Opening the televised broadcast saw a heavyweight clash between British prospect George Fox and Poland’s Kamil Sokolowski, the latter scoring an upset with a 79-75 victory in the eyes of referee Lee Every. From the off, Sokolowski was the much busier man working the lead jab to the body in order to set up the right hand over the top, earning success with that particular shot midway towards the end of the second. Fox landed his best combination in the third, landing a right uppercut to the chin of Sokolowski which was then followed by a left hook to the side of the Polish man’s head.

That was about as good as it got though for Fox, with Sokolowski again outworking him with continuous jabs and left hooks to the body, also landing multiple left hook counters to the chin of Fox in the fifth. The jab of Fox was limp and slow throughout the contest, with Sokolowski regularly crashing a counter right hand over the top against Fox’s chin the longer the fight went on. With two rounds to go, Fox lacked urgency and willingness to force the tempo of the fight, while Sokolowski continued to throw the left hook counter upstairs followed by a solid right hook to the body with Fox’s back to the ropes in the seventh. Fox was expected to emerge for the final round putting it on the experienced man opposing him, but again right hands over the top followed by left hooks to the body earned another round for Sokolowski. Fox looked slow, perhaps a result of the huge volume of shots to the body he had faced across the eight rounds. The final bell drew celebrations from Sokolowski and those in his corner, and the fate of Fox was sealed, suffering the first professional defeat of his career, his record now standing at 4-1-0 respectively. Sokolowski’s meanwhile now stands at 11-23-2.  

Light-Heavyweight prospect Karol Itauma secured the fifth victory of his professional career with a first round knockout of Hungary’s Tamas Laska, the southpaw Itauma setting a frantic pace from the off. A devastating left hook slammed the ribs of Laska’s right side underneath a lazy right cross from the Hungarian, immediately bringing him to his knees. Referee Steve Gray waved the contest off right away and Itauma now moves to 5-0-0.  

Promising bantamweight prospect Dennis McCann moved to 11-0-0 as a pro with a whitewash over eight rounds against the durable Argentine Juan Jose Jurado. McCann displayed impressive punch variety throughout, enjoying success with left hooks to the body, often following them up with hard right uppercuts to the chin of the tough Jurado.

The South American regularly found himself with his back to the ropes, with flurries of hooks to the body forcing his arms to drop and leaving room for further hooks and uppercuts to rock the chin upstairs. McCann suffered a cut to the side of his left eye as a result of an accidental head clash on the ropes in the sixth round, also revealing a slight hand injury in the post-fight interview as a result of the hard blows he landed over the eight rounds. It was an impressive victory which he will hope to improve on even further over the next eighteen months as domestic titles edge closer.  

McCann’s stablemate Sam Noakes continued his assent at lightweight with a controversial ninth round stoppage of the more experienced Shaun Cooper, moving to eight wins in eight fights, all coming by way of knockout. Noakes started the fight confidently, regularly following up a precise jab with right hooks to the body of Cooper. That combination was a common theme throughout the first three rounds, though Noakes was unable to tie him down. Cooper did enjoy more success between the fourth and seventh rounds though, landing more often with his jab and catching Noakes with a couple of right hands over the top.

Noakes appeared to slow down, only flicking singular jabs and failing to back them up with anything of note, allowing Cooper to maintain his lateral movement and stop Noakes enjoying success on the inside. Noakes however increased the tempo at the start of the eighth, throwing a solid one-two which caught the chin of Cooper. A further right hook to the body was then followed by a right uppercut which again crashed against Cooper’s chin.

The ninth saw Noakes land his best shot of the fight, a hard left hook rocking back the head of Cooper before a short right uppercut again seemed to stun the man from Walsall and eventually bundled him to the canvas. Cooper rose to his feet and Noakes looked to pounce on him, landing right hooks to the body and chin of Cooper. Just as Cooper appeared to regain his composure, referee Ian John-Lewis stepped between the pair and waved the fight off to the surprise of most watching, not least Shaun Cooper himself who was not best pleased with the stoppage. Sympathy should be with him, he appeared okay but nonetheless the intervention of John-Lewis secured Noakes his eighth knockout in as many pro fights as a potential clash with fellow lightweight prospect Mark Chamberlain edges ever closer. 

By far the most controversial bout of the night came in the shape of the chief support showing between Hamzah Sheeraz and Bradley Skeete at 154lbs. Skeete dominated the majority of the bout on the backfoot, working behind a stern jab and picking off Sheeraz, who showed little urgency for much of the first half of the fight. The pace of the fight was suiting Skeete, with trainer Ricky Funes bellowing to Sheeraz to increase his output and pick up the tempo between the sixth and seventh rounds. Sheeraz did pick up the pace slightly towards the end of the seventh, landing a sharp right cross on the chin of Skeete and perhaps winning his first round of the contest in a while.  

