By James Slater at ringside
In a terrific action fight, Darlington’s Stuey Hall won the vacant IBF bantamweight title with a very hard earned 12-round unanimous decision over an always dangerous Vusi Malinga. The scores were a surprisingly wide 117-110 (twice) and 116-111. The two warriors gave absolutely everything they had and the result was a late Fight of The year candidate. Hall had a great start, coming out fast and surprising the southpaw from South Africa. In the 3rd, Hall decked his man with a right hand that landed smack on the chin. Malinga, showing real heart, came back in the 4th and landed his share of hurtful punches, to the head especially, from there on in. By the 5th-round Hall’s left eye was noticeably marked up; by the 9th the eye was a total mess.
It looked like either man might pull out a fight-ending shot at any time as the two went toe-to-toe, yet the gruelling battle went down to the bitter end. Hall came on strong in the last couple of rounds but at no time was his victory in the bag. Hall, the oldest British fighter to make a first challenge for a world title, made history and a whole new army of fans tonight. Malinga more than played his part in a mini-classic. Hall is now 16-2-1(7). Malinga, who was making his third challenge for a world title, is now 21-5-1(12)
In a snoozer, unbeaten British and Commonwealth welterweight champ Frankie Gavin of Birmingham won a wide ten-round decision over late sub Bradley Pryce of Wales. Gavin, boxing in a non-title fight up at light-middleweight, totally frustrated and nullified Pryce with his slick defence, winning by a wide margin of 99-92. The fight never caught fire and left the Leeds crowd far from excited. Still, Gavin boxed smoothly and, aside from the 9th when he was caught by a right to the head, and the 10th when Pryce out-worked him, the former world amateur champion boxed the perfect fight. Gavin wants bigger fights and the 28-year-old is now 18-0(12). 32-year-old Pryce, who deserves credit for taking the fight on just two day’s notice, falls to 34-16(18).
In an upset, former British and European light-welterweight champion Paul McCloskey – in boxing up at welterweight – was out-pointed by Dave Ryan of Derby; who survived a 4th-round knockdown to win a 77-75 points decision. McCloskey of Derry in Northern Ireland was ring rusty due to not having boxed since September of 2012 and the southpaw’s defence was poor. Still, after getting his timing in the early rounds, the 34-year-old looked to have taken care of business when he landed a wicked right hand to the body that decked 30-year-old Ryan in the 4th. But Ryan, trained by former British heavyweight title challenger Clifton Mitchell, fought back and repeatedly tagged McCloskey. Team-McCloskey complained about the decision, yet Ryan, the naturally bigger man, fought a more disciplined fight in the opinion of many. McCloskey is now 24-3(12). Ryan, in scoring the biggest win of his career, is now 15-8(3).
Former British super-featherweight champ Gary Sykes of Dewsbury was too strong and too aggressive for Bradford’s Femi Fehintola. The two former gym-mates had had a falling out of sorts and came into the ring with some bad blood. It was soon apparent, though, that Sykes, the younger man by two-years at age 29, was too much for Fehintola. A hot pace set from the start, Sykes soon got on top and at times bullied his man. Hitting Fehintola with everything, to head and body, Sykes, not a hard hitter, looked like he might get the stoppage. But Fehintola, also lacking in one-punch KO power, showed heart and came back to have his best round in the 7th. Sykes was always in command though, and he can now look ahead to his February 2014 fight with current British super-feather champ Liam Walsh. Sykes is now 26-3(5). Fehintola fell to 24-3(1). The two had respect for one another at the final bell.
Unbeaten middleweight Lewis Taylor of Dronfield improved to 12-0(1) with a clear eight-round points win over 16-31-3 veteran Max Maxwell of Birmingham. Taylor, a fast and skilful boxer who lacks devastating punching power, was too sharp and too busy for Maxwell. The 4th-round saw the best round of action as Lewis, appearing to be on the verge of overwhelming Maxwell with his concentrated attack, instead saw Maxwell come fighting back at him – which resulted in some good trading. Maxwell, a cute boxer, turned southpaw at times, to no avail. In the end, Taylor won by a wide score of 80-73.
Tonight at The First Direct Arena in Leeds on Dennis Hobson’s latest show, Welsh southpaw Lewis Rees improved to 9-0(5) in the first fight of the night. Out-pointing a very tough and durable Krystofz Szot of Poland, 24-year-old welterweight Rees won by a commanding score of 80-72. Rees, fighting behind a high and tight guard, hit Szot with everything. Body shots, uppercuts to the chin and a variety of other head shots cracked Szot yet the visiting fighter took it all and kept trying to fight back. Rees, trained by Gary Lockett, has naturally heavy hand and he also has a good workrate. Szot, who has been halted just once, is now 18-10-1(5).