WARD WINS BANTAMWEIGHT TITLE IN EPIC BATTLE
By: Peter Mann, Head UK & Eire Editor
In what promoter Phil Jeffries claimed as being “the best shows I’ve ever put on,” Martin ‘Simply the Best’ Ward (16-1; 4KO’s) defeated Jason ‘2Smooth’ Booth (36-12; 15KO’s) UD10, at the Clash of the Titans, and claimed the English Bantamweight crown. And, as all three judges gave the bout to Ward, it was actually a rather close run battle.
The next stop in Ward’s rise though will be a shot at the British title and whoever holds it at the time. Jeffries was adamant in saying that “I’ll be on the phone first thing tomorrow morning to the Boxing Board demanding Ward now gets a British title shot.”
Ward himself uttered the same afterwards and stated “I want a British title shot next against anyone who wants to face me.”
The bout itself went the full ten rounds and you could tell the difference in experience levels between these two opponents and those that had fought prior to the headline bout. Far from showing any age or ring-tiredness they might well have done, they went at each other hammer and tongs from the beginning.
Although the opening round was an edgy one with both fighters feeling each other out, Ward actually began the stronger and as he meant to go on. It was because of his stronger opening that he just kept the upper hand throughout the bout. And to go through those ten rounds at the pace in which they both achieved was to be some well earned accomplishment.
That of the fourth round was to be the bruising one as both combatants came at each other with immense gusto. In fact throughout the entire title bout both unleashed an impressive arsenal of offensive boxing with neither looking like they were willing to give an inch, let alone more.
Hereon in ward seemed to know he had succeeded and although Booth kept plugging away and catching Ward with some good body shots and jabs, the new champions defence held firm.
The seventh and eighth rounds would see Booth on the back foot a little as Ward forged his way ahead but as the ninth came about Booth pressed and pressed well, showing several glimpses of the talent within as well as how much he wanted the victory as well. It was during this round that Ward looked a little jaded and worried as Booth tried to alter the game.
By the last round, and it was somewhat obvious from the first bell this would go all the way, both plied a good tempo and work-rate, more so when considering the distance. Ward though was carried over the finish line by the presence of his younger brother Tommy at ringside and the massive following in which he led. The vociferous support sang Ward home in the tenth with a chorus of ‘Walking in a Ward Wonderland.’ And that they were.
When the judge’s decision s were finally announced Ward admitted himself he was taken aback at the closeness of the first call, but he knew he had won/ “Everything Booth threw at me I three back ten-fold,” said Ward. The scores were read, all in favour of Ward; 97-95, 97-94, 97-95.
The undercard was led by a Northern Area Lightweight title bout between Fishburn’s Gary Fox (9-1) and Darlington’s Neil Hepper (3-2), also over ten rounds. This was to be a rematch of the non-title bout the two had at the Stadium of Light’s Summer Rumble earlier in the year. Hepper was out for revenge in this one having lost the original by a point.
Hepper began the bout with some amount of earnest and was seen to take the first two rounds comfortably, and by a widening margin to boot. Even by the time the fifth round started Hepper was still ahead but he somehow seemed to falter and that cost him the title.
That third round was when Fox switched his tactics to more of a brawl, something which Hepper had admitted in the build-up as not wanting to happen. It worked massively to Fox’s advantage.
With this chink of light Fox exploded into action and took the game very much to Hepper. Both fighters had even drawn blood come the fourth as well with Fox having a cut above his left eye and Hepper a bloodied nose.
But as the fifth round progressed it looked very much as though Hepper was reading Fox’s game-plan to a tee but then found himself being caught well off-guard as the round approached the final minute. That was enough of an opening for Fox and it resulted in Hepper being put on the canvas. It looked as though the bout would continue but as soon as they readied themselves the referee called a stop to proceedings and Fox claimed both a TKO5 success and the Northern Area title. Afterwards he said that “I didn’t really stick to my game-plan and let him box a little bit.
“However, I could see him tiring in the fifth and he was breathing heavy whereas I had a lot left in my tank.
“I thought that was it with that shot and the referee chose best and rightly stopped the bout there and then.”
Both Jeffries and Fox are now looking for the Northern Area champ to have another bout this year, but Jeffries is looking a little further ahead as well and is hoping he can get both Fox and Hepper back for a third meeting sometime in the future. Those that were in attendance can see why as this is most definitely one of those rivalries that could run.
There was to be four other bouts on the undercard for Clash of the Titans, and with the two ring card girls, Anneka Ellis and Danielle Ganning, adding some much welcomed glamour to the occasion, it was to be a clean sweep for the remaining four north-east fighters, with all four bouts going the distance.
First up was Gateshead’s Rob Ismay who remained undefeated (7-0; 2KO’s) when he collected a 40-37 PTS4 success over journeyman Jody Meikle (4-26,; 1KO); then Stockton’s Mohammed Waqas took his pro record to 3-0 with a 39-37 PTS4 success over the debutant Brett Fido; Hartlepool’s Callum Winton (1-0-1) collected the same in his second bout over Rob Sharpe and put to rest any doubts there may have been after his shock debut draw; and finally Horden’s Greg O’Neill (3-0) faced and defeated a tough challenge from Lithuanian journeyman, Andrej Cepur (5-12-1) and claimed a 40-35 PTS4 success as well.
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