Monday, April 13, 2009

British Scene Weekend Recap

Matt Chudley recaps all the action from the Hennessy Sports show this past Saturday night at York Hall in Bethnal Green.

The main event featured Craig Watson defending his Commonwealth belt against John O'Donnell. Also on the card was promising young heavyweight Tyson Fury, along with an exciting 10 round clash for the British light-welterweight crown between Lenny Daws and Pete McDonagh.

Photos © Justin McKie

Saturday April 11

O'Donnell edges Watson

By Matt Chudley

John O'Donnell dethroned Craig Watson via a controversial split decision on Saturday at the historic York Hall to take the Commonwealth welterweight title. While the contest may have been lacking in clean punches, both fighters gave everything they had in a hard fought grueling battle.

Watson, who had been out of action for almost a year due to promotional disputes, started the stronger of the two southpaws. He looked purposeful and aggressive in the opening round and managed to successfully work his way inside on his taller opponent.

O’Donnell appeared more composed in an even second round, but Watson did the better work over the next two frames. Using a lunging lead right hand and an uppercut in the clinch, Watson managed to combat O’Donnell’s awkward style; the Londoner forgoes the conventional jab, fighting with his right hand low and using the shoulder roll to slip incoming fire.

The fight took a turn towards the end of the 5th when O'Donnell managed to back his man onto the ropes and fire away aggressively. O’Donnell continued to be more positive in his approach looking to push and turn Watson onto the ropes where he would try and load up with left and right hooks.

In the 7th round, one such flurry visibly shook Watson, sending him sagging backwards onto the ropes, although the man from Manchester managed to remain on his feet.

Having mocked the challengers power in the pre-fight buildup, Watson now seemed to have gained respect for it and adapted his approach by switching to counter-puncher. O'Donnell meanwhile seemed to take the next couple of rounds make his own subsequent adjustments.

With both fighters exhausted from the spirited contest, there was little to choose between the two battling southpaws in the three final rounds, although the best punch of the late going was a straight left from Watson in the 12th.

The scores were extremely tight with Judges Dave Parris and Richie Davis both seeing it 115-114 O'Donnell to John Keane's 116-113 for Watson. I had Watson in front at the end, as did many others, including colour commentator Duke McKenzie, Barry McGuigan and both Boxing News and Seconds Out by margins ranging from one to three rounds.

Cynical observers may have noted that Watson was between promoters and in his opponent’s back yard, but given the closely contested nature of many of the rounds, the verdict was going to be debated no matter who came out on the winning end.

Following the victory promoter Mick Hennessey vowed to seek a European title shot for his charge. A more probable next fight for the Londoner would be a first defense against 18-1 Northern Irish fighter Stephen Haughian who stopped the overmatched Drew Campbell (he came in with 1 victory in 9 outings) in a round on the undercard.

Though wanting an immediate rematch, no matter who he faces, Watson will be eager for work under his new employer, Hayemaker promotions.

On the undercard…

Fast rising heavyweight prospect Tyson Fury disposed of the undersized Matthew Ellis in less than 50 seconds. Giving up 7 inches in height and over 50lbs in weight Ellis knew that he would have to try and get inside to test the unproven chin of the younger fighter. Having closed the distance Ellis quickly found himself under heavy fire, with Fury’s first right hand buckling his legs and the follow-up flurry sending him to the canvas. After getting up at the count of 8, Ellis was quickly put down again, where he wisely chose to remain for the full count.

There was also an entertaing 10 rounder to open the telecast. After a lively opening round from Pete McDonagh, Lenny Daws's superior strength and stamina proved too much for the game Bermondsey fighter in their clash for the vacant English light-welterweight title.

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