Philippines, 07 Dec 2022
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Fight Report: Burns Beats Katsidis, Groves KO?s Smith and New Star Billy Joe Saunders Shines

Guy Fawkes night, or bonfire night as some prefer, is an explosive celebration with fireworks lighting the evening skies. With this in mind promoter Frank Warren had declared that his ?Gladiators? event, at the Wembley Arena, would be an explosive affair. Being a man of his words he delivered as promised. The three Championship bouts all featured all action boxers with knockout reputations, as did the undercard.

We?ll start with the main event, which see former Super featherweight World Champion Ricky Burns take on the dreaded Aussie Brit Basher Michael Katsidis, who as we all know already beaten both Graham Earl and Kevin Mitchell, for the interim WBO Lightweight title.

The atmosphere was electric as the build up to the main event starts, Katsidis team, including former foe Graham Earl, enter the ring waving huge Australian and Greek flags. Moments later the crowd erupt as the man himself, donning Gladiator headgear, starts his ring walk.

Ricky Burns? entrance was a lot less theatrical, far more business like. Burns looks a hundred percent focused on the fight, yet he still manages to acknowledge the huge following that were cheering his entrance.

Anyway let?s get down to the action, of which there was plenty.

ROUND ONE: As expected Katsidis went straight on the attack, Burns uses his excellent jab to try and keep the marauding Aussie at bay. The ever forward moving Katsidis goes low as he backs the Scot on the ropes before letting rip with heavy flurries of big lefts and rights to the body.

Burns stays calm and times the occasional counter to perfection before covering up and absorbing yet more big shots to the body.

Even though Katsidis was clearly throwing the most shots, Burns occasional counters were by far the most effective shots thrown in the round. Saying that I still gave this round to Katsidis.

ROUND TWO: As before it is Katsidis on the attack from the start, firing double handed combinations as he walks the Scot back. Burns sticks to his game plan, covering up and letting rip with the occasional counter. About mid way through the round the tide suddenly changed as Burns landed a short uppercut. Katsidis is stunned for the barest fraction of a second which allowed Burns to fire a vicious right hook which initially slows the tough Australian enough for Burns to get back to his jab. Absolutely stunning round that I scored a draw.

ROUND THREE: Katsidis puts Burns under heavy pressure from the start, each time the Aussie backs his foe to the ropes signals the start of yet another massive double handed onslaught. Burns seems content to absorb and counter. Around the mid way point, as the pair really go toe to toe BUrns again sends the head of the Australian back with a cracking uppercut, the crowd roar and egg Burns on, he doesn?t disappoint and again lands a vicious uppercut. Katsidis responds with massive double handed exocets as he backs the Scot to the ropes yet again.

With about forty seconds or so to go in the round Burns counters with a massive right that clearly shakes the Australian, so much so that Burns is able to take control with his exceptional jab until the final bell. I see this round clearly in favour of the Scot.

ROUND FOUR: The round starts with some great toe to toe action, Burns seems to have decided to take the fight to Katsidis and lands a phenomenal double left combination, first to the body then the head that stops the Aussie in his tracks for the merest fraction of a second, before going back on the double handed attack to push the Scot back onto the ropes. Another fantastic close round and again even though Katsidis threw the most punches the quality ones all came from Burns, so I scored the round in favour of the Scot.

ROUND FIVE: Clearly aware that Burns is ahead at this point Katsidis kicks up the pace, letting rip with massive double handed flurries. Burns keeps his cool and picks his moments before countering. For the full three minutes Katsidis would attack, attack and attack leaving Burns to cover up and counter whenever the opportunity arose. Still not an easy round to score but I gave it to Katsidis purely for his nonstop attacking.

ROUND SIX: Not surprisingly Katsidis initially slowed in the sixth, whilst still well and truly in attack mode it wasn?t at quite the high tempo previously seen and hence it was quite scrappy for the first couple of minutes. Burns worked his jab to great effect and late on landed a pair of solid body shots to nick the round.

ROUND SEVEN: Normal service resumes, Katsidis back in full attacking flow whilst Burns closes shop and countering whenever the opportunity arose. As in every round previous it was nonstop action, but the best action see Burns let rip with another double left to the body and head only to receive a big right to head in return late in the round. Yet another close round, which I gave to the Scot just because he landed the most quality shots.

ROUND EIGHT: Katsidis again steps up the pace and literally chases Burns around the ring before pinning the Scot against ropes and letting of massive double handed attacks. Burns covers up, counters and moves, Katsidis just doesn?t stop and chases him back into the ropes and the whole process starts again. It is awesome, Frank Warren promised fireworks and Katsidis and Burns were providing them...big time. A bit of an easier round to score, as Katsidis was not just throwing more shots but easily controlled the round.

