A tangible sense of excitement and expectancy was apparent as fans’ feet were heard shuffling across the wooden floor into the iconic York Hall, Bethnal Green. The type of expectancy normally only associated with events like the F.A cup or other such tournament-based sports. The Golden Contract and World Boxing Super Series have somehow now become the blueprint for exhilarating fight nights and the super lightweights didn’t disappoint.
It was almost like a football atmosphere, fans jokingly serenading opposing fans with the chorus’ echoing out and bouncing around the high, curved ceilings and ornate windows. Pockets of fans decorated every corner, supporters from France, Northern Ireland, Wales the US and England supporting their respective boxers.
Kieran Gething v Jeff Ofori
The first fight between Kieran Gething and Jeffrey Ofori didn’t do anything to dampen the enthusiasm, in fact, it was an excellent fight that had a dash of everything and had the crowd gripped. The crowd murmured in between rounds about how it was being scored, such as the willingness for both fighters to engage and work in the middle of the ring.
It was a tentative start from Ofori in the first (not surprising really given that he fought last weekend) with Gething quicker to the jab, but Ofori soon warmed up and in the second he was implored by his corner to ‘be first to the shot’. He started to find a rhythm, bobbing under Gething’s attacks and working up through the body and finishing with uppercuts and hooks to the head. From my position at ringside, it appeared that Ofori then started to run away with the contest through the middle rounds, working more, throwing more and having a much higher accuracy in terms of punches landed, particularly in round 4 where a series of left and right hooks landed on Gething with the Welshman only managing to hit fresh air in response.
The pattern of an all-action, swing-fest continued with both occasionally taking a breather, Ofori through sheer exertion and Gething from the punishment taken.
Around rounds 8 and 9, Gething’s shots started to slow down, just when you thought he may have a chance of catching a jaded Ofori.
At the end of round 10, the crowd gave warm and rapturous applause to both men, but there was another spark of drama yet to unfold. Despite my card, and most of those around me, one judge had Gething winning, another judge had Ofori and the third had it a draw. Obviously, with the fight needing a winner to advance in the tournament, the referee’s scorecard was called upon. He judged that Ofori had done enough to win and so Jeffrey Ofori, announced into the tournament on Thursday having fought and beaten undefeated Gerrard Carrol the previous weekend moved into the semi-finals.
Result: Draw (Ofori wins on referee scorecard)
Mohamed Mimoune v Darren Surtees
Mimoune was fancied to do well in the tournament from the off, largely owing to his pedigree in terms of titles and experience, having held the EBU welterweight European belt and the IBO super lightweight strap whilst beating the likes of Sam Eggington and sharing the ring with stalwarts like Viktor Postol. What the crowd probably didn’t account for, was an intensely focused Darren Surtees who stunned Mimoune at the end of round 1 with a couple of single right hand shots that drew a shake of the head from the Frenchman, normally indicative of a fighter that has in fact been hurt but is reluctant to show it.
That proved to be the case as Surtees continued to score with accurate shots that had cheers from his corner as each one landed, culminating in a knockdown with a peach of a right in round two, much to the dismay of Mimoune’s fans who were clad in rather eye-catching blue tracksuits that had ‘The problem’ emblazoned across the back.
Well, Mimoune certainly had a problem on his hands as the crowd sensed the first real upset of the evening but Mimoune is a class act and rallied in the third, starting to come forward with aggression and purpose and despite the knockdown he went looking for Surtees, backing him into corners and throwing clusters with every opportunity. Surtees managed on occasions to fight out of the corner by planting his feet and punching his way out but it suited Mimoune who seemed to be hitting the County Durham man with growing regularity, making him look a little ragged.
Surtees attempted to get back to his boxing in round 4 but when his feet didn’t move, he ducked and bobbed to evade shots allowing Mimoune to throw heavy body shots around the back of Surtees’ elbows.
More pressure came in 5 with Mimoune looking to pour on the pressure, the former welterweight was in no mood to relent and when the opening presented itself he cuffed Surtees with a right hook to the temple, momentarily dazing the 25-year-old enough to allow Mimoune to crash home a straight left that landed Surtees heavily on his back towards the corner of the ring, Surtees gallantly rose to his feet but the referee had a good look and decided that he had had enough and waved off the contest. A contest that the former European champion may have found tougher than he imagined it would be but nevertheless, he made it through to the semi-finals and finished well.
