By Ben Solly at ringside: Matthew Mallin put on the performance of his career on Friday night, outclassing Jack Sunderland to claim the vacant International Masters middleweight title in Barnsley, Yorkshire in the north of England.
In a fight that was billed as ’The Battle of Yorkshire’ both fighters did not disappoint, standing toe to toe for four rounds of scintillating action.
A deep cut to the right eye of Sunderland forced the fight to be called off at the end of the fourth round, but based on the stellar performance of Mallin over the first four rounds, the result was
In front of a vociferous home town support, Mallin, also known as ’Buster’, proved he was ready to step up in class against the tough Sunderland who’s only previous loss came at the hands of Paul Allison.
From the opening round it was clear that Mallin had a game plan, and executed it to perfection. Utilising his superior boxing skills, throwing the jab, circling and waiting patiently for an opening, Mallin immediately put Sunderland on the back foot. What was more impressive was the lateral movement shown by the Barnsley fighter, creating angles that Sunderland found difficult to work out. The angles also allowed Mallin to throw uppercuts through the tight guard of Sunderland at regular intervals, with a right hook-left upper cut combination catching the attention of the Drighlington man.
The dominance of Mallin continued into the second, picking his shots nicely, timing shots on the inside and getting out of range before Sunderland could land any telling blows. An overhand right caught Sunderland flush on the chin mid way through the second, and although the reaction was delayed, forced Sunderland to the canvas and take a standing eight.
Most fighters would have jumped on their opponent in such a situation, but once more, Mallin showed patience and worked behind a stiff jab to set up the more punishing shots, rather than rush in and get caught by the still game Sunderland. By the end of the third round, a graze about the right eye of Sunderland had began to trickle blood, probably opened by a perfectly timed short left hook from Mallin.
The fourth round was the beginning of the end for Sunderland, with Mallin targeting the injured right eye with a string of jabs that turned the graze into a nasty cut. A thunderous left uppercut sent Sunderland staggering across the ring mid way through the round, one that he would have found hard to see coming due to the accumulated damage to the eye. Sunderland bravely held on to hear the bell at the end of the fourth, but on close inspection, the referee called off the contest, much to the delight of the home crowd.
Whilst the crowd celebrated by throwing beer and fighting amongst themselves, Mallin performed an impressive Prince-Naseem-esq backflip mid ring. It is one thing watching a featherweight do a backflip, but seeing a 160 pound fighter do it was worth the entrance fee alone.
The win for Mallin, now 7(2) - 0 elevates him up a level, and one step closer to an English title shot against fellow Yorkshireman Nick Blackwell.
Sunderland, who required nine stitches to his right eye, drops to 5 -2, but can take heart from a gutsy performance and can have no complaints about loosing to the better man on the night. In a thriving middleweight scene, there will always be a place for fighters who show the heart that Sunderland did.
Grimsby lightweight Kevin Hooper (12-0) continued his unbeaten start to his professional career, forcing Mark Bett (5-16-5) to quit before the third round could start.
Bett cited a damaged hand as reason for his premature exit from the contest, but Hooper had Bett’s number throughout the fight, landing right hands at will over the first two rounds. Bett offered little resistance other than a few lumbering props with a jab and straight right, but the patient rhythm of Hooper was too much for the Scot who has now lost his ten consecutive fights.
Fresh from his Prizefighter experience, Leeds bantamweight Terry Broadbent faced off against former foe Ryan McNicol over four rounds, but found the going much harder than his previous encounter with the Scot.
Seemingly struggling to adapt to the southpaw stance of McNicol, Broadbent was caught time and time again with a wild swinging left hook from Glaswegian.
Over the four rounds the Scot seemed to land the cleaner punches, and although Broadbent did have some success in the third and fourth, it was far from impressive, and the 40-36 points decision of the referee was met with baffled faces at ringside who had all at least given McNicol a draw, and some had the Scot winning the contest.
In another close contest, hometown lightweight Ben Wager overcame the always hard to beat Kristian Laight over four rounds. This was Laight’s tenth fight of 2012 and third in April, but Wager’s relentless pressure overcame the wily defence of the veteran Laight. Wager managed to successfully cope with the switch hitting style of Laight, and confidently switched stances a few times during the second and third round to land some hurtful shots to the body of Laight.
The 40-36 points decision was the correct one, but did not credit the Nuneaton fighter with what was another gutsy display.
Also on the undercard there were victories for Ryan Hardy and Robbie Barrett who both overcame tough fights against Charlie Thompson and Steve Martin respectively.
May 1, 2012