ROUND NINE: At a slightly slower pace than the previous round again sees Burns land a big left to the body to which Katsidis responds by pushing Burns back onto the ropes and start his double handed attacks, Burns again just closes shop and waits for the perfect opening before jabbing or make a big point scoring counter. Another great all action round, I scored it in favour of Burns due to the quality of his counters, and that early big left to the body.

ROUND TEN: Burns sticks to his game plan, covers up and lets Katsidis attack, the Scot calmly absorbs the nonstop attacks before, with precision timing, counters or moves out of the Aussie?s firing range. As throughout Katsidis throws massive volumes of shots but as the fight has gone on more and more are getting through the Scots defense. The tenth was yet another close round, I?m going to give it to Burns as whilst he landed slightly less scoring punches than Katsidis they definitely had more venom.

ROUND 11: As we enter the Championship rounds I can?t help wondering how the judges are scoring this, if it is by aggression it will be Katsidis ahead on their cards, if it is quality scoring shots it could be Burns just ahead, then again if it?s a mix of the two this could well end up a draw.

Anyway back to the fight, Katsidis does what Katsidis does, attack, attack and attack, and he does it so well. But Burns is looking totally unflustered, sticking to his game plan of covering up and waiting for the perfect opening before countering and getting behind his excellent jab. Another close all action round, again I scored this in favour of Burns, but it could so easily have gone the other way.

ROUND 12: What a fabulous round, it was out and out war. Katsidis goes for it big time, clearly looking for the knockout finish. Burns though stays calm and uses his jab to great effect. With around a minute to go the pair lock horns in a toe to toe slug fest. The crowd are going wild as Katsidis starts to throw wild shots while Burns stays calm and counters with some scintillating lefts and rights. What a cracking final round. Again not the easiest to score but I favoured Katsidis because he just went for it.

After twelve fabulous rounds I have to admit I wasn?t one hundred percent certain who the victor would be, judges may see the scoring differently to those of us watching, anyway after short wait the scoring was announced - Terry O'Connor 117-112, John Stewart 117-111 and Andre Van Grootenbruel 117-111 all in favour of Coatbridge?s Ricky Burns.

I was a little surprised that the judges had scored it by such a wide margin - I had Ricky Burns winning by a single point and many of those in the press corps seated around me also see it by just the single point or a draw - but either way it doesn?t matter it was a cracking fight and one that will shut up the Scot?s doubters for once and all, as tonight he proved one hundred percent that he is World class.

The co-feature fight, between British and Commonwealth Champion George Groves and former British Champ Paul Smith, followed the headliner.

An edgy start to the round with neither protagonists seemingly willing to push forward, the first real action came in the final seconds, when Smith landed a cracking left hand hook-right hand combination that shook Groves to the core. Unfortunately for Smith the bell rang before he could follow up. Purely on the final action I scored the round to the Liverpudlian.

Smith?s supporters remained on their feet to cheer on their man as the second round started. However Groves got back behind his jab to easily control the early running, then in a flash a wickedly fast right sends Smith crashing to the floor.

Smith gets to his feet but is very unsteady, after finishing the count referee Victor Loughlin restarts the fight, Groves instantly lets rip with another big right to the temple sends Smith back down. It?s clear Smith is in no fit state to continue and Loughlin waves the fight off at the one minute eighteen mark.

This emphatic win by Hammersmith?s Groves sends a clear message to both his doubters and arch rival James DeGale, anything DeGale can do Groves can do better.

Prior to the featured bouts was another cracking fight, as Southern Area Middleweight Champion Gary Boulden attempted to defend his title against former Olympian Billy Joe Saunders.

I say attempted as the Jimmy and Mark Tibbs trained Saunders was the bookies favourite by a massive margin, and rightly so as the 22 year old from Hatfield had won his last four bouts by stoppage finishes, all in under six minutes.

ROUND ONE: Saunders made a confident start and controlled the first round with ease.

ROUND TWO: Saunders really come into his own,picking off the champ with fast jabs and double handed salvos. Boulden occasionally responded with big shots of his own, however each time he did Saunders just countered back with more punishing shots.

ROUND THREE: See more of the same, Saunders controlling most of the round with his slick combinations. Boulden manages some success with his jab and the occasional big right, but each time southpaw Saunders would just return with sensational double handed shots of his own.

ROUND FOUR: Saunders lifted the pace again, as well as adding more power to his shots, to easily control the round from start to finish.

ROUND FIVE: Boulden had barely landed a punch in the previous rounds, not so in the fifth. The champ decided to take the fight to his challenger. Saunders remained calm and picked his punches before turning up the heat, big time, in the final minute

ROUND SIX: Boulden was made to pay in the sixth, Saunders plain dominated the round in every way, so much so that Boulden started to run around the ring stamping his feet in frustration. The crowd responded by jeering at his actions, whilst Saunders just punished him with even more perfectly picked exocets.

ROUND SEVEN: Boulden decided he has to stand his ground, which produced some great toe to toe action. Saunders seemed to enjoy this more than Boulden, so much so the Hertfordshire youngster began showcasing his fully loaded arsenal of punches, to full effect.

