Thursday, May 21, 2009

British Scene: Cruiserweight Prizefighter Recap

The latest edition of the Prizefighter series was full of knockouts and surprises. Matt Chudley has a recap of all the action from this past Tuesday's cruiserweight tournament.

Check out our preview of the show: Cruiserweight Prizefighters Preview

Tuesday May 19

The Prizefighters: Cruiserweights

By Matt Chudley

After an evening of shocking upsets, Derby-based Jamaican and late replacement Ovill McKenzie outlasted fellow outsider John 'Buster' Keeton to claim the 6th prizefighter tournament and the £25,000 prize.

McKenzie, a career light-heavyweight who stepped in for the injured Mark Krence, weighed-in nearly 15lbs under the tournament limit of 202lbs and carried an unspectacular 14-9 record. Equally suprising was the appearance of McKenzie's opponent John 'Buster' Keeton in the final. Like McKenzie, Keeton had lost 3 of his last 4 coming into the tournament and 16 in his 42 fight proffessional career. Before the first bell of the night sounded, McKenzie and Keeton where ranked 6 and 7 in the field of 8 by the bookmakers at odds of 12 and 16 to 1 for the oversized trophy.


In the first bout of the evening the tournaments heavy favourite and WBO top ten 175lber, Dean Francis made light work of overmatched journeyman Neil Simpson. Having succumbed to Francis after 3 rounds 13 years prior, the 26-18 Coventry based fighter faced the same fate again. Electing to use his oft-injured right arm as sparingly as possible, Francis peppered Simpson with left hooks and uppercuts from the outside with little argument until referee Phil Edwards decided he had seen enough 38 seconds into final round.

Next up was the return of former two-time world title challenger Bruce Scott against old victim John Keeton. Having been stopped twice by Scott previously, Keeton was the fresher man this time around. In the first round Scott was unlucky to recieve a count from referee Richie Davis after having been pushed to the canvas by Keeton, but was visibly hurt and had been shaken up by an uppercut in the previous exchange. Following the 10-8 round, Scott came back in the second to hurt Keeton with a right hand of his own but the Sheffield man steadied himself and continued to keep the action highly competitive, to the point where the knock-down provided a decent cushion and he prevailed on the scorecards.

Fancied by many and the classiest of the bunch in his prime, Terry Dunstan was returning to televised action for the first time since his four and a half year prison stint for trying to rob a central London pub and was taking on the little fancied Ovill McKenzie. The drab affair came to life in the second round when McKenzie dropped Dunstan with a right hand, but besides that it was the lack of accuracy from McKenzie against the ring rust and awful timing of Dunstan. McKenzie edged the 1st and 3rd rounds with slightly more activity and marginally more punches landed to take the win by a wide margin on the scorecards.

The last quarter-final saw the youngest fighter, 25 year old former heavyweight Mickey Steeds taking on the talkative former Commonwealth champion Darren Corbett. Employing little to no head movement, Steeds was caught with an overhand right early in the first that left him clinging for the ropes but unable to avoid the canvas. Though he did come back to hurt Corbett in the 2nd with a left hook, Steeds was unable to keep out of the way of the surprisingly quick hands of the Ulsterman and lost on points.


With the revised in-play odds now showing him to be the odds-on favourite for the tournament, the ever confident Dean Francis was up against career gatekeeper John Keeton in the first semi. However, the marauding, plow-forward style of underdog Keeton was clearly a nightmare for Francis from the outset. A super-middleweight earlier in his career the smaller man Francis was given no room to get his shots off by the on-rushing Keeton, who dropped Francis with a right hand to the top of the head as Francis was back-peddling. The punch clearly shook-up Francis's equilibrium and after returning to his feet he was soon back on the canvas again, from almost identical punch. Francis elected not to try and beat the count on the second occasion and the fight was over.

With Francis gone, popular character Darren Corbett now seemed to have little in his way to becoming the 2nd Prizefighter winner from Belfast, after the success of countryman Martin Rogan. With Corbett having turned pro as 220+ pound heavyweight and McKenzie the smallest man in the competition, McKenzie looked to hold up close and try and use his superior speed and timing to get the better of his rusty opponent who was only in his 3rd fight in the last 5 years. After a close first round a left hook, right hand combination from the Jamaican shook the Irishman and falling back onto the ropes another right hand put him down. With Corbett still shaken up, McKenzie pressed on to draw the stoppage from referee Richie Davis. Slouched on the ropes and failing to answer back, Corbett was clearly in no position to carry on despite his arguments to the contrary.


With two former world title challengers and most fancied fighter left by the wayside, the final was now to be contested by two fighters carrying 25 defeats between them.

The Jamaican started the more purposefully of the two in the first getting some joy out of working Keeton on the ropes. Undeterred as ever, Keeton continued to press forward and momentarily stunned McKenzie in the 2nd with an overhand right from his crouched stance. With Keeton understandably feeling the pace more after his grueling war with Bruce Scott, McKenzie continued to produce the sharper punches in the 3rd and prevailed by scores of 29-28 (twice) and 30-27.

Following the victory a stunned yet overjoyed McKenzie confessed that he had no idea what he would spend the prize money on, having given it little thought and that he would be returning to the light-heavyweight division.

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