York Hall truly was alive and pumping on Friday night. The Arctic-like temperatures which coursed through the cobbles of Bethnal Green did little to deter the punters, with the British Warriors card culminating with Elliott Matthews defeating Grant Dennis in a thrilling encounter, to become the new 160lbs Middleweight Champion.
Both men drew big support. Matthews was greeted with a wall of sound as he made his ring entrance. The atmosphere was electric. Perhaps a slight favourite pre-fight, Grant Dennis descended upon York Hall to the unmistakable sound of Giggs, accompanied by the widely loved, respected, and recognisable figure of the recently retired, Leon McKenzie.
The fight itself ebbed and flowed, with each man experiencing bursts of success at different points. Both men showed bravery and resilience to weather their opponent’s efforts, as the pair tangled and wrestled to stamp their authority on the fight.
Both Dennis and Matthews have held the Southern Area belt in the past; the English title was the next logical step for both men. As the fight progressed, the duo fought with tight guards, giving little away to their opponent. They knew how important this fight was. The winner goes on to Commonwealth, British and perhaps even European challenges. The loser must come again. It wasn’t stated, but it was implied. It was the elephant in the room.
The consensus at ringside was an even affair after the 8th round. As the seconds ticked away and the final bell drew closer, roars of Elliott Matthews name echoed through the rafters as the atmosphere flirted with boiling point. The pair embraced at the final bell. Both men walked back to their corner celebrating, lofted in the air in jubilation by their respective teams.
A tense hush fell upon the Hall as the scorecards made their way to the announcer. Two counts of 96-95 and a 97-95 Unanimous Decision crowned 36-year-old Matthews (now 20-1) as the new champion of England. The seasoned fighter could not hide his raw emotion as his name was read triumphant. A moving moment. You could see how much it meant to him and his team.
Fellow 160lbs contender, Liam Cameron, was also present to watch a new English champion crowned. Shortly after the fight, it was confirmed that Cameron and Matthews would headline a FreeSports TV bill on a Dennis Hobson show in Sheffield on 2nd February.
A legend on the world boxing scene, Floyd Mayweather Snr graced the world famous small hall with his presence. Accompanied by the classically oversized entourage, and 10-0 prospect, Xavier Martinez, rumours suggest Snr is back in the UK to aid Chris Eubank Jnr’s preparation for his mouth-watering World Boxing Super Series February clash with George Groves. The entourage kept themselves busy for the majority of the evening in the back room, meeting, greeting (and charging) fans in classic Mayweather style. Nevertheless the presence of such boxing royalty added a sense of regality to an evening which delivered on every level.
The thrills and drama of the main event were not the only highlights of a thoroughly professional evening of boxing. The tireless work of promoter, Mark ‘Mo’ Pryor, gave many debutants and young prospects the platform to experience the magic of York Hall in front of friends, family and fans alike.
Chavez Campbell opened his account in the professional ranks, fighting fellow debutant Dan Mallard. The prospect of an unknown quantity did not faze Campbell, he oozed confidence as he entered the ring, and proceeded to swiftly dispatch of his opponent in a 1 round blow out.
FightTalk.net caught up with Chavez after the fight:
The heavily supported Julian Wilson made his first moves in the Cruiserweight division. When the cheers of friends and family are audible in the ear of fighter mid-bout, the temptation to put on a show and swing wildly for that ‘Hollywood’ style knockout must be tempting. On the contrary, Wilson showed heightened maturity, as he navigated through journeyman, Florent Struptis with controlled composure and well selected shots.
Frank Arnold survived a knockdown scare on his debut, and bounced back to dominate Kieran Holman (0-1-0) before stopping him in the 4th round with a brutal body shot. Connor Wright added to the long list of fighters making their maiden entrance into the professional game, as a 1st round knockdown and a dominate performance all round christened a winning start. Charismatic and energised, the young fighter spoke to James Lupton of FightTalk.net, post fight:
Former WBC Light Heavyweight champion and beloved British boxing icon, John Conteh was present to watch the action unfold, a gleaming testament to the importance of the subtly beautiful art which is the ‘small hall’ boxing scene. It is the lynch pin to the sport as we know it today, and without night’s like Friday, grassroots boxing would bare a very different face.
Written by Tom Humber