ROUND EIGHT: Boulden had clearly realised it doesn?t pay to go toe-to-toe with Saunders, so reverted to spoiling tactics. Saunders was undeterred and just picked his shots to easily take the round.

ROUND NINE: More of the same, Saunders easily controlling the round.

ROUND TEN: A strong final round from Saunders, blitzing his way to victory with yet more big left and right hooks between firing salvos of exocets to the body.

When the final bell rang there was no doubt that there was a new Champion, Billy Joe Saunders, so no one was surprised when referee Ken Curtis raised Billy Joe?s hand high. For reference the score was 99-92.

Saunders rounded out a good night for Team Tibbs and the TRAD TKO Gym in Canning Town, having not only added yet another Champion to the squad but also a clean sweep on the night.

Prior to the championship bouts George Michael Carman faced Tom Bowen in a storming six rounder.

Carman was clearly the bookies favourite, just nobody told Bowen. For six rounds the youngster from Sedgley took the fight to Carman, his work rate was magnificent, round after round he lead the charge and received little in return.

Even so the first couple of rounds were close, only due to the cleaner shots from Carman, so much so that I scored them as draws.

The third and fourth rounds though were clearly Bowen?s, who not only kept the pressure up but also landing by far the more meaningful shots.

The only round I gave to Carman was the fifth, which was a cracking round featuring some nice action, as the youngster stood his ground and caught Bowen with a couple of wicked shots.

The final round was a cracker Bowen could smell victory and really went for it, Carman on the other hand decided to stand his ground and battle it out. For the full three minutes the pair when all out looking for a stoppage finish. When the final bell rang referee Bob Williams went to both men and raised their arms, declaring the bout a 57-57 draw.

Preceding Carman-Bowen Billy Joe Saunders? Team Tibbs/TRAD TKO gym mate Frankie Buglioni made his debut against Woodford wild man Sabie Monteith.

It was a short lived affair as Enfield?s Buglioni gave his massive, and very vocal, following reason to celebrate, firstly by controlling the wildly lashing Monteith with ease before sending him to the canvas, to secure the win, after just two minutes and four seconds of the first round.

Prior to the short lived Buglioni-Monteith battle, Cardiff?s Francis Luke Robinson made his third pro outing against Sid Razak.

It?s clear that Robinson, the son of former World Champion Steve Robinson, is a chip off the old block. From start to finish the twenty one year old showed a maturity, that belied his age, to control the highly aggressive Razak from start to finish. Razak had clearly come to make a fight of it but the youngster used his head to control the highly experienced Razak with superior movement and his magnificent jab. Occasionally Robinson took the fight to Razak and showcased his skill and arsenal of punches. I had him winning every single round but the man that counts, referee Bob Williams scored it 39-37 for Robinson.

The previous bout see the excellent Bradley Skeete against the wild spoiler in the form of Jay Morris.

Morris came to win, he always does, and made life hard for the Penge youngster in the early part of the round. Skeete though is a classy operator and it didn?t take him long to take control of the proceedings, so much so that for four rounds he was able to pick off Morris at will to take each round with ease.

The fight came to an abrupt halt, after just nineteen seconds of the fifth. Early on Skeete backed Morris onto the ropes and let rip with massive bombs, Morris was hurt and covered up in an effort to survive. After Skeete had landed around a dozen more unanswered big shots referee Ken Curtis had no option but to step in and stop the fight.

Morris was fuming, he ripped off his gloves and threw them to the canvas before storming out of the ring much to the delight of the massive Wembley crowd.

Prior to the entertaining Skeete-Morris bout Darren Cordona made his debut against Westbury?s Aaron Fox.

Even though he has yet to have a win on his record Aaron Fox always comes for a fight and as sure as eggs is eggs Cordona would be subjected to a baptism of fire.

Cordona was well prepared for the expected war, so much so that he controlled a large part of the contest with relative ease, often backing up his more experienced opponent onto the ropes before letting rip with some tidy left-rights. Personally I had Cordona win each round due to the quality of his work, but have to admit that a couple of rounds could have gone either way as Fox is a gutsy battler, so wasn?t too surprised that referee declared the bout much closer at 39-38 in favour of Cordona.

I arrived just as the final round of first bout of the night started and as such only got to see three minutes of Gary Corcoran?s debut win against Billy Smith.

Corcoran, the brother of Light Welter prospect Eddie Corcoran, was declared victorious by a shut out 40-36 points margin, much to the delight of coach Mark Tibbs and fellow gym mates Billy Joe Saunders and Frankie Buglioni.

What a great night of action, it had it all drama, knockouts, hissy fits and even an against the odds upset. Promoter Frank Warren promised an explosive all action show fit for Guy Fawkes night and boy did he deliver.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Gianluca (Rio) Di Caro.

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