By Oliver McManus @OliverGMcManus
Eight middleweights descended on the O2 Indigo on Friday night to prove their credentials as the ‘Ultimate Boxxer’. The light-heavyweights and welterweights have had their turn whilst the cruiserweights are next up, in June, but the third installment of UB was all about those in the 160lb division.
Kieron Conway and Kaan Hawes opened the night with Conway tipped by many as the one to beat over the course of the tournament: Hawes, meanwhile, had previously campaigned exclusively at super welterweight.
The betting favourite, wearing the pink shorts, made the merrier start to proceedings as both fighters looked to engage from the off. Hawes pushed forward, keeping his head down and leading with clubbing hooks to counter the downward punches of his counterpart. Conway’s use of levels was impressive with the jab used to dictate the pace of the contest whilst short, digging shots to the body of Hawes ensured he was always on top, despite the aggression of Hawes. Looked to be using lots of energy in doing so, however. 30-27, 30-27, 30-27 for Conway.
Derrick Osaze – friend of Big Write Hook – was in the second final against Tey Lynn Jones which looked, on paper, to be the closest of the quarter-finals. As we know, though, “on paper” counts for nothing in such a short format. Osaze found early success with hooks landing to the face of Lynn Jones, countering the erratic aggression of the former Southern Area champion. When the shots came in from Tey Lynn Jones they were being caught by the arm of Osaze, who then used that momentum to land shots of his own. A devastating counter overhand right caught Lynn Jones at the start of the second round: landing with perfect timing, the Essex fighter was sent to the canvas. He got back up but was always losing the contest. 29-27, 29-27, 29-27 for Osaze.
The third quarter-final featured, perhaps, the two most unknown boxers in Josh Groombrige and Sean Phillips in a fight that saw styles oppose. Groombridge was a reputable power puncher whilst Phillips has been used to controlling fights and picking off the rounds. Despite those reputations, the pair began trading at the centre of the ring with Groombridge visibly loading up with every punch whilst Phillips opted for more frequent output. Tables turned with Phillips mercilessly targeting the body of Groombridge with venom. The referee jumped in to wave the contest off after less than a round. 1st round TKO for Phillips.
Knock Them Out
Joe Hurn and Grant Dennis were the final competitors with Hurn stating he’d turned up to “knock them out”: simple as that. Dennis had a bee in his bonnet about potentially being an underdog, given his pedigree in the sport, but Hurn was immediately explosive. Looping left hands with a reasonably low trajectory were being sent towards the Chatham resident who responded in kind by dipping his legs and swinging shots into the body of Hurn. After the initial expenditure of Hurn, Dennis started to show his class and “been there before” nous as he hit a nice rhythm whilst looking relatively at ease. A counter right caught the statuesque Hurn with thirty seconds to go; Hurn sunk to the canvas and the contest was waved off. Third round TKO for Dennis.
After an underwhelming interim bout that saw Idris Virgo labour for the best part of two rounds against Rene Molik, before it was called a technical draw, it was semi-final time!
Kieron Conway immediately emerged with a strong hand poised on the neck of Osaze but The Punching Preacher looked to loosen up and proved hard to glue down – like felt. Conway opted to return to the boxing basics and operated at a less frantic rhythm than his first contest; the slower work rate allowed for the 23 year old to focus on accuracy rather than volume. Osaze cut down the ring effectively as he rocked forward on the balls of his feet to rough up the body of the pre-tournament favourite. A huge performance from Derrick Osaze to take the win by split decision 29-28, 29-28, 28-29!
An Incredible Fight!
The other semi-final saw both Sean Phillips and Grant Dennis exuding confidence off the back of their knockout victories. Phillips was perhaps the looser with his hands and looked unload one-two’s down the gutter of Dennis. The Chatham fighter looked to bide his time and his first shot of note resulted in a knockdown; stepping back from the clinch, a counter-right hand slipped under the guard of Phillips and dropped him in the first round. That overhand right proved a persistent thorn in the side of Phillips’ cheek as it landed with consistency; Phillips continued to apply pressure but found himself smothered. And then… in the third round there was DRAMA. Just as I said I could be wrong about Grant Dennis, Sean Phillips erupted like krakatoa with an electic urgency. Twisting his whole body into his shots, dropping Dennis and sticking to him like blue-tac. An incredible fight! 28-27, 28-27, 28-27 but only just to Grant Dennis.
Derrick Osaze, then, with the opportunity of a lifetime to win Ultimate Boxxer in the most dramatic of circumstance. Grant Dennis, meanwhile, was looking to prove the critics wrong and say, actually, he’s still the top dog.
Osaze returned to his, now traditional, place at the centre of the ring as he looked to prove the early aggressor. Dennis returned fire in a contest where neither boxer gave quarter, the experience of Dennis perhaps resulting in more effective selection of punches. Osaze wa struggling in the first round to come to terms with the work-rate of Dennis: the Chatham man stifling his opponent.
Nottingham’s preacher did not wilter, though, as he looked to maroud forward and take the tempo up a notch, maximizing the fatigue to his, already-tiring, opponent. Dennis moved a little heavier than in his two previous occasions and was sticking to his industrial style of fighting – rough and ready. Osaze found his form in the second round and started to relax, moving his hips in a samba rhythm as he rolled his way across the ring. Swinging with abandon in the third, he looked to immediately render Dennis in discomfort and rocked him with a sensational uppercut before toppling him, like a bowling ball, with a pushing hook. Derrick Osaze, words fail me, producing the performance of dreams to be crowned the champion. 28-28, 29-27, 28-27 to Derrick Osaze.
The scenes of a fairytale, of pure emotion, and never has there been a more deserving champion. Simply incredible. A gentleman, an inspiration, flying the flag high for Big Write Hook. Now bring on our cluedo match!