By Steven Bateson
Kell Brook scored a wide but uninspiring unanimous decision over the tough Michael Zerafa in front of his hometown crowd in Sheffield on Saturday night.
Brook was hoping to clinch a fight with Amir Khan in early 2019, a fight that looks as far away as it ever has, but now finds himself the mandatory challenger to Jarrett Hurd’s WBA Super Welterweight Championship.
Brook looked fired up in round one and was feeling out with the jab before looking to bring the right hand into play. Zerafa was trying to snap his own jab off but ate a right uppercut inside and was already starting to mark up from the impact of Brook’s heavy blows. A chopping right hand momentarily stiffened Zerafa’s legs and then another uppercut and a bodyshot had him holding on. The bell sounded to end the round and the Australian, sporting a bloodied nose, looked relieved of the break.
Zerafa continued to paw out the jab in the second but Brook looked unruffled and happy to just step forward, pot shotting at will, as he threw left hooks around the guard. Zerafa did seem to grow in confidence through the stanza and was able to bring his own right hand into play, catching Brook clean, but didn’t seem to possess the power to hurt the home fighter.
Brook was cutting the ring off better through round three and then drove home a right hand that had Zerafa hurt once again. The Australian’s face was badly marked up as Brook began to look for the power punches, it looking like only a matter of time before the end came. Brook was being a little lax with his defence at times and copped a few counter hooks from Zerafa as they exchanged, something that has to be rectified if he is heading back to the elite level.
Zerafa began the fourth with a left to the body and a right hand and it was clear to see he was growing in confidence. Brook was still looking the more dangerous, his punches carrying a lot more power, but he wasn’t looking as fluid or composed as he once did. Zerafa was still finding Brook’s chin, a cracking right toward the end of the round proof of this, and the likes of Jarrett Hurd and Jermell Charlo will be extremely confident that they can do the same.
Brook’s head movement, or lack of, was problematic in the fifth and Zerafa capitalised on several occasions with a sharp, stinging right hand. This was supposed to be a showcase for Brook ahead of a big fight but if anything he was looking rusty and lacking; he may have been winning the fight at this point but there was nothing to make anyone sit up and take notice.
Usually so athletic Brook was now walking onto shots and being countered far too often, so guilty of falling in and presenting opportunities for Zerafa. Zerafa was still taking shots but he no longer looked worried by his task and was answering back every single time Brook let his hands go. Brook was clear through midway but there will be more questions than answers about his future ambitions after watching this.
There was a little more spite and purpose to Brook’s work in seven and he busted Zerafa up, his shorts stained from his own blood, but the Australian would not wilt and even dug deep enough to let his hands go. There was something, however, lethargic and missing from Brook’s performance and that will need to be looked into. It could be the lack of quality in his opponent or the fact it was only his second fight of the year but he cannot show this kind of sloppiness if he wants the kind of top names that he has continuously spoken of.
Brook failed to build on the momentum of round seven and he was back taking unnecessary punches in the eighth. It’s not a performance that will live long in the memory and Brook’s lack of respect for his opponent was showing; he has never taken these punch numbers against an opponent not judged to be on his level.
Brook’s questionable defence seemed to have him in a moment’s trouble midway through round nine as he took two stunning right hands that had him retreating to the ropes. The idea of an upset before this bout was unfathomable but there was those at ringside now starting to believe it was an outside possibility given Brook’s very flat and disappointing outing.
The "championship" rounds passed without much to report. Zerafa was still gaining success with his right hand but never managed to find the gusto to overrun or take Brook out whilst the Sheffield fighter was aggressive enough to win the rounds but never looked like the dangerous predator that made him a feared name in the 147lbs division. Both men let their hands go in an explosive spell during the twelfth and in the end it was Brook backing off from Zerafa’s shots rather than the other way around, now happy to coast out to a lacklustre points victory.
Will the Amir Khan fight materialise? It now looks practically dead in the water and you have to wonder if Kell Brook has chased a shadow his entire career. So a fight with Jarrett Hurd for the WBA Super Welterweight Title now looks the most likely route for Brook and given what was on display tonight that is a very dangerous fight for Brook. It may be that he raises his game for that kind of fight but he took so many shots in this contest that Hurd will likely overwhelm and hurt him, punishing a non existent defence.
Scorecards read: 118-110, 119-109, 117-111 (not a fair indication of Zerafa’s effort and performance)
Jono Carroll and Guillaume Frenois fought out a split draw in what was billed as a final eliminator for the IBF Super Featherweight Championship.
Carroll has been involved in several online spats with IBF Champion, Tevin Farmer, but he will now have to wait for his opportunity to challenge for top honours as it is likely these two will square off again in the new year.
Carroll was happy to let his man come forward in the first, seeing what he had to offer, but the Irishman still had the better of the brief exchanges; a stiff left hook landed as he countered off the ropes.
Frenois connected with two solid left hands in the beginning of round two, the first of which coming after a clash of heads that left Carroll with a small cut by his left eye. Carroll was not deterred, however, and slipped his man before drilling away with a right and left to the body. Frenois was having some success with the long range left but suddenly a left caught him high on the head and his legs betrayed him, slightly, and he was thankful for the bell to prevent a potential knockdown.
