A boxing evening to remember

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Mark Dunlop’s latest Jersey Dinner Boxing Club production at the Hotel L’Horizon on Saturday night did so much more for the sport than just feature an excellent contest for the Horizon Group Gold Cup, a trophy eventually shared between Leonis ABC and a visiting Sheffield Select after a 4-4 draw.

Not least of the extras was the raising of over £8,500 for Children in Need from a ring auction that involved boxing luminaries such as IBF light-heavyweight world champion Clinton Woods and British super-featherweight Femi Fehintola, both from Island resident and leading professional promoter Dennis Hobson’s renowned Fight Academy.

A patron of boxing both in Jersey and Sheffield, Hobson was undoubtedly behind much of the night’s largesse.

It was certainly the feel-good factor that illuminated the night that sticks in the memory, and no one provided a higher wattage value than another guest of honour, former Irish heavyweight champion Joe Egan.

His larger-than-life personality, genuine affability and love of his sport made it a memorable evening for the capacity crowd as he regaled them with his memories of his time with some of boxing’s biggest names – and in doing so also raising cash for charity.

Leonis’s head coach Dave Thompson, who was also able to announce that his own employers, Minerva Financial Trust, had agreed to extend their club sponsorship – to the tune of ?5,000 -, was obviously delighted with the night ? even though he could quite easily have put forward a case for his charges winning the Gold Cup outright.

As it was an early 4-1 lead, which could easily have been 5-0, was hauled back by some excellent performances and extremely tight majority decisions going the way of Chris Smedley’s Sheffield lads.

With two newly-qualified referees sharing the duties, Richard Langlois and Gary Le Masurier, the home side got off to an excellent start; junior flyweight Scott Finnigan fully deserving his unanimous points victory over Daniel Holt, with his good movement and enthusiastic, skilful approach having forced a standing eight count in the second round.

Another whole-hearted effort from welterweight Shane Goggin, against Hatim Hussein, earned him a unanimous verdict with his longer reach giving him the ascendancy.

Two up, many thought diminutive bantamweight Ricky Pryor’s consistent pursuit of Rassim Ali would have brought about a 3-0 lead, but the judges gave the split decision to the visitor.

A bit rough on the youngster, but he’ll come back stronger and perhaps a bit more composed for the experience.

Reubin Legge put Leonis 3-1 ahead when he produced one of the punches of the night, his right glove scrambling welterweight James Butler’s thought processes to the extent that referee Le Masurier stopped the contest following a standing eight count.

Decio Ferreira’s fitness and commitment guaranteed Leonis at least a share of the cup when his relentless pressure eventually forced Hassin Carim to his knees in the third round, with referee Langlois having an easy decision to stop the contest.

That proved the last home victory, but it was far from the last good performance, with the three remaining Jersey lads all deserving of praise.

Luke Smedley won a unanimous decision over Danny Kennedy, with the Leonis man finding it difficult to impose himself on the composed visitor.

But it was a quality bout in which the home welterweight pushed his opponent hard.

The next opportunity to clinch outright victory fell to Jersey captain on the night, Danny Maka.

He certainly went mighty close, losing the bout of the match to the boxer of the night, junior international and class act Lewis Taylor, only on a majority decision – and it must have been an exceedingly close split verdict at that, particularly when the Islander opened up in the fourth and final round.

It, and other bouts before and after, deserved the acclaim that many, including the gregarious Egan, showered on it.

‘This has been top class amateur boxing – and I’ve watched bouts all over the country,’ said the Irishman in between numerous requests to pose for photographs or sign memorabilia.

Now, with the match poised on a knife-edge, Craig Culkin swapped his Island football team coaching kit for the red vest of Leonis to take on Sheffield’s Kyle Whittam, a middleweight he had beaten away last season.

It looked as though the Jersey lad had again done enough to earn the decision, after being slightly more the aggressive of the two, particularly in the second and fourth rounds.

But the taller Whittam was given the majority decision to draw the overall match, a verdict that, to his great credit, Culkin was able to shrug off in sporting style: ‘You’ve got to accept you won’t always get the decision in close fights like that.

He’s a good boxer, though I thought I did better tonight than when I beat him.

It’s one-all now and I’d look forward to a third meeting.’

Two bouts of the scheduled ten were called off; local favourite Ben Murray not having fully recovered from a shoulder injury and exciting middleweight prospect Mahoud Farag left without a contest after a late withdrawal.

Horizon Group’s Gary Bellot presented the trophy to Danny Maka and Lewis Taylor.

l Among the items auctioned for charity were two tickets for the Ricky Hatton v Floyd Mayweather fight in Las Vegas (fetching ?5,100); a glove worn by Clinton Woods during his title match with Julio Gonzales (?700); and signed book and video from Joe Egan (over ?1,000).

l Master of ceremonies: Michael Stephenson.

Official in charge: Kevin Baudain.

Medical officer: Dr Lisa Macey.

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