frenetic tension, of the combatants and their teams as they awaited the scorecards to be read, was palpable to all in attendance.
The stress only easing after the cards were read – Judge Adrian Thorne 78-78 (Drawn), Judge Mark Wakefield 78-76 in favour of Peers and Judge James Ancliff 78-77, also in favour of Peers, who claims the PBC Silver English Welterweight Championship accolade.
Have to say this was an awesome fight, one that very much deserves the Fight of the Night honours, and I’m sure many will agree with me also a future rematch.
Second fight of the night pitted Bardney, Lincolnshire’s unbeaten Nathan Decastro (13-0-0) against Accra, Ghana’s Agoe Ashong (11-1-0) for the vacant Professional Boxing Council (PBC) Super Middleweight Commonwealth Championship.
Both protagonists went for it hard and fast right from the opening bell, however it was Decastro that wrestled initial control, forcing the Ghanaian back onto the ropes with a series of powerful hooks to the body.
Each time Ashong attempted to slip or spin away, Decastro bought him straight back in-line with a big hook to the body before proceeding to punish the Ghanaian’s body and head with big powerful lefts and rights, which set the standard not just for the rest of the first stanza but also the next couple of rounds.
Whilst the first few rounds could have been fought in a phone box and Decastro very much had the upper hand, it soon become a totally different affair, as fate dealt Decastro a mighty blow.
During one of the many full on exchanges in round four Decastro sustained a leg injury, later confirmed as a pulled hamstring.
Ashong sensed the opportunity to turn the fight in his favour and went hard on the attack, throwing a huge right, Decastro countered, The Ghanaian let rip with a double-handed flurry before dancing away.
Decastro tried to close Ashong down and let rip with a big right, but the highly mobile Ghanaian slipped under the lightning fast Exocet and danced around the mobility challenged Englishman before letting rip with big right of his own.
From this moment on Ashong switched his tactics, dancing around the ring, virtually goading the limping Englishman into wild swinging attacks, initially Decastro obliged and in doing so presented Ashong the opportunity to get the upper hand and land some powerful shots.
However, savvy words from his corner in the break see Decastro change his tactics and instead of trying to chase the fast moving Ghanaian around the ring, slowly but surely cut-off the ring until in a position to back Ashong onto the ropes or into the corner before making a sustained attack.
Whilst this tactic didn’t work every time, it did enable the stricken Englishman to gain the upper hand and secure or draw many of the remaining rounds, even those where the Ghanaian had utilised questionable tactics, mainly due to alert officiating from Referee Rob Jones, who was left with no option but to deduct a point in both the fifth and eighth rounds
Right from the opening bell of the twelfth and final round Ashong stepped up his attacks, going full out to try and secure a knockout, secure in the knowledge that this would be the only way he could achieve victory.
The fact that Decastro was virtually static by this point must have made the Ghanaian confident that this tactic would be successful, however Ashong hadn’t taken into account the Englishman’s determination or his world class ring-craft.
Decastro, even with the debilitating injury, weaved and slipped each attack before countering with good success, more importantly he didn’t let Ashong drag him into a slugging match for the final minutes, which was surely enough to secure a hard fought victory.
Decastro and his team nervously awaited the scores to be read out, whilst Ashong and his team confidently had their hands raised, but the confidence in the faces soon drained as the scores were read out – Judge Adrian Thorne, 119-108, Judge Mark Wakefield 120-108 and Judge James Ancliff 119-109 all in favour of Decastro.
Opening fight for the Professional element of the event see Jack Jones from Leeds making his professional debut against Dundalk, Ireland’s Michael Kelly in a four round Super Welterweight contest.
Jones started the contest confidently, taking the fight to Kelly and displaying some nice slick moves, much to the delight of his many fans that had travelled down the M1 from Yorkshire.
As the round progressed Kelly began to slowdown the ever-forward movement of the Leed’s youngster by displaying the exceptional skills that earned him a shot at the WBF international title a few years back.
Jones responded well to the test, initially countering before taking back control of centre ring with a forceful control that put the Irishman back onto the back foot.
Jones virtually controlled the next couple of rounds, except for short episodes where Kelly would wrestle control and test his young opponent’s metal.
The fourth and final round was a cracker, Jones had settled into a flow and looked to be well and truly in control of the proceedings, interrupted only by flashes of pure brilliance from Kelly, unfortunately not enough for the Irishman to prevent Jones from charging on to a clear 40-36 points victory.
This was my fourth visit to Derby to attend Dan Gray’s events, each has been superior to the previous, not just because of excellent genuine fifty-fifty contests that he features, or the fantastic venue, but also his dedication to making his shows a fantastic night out for the fans with additional entertainment.
On Saturday night the venue had a Casino theme that included Roulette and Games tables, a Magician and an awesome singer, OK I admit I was only there for the Boxing, but also have to admit I really enjoyed the entertainment too, can’t wait for his next show.