Full report from the MTK Golden Contract semi-finals at 140lbs as Ohara Davies took on Jeff Ofori and Mohamed Mimoune met Tyrone McKenna
On paper this was the domestic card of the year at York Hall, with MTK’s Golden Contract format – similar to the World Boxing Super Series but at a slightly lower level and with the added twist that fighters only find out the identity of their opponent on fight week – breathing fresh life into British boxing.
The semi-finals at 126 and 140lbs produced three scheduled 10-round bouts that were, in theory, 50-50 or close to that, but Ohara Davies, the enigmatic Hackney super-lightweight who was fortunate enough to pick the Golden Ball that allows one competitor to choose their semi-final foe, opted for significant underdog Jeff Ofori. The latter, from Tottenham and really a lightweight, had only stepped into the tournament as a short-notice replacement and actually drew his quarter-final with Kieran Gething, before advancing due to the referee’s casting vote.
Davies had lost only to highly rated Jack Catterall and unified world champion Josh Taylor, but initially weighed in 4oz heavy and this was his first bout under emerging new trainer, Angel Fernandez. The Spaniard emphasises movement and agility, so could be perfect for the often stiff and one-paced “OD”.
Rangy Davies remained patient early on, picking his shots for the most part, countering the aggressive but raw Ofori. Jeff had success in round two but his reckless advances suggested he would ultimately walk onto a big shot from the potent Davies. Ohara did not move his head enough and appeared uncomfortable under pressure, but broke through at the very end of the third with a chopping right to the back of Ofori’s head to drop him.
He dominated the fourth behind a long jab but Ofori proved defiant and put forth a big effort to fight on even terms in the fifth. Davies took the play back in the next, freezing Ofori with a clean right and landing several more before the referee intervened as Jeff was knocked along the ropes.
In the Golden Contract final, Davies will meet big rival Tyrone McKenna, who came through a barnstorming but debilitating battle of southpaws with Mohamed Mimoune. The Ulsterman, only defeat to Catterall, began sharply with long, straight shots. Mimoune, who was once European champion at welterweight, tucked up and pressured the Belfast man with his feet. He landed a short right hook at the end of the opener and another in the early stages of the second. The Frenchman was being outworked, however.
They were fighting at a ferocious pace. Mimoune dug deep in the third but McKenna met him head-on. The exchanges were spiteful and accurate but did not lack quality. McKenna was the one being forced to move more, possibly sapping the strength in his legs. It looked gruelling already.
Toulouse’s Mimoune appeared to hurt McKenna to the body in the fourth then switched upstairs to have him in trouble along the ropes. He ended the session on top and seemed to have momentum behind him as they approached the halfway point.
McKenna looked to be tiring and was certainly no longer moving as spryly as he had in the first two rounds – which seemed like an age ago, such was the pace. Tyrone still shot out his jab and kept Mimoune at distance as much as he could in the fifth.
In the second half, McKenna’s tactics were consistent. He moved laterally, popped off two or three blows then covered up when he could no longer keep Mimoune off. His opponent followed, trying to counter but generally a step behind until Tyrone sustained a bad cut over his right eye in round seven and Mohamed took over. Davies must have loved watching these two batter each other, given he’d enjoyed an easier night.
Mimoune was in the ascendancy now, smelling blood, both literally and figuratively. He denied McKenna space and unloaded through and around an increasingly leaky guard. McKenna still unloaded the occasional fast combination but was more easily bullied to the ropes now.
The final round appeared crucial and McKenna produced an appropriately gutsy effort. Mimoune waited for the early storm to blow itself out then resumed his forward march. He took the round, on my card, but not the fight for the judges, with scores of 96-94 (twice) and 97-93 all going to McKenna.