Williams vs Norton
Report and Photos Gianluca (Rio) Di Caro
On Friday night, at the excellent Francis and George Warren’s Queensberry Promotions event at York Hall in Bethnal Green, the pack house were treated to a great night of pugilistic action. The slickly produced show had it all, world class boxing, a knockout, oodles of drama and the dethroning of the Cruiserweight King, as Leon ‘Solid’ Williams achieved what many thought would be impossible, when he snatched the Lonsdale belt from long time holder Rob Norton’s iron grip.
Williams-Norton wasn’t a classic fight by a long way, Norton’s awkward southpaw counter punching style ensured that, but it was an intriguing, and at times highly exciting, bout.
Right from the off it was clear that Williams plan was to to play the long game, out of the window had gone the ‘devil may care’ I’m gonna knock him out or get knocked out mindset, instead the 27 year old from Streatham took a much calmer, slow approach.
The early rounds were edgy, to put it mildly, it was like a poker game with neither man willing to show his hand too early. There was some good action but each time it looked like a proper battle was set to erupt Norton’s ring savvy would come into play, at times he’d just paw away at fresh air to keep Williams at bay, but should the youngster get through the wily old fox from Stourbridge would just grab hold until referee Terry O’Connor pulled them apart.
Both Williams’ co-trainers, Johnny Eames and Barry Smith, were clearly getting exasperated, as were the crowd and the referee, as each time their young charge instigated an exchange he was thwarted by Norton’s persistent clinching.
Just prior to the start of the fourth Johnny Eames could be heard instructing Williams to up the pace and keep the pressure on Norton. With the instructions fresh in his mind Williams shot from the corner the instant the bell rang, closed down his target and let rip, landing a cracking right hand. The crowd jumped to their feet screaming ‘Solid, Solid, Solid, in unison.
Williams responded, in kind, but the action was short lived as Norton just tied him up again to slow the fight back to his pace.
Throughout the middle rounds each time Williams tried to lift the pace the same would happen, Norton would either use his superior reach advantage, pawing, to keep Williams at bay or just grab hold and walk Williams back onto the ropes.
Williams again kicked up the pace in the sixth and seventh, receiving intermittent success letting off some neat combinations before Norton would resort to spoiling tactics again.
My thoughts at the time was that this was the real turning point, it seemed Norton’s age was coming into play and Williams, some twelve years younger, was seemingly in the ascension.
More of the same in rounds eight and nine and Norton was beginning to look uncomfortable as each ‘Solid’ attack started to take it’s toll. I couldn’t help but think that this was the beginning of the end of Norton’s title reign.
Then again maybe not, as in round ten Norton changed tactics, allowing Williams to back him on the ropes and let rip with powerful flurries of shots, most of which Norton would just dip and dive to avoid. Each time Williams would step back Norton showboated by either calling him back in or leaning back in the corner with his arms spread across the ropes.
Now into the Championship rounds. Round eleven was quite a lively affair at times, but yet again anytime Williams tried to instigate any meaningful attacks Norton would stifle him. This lead to Williams trying to pick his shots before moving out of range, but each time he came forward their was a big glove waving in front of him.
Williams’ corner, and promoter Francis Warren, told Leon to throw caution to the wind for the final round, it was close and a good final round was likely to clinch the bout in his favour. Not needing to be told a second time Williams went for it, but so did Norton. The final three minutes were probably the best of the whole fight, it definitely had the most action.
When the final bell rang both protagonists threw their arms in the air before turning to hug each other. The wait for the judges scorecards to be read seemed endless but eventually MC Mike Goodall spoke, declaring the match a split decision in favour of Williams by 116-114 (Richie Davies), 114-115 (John Keane) and 116-113 (Ian John-Lewis).
Prior to Williams-Norton the vacant English Super Bantamweight title was contested by Cromer’s Ryan Walsh and Melksham’s Liam Richards.
In total contrast to the headliner Walsh-Richards was nonstop scintillating back and forth action for the full 30 minutes. I’m not joking every single round was a cracker as these two warriors came prepared for war.
At the end of the ten hard fought rounds Walsh was declared the new English Champion, by a huge margin 100-90 (Richie Davies) 99-91 (Ian John-Lewis) and 100-90 (Terry O’Connor) but that doesn’t give a one hundred percent accurate picture of the fight by a long shot, I’m not arguing the judges score, as yes Walsh won every round, as he boxed superbly, in my book too, but it was far from one way traffic.
They say it takes two to Tango well it also takes two to make a great fight and as such Richards deserves to be praised for his part in this sensational battle. On Friday night we see there’s the heart of a Lion beating inside that tiny frame.
Preceding the excellent Walsh-Richardson see Ireland’s Dean ‘Irish Lightning’ Byrne, in his first outing on British soil, against Edmonton’s Michael Frontin.
Byrne has an excellent pedigree, unbeaten in fourteen and became the New South Wales State Light Welterweight Champion on only his fourth fight. So when I see this match up I have to admit I thought the fight wouldn’t go past three rounds - well I was wrong.
It was a bit of an edgy start but it didn’t take Byrne long to show his class and easily took the early rounds, although he didn’t have it all his way. Frontin showed heart and often took the fight to Byrne.
Byrne boxed beautifully throughout but never really seemed to get a handle on the tough London based Mauritian. Frontin grew in stature as the bout progressed and was holding his own whenever the battle intensified, in fact not just holding his own, as at times he rattled the Irishman with big looping rights at least once each round.
No surprise that at the end of the eight hard fought rounds referee Ian John-Lewis declared Byrne the winner, or that it was by a 78-74 points margin.
On the off-TV section Penge’s ‘Super’ Bradley Skeete got to strut his stuff against Scunthorpe’s Steve Spence in a four rounder.
What a cracking fight, right from the off Spence went for centre ground but novice Skeete, in only his fourth pro bout, wasn’t willing to concede a single millimeter to the more experienced man.
Skeete boxed beautifully throughout and just plain outclassed Spence to earn a much deserved 40-36 points decision.
A rematch, between Liam Shinkwin and ‘Rockin’ Robin Deakin preceded the cracking Skeete-Spence battle.
Last time out Shinkwin won by a shutout 40-36 margin, so really no one was surprised that again Shinkwin dominated proceedings a second time. Saying that Deakin was seeking redemption, by whatever means possible, but no matter how wily the Crawley man is he was still no match for the youngster from Bushey Heath. After four highly entertaining rounds referee Ian John-Lewis raised Shinkwin’s hand and declared him victor by a 40-36 points margin yet again.
The opening bout of the night featured Croydon novice Danny Davis against Tottenham’s Mark McKray.
A rather edgy start, but it didn’t take that long to liven up as McKray tried to rough up the youngster from Surrey. Davis used his jab to good effect to keep the ever forward coming McKray at bay.
More of the same in the second, but in the third McKray was starting to get some real success and around midway of the round clearly hurt Davis with a wicked body shot.
It was close going into the fourth so there was no surprise that Davis stepped things up a bit and around the one minute mark let rip with a massive right cross to send McKray crashing to the canvas.
The celebrating Davis support quickly fell silent as Initial concerns see the paramedics enter the ring to administer oxygen to the prone McKray. After a few tense minutes McKray sat up and after a round of applause Davis and his fans restarted their celebrations.
Following the main event were two other bouts, the first saw Cranham’s Lee Markham beat Westury’s Aaron Fox by a 40-36 margin. The second saw Peckham’s Johnny Garton get his maiden victory over Tooting’s Danny Dontchev also by a 40-36 points margin.
October 22, 2011