By Danny Winterbottom ringside
Tony Bellew’s (19-1-1, 12K0s) path to a shot at the light heavyweight world title held by Chad Dawson hit a roadblock in Liverpool on Saturday March 30 in the form of Malawi born Isaac Chilemba (20-1-2, 9Kos) as the pair battled to a 12 round draw inside the Echo Arena.
Judge Christophe Fernandez saw the bout 116-112 for Chilemba that drew gasps of astonishment from the 8,000 fans. Mr Eddie Pappoe carded 116-115 for Bellew and Fabien Guggenheim couldn’t spilt them scoring 114-114. Bellew shook his head in dismay at the result but he was outboxed and counter punched for large portions of the contest by the excellent visitor. Ian John Lewis officiated.
Bellew (12st 6lbs), the reigning British champion and WBC Silver title holder, was full of pent up aggression in the opener as he came out looking to end matters early. His right hand was thrown with bad intentions but Chilemba (12st 5lbs), with Buddy McGirt in his corner, easily evaded the lunging blows of the home favourite and looked to survive the early onslaught.
As Bellew marched forward he negated his jab in favour of straight rights and whizzing lefts but Chilemba turned his head enough to take most of the venom from them despite roars from the crowd as Bellew let his hands go.
Buddy McGirt likes to get his fighters to box behind their jabs and despite Bellew sweeping the first four rounds the current WBC International champion slowly but surely found a home for his left as the contest progressed.
Right hands from Bellew continued to miss their intended target as Chilemba dipped forward whenever he sensed another one brewing. A half step back may have netted Bellew better results but in the heat of battle Chilemba was outfoxing him.
Chilemba began to grow in confidence as his corner urged him to put pressure on a frustrated Bellew as the contest neared its conclusion. Bellew shipped a right hand that drew a shake of the head from him but Chilemba continued to snake home his jab.
Risks were taken by both fighters and both showed solid beard’s as they wailed away with hooks. Chilemba was able to avoid the loaded up single punches of the champion who wasn’t at his explosive best in the second half of the contest despite never being troubled by the challenger’s power.
A draw for Chilemba on away soil will feel like a win for the 25-year-old known as “Golden Boy” and Bellew will have to wait a little longer to secure his second shot at a world title.
In a much anticipated rematch of the 2012 domestic fight of the year Derry Mathews (32-8-2, 17Kos) and Anthony Crolla (25-4-1, 9Kos) battled to a 12 round draw for the vacant Commonwealth lightweight title.
Judge Marcus McDonnell scored the contest 115-113 for 29-year-old Mathews whist Ian John Lewis saw the bout in favour of Crolla 115-113. Steve Gray couldn’t split them turning in a 115-115 scorecard. The contest was extremely close and more tactical than their explosive first encounter and could have gone either way.
Mathews (9st 8lbs 10oz) looked in fantastic condition and immediately set to work stalking Crolla (9st 8lbs 8oz) behind a long jab and right hand.
Crolla couldn’t get his boxing together in the opening stages but fared better in the second stanza as he shot jabs to the stomach of Mathews and right hooks upstairs. Mathews began to reach with his punches and Crolla picked him off his left hand thrown more frequently.
A clash of heads resulted in a cut opening up on the corner of Crolla’s right eye, an injury usually associated with Mathews who seems to finish all his fights in a mask of blood, and the laceration dented the Manchester man’s confidence.
Mathews began to spear Crolla with his dangerous right hand and it was clear once again who the puncher was in the fight. Crolla responded with a cluster of fast rights but Mathews was roared on by the capacity crowd and fired back.
Late in the contest Mathews began to wait too long and Crolla suddenly found the boxing skills that had deserted him early and he swept rounds 8-12 on my card to secure a draw.
“It was a great fight. Let’s do it again” an enthused Crolla told Sky Sports after the contest.
“Derry hurt me in the first fight and he hurt me again tonight but I came through it” he said.
“We both thought we had done enough to win” said Mathews.
A third fight is almost a certainty.
On a packed undercard Rocky Fielding (12st) maintained his unbeaten record and moved to 13-0 with a thoroughly entertaining sixth round stoppage of an extremely brave Wayne Reed (11st 11lbs) of Sheffield in defence of his English super middleweight title.
Reed, the current Central Area champion, was under fire from the off but had some success of his own as Fielding began to admire his work. Fielding hurt his man several times but had to wait until the fourth round to floor him with a left uppercut against the ropes.
Reed fought back in round five when in trouble again but in the sixth a long left uppercut dropped him on his back. He got back to his feet, but a perfectly delivered and sickening left hook to the liver crumbled him. And despite again showing bravery only fighters understand referee Marcus McDonnell rightly halted the contest at 1-19.
James “Jazza” Dickens (8st 9lbs 4oz) used his boxing skills to befuddled the previously unbeaten Jon Fernandes (8st 9lbs) to claim the vacant English super bantamweight crown.
Dickens, a super talented former amateur star, detonated a wicked southpaw left hook in the opening stanza that left Fernandes on his back. Dickens was over eager in trying to secure the early finish and had to settle for a wide point’s victory.
Judges Howard Foster and Ian John Lewis saw the bout 99-91 and Marcus McDonnell scored 99-92 all in favour of Dickens who moves to 14-0.
Other results from the undercard were as follows:
Christopher Perry-Metcalf WPTS 4 40-36 Liam Griffiths (welterweights)
Thomas Stalker WPTS 4 40-37 Andrew Harris (light welterweights)
Bob Ajisafe WPTS 4 40-36 Carl Wild (light heavyweights)
Scott Cardle WPTS 4 40-37 Yves Mesny (light welterweights)
Callum Smith WTKO 1 Iain Jackson (super middleweights)
Khalid Yafai WPTS 8 79-73 Michael Ramabeletsa (super flyweights)