The big moment of controversy occurred during the eighth, by which time Sheeraz had picked up the pace. Sheeraz appeared to rock Skeete, forcing the Penge man to retreat to the ropes before being bundled to the canvas with Sheeraz continuing to club him with hooks. The levels of frustration from Sheeraz shone through with Skeete now firmly on the canvas, and the undefeated prospect hitting him numerous times to the side of the head despite him planted firmly on the seat of his trunks. Referee Steve Gray rightly allowed Skeete extra time to recover and regain his senses, before bizarrely only deducting a single point from Sheeraz. The incident looked to warrant a clear disqualification, with Sheeraz landing three clear blows to the fallen Skeete. Perhaps Skeete should have made more of the event by staying down, but the honest approach of the challenger should not be criticised, instead questions should be asked of referee Gray’s decision to only take a point.

The incident proved a pivotal turning point in the contest, with Sheeraz scoring a legitimate knockdown soon after the restart after landing a flurry of left hooks towards the end of the eighth. Skeete climbed to his feet again but was quickly met with a further left hook to the body and then a hard right hook to the chin, which again left him on the canvas. More punishment awaited Skeete during the ninth, with Sheeraz unloading with several left and right hooks during the opening minute, leading to his third legitimate knockdown of the contest. Another right hand rocked Skeete’s chin, sending him to the canvas for a fourth time, with referee Gray waving the bout off eight seconds into his count. There can be no doubt that the blows Skeete received to his head while on the floor played a crucial role in how the fight panned out, and that the decision of the referee to not disqualify Sheeraz will be examined thoroughly in the days to come. Nonetheless, Sheeraz now boasts a record of 14-0, with Skeete’s now standing at 29-4.  

It was now time for the main event of the evening, with Hackney’s Anthony Yarde walking first, donning a furry black hood lined with orange and purple satin strips. Moments later, the Commonwealth champion Lyndon Arthur emerged, wearing a black and yellow hooded jacket, his stablemate Zelfa Barrett and close friend Sunny Edwards parading his Commonwealth and WBO Inter-Continental belt behind him. Referee Bob Williams read out the final instructions and the two retreated to their corners, seconds away from the opening bell.  

The first round saw Yarde immediately stepping onto the front foot, putting immediate pressure on Arthur, who sought to impose himself on his foe in the clinch. Yarde glanced the chin of Arthur with a right hand and quickly followed with a right hook to the tall body of the Manchester man. It was with a big right hand that Yarde seemed to buzz the chin of Arthur moments later, staggering him on the ropes. A right uppercut and left hook quickly followed, with the jab that won Arthur the first bout almost singlehandedly virtually non-existent so far in the opening round.  

This quickly changed at the start of the second, with Arthur quickly flicking out multiple jabs in the opening moments, sometimes following up with a straight right-hand. Arthur was now looking to push back the oncoming Yarde with a stern jab to prevent him from working on the inside. The final seconds saw Yarde clipped with an Arthur uppercut, with each now having taken a round apiece during the first two. Yarde regained the ascendency in the third, landing a right hand to the chin of Arthur with his back to the ropes. Yarde looked confident and was beating his man to the punch during the first minute. Arthur did time Yarde well with a straight right-hand in the final sixty seconds, but Yarde again let his hands go after finding Arthur on the ropes. A right uppercut just sailed past the chin of Arthur as the pair met in the centre of the ring before the bell sounded to signal the end of another strong round for Anthony Yarde.  

The fourth saw the end of the encounter, Yarde throwing a hard right hand over the top which was quickly followed by a flurry of left and right hooks as well as several uppercuts which rocked the chin of the Mancunian. A left hook to the body seemed to cause considerable distress with Arthur’s arms dropping to his side, allowing room for a devastating right hook to Arthur’s chin which was dropped Arthur to the canvas. Arthur’s eyes were wide, and he appeared to be in real trouble, with referee Williams deeming him unable to continue. Little complaints came from Arthur’s corner and Yarde had achieved the redemption he had been seeking during the previous 364 days since their first encounter.  

Both trainers embraced during the aftermath after the tension seen during the build-up between the pair, particularly at the opening press conference back in October. Credit should be afforded to both camps for taking the fight to begin with and granting the sport the opportunity to see two of the best light-heavyweights in the country compete in the ring. Yarde will now hold a strong position with the WBO and likely take on the winner of the upcoming Joe Smith Jr and Callum Johnson clash for the WBO title in Verona, New York on January 15th. Arthur will no doubt regroup and come again, and a potential clash with newly crowned British champion Dan Azeez is a viable option for at some point in the future. We are currently enjoying a superb crop of domestic light-heavyweights, so fingers-crossed more competitive bouts like the one we witnessed on Saturday night can continue to be made in the future.  

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