Result: Mimoune TKO round 5
Mikey Sakyi v Tyrone Mckenna
If prizes were given out for support then the tall, imposing and easily recognisable Northern Irishman Tyrone Mckenna would have probably been announced the winner after the ring walk, such as the reception he received as he walked purposefully but calmly around the ring apron before climbing through the ropes adorning a black robe with bright green sleeves and trim.
Mikey Sakyi in fairness looked relaxed, grinning across from his corner with plenty of home support shouting from the galleries.
It was an uneventful start to the fight with a certain amount of respect clearly dictating proceedings. McKenna flicked out the jab, trying to prevent Sakyi from settling into any rhythm. Sakyi moved well, slipping shots and posturing but didn’t throw too many combinations, instead landing the odd, single-shot counter.
McKenna kept the fight long, lunging in and out of distance with looping left hands and throwing attractive combinations, showcasing his repertoire of shot selection. Sakyi simply couldn’t impose himself against the bigger man and had his nose bloodied early in the fight.
It appeared to spur McKenna on who grew more confident in the middle rounds, throwing with more regularity and fluidity. After clubbing Sakyi with a succession of left hooks around the side of the high guard in round 4, McKenna appeared happy to keep ticking the rounds off, scoring and then moving out of range and around the ring, confident he was winning or at the very least stealing rounds with the better work.
Aside from possibly stealing one round out of the first 3, Sakyi only really managed to rally from the 8th onwards as the proposition of a loss began to resonate. Even then there wasn’t much success as he attempted to trap the tall man from Belfast. There is little doubt that Mikey Sakyi can box, he is an excellent mover in the ring and when he times his punches, he’s good to watch but on this occasion, McKenna who only has a narrow, contentious defeat against Jack Catterall to his name simply outworked him.
The last 2 rounds were fought in a similar manner to the rest of the fight, if not a little less eventful with pre-favourite McKenna keeping himself out of trouble and having his hand raised to the delight of his travelling supporters with a wide points decision on the judge’s cards.
No surprises here, not a destructive display but certainly an efficient and dominant one from Tyrone McKenna as he navigated the first hurdle in what he hopes will be the first step towards the Golden Contract.
Result: UD McKenna
Ohara Davies v Logan Yoon
All the pre-fight talk had been about Davies. Love him or loathe him, he generated interest pre-tournament with his fracas with McKenna and then Surtees, before apparently ‘turning over a new leaf’ and apologising to his fellow competitors. Although US fighter Logan Yoon was generating intrigue himself before fight night, explaining why his team had effectively hidden footage of his fights and training to keep his opponent guessing. Whispers of his impressive amateur pedigree swept around York Hall as fans wondered whether an upset was on the horizon.
Davies looked like a man who meant business, sporting his newly shaven head and to entrance music that can only be described as pantomime horror, he turned towards the crowd before he climbed the ring steps and threw both arms in the air and looked to the skies in an almost celebratory manner before the contest had even started. He was roared on at ringside by light heavyweight contender Anthony Yarde and trainer Tunde Ajayi, with Spencer Fearon also cheering him on.
The contest started with Yoon looking to be the busier of the two, Davies with his now identifiable style of leaning back, chin tucked down with a cocked right hand. ‘Two tanks’ Davies soon settled into the fight though after initially frustrating his corner who were constantly bellowing at him to step outside of his opponents lead foot in order to have an angle for the right hand.
Davies started to land significantly and after scoring in rounds 2 and 3 with single-shot attacks, was waved forward by his team who sensed that he could overpower the youngster from Hawaii.
Yoon was losing rounds but threw two beautiful left hands in round 5 just serving as a reminder to Davies that his work wasn’t done.
That mini success was short-lived and Davies, a favourite for the competition sparked back into action in round 6 and started to finally cut loose, throwing both hands and nearly toppling Yoon who laid on the ropes, trying to cover up against the wild attacks. Davies jumped in with hooks as Yarde danced up and down at ringside, sensing a finish. The bell saved a dejected Yoon who stumbled back towards his corner, but his team protected their man who, at the tender age of 21 will surely come again.
Result: Davies TKO round 7
So, there you have it, the four semi-finalists. They lined up in the centre of the ring following their respective fights, no doubt sizing each other up for future picks. On this evidence, it will be difficult to pick a definitive winner which sets us up beautifully for the next instalment of drama, suspense and fantastic fight action when they reconvene for a place in the final.