By the time eight men had become two at York Hall on Saturday night, the stage was well and truly set for Derry Mathews to complete his stunning comeback, and find himself atop of the domestic super-featherweights, and heading for a British Title shot at least. Sadly for “Dirty” Derry, Gary Buckland hadn’t read the script, and a crushing body shot 1.28 into the 2nd round brought Mathews down to earth with a resounding thud.
The evening began with comebacking Choi Tseveenpurev, who made it through his quarter final against late replacement Ben Murphy relatively unscathed. In what was a close, messy contest, Choi produced the tidier work and clearly frustrated Murphy throughout the fight. However, this wasnt the Choi of old that would have beaten Murphy much much easier, this was a badly faded version who just about did enough to progress to the semi-finals.
Derry Mathews put on a show in his quarter final with Gary McArthur. The fight was fairly scrappy to begin with, neither boxer able to land a great deal. That changed mid-way through the opener with Mathews dropping McArthur with a sweet short left to the head. McArthur was rattled but recovered. From this point on McArthur was wild and erratic to say the least. Mathews used his superior boxing skills to continue to pick off McArthur, and that continued into the 2nd round – where McArthur should really have been stopped – before the inevitable happened in the 3rd round and referee Dave Parris rescued the under fire Scotsman.
Gary Buckland and Stevie Bell put on the best fight of the quarter-finals. Both were accurate and prepared to trade with each other. Bell made the better start, hitting and moving against the advancing Buckland. In the 2nd and 3rd however, Buckland began to shut down Bell and land big body shots which seemed to slow Bell, who lacked the fleet-footedness he showed in the first round. Buckland was good value for his win taking the 2nd and 3rd rounds clearly.
Gary Sykes hammered the nail into Scott Lawton retirement coffin with a comfortable win over the Stoke man. His work on the inside was excellent and he landed some superb power shots that clearly had Lawton in trouble. By the 3rd Lawton seemed scared of his own shadow, fighting on the back foot, keen to stay away from Sykes. I’m not one to tell a fighter when he should retire but there really is nowhere for Lawton left to go, he’s had some bad knockouts and doesn’t look like he can carry on at a level acceptable to him any longer.
The semis began with Derry Mathews aiming to avenge his previous defeat to Choi Tseveenpurev. In the first round that looked likely as Mathews worked excellently from the outside, darting in to land good power shots. Choi was cut in the later part of the round yet still managed to rock Mathews just before the bell tolled. In the 2nd Choi rallied early on and hurt Mathews a couple of times, but Mathews was still managing to land cleanly from the outside. The 3rd went as the first and second, with Choi being messy and scrappy, but hurting Mathews whilst Mathews was landing much cleaner work from the outside, picking the Mongol off from range. Mathews was a deserved but close winner.
The second semi-final saw British Champion Gary Sykes against Gary Buckland. This fight had all the makings of the fight of the tournament and all the potential to surpass the excellent Choi vs Mathews fight. Unfortunatly, the fight didnt live up to the hype as Buckland nearly took Sykes head off with a beautiful right hand 35 seconds into the opener. The punch landed flush and Sykes never had a chance of making it back to his feet inside the 10 count.
The final itself was a rather one-sided affair with the still fresh Buckland comfortably beating the very tired Derry Mathews. Mathews was still feeling the effects of his barnstormer with Choi and was easy pickings for Buckland in the end. That said, Mathews in no way rolled over for Buckland, staying in there regardless of what the Welshman hit him with. Mathews was down in the first before the crushing left hook to the body in the second dropped the valiant runner-up. The referee could have counted to 100, Mathews wasn’t getting back up.
Where do they all go from here? Lawton is really only looking at retirement, he trains several fighters at his own gym so a move into training or management beckons. McArthur and Bell are both young enough to comeback if they want to. Bell said he was disillusioned with the pro game, and he may not be prepared to have another crack at making it big. Choi and Mathews still have something left to offer, but wether they would consider opperating at a level lower than they were accustomed is another matter.
Ben Murphy came in as a journeyman and leaves as a journeyman, he can take his paycheck and continue with his career as it is. Gary Sykes has bags of potential and can continue on at the summit of the domestic super featherweights, perhaps even a foray into the European levels. His British title is safe, but with Buckland around, for how long? Buckland himself could remain at super-featherweight or could return to lightweight. Either way, he has the skills to go as far as a EBU title, and should use his experience in Prizefighter to push his career along.