After the initial disappointment, news that Ivica Bacurin (29-14-1, 18 kos) would step in as last minute replacement for Richard Lartey were welcomed in the hope that the experienced Croatian journeyman (former foe of the likes of Dillian Whyte, Tony Bellew and Carlos Takam) might give Commonwealth Heavyweight champion Joe Joyce (5-0, 5 kos) some needed rounds. Instead Joyce came, saw and conquered…

As the first and last bell rang, Bacurin started circling the ring while Joe stalked him measuring the distance with his jab. He eventually connected with two glancing blows, short right and left, to the top of the head of Ivica who simply did not want to know anymore and waited for the full count with the bout ending at 1:54 of the opening stanza. Joyce has now totalled 13 rounds over 5 fights and is calling out the likes of Bryant Jennings and Hughie Fury.

His debut against a serious opponent like Ian Lewison was no doubt impressive and winning a serious title in only his fourth fight remarkable, but the Commonwealth champion has still a lot of questions to answer as a professional about stamina and overall boxing ability and should not be rushed without having safely tested the full extent of his skills.

The televised portion of this Hayemaker Promotions bill started an hour earlier in similar devastating fashion with Light Heavyweight Michael “Venom” Page (2-0, 2 kos) dispatching Michael Ciash (1-6, 1 ko) 18 seconds into round 2 of a scheduled 4 rounder. David Haye likens his protégé Page to Prince Naseem Hamed but, while the comparison might be too farfetched, there are some similarities. He enjoyed himself in the first round showboating, switching stance and keeping his hands low. And also scoring lightning quick but heavy single shots and 1-2 combos. After being knocked down, a hesitant and overmatched Ciash went back to his corner with a cut on his left eyebrow. Page showed his “Venom” in the second as almost immediately a straight right hand knocked the other Michael out. To his credit, he tried to get up but there was nowhere to go.

This tough act was followed by a more balanced affair that saw Welsh Super Middleweight Kody Davies (5-0, 2 kos) winning a 40-37 decision against Eric Mokonzo (2-8, 2 kos). Davies was at ease and in control for most of the opening round, sticking and moving at will with Mokonzo unable to connect until the very last seconds. Eric was unfazed, though, and his aggression started becoming effective halfway through the following session. Kody was never an easy target to hit clean but the action was now flowing back and forth without a decisive edge for either fighter. Mokonzo still charged forward in the third and cut the ring but Davies was blocking shots and neutralising the effort. It’s hard to tell if it was due to tiredness or to a tactical choice, but the Welsh fighter chose to stand and trade with his opponent in the fourth and got the better of the exchanges, hence earning a deserved victory.

Highlights of the non-televised part of the undercard include a challenge for the female version of the Commonwealth Lightweight title between Sam Smith and Anisha Basheel, a second round win for Super Middleweight Savannah Marshall and the debut in what has become the hottest division in the UK of Heavyweight George Fox, son of Derek Chisora’s former trainer Don Charles.

Thanks to the likes of Nicola Adams and Natasha Jonas, female pro boxing is starting to get the exposure and respect it deserves in the UK. The only other title fight on the bill was for the vacant female Lightweight Commonwealth belt between 38 years old Samantha Smith (8-2, 4 kos) from Leeds and 20 years old Anisha Basheel (8-5, 8 kos). Basheel’s record was deceiving, as all her losses happened in the first 5 bouts of her career and she has now been unbeaten since 2016, winning all other fights by stoppage. Her power and youth proved to be too much as she stopped Samantha at 1:08 of the second round to bring the belt to Africa.

A former World Amateur champion, Super Middleweight Savannah Marshall (3-0, 2 kos) made her debut in 2017 winning a unanimous decision under the Mayweather promotional banner on the undercard of Floyd’s fight against Connor McGregor. Now trained by Peter Fury, she stopped her second opponent and gave good account of herself tonight breaking, knocking down and then out Alejandra Ayala (8-3, 5 kos) to end proceedings at 1:58 of the second round of a bout scheduled for 6.

Heavyweight George Fox (1-0) made a positive start to his career by outpointing fellow debutant Phil Williams (0-1) over 4 rounds with a 40-37 score. He outclassed his opponent in every department, showing more stamina, establishing himself as the ring general and giving overall a composed, focused and accurate performance.

Overall, a fast paced and entertaining night of boxing. Regardless of the poor level of opposition on the night, Joe Joyce is a force that cannot be ignored in the domestic Heavyweight division and we look forward to see if the promise shown so far will eventually be kept.

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