Boxing on a Sunday is not a common an occurrence, with Matchroom and Sky Sports trying a new time slot for prime-time boxing. Live from Milton Keynes, the card was solid if not slightly underwhelming, culminating in the toughest test of Joshua Buatsi’s career.
Linus Udofia vs John Harding Jr
As expected, this was a well contested and matched fight worthy of an English title fight. Early on Udofia was the busier of the two, using his jab well to dictate the pace of the fight, throwing combinations to the body and head. John Harding Jr's defence held strong though, keeping his hands high and then catching his opponent with some eye-catching punches.
Despite Harding landing some flush shots, it seemed as though he lacked the knockout power to cause Udofia any significant damage. As the fight progressed, Udofia’s class began to show with his output not relenting whilst Harding continued to throw singular shots as he started to fatigue. In round 9 that relentlessness came to effect as Udofia landed an electric hook coming out of the clinch to down the helpless Harding. Although Harding managed to stand up before the ten count, his body language suggested that he was in no state to continue and as such the fight was stopped.
Result: Udofia – Round 9 KO.
John Hedges vs John Ardon
After a strong amateur career, it was John Hedges turn to enter the pro ranks with John Ardon being his first opponent. The difference in reach was clear from the outset, however, the Czech fighter still came forward throwing a considerable amount of punches, with both fighters landing early. Hedges’ had his moments, but his defence looked suspect at times, keeping his hands low and allowing Ardon to land. Against the opinion of many, the 18-year-old managed to get the decision and should perhaps count himself lucky to get the victory. He undoubtedly will use this fight as a learning curve, and it has given him and his team some things to work on.
Result: John Hedges – Decision.
Aqib Fiaz vs Kane Baker
This eight-round fight was highly anticipated after it was taken away from fight camp at short notice due Fiaz falling ill on the day of the weigh-in. From the beginning of the fight, Fiaz oozed quality, personified through his delightful jab and light feet. The 20-year-old showed a maturity well beyond his years, evading and countering with speed and precision. Baker on the other hand, offered a tough work rate and power in his shots; often the aggressor, trying to walk his opponent down.
Baker who was commended for his style and attitude during the fight continued to up the pressure and look for a big shot to stun Fiaz. In the end, it was a dominant display from Fiaz who put in a great performance and rightly earned his opponents respect after the final bell. Baker was clearly unhappy with the decision however many would struggle to make a case for him winning the fight.
Result: Aqib Fiaz – Decision.
Alen Babic vs Niall Kennedy
Babic is quickly becoming one of the largest characters in the heavyweight division. In this fight, ‘The Savage’ came out of the gates quickly, throwing punches with intent from the first bell and looking to put on a show. Kennedy did well to take the majority of the punches early on, although it was clear the punishment was starting to take its toll. The referee ended the fight in the third round, with Babic charging forward and knocking the Irishman down. The Croatian definitely answered some of his critics’ questions tonight, but it still remains to be seen whether he should move down in weight.
Result: Babic – Round 3 TKO
Chantelle Cameron vs Adrianna Araujo
All the talk before this fight was the weigh-in, as Araujo had somehow come in 5 lbs over-weight and how that would subsequently affect the result. Cameron started confidently, also being wary of the power that is held by Araujo by going in and out of range. It was a disappointing display from the Brazilian, failing to put forward any considerable threat. This fight should have been remembered as the Northampton-star’s coming out party, instead- due to no fault of her own - was a snooze fest. All in all, Cameron can only fight what is in front of her and she dominated from start to finish and was well deserving of the WBC belt.
Result: Chantelle Cameron – Decision.
Joshua Buatsi vs Marko Calic
After over 400 days, Joshua Buatsi made his return to the ring in Milton Keynes against the Croatian Marko Calic. The challenger showed that he would provide a stern test, showcasing his quick hand speed that perhaps surprised the former olympian. The jab followed by a right hook, in particular, seemed to trouble Buatsi at times throughout the early altercations. The third round was where the fight really ignited, Buatsi looked rocked with Calic gaining confidence with every exchange. Had there been a crowd, you can imagine they would have been stunned by the way in which Calic seemed to land at will, with visible swelling to the left eye of Buatsi, something that has not been seen in any of his previous fights.
To the relief of many, Buatsi finally showed his own power by landing a hard right hand, the bell seemingly saving Calic from a stoppage at the end of the fifth. Even when the champion began to take clear control, there were still flurries of action and danger. An onslaught of punches eventually downed the brave Croatian, who had begun to look extremely fatigued. Buatsi smelt blood and seconds after the count the corner rightly threw in the towel, ending a potential banana skin in an emphatic style.
Tonight we learnt a lot about Joshua Buatsi, especially after such a great amount of time outside the ring. Fight fans can now look forward to Buatsi progressing to the next level, and he definitely showed he has the toughness to succeed after grinding through his first big test. It will be interesting to see Matchroom’s matchmaking after this fight and whether the injury will play any part in that. Great credit must also go to Marco Calic, who deserves to feature on more shows in the future.
Result: Joshua Buatsi – Round 7 TKO.
Fight of the Night: Joshua Buatsi vs Marco Calic
Performance of the Night: Alen Babic