Glory for the ‘G’ men but no prize for the fighters

Two nights of top-level boxing saw mixed fortunes for local contestants at Walsall Town Hall.

boxingTwo of the area’s brightest prospects came through routine tests, but the big success story belonged to one of boxing’s unsung heroes on a busy weekend for the sport in the Black Country.

Walsall’s Martin Gethin delighted a sell-out hometown crowd at the Town Hall on Friday when lifting the British lightweight title with a ninth-round stoppage over Ben Murphy of Hove. Gethin took a couple of rounds to get started but once he found his range Murphy had no response to the accuracy of the local man’s body shots. By round six Gethin was clearly in control and although he took a step back during the seventh, round eight saw him beginning to break up his opponent with a barrage of shots that left Murphy damaged under the left eye as well as bleeding from the nose and mouth. With victory in sight Gethin opened up in the ninth and a sustained barrage of punches saw referee Marcus McDonnell end the contest 56 seconds into the round with Murphy on the ropes and unable to defend himself.

It was a deserving win for a fighter who has had to overcome many setbacks on his way to the title. A hat-trick of defeats in 2008-09 set his career back while a subsequent 18 months out with a back injury meant that Martin’s whole future was in jeopardy. Now he is British champion, and can look forward to a lucrative time as he attempts to clean up on the domestic scene. Credit must also go to Gethin’s trainer Errol Johnson, another mainstay of the local fight scene who deserves all the success that comes his way.

Gethin might be concentrating on the domestic scene, at least for the near future, but one fighter whose sights have always been set a lot higher is Frankie Gavin of Birmingham. The former world amateur champion has endured an unsettled time since turning pro due to problems outside the ring, but in his last fight he defeated the veteran Junior Witter to land the British Welterweight crown and faced his first defence against Tividale’s Jason Wellborn.

Wellborn entered the ring with a record of 11 wins from 12 contests, but none of his previous opponents were anywhere near the class of Gavin and the gap in quality was evident from the off. The Tividale fighter gave his all, but had no answer to the slick ability of Gavin, who gave a masterclass in varied punching. A one-sided contest saw Gavin finally step up the pace in the seventh, dropping Wellborn with a left to the body and forcing referee Ian John-Lewis to halt the fight with 25 seconds of the round remaining. Gavin later spoke of making up for lost time during 2013 while Wellborn will learn from this painful lesson as he aims for another crack at the big time,

Earlier there was more success for the region when Walsall boxer Chris Keane stopped former British champion Shane McPhilbin in the third to become English cruiserweight champion. McPhilbin has a reputation for getting involved in some all-action scraps but didn’t seem up for this one at all, hardly throwing a punch in the first two rounds. His response was to come out wildly at the start of the third, leaving openings in his defence that the hometown fighter exploited perfectly. Two heavy right hands sent McPhilbin to the canvas and although he beat the count he had nothing left and was knocked down twice more before referee Rob Chalmers waved the fight off midway through the round. It was an impressive performance from Keane, and with the British cruiser scene wide open he could soon find himself attempting to emulate Messrs Gethin and Gavin.

The action shifted to Wolverhampton on Saturday, when the latest round of the Prizefighter competitor took in the welterweights at the Civic Hall. Here, though, the local favourites were less successful. Stafford’s Rob Hunt was outboxed in the first two rounds against Mark Thompson before a clash of heads forced a stoppage in the third. Brummie fighter Chad Cooper then lost his 100% record in his fifth fight when being stopped in round one by Chad Gaynor. Stourbridge’s Sam Eggington also lost his unbeaten record, being outpointed by eventual finalist Dale Evans in an all-action contest that was the only quarter-final to go to the judges’ scorecards. Another Stourbridge boxer, Steven Pearce, competed a disappointing evening for local men when he also lost for the first time, knocked down and then stopped in the second by Glen Foot, who went on to win the tournament by edging out Evans on a spilt decision.

Before this contest the highly-rated young bantamweight Kal Yafai had the chance to impress against Mexican Gonzalo Garcia. It was a frustrating evening for Yafai, who had little idea of how to cope with the Mexican’s spoiling tactics until stepping up the pace in the fourth round, at the end of which his opponent mysteriously retired citing ‘exhaustion’. This was only the second time Garcia had been stopped in a career which now reads 8-7-2, making his withdrawal stranger. Kal now boats seven wins from seven fights (six inside the distance) and can regard this as a night both to forget, and to learn from.

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