Carroll was reinvigorated now and landed a flash left hook as the two men exchanged to start the third. Frenois’ right eye was now cut after eating several quickfire combinations but the Frenchmen was still having success of his own, the long left still his most potent weapon. Carroll then dipped his left shoulder and uncorked a left hook that hurt Frenois again, following up with a crunching left to the body that had the visitor back-peddling for breathing space.
In the fourth Carroll started to up the pace and was planting his feet more as he picked away at the body of Frenois. Frenois was looking a little more reluctant to exchange and was being roughed up at close quarters, Carroll’s punch output and landing ratio increasing by the second. The pace did deplete slightly in the fifth and Frenois was able to get behind his boxing a little more, the jab preventing Carroll from getting inside so frequently and probably getting the Frenchmen on the scorecards for the first time.
Frenois snapped off a neat one-two in the sixth and his jab was presenting him with more success, for the first time Carroll was looking a little one dimensional as he just followed his man around the ring. Frenois connected with a left hook in close and then a jab/left hand combination as Carroll dipped his head into an exchange, the crowd quieting off a little as the away fighter registered his second straight round.
Carroll was letting his hands go a little more in round seven and that was allowing him to close the distance and find the target, a solid left hook landing as Frenois once again obliged him in a trade off, but the Frenchmen was still a threat with that long left; just bouncing it off Carroll’s chin at the end of the round.
The eighth passed without much drama although Frenois was the busier and found a home on at least three occasions for his left hand; there was now a possibility that the fight was level heading into the home straight. Carroll, known for his impeccable gas tank, was looking a little tired and predictable in the ninth and Frenois was able to time him again and again with the left hand as the Irishman bobbed and rose into the punches. Carroll then trapped his man on the ropes and was able to bang away to the body for the first time in three rounds but Frenois, after a slight wince, answered back with yet more left hands.
Frenois snapped Carroll’s head back with an eye-catching combination in the tenth and although Carroll was marching forward he was often a static target, not displaying nearly enough head movement. Frenois was looking a little tired but Carroll didn’t seem able to muster the energy or second wind to punish him. Carroll did land a punch after the bell and Frenois dropped to his knees to protest but the referee ordered him to his corner and said no more on it.
Both men were feeling the pace in the eleventh as they went toe to toe with wild shots, the percentage that landed barely registering, but still it was Frenois looking the more composed. Carroll was able to plant some well timed body shots but his head and upper body movement were almost non existent, the earlier vigour dwindling, and Frenois took advantage with another solid overhand left.
They headed into the twelfth, the fight in the balance, and there was a feeling that Carroll needed a big finish in order to swing it back in his favour. He did step forward and snap Frenois’ head back with a right hand on the ropes but again was susceptible to the left hand, his inability to adapt to that punch his major let down throughout the contest. The need was now desperate for Carroll to throw the kitchen sink at his opponent but he didn’t have the legs to mount a grandstand finish.
Carroll was signed by Matchroom to be pushed toward a world title opportunity but after this fight it is clear that he needs to be tested a little more at Euro and fringe World level in order to prove he belongs there. He struggled to adapt and change his gameplan against a solid but ageing opponent and that is something he will desperately need against a higher calibre of fighter. It is more than likely these two men will fight again in order to sort out who gets to step up to face Farmer although there is a chance that Carroll will get the nod anyway, given both men are promoted by Eddie Hearn.
Scorecards read: 115-113 Frenois, 115-113 Carroll, 114-114
Anthony Fowler needed little more than a minute to dispatch of Jose Carlos Paz. Paz was competing with WBO Champ Jaime Munguia earlier in the year but he was decimated by sickening bodyshots from the former amateur standout. Paz seemed happy to stand and trade with Fowler from the off, displaying his Mexican warrior tendencies, but was quick to spit his mouthpiece out after dropping to knee from a left hook, indicating he wanted no more. It is very difficult to judge Fowler from this, the fight was only announced on Friday, but he is more than ready to step up and take on his domestic rivals at 154lbs; a fight with Ted Cheeseman has to be the priority for mid 2019.
Kid Galahad scored an eight round shutout over the extremely durable Brayan Mairena. Mairena was nowhere near the calibre of his opponent but was able to stick in their for the duration of the bout despite taking a prolonged beating, Galahad never once really hurting his man. Galahad’s timing and reactions looked good and he often punished his foe with stiff counter punching however questions may be asked about his inability to raise his gears and bomb out Mairena given how often he was able to land. Galahad finds himself mandatory challenger to the winner of Josh Warrington-Carl Frampton for the IBF Featherweight Championship and it will be interesting to see if that materialises for him in 2019.
Qais Ashfaq inflicted a five round beatdown upon Jay Carney until the towel came in to spare the Liverpudlian anymore punishment. Ashfaq was flashy from the get go and letting rip with hurtful combinations to head and body. Carney’s nose was busted badly in the second and his ribs reddened and bruised but he showed great resilience to continue marching forward and withstanding damage from his much more skilled opponent. Ashfaq (now 4-0 with 2 KO’s) was a 2016 Olympian and will be one to watch in the domestic Super Bantamweight division for 2019.
Yorkshire’s own Terri Harper was in ruthless mood as she punched Feriche Mashauri into submission within two rounds of a scheduled six at Lightweight. Harper (now 5-0 with 2 KO’s) eased into the contest through the first round but as soon as she had her opponent hurt in the second she upped the ante, battering Mashauri to head and body as the Tanzanian just tucked up against the ropes and attempted to absorb everything being thrown her way; the referee had no choice but to intervene.