By David McIntosh
Well, that was fun. Shakan Pitters won the second Ultimate Boxxer mini-tournament in some style on Friday night, live on free-to-view TV in the UK. And satisfyingly the light-heavyweights emulated the previous competitions’ welterweights with boxing skill triumphing over punch power and raw aggression over eight three-round match-ups.
For a sport beset with unnecessary complexity, the Ultimate Boxxer competition is a refreshing throwback. Eight competitors, one night, one winner. Added to the simplicity are some nice touches – an opportunity to showcase up and coming fighters, a chance for honest, hard working professionals in the lower leagues of boxing to enjoy the spotlight, a spreading of the considerable wealth that boxing accumulates with a £50,000 prize fund. Further flair has been added with the fight draw based on a test of boxing skills overseen by stellar names like Ricky Hatton and Anthony Crolla. If that wasn’t enough, throw in some razzamatazz at the O2 in London, a DJ, a celebrity bout and a highly entertaining commentary team of Ronald McIntosh and Paulie Malignaggi. The organisers have thrown the proverbial kitchen sink at the format and in my view should be widely applauded. What more do you want on TV on a Friday night?
In terms of the boxing itself, Ultimate Boxxer II provided thrills and spills and quite possibly the most brilliantly chaotic round of the year so far.
The quarterfinals pitted like against like. The combative Joel McIntyre outgunned an overmatched Darell Church with a wide points win that included two clunking early knockdowns. Dec Spelman ultimately obliterated a game Sam Horsfall in a manic shoot-out. The 6’ 6’’ Pitters comfortably outpointed the equally rangy Sam Smith courtesy of some beautiful punching and a high calibre knockdown. In the pick of the quarterfinals, Georgii Bacon and Jordan Joseph swung for their lives sharing a knockdown apiece with Bacon edging a split decision. The resulting semi-finals looked more intriguing with a clear clash of styles guaranteed.
First up was Joel McIntyre and Dec Spelman. After a cagey and uninspiring first round, it was odds on that the second round would deliver some action. It didn’t half. Spelman screamed across the ring from the bell forcing McIntyre to the ropes and unloaded multiple power shots to head and body. McIntyre, seemingly delighted, begun trading and caught Spelman with a right hook to score a flash knockdown. Buoyed by the success and clearly enjoying himself McIntyre ploughed forward only to then be caught with a higher quality counter right hook from Spelman to land him squarely on his backside. McIntyre’s grin as he walked to the neutral corner put the cap on a fantastically mad three minutes. A slow third round forced it to the scorecards with Spelman taking the bout. Either man could have edged the decision. These two had been mooted to meet for the English title in the past and based on round 2 alone hopefully several higher-profile promoters will feel obliged to make that happen on an undercard soon.
In the second semi-final, the honest and game Georgii Bacon had no answer to Pitters who dazzled with impressive shot selection, combinations and power. It was two body shots that cooked Bacon (apologies). Bacon looked befuddled and demoralised but waking up this morning he needn’t be. He showed real guts to get up from the first hook to the body and he’ll not come up against opponents of Pitters’ quality every day.
The resulting final was the classic boxer versus puncher. Pitters’ boxing quality was on show from the outset and a series of jabs and straight rights forced an understandably tired Spelman to the canvas within a minute. Spelman wasn’t finished yet though and he continued to rally through the full three rounds. A stinging right from Spelman stiffened Pitters’ legs in the second showing that Pitters can certainly take a shot at regional domestic level. Whether that punch resistance extends to national domestic level and beyond where the likes of Callum Johnson and Frank Buglioni reside should be an interesting journey to follow. Despite high pressure from Spelman, Pitters continued to use good movement and classy skills to outbox a dangerous opponent and rightly claim a unanimous decision. A similarly worthy winner to Drew Brown who won the welterweight title in the first Ultimate Boxer, hopefully, we see more of Shakan Pitters soon.
All in, a highly enjoyable few hours of boxing with a clear format, honest endeavour and some high-quality skills on show. The organisers and boxers have given as much as they possibly could. Let’s hope the viewing public respond positively and we see Ultimate Boxxer III on our screens soon.