By David McIntosh
As the saying goes, when the world heavyweight division is healthy, all of boxing is in rude health. The reverberations from the Los Angeles heavyweight showdown this weekend are being felt across the boxing world right now in venues from Glasgow to Florence to Tokyo to Tijuana. Just ask Sam Kynoch, promoter of the sold-out show at Glasgow’s Crown Plaza this Friday that culminated in a Celtic title win for Dublin’s Jay Byrne. A raucous crowd, a packed venue, a slick professional show and the words “Tyson” and “Wilder” on everyone’s lips.
As millions tune in to Saturday night / Sunday morning’s LA event there is an undeniable thread that links the kings of the sport to the boxers entering rings up and down the land. Fighters putting it all on the line for your entertainment.
Kynoch’s show on Friday night delivered entertainment by the bucket load.
The main contest of the evening matched home fighter Marc Kerr with Dubliner Jay Byrne for the Celtic Super-Welterweight title and a likely top 10 ranking at UK level. The style of the fight was clear from the outset – Kerr a front foot pressure fighter prepared to come forward all night and Byrne a fast, accurate boxer happy to stay on the back foot. A lightning fast start from Byrne put him on top early and despite huge heart in front of a partisan crowd, Kerr never really managed to get back into the fight. Byrne’s 7-6 record coming into the fight was a bit disarming given he’s lost to some serious opposition including rising talent Anthony Fowler. I had the first four rounds going to Byrne as he picked off Kerr without ever rattling the Glasgow man. Kerr battled manfully in the middle rounds applying rough tactics and relentless pressure. After the 8th a potential comeback was on the cards. However, Kerr had absorbed some real punishment and it was Byrne who upped the tempo eventually pushing Kerr onto the back foot in the 9th. A tear up in the 10thsaw both men exhausted with the judges rightly scoring a unanimous decision for Byrne.
The event undercard delivered five excellent bouts.
First up, prospect Aston Brown against a teak tough veteran with decent pedigree in Darryl Sharp. Brown is long limbed for a middleweight with good punch variety, a fluid style and some power in both hands. Sharp didn’t seem to care too much for any of that though and promptly attempted to draw him into a war. After a gruelling first couple of rounds Brown smartly learned on the job and reverted to boxing on the outside to cruise to a 60-54 shut-out. Precious experience for the Glasgow fighter who moves to 3-0.
Second up, the performance of the night in my view. An acid test for young Aberdeen prospect Dean Sutherland against a rated opponent in Vinny Atkins. Atkins looked lean, mean and ready for business, posing a common boxing conundrum for Sutherland – how to get inside an opponent with a significant reach advantage. Impressively it took Sutherland 55 seconds to work it out. Compact for a welterweight, Sutherland looks incredibly strong and his left hand out of the southpaw stance looks like it carries a fair bit of Aberdeen granite in it, finding the range and timing from the off. However, it was a right hook, as both boxers traded the punch, that flattened Atkins in some style. A showreel punch for a young prospect who will be a lot of fun to follow.
Third up, a routine win for Ayr’s Calvin McCord who bulldozed his way through an over-matched and significantly smaller Taka Bembere. A series of over-hand rights with ruthless intent put Bembere down and the referee wisely waved off the lightweight contest within two minutes. Tougher tests await McCord but he possesses some serious tools to ascend the boxing ladder.
Fourth up saw a ratchet in weight with Jay Carrigan-McFarlane, the Scottish Cruiserweight champion, stepping in against late replacement David Howe following Steve Collins Jnr’s withdrawal. The charismatic Carrigan-McFarlane clearly likes a challenge and was forced to work out how to get inside the considerable reach of 6’8” veteran heavyweight Howe. The first two minutes suggested it might be a tough task with Howe tagging the Scot with steady jabs and avoiding some wild swings. Carrigan-McFarlane gamely persevered however and in his first successful raid unleashed a swift body attack that was enough for Howe who slumped to the canvas. A delighted crowd and a delighted Carrigan-McFarlane rightly enjoyed a gamble that paid off.
The fifth match up was a highly enjoyable boxing encounter between slick Dundonian switch-hitter Paul Kean and Sotiris Papageorgiou. Papageorgiou may not have looked too up for the challenge but he can certainly box a bit and the two contested six high quality super-welterweight rounds. Kean always had the more eye-catching, sharper, crisper punches and his consistent switching between orthodox and southpaw mixed with clever counters and neat combinations makes him really enjoyable to watch. It took two to tango though and Sotiris continued to warm to the task with the occasional rally in a relatively comfortable 60-55 win for Kean who moves to 9-1.
Boxing in Scotland, like boxing around the world, is on the rise. What a great time to be a boxing fan. After a terrific night of entertainment in rainy Glasgow, now all eyes can turn to the main event in sunny LA. Despite the gulf in distance and weather – it’s the same game. And for all those in it, including the Wilder’s and Fury’s, it all starts in the same places.
Kynoch boxing has its next event on 25th January at the Crowne Plaza Glasgow.