In an upset,British Featherweight champion Leigh Wood scored a twelfth round stoppage of top Featherweight contender Xu Can in the main event of week 1 of Season 2 of Matchroom Fight Camp on Saturday night at Matchroom Headquarters in Brentwood, England. From the opening bell, Wood used angles and his reach to keep the normal volume puncher Can on the defensive and only getting his punches off sporadically. This along with consistent combination punching firmly established the momentum in Wood’s favor. As the fight progressed, Can, who entered the fight holding interim/regular champion status in the World Boxing Association’s (WBA) Featherweight ratings, started to pick up his pace, but was unable to turn the ebb and flow of the combat in his favor, perhaps affected by ring rust after being inactive for nearly twenty-two months due largely to the ongoing COVID-19 global epidemic.
The story of the fight became Wood’s ability to remain disciplined. With momentum seemingly on his side, Wood made a statement in the late stages of the twelfth and final round by dropping Can with a perfectly timed counter right hook to the head. Can was able to get to his feet, but Wood sensing his opponent was in trouble was not content to box the remaining seconds to what appeared to be a clear decision victory. He proceeded to press forward and with a follow-up barrage was able to get a stoppage with fifteen seconds remaining in the fight. Leigh Wood advances to 25-2, with 14 Knockouts. Xu Can falls to 18-3, with 3 Knockouts.
Also on this card:
Commonwealth Cruiserweight champion Chris Billam-Smith scored a hard fought twelve round split decision over European Cruiserweight champion Tommy McCarthy to win the European Cruiserweight championship and vacant British Cruiserweight championship. An extremely difficult fight to score and at times ugly to watch due to the fighters grappling on the inside, Smith was stunned by an overhand right to the head in the first round. He was able to recoup and managed to hold his own against the awkwardness of McCarthy. As the two fighters traded the ebb and flow in seemingly every round, McCarthy suffered a bad cut over the right eye in the sixth round as a result of an accidental clash of heads. McCarthy continued however, to hold his own and staggered Smith with another overhand right in the eleventh round. An extremely close fight with neither fighter standing out definitively was illustrated as two of three official judges scored the fight 115-114, but were split between the two fighters. The third and deciding judge however, turned in a score of 116-112 in favor of Smith giving him the victory and the trifecta of British, Commonwealth, and European Cruiserweight championships. Chris Billam-Smith advances to 13-1, with 10 Knockouts. Tommy McCarthy falls to 18-3, with 9 Knockouts.
Unbeaten Jr. Welterweight Campbell Hatton, the son of former two-division world champion Ricky Hatton, improved to 3-0 in his young career by scoring a four round decision over Jakub Laskowski. Hatton forced the action from the outset and, despite a consistent attack to Laskowski’s body Laskowski did manage to make it to the final bell. As all non-title bouts held in the United Kingdom and Ireland that do not have an impact on regional or world rankings are scored solely by the referee officiating a fight, Referee Mark Bates scored the fight 40-36 in favor of Hatton. Campbell Hatton advances to 3-0, with 0 Knockouts. Jakub Laskowski falls to 4-5-1, with 2 Knockouts.
Jr. Middleweight contender Anthony Fowler scored an impressive eighth round stoppage of late substitute Rico Mueller. Fowler was able to keep Mueller, who took the fight on short notice when original opponent Roberto Garcia withdrew with an injury suffered in training, on the end of his punches with his longer reach from the opening bell. This resulted in Mueller having to fight behind a high defensive guard where he simply was not able to get his punches off consistently. As Fowler gradually kept his offense coming and started breaking through Mueller’s guard, the punishment gradually accumulated. In round eight, Fowler connected with a solid one, two to the head that staggered Mueller. Fowler responded with a near non-stop barrage of punches that was broken briefly when Mueller landed a single hook to the head, but that punch was not enough to keep Fowler off of him and with the assault continuing, the fight was mercifully stopped. Official time of the stoppage was 2:12 of round eight. Anthony Fowler advances to 16-1, with 12 Knockouts. Rico Mueller falls to 28-4-1, with 19 Knockouts.
Super-Middleweight Jack Cullen scored the biggest win of his career by scoring a dominant ten round unanimous decision over former world title challenger Avni Yildirim. Cullen used his longer reach to keep Yildirim at distance. Working behind a consistent jab and using lateral movement, Cullen was able to out box and withstand Yildirim’s pressure as the fight progressed to earn a convincing unanimous decision victory. Official scores were: 100-90, 98-92, and 97-93 all in favor of Cullen. Jack Cullen advances to 20-2-1, with 9 Knockouts. Avni Yildirim falls to 21-4, with 12 Knockouts.
In the opening bout of the evening Women’s Jr. Welterweight Sandy Ryan began her professional career by scoring a six round decision over Kirstie Bavington. Bavington began this fight by trying to impose her will on the debuting Ryan by trying to be aggressive and push her back against the ropes. Despite her aggression, Ryan landed the cleaner punches of the two fighters and by the middle rounds was using her lateral movement and timing to more or less pick her shots as Bavington came forward. It appeared in the latter stages of the fight that Ryan’s combination punching and ability to time Bavington almost at will may have been enough to get a late stoppage, but Bavington remained very “Game” and made it to the final bell. Referee Mark Bates scored the bout 60-54 in favor of Ryan. Sandy Ryan advances to 1-0, with 0 Knockouts. Kirstie Bavington falls to 3-2-2, with 2 Knockouts.
Originally, this card was to be headlined by undefeated Welterweight contender Conor Benn facing Adrian Granados in a scheduled ten round bout. The fight however, was postponed two days before the card due to Benn contracting the COVID-19 virus. As of this writing, no rescheduled date has been announced. We will keep readers updated on any developments as they become available.
The theme of Matchroom Fight Camp is a simple sales pitch “No Easy Fights.” While that is a simple sales hook, the first season in 2020 occurred under circumstances of the ongoing global COVID-19 epidemic and the concept was born basically out of necessity as promoters attempted to resume activity under very trying circumstances. As we saw last year, the bouts being promoted by Matchroom Boxing and the chairman of Matchroom Sport Eddie Hearn are not throwaways. The type of fights where there is a consensus amongst both fans and experts as to the outcomes. Instead, the fights during the first season were very competitive and produced more than a few unexpected results.
This time around with the addition of nearly three-hundred spectators as well as Matchroom deepening its relationship with global digital sports streaming network DAZN to cover the United Kingdom and Ireland market as well as its existing deal to broadcast Matchroom events around the world, the first week of season two saw a somewhat unexpected result in Leigh Wood catapulting himself from British Featherweight champion to being one step away from a world championship bout with a knockout of Xu Can, a fighter known for the ability to produce extremely high punch outputs and one that had never been stopped before.
As I said in previewing this card, while the Matchroom Fight Camp concept was one born out of necessity due to an ongoing global crisis, a crisis that reared itself a mere forty-eight hours before this card took place necessitating the postponement of the originally advertised main event, Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Sport have stumbled upon something that is likely to now become an annual part of the Matchroom promotional calendar every year. If the bouts can remain well-matched, fans can remain attending these cards, and if it also serves to strengthen the relationship between Matchroom and DAZN as both continue to expand globally and continue to show the Boxing world the benefits of a subscription-based model as compared to the pay-per-view model, and in doing so convince both promoters and networks that have resisted adapting to a more sensible and consumer-friendly model, it should be a win for the sport on a true global scale.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
We will have a preview of Matchroom Fight Camp Season 2 week 2 here on The Boxing Truth®️ on Thursday, August 5th. Stay tuned.
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