This MTK show, put on by promoter Johnny Roye at the Wythenshaw Forum was intended to be a chance for Jimmy ‘Kilraine’ Kelly to challenge for the vacant European IBF title at 154 pounds. Due to circumstances beyond the control of Jimmy and his team, the scheduled opponent Pavel Semjonov was unable to fullfill his obligation on the night. After a considerable effort behind the scenes by MTK, an opponent was found on a day’s notice. The fight would still take place but the title was no longer on the line.
Besides for the obvious disappointment felt by fans and fighter alike, the night still produced a series of entertaining fights, first of which was a debut bout for both Jake Kelly and his opponent on the night, Mike Castell. Nerves played a factor through the early exchanges for both fighters, with a lot of clinching and holding, which would persist throughout this four-round affair. In the end, it was the busier Kelly that recorded his first W professionally.
Next up was MMA-fighter-turned boxer, Tom Aspinall. With some big names from Team Fury present ringside, Aspinall would have been keen to impress early on against his Hungarian opponent Tamas Bajzath. He did just that, showing some heavy-handed punching power to easily dispose of the Hungarian inside the first round.
It was Arnie’s Gym in for Team Fury next, with Ciaran McVarnock taking on Ben Mulligan (not to be confused with his namesake from Manchester). This was an impressive performance, with McVarnock showcasing a real knack for disguising his punches and working with a real smooth and varied rythym to his boxing. In the end, it was relatively easy work, with the referee stopping the fight at the end of the first round- and rightly so.
A new name for me and another debut on the night, was Meshech Spear, taking on Luke Fash at featherweight. Spear fought a very assured yet sensible debut, and the feeling was that he could have turned it on more at any moment should he have chosen to do so. In the end the fight went the full four rounds, with Spear winning each convincingly.
The penultimate bout then, was a fighter I was looking forward to seeing, Team Fury’s Con Sheehan – taking on Tomas Mrazek. Sheean benefits from having fast hands for a heavy-weight boxer, and he utilized these- out-boxing his physically imposing opponent in the early exchanges. The Czech fighter had come to fight, however, frustrating Sheehan throughout the fight with what seemed at times to be quite blatant use of the head. Both Con and his corner were growing frustrated as the fight went on, with Sheehan unable to produce enough footwork to create the kind of angles he needed to inflict proper punishment on his opponent. Con also sustained a nasty looking cut above the eye, which may have had some impact on his performance. Sheehan came through it in the end though, winning clearly by unanimous decision.
On to the evening’s main event then, and the Wythenshaw Forum still held a sizable crowd who had come to see local fighter Jimmy Kelly, despite the disappointment of the late change in opponent. Taking on maybe the toughest of the so-called journeymen out there in Kevin McCauley, Kelly would simply have to cast aside his frustrations to ensure a successful outcome.
Before the fight, Jimmy had been full of praise for the quality of the sparring, as well as the work done by his coaching team of Lee Beard, and Jon Williams- and many were looking for any signs of changes in approach by Kelly. Throughout the fight, Jimmy did indeed seem to deploy use of the shoulder defensively, a lower lead hand, and plenty of body punches from angles, suggesting that certain influences may feature in future bouts. This would have been a difficult fight to deploy these new kinds of counter-punching strategies, as McCauley spent most of the duration of the fight urging Jimmy on to him, throwing very little himself.
At times Kelly’s frustration was clear to see, not helped by McCauley who seemed to revel in the occasion- and why wouldn’t he? Jimmy appeared to settle by the fourth round in this six-round bout, and there were some very enjoyable combinations on show by him, as he dominated even more in these later rounds.
With all respect to McCauley for taking on the fight at such short notice, I believe we will learn much more about Kelly’s new approach with an evenly-matched opponent- I can certainly think of a few I would love to see him taking on in the coming months. With a talented team backing a clearly talented fighter, hopefully we will see great things from Jimmy Kelly this year and beyond.